Welcome to Irish Photo Archive where Irish historical images and documents have been made available for you to purchase online.

We sell historical, archived images from every day Irish life as well as significant events in the country’s history.

From an archive of over 3.5 million images you can see the many significant characters that visited Ireland over the years. Have a look and enjoy!

Friday, 29 May 2015

Sale of Aer Lingus

After a prolonged bargaining period, the government are finally moving closer to closing the deal on the sale of their 25% share in Aer Lingus. The Minister for Transport, Paschal Donohoe, met with the unions early this week to discuss how employees will be affected by the sale.

The sale will bring an end to the government’s involvement in the airline, which helped establish it as the ‘national’ airline. Since its foundation in 1936, Aer Lingus has been an important connection to the rest of the world for Ireland. The fleet grew from its single 14-seater route to Bristol, to serving 80 airports across Europe, the US, Africa and Asia, with links to another 80 destinations in Asia and Australia through Etihad, JetBlue and United Airlines.

Here are some highlights from the company’s history that have been recorded in the Irish Photo Archive.

1. Blessing of the fleet
In the 1950s, the Catholic Church was a major player in Irish society. Every new business, school, or factory had to be blessed before it could start operating, and often would get a 'top-up' blessing as time went by. This image here shows the blessing of the Aer Lingusfleet in 1958

The blessing of the Aer Lingus fleet
31 May 1958
2. The 21st Anniversary
The importance of Aer Lingus to Ireland was highlighted during their 21st anniversary celebrations in 1957. The new Aer Lingus house flag was hoisted in the middle of O’Connell Street as part of the celebrations. Air flights were still a luxury in those days, so that flag is probably the closest many of those onlookers got to an Aer Lingus experience. 

The Aer Lingus flag being hoisted on O'Connell Street
27 May 1957
3. First Trans-Atlantic flight
The first transatlantic Aer Lingus route was set up in 1958, from Shannon to New York, using planes leased from the American Seaboard and Western with an Irish Aer Lingus crew. Robert Wagner, the then Mayor of New York, accompanied the planes across the Atlantic before they were officially handed over to the Irish company. The flights officially operated under Aer Linte then, which had been set up in 1947 to promote transatlantic flights, until the new Taoiseach John A. Costello decided Ireland could not support such extravagant schemes. Aer Linte was merged with Aer Lingus in 1960, when the airline bought some Boeings for its own use. 

Passengers waiting to board the first transatlantic flight from Dublin Airport
28 April 1958 
4: The first female pilot
The first female pilot for Aer Lingus was Grainne Cronin, who gained her pilot’s wings in 1979. Though this seems quite late, Aer Lingus were actually quite innovative in this respect, being only the second European airline (after SAS) to take on female pilots. Captain Cronin served 33 years with Aer Lingus before retiring in 2010.

Captain Grainne Cronin taking the controls on her first flight with Aer Lingus
29 April 1979
5. The visitors

Aer Lingus brought many of the VIPs to Ireland on their treasured visits, such as the Beatles, Muhammed Ali, Pope John Paul II, etc. Aer Lingus became the only airline apart from Alitalia to have the privilege of flying Pope John Paul when a specially modified Boeing 747 (EI-ASI or St. Patrick) was used to bring him from Rome to Dublin.

Pope John Paul II having disembarked from his Aer Lingus flight to Dublin
29 September 1979

All images available @ Irish Photo Archive

Friday, 22 May 2015

The ascent of Charlie

This week has seen a lot of focus on the death of Lord Mountbatten in 1979, and that of several of his boating companions. That event also set in place a series of changes in Irish politics that would had even larger repercussions for the country.

Jack Lynch was still Taoiseach in 1979 when Mountbatten was killed. He had led Fianna Fáil into power in 1977 with a majority government, but this popularity was to fade quickly. The worldwide recession in the late 1970s brought a lot of economic difficulties for Ireland, which were exacerbated by a rise in population, and in particular, in an increase in young adults searching for employment.

The Mountbatten assassination was not handled well by Lynch, and the situation was made worse when the public began to believe that he had made concessions to the British by allowing their incursions into Irish airspace. The situation in the North was very delicate at that time, as the H-block protests and hunger strikes were becoming a very emotive factor.

When two by-elections in Cork, Lynch’s home constituency, were won by Fine Gael candidates, it was inevitable that Lynch would step down as leader of Fianna Fáil. Two people emerged as the main candidates for leader – Charles Haughey and George Colley. They represented the opposing factions in Fianna Fáil: Colley, the serving Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, was the respected favourite of the senior ministers and the moderates in the party whereas Haughey appealed to backbenchers with memories of the party’s republican roots and traditions. At the end of the bitterly divisive contest, Haughey carried the votes from the party overall, winning by 44 votes to 38.

Haughey assuming leadership of Fianna Fáil in 1979
Despite this triumph, Haughey remained a controversial figure, and it was essential for him to win a personal mandate from the public. His background as Minister for Finance had been seen as one of his strengths and he initially pledged his intention to control public-sector borrowing and the budget deficit. However, inflation, unemployment and borrowing all continued to rise under his tenure until the election scheduled for 1981.

The next 18 months would prove very turbulent for Irish politics, as three elections were held between May 1981 and November 1982. Control of the government see-sawed between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, both of whom relied heavily on support from smaller parties like Labour or independents such as Tony Gregory.

Garret FitzGerald about to receive his seal of office as the newly elected Taoiseach
30 June 1981
With little differences between the policies of the two main parties, it was almost inevitable that media coverage would focus on personalities, in particular those of the two leaders – Haughey, the man of the people, versus Fine Gael’s Garret FitzGerald, the ‘professor’, with the personal antagonism between the two men only sharpening the contrast. It was the introduction of Americanised style over substance election coverage to Ireland, with two very capable and intelligent leaders ready to seize the challenge. 

Friday, 15 May 2015

Rás Tailteann

The Rás Tailteann starts this Sunday, 17 May, and will continue all week. It is a cycling race that takes place in stages, and is open to international professional competitors and Irish amateur cyclists.

The official start of the 1964 Rás Tailteann
The first Rás took place in 1953, and was organized by the National Cycling Authority. However, the NCA was an organization very influenced by the Republican movement, which meant many good quality cyclists avoided the event. When the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) banned the NCA from international races, and cyclists from competing in NCA events, it had a further impact on the Rás.

Some very talented Irish cyclists, such as Sé O’Hanlon, Paddy Flanagan and Gene Mangan, were able to use the opportunity provided by the Rás Tailteann to hone their own skills.  The had a great article on “5 legends who tell you everything you need to know about the Rás “, featuring these cyclists along with some of their teammates and peers.

Sé O'Hanlon with his new 10-speed Raleigh 'Gran Sport' bicycle
14 August 1962
The Irish Photo Archive has many galleries of cyclists competing in the Rás Tailteann over the years, from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, as well as Sé O’Hanlon being presented with a new bike after another one of his wins.

The finalists of the 1961 race: 1st T. Finn (centre), 2nd B. McKenna (left), and 3rd S O'Hanlon (right)
25 June 1961 
The Rás Tailteann emerged from the UCI controversy to become an important part of the international cycling calendar in recent years. Cyclists can earn points from the race that count towards qualifying for the Olympics and the World Cycling Championships.

This year’s route will begin in Dunboyne, with stage finishes in Carlow, Tipperary, Bearna, Newport, Ballina, Ballinamore and Drogheda, before the customary finale in Skerries. The course has been designed to start flatter than in previous races, which will allow for more attacking movements by the competitors.

An Post Rás Race Director Tony Campbell said “However it is very rolling terrain and very exposed and there is very little shelter on a lot of stages. The riders are going to have to be careful of winds; if there are any sort of westerly winds, I would say they could be in big trouble. It is going to make for great racing and will also require good bike handling skills.”

Here are the stages per day:
  • Stage 1, Sunday May 17: Dunboyne to Carlow (154.4 kilometres)
  • Stage 2, Monday May 18: Carlow to Tipperary (137.2 kilometres)
  • Stage 3, Tuesday May 19: Tipperary to Bearna (155.9 kilometres)
  • Stage 4, Wednesday May 20: Bearna to Newport (155 kilometres)
  • Stage 5, Thursday May 21: Newport to Ballina (142.4 kilometres)
  • Stage 6, Friday May 22: Ballina to Ballinamore (160.1 kilometres)
  • Stage 7, Saturday May 23: Ballinamore to Drogheda (142.4 kilometres)
  • Stage 8, Sunday May 24: Drogheda to Skerries (132.6 kilometres)
The Irish Photo Archive would like to wish the best of luck to everyone competing in the 2015 Rás Tailteann, and we hope you get to Skerries without any major mishaps. 

All photos available @ Irish Photo Archive

Friday, 8 May 2015

Making hay

I’m afraid that while the Ryan women look great in the photobelow, they haven’t fooled many people into thinking that they are taking part in the harvest in such good ‘Sunday best’ clothes. But I’m sure making hay was no mystery to them either.

The Ryan ladies helping with the harvest near Thurles, Co. Tipperary.
2 September 1953
Back in the 1950s, farming in Ireland remained largely done by hand. Many of the large farms would have the resources to invest in machinery, and the necessity to have it, but tractors and the like were still a luxury for most small farmers. This was a combination of the scarcity of machinery and petrol after WWII, and the poverty that affected such a large section of the Irish population at the time.

Most hay was harvested by hand, with all the family and probably a good few of the neighbours helping out. The field was mown with a scythe, and anyone capable of cutting an acre field in a day was known as a ‘good cutter’. They would be in demand at harvest time.

After the grass was cut, it was left to dry for a few hours and was then turned to dry on the other side. This would also have been done by hand, or some lucky people had a horse-drawn hay-turner, like the one in this photo at Ben Bulben. Either way, it was a tedious, arduous task.

Saving the hay under the shadow of Ben Bulben
25 April 1957
The grass would then be gathered into sheaves and stacked in ‘crooks’, as you can see in the previous photo with the Ryan ladies. This would help the hay dry out further whilst protecting them from showers or rain, as it would allow the raindrops to roll down the sheaves instead of soaking all the hay on the ground.

Only when the hay was completely dry would it be gathered into hay stacks; the large mounds of hay you can see in the background behind the Ryans. These would often be built raised up from the ground on pikes to protect them from mice. But it didn’t always work. Often farmers would find their haystack that looked perfect from the outside had been completely hollowed out by mice.

If the haystack was not left in the field, it would have to be transported back to the farmyard. If the field was close to the farm, horses could drag the stack along the ground to the hayshed in the farmyard. Otherwise, a horse and cart was necessary to ‘bring in the hay’. This photofrom close to Roscrea, also in Tipperary, shows a load of hay on its way home from the field. Sitting on top of the load was always one of the perks for a farmer’s children, and gave them a different perspective of the neighbourhood that was so familiar to them from ground level.

Bringing home the hay near Roscrea, Co. Tipperary
30 March 1957
Once the hay was home, it had to be forked into the hayshed. This in itself was a skill, as the hay had to be stacked in a way that left plenty of ventilation in the crop. An incredible amount of heat could build up in a crop of hay, and it wasn’t unusual for a hayshed to go on fire by itself.

So, considering all the hard work, stress and worry that accompanied harvesting the hay, who can blame the Ryan ladies for taking advantage of a beautiful scene to capture themselves on film in their best outfits? I hope it was a good harvest for them that year.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Lemass: the workhorse behind Fianna Fáil’s power

In 1954, Fianna Fáil suffered one of the biggest election defeats since 1932, the first time they had ever gained control of the Dáil. Seán Lemass had been appointed Director of Elections in 1954, but was unable to stem the tide of resentment towards Fianna Fáil that had grown during the Emergency and the aftermath of WWII. Lemass was determined that defeat would not reoccur at the next general election.

Seán Lemass, rebel, leader and Humphrey Bogart lookalike,
21 September 1960
Lemass knew that Ireland had to revitalize its economy in order to improve the quality of life for its citizens, and that he and Fianna Fáil had to lead the way. He had said before 1954 that “the outstanding problem still is unemployment”, but no major improvements had taken place in trying to create jobs. For more information on the extent of the problem, see our earlier post on John Murphy and the Unemployment Protest Committee. Lemass resented the conservative economic policies of Seán McEntee, the Minister for Finance, who had opposed many of his plans.

Lemass was appointed as Fianna Fáil’s national director of organization in July 1954. De Valera had always had a lot of respect for Lemass’ dynamism ever since 1916, and was prepared to trust him with positions of responsibility. Lemass used the opportunity presented to him to present his ‘Proposal for a Full-Employment Policy’ at the party’s Árd Fheis in 1955. His plan proposed increasing public investment, which would in turn generate 100,000 jobs.

Lemass then took this plan to the public, relentlessly driving around the country and drumming up support at grassroots level, as he had done in the early years of Fianna Fáil. He also ensured he brought new, young party members with a forward-thinking attitude onto his organization committee, including men such as Charles Haughey and Brian Lenihan – destined to become the leaders of the future.

Lenihan and Haughey at the Wolfe Tone commemorations at Bodenstown,
11 October 1987

Lemass’ ambitious plan would become Fianna Fáil’s election manifesto, and swept them back into power in 1957 – negating the massive defeat they had suffered in 1954 with an overall majority in this election. However, Lemass himself would have to wait another couple of years before De Valera finally handed over the leadership of his party to his successor. By then, Lemass had proved himself a loyal and trustworthy heir.

De Valera arriving at the Dáil as its new Taoiseach
10 March 1957
The new government presented with their Seals of Office by the President, Seán T. O'Kelly
20 March 1957
All images available @ Irish Photo Archive