Mary Cummings

Mary came in to see us just six days after heart surgery. She held a small piece of paper in her hand and he said that she came to have her brother Bill remembered. The piece of paper was in fact his little memorial card. Bill had downed in Spencer Dock Canal. He was a great little swimmer and like many of the other children in our area had learned to swim in either the canal or the Liffey. On the day he died, he was fishing off the side of the canal. The hook caught his jumper and as he struggled to free the hook, he toppled into the canal. He hit his head on the way in and was unconscious entering the water.  He wasn’t found until the next day.

This event happened in the aftermath of Mary’s father’s death. Some months after her dad’s death her Mum discovered that she was pregnant and before this baby was born, her beloved brother Bill had died in this terrible circumstance.  Mary reported that her mother was never the same again.

Tragically Bill was only one of the many children, mostly boys who drowned in the Canal or the river Liffey. The local belief is that both of these waterways claimed the lives of approx. one young life a year for twenty years.

Mary went on to recall the intense pleasure that was to be had in the window of the sweetshop. You could go with as little as one penny, halfpenny, or farthing and still come away with some goodies of sweatiness. It offered an oasis of pleasure in a life that could be harsh and tragic.

Bill’s memorial card is amongst the black and white photos of the participants as children.

Comments about this page

  • Dear Mary,
    Thank you so much for your contribution to this site. I really appreciate it. You won’t believe it but I’m actually editing Mary’s interview about her memories of our shop and her experiences of living in Sheriff St. It’s a cracking interview and in it she recalls many happy things but also her brother, Bill’s drowning and in particular your brother Sean’s death. It was incredibly traumatic and sad for the entire community. So many children died and they reckon that between the canal the river, the sea, the roads and railway we lost a child a year for 20 years! We spoke together about that and all of the children who died. Mary’s interview will be posted on the YouTube channel and then linked to this website. The other interviews already loaded are Sylvia Murtagh, Dolores Walsh, Tara Kearns and Peter Sheridan. I really want to thank you again for your contribution and I would encourage yourself and others to continue to add your voices to the story of Sheriff St because the story belongs to all of us. In fifty years time when people look up Sheriff St on this site the stories will still be here for all to see. Best regards and warmest wishes, Maria

    By maria.mcgrane (15/02/2024)
  • Mary and 1 were neighbors and friends in Sheriff Street,and i remember when Bill died, my brother John was one of his friends and shortly after my brother John was hit by a train in Amien Street train station while he was snaring piegons, and as Mary said too many children died that way.

    By Mary Macken (11/02/2024)

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