Early Life and Youth in Cork

Daniel Maclise was born in Cork in 1806 into a frugal Scottish Presbyterian family. His father was an ex-soldier and shoemaker in Nile Street (now Sheares Street and Mardyke area). While his family were hard-working, ambitious, but poor, Maclise and his brothers were to do remarkably well in life ? two of his brothers became doctors, William a military doctor who served in the Crimean War, and Joseph who became a widely published expert in anatomy. His sister Anna married the lawyer, Percival Banks, while his sister Isabella, devoted to her brother, moved to London to manage his household.

Maclise was educated locally in Cork and may have attended the famous school of Dr Maginn. He was not particularly interested in his school-work, and spent most of his time sketching in his books and the copy-books of his friends. As well as drawing, the young Maclise loved outdoor, physical activities. It was claimed that he could swim from Blackrock Castle to Little Island and back without resting, a major feat in a tidal river; and that he could row for nine miles without a break. He made friends easily and spent his time swimming, sailing, singing in the choir of the Presbyterian Church in Prince's Street, fencing, and playing the guitar and flute. All the time he was sketching and browsing in the new print shops of the prosperous southern port city of Cork.

When he was fourteen years old a lady named Miss Sprat drew the attention of the banker and art connoisseur, George Newenham, to his activities. Through Newenham he met an entire circle of educated, art-loving Cork people. He was befriended by the Cork merchant, Richard Sainthill. Through Sainthill, Maclise became interested in medals, coins, and aspects of heraldry, and went on to illustrate coin catalogues for Sainthill with great detail. Eventually Maclise got a start in life, as a member of the staff of Mr Newenham's Bank.

In 1825 Maclise's artistic ambitions received a huge boost when he successfully sketched Sir Walter Scott on his visit to Bolster's bookshop in Cork. The sketch of Sir Walter was lithographed and sold well, thus helping to give Maclise a local reputation. In a sense, the year 1825 marks the true beginning of his life as a viable portrait artist.

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