Dock Workers Society


As with the Docklands themselves, the make up of the people who live and work there is changing. For generations, the same families have worked on the docks, passing vacant positions from father to son and keeping it in the family and community.

This built a unique social structure in and around the area, one that has been fractured by the loss of industry and development of the area but also, in some ways, is stronger for it. When any industry changes or winds down, the first casualties are usually the people who live and work around it, and the Dublin Dock Workers Preservation Society is working hard to ensure the memories and stories of those people are preserved forever.

Alan Martin, who worked on the docks, as first a Tallyman, Book Checker then Senior Book Checker, was brought into the fold by his father when he was 16. His Grandfather also worked on the docks and he was proud to continue the family tradition. In early 2011, he and Declan Byrne, with the help of John Walsh and Jimmy Carton, set up the Dublin Dock Workers Preservation Society. They are helped out by Brendan Dempsey, Mick Foran and others, and they have been steadily gathering and cataloguing photographs and memorabilia ever since and now have several thousand photographs that would otherwise never have been brought together.

They have been holding regular photographic exhibitions with a twist; they arrange for some of the people in the pictures to be on hand to talk to visitors. A picture may tell a thousand words but the chance to speak to those involved is an opportunity that rarely comes along.

Under beds, in cupboards, attics and garden sheds all over the area and beyond, there are treasure troves of history waiting for discovery. These are the hordes that The Dublin Dock Workers Preservation Society is interested in finding, before they are lost. One important resource that was tragically destroyed was a shed that was used by crane drivers and others for tea breaks and eating lunch. It was plastered with photographs and other items of interest, before it was demolished without notice and the contents are now gone forever with it. Alan Martin also says that “Stuff often gets thrown out when someone dies”, so the society is keen to point out that you don’t have to wait until a relative has passed away before donating material.

It is a great way to connect retired dock and associated workers with each other to share and preserve their living memories.

When people retire they often move to outlying areas; the events the society hold may be the only chance a lot of retirees have to meet and reminisce. The dock workers themselves are only part of the picture however; there were thousands of people involved in businesses and industries that serviced the docks. Alan is quick to tell NewsFour, “We’d love to hear from people from any industry”.

The society is planning an exhibition that they aim to make their best yet. It will be held in the coming months, so check your local listings for details as they emerge.
You can find the Dublin Dock Workers Preservation Society on Facebook or you can contact Alan Martin directly on 087 2095974

Pictured: Alan Martin from the Dublin Dock Worker Preservation Society.

By Steve Kingston