Topographical Postcards

By 1900 the topographical postcard had come into its own as one of the staples of postcard publishing. A relatively more leisured, literate population, with relatively more disposable income was increasingly eager to send, receive and collect these colourful cards.

In Ireland colour postcards of 'the old sod' were sent to relatives and friends abroad - in England, Canada, the United States and further afield. The publishing house Valentine's of Dublin and Dundee produced a series entitled 'Through the Green Hills of Erin' in which were such cards as 'An Irish Mountain Farm', 'Mick McQuaid's Cabin, Lough Shindillagh', 'Evicted Tenant's Cabin' and the ubiquitous 'Typical Irish Scene'. That these topographical postcards were eagerly collected is evidenced by the simple message on a postcard depicting Tintern Abbey, County Wexford which was sent by 'E.S.S.' to Miss May Kerby, North Lighthouse, Duncannon, Waterford on 25 August 1906 -

'Thought you might like this card for the album. I don't remember seeing it before.'

Every county, city, town and village in Ireland was a topic for the postcard publisher. In Dublin, all the major landmarks featured - Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland, The Four Courts, The Vice-Regal Lodge, Dublin Castle, The National Library and National Museum, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Nelson's Pillar, The O'Connell Monument, The Parnell Monument. In early postcards O'Connell Street is still Sackville Street; and pre-1966 O'Connell Street still featured Nelson's Pillar. In November 1966, when the remains of the bombed pillar had been removed by the Irish Army, a John Hinde postcard entitled 'Nelson's Pillar and General Post Office, O'Connell Street, Dublin, Ireland' carried the suggestive message -

'I should really have sent Paddy this card. You know why...'

Every beauty spot in Ireland has featured as a topographical postcard from the 1890's to the present day. In Wicklow, Powerscourt Gardens and the Vale of Avoca feature on popular postcards; in Kerry, Kate Kearney's Cottage, Killarney and the Dingle peninsula; in Antrim, Belfast City Hall and The Glens; in Galway, The Spanish Arch and the Aran Islands; in Cork, the Blarney Stone and The Mardyke, and so on throughout the counties.

These topographical cards of Ireland are attractive in themselves, and useful for the social historian because of the messages written for a contemporary audience of one or two, messages that have layers of meaning for the modern researcher. One such is the postcard from 'F' to C. Howard, 104 Philipsburgh Ave., Clontarf, Dublin dated 15 March 1916; the message reads -

'The Esplanade, Queenstown, Tuesday. Arrived here on Sat. evg. - I was very lonely leaving Dunmanway, for I was very happy there. 'Twill take me some time to get settled here. The harbour is quite close...When I looked out from my bedroom window, on Sunday morning, I saw the Mauritania lying in pretty close...'

Around the picture of the harbour (below), are the words - Sun Terraces, Dun Laoghaire 'To swell your collection'.

Throughout the twentieth century these and similar scenes continued to be produced by local, national and international postcard publishers, and to be sent by visitors and tourists to all parts of the world.

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