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Jun 14 2016

Final Call for Re-enactment of Historic Photograph

The Town Hall Theatre is putting out a final call this week for members of the public to become part of history and participate in the re-enactment of the famous photograph taken on the steps of the theatre during the Gaelic League Oireachtas of 1913.

The re-enactment will take place at the Town Hall Theatre this Saturday 18 June. 163 people in contemporary dress (members of the public are invited to participate in the photograph, and on the day to simply wear their 'Sunday best') will be included in the new photograph to reflect the Ireland of today and to become an iconic image which will be referenced in the next century.

A second photograph will be taken with participants and relatives and representatives (in full period costume!) of many of the key personalities present in the original photograph. Both photographs will be included in a Galway 1916 centenary time capsule and each participant will receive a free poster, a free down load image and refreshments on the day.

Anyone interested in participating in the re-enactment should contact Siobhan at Galway Arts Centre in advance at . Registration for participation on the day will take place from 10am, followed by a briefing at 10.30am and a rehearsal at 11am on the steps of the Town Hall. The participants will then make their way to Spanish Arch from where they will depart in procession at 1pm led by Galway's very own St Patricks Brass Band and followed by the Ullapool Pipe Band from Scotland, arriving back at the Town Hall for the 1.30pm photographs.

The original photograph features some of the men and women who went on to participate in the Rising including three future presidents of Ireland, three signatories of the 1916 proclamation and other noted figures of the revolution and is on permanent display at the Town Hall Theatre. Visiit for more.

The photograph was discovered in a box in the attic by the Curran family in Dublin. The Currans late mother’s parents were members of the Keating branch of the Gaelic League and their grandfather and other relatives are in the photograph. Their grandmother had passed the photograph on to their mother and it lay safe in the attic of the family home for the best part of 50 years. The family took the photo down from the attic in 2010 and noticed a few famous faces in it. The more they looked, the more interesting faces they discovered and they were intrigued.  At first the family thought that it was taken at the Gaelic League Oireachtas in 1914 and so spent a lot of time searching for a match for the building in Kerry.

In early 2013, when they finally identified the building as Town Hall Theatre in Galway, they realised the full significance of the picture and the fact that this is the centenary of the historical occasion on which it was taken. ''We gave the photograph to the Town Hall Theatre because we think it is only right that it should return to the place where it was taken to be enjoyed by the people of Galway and the public at large'' said one member of the family.''We are delighted with the reception we received from the Town Hall Theatre when we approached them with the image. They quickly assembled a team of volunteers here in Galway - including Tom Kenny from Kennys Book Shop and Dara O Folan, Jacki Ni Chionna and Deirdre Ni Chonghaile from NUI Galway - to work with us on identifying most of those present in the photograph. We are delighted with the result and we now look forward to perhaps the public assisting us identify the few remaining names''.

The photograph of the delegates attending the Ard Fheis (Gaelic League national convention) was taken in front of Galway’s Town Hall (now the Town Hall Theatre) during the course of the weeklong Oireachtas (the annual Gaelic League’s national cultural festival) in late July/early August 1913. It had been the established custom to convene the annual ‘parliament of the Gaels’ concurrently with An tOireachtas, and in the summer of 1913, Galway, the so-called ‘Capital of Irish speaking Ireland’ was chosen to have the honour of hosting the first Oireachtas outside of Dublin.  This highlighted the centrality of Galway city and county (which boasted fifty per cent of the country’s surviving native speakers at the turn of the 20th century) to the League’s efforts to preserve Irish as a spoken communal language.

The 1913 Ard Fheis marked an important juncture in the history of the Gaelic League as internal divisions between the apolitical old guard of the movement and a republican/I.R.B. faction had come to the fore in the months preceding the convention. Dr. Douglas Hyde, the co-founder and President of the Gaelic League since its foundation in 1893, had resigned several weeks prior to the proceedings in protest at alleged attempts by the latter radical element to politicise the organisation and undermine his leadership. The time was not yet ripe for an overt republican takeover however, and Hyde, who had received immense popular endorsement throughout the Oireachtas, was re-elected as President to near universal acclaim. This was a hollow victory for the moderates however. The tumultuous political dynamics of the coming years would ultimately render the ascendant republican tide too strong to withstand, for at the Dundalk Oireachtas of 1915 the Gaelic League would revoke its hitherto politically neutral stance and declare its support for separatism.

One of the most remarkable features of the Galway Oireachtas and Ard Fheis was the presence among the delegates of so many of the political and military elite of the subsequent Irish Revolution 1916-1923, and indeed that of the independent Irish state to which it gave birth.  This historic group photograph is tantamount to a Who’s who of the ‘coming revolution,’ with as many as perhaps half the signatories of the 1916 proclamation (including Pádraig Pearse, Seán Mac Diarmada and Éamonn Ceannt) as well three future Presidents of Ireland (Douglas Hyde, Seán T. O’Kelly and Eamon de Valera) being present.

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