Documentary on One

The Animal Gangs

The so-called 'Animal Gangs' from the 1930's and 40's are a staple of Dublin folklore, remembered by some as Robin Hood figures who protected the poor, or as brutal thugs whose nickname reflected their savagery.

The Animal Gangs

© RTÉ Stills Library
© RTÉ Stills Library

Depending on which version was told, the name arose from either a particularly vicious beating that they carried out, or the allegation that they had razors sewn into their caps for use in street fighting, or any number of other supposed explanations.

Gangs and gang warfare in Dublin can be traced back to at least the eighteenth-century, and the term 'Animal Gangs' was applied to territorial gangs all over Dublin in the 1930s and 1940s. But there was an original Animal Gang, based around Corporation St and Foley St in the north inner city, and who came to the attention of the Gardaí in 1934-35, as fights between gangs in the city began to break out with disturbing regularity and the nickname 'Animal Gang' began to be used with disturbing frequency.

The original Animal Gang were newsboys who banded together in order to conduct a feud with the IRA (in republican folklore they were often alleged to be in league with the Blueshirts). They eventually emigrated, and supposedly came together again in the East End of London. But the name stuck, and stayed alive.

The story of the Animal Gang sheds light on the social history of inner city Dublin in the 1930s, when some of its inhabitants came to the attention of both paramilitaries and the police, and ended up passing into urban legend.

The Animal Gangs was compiled and narrated by John Gibney.

Production Supervision by Ciaran Cassidy.

First broadcast: July 21st 2012 @2pm

'Documentary on One is the home of Irish radio documentaries and the largest library of documentary podcasts available anywhere in the world. We tell stories in sound, mostly Irish ones, and each documentary tells its own story'

Documentary Maker: John Gibney

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Documentary Maker: Ciaran Cassidy

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