Posts Tagged ‘Ireland’

Revolution: A Photographic history of Revolutionary Ireland, 1913-1923

9 November 2011

Contributed by Orla Fitzpatrick

This new book covers a period that is particularly fascinating, albeit somewhat confusing, for photographic historians.  The Irish revolutionary period offers a rich photographic archive.  Portraits range from official mugshots held in government archives to family portraits commissioned from commercial photographic studios. Snapshots taken by onlookers and documentary images captured by press photographers offer powerful depictions of armed combat and its aftermath. All of these could be and were manipulated and circulated for the purpose of propaganda or indeed suppressed or hidden by the various sides. The chaos which prevailed at certain times during the period scattered photographs far and wide and has left a bewildering array of personal and private collections which both excite and perplex the researcher and historian of the period.

The matter of provenance can be challenging for such a disparate group of photographs. Prints can be held simultaneously by multiple institutions and individuals. Generally speaking, the holder of the negative, if it exists, takes primacy over the print owner although many have been lost over the years. The further you move away from the original source negative the poorer the image quality becomes, so that second, third and even later generation prints can lose definition and clarity. For these reasons, when conducting photographic research, I tend to use photographs where the negatives or original prints are held by public institutions.  The assignation of a verifiable number to each image and clear provenance and copyright for the collection make them more accessible and usable than those held by private companies and individuals.

Revolution: a photographic history of revolutionary Ireland, 1913-1923 covers the period leading up to the Easter Rising of 1916; the War of Independence and the Civil War and its aftermath. Read More

Review of Clifford D. Conner’s Arthur O’Connor

27 November 2009

By Lisa-Marie Griffith

Clifford D. Conner promises a full and exacting review of the life and career of the United Irishman with the title Arthur O’Connor: The most important Irish revolutionary you may never have heard of. As one of the highest ranking members of the United Irishmen Conner argues that Arthur O’Connor suffers from neglect, with just one other biography of O’Connor. This he claims is because unlike Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Theobald Wolfe Tone he survived 1798 and had a long life. Unlike Tone or Robert Emmett, O’Connor was not executed by the government in the afternmath of the 1798 rebellion, was never hailed as a romantic figure and so he has been sidelined by history. Unfortunately many of the significant republicans and politicians of this era are without a full modern biography. Thomas Addis Emmet and James Napper Tandy, both prominent figures in the republican movement, have also been neglected, perhaps because they too survived the 1798 rebellion, possibly because there is not enough surviving correspondence and primary source material to construct detailed biography or, more plausibly still, because despite the wide-spread celebration (and consequently out-pour of publications) of the double centenary of the 1798 rebellion in 1998 there is still a lot of work to be done on the political figures of the period.

While a welcome addition to the historiography of eighteenth-century Ireland and to the biographies of major Irish political and republican figures Conner’s biography falls down on three points.  Read more

Henry’s handball? Plus ça change

23 November 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

A trip to Paris marred by a poor refereeing decision, a French manager arriving in Dublin ‘lurching from one crisis to another’, Liam Brady reflecting that ‘the difference between making it and not making it is so slight – but why is it that we never get the breaks that would make the difference?’ and an Irish manager uttering ‘You are a disgrace and a cheat’? Not 2009 but 1981. Plus ça change.

On 27 October 1980, Ireland’s football team arrived in Paris for a World Cup qualifier, top of their group and in a good position to take a significant step toward their first major tournament. They had taken two victories over Cyprus, beaten a fading Dutch side in Dublin, and drawn with Belgium. But from Paris events took a turn that makes Henry’s handball, in the words of Shirley Bassey, look like just a little bit of history repeating. Read More

Review: Judging Lemass

12 November 2009

Contributed by Bryce Evans

Judging LemassIn the midst of the present malaise in Irish politics and economics it’s tempting to look back to the Great Men of Irish history. Of these Great Men few are as celebrated as Seán Lemass, whose latest biographer is veteran UCD political scientist Tom Garvin. Launching Garvin’s Judging Lemass Brian Cowen staked a typically rodomontade claim to the Lemassian mantle by asserting that Lemass would back the current government’s economic strategy. As demonstrated by Cowen’s reversion to ‘What if?’ history – a dubious form of historical enquiry once dismissed by eminent historian E.P. Thompson as ‘unhistorical sh*t’ – the danger of all this celebrating of Great Men is that everyone tends to get a bit carried away. Lemass, as Garvin states in the book, was ‘not infallible’. This is about as close as the learned professor gets to any meaningful criticism of the authoritarian tendencies of the former Taoiseach though. Read more

The past is another country

13 October 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Sackville Street PostcardWhen I was at home last weekend, my father updated me on his ongoing project to scan the collection of postcards originally sent among my grandfather’s relatives at the turn of the twentieth century, and attentively collected, preserved and added to (there are some intriguing Irish Shipping Ltd postcards from the 1950s) by my grandmother. Having spent a few hours reading and looking through a small part of the collection, I thought that some of them were too good not to share. Jumping on the bandwagon of Dave O’Sullivan’s hard work, the ones I have posted here represent a small sample of a reasonably large collection of postcards that deal mainly with Irish subjects but also include images of Devonshire, Lourdes, New York, Alabama, and Paris, and several sent by a missionary relative from a boat headed for Manila in the Philippines. These postcards of Dublin and its environs were all sent between 1907 and 1911. More Images

‘The Lost Souls of Ireland’ and the Historian’s Conscience

8 October 2009

Contributed by Gráinne McEvoy

StatueLast Thursday morning I tuned in to BBC Radio 4 to hear a report by Ruth McDonald on victims of Irish clerical and institutional abuse now living in Great Britain. ‘The Lost Souls of Ireland’ dealt with the response of an estimated 10,000 emigrant survivors to the release of the Ryan Report last May. Numerous voices in the national dialogue following the report have asserted its historical significance. Patsy McGarry, Irish Times religious affairs correspondent, has described it as ‘a milestone’ which casts a ‘complete new light on Irish history in the twentieth century’.

These assertions of the report’s historical importance have given me pause for thought, particularly in regards to my own field of interest – Irish migration history. The recent prominence of survivor action groups in Britain appears to confirm anecdotal evidence that many of the children who suffered neglect and abuse in Irish institutions left the country as soon as they were old enough and had the means to do so. In listening to McDonald’s interviews with survivors of clerical abuse and their English-born children, I also found that elements of their stories resonated with themes and problems familiar to those of us interested in the recent history of the Irish in Britain. Read More

Some things for the weekend

18 September 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Famine Eviction SceneA couple of things to keep you distracted for the weekend. Well, five minutes of it at least.

The best history-related writing I happened upon this week came not from the stack of foreign aid books and articles that I’ve been (enjoyably) making my way through, but from a piece in The Economist on the privatisation of the space industry:

The past, despite the disclaimer often found on advertisements for financial products, often can be a guide to the future.

How apt for our own ‘interesting’ times.

My second discovery is something that I’m sure those of you with a superior knowledge of nineteenth century Irish history caught up with a long time ago, but, hey, it’s new to me. On the 10 September podcast from Nature magazine, there is a discussion of the newly revealed genetic sequence of Phytophthora infestans, more commonly known as potato blight, in which one of the report’s authors Sophien Kamoun describes how the disease originated in wild potatoes in Mexico, made its way somehow into North America before being brought to Europe and Ireland, with all of its disastrous consequences. You can listen to the discussion at the start of the podcast below or read about it here.


Book Rally

11 September 2009

Lost Revolution 2

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Last night as I left the launch of Brian Hanley and Scott Millar’s The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party at the Teachers’ Club on Parnell Square in Dublin, making my way past the queue of autograph hunters and photographers, I caught the eye of an academic colleague near the door. ‘There’s a smell of revolution in that room’, she said. The speeches had ended, the free bar had run its course (no, that’s not why I left), and South Dublin Union was gearing up to provide the heart-rousing tunes. ‘A typical academic book launch’, another colleague remarked, tongue firmly in cheek, as he pointed to the backs of former party activists and ‘lost’ revolutionaries. ‘You see that bald man in the blue jumper in the second row? He was…’

I recognised a handful of faces, half-remembered the names of others. The rest passed me by, but they all knew each other. ‘I can see a number of left wing groups represented here’, Millar told the audience, ‘my family, my friends…’ Tomás Mac Giolla was plagued for photos and autographs beside the door, Mick Ryan’s face was hidden somewhere in the crowd, and Roy Johnston sat in the front row. In his opening remarks, Diarmaid Ferriter described the atmosphere in the packed hall as something akin to an election rally. Read More

Review: If Lynch had invaded

2 September 2009

Contributed by Brian Hanley

If Lynch had invaded? RTÉ 1, 1 September 2009

Jack LynchTime and word count are limted, so I’ll get to the point: a terrible waste of talent and production values, with no need at all for the final half an hour of sub Saving Private Ryan dramatics. If you are making a documentary on Brian Boru I can see why you may feel that reconstructions are neccesary. However there was a wealth of excellent archival footage and a wide range of interviewees (the ex-Irish soldiers were the best); why not stick to that? Presenter Tom Clonan in his army landrover driving around Newry was particularly ill-judged. All so that the programme could conclude that Lynch got it right (again) and weren’t we lucky to avoid some terrible bloodshed. At least Des O’Malley noted that actually 3,500 plus people died in a slow-drip civil war over the next 30 years. Admidst the neccesary hype to grab viewers the impression was given that the ‘invasion’ plan was news. In fact the key documents have been available to researchers since 2001 and have been written about on several occasions. (See the Cedar Lounge Revolution blog.)

While the idea of serried ranks of Irish troops crossing the border in Panhard armoured cars may cause hearts to quiver in the post-Articles 2 & 3 era, in fact there is nothing at all surprising in the Irish government contemplating this, given that they regarded the six counties as Irish territory (a revelation that they planned incursions into, say, Wales, would have been truly shocking) and that almost the entire southern establishment had at various stages sworn to end partition. Read More

The Cult of Collins

21 August 2009

Contributed by Justin Dolan Stover

JDS and Collins

You have seen him around.  His portraits line the walls of the Military Archives at Cathal Brugha Barracks; his imposing civilian bust barks at you from Archbishop Ryan Park; his disciplined torso overlooks your pint at The Bank on College Green.  He is remembered and celebrated (and commercialised) to an extent unequivocal of modern Irish historical figures.  His death mask resides within the Museum Barracks which bares his name; fresh flowers line his grave at Glasnevin year-round, accompanied occasionally by elderly women praying the rosary; idols bearing his likeness are peddled at nearly every heraldic shop in town; and the annual pilgrimage to the place of his death that will take place this Saturday to Béal na mBláth in Cork, draws thousands. He has transcended the traditional form of historical conveyance to grace both screen and stage.  The musical portrayal of his life c.1916-1922, initiated in 2005 by the Cork Opera House, has launched in Cork, Waterford and Dublin.  The film, in which Liam Neeson portrays him as the tragic hero opposite Alan Rickman’s sinister interpretation of Eamon de Valera, is currently on the four for €22 shelf at HMV.

On the anniversary of this death it seems like a good time to ask why are we as historians, and to a larger extent as a nation, so interested in Michael Collins? Read More