King is the son of Henry King, businessman, of Rathdrum, and Susan King (née Crowe). He is educated at the Church of Ireland Ranelagh School, Athlone, and at Mountjoy School, Clontarf, Dublin (1936–39). Subsequently he joins the printing firm of W. & S. McGowan in Dundalk, where he goes on to become a director. During the 1940s his interest in amateur drama leads him to take classes at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin, where his fellow students include Milo O’Shea and Eamonn Andrews. Around this time, he is also involved in An Óige (the Irish Youth Hostel Association), in which he serves as honorary national secretary and honorary treasurer. This involvement leads him to travel extensively from the late 1940s around Europe, where he visits many major art museums and galleries.
King begins to acquire works of art, by both European and Irish artists, and by the mid-1950s he has amassed one of the most important collections of modern art in Ireland. Around 1954 he himself begins to paint, under the guidance of Barbara Warren and the English artist Neville Johnson. In his early work he focuses on urban scenes, often based on the area of Ringsend, Dublin, where he uses subdued tones to produce poetic images of a sombre mood. Even here his interest in the formal qualities of painting – such as the flatness of the picture surface and the juxtaposition of areas of colour on it, which becomes a defining feature of his art – is evident. In 1964 he leaves his successful business career behind in order to devote himself entirely to art, a bold move considering the limited audience for modern art that exists in Ireland at the time. In his own words he recalls how “Painting was what I wanted to do, I realised I didn’t need a car. I could do without an awful lot of things.” (Sunday Independent, November 7, 1982)
By this time, King is working in a fully abstract style. However, he still draws his inspiration from the external world, particularly the milieu of the circus. A painting such as Trapeze (1976; Allied Irish Bank collection) shows how he responds to acrobatic performance, not in any literal or figurative sense, but to the tensions and balances inherent within it. The overall effect is to convey to the viewer the essence of anticipation of the performance. Indeed, his works can create an almost physical sense of involvement on the part of the viewer. This is especially true of his Berlin Suite, a series of screen-prints produced as a result of a visit to East Berlin and published by Editions Alecto of London (1970). He is also inspired to produce a number of paintings on this theme of the claustrophobia of the divided city. Ultimately, he aspires to create works which, with their economy and restraint, achieve a meticulously balanced harmony. This concern leads him, in such works as the Baggot Street Series, to move away from even the most veiled figurative references, evidence for the fact that he constantly strives to further his artistic explorations.
King often works seven days a week. This quiet determination contributes in no small part to the international standing he soon achieves, as does his prolific record as an exhibitor. Writing a foreword to an exhibition of his work at Kilkenny in 1975, the critic William Packer finds that King’s art “confounds the expectations we might have of Irish art, for it is far from local in ambition, accomplishment, and seriousness.” He mounts over twenty-five one-man exhibitions and contributes to a large number of group shows in Ireland and abroad. A significant proportion of his output is to be found in galleries in Europe and the United States, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Tate Gallery, London. He is also represented in the major public and corporate collections in Ireland, such as the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Ulster Museum, Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Crawford Municipal Gallery, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Arts Council, Aer Lingus, Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Bank, and ESB. In fact, King, with his hard-edge abstract style, is one of the very few artists working in Ireland at the time whose work is comparable to that of the major (principally American) international exponents of abstraction. The term “hard-edge,” applied to King’s style, may however belie the subtlety he could achieve in terms of his handling of colour and texture. This is particularly true of his works in the media of pastel and tapestry, while his last paintings show a tendency towards more expressive brushwork and a more complex approach to colour.
King enjoys a happy relationship with Oliver Dowling from 1960 to the time of his death, at Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin, on April 7, 1986, having suffered a heart attack just three days before an exhibition of his work is due to open in Dublin at the Oliver Dowling Gallery. His legacy is not alone artistic: he also makes a significant contribution to the promotion of modern art in Ireland in his capacity as a member of the organising committee for the Rosc exhibition since its inception in the 1960s, where his wide knowledge of international art is much respected. A member of Aosdána, he twice serves as commissioner for the Department of Foreign Affairs cultural committee. He is also generous in his encouragement of young artists, whose work he regularly adds to his own collection.
(From: “King, Cecil” by Rebecca Minch, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie, May 2012 | Pictured: Abstract, Oil on Canvas by Cecil King)
Although Healyism is strong in CatholicUlster, Devlin aligns himself with the faction led by John Dillon and, from 1899, with the United Irish League (UIL), founded by William O’Brien. From the late 1890s this brings Devlin into conflict with the Belfast Catholic Association of Dr. Henry Henry, bishop of Down and Connor (1895–1908). This organisation, though sometimes regarded as Healyite, is essentially based on the view that mass nationalist political mobilisation in Belfast can only bring trouble and ostracism, and that Catholic interests are best represented by allowing a small group of lay and clerical notables to broker concessions from the unionist majority. After a series of local election contests in Catholic wards and controversies between the pro-Devlin weekly Northern Star and the clerically controlled The Irish News, Devlin succeeds in marginalising the politically maladroit Henry by 1905. In the process, however, he takes on some of the qualities of his “Catholic establishment” opponents. At the same time, he moves onto the national political stage.
Returned unopposed for North Kilkenny (1902–06), Devlin is appointed secretary of the United Irish League of Great Britain in 1903, and of the parent body in Dublin in 1904. A speaking tour of the United States in 1902–03 convinces him of the organisational potential of Catholic fraternal organisations, and in 1905 he takes over the presidency of the Board of Erin faction of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), a specifically Catholic body which he proceeds to develop as an organisational arm of the Nationalist Party. Under his tutelage the AOH expands from 10,000 members in 1905 to 60,000 in 1909, despite opposition from some Catholic bishops who distrust it because of its close affiliation to Dillonism, its secrecy, and its habit of staging dances and other entertainments without paying what they regard as due deference to local priests. His AOH also faces opposition from a rival separatist body, the Irish-American Alliance AOH. Though far less numerous, this group is able to draw on the support of separatists within the American AOH and hinder Devlin’s attempts to mobilise the American organisation in his support. The AOH expands further after 1910, and is strengthened by becoming an approved society under the National Insurance Act 1911.
Belfast is where Devlin’s political career begins and where it ends. Organisational skill contributes substantially to his hold on the largely working-class seat of Belfast West, which he wins in 1906 on a platform that seeks to transcend religious boundaries by combining labour issues with the home rule demand. A lifelong bachelor, though short in stature, he is apparently highly attractive to women, and takes a special interest in their problems, no doubt mindful of the influence they might have on the political behaviour of their spouses. He founds a holiday home for working-class women. When the scholar Betty Messenger interviews former Belfast linen workers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, she is startled to discover the extent to which Devlin is remembered as a champion of the workers decades after his death. This image persists among Protestant workers as well as Catholics, and he is generally credited with various ameliorations of workplace conditions even when he had not been responsible for them.
Possessed of great oratorical skills and even greater organisational ability, Devlin effectively becomes the key organiser of the Nationalist Party from the early years of the twentieth century, relieving the party leader, John Redmond, of a great deal of the administrative burden of party affairs, and becoming well known abroad through fund-raising trips, especially in North America. His personal geniality makes him a great favourite at Westminster, and Irish socialists are dismayed at the willingness of British Labour Party MPs to accept him as an authentic Labour representative. Several MPs elected after 1906 can be identified as his protégés, and groups of Hibernian strong-arm men uphold the party leadership in such contests as the 1907 North Leitrimby-election and the 1909 “baton convention” which witnesses the final departure of William O’Brien and his supporters from the UIL. He is the only post-Parnellite MP to be admitted to the tight leadership group around Redmond. In 1913 he is a leading organiser of the National Volunteers.
When William O’Brien embarks on his personal initiative to deal with the Ulster problem through conciliation in the early Edwardian period, he finds a stern critic in Devlin and in turn demonises the “Molly Maguires” as sectarian corruptionists. Personally non-sectarian, Devlin, like other party leaders, endorses the shibboleth that home rule will prove a panacea for Ireland’s problems, including Ulster, and uses his credentials as a labour representative to dismiss popular unionism as a mere product of elite manipulation. In a period when the Vatican‘s Ne Temere decree on religiously mixed marriages is heightening Protestant fears about the “tyranny” of Rome, he seems to be oblivious to how his integration of Hibernianism and nationalism is exacerbating that problem. As the third home rule bill passes through Parliament and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) mobilises, he encourages the Irish party leaders in the view that the Ulster unionist campaign is a gigantic bluff, dismissing contrary opinions even when held by other nationalist MPs. During these years the AOH clashes with the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) during the Dublin lock-out, and from late 1913 the AOH spearheads the Redmondite attempt to take over and dominate the Irish Volunteers.
Devlin endorses Redmond’s support for the British war effort and engages in extensive recruiting activity. He seems to be motivated, at least in part, by the belief that after the war nationalist ex-soldiers can be used to overawe the Ulster unionists by the threat of force. According to Stephen Gwynn, Devlin wishes to apply for an officer’s commission but is asked not to do so by Redmond on the grounds that the party needs his organisational skills.
Devlin’s career is decisively shaped by his decision to use his influence to persuade northern nationalists to accept temporary partition, in fulfilment of the flawed agreement arrived at between David Lloyd George, Sir Edward Carson, and Redmond in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising. He later claims he has been decisively influenced by the prospect that under this agreement the excluded area would be governed directly from Westminster, rather than by a local, Orange-dominated parliament. He forces the agreement through a Belfast-based convention despite protests from west Ulster nationalists, but the proposal collapses after it transpires that Lloyd George has made incompatible commitments to nationalists and unionists. Northern nationalism immediately splits between west and south Ulster dissidents and Devlin’s loyalists predominant in Belfast and east Ulster, and the next year sees massive secessions of AOH members outside Ulster to Sinn Féin. Although he retains a core of loyal supporters, he is reduced from a national to a sectional leader. As a member of the Irish convention (1917–18) he sides with Bishop Patrick O’Donnell against Redmond on the issue of seeking a compromise settlement with southern unionists on the basis of home rule without fiscal autonomy. He is offered the leadership of the Nationalist Party on Redmond’s death in 1918, but concedes the honour to his long-standing mentor, John Dillon.
Devlin holds Belfast West until 1918, and easily sweeps aside an attempt by Éamon de Valera to displace him from the Falls division of Belfast at the general election of that year, though the electoral decimation of the Nationalist Party elsewhere leaves him leading a rump of only seven MPs. In the ensuing parliament he is an outspoken critic of government policy towards Ireland and highlights sectarian violence against northern nationalists. Clearly discouraged and with boundary changes militating against retention of the Falls seat, he unsuccessfully contests the Liverpool Exchange constituency as an Independent Labour candidate in 1922. Elected for Antrim and Belfast West to the Parliament of Northern Ireland in 1921, he eventually takes his seat in 1925, holding it until 1929, when he combines representation for Belfast Central with that for Fermanagh and South Tyrone at Westminster.
Only after the boundary commission ends the border nationalists’ hopes of speedy incorporation in the Irish Free State is Devlin able to assert leadership of northern nationalism as a whole on the basis of attendance at the northern parliament. Even then he is considerably handicapped by recriminations over the events of 1916–25. He embarks on his last significant political campaign in 1928, when he seeks to unite minority politics through the agency of the National League of the North (NLN). The initiative, emphasising social reform, is unsuccessful. His own political baggage is a hindrance to the unity of the factions that minority politics had thrown up over the previous ten years, while the minority community itself is politically demoralised by the fate that has overtaken it, and the unionist government shows itself unwilling to make concession to him. The project, moreover, coincides with the onset of the gastric illness, exacerbated by heavy smoking, that takes his life on January 18, 1934. For some time before his death he ceases to attend the Northern Ireland parliament.
Devlin’s political career is one of great promise only partially fulfilled, its ultimate realisation undermined firstly by the fallout from the Easter Rising that destroyed the vehicle of his political ambitions, and secondly by the sequence of events that led to the creation of a constitutional entity so constructed that all nationalist politicians, regardless of talent, were effectively denied a route to power. Only at his death does the unionist regime adequately acknowledge his political stature. His funeral is attended by at least three Northern Ireland cabinet ministers, together with representatives of the government of the Irish Free State. Northern nationalism never again produces a leader of his ability in the Stormont era. His ability to use Westminster to promote the interests of Ulster nationalists is comparable to John Hume‘s use of Europe for the same purpose from the mid 1970s. After his death the nationalist party in Belfast grows increasingly reliant on middle-class leadership and is eventually displaced by nationalist labour splinter groups, some of whose prominent activists, such as Harry Diamond, had begun their careers as election workers for Devlin.
Campbell is the son of Matthew Arthur Campbell (1866-1925), caterer, and Gretta Campbell (née Bowen) (1880-1981). He attends boarding school at Masonic Orphan Boys’ School at Clonskeagh, Dublin, before moving to Belfast to live with his widowed mother and family.
Campbell is working in an aircraft factory at the time of the Belfast Blitz, and begins to paint, taking the bomb-damage as his subject. He is one of the founders of the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1943. In the same year, along with his brother Arthur (1909-94), he publishes a sixteen page book entitled Ulster in Black and White, that includes drawings from the two brothers and their close contemporaries Maurice Wilks and Patricia Webb. Owing to the success of the original publication, the brothers then publish Now in Ulster (1944), an anthology of short stories, essays and poetry by young Belfast writers.
Campbell holds a joint exhibition at the William Mol Gallery, Belfast, with his brother Arthur in 1944. In the same year he also shows with Gerard Dillon at the Portadown gallery of John Lamb. In 1946 he shows with the Victor Waddington Gallery in Dublin, where he is to return on a number of occasions. The Council for the Encouragement of Art and Music hosts a solo exhibition in 1949 where he is to show twice more, in 1952 and 1960. He wins £500 at the first Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) Open Painting Competition at the Ulster Museum in 1962. Campbell also shows in one-man exhibitions with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1966 and 1972.
After the war Campbell becomes increasingly interested in Spain. In 1946 he comes to know Spaniards who had settled in Dublin, and when in London paints visiting Spanish dancers in their traditional costume. He first visits Spain in 1951, encouraged by his friendship with Gerard Dillon and “an interest in bohemian characters.” He lives there for six months almost every year throughout much of the following twenty-five years.
Campbell dies in Dublin on May 18, 1979, and is buried at St. Kevin’s Cemetery in Glendalough, County Wicklow. He is survived by his wife Margaret, his mother, and two brothers, Arthur and Stanley. After his death the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and An Chomhairle Ealáion join with the Instituto Cervantes to initiate the George Campbell Memorial Travel Award. In May 2017, Arklow Municipal District Council unveils two plaques at St. Patrick’s Terrace, Arklow, marking Campbell’s birthplace and the centennial of his birth.
Praeger is born on April 15, 1867 in Holywood, County Down. She is the daughter of Willem Emilius Praeger, a Dutch linen merchant who had settled in Ireland in 1860, and Marie Patterson. She has five brothers, of who Robert goes on to become a distinguished naturalist. Within months of her birth the family moves to Woodburn House, Croft Road, Holywood, where they have as a neighbour Rev. Charles McElester, a Non-subscribing Presbyterian minister who runs a day school in his church. She both attends this school, and later teaches there. She receives her secondary education at Sullivan Upper School, Holywood, the Belfast School of Art, and the Slade School of Fine Art, London. Before returning to Ireland to open a studio in Belfast and then in Holywood, she studies art in Paris.
Praeger writes and illustrates children’s books, but achieves fame with her sculpture The Philosopher which is exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, bought by an American collector, and is now on display in the Colorado Springs Museum and Art Gallery. She mostly works in plaster, but also uses stone, marble, terracotta and bronze, and her work includes relief panels, memorial plaques and stones. She exhibits in London and Paris, at the Royal Hibernian Academy, as well as at the Irish Decorative Art Association Exhibitions. She is a member of the Guild of Irish Art Workers.
Praeger maintains her studio in Hibernian Street, Holywood, up until 1952, at the age of 85. She dies at Rock Cottage, County Down, on April 17, 1954. She is buried in the Priory Cemetery, Holywood. Her work in included in the collections of the Ulster Museum and the National Gallery of Ireland, and some private collections around the world
Shawcross studies at Bolton College of Art from 1955 to 1958, and Lancaster College of Art from 1958 to 1960, before moving to Belfast in 1962 to take up a part-time lecturer’s post at the Belfast College of Art, becoming full-time in 1968. He continues to lecture there until his retirement in 2004.
Shawcross is elected an Associate of the Royal Ulster Academy of Art in 1975, and is made a full Academician in 1977. He wins the Academy’s Conor Award in 1975, its gold medal in 1978, 1982, 1987, 1994, 1997 and 2001, and its James Adam Prize in 1998. He is also a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). He is awarded the Gallaher Portrait Prize in 1966.
In 2010, the Merrion Hotel, Dublin, hosts a private collection of the works of Shawcross. In 2015, he exhibits a collection of six foot tall book covers inspired by original Penguin paperbacks at the National Opera House in Wexford, County Wexford. In 2018, he donates to Belfast City Council a collection of 36 paintings dedicated to ‘Writers of Belfast’ in a show of appreciation to his adopted home city. A major retrospective of his works are exhibited at the F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio, Banbridge, County Down, in the same year.
Shawcross is a Patron of the charity YouthAction Northern Ireland. He lives in Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland.
Basil Blackshaw, Northern Irish artist, dies at the age of 83 on May 2, 2016. He is best known for his paintings of dogs, horses, landscapes and people and is regarded as one of the country’s most talented artists.
Blackshaw’s home and studio is in County Antrim by Lough Neagh. He becomes well known for his country scenes including landscapes, farm buildings and horses, painted in an expressionist style.
Blackshaw is initially acclaimed for his mastery of traditional approaches to painting. He continues to develop as an artist, becoming most highly regarded for his very loose gestural application of paint and a very distinctive and subtle use of colour. His paintings of such sports as horse racing and boxing make him particularly popular, but he is also a talented portrait painter.
Blackshaw’s paintings are often figurative in form, but with a non-naturalistic palette which re-balances the composition in an expressionist, even abstract, way. His themes are very Irish and often rural; greyhounds, Irish Travellers, and the landscape. He also produces portraits and designs posters for Derry‘s Field Day Theatre Company.
For a 2005 exhibition at the Fenton Gallery in Cork, Blackshaw works exclusively over a period of 20 months creating a dramatic collection of fifteen new paintings. His choice of arguably mundane subjects, The Studio Door, Car, Wall, Six Trees, express both an engagement with tradition and a watchful detachment.
Like William Orpen, Lavery is appointed an official artist in World War I. Ill-health, however, prevents him from travelling to the Western Front. A serious car crash during a Zeppelin bombing raid also keeps him from fulfilling this role as war artist. He remains in Britain and mostly paints boats, aeroplanes, and airships. During the war years he is a close friend of H.H. Asquith‘s family and spends time with them at their Sutton Courtenay Thames-side residence, painting their portraits and idyllic pictures like Summer on the River (Hugh Lane Gallery).
During this time, he and his wife, Hazel, are tangentially involved in the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. They give the use of their London home to the Irish negotiators during the negotiations leading to the Anglo-Irish Treaty. After Michael Collins is assassinated, Lavery paints Michael Collins, Love of Ireland, now in the Hugh Lane Gallery. In 1929, Lavery makes substantial donations of his work to both the Ulster Museum and the Hugh Lane Gallery and in the 1930s he returns to Ireland. He receives honorary degrees from the University of Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast. He is also made a free man of both Dublin and Belfast. A long-standing member of Glasgow Art Club, Lavery exhibits at the club’s annual exhibitions, including its exhibition in 1939 in which his The Lake at Ranelagh is included.
Terence Philip “T.P.” Flanagan, one of the finest landscape painters of his generation, passes away in Belfast on February 23, 2011 at the age of eighty. For more than 60 years he shapes the face of landscape painting in Northern Ireland and is known internationally for his rural scenes of his native County Fermanagh and County Sligo. With his stunning watercolours and intricate brush strokes, he is described as one of the most successful artists of his generation. PoetSeamus Heaney, who dedicates his 1969 poem Bogland to Flanagan, pays tribute saying “he was a teacher and a friend whose work held a deep personal significance.”
Flanagan is born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh in 1929. When he is in his late teens, he learns the art of watercolour painting from the famous local portraitist and landscape artist Kathleen Bridle. Later, he paints her portrait, which now hangs in the Ulster Museum, and interviews her in a film of her life and art, which is produced shortly before her death in 1989.
After his time with Bridle, Flanagan attends Belfast College of Art from 1949-1953. The following year he joins the teaching staff at St. Mary’s College of Education, where he remains for 28 years, eventually becoming Head of the Art Department.
Abroad, Flanagan’s works are exhibited at the Armstrong Gallery, New York (1986) and the Concept Gallery, Pittsburgh. A retrospective of his painting from the period 1967-1977 is held at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1977. In 1995, the Ulster Museum stages a major retrospective of his paintings (1945-1995). Other retrospectives are held at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin and the Stadsmusueum, Gothenberg, Sweden. His paintings are also included in the show “A Century of Irish Painting” organized by the Hugh Lane Gallery which tours Japanese museums in 1995.
As an artist, Flanagan works in oils as well as his preferred watercolours, although by rapid application of the paint with minimal overworking, even his oils manage to retain the luminous colouring of the watercolourist. He specializes in landscape painting within his native County Fermanagh and the adjoining County Sligo, his methods being ideally suited to capturing the soft atmospheric light of Ireland’s northwest.
Flanagan is elected associate of the RUA in 1960, a full member in 1964, and President 1978-82. During his long career, he receives numerous commissions and other awards for his works, which are represented in the collections of The Arts Councils of Ireland & Northern Ireland, the Ulster Museum, the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, and the National Self-Portrait Collection, Limerick.
Flanagan dies suddenly on February 23, 2011. His funeral takes place at St. Brigid’s Church in south Belfast and is buried at St. Michaels’ Church in Enniskillen.
The auction record for a work by T.P. Flanagan is set in 2009, when his landscape painting, entitled Castlecoole From Lough Coole, is sold at Christie’s, London, for £20,000.
(From Encyclopedia of Visual Artists In Ireland, visual-arts-cork.com)
Benn’s grandfather, Jonn Benn, came from Cumberland about 1760 as engineer of the Newry Canal. His father, also John Benn (1767-1853), was proprietor of a brewery in Belfast. He is educated at the Belfast Academy, under Rev. Dr. Bruce and afterwards under Sheridan Knowles, then a teacher of English at Belfast. He enters the collegiate classes of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution in 1816, being one of the original alumni, and takes gold medals in logic (1817) and moral philosophy (1818).
In 1819 the faculty prize is offered for the “best account of a parish.” Benn is the successful essayist, with the parish of Belfast as his theme. He also gains in 1821 the faculty prize (The Crusades), and Dr. Tennant’s gold medal (Sketch of Irish Authors in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries). His essay of 1819 attracts the attention of James M’Knight, LL.D., then editor of the Belfast News-Letter who offers to print and publish it. It is issued anonymously in an enlarged form in 1823, with three maps and sixteen engravings by J. Thomson. For so young a writer it is a work of uncommon judgment and research, exceedingly well written, with an eye for scenery and a taste for economics as well as for antiquities. It is not superseded by Benn’s later labours.
Benn, with his brother Edward (1798- 1874), engages in distilling near Downpatrick. Subsequently the brothers spend the prime of their days on an estate they purchase at Glenravel, near Ballymena. Here, in an unimproved district, they plant the hillsides, plough the moors, build good houses, and collect a valuable library. They endeavour to create a new industry by an experiment in the manufacture of potato spirit, but excise regulations in place at the time frustrate their object. The cost of the experiment, and the losses from potato disease, induce the brothers to undertake a business in Liverpool for some years. Returning to Glenravel, a casual circumstance leads to a rich discovery of iron ore in the Glenravel hills. The first specimen is smelted in 1851 under Edward Benn’s direction. In 1866 an agreement is made with James Fisher, of Barrow-in-Furness, to work the mineral beds. Hence comes a new and valuable addition to the commercial products of Ulster, which has since attained important proportions.
Meanwhile, Edward Benn is contributing antiquarian articles to various journals and forming a fine archaeological collection, now in the Ulster Museum. It his proposed to George to resume and complete the history of Belfast. He modestly indicates, as more fit for the task, William Pinkerton, who collects some materials, but dies in 1871 without having begun the history. Pinkerton’s papers are submitted to Benn for publication, but he finds employment of them impracticable, and states in his preface to his history, “It is all my own work from beginning to end.”
Benn returns to Belfast after his brother’s death in 1874, publishing A History of the Town of Belfast in 1877. A second volume appears in 1880. This supplementary volume, though the proof-sheets are “corrected by a kind friend,” the late John Carlisle, head of the English department in the Royal Academical Institution, bears evidence of the author’s affecting statement: “Before I had proceeded very far, my sight entirely failed.” Benn dies on January 8, 1882.
Edward and George Benn are members of the nonsubscribing presbyterian body, but wide in their sympathies and broad in their charities beyond the limits of their sect. Edward is the founder, and George the benefactor, of three hospitals in Belfast and their gifts to educational institutions are munificent.
Robert “Bobby” Ballagh, artist, painter and designer, is born in Dublin on September 22, 1943. His painting style is strongly influenced by pop art. He is particularly well known for his hyperealistic renderings of well known Irish literary, historical or establishment figures.
He is the president of the Ireland Institute for Historical and Cultural Studies, which promotes international republicanism. It is based at the new Pearse centre at 27 Pearse Street, Dublin, which is the birthplace of Pádraig Pearse in 1879.
In July 2011 it is reported that he might consider running for the 2011 Irish Presidential election with the backing of Sinn Féin and the United Left Alliance. A Sinn Féin source confirms there has been “very informal discussions” and that Ballagh’s nomination is “a possibility” but “very loose at this stage.” However, on July 25 Ballagh rules out running in the election, saying that he has never considered being a candidate. His discussions with the parties had been about the election “in general” and he has no ambitions to run for political office.
That same month, Ballagh breaks ranks with his colleagues in the travelling production of Riverdance in their decision to perform in Israel. He is an active member of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which insists that artists and academics participate in boycotts of Israeli businesses and cultural institutions.
In July 2012, Ballagh says he is “ashamed and profoundly depressed” at the en masse closure of Irish galleries and museums. He cites an example of some Americans and Canadians on holiday in Ireland. “They described most of the National Gallery as being closed along with several rooms in the Hugh Lane Gallery. I’m glad they didn’t bother going out to the Museum of Modern Art in Kilmainham because that’s closed too. At the point I met them, they were returning from Galway where they had found the Nora Barnacle Museum closed too.” He condemns the hypocrisy of political leaders, saying, “I know arts funding is not a big issue for people struggling to put food on the table but we are talking about the soul of the nation.”