When Rivers of Whiskey Flowed Through Dublin
Fire was detected at a liquor warehouse around 8PM on the night of June 18th, 1875. Before long, the whole place was a raging inferno as whiskey barrels began to burst, and their contents further fueled the blaze. Per The Irish Examiner: “The burning whiskey poured literally in torrents from the doors and windows of the burning pile, and rushed down Mill-street and the other streets of the locality in flaming and lava like streams“. Entire blocks went up in flames. To intensify the hellish scene, nineteenth century cities were full of animals, and many of them caught on fire. As residents fled for their lives, pigs, donkeys, goats, and cows ran around ablaze, and added their piteous screams to the roar of the flames.
Amidst the disaster, many Dubliners saw opportunity: free whiskey! As one newspaper put it: “… caps, porringers, and other vessels were in great requisition to scoop up the liquor as it flowed from the burning premises, and disgusting as it may seem, some fellows were observed to take off their boots and use them as drinking cups“. Others scooped up whiskey with their cupped hands, and drank themselves senseless. However, it was not finished whiskey that flowed in the streets, but untreated and thus undrinkable industrial alcohol. Dozens were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, of whom thirteen died. The disaster even claimed dogs. One canine lapped whiskey on the street, and went crazy. It invaded a house and attacked its owner, who had to defend himself with an iron bar, then ran upstairs and leapt to its death from a window.