Tag Archives: Quinnipiac

Better late than never

There’s a hint of an earlier age to this story, like those recently discovered unopened 18th century letters from Irish people living in the Bordeaux region of France.



In this second week of January 2014 I received a tri-fold piece of mail informing me that Christine Kinealy, an authority on the Irish famine, “has been appointed director of the newly created Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac [University, near New Haven, Conn.] … The Institute will build upon the work of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum … while providing a forum for developing new scholarship about, and new engagement with, this tragic period in Ireland’s history.”

That’s great. I enjoyed my March 2013 visit to the An Gorta Mor archive collection and separate museum. Both are important stops for anyone interested in Irish history.

The only problem with the postal piece? Kinealy’s appointment was announced in August.

Here’s the Spring 2014 schedule of programs at the museum.

Great Hunger Museum acquires “The Ragpickers”

I’ve written several posts about Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. The museum has just acquired a new painting, “The Ragpickers,” by Henry Allan.







Niamh O’Sullivan, the museum’s consultant curator and Professor Emeritus of Visual Culture at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, writes in a museum newsletter:

Ragpicking was a common occupation in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Ragpickers eked out a living by rummaging for scraps of cloth and paper and other discarded items to identify anything that could be recycled or sold (even dead cats and dogs could be skinned to make clothes). Ragpickers turned over what they salvaged to a master who would sell it, usually by weight; anything of value was to be returned to the owner or the authorities….Painters and writers of the Romantic period turned the ragpicker into a type of street philosopher who, living from day to day and unburdened by material things, understands human nature. Unobserved, he observes others.

Allan’s image dates to 1900. O’Sullivan suggests the scene “is consistent with the dunes of Ringsend, Dublin, seen from South Lotts,” which is on the south bank of the River Liffey at the eastern edge of the city, near the open sea. The name Ringsend is a corruption of the Irish “Rinn-abhann”, which means “the end point of the tide,” according to Wikipedia. The area went into decline about the time of Allan’s painting as shipping activity moved to other parts of Dublin and ports further south along the coast.

Quinnipiac’s “Great Hunger” archive and museum

Spent the day at Quinnipiac University’s An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger) archive collection and separate museum, a short drive from the Hamden, Conn., campus.

More than 1.5 million Irish died of starvation and disease between 1845 and 1850, and more than 2 million others emigrated aboard the “coffin ships,” many of them also dying before reaching Canada and the United States.

The Lender Family Special Collection at the Arnold Bernhard Library “includes over 700 volumes on the actual famine period and others focusing on peripheral issues that helped shape the events surrounding the tragedy.” For example, I viewed an 1846 townland survey of County Kerry.

I spent most of my time reviewing documents from the collection of British Parliamentary Papers, including quarterly reports of agrarian violence in the late 19th century and emigration returns from 1912 and 1913, the year my maternal grandparents left Kerry for Pittsburgh.

Special thanks to Robert A. Young, public services librarian, for helping to make the material available.

The museum, which opened in September, “is home to the world’s largest collection of visual art, artifacts and printed materials relating to the starvation and forced emigration that occurred throughout Ireland from 1845 to 1850. Works by noted contemporary Irish artists are featured, as well as a number of important 19th and 20th-century paintings.”


Many of the pieces are very moving, such as “The Leave Taking,” above, a 2000 cast bronze that shows about a dozen figure along a ship’s gangway. The detail here shows a child being carried to the ship while the mother is restrained at the dock.

The collection also contains a miniature version of “Famine Ship,” John Behan’s outdoor sculpture at the foot of Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, which I viewed after climbing the mountain in 2001.

More to say about the archive and the museum, but let me emphasize that both are worth the trip to Quinnipiac.