seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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O’Connell Bridge Civilian Shootings

On January 13, 1921, British troops manning a checkpoint at O’Connell Bridge, Dublin, during the Irish War of Independence, open fire on a crowd of civilians, killing two and seriously wounding five.

Martha Nowlan, a cashier in a local restaurant, and James Brennan, a 10-year-old boy of Mary Street, are killed and five others are wounded when soldiers open fire on O’Connell Bridge, where they have been mounting checks for motor vehicle permits and licences. An English journalist who observes the incident says he saw a soldier on a lorry put his rifle to his shoulder and fire. Nowlan, 22, from Phibsborough, is shot through the left lung and is pronounced dead on arrival at Jervis Street Hospital. Brennan is shot through the centre of the forehead with the bullet coming through the top of his skull.

The incident follows an attack on a lorry carrying six Auxiliary cadets the day before on nearby Bachelor’s Walk. According to an official account, four bombs and a number of revolver shots were directed at the lorry, which was heading in the direction of the Phoenix Park. None of the cadets were killed and only one suffered minor injuries. Onlookers view the police officers’ escape as something of a miracle as the attack extended over a distance of 100 yards and involved two separate groups.

Women and men are seen throwing themselves on the path to avoid the bullets and splinters. A tram conductor named J. Doyle is also slightly wounded in the incident.


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Opening of the Volta Electric Theatre in Dublin

Under the managership of the writer James Joyce, Ireland’s first cinematographic theatre, the Volta Electric Theatre (later renamed the Lyceum Picture Theatre), opens at 45 Mary Street in Dublin on December 20, 1909. The site has since been demolished and is occupied today by a department store.

In the early 1900s, demand for moving pictures is fierce and cinemas are springing up all over the world. After visiting Trieste, Joyce is determined to bring a cinema to Ireland. After receiving the backing of his Italian friends, he sets up the Cinematograph Volta on Mary Street. It opens its doors on December 20, 1909. The opening night features an eclectic program, with the comedy Deviled Crab, the mystery Bewitched Castle, La Pourponièrre, The First Paris Orphanage, and The Tragedy of Beatrice Cency. A popular actor is Charlie Chaplin.

Joyce soon becomes disillusioned with the venture, as the cinema mainly shows films from Europe and Italy, which are largely shunned by Dubliners at the time. After seven months, Joyce withdraws his involvement and the cinema is sold to the British Provincial Cinema Company. The cinema remains open until 1919.

In 1921, it is reopened as the Lyceum Picture Theatre following alterations which increase seating from 420 to 600. In the 1940s, Capitol and Allied Theatres Ltd. acquires the cinema. However, it closes its doors for the last time in 1948. Although it survives almost 40 years, the cinema is rarely successful.

Penneys, a fast fashion retailer and subsidiary of the British food processing and retail company Associated British Foods, purchases the building along with adjacent shops and builds a department store on the demolished site. For many years the site of Ireland’s first cinema is unknown to many as there is no plaque to commemorate it. However, on June 12, 2007, a plaque is unveiled on the original site marking the significance of 45 Mary Street.

A connection between the name and cinema in Ireland still remains. Volta is a streaming service for mainly Irish content.