Last week I posted Pete St. John’s haunting ode to a Dublin long disappeared and this past week, in one of those strange little quirks of serendipity, I came across a postcard set of scenes from what certainly qualifies as Dublin in the “ould times”.
Uncle John, who lived in Belfast, was my mother’s older brother and the two of them corresponded regularly: he was an entertaining writer and a letter from him would arrive almost every second week containing news, anecdotes and family stories. Often he would enclose snap shots, newspaper clippings of births and deaths, and every December a one pound note for my birthday. One Christmas there was even a 45 rpm recording he had made of greetings for the holidays – how I wish I had it now but it had long since disappeared from my mother’s treasures.
But for some reason my mother kept that little accordion postcard set he sent from Dublin while on vacation there in August of 1945. The scenes are from the Lawrence Series – 12 of the 40,000 odd photographs of Ireland produced by William Melville Lawrence in his studio on Sackville (O’Connell) Street between 1880 and 1914. Lawrence was not a photographer himself but an entrepreneur who employed a staff of colourists, printers and photographers. Lawrence’s chief photographer was Dubliner Robert French who travelled the country (North and South) capturing places, people and events until his death in 1917. The entire glass plate collection is held in the National Library of Ireland and over 19,000 photographs have been scanned and are available on their Online Catalogue.
The little booklet was mailed on August 14, 1945 a few months after the Second World War had ended in Europe. According to the postmark it arrived at the Brown’s Line Postal Outlet in our small community seventeen days later and my mother was able to share in his travels.
Given that rationing – which would have included petrol – was still in effect when my mother and I made our journey to Belfast in 1949 it would be interesting to know how he got from Belfast to Dublin that August of 1945. Motor car? Bus? Train? And what were conditions like in Dublin at that time? Though Ireland had remained neutral during the war and been a popular R&R stop for the military austerity and rationing was still pretty much the norm. Were conditions so much better in Dublin that someone from Belfast would take a “vacation” there? In his brief message he assures my mother that he “will write when I get home” and I’m sure the promised letter which followed would have told her all about that trip. I only wish I had those letters now but sadly, like that little 45, they have long since disappeared. All that remains are these “snaps” of Dublin in the “rare ould times”.
On this day in 1812: Claude François de Malet, a French general, begins a conspiracy to overthrow Napoleon Bonaparte, claiming that the Emperor died in Russia and that he is now the commandant of Paris.