Dancing at a Northern Crossroads

Published in Issue 2 (Summer 2000), Letters, Letters, Northern Ireland 1920 - present, Volume 8

Sir,—I read Marie Bourke’s article (‘Charles Lambe and the West ofIreland’, HI Spring 2000) with great interest and learned much from it.However, I was, and remain, puzzled about the dramatic painting byLambe on the front cover, Dancing at a Northern Crossroads. My originaldoubts arose from the word ‘northern’. Marie Bourke ties in the workwith Connemara but admits that the clothes depicted are not as wornthere at the time. Lambe came from Armagh and painted scenes fromthere, e.g. The Lough Neagh Fisherman, whose waistcoat, as Bourkeacknowledges, also appears in Dancing at a Northern Crossroads.
Whilst Lambe, like all the others mentioned by the author, focusedon the old time Ireland of Connemara in the ‘20s I suggest that when hesat down in Dublin to paint this large work he was thinking more ofArmagh than of the West. After all it was his home county from which hehad only recently departed—hence ‘northern’ and the dress. Ms Bourkehas created a complex and interesting jigsaw but this focal piecedoesn’t quite fit.

Yours etc.,

PS—From the 1940s I have a very clear mental picture of a Jack B. YeatsConnemara scene on sale in the window of the art suppliers M/SCombridge, Grafton St., Dublin, for £30. I dearly wished to have it. Iwent back several times just to enjoy looking at it but unfortunatelyat the time I didn’t even have 30/- to spare! I also recall thecalendars given out free to customers by M/S Bairds, Ennis, CountyClare, featuring Paul Henry’s western paintings.

Sir,—Could Charles Lambe’s Dancing at a Northern Crossroads beallegorical? The crossroads is ‘Northern’ afterall, not ‘Western’. Thewomen dancing wear green. And the men? One of them sports a shirtstriped in the colours of the Union Jack, and the other wears aneckcloth that looks very orange. Considering the use of symbolicnarrative by both Orpen and Keating, what do you think?

Yours etc.,


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