Where in Kilmainham was Patriotic Terrace? That was the question posed after I had spotted a poem in an old copy of the Irish Weekly Independent written by someone giving that address. That someone was none other than W.P. Partridge, past hero of the working class in that area. Partridge, the son of an English Protestant father and an Irish Catholic mother, will always be remembered as the man who fought for the rights of his Catholic workmates in the nearby Inchicore railway works, then known as the Great Southern and Western Railway.
The riddle was presented to me last year during the final phase of my research on the lost poems of Francis Ledwidge. Part of my research involved a thorough study of ten years of three separate newspapers. In the Poets Corner of The Irish Weekly Independent, where I had found so many of the poems of Ledwidge, tragic poet and soldier of the First World War, I came by chance upon the poem of Partridge. Apart from the curious address, I was drawn to the piece for other reasons. Partridge was known as a Labour councillor, trade union activist who was later involved in the 1916 rising, but it is not common knowledge that he wrote poetry. The theme of the poem was also interesting. Written in May 1912, shortly after the sinking of the Titanic, the poem was an expression of Partridge's heartfelt sympathy for the victims and the bereaved. Here it is reprinted for the first time in 106 years.
In the light of the setting sun she raced
Out towards the glowing West,
And in foam through the dancing waves she traced
Her course upon their crest,
While the mighty engines throbbed below
Like a heart within her breast.
For proud conqueror of the deep was she,
Defying wind and wave,
The triumph of man's ingenuity,
The best that science have,
Behold in this giant ship displayed:
No fears her seaman gave.
Her towering decks are ablaze with light,
Where crowd a joyous throng,
And her brilliant state-rooms dazzling bright
Re-echo laugh and song;
The mighty ship with its precious freight
Pursues its course along.
Now through the night like an angel of death
The ghostly ice-berg steals;
And the look-out aloft its stinging breath
The hardy seaman feels.
The warning cry is heard from high, and then
The mighty vessel reels.
Then stern and clear the command rings out
To lower the boats away:
The women first, the brave seamen shout,
And the men as brave obey;
As the vessel sinks in the sobbing deep
Her band of heroes play.
One thousand, five hundred and three in all
Sink to a sailor’s grave,
And bravely obeyed the most stern call
That duty ever gave,
As the drowning priest, his drowning flock,
Absolves within the wave.
Now add to the roll of the world's fame
The men who perished there;
From the bridge to the stokehold, miss not one name,
Let all the honour share,
Since each has died to let another live
They have the world's prayer.
How frail is the greatest work of man,
With nature's labours tried;
How weak is proven each well laid plan,
How humbled is our pride;
Since the triumph of our hand and brain
Lies buried in the tide.
W.P. Partridge 3, Patriotic Tee. Kilmainham
Although I had lived in Inchicore for ten years I had never heard of Patriotic Terrace and was curious to know of its whereabouts; in particular, I was curious to see if the house where Partridge lived was still standing. The Thom's Street Directory, so indispensable during my twelve years stint as credit controller was the obvious choice of reference. However, the current issue had no mention of Patriotic Terrace. It was back to the National Library (my second home) for a look at the 1912 edition.
Here indeed I found Patriotic Terrace and number 3 allocated to Mr. Partridge. A little further research revealed that the terrace was renamed Brookfield Road. Also, since the time Partridge lived there an additional house was added to the beginning of the street and the numbering system changed to alternate numbers. In this way number 3 Partridge Terrace became number 8 Brookfield Road. But was the house still there? I decided to pay a visit to Brookfield Road. I had a friend who lived there until recently. He was, the late, Mick Morrissey, a well-known figure in the area. Mick was known as the man at the hatch in the local St. James Street Loan Society. He worked for most of his life along-side my father in C.I.E. Because of this I thought it possible he would know about Partridge, famous for his championing of the workers cause in the days when the railway was under British ownership and known as G.S.&W.R.
Mick had a surprise in store for me. He listened intently to my story with his usually impish smile and then he went to fetch something that he had hidden away. He returned with a heavy metal plate: the original street sign, bearing in capital letters the name PATRIOTIC TERRACE. Mick could hardly carry the plate, but he held it long enough for me to photograph him with it outside his front door.
By an odd coincidence it was to be Mick's last few weeks at number 4 Brookfield Road. The governors of St. James's Hospital, the side entrance of which is situated at the top of the road, wanted to build on the site and they made Mick an offer of alternative housing nearby. Mick will treasure the last photo taken of his house.
The good news however, is that number 8 Brookfield Road, the house once occupied by W. P. Partridge, is still standing and in excellent condition judging from its exterior. The next time you pass this house reflect on the great man who did so much for this area. It was Partridge, together with Father Ring, Rev. Nash and Mr. O’ Donoghue who were mainly responsible for the street project opposite the Oblate Church, providing housing for the workers in the railway. He was a man who always put others before himself, to his own detriment. His stance for the workers in the railway cost him his job. Later he participated in the 1916 Easter Rising as vice president of the Irish Citizen Army. He was involved in the fighting at the College of Surgeons, St. Stephen’s Green and saved the life of Margaret Skinnider, carrying her to safety in a hail of fire. Although he was not among those executed, his health failed due to his incarceration at Lewes prison in Britain and he never fully recovered. He died three months after his release in July 1917.
And so ended, my brush with Partridge, the Titanic, and Patriotic Terrace. Having told my story to the local Inchicore and Kilmainham Heritage Group they organized for a plaque to be set on the wall of the house. It is well worth seeing.
Liam O’ Meara
Liam O’Meara is best known as a poet and has won a number of awards including, the Hugh MacDiarmid Trophy (Scottish International prize); The George Henry Moore gold medallion, the Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Tipperary Theatre Arts prize, and Premio Cittá di Olbia (Italy).
In recent years he has worked as a researcher with the Liberties Living Heritage group and has produced a trilogy of books on old Dublin. Liam has spent many years researching the life and works of poet Francis Ledwidge. In 1995 he co founded the Inchicore Ledwidge Society and since then has edited a number of books of the poet’s writings, both poetry and prose: Francis Ledwidge the poems Complete; The Best of Francis Ledwidge; Legends of the Boyne; and Dead Men’s Dreams. He has also written his own biography of the poet and a play based on the poet’s life. Other works by Liam O Meara are:
Who Remembers Keogh Square?
From Richmond Barracks to Keogh Square
The Bayno, 100 Years of the Iveagh Trust Playcentre.
Zozimus, The Life and Works of Michael Moran, blind poet of Dublin.
Within & Without, Dublin Churches of St. Nicholas, exploring the Manx connection.
Burned All My Witches: an autobiography in verse.
Emmet Hall, from the Lockout to the Rising in Inchicore.
Francis Ledwidge, Poet, Activist and Soldier.
To One Dead, a play based on the life of Francis Ledwidge.
The Smart Missile, and other poems.
He was recently a member of the Richmond Barracks Advisory Group formed for the restoration of the gymnasium and recreation room of Richmond Barracks.