Saturday, September 15, 2018


Click on any image for a larger version

Lots of things happened in 1918. Losses on the WWI front had been so high that the UK government was seriously attempting to introduce conscription in Ireland. This was stymied as the whole country rose up in anger. Women played a significant role in this opposition and the effort was abandoned.

Later in the year we had a Westminster election with virtual universal suffrage for men and for the first time votes for women albeit it with some serious limitations. This all led to an enormous increase in the Irish electorate and to the establishment of an alternative Irish parliament.

It was also the first Westminster election in which women could stand and Constance Markievicz pulled off a double by becoming the first woman to be elected to the Westminster parliament and the first woman in cabinet, though the latter was in the new Irish (abstentionist) parliament rather than Westminster.

The "Spanish" Flu swept through Europe killing millions of which thousands were in Ireland. It was an unwelcome addition to the toll of WWI.

In January 1919 the War of Independence kicked off.

So, all in all, the years 1918 and 1919 were transformative in Ireland and this is well captured in the National Library of Ireland's current exhibition in their their National Photographic Archive in Temple Bar.

The exhibition was launched earlier this week (11/9/2018) at the Archive in Meeting House Square in Temple Bar.

I arrived a bit, well very, early & had a sneak peek around.

I have been at a number of exhibitions here, the last one being the Photo Detectives which has just finished to be replaced by Ballots to Bullets. I really like the exhibition space. There is a principal area (above) with two smaller spaces on either side and a small gallery upstairs. Then there are the bits of wall in between and above. It is an intimate and homely space but an enormous challenge to the organisers. It requires a lot of thought to present a coherent exhibition and the NLI team have succeeded magnificently, not only with this exhibition but with the others I've been at.

As I said, I arrived early and took a sneak preview. One of the first things to catch my eye was this certificate. It is a magnificent piece of hyperbole. The fact is that Mr. Hannon has pledged £50 to the anti-conscription fund - no small amount in 1918. The hyperbole is in what the fund is to do: resisting the Tyranny of Conscription and saving the Irish Race and Nation from Slavery, Disaster and Destruction. Well, maybe just a little bit over the top, but a worthy cause nonetheless.

But what really caught my eye was Ballyhaunis. Out of all the towns of Ireland they picked Ballyhaunis.

And the names Grealy, Dillon-Leetch and Waldron had me hearing the cock crow and smelling the turf. A great start to this exhibition.

And the flu. A strong potion of Oxo,

a long gargle with Venos,

and a soup spoon or two of Bovril, and sure the flu didn't stand a chance.

Job Oxo.

Unfortunately there proved to be a little more to it than that, but you'll always find good marketers to capitalise on any tragedy. It took many years for the virus to be understood and isolated, but for some reason the above advertisements put me in great humour.

But it's down to business and it was really nice of them to keep me a seat. I must have the required number of attendances at NLI events and a quota of inoffensive blog posts to qualify me as a VIP.

Unfortunately I had to decline the offer. A good photographer is best on his feet.

NLI Director Sandra Collins started the ball rolling.
"Ireland’s revolutionary past is complex and it’s important that we approach this period with sensitivity and inclusiveness. The National Library’s rich and varied collections offer unique archival insights. We hope the wide range of material on display in ‘From Ballots to Bullets’ will offer visitors a new opportunity to engage with our history, both the big events but also the individuals and their hopes and dreams."

She was followed by Senator Ivana Bacik who launched the exhibition.
"I am honoured to open such a striking and thought-provoking exhibition by the National Library of Ireland. Through its diverse collection of objects and artefacts, the NLI offers nuanced and sensitive insight into an intense moment of struggle in Irish history. As Chair of the Oireachtas Vótáil100 Committee, I am particularly taken by the centring of women’s experience in the exhibition and its focus on the fight for women’s right to vote and participate in all aspects of life, as told through compelling images and profiles of often overlooked female figures."

I really couldn't resist including this shot given the fortuitous positioning.
Her family name is of Czech origin. Her paternal grandfather, Karel Bacik, a Czech factory owner, moved to Ireland with his young family when the Communists began to take over private businesses. He eventually settled in Waterford and in 1947 was involved in the establishment of Waterford Crystal. [Wikipedia]
Echoing the speakers, two things in particular struck me about the exhibition.

There was a lot of material I had not seen before and which reflected the experience of the ordinary people rather than those hitherto in the spotlight. The NLI was in a great position here as it drew on its vast collection of ephemera.

Then there was the extensive role of women, which has only gradually come to light in recent years as more evidence based research has replaced the cardboard ideology of my youth.

Further details on the NLI website.

Speeches aside, there is clearly still lots to engage with at this exhibition.

The exhibition took advantage of the upstairs gallery to treat four individuals in more detail.

I had never heard of Lily Mernin who was a typist in Dublin Castle. She spied for Michael Collins and her information was key to Collins's Squad's operation on the morning of Bloody Sunday in November 1920. She was never unmasked.

I had heard of Tom Johnson, the leader of the Labour Party and President of the Irish Trade Union Congress. I was aware of him from his being caricatured by Gordon Brewster and from passing his grave in St. John's cemetery in Clontarf.

I should also mention the excellent video material in the main exhibition area.

Carol Maddock & Nikki Ralston

In her speech, Sandra Collins paid tribute to the team who organised the exhibition. It was curated by Nikki Ralston, who I had met previously. Carol Maddock is an old friend who is a great asset to NLI.

Maeve Casserly

And I am aware of Maeve Casserly's various talks as well as her role in this exhibition.

Louise Archbold, DHR Communications

Not forgetting Louise who organised the launch and brought along the frame which was a gift to the official photographer in many of his shots.

Ross was on sound. Not too demanding on this occasion you might think, but you should not underestimate the value of a good sound man on these occasions. How many times have you attended functions where you can't hear the speaker or where the feedback would pierce the ears off you. I had the experience of a live sound man myself at a recent talk in Marlay House and it was a great luxury, believe you me.

Elizabeth Kirwan & Felix Larkin

I didn't shoot many of the attendees. Too busy talking to people. But Felix is an old friend and Elizabeth is in charge of the photo archive.

Neville Wiltshire & Esme Lewis

I discussed photography with Neville whose sister in law, I think he said, is the lady of the Wiltshire photographic collection.

As for Esme, I keep running into her at things and she knows everybody, and they her.

Esme Lewis

A small tribute picture to her work in the theatre with among others Louis Elliman.

There is a good RTÉ news report on the launch here.

And before I go, I should add a note on the significance of 1918 in my own family history, or at least that part of it based in James's Street and Thomas Street.

My great-grandfather who had been a shoe/bootmaker at the Fountain in James's Street since 1868 retired and joined two of his spinster daughters at Sally's Bridge on the Grand Canal where they ran Bridge Stores for the following twenty years. He put another spinster daughter into Grangegorman Lunatic Asylum in which system she lived out the rest of her days, dying in Portrane in 1948. His son, who was to have taken over the business at the Fountain, and whom he had disinherited for joining the British army, returned from the WWI front wounded and jobless. And his son in law, my grandfather, was fished out of the Liffey at Eden Quay, dead as a doornail and having been missing for a week.

So yes, 1918 was a very interesting year in our family.

Friday, September 07, 2018


Click on any image for a larger version

I finally got to visit the Mayo Peace Park in Castlebar. I had heard a lot about it and had even shared my uncle's story online with Michael Feeney way back. Various relatives had visited it and sent me photos over the years but it was difficult to get a proper impression of the place.

Now I was finally here and I must say I was impressed. It is well planned and laid out and has the required sense of dignity. I don't think its path to getting to where it is was all that smooth, so congratulations to all involved in giving us this memorial of which the county can be proud.

My own direct interest was in my uncle, John Dwyer, from Ballyhaunis and I have recounted his sad story on my own website.

It is interesting that the union jack flies freely in the park. There was a time not all that long ago that you wouldn't get away with that in the south, even, or maybe more particularly, in this context. And it is hung correctly. Full marks there.

There are a number of other flags flying, including the Canadian, USA and Australian flags. No surprise there as the Irish, including Mayo men, fought in those armies. Then there are the allies, France and Belgium. But Germany? This was the enemy. I don't think the men of Mayo died for Germany though Lord Haw Haw's father (Michael Joyce) was from Ballinrobe.

Part of the explanation may be that Castlebar is twinned with Höchstadt in Bavaria. And the fashion these days is all about inclusivity.

The centrepiece of the park is the memorial to those Mayomen who died in WWI, and I think they are probably all men on this particular structure. They are grouped by town, except for the latecomers who are placed at the extreme ends.

The memorial itself is a very impressive piece of work.

There is a separate smaller memorial to the Mayomen who died in WWII and a number of smaller memorials to those who died in the armies of USA, Canada and Australia in both World Wars. There are also smaller memorials dedicated to regiments (Connaught Rangers and Irish Guards) and others to those who served in Commonwealth forces or with the United Nations.

There is a specific memorial, from the Belgian government, to those who died in Flanders Fields in WWI, and although my uncle died at High Wood across the border in France I think of him in relation to this memorial also. "Flanders Fields" is emblematic and can serve as a generic name for significant part of the Somme front down into France. I visited the German cemetery at Langemark near Ieper (Ypres) in 1967/8, long before I knew anything about my uncle's story.

There is also a memorial to the 10 Mayo crew members of the Lusitania who died when she was torpedoed and sunk off the Irish coast in 1915 with a loss of 1,198 lives. Also remembered on this memorial are three Mayo people who survived.

There is a memorial to five Irish born merchant seamen, one of whom was from Mayo. These men were prisoners who refused to co-operate with the Nazis and paid the ultimate price. The Mayo man, radio officer Gerard O'Hara from Ballina, was in charge of the Irish prisoners of war in the Bremen-Farge Work Concentration Camp.

This memorial is dedicated to all the Mayo born civilians who were killed while providing emergency and essential services during the world wars of the past century. I think most of the names are probably from the WWII blitz.

This seat is dedicated to the memory of members of An Garda Síochána who gave their lives in the service of the State. It spans the period 1940 right up to 2015 and I assume it refers to Mayo born Gardaí.

There are a number of wall plaques such as this one to Nurse Bridget Quinn whose name also figures on the Civilian Memorial.

While I think the park was originally conceived as a WWI memorial the concept has clearly expanded to cover much more. Almost all of the recorded names are of men, not surprising when you consider the composition of armies, particularly in the more distant past. The only women's names I noticed were on the Civilian and Lusitania memorials, and Nurse Quinn's plaque. I expect there will be more as historians delve more deeply into the records.

Among the wall plaques is this one to two Mayo men who died in the Spanish Civil War. I wonder were they both on the same side and, if so, which side was that?

As I leave I notice this catch-all memorial stone.

And I just wonder if this title stone might need a minor correction in the future. Irish language rules on lenition are fierce complex so I'll leave it to someone better qualified than myself to come up with a definitive opinion on that one.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018


This is my eight hundreth post on this blog since joining Blogger in 2005. My Blogger Stats tell me that I've had over 300,000 page views over this period, whatever that is worth. Most of these have come via Google and may have been very transient (ie post not read).

This statistic may seem puny to real bloggers, but I make no attempt to get or hold a readership. Mostly I write for myself and then if a subject I've blogged on comes up in conversation I send the person a link.

The posts with the most page views have been:
Power Points where I discussed suspended Jersey Police Chief's evidence to the "Independent Jersey Care Inquiry" into child abuse on the island. (1,373 views)

Bono's House where I proved that Bono lived in Killiney. (1,288 views)

Remembering the Somme where I reported on the opening of an exhibition on Ireland and the Somme in WWI which went on display in the Dublin City Library & Archive in October 2016. (1,072 views)

Retuning the Harp where I reported Felix Larkin's talk on Harped History: Joyce, 1916 & Revisionism. (989 views)

Jon where I commented on the ridiculous and counterproductive complaint by the disgusting Jersey troll, Jon Haworth, to the island's Commissioner for Standards. (969 views)
I seem to have a fairly international audience, subject to the qualification about page views above.

I rarely get comments. The exceptions include 37 on Power Points and 48 on Jon. These, in particular, reflect the absence of independent main stream media in Jersey (CI), that there is significant discussion of real issues on the blogs, and that my blog has dealt in some depth with Jersey issues over the years. The comment count would be higher but for the fact that I had to moderate comments due to the Jersey troll, and dissallow most of his.

I am very careful with my blog posts. I put a lot of work into them and treat them with the same care and attention as I would an article for a national newspaper or an academic journal.

I try to use my own images as much as possible and this is generally not too hard as I report a lot on events I've attended and places I've been. Otherwise I just nick stuff. So where I have stolen or mutilated the images of others, thanks and please forgive me, it's in a good cause. I also take some consolation from the fact that, in turn, I make my own images freely available to others.

Finally, thanks to Blogger for doing all the work, for keeping an eye on my stats, and for some nice user-friendly templates.

Monday, September 03, 2018


The other day I met Rachael Keogh. Rachael is amazing. She is warm, open and quick to smile. While she is self-confident, there is a hint of shyness or reticence there.

All this is understandable when you know her history, and what a history.

When Peter was introducing me to her, he told me she had written a book about her experiences. He had previously mentioned she had drugs in her past. And that was it. We talked about her art and the work she was doing, about which more later.

But I was curious and when I got home I Googled her and came up with a story from 2009 in the Irish Independent which would make the hairs stand up on the back your neck.

It also referred back to an earlier article which arose out of an approach by Rachael's mother to the Independent when she gave the paper a photo of Rachael with the flesh on her arms dying from heroin burns. She was at the end of the road, a fourteen year long road littered with drugs of every hue. Her relentless injecting of heroin into her arms had led the flesh to start dying and she had been told she was on the edge of having them amputated.

Her mother's action was a last throw of the dice in the hope that the publicity would help get Rachael into long term rehab. Sky News picked up on the story and made a documentary, but despite Rachael and her desperate plight being in the headlines, she still had to wait her turn to get into rehab. Too many addicts and too few beds.

At this stage I really did want to read the book so I got a copy from my local library. I expected it to be a harrowing read but I was not prepared for the journey I was taken on.

From a really disturbed family background, Rachael just slid into drugs. They were all around the place and many of her friends were experimenting. Not all of them followed her down the path but she quickly escalated her way through the range of available drugs and her behaviour deteriorated drastically.

To feed her habit she stole from all and sundry, including her own family. She had a go at prostitution for a while. She was in and out of prison. It was heartbreaking to read, but the real heartbreak was those times she got "clean", and there were many, only to crash again and again. The tension reading the book was unbearable. Each time she got clean you wondered was this it. Then you looked at how many pages were left in the book and you knew she was going to crash again.

In retrospect she describes these as relapses, a word that comes nowhere near describing them. It reminded me of alcoholics talking about slips, but they are not slips like slipping on a banana skin, they are falling into the deepest black hole you can imagine. Language trivialises the experience.

I know from alcoholic rehab that the counsellors can usually tell fairly early on who is going to make it this time and who is not. Success requires that the decision to quit has to come from the depths of your being and has to be for yourself, not for family, friends or neighbours, for you and you alone.

Rachael has a good take on this. While she was fighting the drugs she did not succeed. That only came when she realised it was herself she was fighting, that she had to face up to whatever she was running away from and let her real self come through. And she had to do this for herself.

It took fourteen years in all for her to get there and she's been there now for the last ten years. An enlightened judge has struck out her past record. She is now bringing her experience and street cred to bear in mobilising support for those caught up in the treadmill of addiction.

She did a lot of work with schools a while back raising pupils' awareness of the dangers of the drug scene. Nowadays her talks as such are directed at drug services.

She has written the book and she has made three documentaries with Sky news. These date from the early days of her recovery. For her they were to help her recovery. Now they are there to help others.

She wrote a play, Heroin, with Grace Dyas illustrating the drug scene and they have now updated it with Barry O'Connor. It will be going on national tour, to venues and prisons, and on to London and to an invitation tour in Finland.

It's listed now in the O'Reilly Theatre (in Great Denmark St., Dublin) for 25-27 September. It's also listed for Leitrim and they expect to have Ballymun, Limerick, Cork and Waterford confirmed shortly. Rachael says:
The newly rewritten play is part of a campaign with a whole new cast. It's emphasizing the need for change in drug policy and basically we are putting it up to the government now. No more holding back. We have the support of lots of people including Senator Lynn Ruane, Aodhan O'Riordan and loads more. It's gonna be good.
Since 2013 herself and Grace Dyas have been looking at creative ways to get people thinking/talking about decriminalisation and they have an ongoing petition to Government to de-criminalise small time drug addicts and shift public spending from prisons to rehab.

Rachael's 2014 interview on NearFM with Leslie Murphy about her petition is worth a listen.

I said I'd come back to the art. Rachael is into this big time. An example is the picture above which she is donating to Casadh to hang in their new premises in Cork Street. She sought suggestions for a title from the public and got a big response. The one chosen by Casadh was "Rise from the Struggle" which was submitted by Sarah Kidney.

And I can let you in on a secret. The above pictures are watercolours but her next one will be in oils.

Best of luck Rachael. May the Force be with you.


Here are some more pictures from a glorious photo shoot of Dearbhla Molloy many years ago, this time in black and white.

If you click on any image you'll get a larger version and a strip of thumbnails at the bottom right of the screen. You can use these to scroll through the larger images in gallery fashion.


Subject: Dearbhla Molloy, early 1970s
Director: Bríd Dukes
Camera: Pól Ó Duibhir

The earlier post with the colour photos & background.