Nicholas Allen (University of Georgia) – ‘Lost city of the archipelago: Dublin at the end of Empire’

Dublin, Belfast and Cork were imperial cities in their administration, architecture and, to contested degrees, their public culture.  Each was connected to a network of other empires and cities, each of which had its own traditions of local history and transnational association. The fabric of daily life in Dublin, Cork and Belfast was interwoven with things from elsewhere.  Its constituents were food, its wrappings, furniture, decoration or the paper on which the fortunate minority wrote.  The poor who could not afford these things saw advertisements plastered on walls or goods in shop windows.  The imperial archipelago is a framework by which to understand Ireland’s complex global relations in the context of the Easter Rising.  Empire had entered a distinct phase in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as it performed a first phase of globalization that was ended by the First World War.   Archipelago has become a critical tool in the study of literature following an extended conversation between historians about the limits of nationalism as a means to describe complex interactions between fragmentary interest groups over extended time.  Thinking of Dublin as a city in the imperial archipelago invites reflection on the city’s material and cultural history.  The sensual presence of empire registered privately in the interior life of Ireland’s kitchens, libraries and drawing rooms.  War and rebellion turned the domestic world inside out. The regular notice of dead men in the trenches was followed by advertisement of their goods by auction in the newspapers of record.  Mahogany tables and walnut sideboards empanelled the interior of the Irish upper middle-classes with the scented texture of the far-east.  Ivory piano keys and ornaments brought Africa to the drawing rooms.  Watercolours of exotic landscapes entertained the imagination with daydreams of travel on a grey Dublin day.  The archipelago allows for the empire to be understood as a connective force through which these objects passed in promiscuous exchange.  The idea registers most sharply in the early works of James Joyce, whose books were made from the pre-war material world. His realism was a picture of the empire as it was experienced through the senses.  Touch, sight, smell and hearing are fundamental registers of historical context in Joyce’s work. Up to A Portrait these sensations are bound in perceivable ways to the productive life of objects. Ivory, mahogany, sugar and tea impel their consumers to hold a picture of the world in their mind.  This lecture will map Ireland’s place in a complex world system of trade and empire through the objects its people encountered.  It will do so in an attempt to place the events of 1916 in a global context that accommodates local antagonisms impossible to explain otherwise.  By thinking about things, says Stephen Dedalus, you can understand them.

Pat Cooke (University College Dublin) – ‘Aethereality and materiality: material culture and the myth of 1916′

The Easter Rising was an exceptionally literary event, with four writers— Pearse, Connolly, Plunkett and McDonagh— at its heart. Streamlined interpretations, or mythic versions, of the event were shaped overwhelmingly out of the canonical texts of the Rising. Within a matter of weeks the writings of its four writers were being sifted into a version that cohered around the writings and personality of Patrick Pearse.

Meanwhile, more randomly and less programmatically, the detritus of battle, relics of the martyrs, family keepsakes, personal heirlooms and bijouterie, were being kept and gathered. Much remained in private hands, intimately treasured as mementoes of loved ones. Some of this material found its way into public collections, to provide corroborating substance to the official myths. But taken altogether, these objects have an oddness and heterogeneity that open up the possibility of fresh interpretations of history’s apparently resolved cases. This presentation will explore the potential of things to discomfit received understandings of 1916.

Mary E. Daly (University College Dublin) – ‘1916 as the national commemoration?  The paradox’

Most of the activity of the 1916 Easter Rising took place in Dublin, and the memorial sites – such as the graves of 1916 participants – were in the capital, yet ceremonies to mark the Easter Rising were, and are held throughout Ireland. A second paradox is that these are commonly held on Easter Sunday – whereas the Rising began on Easter Monday.

In this paper, I will examine the commemorations of the 1916 Rising – the ‘sites of memory’ – especially those that have no direct link to the Rising; those who are remembered within the 1916 commemorative process; and what a wider examination of 1916 commemorations tells us about Irish republicanism.

Macrame bag, Curragh Camp (courtesy of Kilmainham Jail)

Joanna Brück (University College Dublin) – ‘ “A good Irishman should blush every time he sees a penny”: gender, nationalism and memory in Irish internment camp craftwork, 1916-1923’

This paper will explore how the craftwork created in prisons and internment camps between 1916 and 1923 allowed prisoners to negotiate changing concepts of political and social identity in the context of internment.  Objects such as bone crosses and harps (the latter often decorated with roundtowers, wolfhounds and the like), alongside rings and brooches made from spoons and coins and mimicing Early Medieval artwork, constitute an obvious engagement with religious identity and traditions of cultural nationalism, and raise questions regarding the use, perception and ‘ownership’ of what were regarded by some as sentimental and indeed contentious symbols of nationhood.  The reworking of prison-issue blankets into decorative mats and slippers, or the use of coins to make rings (an act viewed by camp authorities as the defacing of legal tender) allowed prisoners to subvert the norms of prison behaviour and to negotiate a continued sense of personal agency in a profoundly disempowering context.  Many of these objects were made for friends and family outside of the camp (particularly women): objects such as macramé handbags or children’s reins gave men a continued sense of involvement in and control over their homes and relationships, while mantle borders, tea cosies and table centres conjured idealised notions of domesticity.  Fundamentally, the creation of such objects allowed prisoners to engage with the troubling and often contradictory experiences of masculinity that lay at the heart of camp life.

Justin Carville (Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire) – ‘Imagining commemoration: photography, memory and affect in the Easter Rising’

In the immediate aftermath of the suppression of the Easter Rising, the events of that week where commemorated by a series of photographically illustrated booklets, post-cards and newspaper special editions produced by Irish and British publishers. In addition to portraits of the Rising’s main protagonists, these commemorative publications contained photographic imagery of the ruined buildings and bullet marked masonry along Dublin’s main thoroughfare and surrounding streets. Intended to commemorate the Rising through the photographic depiction of its aftermath, and compressing the historical discourse of rebellion into the ruined urban space of technological warfare, the publication of photographically illustrated commemorative material contributed to the emergence of the mnemonic economy of the Easter Rising. This paper discusses the place of photography within this emergent mnemonic economy to explore the role of the photographic image in the politics of cultural memory of the Rising and its aftermath. The aim of the paper is not to identify the visual rhetorics of the photographic depictions of the Rising but to examine how the relationship between the subject matter and the materiality of the photograph as commemorative image-object has agency in performances of cultural memory of the Rising across time.

Ciara Chambers (University of Ulster) – ‘The “aftermath” of the Rising in cinema newsreels’

Aftermath of the Easter Rising. Image Courtesy of the Trustees of the Imperial War Museum.

Aftermath of the Easter Rising. Image Courtesy of the Trustees of the Imperial War Museum.

Before the advent of television in the 1950s, newsreels were the only moving image news medium available to the general public. Consumed in a cinema setting and often manipulated for propaganda purposes, newsreels are

an important record of what audiences were shown and told about contemporary events and personalities. Given a lack of sustained indigenous production, Irish audiences viewed newsreels mostly produced by British companies who faced unique challenges when covering the turbulent events and shifting range of political sensibilities in early twentieth century Ireland. There are only two extant newsreels covering the 1916 Rising: Aftermath of the Easter Rising and Scenes in Dublin after the Suppression of the Easter Rising. This paper will consider the content, screening contexts and political inflections of both films. It will also explore With the North and South Irish at the Front, an ‘official’ British film released just after the Rising to counteract images of insurgency and re-released with additional footage in 1918 for similarly propagandistic purposes.

Elizabeth Crooke (University of Ulster) – ‘Political sensitivities and the interpretation of the material culture of the Easter Rising’

This paper will consider political sensitivities associated with the display of artefacts held in museums in Northern Ireland that relate to the Easter Rising. It is inspired by the recent purchase by Inniskillings Museum of a Christmas card designed by George Irvine (1877-1954), a Protestant from Fermanagh who later became a prominent Republican. Irvine, who served with the Royal Inniskillings Fusiliers and Dublin Fusiliers, later became active with the IRB and was sentenced to death for his role in the Rising (later commuted). As a ‘Protestant rebel’ this story challenges our interpretation of the Rising and is an example of the diversity of stories emerging from the period. The purchase of the Irvine Christmas card marks willingness, within the museum, to engage with non-traditional stories and to challenge our perceptions of a regimental museum. Raising questions about allegiance, the interpretation of this artefact is particularly sensitive given the current political context of Northern Ireland and is a means to reflect on the agency of such artefacts in museums.

Brian Crowley (Pearse Museum, Dublin) – ‘Pearse’s profile: the creation of an icon’

The side-profile image of Patrick Pearse has become one of the defining images of the 1916 Rising. It owes its origin to Pearse’s attempt to hide a birth deformity by turning his face to the side when being photographed and forms part of his attempt to create an identity for himself which was appropriate to his own heroic ideals. His adoption of the heroic side profile to mask his perceived physical inadequacies can also be seen as a manifestation of the deeper conflicts which existed within his own sense of identity.

Pearse grew up in an artistic home and his work as a dramatist and educationalist show him to be a person of considerable and sophisticated visual literacy. He was also someone who had a deep understanding of the meaning and power of symbols. His control of his public image formed part of his attempt to create an identity for himself as a prophet of revolution and a sacrificial victim for the soul of his nation.

The development of Pearse’s profile from heroic self-projection to national icon in the years which followed the Rising was part of a wider programme of myth-making by those who saw themselves as the inheritors of his Republic.  Pearse was written about in a quasi-religious fashion and this is reflected in the images of him which were produced in the early years of the state. This reached its zenith when he appeared, along with John Fitzgerald Kennedy, in a mosaic in the mortuary chapel in Galway’s Catholic Cathedral. Increasingly, Pearse only existed as an icon, a symbol and an ideal. The other aspects of his life and work, in particular his practical views on education, were essentially ignored. In the 1970s and 80s when the Rising and the Irish Republican tradition came under criticism by revisionist historians, it was as much the image of the iconic Pearse which was rejected as the man himself.

This paper will explore how Pearse presented himself during his lifetime and controlled his image. It will also examine how he has been depicted subsequent to his execution following the 1916 Rising. These depictions include commemorative postcards produced immediately after the Rising, the heroic sculptures of Oliver Sheppard and Seamus Murphy, the pop art 1979 commemorative stamp by Robert Ballagh, and the murals of Pearse which adorned Nationalist areas of Northern Ireland during the Troubles. It will explore the degree to which these various versions of his profile image have shaped, and been shaped by, Irish society’s perceptions of Pearse and his iconic side-profile.

1916 lockets

1916 lockets

Jack Elliott (University of Warwick) – ‘ “After I am hanged my portrait will be interesting but not before”.  Ephemera and the construction of personal responses to the Easter Rising’

In the immediate aftermath of the Easter Rising, images of the rebels were circulated on postcards, in newspapers, and in souvenir publications. These mass-produced images made the leaders recognisable figures to those who had initially responded with hostility to the Rising.   Recent scholarship has begun to give greater consideration to these widely circulated items; however little attention has been paid to the deeply personal relationship individuals forged with mass-produced ephemera. This paper presents a case study of six crudely made lockets containing images of rebel leaders cut from the pages of newspapers. It situates the lockets alongside other examples of mass-produced ephemera that were adapted by their owners to reflect a more nuanced and personal interpretation of the events of Easter Week and its aftermath. In doing so, this paper argues that material objects were integral to the changes in public opinion towards the rebels during the period of internment. Furthermore, by considering the ways in which mass-produced ephemera were modified, this paper highlights that such items were not passively consumed. Rather, the emotional and physical labour invested in the creation and the display of more personalised mementoes of the Rising illustrates the reflexive discourses that shaped the narrative interpretations of the event.

Orla Fitzpatrick (University of Ulster) – ‘Portraits and propaganda: photographs of the widows and children of the 1916 leaders in The Catholic Bulletin’

This paper will explore how the popular magazine The Catholic Bulletin used studio photographs of the widows and orphans of the 1916 leaders to influence public opinion. The series was credited with helping sway sympathies towards the rebels and first appeared in December 1916. Most were commissioned by the editor, J.J. O’Kelly; however, others were sourced from family and friends. Their removal from the usual domestic context represents a clever co-opting of vernacular photography for propagandistic uses.

Taking a material cultural approach to the analysis of photographs, this paper will place an emphasis not only on the image content but on its means of production, display and mass circulation. This methodology will examine the publication’s use of typography, page layout and graphic design with particular reference to the enclosure of photographic portraits within Celtic knot-work borders.

It will also highlight how the usual conventions of studio photography were used to convey an atmosphere of respectability and propriety which was very much at odds with the reality of rebellion and violence. In contrast, an analysis of the interaction of the text and image will reveal a vocabulary that reflects the rhetoric of sacrifice and bloodshed which permeated much of Europe during the period.

The entire life cycle of the photographs will also be taken into account and the paper will trace how some of these photographs moved from private family albums to mass circulation either in The Catholic Bulletin or in later souvenir programmes of the prisoners’ aid societies.

Sylvia Pankhurst addressing a crowd in Bow, East London, 1912

Sylvia Pankhurst addressing a crowd in Bow, East London, 1912

Brian Hand (Institute of Technology Carlow) – ‘Where did the tricolour in the GPO come from?’

This visual presentation will engage with the visual and material culture of the Irish republican tricolour of green, white and orange. The official narrative around this flag states that it briefly appeared in the famine of 1848 and then vanished until dramatically resurrecting itself in Easter 1916 to declare a new republic. The tricolour defiantly flew from almost all occupied buildings.

I want to look at the gap of 60 years and reflect on why this flag was markedly absent from republican, nationalist and Fenian demonstations, campaigns, commemorations and funerals and explore where the tricolour was. I will present images showing what still remains the richest use of tricolours in these islands during this gap and that is in the use of various tricolours by the suffragette movement. The most dominant tricolour from this period was the purple, white and green flag of the WSPU. These colours rapidly spread across the land through mass rallies and demonstrations. They appeared on banners, shop displays, fabric, posters, pottery and badges. As the movement splintered over issues to do with militancy, hunger strikes, etc., new tricolours emerged such as the one adopted by Charlotte Despard’s Women’s Freedom League in 1908 which was green, white and gold. I will also discuss the Chartist flag and the tricolour of British republicanism.

Daniel Jewesbury – ‘A constitution for a state yet to come?  The unbroken promise of the half-proclamation’

The document known as the ‘half-proclamation’ is to be found in a number of places including the National Archives of Ireland and, notably, in the court martial papers of Sean McDermott in the National Archives at Kew in London. The document was printed by the Dublin Metropolitan Police following their raid on Liberty Hall immediately after the 1916 Rising and shows the last three paragraphs and the names of the signatories to the Proclamation.

This paper treats the half-proclamation as a document with an uncertain status; furthermore it argues that this uncertainty is potentially productive of new meanings and readings of the document, of the events which led to its production, and of the state whose inception it witnessed. Within Ireland, the half-proclamation is a venerated constitutional document, but through its fragmentary character it acquires also the semi-religious status of a relic, more so even than the full Proclamation itself; the fact of its having been printed by Crown forces also serves to produce a complex aura of martyrdom around the document, very much in keeping with the doctrine of blood sacrifice espoused by the Rising’s chief players.

Within the British National Archives, however, the document is primarily a piece of criminal evidence, amongst many others produced to indict the accused. It is filed alongside radical publications, handwritten orders and the warrants for execution of the conspirators. The dossier containing the document remained classified until 1992, and it is not separately indexed in the archive’s catalogue. This paper seeks to dramatise fully the ambivalence of the half-proclamation, as both an ‘authentic fragment’ and an illegitimate copy, a piece of incriminating evidence successfully used to condemn its writers to death, derived from a document that is at once the founding text of a state, but which lacks any contemporary legal status. The paper will also examine the ‘empty half’ of the half-proclamation, which I argue is the most important piece of blank paper in the cultural history of Ireland. At a time when the legitimacy and perpetuity of the State is under sustained interrogation, might this empty space be a useful place in which to project new proclamations of the aspirations and demands of its citizens?

Lar Joye (National Museum of Ireland) – ‘Displaying the nation:  the 1916 exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland (1932-1991)’

The National Museum of Ireland was established nearly 150 years ago as the Museum of Science and Art, Dublin, on 14 August 1877 by act of Parliament.  The new museum worked closely with state museums in London and Edinburgh and the new exhibitions highlighted the expanding British Empire and in particular the decorative arts of India, Japan and China and the ethnographical collections.  However the emergence of the Irish Free State in 1922 had a dramatic impact on this Victorian institution and greater emphasis was now placed on the Irish antiquities collection and on the 1916 Rising.

In my talk I will examine how a series of exhibitions were developed in 1932, 1941, 1966 and 1991 to commemorate the week long Rising while avoiding the longer War of Independence and bitterly fought Civil War.  In 1932 Nellie Gifford approached the National Museum about creating a 1916 exhibition and then curated and prepared the exhibition with little support from the museum. Later Liam Grogan and Dr Hayes McCoy curated the 1941 exhibition in the central court of the National Museum and for the fiftieth anniversary of the Rising Oliver Snoddy curated a new exhibition which included the Irish Republic flag recently returned from the Imperial War Museum in London.   My presentation will be based on the archives of the museum and as well as looking at the exhibitions will examine how the Easter Week collection has developed since the 1930s.

Róisín Kennedy (University College Dublin) – ‘A “tragic and heroic phase of Irish history”: visual art and the legacy of 1916, one generation on’

Taking as its focal point the coverage of the commemorations of the 1916 Rising in the Capuchin Annual in 1942 and 1946, this paper explores the ways in which visual representations of the Rising and subsequent political events were interpreted a generation after the events that inspired them.

With close links to the church hierarchy and Fianna Fail, the Capuchin Annual projected a very strong nationalist and Catholic identity in which the Rising played a crucial role. Making fervent use of photography and visual art and design, it sought to awaken a popular awareness of political and religious history through accessible imagery as well as through text. What impact did this ancillary material have on the public understanding of the paintings of Jack B. Yeats and John Lavery and on the sculpture of Lawrence Campbell? Similarly how was their work used to promote the goals of the journal? At one level, intermingled with a variety of imagery and commentary their presentation in the Capuchin Annual draws attention to the conflicting interpretations of the Rising and notions of national identity in the 1940s, while alternatively it shows how the Capuchins fulfilled an important role as advocates of modern Irish art and as educators of the Irish public, two functions which the art establishment and the state had neglected.

The paper will consider in particular three key political paintings by Jack B. Yeats which featured in Thomas MacGreevy’s ‘Three historical paintings by Jack B. Yeats’, Capuchin Annual 1942 (Bachelor’s Walk, In Memory, 1914; Funeral of Harry Boland, 1922; and Communication with Prisoners, 1924), the photo essay ‘Laurence Campbell sculpting the bust of Sean Heuston’, Capuchin Annual 1946, and the paintings of John Lavery from various issues. It will compare the ways in which the works are presented and interpreted within the publication and in the wider cultural sphere.

Linda King (Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire) – ‘Collages and composites: the visual evolution of the proclamation’

In an episode of season three of the RTE drama series Love/Hate, Nidge – the head of a Dublin criminal gang – sits in a bar waiting to meet two members of ‘The Ra’ in an effort to resolve a dispute over drug-dealing. As he nervously looks around him his gaze is drawn to a framed copy of the 1916 Proclamation hanging on the wall. Within seconds the Republican credentials of the bar and its owners are confirmed for the viewer and, in the context of the unfolding narrative, the gravity of Nidge’s forthcoming negotiation is established.

This fleeting scene confirms how, outside display within the confines of national institutions, the Proclamation has a semiotic value which is commonly assumed to align with the Republican movement. Indeed, it could be argued that the Proclamation is the most potent visual signifier within Republicanism collapsing an invocation to the past (the Rising and its aftermath) and future (aspiration to a thirty-two county Ireland) into a singular frame of reference. However, the object that catches Nidge’s attention in Love/Hate is not just a copy of the original Proclamation but a modified version comprising the distinctive layout of the original document – in part a result of the limitations imposed on its production – in addition to photographs of the seven signatories. In this collage of elements, Pearse and Connolly’s text is reduced to a central image around which a variety of other visual elements are organised.

This paper explores the phenomenon of the modified or ‘composite’ Proclamation. It addresses the semiotic potency of the original Proclamation and analyses what enhanced meanings are offered by embellishing the document with the addition of photographs, decorative borders and vignettes. While the application of these elements are in part attempts to humanise and the events of 1916 and dramatise these within an extended narrative, they also allude to patterns of religious commemoration and reference military ephemera, in addition to adhering to the visual conventions of ‘foundational’ documents from other jurisdictions.

Catherine Marshall (Royal Irish Academy) – ‘Picture this: artists’ responses to 1916′

The 1916 Rising and other major events in Irish history are seriously under-represented in Irish art. Does this reflect lack of interest on the part of the artists, continuing a history of previous omissions in this genre in Ireland, as some writers have thought, or are there factors that have not been adequately considered that impacted on artists’ potential to engage with their country’s defining moments?

The fate of Kathleen Fox’s painting The Arrest (1916) depicting the arrest in St. Stephen’s Green of Countess Markievicz and John Lavery’s painting of the trial of Roger Casement (1916), produced at a time when the Dublin Metropolitan Schools were introducing a course on the genre of history painting and offering inducements to students to undertake this form of artistic expression provide some interesting insights into the genre. The circumstances of the paintings’ origins (commissioned work and self-motivated project) and their subsequent history will be considered alongside the proposal to decorate Dublin’s City Hall with scenes from Irish history by James Ward and students from the DMSA (1913 -1919). Since all three projects were initiated and completed within the decade of the Easter Rising they provide a useful vehicle for analysing the pressures, either real or imagined, on Irish artists endeavouring to engage with historical or political subjects.

This paper will attempt to document and contextualise the critical and cultural attitudes, pressures from the art market and the influence of artistic tradition in Ireland on these and similar artworks, and look at their wide-ranging impact on subsequent art history in this country.

Laura McAtackney (University College Dublin) – ‘Autograph books: exploring female experiences of political imprisonment’

Narratives of the tumultuous events of the early 20th century in Ireland are dominated by political manoeuvrings and military operations that largely exclude the significant involvement of women. With the exception of a small number of dominant female figures – namely Countess de Markievicz and Maude Gonne – the involvement and experiences of women before, during and in the immediate aftermath have been sidelined in the history and public memory of the period as spectators or defined by their relationship to fallen men.

Whilst in recent years there have been attempts to redress this imbalance, including the works of McCoole, O’Sullivan and most recently Matthews, there are many avenues of study that have yet to be explored. This paper will utilise one specific type of documentary source – autograph books passed amongst the women whilst imprisoned – that is underused and often discounted as unimportant. This paper will discuss how these books can be used to explore the women’s experiences through what, how and where they write, draw and attach objects in order to reveal different facets of their experiences of imprisonment. Taking a material as well as a visual and text-based approach to these artefacts / documents, they will be used to highlight often undiscussed aspects of the women’s experience and will move beyond supposed communalities to also discuss divisions and divergences of backgrounds, aims, opinions and expectations.

Bill McCormack (Goldsmiths College, retired) – ‘Materiality and forgery: the Castle document’

The concerns and techniques gathered under the term material culture do not immediately appear urgently relevant to the commemoration of the Dublin Rising of April 1916. It is true that post-cards, posters, flags, badges and other insignia can provide abundant evidence for analysis of the particular, but it is less clear that the larger corpus of written material – James Connolly’s books and pamphlets, or Yeats’s poetry and drama – will prove susceptible to comparable treatment, whether these are examined in manuscript or printed form. The proposed paper will deal with the ‘Castle Document’ circulated in Holy Week by or through Alderman Kelly to test the reservations indicated above.

Franc Myles (Archaeology and Built Heritage) – ‘Beating the retreat.  The final hours of the Easter Rising’

‘This was not history. It has not passed.’ 1

This paper offers an archaeological perspective on the final hours of the Rising, from the evacuation of the GPO on Friday night, to the lingering death of the O’Rahilly on a corner of Moore Street the following evening, several hours indeed after the general surrender and evacuation of Republican prisoners to the nearby Rotunda Hospital.

The paper reports on recent archaeological investigation of the interiors of the buildings on Moore Street and Henry Place. Informed by the evidence contained in the Witness Statements in the Bureau of Military History, this work on the historic fabric has helped pull a new focus on the materiality of the conflict from the perspective of the non-combatant and civilian populations alike.

This archaeology, however, also serves another function, forcing us to consider our own value judgements regarding monuments and marginal landscapes such as these, places still charged with latent political electricity.

1           D’Arcy, M. and Arden, J. 1986. The Non-Stop Connolly Show. London, 448.

Eimear O’Connor (Trinity College Dublin) – ‘Men of the West and 1916: an emblem of presence and absence’

What can a painting embody as evidence of an artist’s political beliefs, about what is obvious and less so, about access to place, anxiety and defiance of authority, or about the socio-political, historical and geographic context in which it was made? Several artists were watching the Easter Rising in 1916, and one particular image, Men of the West, was to become symbolic of the age. A painting that featured a recognisable portrait of the artist, it was a deliberate political statement that, as B. P. Kennedy wrote ‘… provided the most dramatic and rhetorical visual icons of the Irish Free State.’ But nothing is as simple as it might first appear, and while the artist went on to become well-known for his images of the fight for independence, the official response to Men of the West was the cause of noticeable anomalies in his output between 1916 and 1922. Fifty years later, the artist re-engaged with the political sentiment evident in his youthful work, but those in authority were seeking something different and his poster design for the 1966 commemoration was dismissed as anachronistic. The ‘dramatic and rhetorical’ visual icon, and the supporting material with which this paper engages, highlight the presence of imagery that reflects the obvious, and yet, by virtue of obliteration and absence, offers evidence of the complex contexts in which the artist lived and worked in the years before and after the Treaty of Independence.

Hilary O’Kelly (National College of Art and Design) – ‘Celtic Revival dress and 1916’

‘What is the point in men dying for Ireland with an English fag in their mouths and an English cap on their heads?’1

It is now recognised that the events of the Easter Rising have been ordered and re-ordered to conform with later orthodoxies and structures of power; the place of women, for example, and the anticipation of a social democracy. Equally, the very appearance of the revolutionaries was subsequently managed to conform with later notions of modern masculine heroism. One seemingly trivial instance is our current perception limiting the kilt and shawl to ‘costume’ for Irish dancers and Irish pipe bands. In fact, before and after Easter 1916, this ‘national dress’ was worn much more widely as an aspirational embodiment of Irishness, signifying pre-anglicised (and, it was desired, post-anglicised) independence and virility. After the executions of 1916 ‘national dress’ was more widely endorsed. But by the 1930s, as idealistic dream turned to the pragamatic reality of creating a viable state in the modern age, ‘Irish dress’ came to mean Irish-made dress, the brath and léine suitable attire only for children, musicians and public performance. Safely coralled into ceremony, these garments lost the more integral, diverse and challenging roles they had around 1916, including for leaders of the Rising.

This paper aims to contribute to our understanding of the agency of dress in the Rising and its role in the construction of national symbol, memory, imagining and identity.

[1] Mr. M. A. Ryan, proprietor of the Blackthorn House, Patrick Street, Cork, supplier of umbrellas and Irish costumes (c.1918-1926)

Kevin Rockett (Trinity College Dublin) – ‘Changing representations of Ireland’s past in films made during the 1910s’

The 1910s was a highly productive period for cinematic representations of Ireland’s past. Before the 1916 Rising, at least 37 films were made which explored aspects of Irish history, especially the 1798-1803 period, some of which may be viewed on www.tcd.ie/Irishfilm. While most of these films were made by American filmmakers during 1911–15, the 1916 Rising marked a watershed for both indigenous Irish film production and for a more nuanced exploration of Ireland’s past. The landmark films made by the Film Company of Ireland during the 1916-20 period not only explored aspects of eighteenth and nineteenth century Ireland, but can be viewed as subtly engaging with the evolving struggle for self-determination.

Ellen Rowley (Trinity College Dublin) – ‘Conflict and concrete: the architecture of reconstruction in post-1916 Dublin’

This paper will examine the reconstruction process following the destruction of much of central Dublin’s built fabric during the street conflicts of 1916 which spawned the Dublin Reconstruction (Emergency Provisions) Acts of 1917. The paper seeks to understand the rhetoric of reconstruction in architectural terms. With the 1916 ‘Expert Committee’, guided by urban theorist Raymond Unwin, much attention was given to the overall aesthetic of Lower Sackville Street (later O’Connell Street): through R Caulfield Orpen’s sketch guides of ‘coordinated’ and ‘uncoordinated’ elevations, landlords were urged to rebuild in the ‘good tradition of Dublin Classical architecture’. This was in contrast to the post-1922 project which, less focused on the nation’s high street, concentrated on the reformation of iconic building monuments.

While sketching out the architectonics of both programmes, the paper’s ostensible question is about the role of concrete within the State’s reconstruction project, as it ran from 1916 until c.1930.

Referring internationally to the advent of concrete in the aftermath of World War I, this paper will posit concrete as a metaphor for progress and reconstruction. It examines two projects – the building of Clery’s Department Store (Atkinson, 1919-22) on the Hennebique ferro-concrete system, and the restoration of the Four Courts dome (Byrne, 1924-31) using 6” reinforced concrete.

Damien Shiels (Rubicon Heritage) – ‘Place versus memory: forgetting Ireland’s sites of independence’

The Republic of Ireland has been defined by the events of 1916 and the later War of Independence. The nationalist narrative of these events represent the foundation myth of the nation, and have dominated popular history and memory ever since. Despite the pre-eminent position these events maintain, there has been an apparent disconnect between the physical sites associated with the Rebellion and the national memory of that Rebellion. Since 1916 and the War of Independence many of these physical sites have been destroyed or developed (Liberty Hall being one example), when it might be expected that their important physical connection with the nationalist story might have spared them. Is this a common occurrence, and if so why are the physical sites of rebellion not more closely linked to the popular memory of these events?

This paper will explore how the physical sites associated with 1916 and the War of Independence have been largely usurped by two other forms of monument – the memorial and the graveside – which have often replaced the historic site as the location where remembering takes place. One factor at play is the politicisation of memory which occurred in the decades after the independence struggle and the civil war that followed, as competing factions sought to claim ownership of the foundation story. With this the construction of memorials and remembrance of individuals became a central component in how we chose to remember.

It is the memorialisation of events rather than the reality of events that has gained pre-eminence in how Irish society views the independence struggle. This has had a number of consequences, not least of which is the vulnerability of a large number of the physical sites associated with the 1916 Rebellion and War of Independence.

Elaine Sisson (Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire) – ‘The actor as revenant: Pearse, MacLiammoir and the materialisation of history’

As part of Dublin Civic Week in 1929, Micheal Mac Liammoir was asked to write, design and produce a pageant celebrating Irish history.  He wrote a script which covered seven signficant historical episodes: from the Viking Invasion to the 1916 Rising.  Mac Liammoir called the production ‘a masque’ (calling attention to its formal difference from a ‘pageant’ or a ‘tableaux’ although in reality it was a pageant with music and acting).  Directed by Hilton Edwards, staged in the Round Room of the Mansion House, and titled The Ford of the Hurdles, it narrativised Irish nationalist history as a continnum of struggle, ending with a final, triumphal episode: Easter 1916.

By September 1929, when the masque was staged, MacLiammoir had had his first major critical and commerical triumph at the Gate, when he played the lead role in Denis Johnston’s experimental and irreverent play on Ireland, The Old Lady Says No!   Johnston’s play begins in 1798 but through a theatrically contrived series of events, places Robert Emmet within 1920s Dublin.   The play offered Johnston an opportunity to lampoon Dublin political and social life, while also offering a more robust commentary on romantic discourses of Irish nationalism.When MacLiammoir played Pearse in The Ford of the Hurdles, he was already publicly associated with Emmet through Johnston’s play.   Later, in the 1970s, MacLiammoir toured internationally with his one-man show on Oscar Wilde.  The Ford of the Hurdles offers a largely untroubled version of heroic nationalist masculinity and which, through the figure of MacLiammoir, connects Emmet to Pearse and Pearse to Wilde. MacLiammoir reprised the role of Pearse again in the 1930s, staging Pearse’s dramatic work The Singer and recording some of his revolutionary speeches. This paper examines the role of the actor as a type of revenant or historical ghost.  It addresses how figures from different historical periods may be placed into a dialogue with each other through their ‘materialisations’ within the actor’s body and may therefore affect our reading of the past.

Jane Tynan (University of the Arts, London) – ‘ “Legion of the excluded”: the unmilitary appearance of the 1916 rebels’Tynan

This paper considers the self-presentation of the 1916 insurgents and its legacy to the memory of the Rising. Described by Alvin Jackson as ‘a legion of the excluded,’ their challenge to the establishment was somewhat undermined by their unmilitary appearance. In the years preceding 1916, volunteers who drilled openly on the streets prompted a mix of responses from onlookers, amongst them Sean O ‘Faoláin who was disgusted by the sight of these ‘rudely accounted fellows, with no uniform other than a belt around their ordinary working clothes.’

Few of the rebels were smartly dressed. Did this rag tag army of Fenians, socialists, politicised women and young people form a coherent image of military strength? Many could hardly afford the dark-green Irish Citizen Army uniforms or the regulation khaki worn by the Irish Volunteers. Modelled on the British khaki service dress, the standard tunic for the Volunteers had a rolled collar, dark green shoulder straps and pointed cuffs, distinguished by brass buttons that bore the Irish harp and the words ‘Oglaigh na hEireann’ emblazoned on the belt clasp. In the drive to design official uniforms the leaders did not anticipate how the rebellion would instead be popularised by images of improvised soldiers: civilians wearing regulation caps at jaunty angles or brown leather bandoliers over working clothes. This paper explores the construction of the image of the 1916 rebels, in particular their improvised appearance. I use photographs, advertisements, documents and art from the period to consider how the rebellion was embodied. In Seán Keating’s 1917 painting Men of the West a new kind of citizen soldier emerges from the Rising, a raw figure who could at once imagine and improvise military action. It was this image of the guerrilla warrior that would endure and arguably inspired other European militant groups to take up arms.


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