The Children of Achill and Robert Henri History Festival

The Children of Achill and Robert Henri

HISTORY FESTIVAL, MARCH 24th – 25th 2023

Keel, Achill Island

An initiative of Achill Island Tourism and the Museum of Childhood Ireland.

2023 Festival Programme:

Friday 24th March

6pm Arrival, meet and greet. Music provided by piper Martin Lavelle

Saturday 25th March

9am Festival Registration and Launch
Keel Community Hall, Keel, Achill Island, F28 XA33

10am-11.30am MoCI History Panel: Childhood in Nineteenth Century Ireland
Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley, Prof Ciara Breathnach, Dr John Cunningham
Dr Sorcha De Brun

11.30-12 noon Tea & Coffee

12 noon-1pm MoCI and Achill Tourism Intergenerational Workshop: The Children of Achill and Robert Henri.*
Official unveiling of the children’s art work**
Majella McAllister, Sarah Lavelle, Aoife Cawley, Dakota Oliveira

1pm-2pm Lunch break

2pm-3.30pm MoCI Art History Panel: ‘The Manet of Manhattan’: Henri and his Art
Jessica Burton-Restrick, Dr Roisin Kennedy, Dr Angela Griffith
Dr Paula Murphy

3.30pm Achill Tourism Guided Walk to Corrymore House

Return to Keel Hall, Tea and Coffee

Close of festival: Music provided by harpist Laoise Kelly Keel Community Hall

*A pre festival MoCI ‘Child Voice’ workshop was held to discuss the children and Henri, and to find out how the local children of today wished to participate in the festival.*

**A pre festival MoCI paired portraits painting workshop with local children was facilitated by Achill based artist Kate Callaghan. Children explored the dual aspect of painting a portrait and being a sitter.


Ciara Breathnach, MoCI, Associate Professor in History at the University of Limerick, currently holds an Irish Research Council Laureate and a Fulbright Scholar Award. She has a proven track record of research project management and delivery, and has published widely on Irish socio-economic, gender, life cycle and health history.

Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley, MoCI, Head of the Department of History at the University of Galway. She is the author/editor of nine books, past President of the Women’s History Association of Ireland and one of the foremost scholars in the history of childhood and youth in Ireland.

Dr John Cunningham is a lecturer in History at the University of Galway. A former editor of Saothar: Journal of Irish Labour History, he is co-Director of the Irish Centre for the Histories of Labour and Class. He has published extensively on Irish local history and on global labour history. His most recent book is Hardiman and Beyond: Galway Arts and Culture, 1820-2020 (2023) co-edited with Ciaran McDonough.

Sorcha de Brún lectures in Modern Irish in the University of Limerick, Ireland where she is also Director of European Studies. She received her PhD from the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, in 2016 and has published extensively on twentieth and twenty-first century Irish language prose and literary translation. She has published poems and short stories in various anthologies, and a selection of her poetry and stories for children is on the Séideán Sí Primary Curriculum, published by An Gúm. A recipient of the John and Pat Hume Scholarship Award, Duais Foras na Gaeilge (Foras na Gaeilge Award) Duais Ghearrscéalaíochta Mháirtín Uí Chadhain (Máirtín Ó Cadhain Short Story Award) and Oireachtas na Gaeilge literary awards, Sorcha has translated and published a selection of poems by nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century German poets to Irish as part of the Dánnerstag Irish-German poetry project, of which she is co-director. She is also a co-editor of EuropeNow Campus journal and a member of the Royal Irish Academy Committee on Irish language and Celtic Studies (Coiste Léann na Gaeilge agus an Léinn Cheiltigh). Sorcha is currently working on her monograph on masculinities in Irish language prose writing.


Aoife Cawley, MoCI. Completing her Bachelor’s degree in history and politics in UCD, Aoife has recently returned from international research in Berlin, Germany. She is assisting in the festival with special regard to Henri’s contextual backgrounds and Youth Engagement. Her previous experience with conducting local historical projects, working with children and interest in Irish social history makes the Children of Achill and the Robert Henri festival an exciting project for her.

Majella McAllister, MoCI, is the Founding Director of the multi- award-winning Museum of Childhood Ireland. With a background in education, and postgraduate studies at UCD, she specialises in creative, inclusive, collaborative and integrative initiatives. Her ‘Project 2020’ for the MoCI was shortlisted with the Rijksmuseum and the National Gallery of Singapore for International awards. As director of ‘The Children of Achill Island and Robert Henri History Festival’ for the MoCI, she is responsible for team building, concept development and delivery.

Dakota Oliveira, MoCI, Lecturer at University College Cork, is an American historian and anthropologist from Phoenix, Arizona. Dakota specialises in the promotion of marginalised peoples, and is part of the child / youth and inter-generational engagement workshops team. The Children of Achill and Robert Henri initiative is her first of many projects with the MoCI.

Sarah Lavelle, Achill Tourism, is a small business owner in Dooagh, and secretary of Achill Tourism. As a descendant of “Kathleen” & “My Friend Brian” by Robert Henri, she conceptualised this project, realising it’s value to future generations of the Achill community. Having knowledge of the genealogy of Henri’s Achill sitters, Sarah will have a key role within the project; liaising with the research team and the local community.


Jessica Burton- Restrick, MoCI, MA Arts & Culture (Museums & Collections) Leiden University, NL and BA History of Art and Architecture, Trinity College Dublin, IE whose specialisation is 19th and early 20th century painting and culture. Jessica will be acting as consultant art historian, curator and contributing writer for the project, with her primary focus being the art historical research and perspective on Robert Henri and his work.

Róisín Kennedy is Lecturer in the School of Art History and Cultural Policy at UCD. She is former Yeats Curator at the National Gallery of Ireland. Her research focuses on the critical reception and display of modern art in Ireland, on the position of women as artists and subjects in modernist art, and on the role of censorship and ideology in the production and patronage of modern art. She is co-editor and contributor to Harry Clarke and Artistic Visions of the New Irish State, (Irish Academic Press, 2018), Censoring Art. Silencing the Artwork (I.B.Tauris, 2018) and co-editor (with Fintan Cullen) of Sources in Irish Art 2. A Reader, (CorkUniversity Press, 2021). Her monograph, Art and the Nation State. The Reception of ModernArt in Ireland was published by Liverpool University Press in 2021.

Paula Murphy is an Emeritus Professor in UCD Art History and Cultural Policy. Her publications include Nineteenth-Century Irish Sculpture, Native Genius Reaffirmed (Yale, 2010) and Sculpture 1600-2000, vol. 3 in the RIA Art and Architecture of Ireland (Yale 2015). She was awarded an RHA Gold Medal in 2015. She held a Senior Fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC in 2016/17.

Angela Griffith is an assistant professor with the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, TCD and former director of the Irish Art Research Centre. She is currently Principal Investigator for the Cuala Press Project, Schooner Foundation, in partnership with the Library of Trinity College (2020 – 24). She is on the editorial board of the New Hibernia Review and her publications include Harry Clarke and Artistic Visions of the New Irish State (2018) (co-editor), and with the National Gallery of Ireland, Making Their Mark Irish Painter-Etchers 1880-1930 (2019).


Chris McCarthy, Achill Tourism, Manager, Achill Tourism. Support will involve volunteering at the planned festival as well as marketing the event across all our social media platforms.

Dorothee Schmid McCoole, MoCI, coordinator of this project, currently working free-lance for a German private museum. Holds an MA in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute in London and an M.Phil. in Public History & Cultural Heritage from Trinity College Dublin. A German native, professional background in the art market and board of management experience in the education sector.

About the project and festival:


History Festival, March 24th – 25th 2023

Keel, Achill Island

Achill Tourism, Turasóireacht Acla, and the Museum of Childhood Ireland, Músaem Óige na hÉireann are delighted to announce our collaboration on an exciting historical, cultural and art history project, exploring the activities of the American artist Robert Henri in Achill between 1913 and 1928.

Being a founding member of the Ashcan school and having a great interest in painting social realities, Henri painted portraits of local children and had great respect and admiration for his sitters. Henri’s striking portraits of the Achill children go beyond a general study of local poverty, but instead manage to capture the individualism and personality of his young sitters, something exceedingly rare in portraits of youth at the time. Thus, in his works, he has managed to preserve not only the likeness but the essence of a group that would have otherwise been lost to time.

The childrens world centred on family life and community, and as such their life stories are an important snapshot of the social, cultural and historic fabric. The children are with us still in our living memory. They are our parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. By acting now, by reaching out to collect and record as much information as possible, we can help to ensure that this invaluable information is preserved for future generations.

The History Festival is the beginning of a series and encapsulates panels on History, Art History as well as an intergenerational workshop with local children and adults from Achill.

Na páistí ó Oiléan Acla agus Robert Henri

Tá lúcháir ar Thurasóireacht Acaill agus Músaem Óige na hÉireann ár gcomhoibriú a fhógairt ar thionscadal corraitheach stairiúil, cultúrtha agus ealaíne, ag iniúchadh agus ag taifeadadh staire ó pheirspictíocht na páistí a shuigh mar mhúnlaí don ealaíontóir Meiriceánach Robert Henri in Acaill idir 1913 agus 1928.

Bhí meas mór ag Henri ar a feighlí páistí. Go diongbháilte, ina Leabhair “Spiorad na hEalaíne” “Má phéinteálann tú páiste ní gá go mbeadh aon dearcadh pátrúnach agat ina leith. An té a théann chuig leanbh gan ionadh, cailleann sé ina bhreithiúnas an rud atá os a chomhair. Péint le meas ar an [An Páiste]… [ An Páiste] an fhéidearthacht iontach atá ann, an duine neamhspleách.”

Seachnaíonn léiriú Henri ar páistí Acla, an dearcadh mealltach ar bhochtaineacht a bhí tipiciúil san am sin. Ní úsáideann sé fearais cosúil le bréagáin nó leabhair, agus mar sin tarraingítear tú láithreach chuig aghaidh an pháiste. Deir sé “in aghaidheanna páistí, chonaic mé cuma eagna agus cineáltais curtha in iúl chomh héasca agus chomh cinnte sin go raibh a fhios agam gur léiriú cine iomlán a bhí ann.”

Ag leanúint cur chuige Henri tá sé mar aidhm againn iniúchadh a dhéanamh ar shaol páistí Acla, scéal faoin saol in Éirinn a mhaireann níos mó ná 100 bliain nó mar sin, ó shlí mhaireachtála atá ag teacht chun cinn ar imeall na hEorpa, go breith an tSaorstáit, an saol mar Eisimirceach na hÉireann agus níos mó. Chuimsigh na páistí seo traidisiún na hÉireann, ó ghlúin go glúin. Bhí a ndomhan dírithe ar shaol an teaghlaigh agus ar an bpobal, agus dá bharr sin, is léargas tábhachtach iad a gcuid scéalta saoil ar chreatlach sóisialta, cultúrtha agus stairiúil an chéad 100 bliain de stát na hÉireann.

Le maoiniú ó Comhairle Contae Mhaigh Eo, tá muid ar bís faoi na féidearthachtaí a bhaineann le bealaí iomadúla a iniúchadh leis an tionscadal seo ach is dóigh linn go bhfuil sé an-tábhachtach tosú san áit insc a tosaigh Henri… leis na bpáistí.

Tá na páistí linn fós inár gcuimhne bheo. Is iad do mháithreacha, aithreacha, ár seanmháthair, seanathair, uncailí agus aintíní. Trí ghníomhú anois, síneadh amach anois chun an oiread faisnéise agus is féidir a bhailiú agus a thaifeadadh, is féidir linn cabhrú lena chinntiú go gcaomhnófar an fhaisnéis luachmhar seo do na glúine atá le teacht.

Le haghaidh tuilleadh faisnéise agus chun a bheith cothrom le dáta ar an tionscadal seo:


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The Museum of Childhood Ireland volunteer team involved in the project are:

Historian: Dr Ciara Breathnach, UL

Historian: Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley, NUIG

Art Historian: Jessica Burton-Restrick

Project Co-ordinator: Dorothee Schmid McCoole

Aoife Cawley, UCD, Intergenerational Workshops

Dakota Olivera, UCC, Intergenerational Workshops

Project Development and Lead: Majella McAllister

Mile Buíochas

Majella McAllister


Phone: +353 87 6816760