CHURCH STREET DISASTER - MEMORIAL AT FATHER MATTHEW SQUARE

CHURCH STREET DISASTER - MEMORIAL AT FATHER MATTHEW SQUARE

Published: 3 September 1913


There were horrific scenes on Dublin’s Church Street last night as bodies – injured, maimed and deceased - were picked from the rubble of two collapsed tenement buildings.

The houses, numbers 66 and 67, came crashing down at 8.30 p.m. and by the early hours of the morning, following a frantic and exhaustive rescue effort, four dead bodies had been retrieved from the ruins.

Number 66 fell first, enshrouding the street in a cloud of dust and debris. Inside the house lived five families and 25 people. One of them, who had been situated at a window and became aware that something was up, raised an alarm just before the building gave way.

For many, it was too late. In the neighbouring number 67, which contained a similar number of families, residents, on hearing the roar and crash of falling masonry next door, made a dash for the street and escaped before their own their home came tumbling down after them. They all escaped.

The victims were taken to Richmond Hospital where four were later confirmed to have died. The youngest of the deceased has been named as four and half year-old Elizabeth Salmon. Her brother, Eugene (17), who was among those out of work in connection with the dispute at Jacob’s, also perished having returned to one of the houses in an attempt to save his younger sister.

Heartbroken and tear-stained, their father spoke to reporters about how he learned of his two children’s dreadful fate: ‘I occupied the shop and back parlour of No. 66, and I was at work when one of my little girls came down to me and told me at half-past eight or a quarter to nine o’clock’, he said. ‘I came out of my work and ran up when I found that the two houses had collapsed; and that two of my children Eugene and Elizabeth, had been picked up dead in the streets, but that my five other children were saved. My wife was out at work when it happened.

‘Eugene lost his life in trying to save Elizabeth who was also killed. I have been told, and believe that Margaret gave the alarm, when she heard a chimneypiece overhead falling, and exclaiming, ‘This house is falling,’ she ran out into the street. Then Eugene took the youngest child (Josephine), aged one year and eight months, and brought her out safely. Then she went back for the other children, and got out with them alright, but it was when he was coming away with Elizabeth that they were struck by the falling masonry and killed.’

In addition to the two Salmon children, Nicholas Fitzpatrick, an unmarried man, was also killed. The fourth fatality is a woman, but such was the disfigurement caused to her that it has been impossible to accurately identify her.

This death-toll may still rise, of course, as by 1am there were believed to be about 20 people still unaccounted for.
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