Archive for the ‘Irish antiquarians’ Category

Archaeologists and antiquarians are very keen on typologies and sometimes in their attempt to scientifically record sites they unintentionally create beautiful images. This series features cairns or stone mounds from counties Mayo and Waterford which were photographed in the 1930s. Any discussion of typologies and photography has to mention Bernd and Hilla Becher whose industrial imagery transformed the mundane through repetition. 

The human figures in the first of these Irish images gives a sense of scale and the unknown photographer appears to have taken the shots from a similar distance in order to aid comparison. The photographs are small prints on Velox paper, however, the detail is amazing and results in landscapes which can be appreciated without any archaeological knowledge. 

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This album is one of my latest purchases. It contains about a hundred snapshots taken between 1925 and 1932 by H.J. Malcomson from Belfast. He started to put the album together when he was about eleven years of age, however, unlike a lot of photographers he has filled each page and captioned all the images. The snaps were taken with a Kodak Vest Pocket camera. I haven’t been able to find out too much about H.J. but he is probably related to the merchant and amateur natural historian Herbert Thomas Malcolmson who donated several collections to the Ulster Museum.

The album provides a good overview of a wealthy Protestant family’s life in the inter-war period. The subjects include the usual family events such as picnics and day trips and their home and its grounds at Glenorchy, Knock, Belfast. Many pages are of antiquarian interest and I especially love the first page above with its strange combination of a cromlech and a snapshot of hens in the hallway of the house.

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This is one of twelve photographs of Irish antiquities which I bought on Ebay. It shows Labbacallee wedge tomb (also known as the Hag’s Head) which is located near Glanworth, County Cork. This site was excavated and written up by Liam Price in 1934 (see Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, V. 43, Section C, no. 4, 1936).

A note on the back of the photograph states that it was taken “before Price’s excavation”. Other sites are named in the photos as follows: “Carn near Cong, County Mayo”;  “Harristown, County Waterford”; “Dolmen near Carlow” and “Dolmen near Wexford”; “Cnuachan Carn near Dungarven, County Waterford”.

Note the amateur archaeologist’s shock of hair and pioneer pin!


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