Blue Plaque for James Viscount Bryce

Blue Plaque for James Viscount Bryce
Unveiling the plaque to James Viscount Bryce at 13 Chichester Street, Belfast on Friday 10 May 2013

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Blue Plaque for Belfast Artist: 30 November 2012

A latish start and traffic conditions conspired to make me nearly late for the start of the ceremony to unveil the plaque to Frank McKelvey. Luckily I had five minutes to spare to set up the sound and recording equipment before the start. The people there included members of McKelvey's extended family, including some of his great-grandchildren, representatives of Belfast City Council and local historical and heritage Societies.

Frank McKelvey
Frank McKelvey
Frank McKelvey was born on 3 June 1895 at 11 Glenvale Street, Belfast. After attending Mayo Street National School, he became an apprentice lithographer and poster designer at Davis Allen & Sons. He then entered the Belfast College of Art, where in 1911- 12 he won the Sir Charles Brett Prize, and in 1913-14 the Fitzpatrick Prize, both for figure drawing from life.

Frank's father, William, was a painting contractor, and in his early years Frank worked from his father's premises on the Woodvale Road. He first exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1918 and his landscape painting won him immediate recognition in Dublin. He continued exhibiting at the R.H.A. every year for the next fifty-five years, showing from three to eight works each time.

McKelvey became a full-time painter of landscapes and portraits, opening his first studio at 142 Royal Avenue around 1919, next to that of artist J.W. Carey (1859-1937) and exhibiting mostly in Belfast, Dublin and Glasgow. His landscape paintings are typically of farm scenes in Co Armagh, the North Coast, and later in Co Donegal. Thomas McGowan commissioned him, together with other local artists, to paint pictures of old Belfast, and this collection is in the Ulster Museum. As a member of the RHA, he exhibited in Belfast, Dublin and Londonderry, and in 1936 had a one-man show where three of his landscapes were purchased as a wedding present for Queen Juliana of the Netherlands by Dutch people living in Ireland.

McKelvey also painted many portraits, amongst them the mathematician and physicist Sir Joseph Larmor; the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Sir Martin Wallace; Sir William Whitla; the 3rd Duke of Abercorn and Professor Sir William Thomson. Thirteen of his large-scale portrait drawings of U.S. Presidents with Ulster lineage were presented to the Belfast Museum & Art Gallery in 1931. He also illustrated Margaret Holland's book My Winter of Content under Indian Skies.

His work can now be found in the Royal Collection at The Hague and in many places in Ireland including the Crawford Gallery, Cork; Queen's University, Belfast; the Ulster Museum and the Masonic Hall in Dublin. In London the National Maritime Museum houses one of his paintings depicting an Aran Island currach.

Frank McKelvey died on 30 June 1974 in Belfast.

The Unveiling

Chris Spurr
Welcoming the members of the McKelvey, Kennedy and Whiteside families, City Aldermen and Councillors and the others who were here to commemorate Frank McKelvey, Chris Spurr, Chairman of the ULster History Circle said that Frank McKelvey was born not too far away in Glenville Street. He spent his formative days on the Woodvale Road, where his father had a business on this very site. Here he developed his talent as an artist, achieving great acclaim throughout Ireland and beyond. His renowned ability as a painter of landscapes and portraits is acknowledged both by the many exhibitions during his lifetime, and by the number of distinguished persons who sat for him. First hand examples of his work are available in Belfast City Hall, Queen’s University, the Ulster Museum, and the Belfast Harbour Commissioners’ Office and, in these digital times, many of his public works can be seen on-line through the BBC’s Your Paintings webpages. Chris thanked Belfast City Council and the council’s Development Committee for funding today’s plaque, the Spectrum Centre for providing the refreshments afterwards and Mr Frank McAllister for allowing the plaque to be sited here.

Alderman Christopher Stalford said that as Chair of the Council's Development Committee he was delighted to support this and other initiatives throughout the City. In Belfast awareness of he positive impact that many Belfast people have had both here and in shaping the world was becoming increasingly recognised. It was therefore entirely appropriate to commemorate Frank McKelvey for the contribution he had made. He spoke about the view of art before McKelvey's time as 'art without roots' and said the McKelvey had helped to give it those roots, quoting from John Hewitt (another Belfast man). He thanked the Ulster History Circle and all those present for being here to commemorate Frank McKelvey.

Dr Brian Kennedy, Alderman William
Humphrey MLA, Cllr Naomi Thompson,
Frank McAllister (owner of 56 Woodstock
Road)and Alderman Christopher Stelford
Alderman William Humphrey MLA welcomed everyone to the Woodvale Road, 'The Heart of the Empire', to mark another Woodvale man in Frank McKelvey. McKelvey was world famous and a man to be proud of. He recalled that another famous Artist, William Conor, was born in 'The Hammer'. That tradition of producing notable personalities and talents continues with people such as Norman Whiteside and Wayne McCullough. Some years ago he had suggested to the Council that plaques be erected to the City's famous sons and daughters and he was pleased to see that this was being taken up in such a positive way. He thanked the Circle for erecting the plaque and Frank McAllister (another Shankill man) for allowing the plaque to be erected here.

Anne McKelvey and Trevor
Kennedy unveil the plaque

Dr Brian Kennedy (McKelvey's Biographer), spoke of the view in the early 1920s that Irish Artists should paint Irish subjects and how Humbert Craig, Paul Henry and Frank McKelvey (all three of them being Belfast men) had developed this genre Irish Landscape painting during the inter-war years.

McKelvey's daughter-in-law, Mrs Ann McKelvey and his nephew, Trevor Kennedy spoke briefly to give some reminiscences of the artist and to thank the Circle and the people of the Shankill for this tribute to him.

Founder of the oldest continuously published regional newspaper

30 October 2012 (A Blue plaque is unveiled)

A mizzley day greeted the guests as they gathered at Joy's Entry in Belfast to remember and commemorate Francis Joy, who had founded the Belfast News Letter 275 years ago.

Francis Joy (1737-1790)
Francis Joy was born on 3 August 1697, probably in Killead, Co Antrim. Family legend suggests he was descended from Captain Thomas Joy, a follower of Sir Arthur Chichester.

In 1737 Francis founded the Belfast News Letter after apparently receiving a printing press in lieu of a bad debt. Of all English language daily papers in publication today, the Belfast News Letter is thought to be the oldest continuously published title in the world. 2012 marks the 275th year of publication.

The earliest extant issue is No. 113 for 3 October 1738, printed by Joy "At the sign of the Peacock in Bridge Street". A copy of this early edition is in the Linen Hall Library in Belfast. Joy had moved to the Peacock premises in 1737 and remained there until 1746. Joy’s Entry is named after Francis Joy, and is the place where he had a warehouse, near to the site of the paper’s first publication.

Faced with a shortage of paper, Joy developed the family business to include papermaking, first in Ballymena and then in 1745 at Randalstown, where he installed a larger mill. He married Margaret, daughter of Robert Martin of Belfast, and had at least two sons: Henry Joy (1719/20-1789) and Robert Joy (1722-1785). Joy twice petitioned the Irish House of Commons for assistance in his paper making, eventually being granted £200, a considerable sum, in 1749. By now, however, his sons Henry and Robert were running the printing business, having taken charge of the Belfast News Letter in 1745.

Henry and Robert predeceased their father, with the Belfast News Letter being passed to Henry, Robert's son. On 15 May 1795 the paper was sold to a Scotsman named George Gordon.

Francis Joy died in Randalstown on 10 June 1790.

The Event

Grandfather and grandson
Among those who attended the event were former First Minister Lord Bannside and Baroness Paisley, South Belfast MP Alastair McDonnell and Geoff Rowlings, the son-in-law of the late Captain Bill Henderson, a former owner of the paper. Also among the guests were three former News Letter editors, Darwin Templeton, Austin Hunter and John Trew, as well as Chief Executive of Johnston Press Ireland Jean Long.

From left: Darwin Templeton; Austin Hunter;
Jean Long, Managing Director, Johnston Press;
John Trew; Rankin Armstrong
Welcoming the guests, Ulster History Circle Chairman, Chris Spurr, said that this was the latest of nearly 150 plaque unveilings over the past 30 years. There were several in this part of the city but none closer than that of Francis Joy's grandson, Henry Joy McCracken, unveiled over 20 years ago. Today we commemorated the founding father of the News Letter in its 275th anniversary year. He thanked the Belfast City Council for supporting the plaque, the First Trust Bank for allowing the plaque to be erected on its premises and the News Letter for providing the refreshments.

Alan Boyd chats with
Lord Banside and Baroness Paisley
Rankin Armstrong, Editor of the News Letter, said that he was delighted to be unveiling the blue plaque in memory of Francis Joy. He thanked the Ulster History Circle and the Belfast City Council for their efforts in ensuring that the legacy of Francis Joy is acknowledged and the Linen Hall Library for its long association with the paper. He also commended the work of Ben Lowry, Billy Kennedy and others for their work in keeping alive the history of the newspaper in this its 275th anniversary year. The paper Francis founded in 1737 is the oldest continuously published local newspaper in the UK, making an indelible imprint on our history. He then unveiled the plaque.

Afterwards, refreshments were provided in the News Letter Offices and Ben Lowry gave a short address on the life and times of Francis Joy and the survival of his paper.