When Paul Henry arrived on Achill in about 1910, indoor plumbing was not commonplace. Emily Weddall may have owned one of the few houses with such facilities. Always ready to help a friend Emily shared her facilities with the Henry, as Paul Henry relayed of his time on Achill, in his autobiography An Irish Portrait.
“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, and it was to her kindness I was indebted to the only baths I ever got there.”
Henry, An Irish Portrait, 1951
Paul Henry through Emily had made the acquaintance of an elderly woman, who lived near Keel. Bedridden for some time, she welcomed visitors to her room entertaining them with tales from her vast collection of stories.
Paul Henry, listened attentively to the elderly storyteller, making sketches but nothing that would produce a proper painting. Then one day out of the blue she put it to Henry that she would like him to sketch her.
“I would like you to make a drawing of me if no one knew it was being done, I would not like anyone to know.”
Was her instruction. Delighted to have a sitter at last Henry called in the assistance of his and Emily mutual friend, the district nurse
“I called to my aid the District Nurse who was a friend of mine, and also a friend of the old woman and Mrs. Weddall. I hated worrying the old dear but I hated the thought of leaving Achill without seeing that marvelous old lady again, and we made our plans: the Nurse and Mrs. Weddall to screen our movements. I began to talk to her about general things and then mentioned the drawing. ‘Alright Mr. Henry,’ she said ‘you have been good to me, as no one will see us I will sit for you but I don’t like doing it.'”
Paul Henry did not want to force her and before he got his pencil ready, but she burst into tears and said ‘I can’t do it, Mr. Henry I can’t do it.‘ was all she said. Another portrait that never made it to the canvas. All was not lost however, he got to sketch the locals, however in a group rather than individually. The painting ‘Old People at a Dance‘, was the result.
Henry, An Irish Portrait, 1951
Emily Arabella Maynard Burke was born on this day in 1867. The third child and second daughter of Rev. William John and Emily Burke. She was called after her mother’s sister Emily, Maynard came from her mother’s ancestors, who emigrated to the West Indies and Arabella, was after Maria Arabella Armit, who married into the local Joly family who were friends of her father. Emily always singed the English version of her name as Emily “M” Burke/Weddall.
Birthplace of Emily
Emily’s Birth Announcement
“One day I was going through Keel and I met her [Emily]… and she called to me, ‘Oh Mr Henry, I want you to come and see a very beautiful girl.” I followed obediently, and we knocked at the door of a cottage… The door opened to Mrs. Weddall’s knock and the young girl stood in the doorway. ‘Mr. Henry’ piped Mrs. Weddall, ‘I have come to show you a most beautiful girl.'”
Recounts the artist of the “not perhaps the most tactful” introduction to his potential sitter by Emily. The girl was indeed very beautiful, but very shy and did not stick around too long after the brief introduction. The portrait never go painted.
An Irish Portrait,Paul Henry’s Autobiography, 1951. P 52-53
Much of Paul Henry’s livelihood was dependent on providing a London publication publication with sketches of anything that would be of interest to them. He needn’t have worried as his new friend Emily Weddall was happy to introduce him around. Emily had made Achill her home four years previous to the Henry’s arrival. An outgoing personality she became familiar with the people of Achill very quickly. Although outspoken her kindness and genuine concern endeared her to all. She took it upon herself to introduce the Henry’s to everybody.
“She was enthusiastic about my work and my desire to live in Achill and paint, and between us I think we were largely responsible for putting Achill ‘on the map’, as it is called… but Mrs. Weddall was enthusiastic to the point of embarrassment that I should see everything and everybody.”
True to her word Emily did introduce him around and to possible models for his paintings. As Henry recounted:
“She was a woman who bubbled over with enthusiasm, and she called to me, ‘Oh Mr. Henry, I want you to come and see a very beautiful girl.'”
That is how Emily introduced him to a potential sitter for his portraits!