Sunday, November 22, 2009


Buachaillí Bána (Whiteboys) Gocco Print

A tenacious capacity for hatred can be found in the Irish people, brought about by anger against oppression. This image from the 1930s of Buachaillí Bána (Whiteboys) is testament for the lasting emotion.

Amused and intrigued by this old Irish photograph I was compelled to create this print.

Buachaillí Bána, a secret Irish agrarian organization from the 1700s, used violent tactics to defend tenant farmer land rights for subsistence farming. After the Rising of '98 the Act of Union was enforced which resulted in absentee English landlords giving middlemen a free hand to charge rack rents to tenants who lived in fear of eviction. Over time, Whiteboyism became a general term for rural violence connected to secret societies.

Through my research over the past few years I have become drawn to the plight of the Irish, especially of the mid 1800s, the horrors of the Great Famine and the subsequent migration or death of over a fourth of the population.

I don't know if being a first generation American makes one feel that they are not really part of the culture, or sort of bridged between two cultures. All I know is that sometimes I feel a longing for a culture I have never really experienced, but somehow, very deeply, feel I know. This was especially noticed when I went to Ireland, the birthplace of my ancestors: Mac Giolla Earnáin, more commonly known as McLarnon. Never did I feel so acquainted with a place and so comfortable. The strongest experience I had was in Lurgan, Northern Ireland.

It was a Saturday evening at a local, segregated graveyard where Jake and I found many a relative buried. As we looked at the plots two women tending a grave close to us were wondering what we were doing there. Jake explained that my family was from Lurgan and that we were looking for connections. They asked for my family's religion, then told us to go over to the Catholic Church and see if anyone knew of any relatives in the area.

There was a group of four older women standing and chatting after mass as the crowd was leaving St. Peter's. They seemed approachable, so Jake and I went to talk to them. One woman, Una, was particularly interested in helping us. She said she knew some McLarnons and walked us door to door to see if any were related. As we walked, I commented on how helpful she was and also how just about everyone was so friendly and kind to us. She said, it was nothing, but then she said something that really stopped me. "We usually hate everything," was her comment, as she smiled and looked at me with her deep blue eyes. In my family, if someone mentions a book, a movie or an actor, we immediately reply "Oh, I just hate (something relating to the topic)." We usually get teased or reprimanded for our highly opinionated commentary. But here was Una highlighting just the same attitude.

After we came home from Ireland I wrote to the church for more records on my family. They had my grandfather's baptism certificate and the wedding of my great grandparents and their parents listed. The funny thing is that after I found out more, I wrote to Una and told her what I had discovered. It turns out her grandmother was my great grandmother's sister.

I think the Irish have a great sense of community and pride, but also of a great sense of deprivation: which sometimes manifests on a large scale in rebellion and on a small scale in anger and depression. Part of looking at Ireland's history for me is to develop an understanding of my story. In part of that story there is a need for community. My community is composed of wonderful, artistic, creative, and insightful people. With them I feel like I belong, my cultural uncomfortableness disappears. Routinely getting together to work on projects with my husband, Jake, and with my friend, Todd, working on long distance collaborations with my friend, Mary, and belonging to the newly formed Story Book Artists group I feel acceptance. Without them there would be a terrible isolation.

I would hate that.


  1. all the info on the secret Irish society...and the random Irish woman is related !!!!! you know the coolest stuff so glad to be in your circle of art friends.... Mary Leto

  2. Do you know what I hate? How cool you are...Oddly, it's also the thing I love about you and your art. It's all so connected to who you are, and to a real and genuine purpose. It's all I can do to paint an occasional Christmas elf, which, I can tell you, has very little significance to a New York jew from Long Island.