This well-dressed though dour couple, Mike Kelly and wife, were photographed by the Galway studio, Simmons, in the 1930s or 40s. The studio was run by R.W. Simmons and was located at 6 William Street. Simmons appears to have been quite an entrepreneur. In addition to photography, he also opened Galway’s first roller skating rink in 1910, a cinema in 1917 and was involved is all sorts of schemes including bee-keeping and running Galway’s Radio Society. He was also a member of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society. His work has received some scholarly attention due to the fact that his studio was patronised by Nora Barnacle‘s family. His early photographs of her are some of the few surviving images from the years before she met James Joyce.
A perusal of the local newspapers reveals that R.W. Simmons became involved in many court cases including an action taken against him by another Galway photographer relating to the copyright of a photograph of the priest, Father Michael Griffin. Simmons sold photographs of the martyred priest despite the fact that Clement J. Leaper, took the images. Other court appearances included his failure to pay a plumber, illegally laying poison and building without planning permission.
Whatever the outcome of these cases his business survived until the 1950s and I love the advertisements he placed in the Connaught Tribune over the years. They include the following slogans: ‘Someone somewhere wants your photograph’ ‘The gift that only you can give – your photograph’ and my favourite ‘A bad photograph is too expensive at any price’! I wonder was this photograph commissioned in response to his notice which suggested sending a photograph to friends abroad for Christmas? This portrait ended up in the United States from where I purchased it earlier this year. It is hard to think that such a sombre image could be the one chosen to send to friends or family abroad.