At the beginning of the last century, a French philanthropist named Albert Kahn sent photographers out across the world to record people and places in different countries. In 1913, he sent Marguerite Mespoulet and Madeleine Mignon to Ireland, where they took some 75 pictures. These autochromes were a complex and beautiful way of recreating colour, and at a time when the world was black and white, were probably the first colour photographs taken in Ireland.
A number of these were taken in Galway, some of the best of them of people in the Claddagh, and while they are posed, they are important documents of social history. The first of our pictures today was of a young Claddagh woman wearing "A unique specimen of a very beautiful costume which already has not been worn for several years. The women abandoned it because it was very heavy and they don't want to hear about it anymore. The young girl who posed for this photo was considered in Galway as one of the most perfect girls from "The Irish Colleen". She is wearing a beautiful red cloak under which is a patterned Paisley print wraparound possibly made from cashmere. Indeed, some old Claddagh women used to refer to this garment as "Me Cashmere". She is also wearing a red flannel petticoat over which is a rough apron known as a "Praiscin" which protected the petticoat when the women were working or carrying baskets of fish.
The second photograph is of 2 Claddagh women dressed in beautifully patterned fringed shawls. The lady on the left is wearing a red crochet shawl underneath, the one on the right has a "Shawleen" made out of a very soft material under her main shawl. They are both wearing working aprons made from check material. They were selling fish.
The lady in our third picture is probably wearing the same costume as the first. BBC Television are making a series of programmes based on the Kahn photographs and are looking for anyone who might be related to the people in them. If you are, or think you are, or think you know any of these women, could you please contact Tom Kenny in High Street (Phone 091 534767). He has all the photographs on show there and would love to hear from you.
Please forward any queries/comments to firstname.lastname@example.org