Little Stories

Little Prints


John Curran

1966 was the 50 years commemoration of 1916 and its events and outcomes figured greatly in the history taught that year in National school. I was then 8 years old: the story and personages of the Rising, and the public celebrations and media coverage of it had a powerful effect on one's perception of those events. The element of sacrifice, of dying for Ireland's freedom and the pain and tragedy of it all for its protagonists added a big emotional charge to the historical facts -  it is this felt  dimension to the stories we as schoolchildren ingested about bravery, hopelessness,tyranny, glory and so on that came back to me when remembering that time in 1966 when the celebration of the Nation was visceral and unambiguous.

During Easter 1966 our mother took us to Offaly to visit our grandparents and while we were down  there a visit was made one afternoon to an old lady who lived some distance away, the other side of Tullamore. This old lady lived in a traditional  thatched house, the paintwork deep green, a fire burning in a wide fireplace on a huge hearth, and the scent of the smouldering  peat was very, very strong . The old  lady, whose name I never knew, was talking to the adults about 1916 which she remembered well,  and the old house, the turf fire and its aged owner had for the 8 year old me a sense of Ireland past, still alive, real and palpable - as though the vivid  history lessons in school that had brought one close to  gunfire,  death and sacrifice  in the GPO had spilled out beyond the classroom. But what really triggered these sensations, which are still vivid  50 years later, and which are the story that inspired my print, was a calendar on the wall in this old, smoky, definitively Irish house, the month illustrated with an image of the GPO in flames, and a warrior brandishing a Celtic sword in the foreground, depicted in pure, heroic, sacrificial white against a green red and orange ground, the flames stylised and vibrant. 

It was a visual summation of the terrible beauty that our schoolteacher had somehow imbued the Rising story with.  I expect the image in that calendar was originally a lino print from the 1920s, given its stylism, its didactic clarity, so archaic and angular when reproduced in 1966. And though I have searched in archive and album for it in these past months, it has had the decency to remain, like the exact particulars of the Past itself, elusive. 

Studied Fine Art in Dun Laoghaire School of Art 1974-78 and in the National Collage of Art and Design 1978-80. Master's Degree from Trinity College Dublin 1988. Works in mainly in paint, print and photography.



'Whisper it', Lino-Cut