Tuesday 2 September 2014

Catalogue revamp reveals seedier side to Victorian Dublin

63,000 images have been added to National Library of Ireland's catalogue revealing a fascinating glimpse into 17th century Ireland

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan with Andrew Murphy O'Donovan (6) at the launch of 10, 500 newly-digitised images.
Tom Clarke
A Victorian-era lithograph of an infamous housewife Ellen Byrne accused of murdering her husband and sleeping beside his decomposing body for almost a week

A Victorian-era lithograph of an infamous housewife accused of murdering her husband and sleeping beside his decomposing body for almost a week is among new images released online.

It is just one of a treasure trove of 10,500 new images, which have been added to the National Library of Ireland's growing online catalogue.

The black-and-white lithograph of Ellen Byrne wearing widow's weeds and holding a handkerchief and flowers that was taken during her murder trial in Dublin in August 1842 sheds a fascinating light on one of Ireland's most infamous criminal trials.

According to newspaper accounts at the time, Mrs Byrne, from Rathmines, Dublin, and her husband Augustine "were in the habit of drinking to excess" despite "being in a respectable condition of life". The reports say no motive was ever found for his killing, "nor for her remaining shut up in the same room with her husband, as it was alleged, for four or five days". A jury acquitted her of murder, which disappointed the crowds who gathered outside the courthouse during the trial.

The fascinating glimpse into the seedier side of Victorian Dublin is just one of 63,000 images the library has now posted to its online catalogue.

Everything from historical photographs and portraits and sketches of Ireland's leaders to colourful vintage posters, old train tickets and memorabilia over the past century to photos of everyday life are available online through the library's digital archive.

The resource now makes it possible for people here and around the world to take a virtual tour of Ireland's social and political history any time of the day and night, said Sara Smyth, NLI Digitisation programme manager.

The collection also includes a photograph of the 1916 Rising leader Tom Clarke who was executed for his role in the uprising.

Also included is a photo of his wife Kathleen Clarke, wearing widow's garb, with their sons John Daly Clarke, Tom Clarke Jr and Emmet Clarke. The collection also includes a postcard from John Daly Clarke that was sent to her in Holloway Prison in 1918 where she was detained following the Rising.

Other iconic historical figures include the leader of Catholic emancipation Daniel O'Connell taken in 1825.

There are also quirky scraps of memorabilia, including a poster announcing a "moving picture lecture", dated October 1914, on the adventures of explorer Captain Robert Scott.

Irish Independent

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