Portobello Barracks, Rathmines, Dublin.
This story is about living in the barracks, where I lived with my Mam & Dad and my brother Willie. Single men were accommodated in billets in the main barracks but married men could apply for separate accommodation called married quarters. When my Dad joined the Army No. 1 Band on its formation in 1923, he moved into married quarters in Beggars Bush barracks in Ringsend, Dublin. We lived there for a few years and Willie was born there in 1926. Shortly afterwards we move to Arbour Hill quarters which were beside Collins Barracks, and adjacent to St Bricin’s the military hospital. We stayed there for two.years until I was six years old when we finally arrived in Portobello. I lived there for the next twenty years until I married in 1949.
The Married quarters consisted of 7 blocks of two storied apartments or houses, as we called them. They had been built by the British army during the 1890’s. Structurally they were different. Blocks A & B were larger than most of the others and had inside toilets. Blocks C & D had clusters of toilets at end of each block. Each family had their own toilet and could lock it. Not very convenient however, especially in bad weather. Blocks E, F and G. Had indoor toilets.
When we moved in we had a coal fired iron range for cooking and heating and even for boiling our water. We did buy a Primus stove at some time. This used paraffin oil. This was also used in Oil lamps for lighting. A few years after we moved in they installed gas. Gas for Lighting only, however it was the same when we changed to electricity after another few years. During the war years we only had turf and wood blocks to fuel the ranges. These had to be cleaned out every morning and relit before breakfast.
Our quarters consisted of one bedroom, a living room and a small kitchenette with a toilet attached. No bath. My brother and I slept on a fold up bed in the living room. Some houses, for larger families had two bedrooms.
The quarters were separated from the main barracks, although part of the whole complex. There was a gateway for the soldiers to access the barracks and another for families.
I have included a photo showing the laneway which led from this gate to Leinster Road. Our house on the top floor was looking directly down the laneway. You can see the end of the new block in the photo.
Both gates were manned by army police from early morning until 11 pm . When family members arrived after that time they had to report at the main gate on Military Road to get access. Having given your name you were escorted to the internal gate. Frequent use of this facility resulted to your Dad being called to account.
All tradespeople had to enter through the main gate. I never heard what happened in later years when families acquired cars. No cars in our days. At some stage after I left they built some ordinary houses around the perimeter of the quarters area. I understand they are still there and owned by the army authorities. This is a photo of the Main Gate area situated beside St Mary’s College, Rathmines.
The blocks were demolished in 1988 and have been replaced by privately owned apartment blocks. The new development is called Grosvenor Lodge and adjoins Grosvenor Square and Leinster Road. I have not yet been able to get a photo of the old buildings but have attached one of a block of the the new apartments which was built on the site of block ‘G’ where I lived. It is about the same size and looks quite similar, except that ours did not have the steps in front and also had a balcony along the length of the top floor.
Our block consisted of ten houses on the bottom and the same upstairs. There were two separate open stairways,situated between nos. 3 & 4 and also nos. 7 & 8. The top of oneu of these and the balcony can be seen in the photos below.
My daughter Vivian with her flowers on the balcony outside our house. The second photo shows the top of the stairwell leading to the balcony. It features my brother Willie with Marjorie Gould, one of our neighbours.
In this story I have described what the quarters in the barracks was like. I will follow that later, telling what life was like in such an enclosed environment and mainly under military rules.