Ireland Then and Now




Canal Run and Albert Kahn exhibition 019

Yes, Claddagh girl is slightly askew. Not the girl`s fault, nor the original photographer. But me, the person who snapped this photo at a recent exhibition.

The exhibition was based on the work of Albert Kahn. I was drawn by the chance to see true colour photography of the Ireland of 1913.

Albert Kahn was a wealthy banker and philantrophist. He believed that using the latest technology of the time to record the richness of cultures all around the world and to present them to others would help encourage peace in the world.

These pictures were taken in summer 1913, by two women involved in the Kahn project,Marguerite Mespoulet and Madeleine Mignon-Alba.

Canal Run and Albert Kahn exhibition 021


No, my technique for photographing photographs has not improved in this shot. But this picture is still worth seeing if only to get a glimpse at the life of the subject. She`s also in Claddagh and is fringing shawls for a living. The cloak worn by the subject was actually the last one in the Claddagh region. Shawls, such as worn by this lady, were more in favour by then.

Canal Run and Albert Kahn exhibition 023

This photograph was taken west of Galway in a place called Spiddal, Connemara. There`s a better copy of it here.How the men and women of Connemara survived is a mystery to me. It`s got more rock than grass and is constantly battered by Atlantic wind and rain. But if you look closely at the clothes on these men you`ll see they`re patched and ragged. The little boy is wearing a skirt but that was the way back then. Boys wore skirts til they were about twelve years of age.

Spinning Wheel


This photograph shows the last of the cottage spinning wheels. Again, taken in 1913. It`s a sign of times passing and a little change to a place where everthing stayed the same for generations. See the abundant rock? yes, we`re in Connemara, Co Galway again for this picture. The cross over shawls and woollen skirts were again, the clothes of the peasant womenfolk.

One hundred years on, and I am grateful to be living in this century. Looking at those pictures, I am very sure that, if I were alive back then I`d be eeking out a living fringing shawls and trying to keep a clatter of kids fed.

Instead I`ve pressures of another sort.

Rainfall Ireland Sept 15th


Oh, I`m sure the weather chart for Ireland, wouldn`t look a whole pile different one hundred years ago. See, it`s piddling rain all along the south west and west coast? That`s Kerry and Connemara for you. But it`s pretty much fanning out in a wide sweep across the country. And pounding on my window as I type.

Thankfully, I don`t have shawls to fringe, or fish to fish, or potatoes to dig. But I do have a long slow run to take care of. And I hate to run in the driving rain.

Imagine putting off your fishing or potato gathering or shawl fringing just because of a piddly bit of water? No, I`m not as hardy as my ancestors.Maybe if I ran as if my life depended upon it, I might make more progress.




22 thoughts on “Ireland Then and Now

  1. Great photographs. They almost look as if they were taken yesterday. Thank goodness they weren’t – in that all though things may be rough economically we’ve put all that extreme poverty behind us.

    I hope the weather has calmed down by next Sunday, or I’ll be having a rough trip across the Irish Sea

  2. Wonderful to see colour photographs of that period RH. Indeed they were a hardy people and had to be to eke a living. I wonder if I’d rather have chosen to live in Connemara in 1913 or in the filthy, diseased slums that made up much of Dublin at the time? Neither was a good option.

  3. Loved the photos and learning more about Ireland of old. It rained here today too, not much fun for running! At parkrun yesterday I heard a young lady nattering all the way around to her friend, the friend had an English accent but the young lady was obviously Irish (lovely lilting tones), they are here in Australia on a working holiday. The accent made me think of you 🙂

  4. If you get far enough off the beaten path, you can still find some of that which is pictured here. For instance the thatched roof cottages and the fishermen are still in abundance anywhere along the coast, their clothes are more modern,, but they remain the same. West of Galway is a completely different Ireland than anywhere else. If I am fortunate enough to visit Ireland again, I will surely spend more time where the sun goes to sleep.
    Be well.

    • Oh, I`m very familiar with it all GB. But I shudder at the hardship rather than delight in the scenery. Yes, I know that`s fundamentally wrong in an age when being warm, dry, well fed and watered are a given for the vast majority, but I can`t help thinking how people coped long ago as they tried to scrape a living from the rocks.

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