There are times when I love to look through my late father’s collection of photographs which span the years from the mid 1940s to around 2005.
It is a very mixed collection and I suppose that’s what makes it such a treasure. I never know what will turn up, especially when I go to boxes that he had marked as ‘duds.’
Today, I came across an unusual looking pouch in one of the tin boxes in which he stored the photos. It’s black leather or fake leather but is clearly intended for photographs. It’s the only one I’ve come across so far and I was intrigued to see what he had put into it.
It turned out to be a set of photographs that go to the heart of the Ireland that Dad really loved. I’m not sure of the exact location but we are certainly talking about the West of Ireland. Dad was from West Co. Clare and, even though he moved around the country a lot, he never, ever lost his sense of being from the West and from West Clare, in particular.
Cottages and outhouses always caught his eye so this photograph of an old thatched cottage is exactly what I’d expect. What took me by surprise, though, is the way in which the thatch is so different to that which I am familiar with in present day Co. Waterford. I just love the simplicity of this cottage and the character it exudes.
We get some sense of the context within which the cottage is located from other photos in the pouch. Dad was always drawn to places where sea and mountains came together and this photograph brought me back to many of the beaches in the West that we holidayed near when we were kids. (I’m as sure as I possibly can be that the child in this shot is not one of us. He liked to take photos that included people who were part of particular places.)
Dad was an out and out perfectionist about lots of things and knew exactly where all his stuff was. It’s quite paradoxical that for one so perfectionistic that he didn’t throw away photographs that he actually labelled as ‘duds.’ I feel so fortunate that he didn’t as the ‘duds’ give us such a glimpse of an Ireland that belonged to other eyes and another time.