OPW welcomes ‘1916 Portraits and Lives’ Exhibition to Kilmainham Gaol

12 May 16

Chairman Clare McGrath, Office of Public Works today (12 May 2016) officially launched an exhibition entitled ‘1916 Portraits and Lives’ in Kilmainham Gaol.

The exhibition of portraits by David Rooney, illustrates 42 lives selected by James Quinn and Lawrence W. White from the Dictionary of Irish Biography and are included in the Royal Irish Academy’s publication 1916 Portraits and Lives. This explores the lives and careers of 42 men and women and their involvement with the Easter Rising of 1916.

The biographies selected compose an inclusively broad picture of the Rising, representing the spectrum of personalities and perspectives that were involved in the event. They include not only the insurgents, and some others, killed during the Rising but also some of the women who were involved as soldiers or in supporting capacities; three nationalist leaders who opposed the rising; some of the senior figures in the British administration in Ireland in 1916; members of the British army that suppressed the rising; and two historians who made considerable contributions to the scholarly debate on 1916. This selection aims to give a balanced view of the Rising.

Speaking at the launch, Chairman McGrath said “The Office of Public Works has had a wonderful collaboration with the Royal Irish Academy on this project. The OPW, has a very important role to play in supporting the work of artists under the Percent for Art Scheme and I am delighted that these portraits now form part of the State Art Collection. This is the first time David Rooney’s original illustrations have been on public display, here in the Gaol, on what has been exceptionally evocative and busy year. It is an excellent opportunity for the visitor to gain further insight into some of the lives – some well-known and some not - that were deeply involved with the Easter Rising of 1916”.

Welcoming the exhibition, Mary Daly, President of the Royal Irish Academy said ‘With this project we intended to highlight the resource for the nation that is the Dictionary of Irish Biography. Editors of the book and now curators, James and Larry have chosen 42 lives illustrated by David Rooney, I hope in time you’ll dip into the 10,000 that exist. Paid for by taxpayer’s money, written by scholars, we have recently made it available free online for all schools. We hope this will be a lasting legacy of this decade of commemorations complicating the stories that we tell about our past.

The exhibition is open to the public free of charge and will be on display until 31 October 2016.

Photography from this event will be available from Fennell Photography

For more information, please contact OPW Press Office on 046 942 6517

Notes to Editors:

Selection of lives illustrated:

Thomas James (‘Tom’) Clarke (1858–1916), son of a British army soldier, was born on the Isle of Wight and educated in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone. He was arrested on a Fenian bombing mission to London in 1883 and spent 15 years in prison. After a period in New York, he returned to Ireland in 1907 and helped reinvigorate the IRB, steering it steadily towards insurrection. The first signatory of the 1916 Proclamation of the Republic, he served in the GPO during Easter week, and was executed on 3 May 1916.

Walter Edgeworth-Johnstone (1863–1937), son of a barrister and judge from Co. Donegal, played cricket and rugby for TCD, was a champion boxer and fencer, and fought as a British army officer in West Africa. Appointed chief commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police in 1915, he urged that strong measures be taken against the Irish Volunteers and Citizen Army, and withdrew his unarmed men from the streets during the Easter rising. He continued as DMP commissioner throughout the war of independence and civil war.

Kathleen Lynn (1874–1955), a clergyman’s daughter from Co. Mayo, was a medical doctor devoted to services for the poor, a woman’s suffragist and separatist. Chief medical officer of the Irish Citizen Army, during the Easter rising she supervised a first-aid station in Dublin City Hall until the garrison’s surrender. In 1919 she established St Ultan’s Hospital for Infants, and in the 1930s pioneered BCG inoculations against tuberculosis.

Francis Shaw (1907–70), was born in Mullingar and educated there and in Dublin. In 1924 he joined the Jesuits, and while studying in Germany in the 1930s developed an aversion to totalitarian movements and their utopian projects. He was professor of Early and Medieval Irish at UCD (1941–70), and a regular broadcaster on Radio Éireann. In 1966 he wrote a controversial article condemning Patrick Pearse for projecting a pagan concept of heroism and an alien republican ideology onto the Gaelic past.

Francis Sheehy-Skeffington (1878–1916), was born in Bailieborough, Co. Cavan, and reared in Downpatrick, Co. Down. After graduating from UCD (1902), he worked as a freelance journalist in Dublin and became well-known for his pacifism, feminism and general non-comformity. Although sympathetic to home rule, he distrusted cultural nationalism as insular and reactionary, and he opposed military movements. He tried to prevent looting during the rising, but was arrested and summarily shot on 26 April 1916 on the orders of a British officer, Captain John Bowen-Colthurst.

About the editors and authors of 1916 Portraits and Lives:

James Quinn is the managing editor of the Dictionary of Irish Biography; Lawrence William White is a researcher and copy editor with the project. The Dictionary of Irish Biography currently contains almost 9,900 ‘lives’ of prominent men and women born in Ireland, and the noteworthy Irish careers of those born outside Ireland. The scope of the dictionary extends from the earliest times to the twenty-first century. It is an indispensable work of reference for scholars, journalists, broadcasters, diplomats, and the general reader interested in Ireland’s past or in biography. The online edition is updated twice yearly.

Illustrator David Rooney is a graduate of National College of Art and Design. He is a regular contributor to The Irish Times and Hotpress. His artwork also features in publications by The Folio Society, London, and in cultural centres such as the Titanic Experience, Belfast; King John’s Castle, Limerick; and the Stonehenge visitor centre.

More information on the publication at www.ria.ie

Kilmainham Gaol Musuem:

Kilmainham Gaol Museum attracts in excess of 325,000 visitors per year. With the recent introduction of an online booking system and the huge interest in the 2016 Commemorations, figures are set to rise to record numbers this year and reaffirm the site as one of the “must see” tourist attractions in Dublin. Kilmainham Gaol Museum is now accessed through the recently refurbished former Courthouse greatly enhancing the visitor experience and providing excellent facilities such as exciting exhibits, coffee shop and book shop.

More information on www.kilmainhamgaolmuseum.ie