Tag Archives: Haddon the `headhunter’

Anarchy in the UK: Haddon, Home Rule and Brexit

 

The following is a transcript of a Powerpoint presentation given at the 2019 Annual Conference of the Folklore Society. It was devised  in response to a call for papers that explored the relationship between  “Folklore and the Nation.”

The blog represents the first results of a four year investigation of the “skull measuring business” in Ireland in the 1890s. That project was funded by the Irish Research Council and Shanahan Research Group in association with Maynooth University and the School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin.

The presentation develops ideas that were first presented to the Irish Conference on Folklore and Ethnology in Belfast in November 2018.

 

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Abstract

This presentation deals with ethnicity, nationalism and folklore, drawing on a forgotten anti-Imperial movement in British folklore. It begins with an anti-colonial speech delivered by Alfred Haddon in Ipswich in 1895. Haddon was aligned with the volkskunde wing of the folklore movement in Ireland and opened his speech by acknowledging nationalist efforts to disengage from political and economic union with Britain. Haddon entered anthropology through folklore, equating the destruction of native customs in subjugated territories with the loss of personal identity, ethnicity, and, ultimately, nationhood. Haddon spoke to Patrick Geddes and Havelock Ellis about reconstituting anthropology as a vehicle for radical anti-colonial activism. They were inspired by the anarchist geography of Kropotkin, the radical ethnology of Reclus, and the “Zeitgeist” of Gomme (FLS). This conference looks like the place  to remember an engagement between Irish nationalists, English folklorists and stateless anarchists /ethnologists on the brink of Ireland’s exit from union with Britain.

 

1    Haddon

TCD MS 10961/4/1v, Anthropometry in Aran: Aran Islands, 1892.

The Dublin Anthropometric Laboratory operating in the field in the Aran Islands in 1892. Courtesy of the Board of Trinity College Dublin.

02 Tom Connelly schedule 650

The original schedule of measurements taken from Tom Connelly. The schedule was based on a form developed by francis Galton for his anthropometric laboratory in London. Courtesy of the Board of Trinity College Dublin.

 

The photograph above shows Alfred Cort Haddon [on the right], with Charles R.Browne [on the left] measuring Tom Connelly (Ó Conghaile).  It was taken in 1892 during an ethnographic survey of the Aran Islands. The survey was undertaken by the Dublin Anthropometric Laboratory, which was established in Trinity College Dublin in 1891.

Francis Galton designed the laboratory and its main operating procedures. The Royal Irish Academy provided operational funding. Daniel J. Cunningham, Professor of Anatomy in TCD, provided the premises. Haddon was responsible for a programme of fieldwork that was undertaken in what he described as “ethnical Islands” in remote parts of the West of Ireland.

 

2     Methodology

This image of Haddon measuring the skulls of Irish peasants encapsulates much of what has been written about his fieldwork in Ireland.  The literature is – generally speaking – preoccupied with race bracketed by evolution and colonisation. It represents Haddon’s framing of “the Irish” as the antithesis of the cultural construction of nationality that was promoted by Douglas Hyde, the folklorist who set the agenda for cultural nationalism and republican separatism in the 1890s.

This presentation sets out to disturb this consensus with some awkward, little facts that have been gleaned from Haddon’s papers  – mainly his journals of fieldwork in Ireland, his correspondence with Patrick Geddes and Havelock Ellis, and some key anti-imperialist statements written by him between 1891 and 1892.

These “facts” were used to test the relationship between, information, rhetoric and historiography in the context of organised science and the politics of ethnology, anthropology, and folklore in the 1890s.

The question here, is whether these “facts” can sustain an argument that Haddon incorporated anarchist ideas into the agenda of folklore collection in Ireland in the 1890s, an argument that complicates conventional treatments of the historical relationship between ethnicity, folklore, and nationality in the context of Ireland’s  exit from the UK.

Clara Patterson

Clara Patterson, 1893, Children Playing “Poor Mary” in Ballymiscaw.

 

The presentation concludes with a look at Haddon’s collaboration with Clara Patterson, a zoologists turned folklore collector and photographer. This is used to demonstrate that  Haddon the Head-hunter was, in fact,  a politically radical and formally innovative folklorist.

 

3     Home Rule and Brexit

 

In this presentation I’ll be looking at the role that folklore played in the political and cultural arguments that were generated by home rule; the campaign to take Ireland out of political and economic union with Great Britain, which dominated Anglo-Irish relations in the the 1880s and 1890s.

There are some obvious parallels with Brexit. The Customs Union and a backstop for the Protestant minority in Ireland featured in the first Government of Ireland [home rule] Bill of 1886. That bill was defeated by the Conservatives supported by Unionists.

 The difference are far more significant.

Ireland was a colony and the intertwined campaigns for home rule and land reform were confronted with “coercion” legislation and the mobilisation of imperial forces. Cultural forces were also mobilised in a debate about the compatibility of the Celt and the Anglo-Saxon in relation to nationality and governance.

Folklore collectors provided evidence of a pre-conquest nation that had survived in the edgelands of Empire in Ireland. Folklore, in this context, is generally treated as a resource for cultural nationalism.

I am not arguing with that. What I am proposing, however, is that there was a far more radical, anti-Imperial movement in Anglo-Irish folklore and that it was led by Haddon, the head-hunter.

 

4      Anglo-Irish Folklore

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Haddon entered organised anthropology through the Folklore Society. In 1890, Gomme congratulated the Society on its capture of Haddon, who abandoned natural science and became an ardent folklorist. Gomme added that Haddon was pursuing his folk-lore work in Ireland and that he was expecting great things from him.

1890 

Haddon visited the Aran Islands for the first time and  1890. He wrote in his journal that they were the most remarkable islands he had ever visited. He spent a week documenting the islanders and their way of life. Haddon, it seems, had discovered a village community that had managed to escape the worst consequences of the Anglo-Saxon – his words – colonisation of Ireland.

Pyotr (Peter) Kropotkin, the Russian anarchist in exile in England, had used the idea of a village community to reject social-Darwinist arguments advanced by Thomas Henry Huxley in 1885. Huxley, it should be noted, was probably the most powerful public scientist in Britain at the time and was, in many ways, Haddon’s boss.

Havelock Ellis commissioned Gomme to write a book on village communities. Gomme acknowledged that the social organisation of some village communities resembled modern socialism. That claim has to be taken with some caution.  It could be that  the political commentary was insinuated by Ellis as editor of the volume.

Nevertheless, Haddon read Gomme’s book before visiting the islands and he informed Ellis that he had noted the influence of the zeitgeist.

 1892 

In 1892, Haddon returned to the islands to conduct an “ethnographic” study of the inhabitants. The influence of  both Kropotkin and Gomme is evident in the report that was published in 1893.

 First, the introduction makes an historic distinction between race and ethnicity.

Second, the emphasis on the relation between race, place and political economy is             consistent with Kropotkin’s work on the village communities, which Ellis had adopted as a key part of his political agenda.

1893      

In January, Haddon persuaded members of the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club (BNFC) to undertake fieldwork on behalf of the Ethnographic Survey of the UK. He presented the survey of the Aran Islands as a model.  The members agreed to collect folklore, but declined to undertake the measurement of peasant skulls .

1894   

In November , Douglas Hyde, the folklorist, gave a lecture at the BNFC on Celtic language and literature.

1895  

Hyde was followed by Haddon in January 1895. Haddon lectured on ‘Modern Relics of Olden Time’ and introduced a link between children’s games and savage dances.

As a result of these contrasting presentations, Hyde and Haddon have been linked in debates about the relationship between folklore, ethnology, and cultural nationalism / home rule.

 

5     Prof Haddon and Dr Hyde

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In November 1892,  Douglas Hyde delivered his lecture on ‘The Necessity of De-Anglicising the Irish Nation’ to the National Literary Society in Dublin. This lecture is widely acknowledged as a pivotal moment in the language-based, cultural movement associated with home rule and separatism.

The Gaelic league was founded in 1893 and a branch was establish in Belfast in 1896, directly as a result of Hyde’s visit to the BNFC. This has been interpreted as an equally pivotal moment in the separation of racial and cultural determinisms of nationality.

The key text is Greta Jones’s “Contested Territories,” published in 1998.

‘Haddon’s work in anthropology’ according to Jones ‘exemplifies the dominance of Darwinian evolutionary Anthropology’ and Haddon was ‘the Darwinian evolutionist par excellence’ who regarded ‘ anthropology as a form of cultural zoology.’

 

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Jones quoted a piece written by Haddon in 1890, in which he described much of Folklore ‘as Psychological Palaeontology’.  In 2017, Diamuid Ó Giolláin, in his introduction to the English-language edition of Irish Ethnologies quoted jones’ description of Haddon to illustrate significant differences between Haddon and Hyde and, by extension, between the practice of Victorian ethnology in Ireland and the cultural programme of Irish nationalists.

The problem here is that Jones misinterpreted Haddon’s original statement and the context in which it was made. 

In 1890, Havelock Ellis asked Haddon to write a general study of anthropology. Ellis wanted to include it in the Contemporary Science Series, of which he was the editor. Haddon drafted a letter to Ellis and included a list of potential treatments. Haddon’s reference to “psychological palaeontology” is a reductionist representation of a theory of folklore, which attempted to situate the study of folklore within a scientific construction of anthropology.

page 9

File: Haddon to Ellis May 14 1890

 

This circumstance of the  letter places Haddon’s comment in a really interesting context:

  • Ellis was using the Contemporary Science Series to publish anarchist texts.
  • He wanted to anchor the series in a general study of anthropology.
  • Patrick Geddes recommended Haddon for the job.

Geddes met Haddon in Cambridge in the late 1870s. In 1890, he advised Haddon to become an anthropologist but warned him that the skull measuring business had been overtaken by a great scientific movement that was developing in France around radical approaches to comparative sociology.

 

page 10

File: Geddes to Haddon 1889

 

6    The Network

Geddes introduced Haddon to the writings of anarchist and geographer Pyotr (Peter) Kropotkin and radical ethnologist Élie Reclus.  He also introduced him to Ellis. Haddon had become part of a European network of anarchists, socialist, feminists, and social reformers.

 

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Top L-R: Élisée Reclus, Louise Michel, Pyotr Kropotkin, Élie Reclus, Noémi Reclus.                 Bottom L-R: Alice Gomme, G. L. Gomme, Patrick Geddes, Havelock Ellis, The Field Club Union.

Note 1

The photograph of the members of the Field Club Union is used to represent the network of folklore collectors that Haddon put together in Ireland, especially the women – key members of the network – for whom it was not possible to locate portraits online.

Note 2

The fact that Haddon was associating with former communards and anarchists –men and women, whose characters were, according to Geddes, ‘disciplined by the disasters of 70-71’ – may seem a little far-fetched. Haddon and Geddes refer to Kropotkin and Élie Reclus in their correspondence. Furthermore,  Haddon and Élisée Reclus participated in the Summer Meeting of Art and Science that was organised by Geddes in August 1895. Reclus gave a number of public lectures on Anarchy on his way to Edinburgh, in which he noted that there was plenty of scope for anarchy in the UK. These people – stateless anarchists and revolutionaries – were very much part of Haddon network in the early 1890s.

 

7      Clara patterson

 

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Members of the combined field clubs of Ireland gathered on the pier in Kimurvey Bay in the Aran islands in 1895. The photograph was taken by Robert j. Welch.  It has been cropped here to emphasise the presence of a group of female naturalists.

 

Haddon built his own network in Ireland, drawing heavily of the folklore and field club movements, seen here gathered on the pier in Kilmurvey Bay in the Aran Islands in 1895.

He recruited Clara Patterson in January 1893. Patterson trained as a zoologist with Haddon and won a bronze medal in examinations conducted by Haddon under the auspices of the Society for the Extension of University Teaching.

The extension of university teaching was promoted by Geddes, Ellis, and Elisée Reclus as a means of empowering socially and politically marginalised groups. Gender equality was a priority area for political action and Haddon’s promotion of women is a matter of record.

In this context, it should be noted that Clara Patterson was not allowed to present her research on folklore to members of the BNFC. It was read by Francis Joseph Bigger, which was, as Guy Beiner noted, the practice in organisations like that. Haddon challenged such discrimination in 1890, when he arranged for Alice Shackleton to be the first woman to read a scientific paper to the Royal Dublin Society.

Haddon was a feminist.

 

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In March 1892, The Belfast News-Letter reported that Patterson presented specimens at a meeting of the Microscopical Meeting of the BNFC, which was “designed to be an elaborate illustration of the course of lectures on zoology delivered in Belfast by Professor H. [sic] C. Haddon, M. A. under the auspices of the society for the Extension of University Teaching.” In May, the News-Letter reported that Patterson was awarded a Bronze medal in examinations conducted by Haddon for the Society .

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Clara Patterson collected information on children’s games for Alice Gomme in 1893. Haddon persuaded her to take photographs and Patterson went up the hill to Ballymiscaw, a rural district in county Down, to get “instantaneous” photographs of peasant children playing “Poor Mary.”

in 1894, Haddon wrote about children’s games in his column in the The Irish Daily Independent. He proposed that singing games could represent the last vestiges of savage customs in contemporary society. 

This may be interpreted as evidence of Haddon’s attachment to what Tabitha Cadbury called the discredited doctrine of  “survivals.” That would not be entirely accurate. Haddon may have been using the rhetoric of “survivals,” but his intention was far more radical.

 

8    “Survivals” versus “Sympathetic Knowledge”

Haddon developed the concept of “sympathetic knowledge” and illustrated it by pointing out correspondences between the daily actions of people at the extremes of human kind. This shows how quickly he had  incorporated Kropotkin’s ideas into his treatment of anthropological problems.

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Haddon wrote  “Incidents in the life of a Torres Straits islander” in 1889. It was the first of a series of overtly anti-imperial statements and actions. It included the following definition of “sympathetic knowledge”:

An intimate and friendly acquaintance with savages breaks down many prejudices, and while it often reveals modes of thought and traits of character which are all but incomprehensible to us with our specialized Aryan civilization, yet human nature is displayed at every turn, and common impulses and sympathies link the extremes of human kind. 

Haddon was redefining the task of ethnographic representation in line with Kropotkin’s argument for increased access to geography in general education. The third, great task of geography was defined by Kropotkin as:

that of dissipating the prejudices in which we are reared with regard to the so-called ‘lower races’-

In 1891 Haddon incorporated these ideas into a radical critique of Imperial policy. It was rejected by the editors of a number of ‘monthlies’ before it was suppressed by Huxley in  January 1892, on the basis that it would not be acceptable to the Government.

Nevertheless, Haddon presented his case at a packed meeting of the Anthropological Secton of the British Association in 1895. He delivered a speech on the subject of interference with the civilisations of other races. It was widely interpreted as an attack on the Empire and its missionaries.

Haddon had attacked both church and state and, in the process, he had confronted the political culture of organised anthropology, especially institutional ambivalence to the extermination of other civilisations. These hardly consitute the actions of someone engaged in cultural zoology.

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9        The Malu Zogo te

Haddon returned to the field in 1898, when he organised the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Strait. He filmed a one minute sequence of the dance of the Malu Zogo Te, the islander who led an initiation ceremony on the Island of  Kiam. It was the earliest known use of film as an ethnographic medium.

 

 

Haddon used a phonograph to record the islanders. A photograph of the recording session was reproduced in Head-hunters, Black, White and Brown, a narrative account of his fieldwork in Oceania that Haddon published in 1901. The photograph shows Ulai singing and Gasu on drums, while Myers acts as recording engineer. This recording does not seem to have survived, but other recording made on the day can be streamed on the British Library website.

 

Malu Patterson

 

Stills grabbed from Haddon’s film are strikingly similar to the photographs taken by Patterson in Ballymiscaw in 1893, providing a visually striking illustration of the “fact” that Clara Patterson and Haddon were involved in a joint folklore project that incorporated anarchist ideas and constituted a form of anti-racism activism.

If we regard folklore as the practical wing of ethnology – as practiced by Haddon – then we really need to rethink our attitude to (1) his ethnological fieldwork in Ireland and (2) his engagements with cultural nationalists like Douglas Hyde.

 

10    Some Conclusions

Haddon was an internationalist, whose politics were shaped by (1) a philosophical understanding of the essential unity of the human species and (2) his experience of the devastating effect of colonialism in Ireland and the Torres Strait.

Haddon used photography to materialise ‘the common impulses and sympathies [that] link the extremes of human kind.’ He used the experience of that material to persuade his folklore collectors to look beyond the local and embrace the essential unity of human kind.

Whereas Hyde sought to define nationality through the particularity of folklore, Haddon sought to use the universality of folk traditions to confront ethnocentricity at home and its consequences for other civilisations overseas.

This was one half of Haddon’s most radical innovation. The other half was the application of revolutionary audio-visual technologies to the task of making the those civilisations meaningful at home.

 

Ciarán Walsh

 

 

Works Cited

Beiner, Guy, 2012, Revisiting F. J. Bigger: A “Fin-de-Siècle” Flourish of Antiquarian-Folklore Scholarship in Ulster. Béaloideas, 80, 142-162.

Cunningham, D. J., and A. C. Haddon, 1892, The Anthropometric Laboratory of Ireland. The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 21, 1892, pp. 35–39.

Gomme, G. L.,

1890, The Village Community, with Special Reference to the Origin and Form of its Survivals in Britain (The Contemporary Science Series). New York: Scribner

1891, Annual Address to the Folk-Lore Society, November 26th, 1890. Folk-Lore 2 (1),1-30.Folklore 108 (1997): pp. 120-3.

Haddon, Alfred Cort,

1890, Incidents in the life of a Torres Straits islander, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine: A Popular Journal of General Literature, Science, and Politics. Vol XLV. (January to June, 1890). pp 567-572.

1891, A critique of the Imperial Institute (On the Need for a Bureau of Ethnology). (MSS, HP, CUL Folder 5061).

1901, Head-hunters; black, white, and brown. London: Methuen.

Hyde, Douglas, 1904, The necessity for de-Anglicising Ireland IN 1904 he Revival of Irish Literature: Addresses by Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, KCMG, Dr. George Sigerson, and Dr Douglas Hyde (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1904), 117-161.

Jones, Greta, 1998, Contested Territories: Alfred Cort Haddon, Progressive Evolutionism and Ireland, History of European Ideas 24 (3): 195-211.

Kropotkin, Peter, 1885, What Geography Ought to Be, The Nineteenth Century, Vol. 18, pp. 940-56.

O’Giolláin, Diarmuid, (ed.), 2017, Irish Ethnologies, Indiana 46556: University of Notre Dame Press.

 

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What happened on Inishbofin in July 1890? Three days that changed the history of Anthropology in Ireland and Britain.

Teampall Cholmain by Marie Coyne, The Inishbofin Heritage Museum

Teampall Cholmain by Marie Coyne, The Inishbofin Heritage Museum

St. Colman’s Abbey is a small ruin on a remote island off the West coast of Ireland. It is situated on the site of a seventh century monastery established by Colman of Lisdisfarne around 668AD. Archaeologically speaking this is a modest site  but it is the  setting for a remarkable sequence of events that were to have profound consequences for the development of anthropology in Ireland and the United Kingdom.

On Wednesday 16 July  1890 – 125 years ago to the day – the steamer  Fingal anchored in Inishbofin. The Fingal had been chartered by the Royal Dublin Society (RDS)  for survey work on the fisheries of the western seaboard. One of the scientists on board was Alfred Cort Haddon, a marine zoologist who had developed an interest in ethnology—the comparative study of races—whilst on a similar survey the year before in the Torres Strait,located between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Haddon had  joined the remarkable and Reverend William Spottiswood Green, Inspector of Fisheries, in Killybegs in County Donegal  on 26 June and headed south three days later. Haddon  assumed responsibility for keeping a “narrative ” journal of the survey. Green’s narrative has been publish by the RDS  but Haddon’s account has never been published in full and the manuscript is held in Cambridge University.

This is Haddon’s  account of  what happened on Inishbofin in July 1890:

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Wednesday – July 16 . Dixon and I got up at 6 o’clock & photographed Cromwell’s Fort and had a bathe. The 2  Mrs Allies (who reside on the island) & Father McHugh came to breakfast at 8 o’clock & after breakfast we tried a new fishing ground for longline fishing. We had just over 400 hooks out on a line measuring about —- feet – the result was poor for we only got 1 Halibut / 5 foot long and weighing 95lbs.) 1 Turbot, 1 Cod, 13 Ling, 17 Conger, 2 Torsk, 1 Cuckoo-Gurnard, 6 Pickard dog fish, 1 Tope, 7 Nurse-Hounds (Dogfish), 1 Skate, 1 Ray. – Then Dixon and I had to measure, weigh & examine a selection of them. I will explain our particular work on another occasion.

The 2 Mr Allies are Englishmen – some time ago, 8 or 9 years I believe, their father foreclosed on a mortgage on this island & so it & several others some 7 in all – including rocks – became his property & he sent a son to look after it & he has lived here ever since. For about the last 18 mths. another brother joined this one & so these 2 middle aged men are living bachelor’s lives on this out of the way island – fishing, farming, & so forth. They have both spent several years in Australia, mainly in Queensland, sheep farming etc.

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The latter brother is more or less () an engineer. The former is the recognised landlord. I got more intimate with Edward, the engineer, & I hope I have interested him in Folklore & he has promised to collect information for the Royl. Irish Academy. He told me of an old ruined church where there were some skulls & we arranged with Dixon a plan of action. We all went ashore together that night & he provided us with a sack & later in the dark, took us close to the church. The coast being clear Dixon & I climbed over the gate & went down the enclosure which is practically a large graveyard, on our way we disturbed several cattle. We stumbled along & entered the church tumbling over the stones which are placed over the graves, in the corner we saw in the dim light the skulls in a recess in the wall. There must have been 40 or more, all broken, most useless but on (overhanding) them we found a dozen which were worth carrying away & only one however had the face bones. Whilst we were thus engaged we heard 2 men slowly walking & talking in the road & like Brer Fox – we ‘lay low’ & like the Tar Baby “kept on saying nothing.” When the coast was clear we put our  spoils in the sack & cautiously made our way back to the road, then it did not matter who saw us. We returned to the Allies’ house. Dixon kept the bag & then Poole went off to the gig with us. The 2 sailors  wanted to take the bag for Dixon but he wouldn’t let them & when asked what was in it replied “poteen.” So without any further trouble we got our skulls aboard & there we packed them in Dixon’s portmanteau & locked it, no one on the steamer, except our two selves, having any idea that there were 12 human skulls in the steamer & they shan’t know either.

Teampall Chomain by Dixon. The niche where  the skulls were kept is visible in the lower right hand corner. The sketch  referred to by Haddon is an exact illustration of this scene suggesting that the sketch and the photograph are contemporaneous. This copy of photograph is from the photograph albums of Charles R. Browne. With permission of the Board of Trinity College Dublin.

Teampall Chomain by Dixon. The niche where the skulls were kept is visible in the lower right hand corner. The sketc h referred to by Haddon below is an exact illustration of this scene, suggesting that the sketch and the photograph are contemporaneous. This copy of the photograph is from the photograph albums of Charles R. Browne. With permission of the Board of Trinity College Dublin.

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Next afternoon we landed  & went to have a look at the place by daylight & then I made this sketch [a drawing illustrating the site of the niche and the skulls]. The whole place is a mass of graves covered with loose stones. There are no inscriptions & there is no carving anywhere. This particular building was the chapel of a monastery which was founded by St. Coleman in about 667. It is referred to by the “Venerable Bide”; but soon passed into oblivion. On the succeeding page I give a sketch of the church from a neighbouring hill, showing Inishlyon in the middle distance and the mountains of Connemara in the far distance, the group of mountains to the right is “The Twelve Pins.”  In the right hand neat corner of the churchyard is St. Colman’s will of which the accompanying is a sketch, the well itself is inside.

Teampall Cholmain, Inishbofin by Marie Coyne, Inishbofin Heritage Museum.

Teampall Cholmain, Inishbofin by Marie Coyne, Inishbofin Heritage Museum.

Haddon left Inishbofin on Friday 18 July 1890.

In November 1893 he presented a more formal report on Studies in Irish Craniology II, Inishbofin, Co. Galway to the Royal Irish Academy.

TCD 1891

Cyanotype of the Anthropometry Laboratory and Comparative Anatomy Museum in TCD in 1891. With the permission of the Board of Trinity College Dublin.

Haddon had earned the nickname “Haddon the Headhunter” as a boy because of a prank he played on his sisters. The visit to Inishbofin set in train a series of events that converted a boyish fascination with skulls into a scientific orthodoxy that was the signature of an influential player in the establishment of anthropology as a scientific discipline in Britain.

Haddon’s involvement in the Fingal fishing survey coincided with a developing interest in anthropology as a result of his experiences in the Torres Strait. He was particularly interested in folklore as a form of history used by primitive peoples. He regarded the link between folklore and anthropology as similar to the link between palaeontology and archaeology. He had heard of a tradition of proxy weddings on Inishbofin and was eager to learn more. This seemed to matter more than ‘Headhunting’ in July 1890. He had collected skulls in Torres Straits but referred to them as “curios.” Following his escapade with Dixon however he developed a more “scientific” interest in skulls or “crania.”

Dixon had been working in comparative anatomy under Professor Daniel J. Cunningham of TCD. At the time Cunningham was mapping the topography of the human brain and comparing this to the brains of anthropoid apes. Dixon was also a keen photographer. This meeting of interests was to have a major influence on Haddon’s future direction as a scientist. He became obsessed with craniology – the categorisation of skull types through the measurement of particular features  and developed a theory of racial migration based on tracking the distribution of different skull types.

On his return to Dublin Haddon and Cunningham established an Anthropometry Laboratory in TCD and in 1891 they launched the Ethnographic Survey of Ireland. This was an attempt to use laboratory methods “in the field” in an attempt to trace the origins of the Irish race; this was the origin of the term “fieldwork” which, in this case, consisted of  measuring and photographing the physical characteristics of people in the remotest districts in Ireland, starting in the Aran islands in 1892.

Charles R. Browne

Charles R. Browne “in the field” in Inishbofin in 1893. From the photograph albums of Charles R. Browne. With Permission of the Board of Trinity College Dublin.

The following year his colleague Charles R. Browne returned to St. Colman’s Abbey but the islanders prevented him form stealing more skulls. Browne, a medical doctor, was more interested in social conditions in the West and, with Cunningham, began to emphasise sociology over physical anthropology and, ethnography over measurement: a split that anticipated a major philosophical divide in the natural and social sciences in the 20th century.

That is a story that has yet to be told.

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Credits / Further Information:

Photography by Marie Coyne, The Inishbofin Heritage Museum.

This blog is based on a presentation made by Ciarán Walsh at the Anthropology and Photography Conference organised by the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland in the British Museum in May 2014, in association with Dr Jocelyne Dudding (Cambridge) and Dr Mark Maguire (Maynooth). This research continues as a postgraduate research project with the Anthropology Department of Maynooth University in association with the Irish Research Council. Ciarán Walsh was elected a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute in 2015.

The photographic archive of the  Irish Ethnographic Survey was published by Ciarán Walsh and Dáithí de Mórdha in 2012 in association with TCD, the OPW and the Heritage Council of Ireland. See De Mórdha, Dáithí and Ciarán Walsh, 2012, The Irish Headhunter, The Photograph Albums of Charles R. Browne. Dublin: Stationery Office & http://www.curator.ie.

This material was updated in 2013 in an article by Ciarán Walsh for the Irish Journal of Anthropology:  Walsh, C., 2013, Charles R. Browne, The Irish Headhunter, Irish Journal of Anthropology Vol 16. Anthropological Association of Ireland.