What's in a name?
Frank Sherwin (1905 - 1981), Dublin born and bred, was a councillor in Dublin Corporation up to the time of his death and an independent representative in the Dáil for eight years from 1957.
He bore witness to every major event of the 20th century: Dublin’s vicious labour dispute of 1913, the Lock Out; the Easter Rising of 1916; the War of Independence and the Civil War which followed in 1922; the Emergency of the second world war years; the economic wasteland of the 1940s and 1950s; mass emigration, the troubles in Northern Ireland and Ireland joining the European Union.
For Sherwin, life was not about seeing but doing. His republican ideology was formed in his cradle in the family’s one room tenement in Dorset Street, on the north side. Young Sherwin joined the Fianna, a youth movement dedicated to the cause of Irish freedom. He saw, first hand, fighting in the Easter Rising and went on to fight himself in the War of Independence and in the Civil War, on the anti-treaty side. By 17 years of age, he was a veteran urban guerrilla - his band of youthful warriors robbed for supplies by night and slept in ‘safe’ houses by day.
Fate had it that he was captured and in those hardened times, youth was no passport to special treatment. Tortured by his pro-treaty captors he bore the effects for the rest of his life, never regaining the full use of his right arm. Sherwin, as he put it himself, once earned a living in ‘the dance game’, describing himself as ‘an authority on dance halls’. As a politician, Sherwin championed the causes of the poor and dispossessed. Dublin’s slums, the worst in Europe when he was born, were clearing - but too slowly for his liking. In an age before political correctness, Sherwin plainly said what he clearly thought. A Dáil debate of 1958 on women joining the Gárdaí inspired his contribution that any female recruits to the force ‘should not be actually horse faced’ just, he warned, ‘not too good looking.’
One of the last Dublin Corporation debates Sherwin attended was on the subject of Dublin’s first crematorium. He dismissed the idea of cremation for Irish Catholics because, he contended, ‘we are too religious’. Dublin, always proud to celebrate her more colourful characters, named her newest bridge in his honour in 1982 - the Frank Sherwin Bridge.