It was designated as ‘Parnell Sunday’ but October 12th1902 would shine a light on a darker side of the Irish psyche, our drinking culture. The licensing laws in Ireland in the early part of the twentieth century meant that public houses closed early on a Saturday night and only opened for a couple of early evening hours on a Sunday if they had a seven-day licence. The gap in the opening hours allowed illegal drinking dens, so called ‘bogus clubs’ and shebeens to profit and on this particular ‘Parnell Sunday’ the gap would be exposed and some famous people caught up in the resultant court actions.
A number of ‘clubs’ opened in the early 1900's mainly serving various industries allowing workers to gather socially to play card games and enjoy banter though these were also the hotbed of industrial unrest as the Unions used these clubs to enroll new members and ferment unrest. The clubs would open and serve large quantities of alcohol from early evening to Sunday night often not closing and they were the only place in Dublin to get a drink on a Sunday morning. The problem became such a problem between January and November 1903 there were 105 prosecutions of these ‘bogus clubs’ for illegally selling alcohol to other than members as per the law.
‘Parnell Sunday’ was a popular day in the Dublin city as they celebrated the life of Charles Stewart Parnell and the authorities knew that many of these clubs would be full and on that Sunday evening in 1902 a number of raids were carried out leading to numerous subsequent convictions. Wexford man Patrick Hanlon, who’s wife Margaret ran a public house at 6 St John Rogerson’s Quay ran a hall at 4 Sandwith Street Lower where a number of unions and clubs met. On October 12th a ‘Sunday’ meeting of The Dock Labourers Club was in full swing when a DMP Inspector Dunne and Sergeant Dockery from nearby Great Brunswick Station (now Pearse Street Garda station) raided the club and discovered many of those on the premises were neither members nor signed in by members. The Inspector observed that many of the women and some children were highly intoxicated. Hanlon and two bar staff, Joseph McMahon and his sister Kate Reilly were charged with breaking the then licensing laws. After leaving the Dock Labourers the two policemen moved around the corner to 46 Great Brunswick Street where the Democratic Labour Club were meeting. The Club had been formed in 1892 on nearby Lombard Street and on that night over one hundred patrons were on the premises when the two policemen arrived just after nine o’clock that night. While it was supposed to be a club and a meeting hall the Inspector said that there ‘was a bar that was a public house bar’ even though the club did not have the required license. The bar manager James Murphy, his wife Mary who was serving behind the bar and John Kane were arrested in this shebeen when it was later demonstrated in court that there were more people of the premises than there were actual registered members. Mrs Murphy was freed by the courts subsequently as the Judge said that he believed she was under the influence of her husband. James Murphy was fined ten pounds while John Kane was fined one pound. Kane’s crime was buying drink for a non-member and allowing a non-member to buy him a drink. The non-member who was called as a witness in the prosecution of the club operators was James Larkin who would later have played such a pivotal role in the 1913 Lockout.
The Foresters Club on Capel Street was also raided and John and Sarah Somers convicted of selling alcohol without a licence. John was given a three months with hard labour sentence while his wife was fined fifty pounds. When raided there were eighty four persons on the premises and the DMP seized 239 bottle of porter. There was a lot of newspaper comment on the widespread number of the ‘bogus clubs’ and the increasing public drunkenness especially when public houses were closed. It eventually led a couple of years later to a tightening of the laws surrounding Clubs and their ability to serve alcohol.