Blue Bedroom; The greatest resource that any country can have is its people, and yet the biggest export Ireland ever produced were its sons and daughters.It has been estimated that between 1949 and 1989 over 800,000 people were forced to leave Ireland. Something in the order of half of this outflow occurred during the 1950’s. The peak was reached in 1955 when 55,000 young people left Irish shores. In a census taken in 1956 the population of the country fell to 2.8 million the lowest ever recorded and led one author to question “Are we becoming the Vanishing Irish and would we survive as a race if something wasn’t done to stem the outflow”?
Yellow Bedroom; Those who stayed had to suffer continued hardships, isolation and social exclusion. The rural communities were decimated by the impact of emigration. Many of those who stayed during this decade did so in silence as they watched family members and friends’ leave. Now in a new millennium these people have passed on and their homes stand as a monument to a bygone age
Heart of the Home; The Sacred Heart hangs over a fireplace, on the mantelpiece is a bottle of pills, a picture of the crucifixion and an Everyready battery. Around the fireside are a set of tongs and a shovel. The Feast of the Sacred Heart is celebrated 19 days after Pentecost.
High Nellie; An old bike propped up against a wall under a picture of the Sacred Heart. The bicycle still has its pump attached.
Little Grey Fergie; The Ferguson Tractor Model TE 20 was commonly known as the Little Grey Fergie, Production started in the late summer of 1946 and continued until 1956. The Ferguson TE20 was the first tractor to be produced by Harry Ferguson in the UK and manufactured at the Banner Lane factory in Coventry.
Ford Consul; A Ford Consul car safely tucked away in a garage, probably in good condition at the time but then left to decay. Where were the relatives that could have used it? Was emigration or illness responsible for its abandonment? This car was probably assembled at the Ford Plant in Cork. Ford was one of city’s biggest employers. The plant was built in 1917 and by 1930, when the population of Cork was approximately 80,000, Ford employed 7,000 workers. The factory closed in 1984.
An old pram lies next to a picture of the saviour. The house is empty now and the laughter and cries of the children have long gone.
Red Bedroom; Lying on the bed are music manuscripts and in another room was a piano as well as diplomas from the Royal College of Music London dated 1903.
Infant of Prague; Almost every home had a statue of the Child of Prague. Some people kept a halfpenny wrapped in brown paper tucked tidily underneath in the belief that the Holy Child would see that ‘the house was never without money’.
The Annunciation; This was the only time I came across a statue of the Infant of Prague with its head on. The picture slightly askew is of the Annunciation where the Archangel Gabriel tells the Virgin Mary that she would become the mother of Jesus.
Piano and the Sacred Heart; This house was been used as a shelter for cattle. I had not expected to find anything to photograph here but on going into one of the two downstairs rooms I discovered this old battered piano
The Green Kitchen; This is of a house in West Cork. Over the years it has become cocooned by surrounding trees that have turned it into a time capsule and makes it almost impossible to see. Inside, a calendar on the wall has a picture of Pope Paul VI dated 1977. In the centre of the kitchen is a solid fuel stove and scattered around the floor are kettles, newspapers and a blue tin of Jacob’s Irish party biscuits decorated with shamrocks, which now contain letters and bills.On top of the tin sits a snow globe and on the right hand side of the stove is a picture of “Our Lady of Perpetual Succour”.
Sweepstakes Ticket; On a window sill is a clock with its hands stopped at twenty one minutes past twelve and lying next to it an Irish Sweepstakes ticket that could have changed someone’s life forever.
Star Bangled Banner; The house had connections with America; on the ground was a book of the American Constitution and “The art of Irish Cooking” by Monica Sheridan. Upstairs on the landing was a Star Spangled Banner with forty-eight stars; this dates the flag to pre 1948.
The Return; The dreams and aspirations of many exiles was one day to return to their homeland but very few were so lucky. In one of the bedrooms was a shipping trunk; in this instance the trunk tells a story of emigration and return:
Nylon Stockings The trunk still contained ladies nylon stockings in there original box with the words “Nylons by DuPont” embossed at the top of each stocking, also included among her possessions was a passbook from the National Hibernian Bank in the Bronx that showed that she had savings of nine thousand dollars and a box which contained a bottle of Yardley Bath Freshener.
Dress, Trunk and Hatbox; The hatbox has a label for a stateroom on a United States liner while the trunk is marked with the words Cobh. The dress has seen better days and has a safety pin to possibly replace a missing button.
Dress; Hanging behind a door was a dress with its purchase labels still intact, ‘You can relax....This is ARNEL’ is on the label. Did items of fashion in places like Queens and Brooklyn have no place in rural Ireland of the 1950’s or did Mary ever get the chance to wear them?
Christ the Redeemer; This was the last photograph taken in this series and was shot in early 2007. The image contains a letter , a jar of Morgan’s hair colour restorer and a last will and testament. James Lucey Attorney of law in San Francisco made out the will on The 30th September 1942. The statue reminds me of the Christ the Redeemer that overlooks Rio de Janeiro. On returning to the house some months later I found the roof had fallen in and many of the contents destroyed.I knew then, I had reached the end of this journey.