‘The Irish Examiner’ has published a digital archive of its editions from 1841 to 1949. Dan Buckley looks at what’s in store
From the rise of Daniel O’Connell and the devastation of the Great Famine, to the horrors of conflict at home and abroad, the Irish Examiner has for generations sought to shine a light on the trials and tribulations of our island and its inhabitants.
Holding not so much a mirror of reflection as a candle to illuminate the birth of a nation and beyond, this newspaper, founded by John Francis Maguire under the title The Cork Examiner in 1841, has prided itself on fairness, objectivity and the pursuit of truth in the news.
It has also charted sporting triumphs and disasters and — as our archives reveal — everything from the price of potatoes to Queen Victoria’s love for Killarney.
Along the way, our advertisers have used its pages to sell their wares, adding both style and content to a fascinating insight into the past.
Now, for the first time, a huge swathe of that material is available in digital form, providing a living history of the Irish people.
Advertising has long been a staple source of media income. This 1949 edition highlights clothes stores’ post-Christmas sales blitzes.
While the history books will account for Ireland’s pursuit of nationhood, it will rarely tell you the price of cough medicine in 1912 or how much a valve radio would cost you to listen to the All-Ireland senior hurling final in 1937 (Tipp beat Kilkenny).
The Irish Examiner does.
From its early days, the newspaper concerned itself with land agitation and the plight of the poor.
The edition of Monday, June 13, 1842 speaks of the ‘Distress in the Country’ and the rise in the price of potatoes.
A report from Tralee in Kerry reveals that “in the market on Saturday, the very worst kind of potatoes could not be had for less than six pence a stone and those of a superior quality were as high as eight pence.”
It also reports on a fundraising event held in Listowel and a large donation made to ease the distress. In breathless prose, it reveals that “the Earl of Listowel, with his accustomed liberality, and benevolence, subscribed, we understand, the munificent sum of Fifty Pounds.”
Three decades later saw the emergence of a small, but growing, middle class. The front page of July 3, 1873, informs readers of what we now describe as a sale. An advert for The London House in Cork offers corsets at “very much under former prices” with “brown, black and woollen stays at two shillings a pair”.
Even in the midst of the Great War, the Department of Agriculture sought to entice farmers to move over to mechanised agriculture and, in particular, the use of the motor tractor.
A notice in the Examiner on March 14, 1917 includes a survey of farming methods in use at the time and offers tillage farmers “the possibility of ploughing by night as well as by day — for which purpose we should arrange for supplying acetylene lamps”.
You may be surprised to find that contemporaneous accounts of 1916 do not refer to the Easter Rising, describing it as The Dublin Outbreak. Yet the Examiner archives offer unrivalled accounts of the War of Independence, the Civil War and the life — and death — of Michael Collins.
Editions from 1922, above, and 1911, below, report on national and international news, including the Civil War and the theft of the Mona Lisa.
A speech given by Collins on St Patrick’s Day, 1922 is recorded where the tells his audience: “Dublin Castle has fallen and with it will have gone all bureaucratic regulations and tyrannies which the people of Ireland suffered under the British regime.” Three months he died from a sniper’s bullet at Béal na Bláth.
The newspaper also concerned itself with matters abroad, reporting, on August 25, 1911, the robbery of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre museum in Paris.
Other reports reveal how some things haven’t changed, such as the ongoing obsession with body image as an advert carried on May 24, 1926, reveals.
The Munster Arcade in Cork shows off ‘The New Idea For Tall and Stout Women and how they ‘may slenderise’ with ‘controls, uplifts and supports’.
The Cork Examiner from 1926 was uplifting about the new phenomenon of corsetry.
Pages from the Irish Examiner for the period 1841 — 1949 have ben digitised as part of a national media project overseen by the Irish Newspaper Archives. The remainder of our archive will be available from next March.
“The INA is the largest digital archive of Irish newspapers with more than six million pages spanning four centuries. Thanks to a strong collaboration between ourselves and the team at the Irish Examiner, we have created an archive worthy of the newspaper’s great legacy and historical significance,” said Phillip Martin of the INA.
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