Dark Ireland:
Images of a Lost World

Michael Hussey plays the tin whistle at the fireside, entertaining his young neighbour Joe Casey, and two dogs. at his farmhouse near Sneem, Co Kerry, in 1970.

By Richard Fitzgerald, Contributor
October / November 2019

The following is an extract from the foreword to Richard Fitzgerald’s stunning book of photographs taken in Ireland over the past 45 years.

℘℘℘

For more than forty years I have travelled the length and breadth of the land recording the beauty of Ireland and its people. I love the ever-changing light and the shadows creeping across the fern-covered hills; the shafts of sunlight picking out the bare trees on the old dusty roads. I recall the quiet-natured donkeys returning home from the peat bogs after a heavy rainstorm, and the cows being milked on the roadside. I remember too, the soft-spoken men at the horse fairs, and the laughter on the rugged faces of the characters encountered on my journey; their warm handshakes as they welcomed me into their homes; the sound of sad music played on melodeons and fiddles; the sweet aroma from the turf fires, and the flickering red flames flashing light into the dark corners of the dimly-lit rooms.

An elderly mother and father are making a cock of hay with help from their daughter, County Mayo, Ireland, 1970.

Amongst the colours of my childhood recollections, I remember the blue skies over ripened yellow corn-fields; mouth-watering red-speckled apples drooping from the trees in the orchard beside our cottage, and the lush green meadows where I ran as a boy hunting wild rabbits. But of all the rich colours stored in my memory, black is by far the most prominent and persistent. Priests; nuns, and undertakers were dressed in dark clothing, men drank bottles of dark porter, and old women wore black shawls. Black caldrons, pots and kettles hung in soot-covered fireplaces, black crows silhouetted against the skies, cawed above our homes at night, and tar-
painted currachs carried over the heads of fishermen seemed to crawl along the seashore. When the modern world arrived the same black tar covered the old stony roads, its substance sticking to the soles of our bare feet. The same colour dripped off the nib of our pens when we dipped them into the ink-well on our school-desks. Women wore black mantillas on their heads at Sunday mass, and mourners wore black arm bands sewn onto their coat-sleeves as a mark of respect when a family member or relative died. And then there was the darkness of night itself which enveloped every corner of our homes. As a young boy trying to make sense of my surroundings, Ireland seemed a very dark bewildering place.

Man riding donkey with two creels, Connemara,1970.
People kneeling saying the rosary at a farmhouse in Co Waterford, 1991.

The photographs in my book happened because of my upbringing in rural Ireland; it is a world I knew intimately before emigration was forced upon me. In the years following my departure, I became aware that many of the old customs and traditions were rapidly changing, soon to be lost forever. The beauty of this alluring twilight found its way through my camera lens, coaxing my eye to record remnants of its passing. The fond memory of that distant time will forever remain the cornerstone of my dark boyhood dreams.” ♦

______________

Note: Photographer Richard Fitzgerald comes from County Waterford and now resides in
London. www.richardfitzgerald.com
email: [email protected]
Dark Ireland: Images of a Lost World is published by Currach Press. www.currach.ie

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