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Key Clare images from War of Independence brought to life in colour

COLOURISED images of key moments in Clare’s revolutionary history have been included in a new book on the period between the East Rising and the foundation of the State.

Among the pictures that author Michael Barry has included in An Illustrated History of the Irish Revolution (1916-1923) is a photograph of Eamon De Valera at Ennis Courthouse after the by-election of 1917.

Other shots include scenes of tanks in Clare and an armoured car at the RIC barracks in Ennis.

There is also a picture of De Valera’s arrest in 1923 at a Sinn Féin gathering. The latter appeared in the Illustrated London News just after the outbreak of the Civil War.


There’s also a photo of De Valera in America in the period 1919-1920. During a visit to the Chippewa Reservation Reserve in Wisconsin, he was famously made honorary chief of a Chippewa tribe, and the colourised image shows him wearing a Native American ceremonial headdress.

“I specially commissioned over 130 black and white photographs to be colourised by the master in that field, John O’Byrne,” Michael explained. “These help bring the events of the Irish Revolution to life. In addition, there are around 600 other images, old photographs, documents, periodicals and specially prepared maps. There is much new information and a lot of the photographs have never been published before.”

Colourist John O’Brien explained the painstaking process of bringing the images to life. “I use Photoshop and other programmes,” he said. There are Artificial Intelligence apps available, but to-date they give poor results, they can’t do the subtleties. In my work, I have researched things such as the colour of uniforms, caps and equipment. It is better, when in doubt, to be minimalist and employ less colour. It is painstaking work. I pay attention to the detail, such as a cap badge or the colour of moss. The smallest details make all the difference.”

Michael, a West Cork native, and graduate of Trinity College, had been studying the revolutionary period for more than a decade before producing the book. “I decided to draw together the strands of this formative era into one volume and endeavoured to present the story in a rich visual manner,” he said. “Images were selected for their inherent interest, irrespective of the sometimes variable quality of these hundred year old photos.”

Michael’s previous publications include Victorian Dublin Revealed; Courage Boys, We are Winning, an Illustrated History of the 1916 Rising; The Fight for Irish Freedom,  an Illustrated History of the War of Independence; and The Green Divide, an Illustrated History of the Irish Civil War.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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