Wednesday, June 04, 2008

My Uncle, The Maigue Poets, John Shinnors and the Hilton Hotel

When I was in Limerick a few weeks back, my father and I were walking over Sarsfield bridge to meet my mother for lunch in the new Hilton Hotel on O'Callaghan's Strand, when I wondered a loud what had happened to the painting. The Hilton was built on the site of the old Jury's Hotel and about twenty years ago my uncle Eamon (Eddie to his friends), was responsible for creating a Limerick-themed bar in the hotel - there was also a similar themed bar for the Cork and Dublin Jury's. Eamon had a career that veered from being an adviser to Ireland's Minister for Finance in the 60's, George Colley, to being broke and ill in the late 80's. The Jury's bar project was a kind of comeback, the fruit of a very active mind. The bar was themed around limericks - the rhyme. It is believed that this rhyming structure originated with the Maigue Poets in County Limerick in the 18th century. In fact, it's not far off the mark to say that the Maigue Poets were the original rappers as they would have public limerick roasting competitions pitting one poet against the other to see who come come up with the best rhyme.
As part of the project, my uncle commissioned the famous Limerick painter, John Shinnors, to paint a large scale painting of the poets competing. When he did this he used the faces of well known extant local Limerick characters for subjects in the painting.The main character, a poet with a piece of paper in his hand, from which he was reciting - was my uncle. He captured him perfectly, my uncle was fond of hold forth in his local hostiliery, and due to a hip replacement, would often lean back against the bar as depicted in the painting.

Anyhow, as we walked over the bridge, my dad said he didn't know what had happened to the painting, but mentioned that my aunt had seen it tossed carelessly aside when they began the demolition of the old hotel. I couldn't believe that such a great (and very large), painting could go missing, and just as we walked into the new hotel I turned around, and there it was, hanging in the foyer.

It was great to see it, and my dad was thrilled it was still there. My uncle lost a long battle with cancer a few years after the bar was complete. A larger than life painting is a nice way to remember a larger than life character.

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Anonymous Primal Sneeze said...

Amazing painting. Amazing story. Amazing man.

Next time I'm in Limerick I'll have to go take a look. I hope they have a plaque explaining the painting - if not, they should.

10:48 PM  
Blogger James said...

Beyond cool. Hope I make it to Limerick some day.

7:28 PM  
Blogger John Mc said...


No plaque, I suspect the story has been lost - hence the post.


Despite it's rep in Ireland as a violent city, Limerick is a cool place once you dig under the surface. Great pubs too!

11:13 AM  

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