Early Morning Dunmanway by Séamus Mac Cárṫaiġ (1967)

Painted in 1967, Early Morning Dunmanway captures a moment that was commonly seen across towns and villages throughout Ireland – a small collective of local men standing sentinel observing the community coming and going about their daily business. Such small groups were consequently nicknamed “corner boys”. The gathering represented here are found outside “Nealums”, a well-known public house located at the corner junction of Bridge Street and the Market Square, Dunmanway.

Early Morning, Dunmanway

Figure 1. Early Morning, Dunmanway. From left: Johnnie Grady,  Sonny “Bishop” Coakley, Johnson O’Sullivan, Scout Murphy and Johnnie Crowley. [Click the image to enlarge.]

My father James painted this image in his twenty-second year while attending the National College of Art – a time when the campus was based at Kildare Street, Dublin. The late 1960s was still an early period of artistic growth for James, while evolving his skills with paint, he was also exploring composition, style and narrative. All of this is evident in his bold almost graphic image of the corner boys.

Figure 2. Taken in his studio circa 1985, James Mac Carthy (1945–2019), the second son of Eugene Charles (Hugh) Mac Carthy and Anna Connolly was a sculptor and painter. His innate creative talent was always said to have come from his mother’s Mennis family connection, who claim Huguenot antecedence. Some of my earliest memories were of my dad sketching, painting, molding and making. His output was prolific as he applied a strict approach, working 9 to 5, Monday to Saturday, with Sundays being a day of rest.

Figure 3. This 1962 image painted when James was 17 suggests an earlier artistic interest in this location of the town. When James returned to the subject five years later he focused in on the corner with a very tight crop and with the addition of five figures created a compelling graphic landscape. [Click the image to enlarge.]

Figure 4. A contemporary view of O’Neill’s public house, otherwise called “Nealums”, located at the corner of the Market Square, Dunmanway.

Figure 5. While called James in his daily life, it was with his artistic work that James signed his name in Irish using the gaelic script: S. Mac Cárṫaiġ (Séamus Mac Cárṫaiġ).

Figure 6. James’s student card from National College of Art. He completed his studies in 1970, three years after Early Morning Dunmanway.

Figure 7: Painted in a similar style to Early Morning Dunmanway, this image also shows Sonny “Bishop” Coakley, who appears again one year later in the 1967 painting. In the background is his sister Bridie Coakley, standing outside their cottage located in Coom, Dunmanway. [Click the image to enlarge.]




  1. Mac Carthy, J. (1967). Early Morning, Dunmanway. The James Mac Carthy Collection.
  2. Kietz, M. (1985). James Mac Carthy. Kilnadur Studios.
  3. Mac Carthy, J. (1962). Nealums Corner Study. The James Mac Carthy Collection.
  4. Mac Carthy, F. (2019). Nalums corner. Writers own image.
  5. Mac Carthy, J. (1967). Early Morning, Dunmanway. The James Mac Carthy Collection.
  6. Mac Carthy, F. (2019). James Mac Carthy, Student Card from the National College of Art, Dublin. The James Mac Carthy Collection.
  7. Mac Carthy, J. (1966). Bridie Coakleys. The James Mac Carthy Collection.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s