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Faces from the Past - Merchant Seamen from Dundalk in the early 20th Century




Faces from the Past - Merchant Seamen from Dundalk in the early 20th Century


On Thursday July 8th  last an exhibition on Dundalk’s seafaring past was opened by Charley McCarthy at the County Museum, Dundalk.  Faces from the Past – Merchant Seamen from Dundalk in the early Twentieth Century features a collection of over 350 identity cards of Dundalk men who served in the merchant navy between 1918-1921.  The cards include personal details, foreign voyages and most importantly, a passport style photo of each seaman. 


One of the abiding memories of the evening was the reaction of one of the first guests who spotted a photograph not only of his father but of his uncle as well, a man who he had never seeen before.  This reaction set the tone for the evening, with David Snook, the man who came up with the idea of the exhibtion already in receipt of emails confirming family ties and relations. 


Above and beyond all else the images remain the most evocative aspect to the exhibtion. As Museum Curator, Brian Walsh noted,  “the images are the most striking aspect to the exhibition.  We have these magnificent black and white photographs of these men but with very little information about their lives.  We’re hoping that these photographs will allow us to get a greater understanding of what happened to them after these pictures were taken – did they remain in Dundalk, or were they forced to emigrate?  Effectively each image is a mystery within itself and we’re hoping that family members might recognise their father/grandfather/great-grandfather and help us get a greater understanding of what happened to them. 


The exhibition also provides an insight into the history and nature of maritime activity in Dundalk, noting the contributions of several families in the area, as well as highlighting the fate of the SS Dundalk sunk by a U-boat in October 1918.  An accompanying 24-page booklet has also been produced. (Copies are available from the Museum itself or may be downloaded by clicking hereThe exhibition is based on the work of Rush-based maritime historian, David Snook, whose website www.irishmariners.ie contains the details of some 23,000 Irish merchant seamen.  Admission to the exhibition is free.  



More information about the exhibition or enquiries about the walking tour may be had by contacting Brian Walsh at 042 9327056.  ENDS