Early Morning Dunmanway by Séamus MacCárṫaiġ (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 MacCarthy (1945–2019), the second son of Eugene Charles (Hugh) MacCarthy 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. MacCárṫaiġ (Séamus MacCárṫaiġ).

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

One thought on “Early Morning Dunmanway by Séamus MacCárṫaiġ (1967)

  1. eleanor o'connor says:

    Hi fintan, I think my ancestor is the Timothy Sheehy (senior) Tennant of Owen, living in Castle Street. I know that Timothy senior was living in Castle Street in 1832ish. Do you know when he was Owens tenant? Regards Eleanor


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