Posts Tagged ‘Ireland’


I’m sad to see that the car free status of the Phoenix Park will end tomorrow on Monday the 18th of May. It has truly been an oasis of calm during this lockdown. In contrast this carte-de-visite shows a raucous Sunday evening return from the Strawberry Beds via Parkgate Street. The Strawberry Beds are located along the banks of the north side of the River Liffey and were a popular spot for day-trippers whose drunken return journeys could end in mishap. In Weston St. John Joyce’s Neighbourhood of Dublin (1912), he describes trips to the Strawberry Beds as follows:

“On fine Sundays in summer it was visited by large numbers from the city. Cars used to ply between Carlisle (now O’Connell) Bridge and “the Beds” at 3d a seat, and were so well patronised that it was not an infrequent sight to see a procession of these vehicles. amid blinding clouds of dust, extending the whole way from Parkgate Street to Knockmaroon. The outside cars, too, were longer in those days, and carried three passengers on each side without any due compression, not to speak of two or three in the well. The strawberry vendors, pipers, fiddlers, and publicans reaped a rich harvest, the sounds of revelry filled the air, and when the shades of night had fallen, numerous involuntary dismounts were made from the cars on the homeward journey.” p.357

I don’t usually collect non-photographic material but ‘filler’ or ‘photographic scraps’ such as this humorous print were often sold in the carte-de-visite format for inclusion in albums of mainly photographic material.

The print shows the distinctive stone piers leading to Chesterfield Avenue (the central thoroughfare through the Phoenix Park) which were erected in 1810. The piers along with their glass lanterns were removed in 1932 for the Eucharistic Congress and only re-installed in 1986. You can also see the Wellington Monument peaking out of the trees dating from 1861. The mural style drinking fountain in the foreground was commissioned by the Earl of Carlisle and designed by Deane and Woodward. It too dates from 1861 and its construction was part of the Drinking Fountain Movement which sought to provide clean water to the masses whose preference for beer (which was safer than many water supplies) was at odds with the Temperance Movement.

The clothes of those pictured in the print do not provide a strong indicator of its date as the men wear breeches and buckle shoes which were popular with workers throughout the 19th century. The women’s outfits are not depicted in detail although the skirts are wide and standing out as per the 1860s crinoline. The top-hated and frock coat wearing gentleman standing by the fountain could perhaps indicate that the image is contemporaneous to the Wellington Monument and the drinking fountain of 1861.

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This photograph shows a woman called Kathleen Shanks playing tennis. I reckon it dates from between 1900 and 1910 although I am not too sure of the location.  It might be at the Clontarf Lawn Tennis Club as the family lived in that area, however, there are several other clubs in suburban Dublin whose courts are in similar settings. I like the silhouetted houses and the fact that the two men in the background appear to float in mid air just like the tennis ball that Kathleen is about to hit!
White was considered a suitable colour for sporting activities as it does not show perspiration as readily as other colours and Kathleen’s outfit was typical of that worn during the early twentieth century. The Painted Woman blog has a great post on the history of tennis clothing for women with particular emphasis on the 1930s.

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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.

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It is quite hard to come across snapshots taken in pub interiors prior to the 1980s – possibly because of how dark they were. This image was rescued from a skip on Lennox Street, Dublin by my friend Garry O’Neill and given to me a few weeks ago. It has certainly seen lots of wear and tear and I love it all the more because of this! The creases crisscross the group and this makes the image even more appealing to me. Most collectors would pass such a battered image but I find that the changes that happen over time add to rather than detract from the object. 

The older men are wearing hats and nearly all are wearing shirts and ties. Were they workmates, neighbours or related to one another? I wonder who kept this photo for over 40 years? The figure on the right of the image is looking at rather than being part of the group. Kevin Kearn’s oral history of Dublin pubs gives a great sense of what they meant to their regular customers. The Portobello area around Lennox Street is really interesting and includes the Bretzel bakery; the Irish Jewish Museum; numerous pubs; bedsits and, of course, was home to the fictional Leopold Bloom.

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This hand-tinted photograph is most likely from the 1920s. The colouring is really well executed and was undertaken by the Octova Studios, 52 South King Street, Dublin. The studio specialised in theatrical and artistic portraits and was located beside the Gaiety Theatre in a building which now houses a joke shop called Funny Place!  

Mr. K. Raphael Wall was the proprietor and he offered paintings, plaster casts and photographic portraits from 1/- to £100. A notice placed in The Irish Times on Saturday 6th December 1924 stated that Mr. Wall was to deliver a lecture on portrait painting to art students on the following Monday. One wonders if the sitter was a young art student or an actress from the nearby theatre?

The  studio was still in business in 1932 but isn’t mentioned in any of the city newspapers again until 1936 when a Miss Kathleen Wall (late of Octova Galleries) opened the Raphael Gallery around the corner on Grafton Street.

There are some excellent examples of hand coloured photographs on John Foster’s blog Accidental Mysteries and the collection of found and vernacular photographs which he shares with Teenuh Foster is equally interesting. It is featured on their site which also contains links to other vernacular and found photograph sites.

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This Tipperary woman looks like fun! She was definitely fashionable and trend conscious as demonstrated by her check suit and association with the very trendy pastime of cycling. Brian Griffin has written a comprehensive history of cycling in Ireland which also covers the gender issues surrounding the sport. Not everyone was keen on the independence and freedom that cycling gave women! Roger Vaughan‘s website includes a selection of Victorian and Edwardian cycling photographs. The studio props are also great – note the rustic seat and crescent moon. I also find it interesting that the backdrop in the first photograph is slightly shabby and no attempt has been made to hide the canopy and ground-sheet.

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This series of snapshots shows a group of young women travelling around Wicklow in the 1940s. They were members of An Óige – the Irish Youth Hostel Association which was founded in 1931 to encourage young people to appreciate the Irish countryside through hostelling. It was part of a larger movement in Europe which promoted wholesome outdoor activities!

The first photo shows a group who are all wearing floral dresses. Jo Turney and Rosemary Harden compiled an excellent book on floral frocks throughout the 20th century to mark an exhibition held in the Bath Fashion Museum in 2007. The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Costume Collection also includes a cotton floral dress from this period and a rayon dress with a similar cut to the blouses and skirts shown in the third image above.

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