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Fifty Years of Life in Clare

Clare Champion, Friday, 5th May 2006

With an eye for the beauty of ordinary life, Michael John Glynne recorded every facet of Clare's history for over 50 years. His unique collection of images will soon be available for all, writes Tony Mulvey.

For over 50 years one of Clare's best known photographers, the late Michael John Glynne, Ennistymon, recorded some of the most important and not so important events in the county.

Before his death in April 1998, he donated his vast collection and large amount of negatives to the Clare Local Studies Project (CLASP). CLASP have, in turn, undertaken a project to preserve the negatives and make the pictures of the past available for viewing on the county Clare library services website. The project will take some years to complete but already a random selection of Michael John's collection is available on the website.

One of north Clare's most colourful characters, Michael John recorded a huge variety of events in every corner of the county during a distinguished career. He was unique in many ways and during his early years he worked as a commercial photographer. As well as processing negatives in his home on Church Street, he also built a mobile darkroom which he erected on the back of his bicycle. After taking photographs in schools, at first communions and confirmations, he was in a position to process the films and sell them immediately. He later worked as a freelance photographer and contributed to The Clare Champion on a weekly basis as well as working for national land international publications.

A man of many interests and talents, Michael John worked as a electrician after finishing his secondary school education in St. Mary's in Galway. During that time he wired many houses in north Clare during the rural electrification scheme with his great friend Gus Arthur.

When he moved over to freelance photography, he was proud of the fact that he never failed to cover an assignment for The Champion, eventhough he didn't have his own transport. He was, however, one of the few people to have a car shortly after the World War II years.

Well read and a great debater, his carefree and flamboyant style brought him to the most unusual of places. As a former officer of Ennistymon Local Defence Forces (LDF), he was a regular visitor to the FCA summer training camps in Lahinch. He also served with the Royal Air Force during the war.

A familiar figure at coursing meetings, farm and GAA meetings and Lisdoonvarna during the September season, Michael John held strong nationalist views and was keenly interested in politics throughout his life. He carried a wealth of knowledge of the history and folklore of his native county. Keen on fishing, he often spoke about nature on his journeys through Clare. He also developed his own entrepreneurial skills.

His death in the Stella Maris Nursing Home in Lisdoonvarna on April 2, 1998, a few months short of his seventy-ninth birthday, left a huge void in north Clare.

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