Saturday, 6 September 2014

The McGranes of Fishamble Street, Dublin

My maternal great-great-grandmother, James Byrne’s mother, was born Margaret McGrane. Like the majority of my known ancestors, Margaret was most likely born in Dublin. On an unstated day in November 1851, she was baptised in SS Michael and John church, Lower Exchange Street, on the south side of the River Liffey. Her residential address was not recorded. Her parents were Miles McGrane, a general labourer, and Margaret Doyle.[1] They had married in the same church, on 26 January, ten months before Margaret's baptism.[2] She was the first of their twelve identified children.

The Music Hall, Fishamble Street
Music Hall, Fishamble Street
Source: The Musical Times, no. 730, 1 December 1903, p. 799.

Research shows that Margaret spent much of her first ten years living at or near Saul’s Court, also known as Albert Place, a small court once standing off Fishamble Street. Fishamble Street was in the civil parish of St John, an area of about twelve acres within the old city walls. It is one of the oldest streets in Dublin, dating way back to the middle ages. In the year 1356 an order was issued prohibiting the sale of fish anywhere else in Dublin city apart from in the fish ‘shambles’, or markets, and it was from these that Fishamble Street earned its name.[3] In the eighteenth century, the street was home to Dublin’s more prosperous citizens and its music hall even hosted the world’s first recital of Handel’s Messiah. However, by the mid-nineteenth century it had become a poor and deteriorating neighbourhood with many of the houses converted into tenements. In 1851 the parish was home 3,483 people, living in 296 houses.[4]

The family’s address can be gleaned from its sporadic recording in the baptismal and burial records for Margaret’s siblings. Two brothers, John Laurence and Patrick, both died at Fishamble Street, in March 1854 and March 1855, aged six months and six weeks, respectively.[5] In April 1856, when Francis Joseph McGrane was baptised in SS Michael and John's church, the family resided at Saul’s Court, Fishamble Street and when her younger sister Catherine was baptised in October 1858, their address was given as 8 Saul’s Court.[6] Little Catherine died in January 1860, by which time the family had moved to the north side of the River and were living at 17 Aldborough Court, off the North Strand.[7]

Griffith’s Valuation, 1854, Saul's Court
Griffith’s Valuation, 1854, Saul's Court

Saul's Court is no longer in existence. Griffith’s Valuation of 1854 above shows it was once made up of only four houses. The owner was William Burkett, although ‘lodgers’ lived in three of the houses, i.e. they were in tenements. By 1862, Thom’s Directory confirmed all four houses were in tenements.[8]  

Saul’s Court, Fishamble Street,
Source: Watson's Almanack, 1783, courtesy of SWilson.Info*  

According to Gilbert’s History of Dublin, Saul's court was located on the eastern side of Fishamble Street. It was named after Laurence Saul, a wealthy Roman Catholic distiller, who lived there in the early eighteenth century.[9] Based on the listings in Griffith’s Valuation and Thom’s Directory of 1862, Saul’s Court was situated off Fishamble Street, between Castle Street and Copper Alley. It was eight houses up from Castle Street and three houses down from Copper Alley, roughly about where the star is positioned on the map above.  This was right in the path of Lord Edward Street, which opened in the 1880s.

Given there were only four houses in Saul's Court it is unclear exactly how the McGranes lived at number 8, in 1858. Perhaps the four houses were split into 'apartments'. Perhaps number 8 Fishamble Street, leased by John Crotty and others in 1854, but owned by William Burkett, was considered to be part of Saul's Court. William Burkett owned eight houses in or immediately adjacent Saul's Court, so, presumably it was one of these.

* Note, anyone with Irish ancestry should check out the free website, which is quickly becoming an excellent resource for Irish family history research.

[1] Baptism register, SS Michael and John, accessed 
[2] Marriage register, same.
[3] John Gilbert, A history of the city of Dublin, i (Dublin, 1861), p.47.
[4] Census of Ireland for the year 1861, part i: area, population and number of houses, City of Dublin, p. 44-45, accessed
[5] Burial register, Glasnevin Cemetery, Grave NE 85.5.
[6] Baptism register, SS Michael and John.
[7] Burial register, Glasnevin Cemetery, Grave NE 85.5.
[8] Thom's Irish Almanac and Official Directory for the Year 1862, Dublin Street Directory, accessed
[9] Gilbert, A history of the city of Dublin, p. 94.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy


  1. Dara, thanks for sharing that resource at SWilson. I noticed the credit on your map and checked it out before even finishing your post! Looks like a promising resource. I'll be taking a further look. Seems like a place where I could get lost.

  2. Jacqi, I know what it's like to get distracted by shiny new resources! Thanks for remembering my post, lol.

  3. Laurence Saul resided in 1759 at No 8 Fishamble St.The great General Edward Saul Jennings was born here on Oct 19th 1751 son of Dr Théobald Edward Jennings of Tuam Galway. His Mother; Eleanore Saul
    daughter of the above Laurence Saul; a wealthy Dublin Distiller.
    Jennings served Under Rochambeau and Lafayette in the America

    1. Thanks James, this was a bit before my family's time at the premises. :-)

  4. I started off life at 27 Fishamble Street way back in 1949, left there when I was aged about 5. I remember running down the hill to watch the Guinness barges, must be a miracle I was not run over! Now living in the UK but return on business now and then and always take time out to visit and linger along the quays, recalling old Dublin. Right on top of the original Viking settlement of course, one side of the street has yet to be excavated. The vikings left their mark in all sorts of ways and many Dubliners will have part-viking DNA. The City has changed so much over time, but thats life, though some change has not been for the good. Ironic that there were celebrations around 1916/2016 and the rightful fight for Independence and then all that was handed over to Brussels! Liam

    1. Thanks Liam, I loved the smell of hops coming up the Liffey from the Guinness factory, it always reminded me I was 'home', and I still love the walk from town to Heuston station, to get the train home. Not everything was handed over to Brussels, we still have our history, our right to self-determination, and the old Dublin is still 'visible' in town, despite the changes.

  5. Liam Nolan (or anyone really). I am looking for information about 27 Fishamble Street and who owned it in the mid-late 1930's. My father was born in 1937 and was unnamed. When we finally got his birth certificate we found that his mother was Margaret McGrath and the address she gave was 27 Fishamble Street. Any help trying to solve who lived there at the time would be great.

  6. Hi all, a million years has passed since I was on here! I can ask my older brother Sean if he remembers who my parents rented our abode from. We would have left number 27 around 1954 I suppose. We all have our roots and like to recall them, explore the history and hopefully visit. I am fortunate in that I can still visit, explore and research. Its a sad record that the Dublin tenements were regarded as the worst in Europe. So a very high infant mortality rate, widespread poverty and not much prospects for young people to develop. Though of course many did and went on to steer the course of Irish history and create the Irish population! I am not being very helpful to adding useful information for anyone tracing families. In the UK I have done much research into Viking life and especially the Danish inhabitation of Easter England, given to them by Alfred as appeasement to prevent them raiding more westwards into the old Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex. I will be researching along the same lines down in Waterford, Wexford and Dublin of course. I am back over in Dublin around February 2022 to run some courses in Dublin and probably Cobh or Limerick. Covid permitting of course. Good luck to all who are tracing their family histories. My younger sister is developing our Nolan family tree and I can tell you that she leave no stones unturned! She does a lot of work in tracing biological parents for adopted people. Moving house yet again, from Hemswell in Lincs back to Norwich and surrounded by a growing army of packing boxes. Too many books that weigh too much, but none will be left behind. Very tempting to down tools and read a few pages and before you know, its most of the day gone! Liam


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!