Archive for the ‘Irish Postcards’ Category


This postcard was produced by the Dublin firm of Lawrence and dates from 1913. The photograph was taken to mark the visit of Cardinal Logue to the ancient pilgrimage site on Station Island, Lough Derg, County Donegal. The barefooted pilgrims contrast with the group of dignitaries and clergymen who all appear to be well-shod. The fashionably dressed woman on the right of the image wears a long skirt and white blouse with leg-o-mutton sleeves (see the National Library of Ireland’s catalogue for a variant of this photograph minus this woman).

The previous year saw the opening of a new women’s hostel on the island. This concrete building, which is on the right of the photograph, was designed by William A. Scott. It cost £8,000 to build and according to Paul Larmour was one of a small number of proto-modern buildings erected in Ireland in the early twentieth century (1). One wonders how the female pilgrims might have felt about the cardinal’s Lenten speech of 1912 in which condemned those “masculine females who wanted not alone to be equal to men in everything but to supplant them if possible.” (2)

The traditional pilgrimage includes three-days of fasting and praying and has captured the imagination of writers and poets from William Carleton to Patrick Kavanagh and Seamus Heaney. It is believed that its significance as a sacred site pre-dates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and centred around a cave which has since been filled-in. The pilgrimage has retained its popularity with over 20,000 people visiting each year.

The year of the cardinal’s visit has a special resonance with those interested in the history of the labour movement in Ireland. The Dublin Lock-out was a major industrial dispute which took place between August 1913 and January 1914. It appears that the cardinal was not sympathetic to the union leader James Larkin. In a letter to Archbishop Walsh on the 6th November 1913, he states that “judging by the speeches, the Larkinites and their abettors do not want a settlement. They are working not in the interests of the men but using the unfortunate men for the purpose of propagating and establishing their socialistic and syndicalist principles.”(3) Unfortunately, the workers were forced to return to work without the better pay and conditions they sought.

James Plunkett’s historical novel Strumpet City is set during this period and provides an excellent picture of the city. It is the title chosen by Dublin City Council for its ‘One City, One Book’ initiative in 2013 and there are many associated events taking place throughout the month of April.

(1) Paul Larmour, Free State Architecture: Modern Movement Architecture in Ireland, 1922-1949, Kinsale, Cork: Gandon Editions, 2009, 8-10.
(2) Quoted in Joseph V. O’Brien, Dear, Dirty Dublin, Berkeley, California: University of California, 1982, 248.
(3) Quoted in Dermot Keogh, The Rise of the Working Class: the Dublin Trade Union Movement and Labour Leadership, 1890-1914, Belfast: Appletree Press, 1982, 264.

Read Full Post »



William McKelvey lived on the beautifully named My Lady’s Road, Belfast with his parents, William and Annie, two sisters and a brother. He was 8 years’ of age in 1911 which means that he would have been around 15 when he sent this postcard from Larne in 1919. Perhaps he was at boarding school or had left home to take up employment? Either way Larne was not to his liking as the following message makes very clear:

“Dear Mother (N.G. Down here), Arrived safe but fed up. It is so awful down here. Hope you are all well. Nobody would get to like this place. I wish I was back for good. Will write again about Thursday. Rem[ember] me to the rest, Your loving son, Billy. – I am in bed just now, 9.30 p.m. This is near the Black Arch.”

One wonders how his mother might have replied to such a morose missive!

The postcard which was produced by Signal has seen better days. It looks like it might have been stuck in an album and you can see where the glue has yellowed, however, this doesn’t detract from this snippet of life from 1919.

Read Full Post »

I wrote about the daytime version of this Dublin scene in an earlier post on the pre-1907 phenomenon of writing messages on the front of postcards. The same photograph was altered by the publishers for use in the ‘Valentine Moonlight Series.’ The addition of a full moon; a reduction in the traffic and the depopulated street transform the original scene into a quieter nocturnal world.

Valentine and Sons were one of the main producers of postcards at the turn of the nineteenth century and I wrote an entry on their extensive business for John Hannavy’s Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Photography.

The message on the 1904 postcard is a fascinating snippet of life. Apparently the person sending the postcard has been inconvenienced by the death of an uncle and may not now be able to go on a proposed outing with Miss Brenton!

‘Dear A, Uncle died on Tuesday afternoon. I am not quite sure if the folks here will think I ought to got to the fair, but will come if I can.’

Read Full Post »

This postcard of St. Patrick’s Well, Clonmel, County Tipperary, was sent to an Irish emigrant in Philadelphia ca. 1905. It was printed in Saxony, Germany and published by the large firm of Woolstone Brothers of London as part of their Milton Series. The warm tones of this print are the result of a carbon process which really suits the natural subject matter. If you’d like to try carbon printing, here is a link to a project which uses the process and provides detailed instructions on the materials required. 

Read Full Post »