Civil War Photo

An earlier post on the Civil War in Connaught has proven to be the most read post on this blog, and even elicited a response from a relative of Francis (Frank) Cunnane – obviously there’s a huge appetite out there to learn more about this period of our history.

One reader, Brian McHugh, sent us a copy of the photo reproduced below of his uncle Pat, who served in the Free State Army.

Although he has little information regarding Pat, regarding the provenance of the photo, or even where Pat was posted during the Civil War, we’re hoping someone out there might be able to provide some further information.

Brian’s father was also active in the Civil War and was posted to Dublin and then to Cork in 1922 where he took part in the seaborne invasion – Cork was taken by Free State troops in August 1922 which included both overland and seaborne attacks (Brian tells us that his father remembered the crack of the bullets hitting the side and the deck of the boat). Brian’s father was eighteen at the time while his Uncle Pat was younger, leading Brian to think Pat may have served later – possible in 1923.

There are two or three things which are worthy of note in the photo: the boot to the left of the picture and the apparent activity in the forest in the background, perhaps another soldier (and what is the white, odd shaped object?). You will notice that part of the photo is torn off although this might not be that sinister. The reverse side of the photo is a postcard (unused) and perhaps it was simply torn to “fit in”.

There are so many Civil War and War of Independence stories out there – and we’re happy to post our readers artefacts, photos or queries – if some family questions, or stories can receive a wider audience through this forum, it would be great. Perhaps some of our readers can help Brian find out more about the provenance of the photo and fill in some of the gaps for him, please email us or feel free to leave a comment here and we can put you in touch with Brian.

Given the amount of interest, the stories and personal accounts that are still out there, perhaps it’s time that something like the Great War Forum should be created. If anyone has any ideas – again email or comment here.

13 Responses to “Civil War Photo”

  1. Chris G says:

    not sure if this helps but I think many photos from the time had a postcard backing I’ve a similar photo of english soldier from ww1 with postcard back. I think you got them printed as such to send home before going to the front.

  2. Southiesham says:

    What? You mean the photgraph above ISN’T an English soldier? Gosh. He looks just like one to me.

    Funny that.

  3. Nadine Gallo says:

    There’s an archway in the upper left corner and a figure coming towards the entrance. That archway is probably recognizable to a resident of the area. The young soldier has boots on so might ride a horse if necessary. It could be in Cork or Kilkenny, if such arches exist in those places. I believe they do.

  4. mooregroup says:

    Just had a closer look Nadine – and I think you’re probably right – However I think it might be a bit optimistic to hope that someone will recognise it. Not sure about the boots – were they standard issue or are they riding boots – maybe someone can answer that!

  5. I also had a thorough look into the most of details of the posted photo related to the Civil War and would suggest that the archway in the upper left corner could possibly exist at that place. And also the soldier could be pictured in the yard close to the entrance to the church / cathedral (juding from the appearance of archway in the background). The photo could probably be taken in the village.

    Kind regards,
    Tanya Shekhovtsova.

  6. Hi,
    I would also like to add some more details as for the picture of Brian McHugh’s uncle Pat during the time of Civil War.
    I suggest (which could also be true) that the archway in the background obviously has cusps: that is the projecting points formed where foils meet in Gothic tracery. Thus the Gothic style elements of the archway reproduce the form of a flower in the circle, which is also called a Quatrefoil. This quatrefoil is used in arches and windows too.
    In this regard, I suppose the church or a cathedral which is viewed by us has a Gothicized exterior. It is one of the first suggestions of mine.
    Hope it reveals an original provenance of the photo.
    Kind regards,
    Tanya Shekhovtsova

  7. Here is an example of such a quatrefoil:

    You can also notice the similar form of a quatrefoil above the whole archway in the picture of Brian McHugh’s uncle Pat…

  8. Tim Nalley, Dayton Ohio USA says:

    I don’t think its a church, more like a farm, probably your Uncle Pat’s parents farm? Looks like a typical farmyard anyway, and the man in the background has the typical farmer’s pose of “whats going on?” that I’ve seen my in-laws do a hundred times on their farm when someone drives down the lane to the house. Universal body language!

    As for the young guy in the picture, the uniform is brand new, ill-fitting and all the leather is new and unbroken in, especially the boots. My guess is that Uncle Pat is home showing off his new uniform fresh out of bootcamp, like anyone in any country, on his first leave. The man in the background only sees a figure at a distance, his back turned to him, so he is cautiously trying to figure out (1) who is the soldier/cop and (2) is this trouble/why is _________ taking his picture? I’d wait too after 8 years of the Easter rebellion and aftermath, then the Flying Columns vs. the Black & Tans, then the Civil War….smart move!

  9. It could also be a church village (judging by the medium size house and its little windows in the picture).

    Perhaps such villages existed closer to either Greenore, Co Louth. or Donegal, Irelandin, County Meath in Ireland.
    I regard that the location, where the picture was taken, is related to a village / farm in the Dublin area.

    Those are my basic suppositions at the moment.

  10. Here is another example of the uniform of the soldier of Irish Free State Army:{667b6548-68d7-4356-b27f-02da97545bbf}

    It is a portrait of the soldier General Michael Collins, taken in Ireland between 1840-1930.

  11. declan says:

    Thanks Tanya & Tim – i have to say I’m with Tim on this one. The arch feature is barely discernible and may just be a tree! I could be completely wrong. the building appears to me to be a typical farm building with the drain along the wall.

    Tanya – the link you provided above doesn’t appear to work… if you can you might try again.

    I think that finding the provenance of the photo may prove impossible…..


  12. Hi,
    here is the link which shows the portrait of General Michael Collins, taken in Ireland between 1840-1930:{667b6548-68d7-4356-b27f-02da97545bbf}

    Kind regards,
    Tanya Shekhovtsova

  13. Sorry, I cannot send the link right, as it is very long to be posted in the dialog box.
    Please, copy it in parts (first line + second line) in order to download.

    Thanks for understanding.

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