Susy Nagle and her concertina skirt
U 10.385: If I could get that dressmaker to make a concertina skirt like Susy Nagle’s. They kick out grand. Shannon and the boatclub swells never took his eyes off her.
Don Gifford makes the reasonable suggestion that Susy Nagle is related to Dublin’s most prominent Nagle family, the three brothers Joe, Patrick, and John, sons of Alderman John Nagle (d. 1888), who ran their businesses – including a public house - out of No 25 Earl Street North, off O’Connell Street. This short article looks principally at who Susy Nagle was, and why she might be remembered for her concertina dress.
Susy Nagle was born Susanna Neagle (or Nagle) on 5 January 1871, the youngest daughter of Denis Nagle and Mary Fitzsimons on 84 Upper Dorset Street in Dublin. The couple had been married since 1859. Susanna’s father was a member of the DMP, the Dublin Metropolitan Police. He also owned and let out a number of premises, mostly north of the river in central Dublin. In the late 1870s Denis became ill; the houses plunged into a neglected and insanitary condition, and in due course Denis died on 26 October 1880, ‘at his residence’, 134 Upper Dorset Street. Susy Nagle and her family were not related to the Nagles of Earl Street North, and there was no one in that family who would fit the bill.
Denis's wife Mary continued as a provisions dealer in Dorset Street (Thom’s Directory, 1884), but little or nothing is heard of her daughter Susanna in the newspapers at the time.
By 1892 we seem to catch sight of her, on tour with an Irish dramatic company performing for a week at Stacey’s Theatre in Sheffield. Miss Maud Vernon’s group put on F. C. Harcourt’s Clear the Way; or Faugh-a-Ballago:
By now Denis’s widow Mary Nagle and her family had moved further out of the centre of Dublin to Jones’s Road, on the edge of Croke Park. Perhaps this is them arriving back from a trip to England:
Whatever the case, here is Susanna setting up shop as a dressmaker a month later:
The ‘concertina skirt’ is coming closer! Thom’s Directory for 1894 has the family at 10 Jones’s Road, under the name of her elder brother John, a clerk with the Post Office in Dublin. By 1896 she has upgraded her shop to Talbot Street, nearer the centre of town:
And in 1899 she marries another member of the DMP, Felix O’Hanlon – losing the surname ‘Nagle’ before the events of Bloomsday:
For the 1901 census, Felix and Susie, Susie’s widowed mother and her brother John and Denis are all living at No 24 Jones’ Road, and Susie has her first child, the baby Mary Agatha., with her. The dressmaking business seems to disappear with the birth of Susie’s baby.
The concertina skirt
In the accompanying illustration (found by Harald Beck) the skirt is made up for a child, and the pleating is indistinct. The Birmingham Daily Post of 6 September 1893 reports the skirt making its appearance in the House of Lords:
Earlier in 1893 Susie Nagle had set up as a dressmaker in Dublin. She seems to have been associated with the new fashion of the concertina skirt.
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