Johnny Forty Coats was born Patrick Joseph Marlow in James Street in 1887. He rambled the streets of The Liberties from the time he was a child and was known throughout Dublin City. He got his nickname because of the many layers of clothing he wore. A typical day’s attire could include four overcoats, seven waistcoats, two shirts, two undershirts and two pairs of socks!
He is said to have worn so many layers because he was a claustrophobic who slept outdoors. However, it didn’t matter what time of day it was or what the weather was like, he was never seen without his numerous layers.
Forty Coats made his living begging outside the city’s churches. He loved to read and would always carry comics and Penny Dreadfuls which made him very popular with local kids who he allowed to read them. He was regularly seen in local cafes but was barred from a few for spitting on the floor. Despite this habit he was known for his kindness and would give things to people who he thought needed them more than he did.
Forty Coats and his counterparts like ‘Damn The Weather’ would regularly be seen at Thompson’s Bakery on Bridgefoot Street, off Thomas Street. They would stand against the wall of the bakery to enjoy the heat from the ovens.
In February 1943 a journalist mistakenly reported that Johnny Forty Coats had died while he was in hospital. The journalist had to write a retraction after bumping in to Forty Coats a short time later. Unfortunately, Johnny Forty Coats did die later in 1943.
He is fondly remembered by many of the locals some of whom say, ‘he had a face like Jesus Christ’.