Category Archives: Friends

Paul Henry Leaves Achill

Paul Henry in the early 1920’s

In 1919, one hundred years ago, the artist, Paul Henry left Achill for pastures new, after making the Island his home for near a decade. He had intended to stay for a short time only but could not drag himself away, being captivated by the island’s otherworldly beauty. In his own words:

“The currents of life had carried me to this remote spot, and there seemed no current strong enough to carry me away…I made another of my quick decisions, which I never regretted and taking my return ticket to London out of my pocket tore it into small pieces and scattered the fragments into the sea which foamed round the rocks of Gubalennaun.”

He and his wife, Grace, also a painter, settled into the island life helped by Emily, who Henry, described as, “a woman who bubbled over with enthusiasm”. She was was the person who introduced him to the locals as he recalled many years later;

“I had made the acquaintance of Mrs. Weddall, the widow of a sea captain. She introduced me to the people and initiated me into many of the ways peculiar to the island”

As a token of his appreciation, he gave her some of his artwork, one was a painting called “Twilight Houses”. Emily being Emily gave more than she took and lent the painting to Darrell Figgis. Inscribed on the reverse: “Lent to D. Figgis by E. M. Weddall 15 . (?) 4 . 1918”. Knowing Emily she may never have reclaimed the picture. Many years later the painting resurfaced from the hidden world of private collections, when it went up for auction by Whites of Dublin in 2006.

In the following years Paul Henry, got reabsorbed into city life , and was involved in the founding of the Society of Dublin Painters. He did return to Achill towards the end of his life, perhaps retracing his owns steps, before he penned his autobiography, An Irish Portrait. By then many of his friends there, including Emily were no more.

Sources
Belfast Telegraph 11 April 1923

https://www.whytes.ie/art/twilight-houses-circa-1916-18/124351/?SearchString=&LotNumSearch=&GuidePrice=&OrderBy=&ArtistID=&ArrangeBy=&NumPerPage=&offset=131

Irish Independent 14 October 2000, p.43

Henry, Paul. An Irish Portrait; the Autobiography of Paul Henry. London, New York: B. T. Batsford, 1951.

Claud Chevasse, Easter Week and the Missing Bicycle

Claud Chevasse first came under the radar as a person of interest to the authorities, after being arrested in Cork for refusing to speak English to the arresting policeman. He was summoned to court andwas fined £5 or spend a month in Jail. Claud Chevasse would not pay the fine on principle, citing that Ballingeary was in an Irish speaking area and the sergeant could have easily have found a translator.

Like Emily and Darrell Figgis he became a person of interest to the authorities, perhaps attracting their attention after the above incident. He was arrested during the Rising and taken to Richmond Barracks, but was released a few days later as there was no substantial against him. But as a ‘rebel’ he felt that he and his fellow prisoners should have had a fair trial, but it was denied due to the chaos after the insurrection.

To make things worse his bicycle, his main method of transport was ‘mislaid’ along with it his broach, possibly the one in the picture below that he wore with pride on his brat (sash). It was a gift from Scoil Acla.

Claud Chevasse

Sources:

Freeman’s Journal 04 April 1916Weekly Freeman’s Journal 13 June 1914

26 February 1916 – Wigan Observer and District Advertiser – Wigan, Lancashire, https://search.findmypast.ie/record?id=ire%2fpettys%2f005174188%2f00427&

Freeman’s Journal 13 May 1916

Friends of Emily: John Millington Synge

One hundred and ten year ago John Millington Synge died. He was only a week or so shy of his thirty eight birthday. Having only enjoyed a short period of fame, little more than half a decade, illness and eventual death cutting it short.

BIOGRAPHICALLY the most remarkable feature of Synge’s career was its brevity. In the six years which elapsed between 1903, when In the Shadow of the Glen was produced, to 1909, when he died, he rose from absolute obscurity to world fame, and provided us with six plays on which his reputation must rest” Read more:


Originally published in Minute History of the Drama. Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 118

Emily and Synge were friends from Gaelic League and literary circles but may have known one another from their earlier years. Both came from clerical families and were similar ages, she slightly older. There is a possibility that they met in their youth. Emily’s father and Synge’s uncle were both evangelical missionaries in the 1850’s. Synge’s uncle went to the Aran Islands, with the view to converting, the islanders, Emily’s father, Mayo and Connemara. Both men were run out of town. There was a good chance they were close enough friends as Emily was one of a relatively small group that attended his funeral, traveling cross country all the way from Achill to Dublin.

Sources

http://www.theatrehistory.com/irish/synge001.html

http://www.achill247.com/writers/jmsynge.html

Dublin Daily Express 27 March 1909

St. Patrick’s Day on Achill in the time of Emily

“One Home Two Away”

It was possible that Emily spent St. Partick’s Day on Achill in 1919. The worst of the flu epidemic was over ending her long hours of nursing its victims. She was now free to travel back home to Achill after a long absence. Dublin was now her temporary home, as her employment as a nurse was there. However, correspondence with Fainne an Lae, the new name for the Gaelic League weekly, located her in Achill in March 1919.

St. Partick’s Day was then as it is now a big festival on Achill, celebrating it in the same way it was celebrated in 1882, to mark the fourteen hundred and fifty years that the saint arrived in Ireland.That year the Church called for a special effort to be made by the people of Ireland to celebrate the anniversary. Achill was well prepared. The year before the First Band or Tom Vesey’s Band was formed. Initiated by him and some local musicians.

“The First Band had always been known as Tom Vesey’s Band. Tom Vesey lived in the middle of the Village [Dooagh] and as a youngster he served his time in Scotland as a cooper… Tom Vesey was by all accounts a gifted cooper, and like all artists he tried something new, he made a wooden frame for a bass drum, a tanned goat skin was used to complete the drum. That drum was carried in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade for 26 Years.

As Time Marches on; A Brief History of Dooagh Pipe Band 1882-1982,

Some years later when St. Partrick’s Day became an official holiday (1903), and the Gaelic League took over, the local branch put on a concert, where the islanders were entertained with music, drama and song. When Emily arrived on Achill the agenda for St. Patrick’s Day was well established. She was happy to get involved and when the night was over her husband, Captain Weddall treated the performers to tea and cake.

The Accrington Drum

Years later, still when the Gaelic League and Scoil Acla was well established on Achill and when the Dooagh Band had acquired a new drum. The large drum was a gift from grateful music fans from Accrington, Lancashire. It went down in folklore as the Accrington Drum.

In 1914 a Mr. Rainsford was brought in by Mrs. Weddall, director of Scoil Acla to teach new members of the Band new tunes on the flute, he also trained the drummers. He trained them to cross the sticks on the big drum. He called the style – “One home two away”.

As Time Marches on; A Brief History of Dooagh Pipe Band 1882-1982


Sources

As Time Marches on; A Brief History of Dooagh Pipe Band 1882-1982; J.J. McNamara, J. McNamara, N.T.

Mayo News April 04 1908. Page 3

Special thanks to John ‘Twin’ McNamara