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The writing on the wall


Published 02 December 2021

The writing on the wall by Gillian Ryan

In our new series, Teabreak with a Tour Guide, we catch up with some of the amazing tour guides who work in 14 Henrietta Street to hear their unique perspectives and insights on the house. From the building itself to the many former residents who lived there over a 300-year period, the tour guides are looking forward to sharing some of Dublin’s hidden history with you - all in the time it takes for you to have a tea break.

In the first of the series, Tour Guide Gillian Ryan shares her thoughts about a piece of graffiti in the hallway and what it can tell us about the house and the people who lived there.


This writing (pictured above) is an original piece of graffiti found in a hallway in 14 Henrietta Street and it can tell us a lot about the house and its residents.

This graffiti was written in the Dublin accent, and as you can see, it has some misspellings.

Today, education is so important and it is something we encourage and strive for in our children. In tenement times in Dublin, things were different and I know of many people who would have left the education system by the age of 13.

Why would you need to read and write if you're going to follow in your fathers footsteps as a painter or carpenter or docker? Making money by giving the few shillings to your mother at the end of the week to help put food on the table was much more important. Girls too were sometimes taken out of school early, the reasoning being that they wouldn’t need an education when they would be getting married and raising a family.

As a guide, when I show the graffiti to visitors we sometimes get a giggle and when that happens a little bit of my heart breaks. It breaks because I know people are unaware of what the Irish school system was like back then. I know people who are now in their 60s and 70s who have gone their whole lives without learning to read or write as a result of those early experiences.

The graffiti also tells us other things. It tells us something about the people of this house, who protected each other and watched out for one another as best they could. It tells us about the community in this house, who made it a home.

Gillian Ryan

Guides with the award


 Gillian Ryan is a Tour Guide at 14 Henrietta Street. Her own family hail from Henrietta Street which gives her a unique insight into the stories of the house. She’s particularly interested in the tenement period, and has an in-depth knowledge of Irish social history of that time. She has been enjoying welcoming everyone back to the house for tours in recent weeks.

Join a tour

If you’d like to find out more about the history of 14 Henrietta Street from Gillian and our team of Tour Guides, you can book your place here.