Gougane Barra 1902 Photograph

The front cover of our 2005 Journal carried a worn photograph of the first  Irish classes held in Gougane Barra in 1902


My name is Deborah Lacy.  I live in Dallas, Texas in the United States of America. Sean O'Sullivan of your historical society has asked me to write to you.


I would like to tell you the story of my picture of the Reverend Richard O'Daly and the Gaelic revival at St. Finbarr’s Island, Gougane Barra, County Cork,  Ireland in the year of 1902.


Recently I heard a squirrel in my attic.  I wasn't thrilled about him living in my house and paying no rent, so I set a trap to catch him.  While in the attic

I spotted a wonderful old group photo that I bought back in the 70s at

a flea market here in Texas. Over the years I've gotten many things that now reside in my attic and none of THEM pay rent either. Anyway, my old picture was under a blanket of dust, but I could see that the people in my picture deserved better treatment than I was giving them, so I brought them downstairs.


Then the really fun part began.


I could see that at the bottom of the picture there were the words

"Gaelic revival  St Finbars Island  Gougane Barra  County Cork  Ireland."

By the people's fashion of dress I dated it around the turn of the century...well not this last turn, but the one before the last!


So I sat down at my computer and started doing searches on these words and

looking for Gaelic groups. This technology wasnt available when I originally bought the picture.  I sent out many emails and soon heard back from none other than Mr. O'Sullivan himself.

Turns out Sean was able to tell me all about my wonderful old picture. 

Who the people were,  why they gathered,  where they gathered and the year their gathering took place.


The more I studied my picture the more I fell in love with the spirits

residing therein.


The old man who brought this group together, Father Richard O'Daly, was born in Australia in the 1800s!  Can you imagine what life was like in Australia in late 1800?


The group of students he brought together that day are actually teachers from around Ireland, come to learn how to teach Gaelic to their students.

To literally revive the Gaelic language!

They look like they were NOT all work and no play to me.  So many grins on their faces.  The snappy straw hats on the gentlemen and the ladies who tried to look pretty while wearing all those heavy clothes!  What did they do in the evenings while there and not studying?  Did the have a pint or two?  And was it their first time away from home?

Did they know what a wonderful cause they were about to undertake?

I think they must have been very proud to give to future generations something that was in danger of being lost forever.

I love to think about them.

I wish I knew each of their names.


How did my picture get to a flea market in Texas?

This, I don't think I will ever know.  When I removed it from it's frame I found a little stamp that says Royal Photography,  San Rafael,  California.  From the way the stamp looks and the age of the frame, I believe this company made the copy that I now own, in the 1920s. San Rafael is a small town near San Francisco and there would have been many immigrants coming through that port. 

I have tried to contact historic groups and Gaelic groups in California, but I've had no replies.


Anyway, back to the here and now.

I sent Sean digital copies of my picture by email.  And he asked me  to make a good copy of my picture, which he now has in his possession.  Sean also asked that I write my story of my lovely old picture for you to read.


It's often we feel we can do something for someone we know.

And sometimes we feel we can do something for someone yet to be born.

But I feel like I've done something for some people who came and went before me, and for that I feel honored and grateful.


If someone in this picture was a relative of you, the reader, then all the better. I extent a hand across the water to you!


On a personal note.  My grandmother's name was Mae Yeates. I know her people came from Ireland. Sadly, that’s all I know of them.  Maybe that should be my next project!


Warm wishes to y'all from the great state of Texas!


Deborah Lacy

Dallas, Texas USA