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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Portrait of a lady: how dating worked in 19th Century

Emma Jane Hade

Published 28/01/2014 | 02:30

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Kate Herbert born 1778, the prettiest of the four Herbert sisters was known as the pheasant because of her beauty and sense of style
Kate Herbert born 1778, the prettiest of the four Herbert sisters was known as the pheasant because of her beauty and sense of style
A love poem was penned by Kate Herbert but was never sent. It remained here after her marriage to Joe Murray in 1911  and was discovered recently  when the restoration of the house began
A love poem was penned by Kate Herbert but was never sent. It remained here after her marriage to Joe Murray in 1911 and was discovered recently when the restoration of the house began
A post card from Mrs Mc Farlin  to Kate Herbert was hand delivered to the farmhouse here before 1911 by her older sister who lived in Belfast with her husband Mr Carson
A post card from Mrs Mc Farlin to Kate Herbert was hand delivered to the farmhouse here before 1911 by her older sister who lived in Belfast with her husband Mr Carson

A treasure trove of old photos has shed new light on the dating game over 100 years ago.

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Hundreds of pictures recently discovered during the restoration process of a 19th Century home in Co Meath depict young ladies and men from the late 1800s and early 1900s, using their own portrait in correspondence to possible suitors.

James McConnell from Churchtown, Co Meath, inherited the property 10 years ago, and said that it has been in his family for seven generations.

He discovered the collection of old photos and papers belonging to his ancestors in 2011, and reckons that they have been undisturbed for more than a century.

"Some are faded, but others are in remarkable condition, including postcards with images of my grandfather Patrick Herbert, who was born in 1880, and his sisters Ann, Bridget, Christina and Kate," Mr McConnell explained.

Orla Fitzpatrick, an Irish photo historian, said that using your own image on a postcard was common practice in the 20th century, particularly among friends and family.

"I reckon these photos date from between 1890 and 1910. The photo of Kate Herbert is from around 1904.

"There were many postal deliveries per day in Ireland during this time – way more than the one a day we have now – so you could get replies within a day. A bit like texting," the University of Ulster PhD student explained.

Some of the most striking items from the collection are postcards of Kate Herbert, Mr McConnell's grandaunt.

"Kate Herbert was born in 1878 and was the youngest sister. She was a ravishing beauty and known as 'the peacock'.

"She acquired this name because of her great beauty and sense of style," he said.

Irish Independent

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