02/05/12 – The Irish Headhunter – Fiagaí na gCeann Gaelach

Dinny McGinley T.D., Minister of State for the Gaeltacht, will officially open an exhibition of photographic albums by the late Charles R. Browne – ‘Fiagaí na gCeann Gaelach/The Irish Headhunter at Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhóir, Dún Chaoin, Co. Kerry, on Thursday next 3rd May, 2012.
The exhibition, is being jointly curated by Ciarán Walsh of www.curator.ie and Dáithí de Mórdha of  OPW Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhóir/Great Blasket Centre.

The photographs collected by Charles R. Browne (1867 – 1931), a G.P. and anthropologist from Dublin feature communities in the remotest parts of the west of Ireland between 1891 and 1900. The photographs were filed in a series of albums, six of which survive and are held in the Library of Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

Speaking in advance of the opening Minister McGinley said “I am delighted that some of the collected photographs are being exhibited for the first time ever with the kind permission of the Board of Trinity College Dublin in the wonderful Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhóir/Great Blasket Centre. It is fitting that the first stop for this touring exhibition should be the community locally who feature prominently in the work of the late Dr. Browne. The exhibition when on tour will trace the footprint of Browne along the west coast of Ireland.  It will be exhibited in Áras Éanna, Inis Oírr; Galf Chúrsa Eanach Mheáin in Conamara and The National Museum of Ireland  – Country Life in Castlebar.”
The Browne archive is an unequalled illustration of life in the west of Ireland in the 1890s. They include some of the earliest known photos of these communities, their physical appearance, and styles of dress. “The key difference between this exhibition and other portraiture taken in and around this time period is the meticulous attention that Browne paid to the lineage, the heritage and genealogy of the subject matter. And upon taking the physical photograph portraits were contextualised with photographic essays on the coastline and surface, antiquities, customs, housing and modes of transport on land and sea, amongst others, providing us with a snapshot of each community at the time it was surveyed.”added Minister McGinley.

The photographs feature, amongst others, Myles Joyce, the schoolmaster on Inishbofin, with his daughter (her name is not recorded); Seán ‘An Common Noun’ Ó Dálaigh and all the schoolchildren of the old schoolhouse at Dún Chaoin; the first photographs of the people of An Blascaod Mór; the kings of North Iniskea  and Inishark ; the men and women of Carna, Leitir Mealláin and Maínis (Connemara); the girls of Oileán Chliara (Clare Island); the farm labourers and road builders of Iorras (Erris, Mayo).

According to curator Ciarán Walsh, “the naming of subjects is one of the most striking features of Browne’s albums. Many people have not been named but it is probable that many people will identify their great great grandparents during the run of this exhibition. It is hoped that these names can be permanently added to the library descriptions of the originals.”
The project is being funded by The Office of Public Works and The Heritage Council, with the support of Trinity College Dublin, The Royal Irish Academy, Ionad Ealaíne Áras Éanna, Inis Oírr
Oireachtas na Gaeilge & National Museum of Country Life.

In 2013 the exhibition will be shown in The Haddon Library of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge.



Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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