Monthly Archives: April 2012

A fascinating blog on Irish textiles – there really is much more to us than the famine!

Irish Historical Textiles

Do you remember this post I wrote about Swift’s 1720 pamphlet called the Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufacture? Well, here is another quote from it:

I think it needless to exhort the clergy to follow this good example, because in a little time, those among them who are so unfortunate to have had their birth and education in this country, will think themselves abundantly happy when they can afford Irish crape, and an Athlone hat; and as to the others I shall not presume to direct them.

And so what was an Athlone hat?

“A Merry-Making” by Dutch painter Cornelis Dusart, 1692 (hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland). See the resemblance of the felt hats worn by the peasants here to the boggy ones below.

Click to make much bigger. These are three 16th-17th century felt hats which were found perfectly preserved in…

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Filed under Irish Culture, Irish Heritage, Irish Traditions, Social History Ireland

Bealtaine:Celebrating change,celebrating age

Bealtaine is almost upon us again here in Ireland. With lengthening days, the last of the trees are allowing their lime green leaves to unfurl and the wind has made beautiful pink swirling carpets of cherry blossom petals on the  footpaths to cheer our still chilly mornings. The pink-tinged buds of the magnificent white hawthorn blossom are swelling and  the great swathe of gorse on the top of the hill behind my house is beginning to show promise of the sulphur yellow spectacle to come when it opens its tens of thousands of  flowers to the warmth of the sun. Together they will create the awesome spectacle that is Ireland in the month of May.

The entire top of this hill will be aglow with millions of sulphur yellow blossoms in a few days time.

Bealtaine (the Irish word for May) is the time of the ancient Festival of Bealtaine, an ancient fire festival heralding the transition between the seasons. Bealtaine heralds change – an appropriate time then for the internationally acclaimed Bealtaine Festival in Ireland celebrating and enjoying the talents  of older people.

A year ago I wrote about this joyful  celebration here and how it has been emulated in other countries.  Over 120,000 Irish people took part in this celebration of age last year.  2012 is European year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations so this year the focus will be on bringing generations together to explore the question : What kind of old do you want to be ?  On May 8 – 10th a major global conference will take place in Dublin with the theme of ‘ Creating  New Old’.

The  Bealtaine  Festival is spearheaded by Age and Opportunity  –  a non-profit organization working to promote participation by older people in various aspects of society, with the Bealtaine Festival concentrating  on greater participation by older people in the arts.  Libraries, museums, theatres, cinemas, active retirement groups , care centres, beaches, and woods will resound to sounds of the celebration of being older during this wonderful month of change in Ireland. A list of events taking place in all counties of Ireland can be seen here .

References

Age and Opportunity

Bealtaine

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Filed under Ageism, Healthy Living, Loneliness, Older Generation, Retirement Age, Seniors

Titanic 100:We do not wish the memory of this calamity to be perpetuated

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912. Image Wikimedia Commons. Copyright expired

On April 8 1912, Francis Browne, a theology student studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood  left Dublin carrying a First Class ticket for the Southampton- Cherbourg- Queenstown (now Cobh) segments of the maiden voyage of the ‘unsinkable’ liner, the RMS Titanic.

Frank as he was known, was a seasoned  traveller – he had previously wandered across Europe courtesy of his uncle, Robert  Browne,who was the  Bishop of Cloyne. Uncle Robert had  given him a gift of a camera for the European trip, and Frank enjoyed  taking photographs of  a very high standard. The camera was again put to good use during those hours on board the Titanic. A wealthy family on board offered to pay Frank’s fare for the entire trip to New York, and he dutifully sought permission from his religious order, the Jesuits , to continue the voyage. Permission was denied and he was ordered to ‘get off that ship’. A fortuitous order  as it turned out, as not only did it probably save his own life, it meant that the pictures taken on board did not end up at the bottom of the Atlantic.

Early in 1913, Frank contacted the White Star Line looking for approval to use these  photographs and other materials for a series of illustrated lectures which he planned.  He received the following response

”We shall be glad to obtain photographs of the illustrations to which you allude in the Olympic booklet but shall appreciate it if in any lectures you deliver you will abstain from any reference to the Titanic as you will easily understand we do not wish the memory of this calamity to be perpetuated.”

Unperturbed, Browne set out on his  lecture tour  armed with the last pictures ever taken of  the mighty Titanic, with excellent shots of the interior, the crew, and passengers from First to  Steerage class, many of whom had perished.

Ordained in 1915, Fr Browne went on to become chaplain to the Irish Guards and served the dying at many of the bloodiest theatres of World war 1, including Messines Ridge, , Paschendale, Ypres.  Wounded several times and gassed, he went on to become the most decorated chaplain of the First World War, being awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre (First Class) with palms and on two separate occasions, the Military Cross and bar.

This extraordinary man carried his camera everywhere and documented life everywhere he went – all over Ireland,  and including  Australia and England and other places across the world.  Some years after his death in 1960, a fellow Jesuit priest, Fr Eddie O’Donnell,  happened upon an old trunk with ‘Fr Browne’s Photographs’ written in chalk. It contained some 42,000 negatives, with  many in poor condition. The Jesuit order  arranged for the preservation of the negatives by Davison and Associates and they own copyright for all Fr Browne’s photographs. Fr O’Donnell is the curator of the collection and has published several volumes, listed below.

Photographs of the Titanic are much sought after by those interested in the tragic liner.  The photographs of the Harland & Wolff official photographer R J Welch taken during the construction phase  are  housed at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

In 1985 the wreck of the Titanic was discovered on the seabed by Dr Robert Ballard and some 20,000 new images were taken.

Image of Titanic lying at a depth of 2.5 miles, taken from unmanned submarine Argo in 1985. From the BBC

 Now, to mark the centenary of the loss of the Titanic, National Geographic has produced some spectacular new colour images of the wreck. These can be viewed here.

Whilst  ghostly images of the rusting and mangled Titanic on the sea floor may  continue to become available with the development of new photographic techniques, it is the simple black and white ‘snaps’ taken on a relatively primitive box camera of Fr Francis Browne that tell the real story of the first and last voyage of the RMS Titanic, thereby ensuring that the memory of this calamity will indeed be perpetuated.

Some of Fr Browne’s photographs can be seen at the official website www.titanicphotographs.com. 

Fr Browne’s  Books of Photographs:

  • Father Browne’s Titanic Album: A Passenger’s Photographs and Personal Memoir by Browne, Francis M. and E.E. O’Donnell; Wolfhound Press, 1996; ISBN 0-86327-598-2
  • Father Browne’s Australia by Browne and O’Donnell; Wolfhound Press, 1996; ISBN 0-86327-443-9
  • Father Browne: A Life in Pictures by Browne and O’Donnell; Irish American Book Company, 1997; ISBN 0-86327-436-6
  • Father Browne’s Ships & Shipping by E.E.O’Donnell; Wolfhound Press, 2000; ISBN 0863277586

References

The Irish Times

BBC ‘On this Day’ website

Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

Fr Browne

National Geographic

Encyclopaedia Titanica

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Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Family History, Ireland, Irish Heritage, Irish History

Titanic 100:5 Myths spread by films.

Much of what we ‘know’ about the loss of the Titanic  and her last moments has come from the media – films, documentaries, the press. Here 5 of the common ‘beliefs’ about the Titanic and those on board are explored:

Who claimed that The Titanic was unsinkable?

Did the Titanic slip into the icy depths to the air of  Nearer My God to Thee being performed by the orchestra?

Was J Bruce Ismay, Chairman and Managing Director  of the White Star line, really a coward who jumped ship to save his own skin?

Captain Smith – a hero or guilty of inexcusable errors of judgment?

Were the steerage passengers prevented from boarding lifeboats ?

From the BBC, click on the link to read more:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17515305

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Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Oral History