Over the last year, I attended some lectures in the Hunt museum on aspects of hidden local history. John Logan spoke of 18th century Limerick and the various groups placed in city workhouse. He also spoke of executions and highlighted three, one involving the ravishing of a child, another for the slaying of a sheep and the third for the stealing of a plate! The condemned's last words were printed up and sold on the streets of the city the next day for a penny a go.
This tabloidesque habit wasn't my favourite local history story of the last year though. That came from a more recent era and a different source. Jack Monday was a West African fitter working on a ship that docked in Limerick during the war of independence. Inspired by the stories they heard of the Irish fight, those onboard made the decision to fly the Irish flag on departure (Maritime custom was that you should fly the flag of the country one is departing when leaving). Enraged by the non fluttering of a union jack, the ship was boarded. In the subsequent scuffle two black and tans were stabbed. Monday was taken from ship and thrown in jail. It was only in the civil war that followed, he eventually was released, whereupon he joined the fledgling Irish army, presumably one of the first black men to do so.
I first read of this great story in 'The Battle for Limerick City' (published last year). The book itself is a blow by blow account of the weeks in the summer of 1922 when Limerick fell to Free state soldiers. The story is illustrated by photos and maps. It is interesting to read of the street fighting and of the final major battle which saw cannons on the Arthurs Quay side bombard the last republican stronghold on Clancy Strand. It was published under a series called Military history of Irish Civil War and that emphasis on military is very prominant. It explains how the city got to the terrible state you can see in this video.
FALL OF LIMERICK
Furthermore, the book also accorded surely one of the most unusual accolades yet for the Rubberbandits. Been acknowledged and thanked in a local history book must be an extremely rare feat for a band but here is the inside front cover of 'The Battle for Limerick City' (launched March 2010)
However, it was in late 2011 that this story really came full circle. Then in the first of their comedy baps for channel 4, the Rubberbandits shot the 'black man' video. The song calling for a heroic black man to be in the gang was shot almost entirely in and around the Limerick docks, the very same docks that saw Jack Monday making a stand for irish freedom almost ninety years earlier.
- Rubberbandits play Dolans Limerick December 29th
- Their album 'Serious about Men' which includes the single 'Black Man' can be bought here
- Autographed copies of 'The battle for Limerick City' are available from O Mahonys.