First package tourists feature in early slides


Treasure trove: collection of early photographs uncovered in west Cork house clearance

A BAREFOOT Kerry woman smoking a pipe, some of the first Irish tourists to view the pyramids of Giza in Egypt and rare glimpses of the Holy Land under Ottoman imperial rule are among the unusual images in a newly discovered antique photographic collection in west Cork.

Hundreds of slides and a magic lantern – an early type of slide projector – have been found during a house clearance.

Most date from the late 19th century and show people and places in Ireland and in exotic overseas locations, including Jerusalem and Niagara Falls.

The fragile glass slides contain a mix of “amateur” photographs and images purchased from renowned Victorian suppliers such as Mason of Dame Street, Dublin, and Newton Co of Fleet Street, London.

The magic lantern was made by Riley Bros of Bradford, who later pioneered cinema in Britain.

The hoard was discovered among the contents of a house, The Old Manse in Dunmanway, which was once home to a succession of Methodist clergymen.

It will be sold by fine art auctioneers Hegarty’s in Bandon in an antiques auction this Sunday.

Ted and Margaret Hegarty, who run the family business, say the find is difficult to value but have assigned the lot a pre-sale estimate of €1,500 to €2,500.

Mr Hegarty was confident that the market would decide its value. Apart from obvious Irish interest, the sale is likely to attract the attention of collectors in the US, Canada, Europe and the Middle East.

The slides are stored in handmade wooden boxes that have lain untouched for decades. The boxes were opened for The Irish Times this week.

A first appraisal of the contents revealed an astonishing variety of images, especially from Co Kerry, including Puck Fair at Killorglin in the late 19th century; a rail disaster at Camp on Whit Monday, 1893; a shipwreck in Skelligs Bay, April 1889; and a cart filled with sharks caught in Tralee Bay.

Other scenes feature streetscapes of Irish towns, farmhouses and families, barefoot schoolchildren, turf sellers and labourers. Traditional Irish dress features in many shots.

Some of the most interesting images were taken at locations in the Holy Land and Egypt and show a group of people – believed to be members of the late 19th- century Methodist community from west Cork – touring locations such as Jerusalem, Nazareth and Cairo.

Escorted tours of the region, organised by the travel company Thomas Cook, had become fashionable during the late Victorian era and would have attracted the first wave of affluent Irish “package” tourists.

Mr Hegarty said the slides would have been used as a form of entertainment at social gatherings of Methodists during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods.

One batch of slides had a more educational purpose and consists of images illustrating the life and works of John Wesley, the founder of Methodist movement.

The collection will go under the hammer at Hegarty’s saleroom in Bandon, Co Cork, at 4pm on Sunday.