An earlier “Tour round Ireland” with images (part 3)

Other European tourists made tours round Ireland even earlier than John Barrow in 1835. Almost 60 years earlier, an agricultural reformer from England called Arthur Young completed his “Tour in Ireland” in 1776 in preparation of a book of that name. Arthur wanted to see how the Irish natives ran their farms. Sometimes he was impressed (in the wealthier east of the country) and at other times, like most visitors to the west of Ireland back then, he was alarmed by what he saw; uneducated and poverty-stricken peasants living in primitive cabbins AND paying premium annual rent to Anglo-British landlords for the privilege of remaining at their ancestral homesteads.

For any budding builders or DIY enthusiasts, as an accomplished artist, Young even drew sketches of traditional Irish cabin homes and showed us how they were constructed. So if you want to buy a cheap plot of Irish land out west and build your dream 18th century authentic cottage, here’s how you go about it:

construction of a cabin

Construction of an Irish cabin (in 4 easy stages)

And here’s what Arthur Young observed:

“If the Irish cabbins continue like what I have hitherto seen, I shall not hesitate to pronounce their inhabitants as well off as most English Cottagers. They are built of mud walls 18 inches or 2 feet thick, and well thatched, which are far warmer than the thin clay walls in England. Here are few cottars without a cow, and some of them have two. A bellyful invariably of potatoes, and generally turf for fuel from a bog. It is true, they have not always chimneys to their cabbins, the door serving for that and window too: if their eyes are not affected with the smoke, it may be an advantage in warmth. Every cottage swarms with poultry, and most of them have pigs.”

Of course, Arthur failed to appreciate that the pet pig roaming around the cabin was also a great source of warmth, particularly on a chilly night when cuddling up to the snoring swine was of great comfort.

1777 cabbin

Here is an eighteenth century Irish Cabbin that some hardy buck produced earlier, prior to the introduction of chimneys into rural Irish architectural designs.

A few years later in 1790, a Frenchman named Charles-Étienne Coquebert de Montbret took his tour of Ireland while working as a commerce agent in Dublin. Charles-Étienne was fascinated by the culture of the west of Ireland and marveled at how its native inhabitants endured hardship without complaint. Charles-Étienne also made his own sketches of unfamiliar sights observed, and wrote accompanying texts in the French language. Below, I have reproduced one such article kindly translated by NUIGalway.

cabin plan in French

Floorplan of cabin and sketch of hearth with pot and crane

Translation: “For 5 guineas, one can have a cabin with three rooms, i.e. the kitchen and two behind the fireplace, one for the potatoes where they receive the smoke which preserves and improves them, the other for sleeping in. Only those intended for sowing are kept in earth. The Irish eat a little herring with their potatoes. One is enough for an entire family. One can buy 3 for one sol (penny). Potatoes are measured by the stone, weighing 16 pounds. They are cooked over a very hot fire, in an open pot, with little water; when they are cooked the water is drained off and they are put to dry beside the fire.
A cabin costing 2 guineas has no fireplace. It costs 5 to 6 shillings to have a stonemason build one of these cabins. Their outer face is of bare stone, the inner is rendered with earth and sand from the road. They are roofed with sods laid on a herringbone arrangement of lats, the thatch pinned into it with other thin lats and often held in position with ropes and weighed down with stones. They sleep naked on the straw which covers the floor, under a very large blanket of felted wool, without sheets.”

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An earlier “Tour round Ireland” with images (part 2)

More desirable properties viewed and commented upon by John Barrow in County Mayo in 1835:

better cabin

A better sort of Mayo stone cabin

better interior

“Even while the small farmer is able, from his surplus produce, to pay his rent, his condition is far from enviable, but might with a little management be improved. If he can afford to keep a cow and a pig, he generally admits both to be partakers of the same apartment; and though his cottage may be a degree better than that of the labourer, yet it is kept equally filthy; everything within it being soiled with smoke and soot, and the puddle and the dunghill invariably found before the door. The rent of such a cottage, if built by the landlord, may be about £2 a-year; turf, 30s.; the man’s clothing 40s.; the woman’s 30s.; and four children, say 30s.; making altogether £8 10s. The rent, say of three acres and a cow-grass, £9. The routine of his crops is, potatoes, barley, and oats. The barley is sold to be distilled into whiskey, and this and the pig contribute to the payment of rent and fuel; and the potatoes, the cow, and the oatmeal, supply the family with food. The females are employed in spinning linen and woollen yarn, and in knitting worsted stockings; of the woollen yarn is manufactured a kind of frieze, druggets and flannels, the common wear of the peasantry: after supplying the family clothing, the surplus helps to pay the rent.”

common cabin

A common Mayo stone cabin

“Ballaghaderreen is the end of the first stage, and our road to it was by French Park, so called, I believe, after the family to whom the property belongs, I saw little or no cultivation, and the cabins I passed were for the most part wretched mud hovels, many of them worse than I had yet seen in Donegal or Fermanagh. 
The whole country wore a sad appearance of poverty; and yet, on driving into the above-mentioned little village with a long name, I was much surprised to find the street full of people attending the fair, all well dressed, the men, generally, in light gray-coloured coats of home-manufactured frize, with large metal buttons; and the women wearing large cloth cloaks with hoods covering the head, some of which were thrown back, and displayed a clean, tidy-looking muslin cap.”

Farther on, after heading west ….

“The country we now passed through was wretched in the extreme, and the land bore a very stony and barren appearance, except where we came upon an enormous extent of black bog, whereon was not a blade of grass or any living thing, animal or vegetable, for the eye to rest upon. This bog was infinitely the largest I had hitherto seen. The cabins, which were wretched-looking hovels, were generally built of stones loosely heaped together, without mortar or even clay. You must not suppose they were either Cyclopean, Pelasgic, or Etrurian, though, like the latter, they were polygonal, but composed of such polygons as nature or accident had made.
Some of the inclosures of the fields were of the same construction, which is of so convenient a fabric, as to render any kind of gate unnecessary, an article of rare occurrence in Ireland. If a cow or cart is to be driven in or out, it is only by pushing down a gap in the wall, and piling up the stones again in any fashion. Altogether, this part of the country presented a more general appearance of poverty than I had hitherto met with; and the turf dykes, clay ditches, and stone walls, did not contribute to improve a view, which in itself was sombre and melancholy in the extreme.”

Extracts from John Barrow’s book “A Tour Round Ireland” published in 1836.

An earlier “Tour round Ireland” with images (part 1)

In 1961, Lily Parker toured Ireland with her family and camera, capturing 61 images of Irish coastal sites in colour. A similar tour was carried out much earlier by John Barrow, a draughtsman, in 1835. This bewildered tourist was able to create sketches of some of the strange sights he saw, to accompany his comments in text. On returning to England, Barrow employed James Lee, a renowned wood engraver, to prepare his sketches for publication in a travel journal as engravings. The resulting book, published in 1836, was titled “A Tour Round Ireland.”

Here are some images and observations from when Barrow passed through north County Mayo.

hovel near the foot of the Reek

Hovel near the foot of the Reek

I had here [the quay near Westport] the pleasure of making an acquaintance with Captain Shallard, chief officer of the Coast-guard Service. In taking a drive in his car to the foot of the Reek (as Croagh Patrick is familiarly called), we passed some of the most miserable hovels that I have yet seen, even in the flats of Mayo,—so bad that, without having convinced myself of the fact, I should scarcely have supposed them to be the habitations of human beings, but rather as sheds for the cattle, the more certainly so, had I seen the head of a cow, or some other four-footed beast, peeping out of the doorway, which I understand is no uncommon occurrence. Many of these cabins are built of stones, loosely heaped together, with no window; and the only place for the light to come in at, and the smoke to go out, is through a small hole in the miserably-thatched and sometimes sodded roof, at all times pervious to the rain, and through the doorway. No picture drawn by the pencil—none by the pen—can possibly convey an idea of the sad reality. The inmates, as may be supposed, are wretchedly clad in rags and tatters, and the children almost in a state of nudity.

Barrow had an interest in architecture and he referred to the cottages he saw in Mayo as “stone cabins” and put them into three categories: better, common and worst. The “hovel” shown above was obviously considered to be in the worst category primarily because it had no windows. Note how the thatch on the roof was kept in place by a series of basic anchors, namely lengths of rope with heavy rocks attached to each end. I witnessed this ingenious way of keeping a thatched roof attached to a house as recently as the year 2000 when I first saw the ancestral Neary homestead in Tullinaglug, County Sligo. Dear old John Neary used modern breeze blocks for his roof anchors … but he only slung them over the roof when a storm was forecast. This meant that the blocks were in place for the majority of the year in the west of Ireland, and only removed for the short Irish summer!

worst cabin

The worst class of Mayo stone cabin

1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 12) THE END OF THE ROAD

After a night’s rest in Belfast, it was time to head down south again, but the first stop was in County Down on the Down side of the River Lagan. Lily and family paused to admire the relatively new Parliament Buildings on the Stormont Estate. ??????????????????????????????????? Sir Arnold Thornley was commissioned to design the home of Northern Irish democracy as early as 1920; the architect chose to create a building in classical Greek style. Work did not commence on Thornley’s design until 1922, and after many re-designs including extra storeys, the building was not officially opened until late in 1932. The English Prince of Wales did the honours; a man who was to serve as King Edward VIII of the UK for less than 12 months during 1936.

???????????????????????????????????Lily Parker’s second 1961 photo captures the magnificence of the Stormont structure beyond blooming flowerbeds. Perhaps it also captures Lily’s growing confidence with her camera and creativity.

In my opinion, the next and last photo encapsulates the whole character and innocence of the Parker family’s visit to Ireland in the summer of 1961.

O'Connell Street, Dublin

Photo #61 of 61 taken in 1961

At first glance, it appears to be a typical Irish tourist’s photo of O’Connell Street in Dublin. Then the car models and tobacco advertising signs provide evidence of a bygone era. Is that a nifty Ford Anglia I see at the back of the queue for the traffic lights? But most of all, there is a symbol of British imperialism in the distance which would not remain intact in 5 years time. Yes – Lily captured one of the few colour photos showing Nelson’s Pillar just beyond the Dublin GPO. In March 1966, Republican activist’s decided to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising by blowing the despised figure of Admiral Horatio Nelson from his plinth. This statue had been completed in 1809, a full 34 years before London could boast about their famous Nelson’s Column.

1966 March - Nelson's Pillar, O'Connell St, Dublin

                                        Oh dear …. where’s Horatio gone?

Irish Republicans still proudly declare that their bombing expertise in 1966 caused no serious injuries or collateral damage to property in the busy Dublin city centre. Yet,1966 March - Nelson's Pillar remains, O'Connell St, Dublin when the finest British Army ordnance experts concocted a plan to demolish the remains of Nelson’s Pillar later that year, the resultant “controlled” explosion damaged shop fronts and buildings up and down Dublin’s main thoroughfare.

Nelson’s head was later stolen by Irish students (from its Dublin custodians) and secretly displayed as a trophy of war at many a Republican fund-raising concert throughout the following years.

Time to catch the ferry back home.

Those Irish know how to have a good laugh

 

 

 

 

1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 11)

Where would the Parkers head next after Donegal, after leaving the Republic and heading into Northern Ireland in 1961? Yes – of course – to see the famous Giant’s Causeway. And what a great photo Lily took ….

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  “It’s a load of old basalt” says Gordon

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                                                Fancy a Bushmills, Lily?

Onwards, round the North Antrim coast road past Cushendall, approaching Waterfoot. Here it is – one of the most photographed natural arches which is actually “unnatural.”

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This arch, cut into the red sandstone rocks at Red Bay, was designed and constructed by Francis Turnley to allow faster and more direct access between Carnlough, Waterfoot and Cushendall. Perhaps Gordon’s dad, John, remembered this image from the old Gallaher’s cigarette cards which featured Ireland’s most scenic places.

Red Bay

2015 Red Bay

1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 9)

Next stop for the Parker family on their memorable tour of Ireland was County Donegal. Lily spotted a picture-perfect thatched cottage near Killybegs … and took a perfect picture.

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      Freshly cut hay meadows overlooking Killybegs Bay, County Donegal

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     Mighty cliffs overlooking the clear waters and white sand at Malin More

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                                           More haymaking out at Malin More

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How blue is the sea at Glen Head, Glencolmcille?

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                      Glengesh Pass looking very eerie in the evening gloom

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                                          A tranquil homestead near Glengesh

1961 Looking east from Glengesh, Co. Donegal

                   Looking east towards Ardara from Glengesh, County Donegal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 8)

To complete the second third of the Parkers’ 1961 summer holiday tour of Ireland, Lily Parker took out her camera as the car headed through my native county of Sligo. This is how Lily’s son, “young” Gordon Parker, came to share his unique photographic memories with me. 53 years after the event, Gordon explained that his London shopkeeper father, John, had been advised by Irish migrant customers to ensure that the family visited the small village of Aclare if they wished to see one of the finest livestock trading fairs in the west of Ireland. It just so happens that I live on the outskirts of Aclare, and Gordon got in touch with me to ask if I would like to see how the village looked on Fair Day over fifty years ago. Obviously, I wrote a positive reply back in an instant, and a further exchange of e-mails led to Gordon offering his complete 1961 photo collection for public viewing.

Aclare market, Co. Sligo

                                     Aclare August Fair Day in full swing

The blonde haired schoolboy looking into the camera has been identified as Gerard Hart, 53 years ago. Gerard now lives in nearby Ballina, but his son Patrick has returned to the Hart’s ancestral farming homestead in Cloongoonagh. The local schoolboys loved the Fair Days because they would be given the day off school. The young lads were employed to “guard” their family’s livestock when Dad went for a wander around the village to converse with friends – or probably to sneak into one of the many public houses for a jar or two of beer and whiskey. Well – a good sale had to be celebrated in traditional style!

1961 August - Aclare, Sligo

               The ass-carts of Aclare Fair carrying sheep and lambs for sale

London teenager Gordon is very conspicuous in Aclare village in his trendy blue 60’s holiday shirt. Below is a replica image of Aclare as it looks today.

VLUU L310W L313 M310W / Samsung L310W L313 M310W

                                  Where have all the donkeys gone?

To complete their special day in my home county, the Parkers hit the high road from south Sligo and headed up north to Sligo town where they enjoyed an afternoon at the races. Lily attempted to capture the excitement of the big race by taking two shots of the thoroughbreds in action. The second shot of the blurred race winner galloping past the post certainly demonstrates the great speed at which champion horses can travel.

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1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 7)

Another day, another island to explore for the Parker family. Well, not quite. Achill Island in north-west Mayo is firmly attached to the mainland of Ireland by a short bridge spanning the waters of Achill Sound. For decades, tourists have flocked to Achill Island and followed the well-signposted Atlantic Drive route around this spectacular outpost. ????????????????????????????????????Natural displays of wild flowers and heather compete with clifftop views of the roaring North Atlantic to be the highlight of an unforgettable sight-seeing journey. It’s too difficult to pick a winner. There are dozens of stunning candidates.

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                                        The famous Atlantic Drive of Achill Island …

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     … where sheep keep you company, and cause the occasional traffic jam

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                One of many unspoilt beaches on Achill, this one at Doogort Bay

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The windswept farmhouse home of some typical hardy Achill Islanders near Keel

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Heading back inland, the relative tranquility of Lough Cullin at Pontoon, North Mayo

 

 

 

 

 

 

1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 6)

Another day of adventure in the wild west of Ireland for the Parker family concluded with a drive north through County Mayo, from the shores of Killary Harbour in Connemara to the causeway approach of Achill Island.

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The Bundorragha River flowing spectacularly down into the Killary Harbour fjord

 

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                          Doo Lough at the head of the Bundorragha River

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Clew Bay near Croagh Patrick, the former realm of the Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley

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                 Still on the N59 road, Newport, on the way to Achill Island

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                                      Irish Travellers on the move

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              Time to take a break travelling the highways of County Mayo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 5)

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Seaweed ready for harvesting in Clifden Bay

For this leg of the Parkers’ holiday tour, the family car continued its way along the N59 road beyond Clifden in County Galway, heading for Killary Harbour.

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Kylemore Abbey on the banks of the Pollacappall Lough

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The Mweelrea mountain of County Mayo in the distance, beyond the Killary Fjord

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                     Looking back at the Maumturks range in County Galway

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Connemara ponies by Killary Harbour, the Republic of Ireland’s only glacial fjord

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Connacht’s highest mountain, Mweelrea in Mayo, overlooking Killary Harbour

 

 

 

 

 

 

1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 4)

Between Oughterard & Maam Cross, Co. Galway

Farm boys at work and play on the road to Maam Cross

As the Parkers motored westwards into Connemara, the sights and scenes got very rural and rugged once again …..

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                                                                         Heading home from the market at Maam Cross

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                                                             Lough Corrib

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Turf sods drying on the banks of Lough Bofin in the shadows of the Twelve Pins, County Galway

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Ballynahinch Lake on the road to Clifden

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Glendalough, near Recess

1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 3)

Galway Bay

If you ever go across the sea to Ireland,
then maybe at the closing of your day,
you can sit and watch the moon rise over Claddagh,
and see the sun go down on Galway Bay.

Just to hear again the ripple of the trout stream,
The women in the meadow making hay
Just to sit beside the turf fire in a cabin,
and watch the barefoot gosoons as they play.

For the breezes blowing o’er the sea’s from Ireland,
Are perfumed by the heather as they blow,
And the women in the uplands digging praties,
Speak a language that the strangers do not know.

 

Yet the strangers came and tried to teach us their ways,
And they scorned us just for being what we are,
But they might as well go chasin’ after moon beams,
or light a penny candle from a star.

 

And if there’s gonna be a life here after,
And faith somehow I’m sure there’s gonna be,
I will ask my God to let me make my Heaven,
In that dear land across the Irish sea.

 

I will ask my God to let me make my Heaven,
In my dear land across the Irish sea.

 

In my dear land across the Irish sea.

1961 Galway Bay

                          There’s no sun on Galway Bay in 1961

… but the sun shone gloriously as the Parkers arrived in the small Galway town of Oughterard (or Uachtar Ard in Irish). Powers Bar, with its appealing thatched roof is no more, but the Lake Hotel still stands after many refurbishments over the decades.

Oughterard of old

Oughterard of old

 

 

1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 2)

The Parker family are still based in Killarney at this stage of their 1961 summer holiday. As tourists do today, a drive around the scenic Ring of Kerry was a must.

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                             The beautiful Lakes of Killarney

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           The Lakes of Killarney again – looking rather mystical

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                         Derrynane Bay on the Ring of Kerry

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                A photo from my favourite Peninsula – DINGLE

The Ring of Kerry is a dramatic scenic drive which must be tackled in an anti-clockwise direction. If you start from the Kenmare end, you will find that you are forever causing roadblocks for the large tour buses attempting to navigate the many hazardous bends on the narrow coastal road. And you will pay for your foolishness by being forced to edge your precious car out on to the cliff tops as everyone else creeps by on the landward side of the road, honking their horns in annoyance.

For me, the Dingle Peninsula just to the north of The Ring is even more spectacular, and a lot less congested by tour vehicles, even at the height of summer.

Next up … the Parkers leave Kerry and head north.

1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 1)

Over the next few days, I am going to treat you to a unique Tour of Ireland captured on 61 marvelous photographs taken in the summer of ’61. This was the Parker family’s holiday album, and it has been kindly shared by Gordon Parker.

Gordon was aged about 15 years when his parents, John & Lily, carefully planned a road trip tour of Ireland as their summer break. Considering that the family was based in North London, with no Irish connections, this was quite an adventurous plan for the time in question.

KodachromeFilm_for_colour_slides

What makes this family holiday interesting for us is that Lily Parker had developed a keen interest in photography, so the whole tour was captured on Kodachrome II – a new camera film introduced specifically for the burgeoning colour slide market. I am no photography expert, but I find that the old slides are  quite unique and rich in warm colours, and they avoid the glare of modern digital snaps.

Thankfully, Lily’s son, Gordon Parker, has now painstakingly converted each 1961 slide into a 2014 digital image – so we can all re-live the highlights of the Parker’s 1961 summer holiday.

As with all family holiday shots, the majority of Lily’s pictures were scenic landscapes (which rarely change over the decades), but she did manage to capture several images of everyday Irish life from over 50 years ago which are very special, and which will bring back memories to many.

The Parkers route plan took them straight to the west coast. As with most Irish holidaymakers today, the vacation only kicked off in proper style when their car reached Kerry, arguably Ireland’s most scenic county. Lily did not take out her precious camera until the family had spent a night in Killarney.

1961 Gordon & John Parker near Killarney

John Parker & son, lost in               Kerry’s beauty

Her first shots of her husband and son, and two street scenes in Killarney town, are tentative and relatively normal. It seems like Lily needed to see the Lakes of Killarney to kick-start the creativity of her subsequent photographic images.

 

 

As you will see over the coming days, Lily Parker captured many, many special images of “dear old Ireland” in 1961.

 

 

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                      Everyday life in Killarney in 1961

 

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                                          Killarney Cathedral (through an alley)

 

 

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                                         The Gap of Dunloe (from Killarney)

 

 

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                                                                    Drung Hill

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                        The Gap of Dunloe from below Moll’s Gap, County Kerry