What Culture Means to Me – Declan Byrne
Dublin Dockworkers were almost exclusively drawn from the Dockland communities. On the Southside – Ringsend, Pearse Street and City Quay; on the Northside – East Wall, North Wall and the North Inner City area.
As a species we were much maligned, primarily depicted in the media as being greedy, robbing …
Firstly the ‘Dublin’s Culture Connects’ initiative has allowed us to connect with our own culture – to remember the solidarity, the generosity and the acts of bravery and generosity. In the good times we may have fought among ourselves, but in the bad times we all stuck together.
When tragedy struck a particular family, the Dockworkers were the first to respond. We were no angels, and we may even enjoy looking at some of our more unusual traits, but ‘Dublin’s Culture Connects’ has given us the opportunity to concentrate on the positives.
But going back with co-workers, in some cases we have not seen in over twenty years, has been a powerful experience.
The trips back inside the Port gates and the trips on the Liffey Ferry would never have happened without this project. The Dock workforce in our lifetime has shrunk from over 3,000, to just a handful, and some of us may have left the Docks not on good terms. But going back with co-workers, in some cases we have not seen in over twenty years, has been a powerful experience. We may not have been perfect, but we were Dock Workers and we are learning to be proud, to concentrate on the positives, to remember the bad times but to leave them behind.
The Dublin Dock workers Preservation Society have been extremely lucky to have been selected for this project. We have spent six years trying to preserve our history and culture. Feeling unsupported, we were on the verge of throwing in the towel. Now through ‘Dublin’s Culture Connects’ we have been given a new lease of life.
I will end with a Dockers story.
The Dockers were regularly involved in lengthy and bitter industrial disputes. As they dragged on with no sign of resolution, a general meeting would be called to review the lack of progress. A few people would make their contribution from the floor, then a Ringsend Docker, Denis Doyle, would stand up and end his contribution by saying “WE HAVE NOT YET BEGUN TO FIGHT”.
This would be met with a load of response-slagging, and objects being thrown. But in that moment, you knew that the defeat in your heart had been lifted, and so what if it didn’t work out – it was worth redoubling your effort and to go down fighting.
Dennis Doyle passed away a number of years ago, (May he rest in peace) but I hope that some of his spirit lives on.
By Declan Byrne, Dublin Dockworkers Preservation Society0