Library to Unveil Rare Irish Painting Sept. 24

Library to Unveil Rare Irish Painting Sept. 24

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

A rare Irish painting on the Great Hunger done at the time of the famine 150 years ago will be unveiled at Burns Library on Sunday, Sept. 24, from 2-4 p.m. The event will also feature the premiere of several verses by noted Irish-language poet and former Burns Scholar Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill set to folk songs of the Famine era.

The unveiling, co-hosted by the Eire Society of Boston and the Friends of the Irish Famine Memorial, highlights a series of additions the Burns Library has made to its celebrated Irish Collection.

The oil painting newly hung in the Burns Irish Room was done by R. G. Kelly and dates to 1848-51. Alternately titled "A Tear and a Prayer for Erin" or "An Ejectment in Ireland," the work depicts the eviction of poor Irish from the land during the Famine. It is on two-year loan from Chicago real-estate developer Anthony John Mourek, a benefactor who previously backed the library's acquisition of Ni Dhomhnaill's papers.

"One of the few paintings of the Famine done at the time, it even sparked controversy in the House of Commons, as it dealt with a subject that didn't please the British," said Burns Librarian Robert O'Neill.

Ni Dhomhnaill was the Burns Library Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies in 1998-99 and is considered one of Ireland's finest contemporary poets writing in the Irish language.

More than 150 guests are expected to attend the Burns reception, which commemorates the end of the Great Hunger 150 years ago.

In another noteworthy addition to its Irish holdings, the library recently acquired documents and photographs of Thomas Clarke, first signer of the 1916 Proclamation of Irish independence, who was executed by the British for his role in the Easter Rising. The collection includes material on Clarke's wife, Kathleen, who went on to become the first woman to serve as Lord Mayor of Dublin.
Burns Library will exhibit this rare painting by R. G. Kelly.

Burns also has acquired archival materials of poet and publisher John F. Deane and poet and literary critic Gerald Dawe. The Deane collection includes correspondence between the Dedalus Press founder and such literary figures as Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney. Among the papers in the Dawe archives are manuscripts of the Ulster-born writer whose poetry has been depicted as bridging the cultural and historical divisions between northern and southern Irish experience, as well as expressing the northern Protestant worldview.


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