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The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Contents Page
The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Semper Quarens - Always Looking

Swastika Laundry

This piece is a clarification from an earlier piece on Nazi espionage in Ireland and in particular, Hermann Goertz.

One of the “Pioneers of the laundry business in Ireland” used a nazi symbol while his competition in the clothes-washing industry used slaves.

All that remains today is the chimney, preserved for architectural & historical merit. Photo by Naoise McDonnell

All that remains today is the chimney, preserved for architectural & historical merit. Photo by Naoise McDonnell

The Swastika Laundry building, as it stood in Ballsbridge

The Swastika Laundry building, as it stood in Ballsbridge

Where and When

Ballsbridge is a leafy and well-appointed suburb in Dublin. It is the kind of place where you find businessmen who are followed by the waft of dubious dealings as they rub shoulders with doctors who specialise in dissections of a single part of human anatomy which are diseased from over indulgence, all of whom have foreign diplomatic missions as neighbours. Its the kind of place with no dog poo on the path. Its a very nice place.

It’s the last place you would expect to see a giant industrial chimney with a giant swastika enscription emblazoned on it, for all across the city to see. For one thing, Ballsbridge is home to the US embassy. For another, it is home to the Israeli embassy.

One of the Swastika Laundry's fleet of electric vans.

One of the Swastika Laundry's fleet of electric vans.

Bully to you, Mr Hitler, we were there first.

However, for most of the last century Ballsbridge was also home to the Swastika Laundry, a large industrial-scale washing operation. The laundry was opened in 1912, the second venture in the world of garment cleansing by John W Brittain.

Here was a man who understood the concept of a unified, all-encompassing and global corporate branding programme. His vans used clean energy – little electric whirabouts that were emblazoned with the sanskrit svastika symbol of good fortune. His racehorse was called Swastika Rose. The clear little symbol was ubiquitous and unmistakable.

It was, of course, unfortunate that his company’s livery featured their black and white logo sitting on a red background. So unfortunate was it that during The Emergency they were forced to (ever so slightly) rename the company, The Swastika Laundry (1912). So bully to you, Mr Hitler, we were there first.

Spy Hangout

As pointed out in The Inquisition’s earlier piece on Hermann Goertz the laundry drew attention from patriotic nazis. Both Goertz and his fellow spy Unland, felt they had no option but to use the laundry. Quite why they risked giving themselves away by doing is anyone’s guess. Perhaps they felt it was a cover operation, which it was not.

Bought Out

The Swastika Laundry’s chimney is now a protected structure. It remained decorated with swastika livery even after the company was bought out by Spring Grove Laundry in the 1960s. Jobs were advertised in Irish print media right up until the late 60s. In fact, it remained decorated until the 1980s.

The last remnant of the laundry, the chimney now stands in the middle of one of many generic and unnecessary office blocks that were thrown up in Ireland’s construction boom.


Adolf Hitler’s brother, Alois, and his wife Bridget Dowling met in Dublin. Their marriage was brief due his being, as it is said in Dublin, a right old bollix. Bridget dubiously claimed to have been the inspiration behind the moustache and to have introduced Hitler to astrology.


A disclaimer of sorts;
As this is the second piece on nazis in Ireland, The Inquisition must make one thing absolutely clear. The fascination with nazis is purely out of historical interest, not an ideological fascination. But it must be admitted at the same time, dhey did have great uniforms.

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Bibliography covers the story (in its own way…)
Everything has its own Wikipedia entry… Swastika Laundry on Wikipedia
Eyelight Films has great images of the laundry on Flickr
Rare old Dublin: heroes hawkers & hoors, Frank Hopkins, Mercier Press Ltd, 2002

This article was posted by on Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 at 10:36.
It is archived in Culture and tagged , , , , , .

4 Responses to Swastika Laundry

  1. Pingback: Goertz and Mainau | The Inquisition

  2. Paul Gormley says:

    The “Swastika Laundry” also had a collections office in Rathmines very close to the barracks.
    I used to pass by so many times on the bus into city centre, often with a foreign student. Seeing the look on their faces, was in Carlsberg talk, ‘Priceless’.

  3. Pingback: Dueling Scars - - Culture - - The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnellThe Inquisition

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