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Old colour photos of Ireland in 1913

These images, which represent the first ever colour photographs taken in Ireland, were taken in 1913 by two French women, Marguerite Mespoulet and Madeleine Mignon-Alba, who used newly available autochrome colour plates.

The novice photographers recorded life and historic sites on their two month journey through Ireland from Connemara to the Boyne Valley. They arrived in Ireland to take part in a world-wide project entitled ‘the Archives of the Planet’. The project was the brainchild of the French banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn whose ambition was to compile a “kind of photographic inventory of the surface of the earth as it was occupied and organised by Man at the beginning of the 20th century.”


Mother of seven making fringes for knitted shawls, Galway, Ireland, 29 May 1913

Two fishermen and a boy, An Spidéal, Galway, Ireland, 31 May 1913
Two fishermen characteristic of the west coast, gentle, pleasant and hardened to poverty.
The boy is dressed in a skirt which is common in the region for all boys up to the age of 12.

Two men making coracles, River Boyne, Oldbridge, Ireland, June 1913
A coracle is a small boat traditionally used in Ireland (particularly on the River Boyne), Wales and Scotland.
The word "coracle" comes from the Welsh cwrwgl, cognate with the Irish "currach",

Two coracles on the Boyne, Oldbridge, Ireland, June 1913

Two coracles on the Boyne, Oldbridge, Ireland, June 1913

Two coracles on the Boyne, Oldbridge, Ireland, June 1913

Girl wearing traditional dress of Claddagh, Galway, Ireland, 26 May 1913

Main Ní Tuathail, a 14 year old girl from the Claddagh wearing traditional Claddagh dress. Galway, Ireland, 26th May 1913.
The Claddagh (Irish: an Cladach, meaning "the shore") was a fishing village close to the centre of Galway city.
The people of the Claddagh lived quite separately from the City of Galway and retained their Gaelic customs, language
and dress well into the 1930s. The original village of thatched cottages was razed in 1935 and replaced
by a council-housing scheme.

Mother and child outside dwelling, The Claddagh, Galway, Ireland, 25 May 1913
These dwellings are typical of Irish peasantry in the 18th and 19th centuries. The neatly thatched roofs and whitewashed walls
show skilled craftsmanship, but cannot hide the true desperation and poverty of the native Irish.
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A village wheelwright in County Louth, June 1913
A wheelwright is a person who builds or repairs wheels. This man has treated his doors with the same paint as his wheels!


 Clonmacnoise, Ireland, 2 June 1913

Clonmacnoise, Ireland, 1 June 1913

Mellifont Abbey, Louth, Ireland, June 1913

"Outside car" on the route from Headford to Claregalway, Ireland, 29 May 1913

Eel fisherman, Lough Ree, Athlone, Ireland, June 1913

Man cutting turf, South Connemara, Ireland, 29 May 1913


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Ross Abbey, Headford, 29 May 1913

Selling fish at the port of Galway, Ireland, 26 May 1913

Livestock, the day of the fair, Galway, Ireland, 29 May 1913

Mansion of the Conyngham family, Slane, Irealand, June 1913

Athlone Castle, Ireland, June 1913

Round tower, Glendalough, Ireland, June 1913

Roundtower, Roscam, near Oranmore, Galway, Ireland, 27 May 1913

Glendalough, Ireland, June 1913

Weaving, An Spidéal, Galway, Ireland, 31 May 1913


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Ross Errilly Friary, Headford, Galway, Ireland, 29 May 1913

Woman and abandoned dwelling, Lough Ree, North Athlone, Ireland, June 1913

Isoltated house, South Connemara, Ireland, 31 May 1913

House in a gorse bog, South Connemara, Ireland, 29 May 1913

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Currach transporting turf, River Shannon, near Athlone, Ireland, June 1913

Turf Transport, An Spidéal, Galway, Ireland, 31 May 1913

Glendaloch, Ireland, June 1913

Traditional Irish knitwear, An Spidéal, Galway, Ireland 1 May 1913

Galway, Ireland 1 May 1913

Galway, Ireland 1 May 1913

Galway, Ireland 1 May 1913

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