The Shelbourne Hotel on the north side of St Stephen’s Green in Dublin was first established in 1824 by a Tipperary man, aged in his 40’s, named Martin Burke. Almost nothing is known about Martin Burke’s early history; we do know however that he was a Tipperary man, born about 1788, a practising Catholic by birth and his death was reported in a Clonmel newspaper, the Tipperary Free Press on January 20th 1863. The mystery remains where he got his start-up money for such an enormous transaction and where or even when he acquired the necessary training to be a hotel manager. He may have had connections with the Honourable East India Company trading into the East Indies and certainly sold private lands prior to this his new venture.
Martin’s ambition was to open a hotel in Dublin that would, as he stated “Woo genteel custom who wanted solid, comfortable and serviceable accommodation at a fashionable address.”
Burke to achieve his ambition, leased three houses situated side by side and numbered 27, 28 and 29 St. Stephen’s Green. The buildings, then situated in one of the most fashionable parts of Dublin were taken over, “in consideration of a down payment of £1,000 and the promise of a further £2,000 at a later date and a yearly rent of £300,” with Burke and his future heirs being granted the leasehold interest for 150 years. Martin Burke then set about turning these three buildings into the quality licensed accommodation holder and hostelry that was his long awaited dream.
His shrewd marketing ability soon came to the fore in the chosen name attributed to his new venture. Instead of calling it Bourke’s Hotel, he named his new enterprise after William Petty, 1st Marquess, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, Prime Minister of Great Britain (1782 – 83) and who had succeeded in securing peace with America during the final months of the American War of Independence. Burke carefully took the liberty of adding an ‘o’ into the name’s spelling, thus instantly linking the hotel with the fame and standards of the late Lord Shelburne, while also attracting the immediate attention of the then ruling ascendancy classes.
Within a year of its opening and the first hotel to install a gas lighting system lately arrived in Dublin, The Shelbourne Hotel was now firmly established as a favourite of visitors “doing the season,” and stood proudly at the centre of Irish upper class society. Historically “The Season” ran from April to August; latter which marks the beginning of the shooting season. Here upper class Society would retire to the country to shoot birds during the autumn and hunt foxes during the winter, before coming back to the city again with the offset of spring, to hold débutante balls, dinner parties, large charity events and take part in political activity.
So what is the connection with Adolf Hitler, I hear you scream? Read on.
Alois Hitler Jr., born Alois Matzelsberger (January 13th 1882, Vienna – Died May 20th 1956, Hamburg), was the illegitimate son of Alois Hitler Snr. a Customs Official and Franziska “Fanni” Matzelsberger and was the half-brother of Adolf Hitler. Since they were not married, the child’s last name remained Matzelsberger, making him ‘Alois Matzelsberger.’ Alois Hitler the father kept Franziska Matzelsberger as his wife while his lawful wife (Anna Glasl-Hörer) aware of her husband’s marital transgressions, grew sicker and eventually died on April 6th 1883.
The following month, on May 22nd at a ceremony in Braunau, together with fellow custom officials as his witnesses, Alois Hitler aged 45, now married lover Matzelsberger then aged 21. He legitimized his son as Alois Hitler Jr. and the latter was soon joined by a baby sister named Angela. When Alois Jr. was just two years old his mother died from a lung disorder and his father then married Klara Pölzl, his first cousin once removed, on 7 January 1885 with whom he had been also having a long-standing affair, cheating on his recent second wife Franziska Matzelsberger. Five months after the wedding, the new Frau Klara Hitler gave birth to her first child, Gustav. This birth was followed by a daughter, Ida, in 1886 and a son, Otto, in 1887. Three years later all children were dead from weak health and an outbreak of Diphtheria.
Then at 51 years old on April 20th 1889 Alois Sr. fathered with Frau Klara another son, the sickly child who would later become the future Nazi Dictator Adolf Hitler.
According to William Patrick Hitler, the son of Alois Hitler Jr., in the late 1890’s his father had left the parental home due to increasingly violent arguments with his father and apparently also strained relations with his stepmother Klara Pölzl. Alois Hitler Snr, aged 58, had now retired due to ill health and was farming some nine acres of land near Lambach, approximately 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Linz. Abusive to his children and with Alois Jr. the main target of his brutality; in 1898, at the age of 14, Alois left home never to return and by January 3rd 1903, his father was dead from a pleural haemorrhage.
After finding work as an apprentice waiter in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, in Ireland, he was arrested for theft and served a five-month sentence in 1900, followed by an eight-month sentence in 1902.
It was while admiring horses at the 1909 Dublin Horse Show that Alois Jr. struck up an idle conversation with William Dowling. William Dowling’s daughter, seventeen year old Bridget, was introduced to Alois Jr. and she became immediately fascinated by the handlebar moustached, handsome foreigner; being particularly taken with his broken English / German brogue.
Later Alois and Bridget met at the National Gallery, in Dublin, and very soon they were talking about getting married. Bridget’s parents were totally against this relationship, so much so that the couple eventually decided to elope and were married in London a year later on June 3rd 1910. Alois and Bridget now moved to Liverpool where they opened a restaurant; however Alois was not a good businessman and soon ran into financial difficulties. Bridget’s father William Dowling had initially threatened to have Alois arrested for kidnapping, but his wife had dissuaded him from doing so. Peace was finally made about a year later when William Dowling went to Liverpool to attend at the baptism of his first grandchild, William Patrick Hitler.
Following this meeting Alois fled to Germany to avoid his debts, his son and his wife Bridget, intent on establishing himself in the safety-razor business. Now stranded by WWI in 1914, he was forced to join the German Army. Bridget would learn from a third party inaccurately of his death after the war. Far from deceased Alois Jr. eventually remarried one Hedwig Heidemann and was duly prosecuted for bigamy in 1924, but was somehow acquitted due to Bridget’s intervention on his behalf. He died age 74 on May 20th 1956, following a traffic accident.
A son was born to Alois Jr. and second wife Hedwig, whom they named Heinz. Latter attended an elite Nazi military academy, the National Political Institutes of Education Napola in Ballenstedt, Saxony. Aspiring to be an officer, Heinz joined the Wehrmacht as a signals NCO with the 23rd Potsdamer Artillery Regiment in 1941. On January 10th 1942, Heinz was captured by Soviet forces and sent to the Moscow military prison at Butyrka, where he died, aged 21, after several days of severe interrogation and torture.
In 1939 William Patrick Hitler and his mother Bridget, fearful over their known family connections, emigrated to America where they settled on Long Island and changed their surname to Stuart-Huston.
William Patrick Hitler did a tour of America giving lectures on his “Uncle the Madman” and Bridget wrote a manuscript titled “My Brother-in-Law Adolf.” In 1941, when America joined the war effort, Patrick enlisted to fight against his uncle and served in the Medical Corps where he saw action and received an honourable discharge.
Always remember real Irish history begins in Co Tipperary.