Rathlin Island’s past has been brought back to life by a new community project.
Working alongside Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Museum Services, residents on the island have explored Sam Henry’s unique photo collection.
It’s the inspiration behind a photographic slideshow and booklet. The launch event at the end of September was attended by Sam
Henry’s grandson, Gordon Craig, who kindly donated the collection to Coleraine Museum.
The island’s residents were able to put names to faces in Sam’s photographs and tell some of the stories of their lives.
The Rathlin material captures life on the island dating back to the early part of the 20th century.
Sam (1878 – 1952) worked as a Pensions and Excise Officer, but he was also an avid folklorist, historian, photographer, ornithologist, naturalist, genealogist and musician.
In 1906, he bought his first camera and visited the island several times which allowed him to build up a striking photographic collection. He collected stories from the islanders, along with their folklore and songs.
Through his work, Sam formed relationships with an older generation and recorded aspects of their lives that are now all but forgotten.
“In my contact with the old, who have all now passed away,” he wrote, “I had the rare privilege of sharing their folklore and their old songs.”
Sam is perhaps best known for his ‘Songs of the People’ series which ran in the Northern Constitution between 1923 and 1938. It published songs known, played and sung by people across Northern Ireland.
The slideshow will be available in the Manor House on Rathlin Island and will feature in an exhibition in November this year in Coleraine Museum at Coleraine Town Hall.
This project is part of a wider programme Sam Henry: Connecting with the Past, Collecting for the Future, funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund and administrated by the Museums Association.
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