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Inspiring Ireland 1916 blog: Trenches...Hell...Biscuits: From the Rising to the battlefields of France in 1916

Inspiring Ireland 1916 blog: Trenches...Hell...Biscuits: From the Rising to the battlefields of France in 1916

by Damien Burke, Irish Jesuit Archives

A new blog reflecting on the Inspiring Ireland 1916 digital exhibitions, A Closer Look at Inspiring Ireland 1916 Objects, has been launched. Inspiring Ireland 1916 is the next phase of the multiple-award-winning cultural heritage resource Inspiring Ireland. The latest blog post, by assistant archivist at the Irish Jesuit Archives, Damien Burke, takes a modern art installation inspired by the tobacconist shop once owned by 1916 Proclamation signatory Tom Clarke, as the starting point for examining diaries and correspondence of 'ordinary people and everyday heroes' - the padres and soldiers who experienced the horrors of war together in France in 1916. The contents revealed a hidden history linking Belvedere College, the Jesuit-run alma mater of 1916 Rising leader Joseph Plunkett, with Rita Duffy the artist who created 'The Souvenir Shop' for the Arts Council Ireland 2016 programme.

From April to June 2016, number 13 North Great George’s Street, Dublin was transformed into an art installation, styled as a shop. ‘The Souvenir Shop’ created by Rita Duffy and curated by Helen Carey, took inspiration from the tobacconist shop once owned by the 1916 Proclamation signatory, Tom Clarke. In this Georgian townhouse, Duffy reappraised the legacy of 1916 by presenting ‘souvenirs’ for sale that facilitate a reaction in the customer. By purchasing souvenirs such as ‘Free State’ jam, ‘Rise Up: Reach for a new Republic’ baking soda and Mexican graveside candles of Patrick Pearse, the customer is complicit in fulfilling the shop’s  raison d'être. The humour and irony in the ‘skewed meanings juxtaposed against original function’ seek to question our attitudes towards violence, commemoration, economics, gender and power.

A few doors up from number 13, at the top of North Great George’s Street, is Belvedere House, the home of Belvedere College SJ. In 1916, twenty-four past pupils of the Jesuit-run Belvedere College were involved in the Rising, on both sides. Joseph Mary Plunkett on the rebel side and Reginald Clery, a member of the Georgius Rex Brigade (or “Gorgeous Wrecks” to the Dublin wags) on the British side, both died in the Rising.