Perhaps no single individual has done more to preserve and promote the history and heritage of the north-east inner city than Terry Fagan.
His involvement spans a period of five decades, beginning in the 1970s and continuing up to and beyond the establishment of the North Inner City Folklore Project in the late 1980s.
Over the course of almost half a century, Terry has been involved in promoting local heritage, rescuing historical records, recording local memories, and acting as the sole custodian of a body of archival material that is both specific to the north inner city area and of considerable value to the wider heritage of Dublin.
Local History and Legends
Terry was born and reared in the tenements of Corporation Buildings, in the heart of what was known as Monto. The son of a Dublin docker, Michael, and one of a family of eleven (including six brother and two sisters), Terry’s love of Monto and the North Inner City has been forged through his life experiences and growing up on a diet of local history and legends of the area.
Terry’s mother, Margaret, was the last Corporation tenant to leave Foley Street (originally called Montgomery Street which spawned Monto’s nickname).
In the 1970s, Terry was a youth club organiser in the old underground Air Raid shelters of St Mary’s Mansions on Sean MacDermott Street. He was also a one-time caretaker of the famous Rutland Street School (irreverently dubbed by one interviewee as ‘The Red-Brick Slaughterhouse”).
After leaving “The Red Brick Slaughterhouse”, he completed a two year National University of Ireland ‘Diploma for Social Entrepreneurs’ where he achieved First Class Honours.
First Hand Accounts of Life
Terry was also a voluntary community worker in the seventies, delivering hot food to the elderly, infirm, or otherwise housebound people of old Monto through the Meals on Wheels service run by Sister Gerard of the Daughters of Charity.
It was a network on which many depended, not only for nourishing food but also stimulating company and regular contact. It was during these visits that Terry often found himself invited in for a cup of tea and a chat. The stories he heard through first-hand accounts of life in the real Monto from the people who lived there fired his enthusiasm to tell the other side of the story of Monto and of the community that fought against social and economic exclusion right up to the present day.
Books and Publications
Terry and his fellow onetime folklorist Ben Savage have produced or co-produced several best selling books of local history and reminiscences of working class north Inner City Dublin.
They include ‘Memories’ and the follow up ‘Those Were the Days’ about life in Corporation Buildings and Foley Street; ‘All Around the Diamond’, focusing on the famous Gloucester Diamond; ‘Down by the Dockside’ reminiscences of Sheriff Street and ‘Larriers’, recalling schooldays in St Laurence O’Toole’s Christian Brothers School in Seville Place. His published books are ‘Monto Madams, Murder and Black Coddle’ and ‘Dublin Tenement Life’.