seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

Death of Irish Artist Sarah Henrietta Purser

sarah-purser-by-john-butler-yeatsSarah Henrietta Purser, Irish artist mainly noted for her work with stained glass, dies in Dublin on August 7, 1943.

The Purser family had come to Ireland from Gloucestershire in the eighteenth century. Purser is born in Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) in County Dublin on March 22, 1848. She is raised in Dungarvan, County Waterford, one of the numerous children of Benjamin Purser, a prosperous flour miller and brewer, and his wife Anne Mallet. She is related to Sir Frederic William Burton, RHA (1816-1900), who is a son of Hannah Mallet. Two of her brothers, John and Louis, become professors at Trinity College Dublin. Her niece Olive Purser, daughter of her brother Alfred, is the first woman scholar at Trinity.

At thirteen Purser attends the Moravian school, Institution Evangélique de Montmirail, Switzerland where she learns to speak fluent French and begins painting. In 1873 her father’s business fails and she decides to become a full-time painter. She attends classes at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and joins the Dublin Sketching Club, where she is later appointed an honorary member. In 1874 she distinguishes herself in the National Competition. In 1878 she again contributes to the Royal Hibernian Academy, and for the next fifty years becomes a regular exhibitor, mainly portraits, and shows an average of three works per show.

In 1878-1879, Purser studies at the Académie Julian in Paris where she meets the German painter Louise Catherine Breslau, with whom she becomes a lifelong friend.

Purser becomes wealthy through astute investments, particularly in Guinness, for which several of her male relatives have worked over the years. She is very active in the art world in Dublin and is involved in the setting up of the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, persuading the Irish government to provide Charlemont House in Parnell Square to house the gallery.

Purser works mostly as a portraitist. Through her talent and energy, and owing to her friendship with the Gore-Booths, she is very successful in obtaining commissions. When the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland commissions her to portray his children in 1888, his choice reflects her position as the country’s foremost portraitist. Various portraits painted by Purser are held in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Purser finances An Túr Gloine (The Tower of Glass), a stained glass cooperative, at 24 Upper Pembroke and runs it from its inauguration in 1903 until her retirement in 1940. Michael Healy is the first of a number of distinguished recruit, such as Catherine O’Brien, Evie Hone, Wilhelmina Geddes, Beatrice Elvery and Ethel Rhind. She is determined the stained glass workshop should adhere to true Arts and Crafts philosophy. An Túr Gloine archive is held in the Centre for the Study of Irish Art, National Gallery of Ireland.

Purser does not produce many items of stained glass herself. Most of the stained glass works are painted by other members of the co-operative, presumably under her direction. Two early works are St. Ita (1904) for St. Brendan’s Cathedral, Loughrea and The Good Shepard (1904) for St. Columba’s College, Dublin. Her last stained glass work is believed to be The Good Shepard and the Good Samaritan (1926) for the Church of Ireland at Killucan, County Westmeath.

Until her death Purser lives for many years in Mespil House, a Georgian mansion with beautiful plaster ceilings on Mespil Road, on the banks of the Grand Canal. Here she is “at home” every Tuesday afternoon to Dublin’s writers and artists. Her afternoon parties are a fixture of Dublin literary life.

Purser dies in Dublin on August 7, 1943 and is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery beside her brothers John and Louis. Mespil House is demolished after her death and developed into apartments.

Purser is the second woman to sit on the Board of Governors and Guardians, National Gallery of Ireland, 1914-1943. She is made an Honorary Member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1890, becoming the first female Associate Member in 1923 and the first female Member in 1924. Also in 1924 she initiates the movement for the launching of the Friends of the National Collection of Ireland. Archives relating to Sarah Purser are housed in the Centre for the Study of Irish Art, National Gallery of Ireland.

(Pictured: Portrait of Sarah Purser by John Butler Yeats, c. 1880–1885)


Leave a comment

Birth of Stephen Lucius Gwynn, Writer & Politician

stephen-lucius-gwynnStephen Lucius Gwynn, journalist, biographer, author, poet, Protestant Nationalist politician, and Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, is born on February 13, 1864 in St. Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, Dublin, where his father John Gwynn, a biblical scholar and Church of Ireland clergyman, is a warden.

Gwynn spends his early childhood in rural County Donegal, which shapes his later view of Ireland. He is educated at St. Columba’s College and goes on to Brasenose College, Oxford, where, as scholar, in 1884 he is awarded first-class honours in classical moderations and in 1886 literae humaniores. During term holidays he returns to Dublin, where he meets several of the political and literary figures of the day.

After graduating Gwynn moves to France where he works as a schoolmaster for ten years. In December 1889 he marries his cousin Mary Louisa Gwynn. They have four sons and two daughters. Having dabbled in journalism since his student days, he moves to London in 1896 to pursue a career as a writer. He soon becomes a prominent figure in literary and journalistic circles.

In 1904 the Gwynns return to Ireland to live in Raheny, County Dublin. In November 1906 he wins a seat for Galway Borough, which he represents as a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party until 1918. During this time he also becomes active with the Gaelic League and the Irish Literary Revival.

At the outbreak of World War I, Gwynn gives his support to John Redmond that Irishmen should enlist in the British forces. At the age of fifty-one he enlists as a private in the 7th Leinster Regiment and is later commissioned lieutenant in the 6th Battalion Connaught Rangers, attached to the 16th (Irish) Division. He is promoted to captain in 1915 and serves with his battalion at the battles of Ginchy and Guillemont during the Somme offensive and also at Messines in 1917, leaving the front line shortly afterwards.

Gwynn is appointed to the Dardanelles Commission in 1916, an investigation into the unsuccessful 1915 Gallipoli Campaign.

After the war Gwynn continues with his writing and political life. He receives honorary doctorates from the National University of Ireland in 1940 and the University of Dublin in 1945. He dies on June 11, 1950 at his home in Terenure, Dublin and is buried at Tallaght cemetery.


Leave a comment

Birth of U2 Bassist Adam Clayton

adam-claytonAdam Charles Clayton, Irish musician best known as the bass guitarist of the rock band U2, is born in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, England, on March 13, 1960.

Clayton is the oldest child of Brian and Jo Clayton. His father is a pilot with the Royal Air Force, who moves into civil aviation, and his mother is a former airline flight attendant. When he is 4 years old his father works in Kenya as a pilot with East African Airways. Clayton regards this as the happiest period of his childhood. In 1965 the family moves to Malahide, County Dublin, where Clayton’s brother Sebastian is born. The Clayton family becomes friends with the Evans family, including their son, David, who later becomes a fellow U2 band-member with Clayton.

When he is eight years old Clayton is sent to the private junior boarding Castle Park School in Dalkey, Dublin, which he did not enjoy because he is not particularly sports orientated. At age 13 he enters the private St. Columba’s College secondary school in Rathfarnham, Dublin. Here he makes friends with other pupils who are enthusiastic about pop/rock music. It is here in the school band where Clayton plays the bass guitar for the first time.

Clayton later changes school to Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin, where he meets future bandmates, Paul Hewson (aka “Bono“) and Larry Mullen Jr., and is reunited with his childhood friend David Evans (aka “The Edge”). In September 1976, Mullen puts an advert onto the school’s bulletin board seeking other musicians to form a band. The original band is a five-piece band known as “Feedback,” consisting of Bono, The Edge, Mullen, Dik Evans, and Clayton. The name is subsequently changed to “The Hype,” but changes to “U2” soon after Dik Evans leaves the band. Clayton stands in as the nearest thing that the band has to a manager in its early life, handing over the duties to Paul McGuinness in May 1978.

In 1981, around the time of U2’s second, spiritually charged October album, a rift is created in the band between Clayton and McGuinness, and the three other band members. Bono, The Edge, and Mullen have joined a Christian group, and are questioning the compatibility of rock music with their spirituality. However, Clayton, with his more ambiguous religious views, is less concerned, and so is more of an outsider, until Bono’s wedding to Alison Hewson (née Stewart), in which Clayton is the best man.

Clayton makes international headlines in August 1989 when he is arrested in Dublin for carrying a small amount of marijuana. He avoids conviction by making a large donation to charity. Clayton also has alcohol problems, which come to a head on November 26, 1993, when he is so hung over that he is unable to play that night’s show in Sydney, the dress rehearsal for their Zoo TV concert film. Bass duties are fulfilled by Clayton’s technician Stuart Morgan. After that incident, however, Clayton gives up alcohol.

In 1995, after the Zoo TV Tour and Zooropa album, Clayton heads to New York City with bandmate Mullen to receive formal training in the bass as until then Clayton has been entirely self-taught. Bono says of Clayton’s early bass playing, “Adam used to pretend he could play bass. He came round and started using words like ‘action’ and ‘fret’ and he had us baffled. He had the only amplifier, so we never argued with him. We thought this guy must be a musician; he knows what he’s talking about. And then one day, we discovered he wasn’t playing the right notes. That’s what’s wrong, y’know?”

In 2011 Clayton becomes an ambassador for the Dublin-based St. Patrick’s Hospital‘s Mental Health Service “Walk in My Shoes” facility.

Clayton and U2 have won numerous awards in their career, including 22 Grammy Awards, including seven times for Best Rock Duo or Group, and twice each for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Rock Album.