What is the front cover painting of ‘Gombeens at the Gate’?

120 Nights Candles are Burnt Out

The front cover  illustration of our book ‘Gombeens at the Gate  is called Nights Candles are Burnt Out .

It is a painting completed in 1929 by the Limerick artist Seán Keating (1889-1977) and depicts the ‘Shannon Scheme’ at Ardnacrusha.

Here is Keating’s own description of the work according to the May 1932 edition of The Sphere magazine:

The title suggests that the dawn has come, when the dim candlelight of surviving medievalism in Ireland is fading before the rising sun of scientific progress, exemplified by the Shannon electricity works, which form the background of my picture. The stage Ireland and the stage Irishman are typified by the skeletons hanging on the left from one of the steel towers, which support the electric transmission lines. Beneath are the types of Irish workmen. In the centre of the foreground are two men. One represents the capitalist, who carries under his arms plans for industrial development. A gunman confronts him menacingly. The two symbolise the constant antagonism between the business elements and the extremists, which hinders the material progress of the State. The priest, reading represents the unchanging church ever present when spiritual guidance is needed but concerning itself only with a kingdom that is not of this world. In short, my picture depicts the transition of Ireland from a country of ancient stagnation to a state of freedom and progress.”

Philanthropists bought the painting in 1931 for £105 and donated it to what is now known as Gallery Oldham, UK.

We felt this extraordinary painting is particularly appropriate for our front cover since it symbolizes the political and social context of the recently founded Irish State as well as the hopes and aspirations of people at the time.


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