IMG_0224Last year I received this tiny brooch (measuring approximately 2 x 1 cm), a gift from someone who knew how much I would treasure it, as it has all the hallmarks of the Harry Clarke Studios, Dublin. On close inspection one can see the image of a soldier, set in a purple/pink radiance, with circular crests at the base.

The brooch image is only a part of a much larger window, the Kevin Barry memorial Window, relocated at University College, Dublin (UCD), Belfield campus in 2011 from its original site at Earlsfort Terrace.  See the full window at


The window commemorates the life of Kevin Gerard Barry (1902-1920), a first-year medical student at UCD in 1919 and a member of the Irish Volunteers (IRA) since the age of 15.  Barry was arrested for his role in the ambush of a British Army vehicle during which three soldiers were shot, one fatally; the other two died of wounds later.  Barry was charged with murder, refusing to name the other men of his ambush party, and was executed by hanging in 1920; he was 18 years old.  This hanging, the first since those following the 1916 Easter Uprising, heralded an escalation of the War of Independence .

Richard King for the Harry Clarke Studios (Clarke himself died in Switzerland in 1931) designed the window.  Although mooted in the 1920s it was finally unveiled in 1934 by Eamonn de Valera, President of Ireland, a leader in the 1916 Easter Uprising and President of Sinn Fein 1917 to 1926.

The tiny ‘Barry brooches’ are presented as gifts by the Schools of Health Sciences on UCD Belfield campus, a potent reminder of their famous former student.

Harry Clarkes War coverFor Ireland, the First World War and Irish Uprising of 1916 are inextricably linked, although it is unlikely Kevin Barry will be mentioned in Marguerite Helmers,  Harry Clarke’s War: Illustrations for Ireland’s Memorial Records, 1914-1918, Irish Academic Ress Ltd., Kildare, 2015.

Ireland’s Memorial Records 1914-1918 lists the names of 49,435 enlisted men who were killed in the First World War.  The original edition, commissioned in 1919 was ‘notable for stunning and elaborate page decorations’, the work of Harry Clarke.  We certainly don’t think of Clarke as a ‘war artist’ at all, but Marguerite Helmer has produced a book ‘with Harry Clarke’s illustrations taking center stage in the story’ allowing an evaluation of ‘how art and commemoration can come together in a powerful visual creation’.

The same can be said for the Kevin Barry Memorial window at University College Dublin.

With thanks to Susan Kellett, PhD candidate, University of Queensland.

The Irish Rising: ‘A terrible beauty is born’ is a free exhibition at The State Library of Victoria 17 March 2016-31 July 2016.

Harry Clarke’s War is available from on-line book sources.