Its almost impossible to comprehend how much Ireland has changed in the last 150 years. This selection of photos from a National Library collection released in 1981 give a rare glimpse into Ireland between 1860-1880.
Many of these pictures are of tourists. The late 19th century had seen tourism take off in Ireland (exclusivley among the wealthy) with the expansion of rail lines into the west.
Unfortunately because of the focus on wealthy tourists, the vast majority of the people of Ireland are not represented in these photos. Ordinary Irish peasants only feature when they interact with the tourists.
All the photo’s were taken between 1860-1880. To put them in context many of the people in these photos were survivors of The Great Famine (1845-51)
The notes with each photo are for the most part taken from the National Library notes
This picture was taken from the Gap of Dunloe, Co. Kerry. Remarkably the names of the women survive, on the left is Joanne O Keefe while on the right is Norah O Connell. The bottles under Joanna’s arm indicates she was possibly selling refreshments to tourists at the Gap, a popular spot. Most people I have shown this picture and the one below have commented on the similarities in appearance between Irish peasants and Native Americans in the 19th century.
The picture on the left is probably posed for – the man’s fiddle has only three strings. The most interesting aspect is the footwear, the man on the left is wearing boots while the man on the right is wearing troighthíní (footstockings) which as can be seen have no soles.
This picture is taken at the Giants Causeway in Co. Antrim. The women are probably selling something to the two men seated who are almost certainly tourists. The woman in the foreground is smoking a pipe.
This photo taken at the Blackchurch hotel, Naas, Co Kildare illustrates the way ordinary people were viewed and treated by the upper classes. While the tourists pose for the picture, the coach drives do not even turn to look at the camera functioning almost as props in their own photo.
Students at the non-denominational Queens College in Galway. The non-denominational ethos saw many Catholics enter an education system that had often excluded them, however in a world where education was highly expensive ordinary people of all religions and none were excluded as the students dress indicates.
These are only half the pictures in the set, next week I will post pictures fom the same time period which focus of several landscapes from around ireland including Achill Island, Waterford city and Bray.