Sunday, March 17, 2019

Dancing at the Crossroads

From Irish Central:
The testimony reveals a family and a community of staunch republicans some of whom would later participate actively in Dublin’s Easter Rising. Two of the dancers also participated in Ireland’s first ever official camogie match. Retired CIE worker Manus O’Brien, who passed away earlier this year, divulged the identities of over half the figures in the picture while conversing with his relations Jim O’Malley and Richard Pardi, both of whom are retired schoolteachers. The Cork man pointed out his own mother Abina, (Gobnait) as a young girl in the photograph. 
Manus confirmed that the photo was taken at his birthplace, Knockmonlea, midway between Youghal and Killeagh in east Cork. The landscape remains almost unchanged to this day, though in truth it is more of a junction than a standard crossroads. Manus’s information enabled his relatives, assisted by Knockmonlea resident Billy McCarthy, to align several of the dancers with nationalist organisations and active roles in the Easter Rising. Two of them also played in Ireland’s first official camogie match. 
The photograph was taken by the renowned Horgan brothers of Youghal, pioneers of film and photography at the time the photo was taken, circa 1910. Peg Barry, (nee Foley) another relative and a sprightly nonagenarian, recalls Knockmonlea as a bustling community with a forge and other small businesses in the early 1900’s. “Dances were held at the crossroads on Sunday afternoons during summertime”, she recalls.
Although Manus didn’t say as much, Jim considers the scene to have been “deliberately posed, given the absence of a wooden platform as would be prerequisite for a real dance.” More assuredly he says “the hawthorn in bloom depicts summertime, while the lengthening shadows suggest late afternoon.” (Read more.)

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