Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Image from Aran Islands c.1894

The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted the new background image on our Twitter page. As well as providing a New Year's facelift, the image is question is one of the highlights among the many striking images from the Balfour Album which is housed here at the James Hardiman Library.

The Balfour Album of photographs was originally created in 1893-1895 by the Belfast photographer, Robert John Welch. It was a gift to the former Chief Secretary for Ireland, Arthur J. Balfour in recognition of his support for the building of the Galway-Clifden Railway. The album was presented to Arthur Balfour in the summer of 1896, a year after the railway had opened. It remained in the property of the Balfour family until 1987 when the Earl of Balfour offered to sell it to the National Library of Ireland. Staff at the National Library felt that it more properly belonged in Galway and it was accordingly offered to the Librarian of the James Hardiman Library who purchased it for the library's collection.

The large group of children, both boys and girls, are pictured mostly facing camera. They are standing in front of a cottage whose partially white-washed gable is visible. Many of the girls are wearing white pinafores. Some of the boys are wearing traditional Aran kintted clothing. Welch's use of the word "Firbolgs" in the caption possibly refers to the legendary motif that the Aran islands was the last bastion of the Firbolgs, a small dark race of people subsequently defeated by the Tuatha de Danann in Irish myth.

Reference Number: Bal/0018

The Balfour album is digitised in full online and can be viewed here

No comments:

Post a Comment