In search of ‘Waterfront News’

Pictured: Alan Martin with the first issue from February 1961 of ‘Waterfront News’.

Pictured: Alan Martin with the first issue from February 1961 of ‘Waterfront News’.

The‘Waterfront News’ was a monthly publication that was in circulation between 1961 and 1973 which covered the wider docklands area. The Dublin Docklands Preservation Society (DDPS) as part of their ongoing efforts to archive the rich cultural history associated with those who worked in the docks and their families, are calling out to anyone who may have, or know where copies of this intriguing artifact can be found.

According to Dr Siobhán McGovern of Dublin City University, “this unusual newspaper reflected what was happening in Dublin Docks, the dockland communities and in the wider Irish society of this period.

However no complete collection of the ‘Waterfront News’ now exists.”

Alan Martin has played a vital role in the society’s work so far, digitising over 3,500 photographs and documents which tell the story of the docklands throughout the ages. “Gaining access to these documents can be difficult. They are mostly kept in the Universities and they are very protective of them but I must commend Ed Penrose of the Labour History Society, Beggar’s Bush, who was happy to share his duplicate copies of the ‘Waterfront News’.”

The society currently has about 15 copies of the paper in their possession and Martin dropped into the NewsFour offices to give an insight into what life was like in the Docklands of the 60s and 70s.

The first obvious contrast was the prevalence of religious content. Martin tells NewsFour, “It was very much a Catholic paper. Archbishop John Charles McQuaid sold the premises which were the Marine Port and General Workers Union offices at 14 Gardiner Place, Dublin 1, apparently to ‘keep the Communists out.’ The premises were sold to the union for a small amount – five shillings or five pounds.

A large portrait of Archbishop McQuaid hung in the executive meeting room in the union. I think that this was part of the conditions of the sale.

There were a number of religiously-themed stories running through the paper and this particular issue covered the Statue of Our Lady which is still in existence, and the Papal Legate which took place that year.

Martin noticed that there was an advertisement for Woodbines cigarettes in every single issue. He talks about how he noticed the tone changing as the issues progressed and of how the paper very much reflects the times in which it was printed.

“The area was alive then, with hundreds working in companies like Coal Distributors Ltd, the Gas Company, and timber merchants; all concentrated in the one area. Walking around now, you wouldn’t know that they were ever there. All you see now are new buildings or dereliction,” Martin said.

Among other interesting articles we picked out was a letter looking for a special bus to be organised to bring workers from Ballyfermot, and a headline which read ‘The Tunnel’, a story that evolved and is now known as the East Link Bridge.

The paper’s founder and editor was Jack Dufficy, and despite the fact that it was a small local paper concentrating on a specific readership, it still managed to pull in some highly respected contributors such as John B Keane, Brian Friel and Conor Cruise O’Brien.

If you are looking out for copies of this culturally significant nugget, be aware that the issues increased in both dimension and page volume over time. The earlier issues ran to only five or six pages and were A4 size; later issues consisted of up to 20 pages and were tabloid size.

Should you have any further information on the ‘Waterfront News’ or know where there are any copies, please contact Alan Martin 087-2095974. To view the photographs that have already been digitised go to:

By Maria Shields O’Kelly