RTE’s Mary Wilson opens ‘Clonmel’s eye to the world’ photo exhibition

Michael Heverin

Michael Heverin

An exhibition launched in the County Museum on Saturday night has been described as ‘Clonmel’s eye to the world’.

RTE presenter Mary Wilson said the expo ‘Face to Place’ by photogaphers Donal Wylde and Terry Murphy represented a history of Clonmel and South Tipperary in photographs.

The presenter of ‘Drivetime’ on Radio 1 was returning to her roots as special guest at the exhibition launch.

From Drangan, she worked in The Nationalist before moving on to RTE to become one of the best known faces and voices on radio and television.

Donal Wylde is also a former staff photographer at The Nationalist although the attendance at Saturday’s event in the Museum were told that their paths never crossed while working in Clonmel.

However they did work together when both were with RTE with Mary Wilson paying glowing tribute to Donal’s ‘eye’ for the brilliant shot.

“Working with Donal almost made the reporter redundant because you didn’t need words. He gave you a beginning, middle and end in pictures. I see the world in words, he sees the world in pictures”, she said.

Behind the exhibition is museum curator Marie McMahon who reprised Donal’s nostalgic photo exhibition ‘Light of Other Days to link in with panoramic images of South Tipperary by Waterford landscape photogapher Terry Murphy.

‘The Light of Other Days’ was a huge success when first exhibited, capturing life in Clonmel and South Tipperary in the 1960s and 70s through the lens of Donal as a young photogapher with The Nationalist.

It was also published in book form and was quickly sold out – the good news is that Donal is working on a follow-up production.

Mary Wilson said a number of Donal’s images immediately caught the eye. She mentioned the shot of Dan Breen in his later years and recalled her grandfather relating stories of his life – Donal’s shot was a moment in time in the life of a man who played such a huge role in Irish politics in the 1920s.

Another shot was of the family of Lord and Lady Donoughmore following the couple’s kidnapping by the IRA. The photo was taken in the family sitting room which showed the trust people had in Donal to allow him such acess at such a sensitivie time.

The popular RTE presenter recalled her early days in The Nationalist – very different times but the skills she learned there in the late 1970s had stood her in good stead throughout her career.

“I remember the editor Mr Darmody and a great team of reporters. I also remember Willie Fenton taking me in hand and teaching me the basics and fundamentals of the job and how to tell a story”.

Encouraging as many people as possible to attend the exhibition, she said the photographs help to preserve the history of the county. “Children should be made aware of it and schools encouraged to visit”.

Donal Wylde thanked Mary Wilson for attending the opening and recalled that both had started their careers in The Nationalist, although at different times. He was very happy to join with Terry Murphy in staging the exhibition and paid tribute to Marie McMahon for the idea.

The sentiments were echoed by Terry Murphy who said he was delighted to share a platform with Donal and with his work which represented a powerful insight into the history of Clonmel.

The exhibition was officially opened by South Tipperary County Council chairman John Crosse who remarked that Donal and Terry’s imagery of town and county complemented each other perfectly.

Curator Marie McMahon said the exhibition was part of The Gathering planned for next year which was encouraging Irish people to return home and she believed such a powerful exhibiton could play a role in that.