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Living history… “Aspects of Maynooth” September 9, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, History, Social History.

As it happens I was in Maynooth this weekend and caught sight of an exhibition in Maynooth Town Library.

Entitled “Aspects of Maynooth” it was compiled for Heritage Week by Terry Nealon and Fergus White of the Local History Group.

It’s a fascinating overview of the history of the town concentrating on interviews with and reminiscences of ordinary people who lived and worked in it and eschewing the Carton House/Maynooth College view served up as representative of the place in the guide books, which while of importance often overshadows a reality of many thousands of lives spent there. There’s an history of the War of Independence and Civil War centred on the town. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area, and apparently it will be on display in the Library until the end of the month. I believe there may be plans to consolidate the work in some other form.

Anyhow, a number of images struck me as particularly interesting and I’ve been given permission to reproduce them here. They certainly give a sense of how life has changed in Ireland across the century.

First is an image of a group of school boys from c. 1914 – 1920.

If you click on the image you’ll see that they’re arrayed in a fairly eclectic mix of clothing and footwear. The boots are in most cases those of older boys or men, probably brothers or fathers. The jackets possibly are from American parcels sent by relatives in the United States.

It’s fascinating to move on some thirty or so years to another group of school children [click on image to see at higher resolution].

Note the bare feet of the two children in the front row on the left.

And here is an image [click on image to see at higher resolution], probably from the late 1950s of a Corpus Christi Procession through the main street. This would have been organised independently of the College but is indicative of the flavour of the times. The two men at the front holding the awning were former IRA members. Note the people kneeling at the side of the road.

Different times.

Anyhow, it’s in the Library and open to viewing on Monday/Thursday 1 pm – 8 pm, Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday 9 am – 5 pm.


1. Joe - September 10, 2008

Fair play WBS for highlighting great work in Maynooth public library. I worked in public libraries in Dublin for a number of years. Libraries are great, progressive public services. The Left should use them, support thema and promote them.


2. Jim Monaghan - September 10, 2008

On the children with no shoes. It is an inditement of the past. I really get mad when I hear nostalgia with 50s Ireland especially from alleged Lefties and the clerical apologists like Breda O’Brien.
One minister of Education, I think McEntee refused to budget for more education than he thought the country needed. So we sent our poor, semi-literate into the world.
The twarthed revolution created a failed state where an academic could write a book called “the disappearing Irish”.And all that the crawthumpers could worry about was people listening to radio Luxemburg. Now they tell us that we were happy then.
Just letting off steam


3. WorldbyStorm - September 10, 2008

The Public Libraries are a treasure, I can’t wait for the Central one to be moved into the Ambassador, I presume that’s still a go?

Jim. Dead right, as always. Do you recall a piece in the Irish Times from around 1988 which argued that Ireland’s optimum population was 2 million in order to cut unemployment, etc? I must dig it out of the archives…


4. Starkadder - September 10, 2008

Well, Jim I don’t think the Free State did a good job with
kid’s education-for instance,
the Irish Language was taught with
compulsion, rote learning and corporal punishment (ironically
staples of Victorian Britsh education).

Thanks for the interesting images,WBS.


5. Jim Monaghan - September 12, 2008

I would say the language was just taught badly. The state did not give a damn about the poor. Educating them was regarded as a waste of time and money.
So we had all those poor people in what for them =was an alien land, poorly educated and not coping.
The sections that won out were the so-called professional classes. Let us not forget that it was the doctors who brought Noel Browne and one of his predessors down


6. Eagle - September 12, 2008


I really don’t know why you say that “the state did not give a damn about the poor”. My grandparents got their farm thanks to the land redistribution carried out in the late 30s/early 40s. They were poor in Mayo and still poor in Kildare (near Maynooth, as it happens), but on better land and a chance to improve their lives.

Also, look at the picture of the Corpus Christi parade taken 12 or so years later. Note how much better off everyone looks than in the 1946 photograph. How did that happen?

What’s really interesting is that in the earlier school picture everyone looks better off than in the 1946 picture.

We can read too much into just three photos, but that 1946 picture looks a lot like other pictures I’ve seen of post-depression America and post-war Europe. It wasn’t just Ireland that was worse off after years of depression and war. The Irish economy was crushed by the effects of the depression and the war in Europe.


7. Paddy Matthews - September 12, 2008

What’s really interesting is that in the earlier school picture everyone looks better off than in the 1946 picture.

Assuming that the 1946 picture is a school picture, the fact that it’s a mixed group would suggest a rural rather than a town school (town Catholic schools were generally single-sex), which might explain one difference.

It wasn’t just Ireland that was worse off after years of depression and war. The Irish economy was crushed by the effects of the depression and the war in Europe.

Surely we got off lightly from the war in comparison with most European countries, Sweden and Switzerland excepted?


8. Paddy Matthews - September 12, 2008

Also, look at the picture of the Corpus Christi parade taken 12 or so years later. Note how much better off everyone looks than in the 1946 photograph. How did that happen?

Well, it’s not called “Sunday best” for nothing…


9. Eagle - September 12, 2008


Well, economically maybe not. Ireland’s leading export market was devastated physically and economically. And the war follewed years of economic depression. Europe was much poorer in 1946 than it had been in a long time.

Also, I understood from WBS’s post that the pictures were both school photos taken in Maynooth. I wondered about the fact that the earlier photo was single sex and the second one was not, but just assumed that something had changed or that, maybe, one was a Protestant school and the other Cathoilc. What else could it be other than a school photo?


10. Eagle - September 12, 2008

Well, it’s not called “Sunday best” for nothing…

Sorry, I was mostly focusing on the children’s shoes. I doubt many of them had two pairs and in the later picture the shoes all look much better than what we can see in the 1946 picture.


11. ejh - September 12, 2008

Ireland’s leading export market was devastated physically and economically.

Depends what you mean. It was never invaded, so by contemporary European standards it fared really well. Obviously consumer production was almost entirely replaced by war production, but wages were paid and at the end of the war there was some money to spend.


12. WorldbyStorm - September 12, 2008

Both from Maynooth, I’ll try to source the location.


13. WorldbyStorm - September 12, 2008

Having spoken to one the organisers I’m told that it is Maynooth National School in the first photograph on the last day of term – hence their being dressed in their, or their fathers or brothers, ‘best’.

In the second photograph the organisers were unsure of the date but because it was only 1943 the new boys national school opened and prior to that date they were mixed dependent on age (up to 1943 they were mixed in the convent school up to 8 – after that they’d move into the boys National School on the Moyglare Rd.).

Just a point, they’re Catholic schools, national and later convent.

I’m told the local response is fantastic in terms of people digging out old photographs and recognition of names and faces.


14. linda conway - November 21, 2008

im loooking for photos of my mother from the 1940s from the convent if any one knows off any she went to the convent please contact me if any one knows any thing would love to learn more her name was patricia anne lettis


Ray Sullivan - March 4, 2016

Dear Anne,Just read your post, was your mother a twin and lived in Old Greenfield,I lived in the Old house at the Station, sorry I have no pics for you,just wondered what happened to a lot of the people I knew as kids, I’m now living in Sydney, I remember the twins as being good Irish dancers …Best Wishes from Down under and hope you have luck with the pics…


15. WorldbyStorm - November 22, 2008

Linda, I’ll ask one of the organisers of the exhibtion…


16. Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - March 17, 2011

[…] who has seen the photographs and footage of the Catholic events that took place across the 20th century will know that that joint activity has largely been […]


17. Maggie Griiffiths - August 6, 2012

I was really interested to see the photograph of the boys School. Jack Keys was my grandfather, I never met him and had no photographs


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