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A portrait of Old Ireland

HANGING OUT 1969, Cumberland Street, Dublin Three children hanging out in a Ford Escort Mark 1 panel van (thanks to the excellent work of the NLI Flickr family for spotting the model). The Ford Escort Mark 1 was first introduced to Ireland and the UK in 1967, debuting at the Brussels Motor Show. The van in this image first appeared in April 1968. The Ford Escort Mark 1 brand was designated for the European market, but the vehicles also made their way as far afield as Australia, Japan and Taiwan. The Escort’s dimensions and 1.3-litre engine allowed it to comply with Japanese emission regulations and it was the only model of Ford in that country. The panel van pictured here was particularly popular in Australia. Photographer: Elinor Wiltshire; Source: National Library of Ireland

John Breslin and Sarah-Anne Buckley have returned with the third installment of their record-breaking Old Ireland in Colour series.

Beloved by Irish readers at home and abroad, for this new volume the authors have uncovered yet more photographic gems and breathed new life into them in glorious colour.

1926, Blarney, Co. Cork
The building shown here represents the third castle on this site. The first was a timber construction built during the tenth century. It was replaced by a stone structure in 1210, the entrance of which was about 20 feet above the ground at the northern face. The current keep was added atop the thirteenth-century structure in 1446. The castle was once occupied by Cormac MacCarthy, Kingof Munster. It is alleged that Robertthe Bruce gave half of the Stone of Scone to MacCarthy in appreciation for troop support sent to Scotland. The stone eventually became known as the Blarney Stone; it is still located below the battlements of Blarney Castle and has long been a major tourist attraction, as those who kiss it are deemed to be given the ‘gift of the gab’. The National Geographic described this practice in 1927: ‘The powerful talisman which, when kissed, bestows the gift of pleasant “deluderin” speech, is set in the parapet of the keep, above the top window. Though the feat is difficult of accomplishment,
it is worthwhile, as is attested by many visitors with the proud title of “pilgrim from the Blarney Stone”.’

All of Irish life is chronicled – from an eviction in Clare in 1888 to devastating floods in Strabane and a snapshot of working life in Dublin.

1952, Westmoreland Street, Dublin
By the 1950s almost every Irish household had a bicycle and cyclists commuting to work in Dublin were
a regular sight. The first pedal-driven bicycle, the boneshaker, arrived in Ireland in the 1860s, but in the late nineteenth century the cost of bicycles meant that cycling was an activity mainly for the wealthy classes. However, as the price reduced, this changed, and the bicycle opened up many lives – particularly
those of women and of people in rural areas before motor cars were common. While the number of cars increased dramatically from the 1950s on, the use of the bicycle to commute to work in a city remained a popular and affordable option in that decade. Helmets, however, were a later development, not appearing until 1975. The buses in this image would have been run by CIÉ, created from an amalgamation of the Dublin United Tramways Company and the Great Southern Railway Company in 1945 to bring all bus and railway services under one company. Green was the colour used for their buses throughout the 1950s.
Photographer: George Pickow; Source: Ritchie-Pickow Archive, University of Galway Library Archives;

Famous faces from politics and the arts can be seen alongside hard-working labourers and farmers, and mischievous children from all corners of the island light up this book’s pages.

With endless surprising details to pore over in every picture, along with illuminating captions, Old Ireland in Colour 3 is a stunning addition to the popular series of unique books.

Old Ireland in Colour was the biggest book in Ireland in 2020 selling 50,000 copies in ten weeks, and the only Irish book that year to have sales worth over €1m.

Early 1920s, Connemara
In his 1926 book, Ireland: The Rock Whence I Was Hewn, Donn Byrne stated, ‘In many parts of the Connemara coast, boys up to 12 years of age are sometimes dressed in red flannel petticoats in order to deceive the fairies, who are supposed by the peasantry to run away with male children if they get an opportunity but will not touch little girls.’ Skirts were also easier to make and simpler to deal with for younger children learning to use the toilet. J.M. Synge and many others commented on young boys wearing skirts as a disguise to protect them from the fairies, particularly on the islands and in the west of Ireland. Similarly, the National Folklore Collection is full of descriptions of anxieties around children and babies, as well as cows and other livestock, being taken by the fairies.
The School’s Collection suggests other precautions to take, such as leaving rushes outside the house in May. As one 12-year-old recalled, ‘the Irish people have great belief in the fairies’.
THREE GENERATIONS OF CONNEMARA; Photographer: Clifton Royal Adams; Source: the Breslin Archive

A collection of historical colourised images of Irish life, the result of a collaboration between NUIG academic John Breslin and historian Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley, Old Ireland in Colour won the An Post Irish Book Award for Best Irish-Published Book.

It also captured the imagination and featured in every national newspaper, on The Late Late Show, on Ryan Tubridy’s radio show. It even made the homepage of CNN.

1912, Strabane, Co. Tyrone
These images document the devastation that occurred after flooding in the town of Strabane. While the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland lists their date as 1912, the images could as easily be from 1909, 1910 or 1914. Throughout the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, different floods are documented in the newspapers, particularly the Belfast Telegraph and Strabane Chronicle, and in parliament and other local government records. In 1912, the Donegal News recorded almost twenty miles of flooding from Strabane to Stranorlar, after heavy rain forced the Finn river to overflow its banks. As can be seen from the images, the floods affected all groups – from schoolchildren to those in business – and they were an almost yearly occurrence. They affected not only homes and businesses, but agriculture and livestock too and were of enormous concern. Local committees were involved in fundraising to assist those affected by the floods and the parliamentary debates show that central government was also petitioned.
Photographer: Herbert F. Cooper; Source: The Deputy Keeper of the Records, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland;

This all came after the initial print run was only 5,000.

Merrion Press would soon return with Old Ireland in Colour 2 which delved even deeper into Ireland’s historical archives to uncover captivating photographic gems to bring to life using their unique blend of cutting-edge technology, historical research and expert colourisation.

Much like its predecessor, the book featured a fascinating collection of images covering themes such as politics and revolution, childhood, working life, and sport and leisure.

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c.1863–1930, Derry
A young girl looks towards St Columb’s, a Church of Ireland cathedral built in Derry City after the reformation. It was the first non-Roman Catholic cathedral to be built in Western Europe. The old walled city lies on the west bank of the River Foyle, which is spanned here by Carlisle Bridge, which was replaced in the 1930s by Craigavon Bridge. Derry was one of the main emigration ports from Ulster to the USA in the nineteenth century.
Photographer: Underwood & Underwood; Source: Library of Congress;

Old Ireland in Colour 3 further celebrates the rich history of Ireland and the Irish people, from all walks of life.

The book is a portrait of life in Ireland throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Old Ireland In Colour 3 by John Breslin and Sarah Anne Buckley is published by Merrion Press.

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