seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Painter Harry Aaron Kernoff

harry-aaron-kernoffHarry Aaron Kernoff, Irish painter of London/Russian extraction, is born in London on January 10, 1900. He is primarily remembered for his sympathetic interest in Dublin and its people.

Kernoff’s family moves to Dublin when he is 14 years old where he ultimately becomes a leading figure in Irish modernism. He studies drawing and painting during night classes at the Metropolitan School of Art. In 1923, he wins the Taylor Scholarship and becomes a full-time art student. During his studies he meets and is encouraged by fellow artists Patrick Tuohy (1894-1930), Seán Keating (1889-1977), and Maurice MacGonigal (1900-79).

Influenced by Keating, he paints the Irish landscape, genre scenes, portraits, street and pub scenes, as well as Dublin landmarks with sympathy and understanding. This is particularly evident in his woodcuts. While living in his adopted Dublin Jewish community he produces picture illustrations of his local scenes for a neighbourhood writer and friend Nick Harris for his book entitled Dublin’s Little Jerusalem.

In 1930, Kernoff visits the Soviet Union as part of an Irish delegation from the friends of Soviet Russia led by Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington. While visiting, he is influenced by the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia. He is famously associated with Davy Byrne’s pub. His paintings and woodcuts of Davy Byrne’s pub are documents of his friendship with the original owner.

Kernoff spends the vast majority of his life unappreciated, and makes little or nothing from his paintings until a few years before his death, when he begins to be appreciated by contemporary critics. He never marries.

Outside his home in Dublin, where he lives with two unmarried sisters, there is a long-standing sign in the front garden which says “… Descendants of the Abravanels…” The Abravanel (or Abrabanel) family is one of the most famous Sephardic Jewish families in history, noted for their large quotas of Rabbis, scholars, and members of a variety of scientific and artistic fields, dating from about the 13th century in Lisbon. The emergence of the famous philosopher and scholar Don Isaac Abravanel in the middle of the 16th century brings his works to greater universal recognition.

Kernoff dies in Dublin on December 25, 1974.

(Pictured: Portrait of Harry Aaron Kernoff, Oil on Canvas by John F. Kelly)


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Birth of Actor Noel Purcell

noel-purcellPatrick Joseph Noel Purcell, distinguished Irish actor of stage, screen and television, is born in Dublin on December 23, 1900. He appears in the 1956 film Moby Dick and the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty.

Purcell is the son of auctioneer Pierce Purcell and his second wife Catherine (née Hoban) of 4 Ashbrook Terrace, South Circular Road, Dublin. He is baptised six days after his birth at St. Kevin’s Church, Harrington Street. Within a few months, the Purcell family moves to 12 Mercer Street Lower. He is educated at Synge Street CBS. He loses the tip of his right index finger while making cigarette vending machines, and also loses his entire left index finger due to an accident while he is an apprentice carpenter, a feature which he exploits for dramatic effect in the film Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).

Purcell begins his show business career at the age of 12 in Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre. Later, he tours Ireland in a vaudeville act with Jimmy O’Dea. Stage-trained in the classics in Dublin, he moves into films in 1934. He appears in Captain Boycott (1947) and as the elderly sailor whose death maroons the lovers-to-be in the first sound film version of The Blue Lagoon (1949). He plays a member of Captain Ahab‘s crew in Moby Dick (1956), Dan O’Flaherty in episode one, The Majesty of the Law, of The Rising of the Moon (1957), a gamekeeper in The List of Adrian Messenger (1963), and a barman in The Mackintosh Man (1973). The last two films are directed by John Huston.

In 1955, Purcell is an off-and-on regular on the British filmed TV series The Buccaneers and he narrates a Hibernian documentary, Seven Wonders of Ireland (1959). In 1962, he portrays the lusty William McCoy in Lewis Milestone‘s Mutiny on the Bounty. He plays a taciturn Irish in-law to Lebanese American entertainer Danny Thomas‘ character Danny Williams in a 1963 episode of The Danny Thomas Show. In 1971, he plays the caring rabbi in the children’s musical drama Flight of the Doves.

Purcell is the subject of This Is Your Life in 1958 when he is surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre. He also gains some recognition as a singer. Shortly after World War II, songwriter Leo Maguire composes “The Dublin Saunter” for him. He performs the song live for many years and later records it for the Glenside label but the recording is not a hit. However, over time it becomes one of the most favourite songs about Dublin, receiving countless air-plays on radio programmes.

In 1981, Purcell records a spoken word version of Pete St. John‘s “The Rare Ould Times.” In June 1984, he is given the Freedom of the City of Dublin. Nine months later, on March 3, 1985, he dies at the age of 84 in Dublin. He is buried in Deans Grange Cemetery in Blackrock, Dublin.