seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of George Petrie, Painter & Musician

george-petrieGeorge Petrie, Irish painter, musician, antiquary and archaeologist of the Victorian era dies on January 17, 1866.

Petrie is born and grows up in Dublin, living at 21 Great Charles Street, just off Mountjoy Square. He is the son of the portrait and miniature painter James Petrie, a native of Aberdeen, Scotland, who had settled in Dublin. He is interested in art from an early age. He is sent to the Royal Dublin Society‘s schools, being educated as an artist, where he wins the silver medal in 1805 at the age of fourteen.

After an abortive trip to England in the company of Francis Danby and James Arthur O’Connor, both of whom are close friends of his, he returns to Ireland where he works mostly producing sketches for engravings for travel books including among others, George Newenham Wright‘s guides to Killarney, Wicklow and Dublin, Thomas Cromwell‘s Excursions through Ireland, and James Norris Brewer‘s Beauties of Ireland.

In the late 1820s and 1830s, Petrie significantly revitalises the Royal Irish Academy‘s antiquities committee. He is responsible for their acquisition of many important Irish manuscripts, including an autograph copy of the Annals of the Four Masters, as well as examples of insular metalwork, including the Cross of Cong. His writings on early Irish archaeology and architecture are of great significance, especially his essay on the Round Towers of Ireland, which appear in his 1845 book titled The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland. He is often called “the father of Irish archaeology.” His survey of the tombs at Carrowmore still informs study of the site today.

From 1833 to 1843 Petrie is employed by Thomas Frederick Colby and Thomas Larcom as head of the Topographical Department of the Irish Ordnance Survey. Amongst his staff are John O’Donovan, one of Ireland’s greatest ever scholars, and Eugene O’Curry. A prizewinning essay submitted to the Royal Irish Academy in 1834 on Irish military architecture is never published, but his seminal essay On the History and Antiquities of Tara Hill is published by the Academy in 1839. During this period Petrie is himself the editor of two popular antiquarian magazines, the Dublin Penny Journal and, later, the Irish Penny Journal.

Another major contribution of Petrie’s to Irish culture is the collection of Irish traditional airs and melodies which he records. William Stokes’s contemporary biography includes detailed accounts of Petrie’s working methods in his collecting of traditional music: “The song having been given, O’Curry wrote the Irish words, when Petrie’s work began. The singer recommenced, stopping at a signal from him at every two or three bars of the melody to permit the writing of the notes, and often repeating the passage until it was correctly taken down …”

As an artist, Petrie’s favourite medium is watercolour which, due to the prejudices of the age, is considered inferior to oil painting. Nonetheless, he can be considered as one of the finest Irish Romantic painters of his era. Some of his best work is in the collections of the National Gallery of Ireland, such as his watercolour painting Gougane Barra Lake with the Hermitage of St. Finbarr, County Cork (1831).

Petrie is awarded the Royal Irish Academy’s prestigious Cunningham Medal three times: firstly in 1831 for his essay on the round towers, secondly in 1834 for the now lost essay on Irish military architecture, and thirdly in 1839 for his essay on the antiquities of Tara Hill.

The closing years of Petrie’s life are devoted to the publication of a portion of his collection of Irish music. He dies at the age of 77 at Rathmines, Dublin, on January 17, 1866. He is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery.


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King Henry VIII Marries Anne Bolen

henry-viii-anne-bolenEngland’s King Henry VIII, Lord of Ireland and self declared King of Ireland, marries Anne Boleyn on January 25, 1533 after a secret marriage November 14, 1532. On May 23, 1533, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, declares Henry’s first marriage to Catherine of Aragon to be null and void. Five days later, he declares Henry and Anne’s marriage to be valid.

Soon thereafter, Pope Clement VII, who had refused to annul the marriage of Henry and Anne, decrees sentences of excommunication against Henry and Cranmer. As a result of this marriage and these excommunications, the first break between the Church of England and Rome takes place and the Church of England is brought under the King’s control.

Anne is crowned Queen of England on June 1, 1533, and on September 7, she gives birth to a daughter who is christened Elizabeth, in honour of Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York, and who becomes the future Queen Elizabeth I. Henry is disappointed to have a daughter rather than a son but hopes a son will follow and professes to love Elizabeth.

The king and queen are not pleased with married life. The royal couple enjoys periods of calm and affection but Anne refuses to play the submissive role expected of her. Henry dislikes Anne’s constant irritability and violent temper. After a miscarriage in 1534, Henry sees her failure to give him a son as a betrayal. As early as Christmas 1534, Henry is discussing with Archbishop Cranmer and Thomas Cromwell, his chief minister, the chances of leaving Anne without having to return to Catherine.

In January 1536, the Henry is thrown from his horse in a tournament and is badly injured. It seems for a time that the king’s life was in danger. When news of this accident reaches the queen, who is again pregnant and aware of the consequences if she fails to give birth to a son, she is sent into shock and miscarries a male child that is about 15 weeks old. This is seen by most historians as the beginning of the end of the royal marriage.

Anne’s downfall comes shortly after she has recovered from her miscarriage. Henry has Anne investigated for high treason in April 1536. On May 2, she is arrested and sent to the Tower of London where she is tried before a jury of peers, which includes Henry Percy, her first husband, and her own uncle, Thomas Howard. Anne is found guilty on May 15 and is beheaded on Tower Green at 8:00 AM on May 19, 1536, at the age of 36.