Michael Collins brought back to colour after image restoration project

Michael Collins brought back to colour after image restoration project
Michael Collins, then Minister for Finance, chats to players before throwing the ball in for the 1921 Leinster SHC final between Dublin and Kilkenny. Pictures: National Library of Ireland. Colour restoration: Rob Cross

Images of Michael Collins at the 1921 Leinster SHC final between Dublin and Kilkenny in Croke Park have been given a new lease of life by a colour restoration project.

Invited by the GAA to throw the ball in for the provincial final, the then 30-year-old Minister for Finance was joined by his friend and fellow TD Harry Boland two months after the War of Independence had come to an end.

Inspired by Jason Antic in San Diego and John Breslin in NUI Galway who had been using AI software to colourise old photographs, Limerick-born architect Rob Cross has used his own techniques to improve the restoration so that any blemishes like tears, scratches or dirt are removed.

Michael Collins brought back to colour after image restoration project
Collins joined by friend and fellow TD Harry Boland (right) two months after the War of Independence had come to an end. They're posing with referee Pat Dunphy of Laois.
The original black and white photographs were sourced from the National Library of Ireland

“Then it’s about doing research on the colour of the jerseys, the background or whatever,” he explains. 

“I did one of the second ever sitting of the Dáil in the Mansion House and I was colouring the clothes but I went and did the research to see if there was an old painting of the occasion or a piece of furniture in the museum. It turned out there was a painting by Thomas Ryan, which hangs over the entrance to the Dáil chamber in Leinster House now, and I knew then the table cloth was green and there was red cloth hanging over the balconies in the background.

“Once you know that there are three or four colours instead of reinventing it and don’t overdo the restoration you release it. You could spend a week on doing one but you want to do the original photograph justice.”

Michael Collins brought back to colour after image restoration project
Collins enjoys a puckabout with Boland.
Based in Dublin, Cross has attracted swathes of followers on social media for his fascinating work in colourising black and white photographs from Irish history.

His work is strictly a passion, he is not interested in monetising it. For commissions, he has asked for donations to be made to charity, although he does have to cover the costs of the technology he uses and he has set up a Patreon account to support his endeavour.

“A lot of sons and daughters are sending messages to their parents who are cocooning or in care homes and it’s stirring memories,” he adds. “A lot of teachers are using it too and it has taken on its own form, which is all positive.”

Rob’s images can be viewed on Twitter and Instragram. You can support Rob’s project, “Bringing Our History To Life”, by donating on Patreon.

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