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Orla-Exterior-500

This photograph shows the Governor’s House at Arbour Hill Prison, Dublin. It is described by Christine Casey as ‘a three bay-block with a central axial corridor, transverse stair and simple plaster ornament,’ and was built between 1845-1848.

It was designed by Richard Cleverton Cuming, Assistant Surveyor, Royal Engineers, Ordnance Civil Branch, Dublin Castle. A watercolour of the house by Herbert Crompton Herries ca. 1870, showing the gardens and the Wellington Monument in the distance, was recently auctioned in Dublin.

This photograph shows the governor, his family and their uniformed staff standing outside the ivy-covered building. I reckon that the photograph was taken between 1890 and 1910. One of the governors during this period was George Alfred Penrhys Evans who is listed in the 1901 census. The household included the governor, his wife Cecelia Cameka Evans, their one-year-old daughter Audrey Fortesine and four female servants.

The firm of Guthrie took this photograph and their studio was located at nearby Parkgate Street. The Guthrie brothers were born in China and South Africa, however, their mother hailed from County Fermanagh. They describe themselves on the 1911 census as ‘Photographic Artists’ and I have written about their work in a previous post which you can read here.

Orla-interior-500

The above photograph was sold along with the image of Governor’s House. Though I can’t be sure that it is the interior of the Arbour Hill house, its atmospheric clutter, decorated with a large number of prints and photographic portraits, is similar to a bedroom of the period.

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This series of photographs shows the annual parade of the Royal Black Preceptory (R.B.P) in Cootehill, County Cavan in 1920. Also known as the Royal Black Institute, it is a Protestant fraternal society (non-Protestants cannot become members unless they agree to adhere to the principles of Orangeism and convert). To join the R.B.P. one must already be a member of the Orange Order. 1931 was the last time that large parades took place in counties Monaghan and Cavan.

The photographs show the group gathering on the outskirts of the town complete with banners and flags. Some wear sashes adorned with what appear to be military medals. The band is brass rather than the more usual flute or pipe type. You can see some interesting examples of R.B.P. tokens and regalia here and here.

This photograph was taken whilst the Irish War of Independence was underway although casualties in the county of Cavan were not high. The state of Northern Ireland which was to be created in 1921 included only six of the nine counties of the province of Ulster. Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal were excluded and formed part of the Irish Free State. The only major Orange Order march in the Republic of Ireland takes place every July in the village of Rossnowlagh, near Ballyshannon, in the south of County Donegal.

The images come from a fascinating album which includes joyful snapshots of modern young women bathing on Killiney beach. It also shows a branch of the Whitfield family who emigrated from Cavan to Canada in the late 1920s and a pair of Cavan-born sisters who worked in a Kansas, Missouri hospital during the smallpox epidemic in 1920. The album represents the intersection of the political and the private and shows a mix of both urban and rural life.

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I was delighted to write a piece for the Gallery of Photography’s current project and exhibition The Photo Album of Ireland. The exhibition was opened last Friday by Professor Diarmaid Ferriter and it explores the history of photography in Ireland through the family album. It runs at the Dublin gallery until the 31st August and you can also view the publicly sourced photographs at the project website here.

The following text and image appear in the exhibition and relate to a photograph from my own family’s collection. It tells the story of female emigration from Ireland to the United States and also explores the role photography plays in the construction of family narratives.

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I collect photographs and write about them on my blog. Most of the people in these photographs are anonymous and will remain so. Sourced from online auctions, charity shops and even skips, the images have become separated from the families who once valued them. I look for interesting faces, extreme fashions and unusual formats or studios. I then research and write short pieces which I hope illuminate a moment in Irish social, photographic or fashion history.

Naturally, I know and understand my own family photographs in a different way to those that I write about on my blog or within an academic context. Their value comes from the telling and re-telling of stories which transform sometimes unremarkable images into something special. Would I buy these photographs if offered for auction on eBay? Probably not! But they do mean a great deal to me.

My love of photographs started with my grandmother, Roseanne, whose mother is shown in the above image. No visit was complete without a thorough examination of the box of photographs which she ceremoniously brought down from the ‘upper room’. An act which intensely annoyed my grandfather who declared that ‘no-one wants to look at that old rubbish.’ She ignored him and commenced her guided tour. She held each photograph, dictated the viewing order and seldom deviated from her script.

Mingled amongst the images of her daughters at dinner dances and snapshots of haymaking were the American photos sent across the Atlantic by a previous generation of emigrants. Different in format, they included tintypes and photobooth pictures, neither of which were prevalent in Ireland. The American photos felt and looked different to Irish photographs.

One such example, is this photograph of my great-grandmother Susan Smith and her cousin, taken not in her native Cavan, but in the Massachusetts city of Brockton. It is the only evidence of the ten years that she spent in America between 1895 and 1905. We hear little of Brockton now but during the time that my great-grandmother lived there it claimed to offer the highest industrial wage in the world at $3.75 per day. At one stage ‘shoe city’ had over 100 factories and it was booming.

Put into an historical context my great-grandmother’s tale was typical of Irish emigration during the period. More single women than men left. Some stayed forever. Some like Susan Smith emigrated for substantial periods of time, in her case ten years, during which she earned enough to provide herself with a dowry. This and her husband-to-be’s earnings as a copper miner in Arizona allowed them to buy a house and farm upon their return. My great-grandmother’s tale, mirrors that related by Diane Dunnigan in A South Roscommon Emigrant: Emigration and Return, 1890–1920 (2), in which she tells how these independent women worked, saved and sometimes returned to Ireland bringing with them different life experiences.

When my great-grandmother and her American cousin entered the studio of D.T. Burrell at 68 Main Street, Brockton, they commissioned an image which adhered to the well-established conventions of studio portraiture. They wear their ‘Sunday best’ of fashionable lace high-necked blouses and choker necklaces. They have piled their hair into ‘Gibson Girl’ pompadours so prevalent during the period. Presented in cameo upon embossed paper, the two young women stare confidently at the camera. Her cousins, Mary, Kate and Rosalie were the American-born children of Cavan parents who had emigrated in the 1880s. Like them they worked in shoe factories, however, they had advanced from manual positions to jobs as clerks and stenographers.

The anthropologist Daniel Miller’s survey of the possessions owned by the residents of a single South London street focused not upon their aesthetic qualities but instead he revealed that objects, such as photographs, often matter to people because of the relationships they signify. The meaning attached to the above photograph cannot be deduced by an analysis of its image content alone instead it is integral to a story known only within a family context. My grandmother’s relationship to her family photographs and in particular to this image reminds me of what Miller referred to as the ‘the sadness of lives and the comfort of things.’(2)

When my grandmother talked about this photograph she was not considering emigration trends nor the role of the returned Yank. Instead she used it as a vehicle to discuss a very personal event: the death of her father less than ten years after his return to Ireland. Although not included in the photo, he was the focus when this portrait was examined. The story of her parents’ hopeful return to Ireland starts with this image. His premature death from silicosis, the result of his work in copper mines, was naturally a major blow to his only child and this photograph allowed her to raise the subject sixty or more years after the event.

(1) Dunnigan, Diane, A South Roscommon Emigrant: Emigration and Return, 1890-1920, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007.

(2) Miller, Daniel, The Comfort of Things, Cambridge: Polity, 2008.

Orla Fitzpatrick
June 2014

Chancellor-Dog500

For the last couple of years, I have written posts for Bloomsday highlighting Joyce’s use of photography within Ulysses. I have previously written about Milly Bloom’s job at a photographic studio in Mullingar (which you can read here) and also about Joyce’s references to photography and celebrity culture (see here).

I chose the above photograph in response to Gerty MacDowell’s daydreams of domestic bliss which appear in Nausicaa, the thirteenth episode of the novel. In it, she describes the manner in which she would decorate her home and mentions “the photograph of grandpapa Giltrap’s lovely dog Garryowen that almost talked it was so human.” This reminded me of this image by Chancellor’s of Dublin which originates from the 1860s. It reveals that commissioning a photographic portrait of one’s pet was a well-established practice in Dublin.

Phoenix-Park-Racing

The Phoenix Park’s association with motorsport started as early as 1903. The Gordon Bennett Cup Race which took place in Ireland in that year is cited as the background for James Joyce’s short story After the Race. Joyce used motor racing to lampoon the aspirations of Dublin’s social climbing nouveau riche. It was one of fifteen stories that appeared in Dubliners and this month marks the 100th anniversary of its publication. A reimagining and rewriting of these stories, Dubliners 100, will be launched today.

This lady was photographed in the Phoenix Park sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Due to petrol rationing racing was suspended during the Second World War and did not re-commence until the late 1940s. On the subject of rationing, I was delighted to have my article ‘Coupons, Clothing and Class: The Rationing of Dress in Ireland, 1942-1948’ published in the latest issue of Costume.

The fashions worn by this women indicate that the photo was taken towards the end of the 1940s or in the early 1950s. Her loose fitting, midi length shift dress and matching jacket were typical of the post-war period. Her stylish outfit reflects the comparative wealth of those involved in motor sport and mirrors the glamour and allure alluded to by Joyce in After the Race.

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This woman sports one of the most sought after garments of the 1860s. Her spectacular paisley patterned shawl is as voluminous as the crinolined silk skirt it partially covers. A fine shawl such as this was definitely a status symbol!

Numerous outlets throughout Dublin sold shawls including Switzer, Ferguson & Co. at 91-93 Grafton Street. In July 1860, their extensive range included the following: “square and long tissue Grenadines, printed Llama and long and square French and Paisley.”

Also on Grafton Street, the Shawl Warehouse at number 100 was run by James Forest and Sons. On Wednesday, May 31st, 1865, they advertised that they were now “showing their stock of French, Paisley, Norwich and every description of fashionable shawl.”

Shawls were often offered as prizes in raffles such as that run by the Phibsborough Art Union in July 1866 when Mrs Forman won a Paisley shawl in the raffle to benefit St. Peter’s Church, Phibsborough, Dublin.

Shawls were itemised in executors sales and indeed sometimes featured in court cases. The ‘Police Intelligence’ section of The Irish Times for August 2nd, 1870, notes that “Catherine Duffy was brought up in custody on remand, charged by Catherine Butterly with stealing a Paisley shawl from a room in a house at 38 City Quay. Sent to trial for City Sessions.”

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Not all shawls were of the equal quality and the complicated history of the Paisley pattern reveals much about trade between India and Europe. The teardrop shaped pattern has it origins in Iran and the Kashmir region of India. By the nineteenth-century shawls were being made in the Scottish town of Paisley.

Cheaper copies were printed not woven and indeed the finest European shawls did not have as many threads as those imported from India. The woman in this carte-de-visite also wears some high-end accessories such as her parasol and leather goods. Her low-browed spoon bonnet is decorated with artificial flowers and ties in a large bow. This was also the height of fashion for the 1860s!

The photographer on this occasion was Thomas North also based on Grafton Street. The logo he used on his 1860s cards can be viewed here. The firm was at 71 Grafton Street from 1861 until at least 1900.

In the 1901 census, Thomas North is listed a living at 101 Rathmines Road. He was by then 73 years’ of age. Born in Hampshire, England, his second wife Mary Jane was 25 years’ his junior. Amongst those living in the household were two of his sons: the exotically name Theophilus Vese and Thomas Ernest whose occupation was listed as a ‘photographic artist.’ By the 1911 census, Thomas is no longer listed as a photographer and we can assume that the business did not last long after his father’s death.

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This colour photograph was taken on the 13th of August 1968 in the County Kerry town of Killorglin (Cill Orglan). This date coincides with the annual Puck Fair, one the oldest fairs in Ireland and the scene of much revelry with public houses remaining open until 3 am. Centred around a cattle fair, the festival also includes traditional music and the capture of a wild goat which is then displayed in the centre of the town!

The two men, sleeping-off the effects of the night before, are oblivious to the rest of the town. In the background, a group of men sit on the street as a Morris Minor car passes by. I love the small details such as the empty Carroll’s No.1 cigarette pack and the half-drunk bottle of milk.

The colour process picks out the reddish brown of the window frame. Similar colours are replicated on the back of the ice-cream van.

I don’t know who the photographer was and it is part of a series of images which I have featured in other posts. A quick look on the Killorgan Archive Society’s excellent website leads me to believe that the photograph was taken at the corner of Michael J. Culloty’s Bar, Main Street.

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