The Uncertain Life of a Docker

‘Oh Jaysus, a fella’s after falling in the river’. And a voice came from the other side, now normally they’d say throw him a buoy, but some fella shouted, ‘Is it a button man?’, and someone shouts back, ‘Throw him a bar!’”

That was a quip from one of the Dublin Dockers who is part of the line-up at the 2017 Five Lamps Arts Festival. On Saturday 1st April at 8pm in Llyoyd’s pub on Amien Street, the Dublin Dockers are set to bring us a most intriguing collection of stories, including:

  • Standing in the Read
  • The Uncertain Life of a Docker
  • Working with Geniuses in the Hatch
  • The Morality of Smuggling
  • The Hero William Deans
  • Dockers’ Tools
  • Preserving Our Memories through Photographs
  • Dockers Were Found of the Odd Drink
  • The Tallyman Who Missed the Elephant
  • The Singsong After a Dockers’ Funeral and
  • The Traditions of Paying Our Last Respects.

If you’re like me and have limited knowledge of the docking world, that list may read confusing, which is exactly why I’m looking forward to finding out more!

This is the first time that these six men, all members of the Dockers Preservation Society, are storytelling in front of an audience. They’ve been working with Niamh Gleeson of the Five Lamps Theatre Company to prepare, so expect funny stories and colourful characters but also a well rounded sense of the life and a day in the life of a dockworker.

Was there smuggling and was there robbing? Yes there was but that isn’t the totality of what the dockers were about. So what we’re trying to do, to a complete group of strangers, is to relate to them, like, it was like Mars…and not Mears public house!”

From briefly meeting and listening to the group of men, my impression is that their experience was distinctive, theirs was no ordinary job and life so naturally it’s hard for people to comprehend the complexity and sometimes the bizarreness of the happenings on the docks. The Dockers want to pass on a true, first hand account of their experiences and to displace the stereotypes.

As well as stories, there is likely to be songs. There will also be pictures because among the group is award winning archivist, Alan Martin, who will be showing us a selection of photographs. (His archive is also the reason why I have included so many photos to accompany this article). The photos will also help to verify some of the stories, proving that tall tales of elephants are not so tall – but are nonetheless weighty.

Immerse yourself in a life past, allow yourself to be regaled, and start Saturday evening well.

Dublin Dockers In Their Own Words

Saturday 1st April, Lloyd’s pub, Amiens Street

Event Free but donations are welcome.

Written by Marian Brosnan     Thanks to Declan, Paddy, Alan, Paddy, John and Niamh.