The Emergency

During World War II, Ireland held an official policy of neutrality.
This period in Irish history is referred to as “The Emergency”. The state of emergency was declared by Dáil Éireann on 2 September 1939.
Despite its stated position of neutrality, Ireland was bombed several times. By far the worst was the North Strand Bombings in May 1941 which killed 38 people.

“I remember going for our gas masks in Gardiner Street School, and my father making plans where we would go if the war came.

It was a very real thing, the threat of war.  I remember going out trying to help.  He was an air warden during the Emergency.  His job was to look after the air raid shelters.  There were air raid shelters all over the place.”


“One day, during the 1940s, the men were knocking down the air-raid shelters in Glorney’s Buildings when there was a gas leak and a few people died.

It was the same in Mary’s Mansions. My mother and father were in hospital for a week.  I was also taken to hospital suffering from gas fumes.  As I came home from the hospital, some of the lads were jeering me, saying: ‘Don’t light your cigarettes up beside Lizzie or she will blow up’.”

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North Strand Bombings – Night of 30/31 May 1941

Four German bombs fell on Dublin between 1.28am and 2.05am on the night of 30/31 May 1941 – at the junction of the North Circular Road and North Richmond Street, Summerhill Parade, in the Phoenix Park, and the biggest and most destructive bomb fell on the North Strand at the junction with North William Street.
38 people were killed and almost 100 were injured. 800 people were left homeless. The whole appearance of the North Strand was changed forever.

“I was one of the ones injured that night.

It was a Whit weekend (the weekend of Pentecost Monday) I remember. We slept in the front of the house.

I remember we heard this noise and I said it must be an aeroplane or something. It was a funny sound, as if a car was coming up a hill. Out at Clontarf we had the Ak Ak guns.

A Huge Orange Blast

We jumped out of bed and I said that sounds like it is coming down on the house. As I was coming down the stairs passing the landing window, the bannisters and everything shook.  It was as if the sun burst, a huge big orange blast. When I got downstairs, my brother said to me, ‘you’re bleeding’.  Right there on my thigh, it wasn’t glass, it was the blast. It was a perfectly clean cut.

A taxi man gave me first aid. He was passing and came down to see could he help.  All the lights were out on the Mall except ours, so I needn’t tell you, our house was like a first aid station. But the confusion that night, and the gas mains and everything, dreadful. I thought it was only the start like.

Terrible Injuries

I remember in Jervis Street Hospital, the surgeon said to me, you know, there’s not a trace of glass in that, that was the blast. There were people there with terrible injuries.

Pilot Got Lost

Now the story was that here had been bad raids over Belfast that weekend and this lone fellow got lost. Naturally, he didn’t know anything about a border and to get away quickly, it was a landmine, he just released that on the Strand.

Oh the crater was huge.  Absolutely dreadful.”


“I was looking out the window of our house (4 Gloucester Diamond).

I said to my mother: ‘They must have got new searchlights’.  Next of all, we heard a whistling sound and a big explosion.  I was sent flying across the room.  My granny came into the room in her nightdress.  She had her rosary beads in her hand, saying ‘Mother of God, pray for us’.  Mother said: ‘Go and help your granny get dressed and help the old people get into the air raid shelter’.  The shelter was outside our door.”

Aftermath of the North Strand bombing

Aftermath of the North Strand bombing. Photographs were commissioned by Dublin Corporation as evidence for the assessment of insurance claims. Courtesy of Dublin City Council.

"At the time, there were the tramlines going down with the big cobbles, and this is what caused this terrible explosion.  Pieces of flesh were found in our garden after that bomb, where people were blown to bits. A couple were blown to bits."


“The planes must have been flying very low because we could hear what I can only describe as like the gears of a car jamming, then we heard the whistling sounds, then the big explosions.

The bed lifted off the floor of the house. I threw my arms around my mother as the bed went up in the air – everything in the house came down around us.

After a while, we got dressed and went out onto the street and we seen all the neighbours out on the street. They were looking up towards the North Strand and we could see big red flames going up towards the sky.

A neighbour of ours, Mr. Farrell who was in the Red Cross, went up to help out but he did not stay too long up there.  The poor man was sick at what he saw and came back home.

You’re Only Here Because of the Germans

The funny thing about the night after the attack was that St. Laurence O’Toole’s Church was absolutely packed out to the door with people looking for the priest to hear their confessions. I was sitting in the church with my sister and this man who was in front of us went into the confession box.

Well you could hear the priest shouting at him: “You’re only here because the Germans dropped the bombs on the Strand. Otherwise, you would not be here tonight or any other night. You would not show your face inside this church or any church only for the Germans”.”


“After the bomb dropped, my father was helping with the digging for bodies in the rubble.

Of course, as children, foolishly we went down to see them digging for bodies.  I remember my father lost his hat at the bombing.

Some of the young lads saying what a rotten aim that German pilot had that he did not bomb O’Connell Schools.”


Right at my window, as sure as God, I could see the men in the plane.  The thing was over my head and the two of us went down on our knees.

We couldn’t move. Stuck to the ground we were.  Next thing we heard the bang at the top of the North Strand.  At the top of our terrace.  It came over our yard, the noise of it.  It shook us, threw us really on the ground.

We got up anyway, and my first idea was to run in and see how the children were.  I couldn’t get into the bedrooms because that time we had Lino on the floor, and it had been sucked up off the ground  and it blocked the door.  Eventually, I tore it and pushed the door in.

When I came down to the kitchen, all the damage there was.  The lamp had smashed, all the delph was broken. The window was broken.  Thanks be to God there was nothing else.

All of the shops were gone after the bombing. Completely out.”


"After the North Strand bombing, we had to leave and we went to live in Bulfin Road. Most of the families had nowhere to go. So the Corporation moved them into Swilly Road, Dingle Road etc. in Cabra. We moved back to Charleville Mall again in 1943 to number 10. Number 4 had been pulled down because of the bomb damage."


“We pulled several bodies out, some dead.  We got a woman there whose head was in one place and her body was in another.

You would pick up a body by the shoulders and lift it, and somebody else would lift the legs high, and all the blood inside comes out on top of you.

You don’t worry about it.  Warm and sticky, and it smells.  You just go on.  You handed the body to the St. Johns Ambulance and they put them on stretchers.  The priest came around and gave the last rites.  Then you put the tubes inside the neck into the body, and you put the head beside it, and he just closed down the eyes and off you go.

I found a leg up on the railway line.  We couldn’t find a body to fit it.  The body might have been buried beneath all the rubble and everything else.  It got to a stage when they came along and just filled in all the place.  Just levelled it off.

Today I still think there were people buried there that were never reported missing and never found.  Ah, it was a nightmare, so it was.”


“My eldest brother, Paddy got up when he heard the bombing.

He went down to see a family named Tucker. He was the pal of one of the Tucker lads. They lived down where the bomb fell on the Strand. Paddy was just back when another bomb exploded, the North Stand bomb.

Strangely enough it didn’t frighten me. Probably because we were with the other kids. Once we heard the plane we said ‘oh my God, here’s the plane back’ and we heard the whistle.  We all leaned up against the wall at the corner of our house, which was on Dunne Street. Then we ran up the lane into Walker’s house, for safety. The bombing was all over then.

Just all the commotion then after that. This piece of tram track about two feet in length, came flying over and landed here. It didn’t hit anybody, luckily enough.

The next morning after the bombing, it was the most beautiful sunny morning. People were coming from all directions just to see the devastation.”


Do you have family memorabilia or stories about life in the North Inner City? We’d love to hear from you: