principles and elisions

we outlined in our previous postings the argument that we can identify within the photographic practices of both william fee mckinney and james glass the fierce sense of place, home, family that was situated within the irish popular mentality (i) of the late 19th/early 20th century. but we should not delimit our exploration within these two photographic practices to solely those discourses active only within the island of ireland and commonly related to nationalism / republicanism / sectarianism, or religious or contested national identity. within the body of these photographic practices, there will be displayed the traces of discourses that reach beyond these boundaries, that engage with ideas and events with transnational influence. historian nini rodgers has noted that

it was the revolutions in america and france that encouraged the political activities and ambitions of the ulster presbyterians … (with the revolution in France) … leading the world toward liberty, equality and fraternity, signifying the end to autocracy and the domination of aristocracy and priesthood. (ii)

for the period of this influence, the presbyterian community around sentry hill and carnmoney and the county of antrim was not in any way remote or distant from the influence of such ideas. it was in fact only some few miles from the centre of events and debate. as an example, the society of united irishmen, who sought to plant these reforming and revolutionary ideas in ireland, was formed by radical ulster presbyterians  in nearby belfast in october 1791. the society sought the end of perceived injustices in social and legal conditions in ireland, among them the submission to a church of ireland aristocracy and any demand for tithes to such institutions – such as the tithe demanded by the local church of ireland aristocracy from the mckinney’s own farm.

as evidence of the reach of such radical ideas within the mckinney family, there is an artefact featured within a photograph by william fee mckinney, and still physically present within the mckinney collection of family artefacts/heirlooms, which marks and celebrates late 18th century revolutionary events and radical political discourse across europe – the commemorative jug featured above, which celebrated the fall of the bastille in 1789, and which was presented to william’s grandfather’s brother james mckinney in county antrim in the 1790s.

and further, william mckinney’s own writings reflect upon how both his grandparents

joined the united irishmen who at first united only on reforms being made in the existing government without any intention of fighting…. (iii)

and after suppression and the execution of members of the society of united irishmen, preparations for their 1798 rebellion were commenced. and in the rebellion itself, in june 1798 mckinney’s grandfather carried the signal for local united irishmen to rise and march on antrim town  – but the rebellion failed. william’s great-uncle, samuel george, was killed at the battle of antrim, an event that was still being commemorated visually within the period of mckinley’s own adult years by respectable figures such as the artist reverend jw carey of county down,  who in 1899, set up a business in belfast (carey & thomson) specializing in high quality illuminated addresses, presentation albums, and book plates ( and we can speculate and research further any connection between carey’s business as a source for mckinney’s own albums).


there is a perspective which could propose that the primary reading of william fee mckinney’s adult years should recognise no role or influence of such radical ideas, as any engagement with radical causes within his familial or social milieu simply ceased after the 1798 rebellion. for example, it is recorded that in 1800 mckinley’s grandfather john mckinney, as a freehold voter, had signed a petition in favour of the act of union between england and ireland. (iv)

however, the defeat of the united irishmen

did not mean the end of their ideals, and dr william drennan, coiner of the principles of the united irishmen, was a founder in 1810 of the belfast academical institution, among whose aims was demonstrably the continuation of revolution by other, educational, means as articulated in drennan’s wish that: ‘ a new turn might be given to the national character and habits’ … (v)

and its is therefore noteworthy that subsequently, for three generations, the mckinneys selected this belfast academical institution as the primary educational influence upon most of the young sons within the mckinney family, with two of william fee mckinney’s brothers and all of his own sons and several of his grandsons being taught there. of course across a century from the late 1790s onwards, the urgency and visual primacy of such radicalism did diminish but it could be argued – despite the fact that in 1831 the school the belfast academical institution accepted the title of ‘royal’ preferred by king william iv (as the institute itself argues, this was a process engaged in less out of loyalty, than the need to appropriately distance the institution, in the later nineteenth century, from its radical-republican origins and to secure a government grant to maintain the collegiate department (vi) )  – that the role of the royal belfast academical institution within the family lineage of the mckinneys, through the shared relation within the lineage of  the school and the mckinneys to 1798, the united irishmen and allied radical, reformist and revolutionary ideas, functions at least as trace of this radical lineage.

so can the strands of the radical, reformist and revolutionary perhaps be traced within the photographic practice of william fee mckinney himself? we can speculate for now that the photographs by william fee mckinney below, of his grandchildren thomas mckinney and jack dundee, may feature a belfast academical school uniform or at least a belfast academical school cap :

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from such traces being identified and made visible in the photographic practice of william fee mckinney, we have been able to indicate the progressive elision of the radical, reformist and revolutionary from the presbyterian community within which the mckinneys of sentry hill worked and lived. as the united irishmen had the radical aim of uniting ‘protestant, catholic and dissenter’ we can perhaps characterise this as the regressive elision of dissent from the dissenter. but we can, through a process of indicating signs of this lineage where they are displayed within the photographic practice of william fee mckinley, develop an argument against this visual elision.

furthermore, we can can expand this argument beyond the specificities of the framework solely of ulster and ireland.

for the mckinney’s, the period of their relationship to sentry hill across the 1790s to the 1880s commenced with john mckinney (william mckinney’s grandfather) acquiring a 31 year lease on a 20 acre property – and with both of william fee mckinney’s grandfathers being engaged with the radicalism, rebellion and reform, the french revolutionary ideals of liberty, legality, fraternity, and the united irishmen. and the period ended with william fee mckinney having by the 1880’s full (non-leasehold) ownership of almost 100 acres, and with him acting as a minor landlord of farming land and of built property, so accumulating financial capital allied to an accumulation of social and cultural capital, such as a developing influence for william within the respectable bodies and institutions of his local community around sentry hill and developing affiliations with respected belfast societies etc.

so we can outline a gradual process across this period within which any agency as radical or dissenter was being eclipsed by agency as a secure part of the bourgeoisie.

the historian marc mulholland’s bourgeois liberty and the politics of fear can be used to indicate a key perspectives on reading such a process, by letting us survey the developing ‘radical to bourgeois’ status of the mckinneys at sentry hill through the broader perspective of european history and class history. initially quoting jurgen kocka, outlining that within the development of the bourgeoisie across this late 18th to late 19th century period, the parallels with the development of the mckinneys at sentry hill are striking:

in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they (the bourgeoisie) set themselves apart from the world of aristocratic privilege, unrestricted absolutism, and religious orthodoxy;

– within this argument we could situate the mckinney’s allegiance to radicalism, rebellion and reform, the french revolutionary ideals of liberty, legality, fraternity, and the united irishmen and participation in rebellion –

and in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries… ( they (the bourgeoisie) set themselves apart) … from those below them, the lower strata, the people, the working class… the different sections of the bourgeoisie shared a common culture, defined by a specific type of family life and unequal gender relations, respect for work and education, and emphasis on personal autonomy, achievement and success; and by a specific view of the world and a typical style of life in which clubs, associations, and urban communication played an important role. (vii)

mulholland’s analysis continues to almost mirror this latter social framework of the mckinneys of sentry hill as displayed within the photographic practice of william mckinney:

the point about bourgeois civil society, with its foundation of association, family, education, and assets of inherited property and wealth, is that it prepares its members to actualise their marker potential not just through formal education, but also childhood socialisation into habits of self-confidence, communication skills, and attunement with the dominant culture of success. bourgeois ‘habitus’, as pierre bourdieu put it, generates valuable ‘social capital’ and ‘cultural capital’, which in turn leverages ‘real’ capital… (viii)

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(i) kevin whelan, eviction, in ed. wj mccormack , the blackwell companion to modern irish literature, oxford, 1999 quoted in l. perry curtis, the depiction of eviction in ireland 1845-1910, dublin, ucd press, 2011, p24

(ii) nini rodgers, “transatlantic family journeys”, in faith and slavery in the presbyterian diaspora, ed. william harrison taylor, peter c. messer, rowman & little field, 1988

(iii) william fee mckinney quoted in brian walker, sentry hill: an ulster farm and family, dundonald, blackstaff, 2001


(v) david cairns & shaun richards, writing ireland: colonialism, nationalism, and culture, manchester, manchester university press, 1988, p22


(vii) marc mulholland, bourgeois liberty and the politics of fear: from absolutism to neoconservatism, oxford, oxford university press, 2012, p4

(viii) marc mulholland, bourgeois liberty and the politics of fear: from absolutism to neoconservatism, oxford, oxford university press, 2012, p7

trinities, refractions

part of the initial impetus to this research across two contemporaneous late 19th/early 20th century ulster photographic practices (james glass and william fee mckinney) was the potential to research themes and tropes reflected or refracted between them. as examples: a studio photographer and an amateur photographer, the north-west and the east of ulster, the contested national identity within derry and the solid national identity within county antrim, the ‘genres’ (to borrow the terminology of critic karen strassler, see below) present across their photographic practices of studio portraiture, social document, family album.

that notion of refraction is engaged with by karen strassler in her research into photography, identity and national identity in java across colonial and post-colonial periods. speaking of the bodily pose within the framework of studio portraiture as a ‘genre’ she writes

this bodily molding anticipates being seen by others and is a bid to be recognized in a particular way. as subjects of photographs, people both appropriate available image-repertoires to stake claims to particular identities and social positions and, at the same time, are subjected to ideologies and narratives attached to these visual appearances that are not entirely of their own making. the term “ refraction” also illuminates the processes of redirection and transformation that occur as ways of seeing, modes of interpretation, and habits of practice attached to one photographic genre or representational form refract within another.(i)

and to use even only the images that we have already encountered within this blog, we can still ask could such refraction be functioning here:

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(l. william fee mckinney photograph / r. james glass photograph and copy in campaigning land war pamphlet / see blog entries below for more details)

there is in the most simplistic sense some presence of habitat/property and inhabitant shared across all these images. in fact it is it is crucial to acknowledge how opaque or transparent such an instinctive reading is, and what such opacity or transparency may itself indicate. what is striking for now is that each of these images resonates not just with habitat/property and inhabitant as a platonic ideal, but rather within what could be called a range of refraction for the thematic of place/home/family that functioned as a central trope across late nineteenth-century ireland:

haunted by the ubiquity of displacement and family disintegration, the irish popular mentality nurtured as a counterpoise a fierce sense of place, home, family. any forces which threatened this trinity destabilised the equanimity of the popular imagination. (ii)

while the james glass photograph of ‘view of ruinous gweedore dwelling with occupant’ may be the kind of visual sign that we would expect to see constructed from within that central trinity of place/home/family in the popular mentality in late nineteenth-century ulster, it is vital to acknowledge the status of this photograph as the visual survey of an outsider, and to question the relationship and the refraction between the language of display and the function of making a photographic social document (which was not the primary photographic genre exercised by james glass), and the language and function of making a photographic portrait (which was the primary photographic genre exercised by james glass).

and while the line-drawing copy in massingham’s campaigning pamphlet of james glass’ ‘view of ruinous gweedore dwelling with occupant’ may be the kind of visual sign that we would expect to see constructed from within that central trinity of place/home/family in the popular mentality in late nineteenth-century ulster, it is vital to acknowledge its lineage as the visual survey of a series of outsiders, first the photographer as outsider, then author as outsider and then copying artist as outsider , and to examine within the image the refraction of meanings, intent and agency for the photographer, for the photographic subject and for the author/campaigner and the copying artist.

the william fee mckinney photograph of a social gathering at sentry hill in county antrim may not be the kind of visual sign that we would expect to relate to the discussion of eviction and the attendant central trinity of place/home/family in the popular mentality in late nineteenth-century ulster. however, in this photograph, can that destabilising central threat of eviction, that central trinity of place/home/family in the popular mentality in late nineteenth ulster be seen refracted across ulster west to east? mckinney’s photograph is, as already indicated below, part of the informal socialization of elite groups but it also functions to identify the central trinity of place/home/family for an ulster presbyterian community in the era of the land war, to display their own secured connection to their place for an ulster presbyterian community in the era of the home rule crisis.

(i) karen strassler, refracted visions: popular photography and national modernity in java, duke university press, 2010, p26

(ii) kevin whelan, eviction, in ed. wj mccormack , the blackwell companion to modern irish literature, oxford, 1999 quoted in l. perry curtis, the depiction of eviction in ireland 1845-1910, dublin, ucd press, 2011, p24

‘seen and witnessed’

contemporary and historical perspectives which reinforce a sense that across the latter half of the nineteenth century the western counties of ireland and westernmost county of ulster served as sites for repeated instances of observation and survey – what could be described as open laboratories for processes of interpellation  –  are broadly discussed across a range of literatures: for example from twentieth century academic biography referenced via twenty-first century local history:

the subject of deprivation in ireland preoccupied the british authorities for the greater part of the nineteenth century; it was the main issue addressed in all government reports between 1887 and 1890. (i);

to a contemporary account from within late 1800’s ulster such as schoolteacher hugh dorian’s ‘history from below’, outlining within the specific language of vision and visibility the contemporary popular consciousness of the population being a locus of observation and survey:

at the present time, 1889, all eyes of feeling christians of the united kingdom and of many parts elsewhere are directed towards donegal (ii).

furthermore, as dorian continues within his own footnotes to outline briefly the specific land war events of that year of 1889 which had led to this particular experience of observation, he uses again within his account the language of vision and specifically the language of visibility as witness, indicating that within this social framework judicial actions specifically functioned as instances of display, and that such actions were experienced through visual metaphor and visual analogy, and all at a geographical reach across a large province such as ulster:

priest and peasant, the old man, the sturdy youth and the blooming maid, taken prisoners, marched between two file of soldiers from gweedore to derry gaol. anyone who had seen witnessed the procession from pennyburn to bishop street queen’s hotel, can never forget it …it could not be compared to roman victory or procession in days of paganism. it was more like hell opened until the iron gates closed upon their prey … (iii)

and so a set of land war events in the western edges of ulster are not only reported within contemporary print media, but also refracted as spectacle on the streets of ulster’s second city derry.

and the specific set of land war events in the western edges of ulster reaches further still, refracted again within the spectacle of a ‘massive indignation meeting’, in fact ‘one of the finest meetings ever held in the city’ within the ulster hall in belfast in february 1889, discussing these specific distant land war events in the western edges of ulster as part of the broad contemporary debate about the issue of land and home rule, and discussing the events once again within the language of display and appearance, with a reverend kane projecting in his speech from the podium for his assembled audience a fixed image, declaring that the people of the gweedore region were ‘ as innocent and credulous as the painted children of the prairie’ (iv).

and in terms of photographic practice within ulster in this period, contemporary photographs of living conditions within the region of gweedore by the derry photographer james glass  also now gain further traction with one photograph copied as a graphic to feature on the cover of a liberal reformist’s pamphlet on the issue of land and home rule and the events within the gweedore:

L 440-2[1].

and another of james glass’ photographs of the setting of these specific land war events presented and annotated as visual evidence  – a theme to which we shall return – included within the pamphlet itself (v):

The Gweedore Hunt, HW Massingham, p16-17

L 439-16

(i) Arthur Balfour’s Tour of Donegal (1890) by S. Beattie in ed. S. Beattie, Donegal Annual: Journal of the County Donegal Historical Society No.57, Donegal, 2005 referencing Catherine B. Shannon. Arthur J. Balfour and Ireland, 1874–1922. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press. 1988

(ii) and (iii) ed. Breandán Mac Suibhne and David Dickson, The Outer Edge of Ulster: A Memoir of Social Life in Nineteenth-Century Donegal by Hugh Dorian. Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 2001

(iv) from the belfast newsletter, 15 feb 1889, discussed in Breandán Mac Suibhne and David Dickson.

(v) images from the NMNI collection specified as the James Glass Album, and the publication H. W. Massingham, The Gweedore Hunt: A Story of English Justice in Ireland, London, 1889.

genealogies and mappings

although the photographic practice of william fee mckinney did not begin until the 1880’s it does not stand apart from of his broader related interests across previous decades, with his photographic studies of kith and kin from the 1880s onwards being produced and assembled alongside his interests such as antiquarian studies, genealogy and local history and the collecting and display of artefacts. in fact across the five decades of mckinney’s life up to the 1880s, within the province of ulster and the whole island of ireland many rural populations had seemed to function on an ongoing basis as sites for typologies and discourses of display and observation, sites of interpellation within a society in which there was a complex interaction of identity formation, individual agency and culture: from the first 6′ mapping by the ordnance survey on the island in the 1830’s; to famine-related research visits across rural areas or farms from various commissions of enquiry from westminster or investigations into areas of ulster by charitable or aid institutions in the 1840’s and 1850’s; or across the 1860’s, 70’s and 80’s the pedagogic gaze of reforming landlords or politicians or reformers or authors; or the broader surveillance framework of the national network of notetakers of the royal irish constabulary and its network of paid petty informers delivering minutely detailed reports to the administration of dublin castle across the period of the land war; or the various graphic depictions from photographs of ‘eviction studies’ or urban sectarian riots for the national and international press of the time; and alongside these complex instances of visibilities, identities, opacities funcioning in ulster at the time, there were also other photographic studies of the region and its population being represented from the 1860s onwards within the essentialising paradigms of the picturesque and the antiquarian, such as the dioramas produced for events such as thomas charles stuart corry’s “diorama of ireland” active in belfast in the 1860’s or the those images being produced by ulster photographers for the lawrence collection of magic lantern slides and within groups such as the belfast naturalist field club.

the social practices listed above will ebb and flow across the development of this study of  the contemporary rationale/demand for the production of the photographic practices of william mckinney and james glass, but here we will  commence with the earliest of these – the first ordnance survey of the island in the 1830’s covering the period of mckinney’s childhood in sentry hill:

in 1824, a house of commons committee recommended a townland survey of ireland with maps at the scale of 6″, to facilitate a uniform valuation for local taxation. … the survey was directed by colonel thomas colby… civil assistants were recruited to help with sketching, drawing and engraving of maps, and eventually, in the 1830’s, the writing of the memoirs (from the ordnance survey memoirs of ireland, volume two, parishes of county antrim (i), 1838-9, ballymartin, ballyrobert, ballywalter, carnmoney, mallusk, pub the institute of irish studies, belfast & the royal irish academy, dublin, 1990)

this usefully establishes two things  – firstly that within mckinney’s childhood years, a significant survey was conducted, making an official recording, as map and hand drawn sketches and written accounts of this community, as part of the massive national undertaking of the first ordnance survey mapping across the island of ireland. this process was of such significant scale that it was both a national event and an event which made a significant presence within each local rural population, with by the late 1830’s a total of no less than 2,139 ordnance surveyors ‘crawling over the face of ireland’ (i) in a what was described in its time as ‘an embrace of anthropology, statistics, toponymy, antiquarianism, geology and map making … held up to be an exemplary model of interdisciplinarity’ (ii) and described since as a late exemplar of the enlightenment’s enthusiasm for ‘a vibrant public sphere of fevered collaborative discussion’ (iii).

on the ground, so to speak, within communities such as the parish of carmoney and the townlands of ballyvesey, ballycraigy, ballyhenry and mollusk that surround sentry hill,  this event would have been experienced as follows:

landowners and professionals (who) were members of antiquarian or literary societies, amateur collectors, and authors of local studies … introduced ordnance survey staff to other antiquarians, showed them the antiquities of the region, and allowed them to use their private museums and libraries, which often held valuable artifacts and manuscripts…. proprietors who held legal or political office, land agents, bailiffs, tithe and cess collectors supplied the ordnance survey with voluminous records and shared their expert knowledge… clerics, schoolmasters, small farmers and labourers, were excellent sources of information, especially in the countryside where there was continuity of settlement, and in Irish-speaking or recently anglicised areas where oral culture was still strong…. in rural ireland, generations of families often lived in the same place and preserved traditions about local place-names, history and legends, which they imparted to ordnance survey staff. topographical department scholars sought out teachers and clerics in particular, who often traveled with them to procure information, pointed out historic and archaeological sites, introduced them directly to ‘qualified inhabitants’, and put them in contact with knowledgeable people elsewhere…. most people gave assistance freely and generously… (iv)

in fact, we  can speculate with some certainty that within william fee mckinney’s childhood years that part of the mckinney family itself may have had the experience of a direct conversation with the note-takers and researchers of the ordnance survey. we can with some confidence assume a mistake in the written account of a ‘mckenney’ being consulted in the carnmoney parish as part of the survey, and we can assume the true name was mckinney as no mckenneys appear in records of carnmoney in this period. and so the we have a view from the ground provided by this survey:

extracts from fair sheets by thomas fagan, february to april 1839: ancient topography: discoveries in carnmoney: in carnmoney and holding of miss mckenney, and about a quarter of a mile north west of the church were discovered beneath the surface within the last ten years, quantities of decayed human bones, also a small earthen urn containing calcined bones and ashes…. the tract of ground in question was an ancient graveyard attached to the ancient city of cool, said to have stood in this district … it is further added that in the aforesaid miss mckenney’s farm stood an old draw-well which is now closed, but in which is deposited a large quantity of gold, silver and other valuables belonging to the above ancient city, and which was conveyed to it in carloads at a period when the city was threatened with destruction. (99)

and regardless of any direct contact, the process of the ordnance survey surrounded each and every homeplace. see for example the illustration above this blog posting features the part of the mapping process known as the detail survey with theodolites and chain lines, in which:

district commanders then used smaller theodolites to observe the secondary and tertiary trigonometric network. chain lines were run between the tertiary stations giving a check on the trigonometrical computed distance and facilitating the subdivision of the triangle for detail chain survey every road and track. all and hedge, river and stream, house and barn was surveyed and mapped. (v)

beyond the physical survey of the land, and beyond conversations and interviews recording the oral accounts of local antiquarian legend, the work of the written ordnance survey memoirs of ireland was experienced on the ground as research enquiring into into the broader dynamics and relations within local society, with queries into everything from manners to commerce and society:

extracts from parish of carnmoney, county antrim, memoir by james boyle,  28th april 1839:

ballycraigy, ballycraig: ” the townland of the rocks”, from bally and craig “a rock”. there are several little basaltic hummocks or cliffs in this townland…

ballyesey, “the town of the vesesys”… (34)

gentlemen’s seats: there are in this parish 17 gentlemen’s residencies, which with 2 exceptions are situated along its coast and which are nearly all of comparatively modern erection… they are with a few exceptions the property of a wealthy mercantile aristocracy, most of their owners being still engaged in trade as belfast merchants and a few of them having within a few years retired to the country… (46)

it is interesting to consider this discourse of status within a small social setting of this parish as the social and cultural framework within which william mckinney was born and raised, and within which he then in his subsequent adult years achieved a not insignificant economic status of  a gentleman farmer of some 100 acres. we could speculate that with the fact that the peak of the social status within this parish at the time being a wealthy mercantile aristocracy – in contrast for example to the arguable illegible ahistorical lineage and attendant status (fetish?) of a landed aristocracy – such a tradition of a local elite would be comfortably within the reach and within the field of vision of a gentleman farmer of some 100 acres, such as william fee mckinney.

William Fee mckInney, Present were member of all the leading Carnmoney families Sentry Hill, 3rd June 1902 from NMNI collections

the photograph above has been described elsewhere as:

during the early years of the new century parties were often held at sentry hill. the photograph was taken by william mckinney on one such occasion in June 1902. present were all members of all the leading carnmoney families. (my emphasis) they included substantial farming families such as the chisolms and the houstons and also those like the mcbrides, wilsons, and boyds who owned local industries.  (78) (vi)

both this photographic portrait and this act of photographic portraiture function within what has been described as the informal socialization of elite groups (vii), determining mckinney as kith and kin within the wealth and status, within the social, political and cultural capital of a mercantile aristocracy, and in fact determining a mercantile aristocracy as a legible narrative against which a gentleman farmer of some 100 acres – and furthermore a gentleman farmer situated upon the foundation of a thoroughly researched and documented lineage of a place within the parish – could measure and determine with some satisfaction his own social, political and cultural capital.

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(image above is the mckinney family tree, researched, documented and handwritten by william mckinney) (marx on genealogy, heraldry, zoology may be of use here with reference to mckinney’s antiquarianism.)

and while this parish of carnmoney in which a gentleman farmer of some 100 acres resides could not in any sense be considered a nationally or regionally significant location,  it is important to note that these accounts record that it is not remote, and that within it there are communications facilitating contact with the regional centre of infrastructural power, finance, innovation, culture:

extract from: parish of carnmoney, county antrim, memoir by james boyle,  28th april 1839: communications,: roads: few districts are so amply provided as this, there being 13 miles 4 furlongs 34 perches of main and 19 miles 4 furlongs 16 perches of by and cross-roads, including the old main roads which have been superseded by the improved lines of modern construction. the roads are in fact much too numerous, but this arises from the number of important leading lines which traverse the parish and from there necessary improvements upon the old ones by the construction of those more suited to the great traffic between belfast and the districts west and north of this parish. all the leading roads from the northern and western portions of this county, and from the county derry and northern part of tyrone to belfast, pass through this parish, and all the present main roads have been constructed within the last 8 years, and their number thereby been doubled. (49)

(i) (ii) and (iii) rachel hewitt, map of a nation: a biography of the ordnance survey, london granta, 2011

(iv) gillian smith, an éye on the survey, history ireland, issue 2, summer 2001, volume 9, 2001


(vi) Brian M. Walker, Sentry Hill: An Ulster Farm and Family, Dundonald, Blackstaff, 2001

(vii) one of the most important considerations in historical sociology has been the question of social capital, social status and the informal socialization of elite groups. this is a feature of the work of bourdieu… (25) in ciarain o’nell, ed. irish elites in the nineteenth century, dublin, four courts press, 2013

(featured image above this posting is ‘royal sappers and miners at work’ from gillian smith, an éye on the survey, history ireland, issue 2, summer 2001, volume 9, 2001)


sentry hill & mr punch

several photographs by william fee mckinney feature a miss annie baird. one photograph features her in 1902 in a large group at a social function at sentry hill, then two much later photographs feature her sat upon a chair in front of a doorway at sentry hill, posed with a copy of the satirical british magazine punch in her hands, one looking at the camera with the magazine on her lap, in the other she looks at the magazine.

we can likely date these two later photographs to sometime around 1912-17- as the sitter’s wedding or engagement ring is visible, and her wedding date was 2 january 1914. further visual research may be able to indicate the exact date of the magazine, which features very much as a prop within one of these two photographs, as a representation of a literate woman on an ornate dining chair at the doorway of a subtantial home, looking over an issue of one of the most influential, and characteristic, british magazines of the era.

there is some contrast across this 1912-17 period in how political affairs from ulster or ireland are featured or characterised visually in cartoons or reports in punch magazine. across the first half of ww1, 1914-16, when the events of the war had become by far the predominant subject material, there are very few cartoons on political affairs from ulster or ireland. this is in stark contrast to the period just before the war – by 1914 across the period of the home-rule crisis, the ulster volunteer force, larne gun-running and the ulster covenant, the magazine was running half of its cartoons on irish political themes (i). and of course, in the period immediately after the easter rising affairs from ulster or ireland are prominently featured.

some examples from the issues of punch from 1916 in the months before the easter rising: small cartoons on irish figures feature within the magazine’s house of commons political sketch ‘essence of parliament’ column  of 5 april 1916, with carson characterised as a skilled and shrewd political operator, indeed within the common stereotype (of him) as of the stern, unyielding Ulsterman (ii) featured in the magazine in this period,

punch 5 april 1916

and in issues from 26 january 26th and some weeks earlier on 12 january 26th the same ‘essence of parliament’ columns had featured respectively the cartoons “i’ll not have conscription” which featured carson characterised as shrewd and forceful, while john redmond is featured in the magazine’s characteristic register for him through a demeaning caricature as a rather buffoonish figure, as either hopelessly unprofessional or a self-important fool or positively ridiculous (iii), or even as a stupid, bloated and feckless gombeen man, often with a pig in tow (iv)

26 january 26th punch magazine 'essence of parliament'

and although punch magazine at this time was no longer featuring what had been its common victorian era cartoon portrayals of the irish as simian-like brutes,  nonetheless in this later period english cartoonists were losing their appetite for simianised paddies, and they returned to such traditional symbols as … the inevitable irish pig (iv),  and this 12 january 26th issue of punch also characterised irish nationalist opposition to conscription with a repetition of its standard register of the demeaning irish stereotype at that time – as a ragged, filthy, uneducated, oppugnant, easily-duped peasant, a creature at home in the sty daring to address the affairs of state.

on 12 january 12th the same 'essence of parliament'

as noted by joseph p. finnan, many of punch magazine’s portrayals of the irish in the 1910s reflected persistent stereotypes of rowdy, unsophisticated peasants, symbolised by frequent representations of ‘paddy and his pig’. john redmond himself, a dignified member of the british parliament for nearly thirty years who looked as much at home in a top-hat as any british political leader, could not escape this stereotype. fully one-third of the portrayals of him for the period from 1910 to 1918 showed him in this ‘paddy’ identity, often with pig in tow. one cartoon even displayed redmond himself as a pig. (of course, this portrayal was not confined to the pages of punch, and in fact appeared frequently in many british publications of the time. depiction of redmond as a stereotypical ‘paddy’ complete with clay pipe, shillelagh and accompanying pig, surfaced in the daily graphic, the pall mall gazette, the westminster gazette and reynold’s newspaper.(v)

in the 26 april 1916 issue of punch magazine, the last issue published before the easter rising, the political affairs of ulster or ireland are featured only within the magazine’s regular parliamentary sketch column ‘essence of parliament’.


however, within this column the recent participation of ulster and irish mps in westminster is featured prominently, and within the language used there is a notable contrast between on the one hand, a condescending and patronising tone noting that mr (john) redmond’s irish nationalist party ‘followers’ regularly troop over from dublin to the rescue of a coalition parliamentary vote whenever needed, and on the other hand, a more reasoned note on the unionist (edward) carson’s participation that week within parliamentary debates at westminster, his call for full conscription to be introduced across ireland, in opposition to the call from nationalist irish campaigners for ireland to be exempted from the much debated new british policy of conscription.


one other point is worth noting here, indicating the discourse of punch magazine across this period . if this were the 26 april 1916 issue of the magazine punch being browsed through by miss annie baird, as she sits perhaps posed by the photographer william mckinley and as she is gazed upon, photographed and documented as she in turn considers the visual representation of punch magazine itself, then in this browsing miss annie baird will see through the magazine a telling visual commentary upon the new social function of women from the period, what is known as the ‘new woman’ of ww1, now being called upon and identified by government as agents of a new and now essential industrial, social, political and military function, as punch nevertheless continues to ridicule both (women in) their new jobs and the women who did nothing, but vacillated greatly between condoning female workers and deriding them…(and) found the changing role of women an easy target, but the fact that this subject was constantly employed for comedy throughout the war suggests that the paper was regrettably accurate in portraying themes the public found amusing.  this is a very obvious way in which comedy was used to displace fear of change. … despite the changing demographics of britain during the war, patriarchal values still dominated the modes of cultural production. women were supposed to be unthreatening; they had little influence in the popular press and therefore punch was free to enforce more familiar attitudes of domesticity and male dominance. cartoons and articles satirising women dominated most issues. (vi)

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(i) throwing a punch in ireland’s direction, patrick smyth, the irish times, april 25, 2012,, accessed 9/12/17

(ii) & (iii) punch’s portrayal of redmond, carson and the irish question, 1910-18 author(s): joseph p. finnan. source: irish historical studies, vol. 33, no. 132 (nov., 2003), pp. 424-451 published by: cambridge university press. stable url: – accessed: 11-12-2017 12:39 utc

(iv) throwing a punch in ireland’s direction, patrick smyth, the irish times, april 25, 2012,, accessed 9/12/17

(v)  apes and angels: the irishman in victorian caricature first published in 1971, l. perry curtis, quoted in  joseph p. finnan above.

(vi) joseph p. finnan as above

(vi) esther maccallum-stewart, satirical magazines of the first world war: punch and the wipers times,, accessed 10/12/17



glass | prism

in this 1870s – 1880s period, while william fee mckinney in country antrim engaged in his antiquarian and photographic practices and enthusiasms – collecting farming, church and other records and artefacts (he had a deep interest in the history of presbyterianism in ireland) and in his participation as member of the belfast natural history and philosophical society and as member of the linen hall library – james glass (born 1847, died 1931) was establishing his skills and business as a professional photographer in the city of derry and also engaging within the broader presbyterian community in the city, becoming a respected member of his local presbyterian church – a superintendent of the sabbath school and senior elder at carlisle road presbyterian church, built in 1879 – to the extent of still being noted within his church community up to some twenty years after his death through a portrait and stained glass window gifted to the church by his wife and daughter and a bequest to the church in 1957 known as the ‘james glass bequest’.

Carlisle Road Presbyterian Church - History6

james glass had arrived in derry around 1861 with his father alexander glass, who in 1858 was farming 16 acres in the townland of ballyboe glencar in conwal parish, county donegal, just to the north of letterkenny. in the city of derry james glass was first apprenticed to alexander ayton who had a photographic studio at kennedy place in the city, with glass later establishing his own studio in the city, firstly in partnership with young and then alone.


with the photographic practices of glass and mckinney as the key agents within our analysis, we are therefore equipped to interrogate the strategic function (i) for the medium of photography, the function of photography as a formation determining linkages between perception, meaning and the construction of identities, the function of photography as a perceptual apparatus with the capacity to capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviors, opinions, or discourses of living beings, here across the discourses of the presbyterian communities within mid to late 19th and early 20th century ulster and their agency within that period, and across the antiquarian, archival, institutional and technological frameworks within which we now engage with these practices.

in “the confession of the flesh” foucault notes that “i understand by the term “apparatus” a sort of–shall we say–formation which has as its major function at a given historical moment that of responding to an urgent need” (ii)

to interrogate the urgent need which this apparatus answers we can explore how the  aesthetics, ethics, technologies, beliefs, economies, laws, customs, loyalties, affiliations of  the presbyterian communities of late 19th and early 20th century ulster are refracted through the prism of the photographic practices of glass and mckinney.


(i) & (ii)

foucault defined his use of the term dispositif (apparatus) in 1977:

what I’m trying to pick out with this term is, firstly, a thoroughly heterogenous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions–in short, the said as much as the unsaid. Such are the elements of the apparatus. the apparatus itself is the system of relations that can be established between these elements.

secondly, what I am trying to identify in this apparatus is precisely the nature of the connection that can exist between these heterogenous elements… 

between these elements, whether discursive or non-discursive, there is a sort of interplay of shifts of position and modifications of function which can also vary very widely.

thirdly, I understand by the term “apparatus” a sort of–shall we say–formation which has as its major function at a given historical moment that of responding to an urgent need. the apparatus thus has a dominant strategic function. (“the confession of the flesh” (1977) interview. in power/knowledge selected interviews and other writings (ed colin gordon), 1980: pp. 194-228. this interview was conducted by a round-table of historians.)



the image above is from george combe’s a system of phrenology, 5th edn, 2 vols. 1853, perhaps the most detailed and authoritative popular phrenology text ever written, and in print across the 19th century.

as noted by allan sekula in the body and the archive, “the proliferation of photography and that of phrenology were quite coincident”, with the discourse of phrenology determining that appearance and mental capacities and character are concomitant, within the same period that the popular discourse of photography was itself developing.

a glance at any photograph of darwin is sufficient to convince any one that his brain was so imperfectly developed that he was not naturally capable of exhibiting any higher functions of mind, and could only be a keen observer of facts and a steady plodder in experiments. (s. mckinney, the science and art of religion (london: kegan paul, trench & co. 1888), pp. 35–36.)

these are the words of samuel bigger giffen mckinney (1848 – 1908), one of the eight siblings of william fee mckinney.  samuel bigger giffen mckinney practised medicine and was an author of five books on religious and moral subjects (i). his commentary on darwinism and religion was a contribution to the dynamic debate on darwin’s theories – primarily in the manner of vehement rebuttal – across the late 1870s and into the 1880s  amongst the presbyterian hierarchy and the broader calvinist, pan-presbyterian communities in and around belfast and within groups such as the belfast natural history and philosophical society. william fee mckinney was an active participant and presence within these circles across this period, just as his nascent interest and enthusiastic amateur photographic practice was developing.

these debates and vehement rebuttals of darwin’s theories had taken particular strength within the presbyterian hierarchy and the broader calvinist, pan-presbyterian communities in and around belfast as response to an address and subsequent publication in 1874 by john tyndall to the annual meeting of the british association for the advancement of science, which was held in belfast that year. tyndall’s address was essentially a call to liberate the discourse of science from theological control.

for william fee mckinney and his circles what were the other active forces with the capacity to capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviors, opinions, or discourses of living beings?



it is worth noting here that i will return later to the fact that samuel mckinney’s texts continues on to accuse the evolutionary anthropologist defenders of darwinism – in strikingly ‘progressive modern’ terms – of racism and imperialism


“i will call an apparatus literally anything that has in some way the capacity to capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviors, opinions, or discourses of living beings.” giorgio agamben, what is an apparatus and other essays, stanford university press (2009)