A National Heritage Week Special Photography Collection

Because today is the start of National Heritage Week 2014 I thought I’d share a selection of old photographs that fell into my lap recently.

Ned Sheehy and more recently, Gina McElligott passed these on to me and I’ve been burning the midnight oil scanning and putting whatever captions are available on them.

I’ve often said it in private conversations but God Bless Danny Sheehy and the way he dated most of the photographs he took down through the 1930’s to the early 1960s.

In spite of the fact that most of his stuff was later destroyed, there are still fine examples of his camera work in houses throughout the parish and, I bet you, in many a collection in homes abroad.

There is a photograph in this collection here that sums up the late Danny’s enthusiasm for recording the events of his day.

I’m thinking of the queue of men and horses and rails of turf on Upper Main Street on their way to the railway yard for their cargo to be transported out.

This is not the kind of photography that Danny would have ‘made money’ from. But obviously it was exactly the kind he felt compelled to apply his camera and his eye to.

Some day soon, here, I’m going to put out an appeal for a collection of his work so that we might get a window in town and present it and his story. He deserves that much at least.

Danny won a Guinea in an Irish Independent photography competition in the 1940s. Titled ‘Contentment’  the picture was of three of his children in a basket.

The winning entry, from the Church Street based photographer / shopkeeper, won again in 2012 when his son Ned entered it in a competition in The Kerryman.

Ned figures that Danny must have taken thousands of photographs with his box camera and he developed them himself with the help of a butter box and a one hundred watt bulb.

His photographs are to be found now in treasured collections throughout the world as cameras in those days were a rarity. One of Danny Sheehy’s trademarks was an oval shaped stamp with his name and address and the date on which the photograph was taken.

With the equipment available to him at the time and his own creative adaptability, Danny Sheehy did a magnificent job.

It was a lonely occupation. It still is. One in which you try to get images from the darkroom inside your head onto what your camera sees and then to do justice to the original. And it rarely matches up.

A famous American photographer once said: “To Verbalise an Image is to Blight It.”