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In Fermoy, Ireland



William Mervin LAWRENCE.

1840 - 1932

Photos Courtesy of Jim Carey, Fermoy

On the 20th March 1865, at the age of 24, William Mervin Lawrence opened a Photographic Studio opposite the G. P .O. at Sackville Street, Dublin.

Over the years the studio successfully photographed the length and breadth of Ireland from (Howth Head in the East to Achill Head in the West, and from Malin Head in the North to Skibbereen the South).

The collection consists of 40,000 glass plates mainly from the period 1880-1914, but some plates go back to 1870.

Lawrence was not himself a photographer, but an early entrepreneur, He opened his Studio in his mother's Toy and Fancy Goods Shop. At that time there was great interest in Studio Portraits and he employed a portrait photographer. His brother, John Fortune Lawrence, took stereo photographs and William took a keen interest in them, and took over the sales.

He then employed a team of printers, artists (colourists and retouches ) and in 1880, when the dry plate process came in, William Lawrence employed Robert French (1841–1917) as his chief Photographer. He took over 30,000 photographs of the “Lawrence Collection”

Robert French was born in Dublin IN 1841 and died in 1917. He spent some time working in the Royal Irish Constabulary, then joined Lawrence Studio, and he worked his way up as printer,artist and then assistant photographer.

The Camera That Photographed Ireland By Robert French

William Lawrence produced a series of Travel Albums called the "EMERALD ISLE " ALBUMS "Unique, Charming, and Exquisite Souvenirs of the scenic Beauties of Ireland of Wicklow and Wexford. He produced at least 11 albums as follows;

Album of the Lakes of Killarney & Glengarriff
Album of Cork, Blarney, & Queenstown (Cobh)
Album of Belfast
Album of Dublin ,City and County
Album of Counties nd the County Down
Album of Glens and the Coast of Antrim
Album of Giant's Causeway, Portrush, and Antrim County
Album of Lough Erne, Bundoran and the Donegal Highlands
Album of West of Ireland, Galway, Connemara, and Achill Island
Albums of Armagh and its Environs,
Album of Irish Life and Character,

Also Produced in Chicago in 1897 in weekly parts "Ireland in Pictures", a Grand collection of over 500 Magnificent Photographs of the Beauties of the Green Isle.

In the 1890's a new line of business developed, when the POST OFFICE allowed postcards to be sent without envelopes, and after 1902 when one side could be devoted to a picture, and you could send a message, his Postcard Business took off.

Lawrence's business prospered for nearly 50 years, but in the latter years as photographs became common and good reproductions appeared in newspapers and magazines, and when the cinema, and moving pictures came in and of course with the invention of the Box Brownie, the business was falling off by that time Lawrence and French were in their early seventies. Robert French retired in 1914 and William Lawrence in 1916.

Most of the Portrait Negatives were destroyed in 1916 when the Premises in Sackville Street Dublin was looted and burnt down during the Easter Rising, but the negatives of scenes around Ireland were stored in Rathmines, Dublin and these survived.

The firm closed down in 1942 and the following year the negatives (Glass Plates) were acquired by the National Library of Ireland.

The following pages contain 14 Photographic plates of Fermoy done by William Mervin Lawrence in the early 20th Century.

© Paudie McGrath Cork Ireland 2003 -