Tuesday 17 October 2017

The Lepracaun who lampooned both the Brits and jackeens

Thomas Fitzpatrick and 'The Lepracaun Cartoon Monthly', 1905-1915; James Curry & Ciarán Wallace; Four Courts Press, 208pp; large format, €19.95

Dear Dirty Dublin: Wanted a Public Health Department. A cartoon by Thomas Fitzpatrick from The Lepracaun
Dear Dirty Dublin: Wanted a Public Health Department. A cartoon by Thomas Fitzpatrick from The Lepracaun
Thomas ­Fitzpatrick and 'The Lepracaun Cartoon Monthly', 1905-1915 by James Curry & Ciarán Wallace

John Spain

Between 1905 and 1915, The Lepracaun Cartoon Monthly satirised society and politics in Dublin and beyond. And there was no shortage of subjects for lampooning in the Dublin of the time, not least because the city was home to the worst slums in Europe, overseen by a largely indifferent British administration and well-off jackeens.

Proprietor, editor and chief cartoonist of The Lepracaun was Thomas Fitzpatrick, a courageous commentator who did not spare those responsible for the misery he could see around him. Fitzpatrick's cartoons countered Punch's ape-like Irishman with the noble figure of 'Pat', and his sharp pen presented senior British figures in an unforgiving light.

Politicians and publicans, clerics and suffragettes, trade unionists and bosses were all fair game in The Lepracaun.

Nor did the pretensions and prejudices of the man and woman in the street escape Fitzpatrick's critical eye. From caustic commentaries on ladies' fashions to the high politics of Home Rule, the cartoons from the monthly now offer a unique window into those changing times. Irish society was coming to terms with the arrival of motor cars and electricity and the prospect of votes for women, something even the Cartoon Monthly was uncertain about. But Fitzpatrick and his fellow cartoonists were always ready to illustrate injustices, puncture pomposity and highlight the ridiculous.

This fascinating collection includes introductory essays on Thomas Fitzpatrick's life and career, and on the social and political context of the times. (Interestingly, Thomas Fitzpatrick was grandfather of the contemporary Dublin artist Jim Fitzpatrick, creator of Celtic mythology paintings, Horslips album covers and the iconic Che Guevara poster which adorned student bedrooms by the million back in the day).

This book is one of a series being published by Dublin City Council to mark the Decade of Commemorations.

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