Looking Back in Time:
A Photo Essay

Ann Doherty on Beach Road in Gweedore, County Donegal.

By Ann Doherty
Febuary / March 2006

This collection finds me looking back at where my ancestors came from and retracing their lives. All the photos were taken in Donegal and the islands off the northwest coast. Several are of my family, who live in Gweedore, County Donegal, a rural area, and on Gola, an island one mile off the coast of Gweedore. Gola, which has been deserted for the last 40 years, is where my grandmother came from, and this essay documents a visit that my sister Kay and I made to the ruins of what was once her home on the island. Some of the other images are of the belongings I found on the island, such as the John Kennedy picture and the image of the glasses, which were left there like ghosts.

I took many photographs of my father’s uncle Philmy, who lives a simple solitary life untouched by the wider changes in society. He seems unaffected by all the modern age has brought upon us, and exudes an enviable sense of peace and calm. My uncle Owenie and my father John are also pictured, retracing the steps and rekindling the memories of their youth.

There are a brace of shots From Tory Island, located nine miles off the north coast of Donegal. This windswept and Atlantic-drenched island is regarded as one of the most remote and desolate of all Irish islands. This somber feeling is represented by images of the two women praying at the graveyard and the picture of local man, Thomas Meehan, who has since passed away. He wears an almost haunted look, and his face bears the mark of a man who has toiled hard in a harsh environment. The remaining images are of the wider community enjoying the beauty of island life and include one of my favorites, that of the old couple walking the strand at Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands.

Many of these images will be featuring in a Grealer London Authority St. Patrick’s Day exhibition at City Hall. ♦


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Back row, left.   Evelyn (born 1914), Anne (1913), Bridie (1908), Michael (1911), Mary (1905) Marguerite (1909), John (1916). Front row, left: Frank (1918), Michael O’Donnell (father), Leila (1925), Patrick (1924), Genevieve (1923), Margaret (Doogan) O’Donnell (mother), Philip (1920).
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