This Limerick Life Aug 31

Born, at home, on the South Circular Road, Limerick, I was delivered by my paternal grandmother, Helen Haselbeck, a professional midwife.

Born, at home, on the South Circular Road, Limerick, I was delivered by my paternal grandmother, Helen Haselbeck, a professional midwife.

Sadly, my parents marriage broke down and as a result, I spent the next few years living between Limerick and my mother Ilse Buchmeier’s home, in Germany. Following a legal tug-of-love battle, I was made a ward of court and returned with my father to the family home, at 77 Wolfe Tone St. Here, I was brought-up as an only child, by the extended Haselbeck family, with my grandfather, the professional photographer, Franz S.Haselbeck, as head of the household. I attended St. Michael’s National School, on Barrington St. and Villiers School, on the North Circular Road.Having completed my Leaving Certificate, I spent a year in Switzerland.

My determination to be independent, and see the world, lead me down a varied career path.

I took many part-time jobs during my school days. My father, Frank Haselbeck, worked with TWA, at Shannon Airport, giving me an inbuilt affinity with the travel industry. Upon my return from Switzerland, I took a summer job, with Shannon Castle Tours, as a guide, on their Medieval Tours. I planned to go to Trinity College the following autumn. However, that summer job was the beginning of a long and happy association with SFADCO, and The Irish Tourist Board, for which I worked all over the USA. Given leave to co-host a TV travel talk show, in Canada, for ASTA Travel News, I subsequently, became Sales and PR Manager for FitzPatrick’s Hotels, working in Ireland and the USA. Then came marriage and motherhood, for me the most rewarding job of all . Since 2007, I have worked, part-time, at the University of Limerick as a tutor on their Access Transition to University Course.

Living with my grandfather, I became engrossed in and familiar with his photographic work, almost by osmosis.

The walls of our house were covered with framed prints giving glimpses of Ireland, its troubles, its people and its development in the 20th century. Indeed, his studio and dark room were filled with both vintage and up-to-date equipment. I would watch spellbound as prints appeared from developing tanks, as if by magic.

Totally fascinated, I began, under his patient and good humoured tutelage, to understand the exacting skills and the artist’s eye, needed to produce a photograph that would engage the viewer, long after the subject and the photographer were just a memory.

He also taught me to appreciate the creative process, in its many genres.

On another level, he instilled in me, a value system which has guided me through my more turbulent times. He was strict in a ‘Victorian’ manner and we locked horns during my rebellious teenage years. However, once that phase passed, we again became firm friends and allies, until the end of his life, in 1973.

For many years I have had a passionate desire to archive and publicise my grandfather’s work.

This became an urgency as his glass plate negatives were rapidly deteriorating, the images in danger of being lost forever. The late Jim Kemmy and the historian Kevin Hannan, encouraged me to preserve them but funding remained a stumbling block for decades. However, a series of happy circumstances began in 2008, when the late Desmond FitzGerald, Knight of Glin, a dear friend of mine and advocate of my grandfather’s work, identified a natural link to the ESB Archives.

My grandfather was employed by Siemens during the construction of The Shannon Scheme. Recognising the historic importance of the collection, the ESB Archives and Siemens supported its conservation .The cataloguing and digitalising of the photographic work and restoration of the more important photographic equipment started, 
in earnest.

The exhaustive archiving process created a lasting bond with the professional team from ESB Archives.

Myself and my two sons, Sean and Darragh Flynn, spent endless hours together, with them, identifying images from thousands of glass plate negatives and original prints.We catalogued the very broad subject matter into basic themes and later, chronologically.Some identification was straightforward as we were able to match the images with my grandfather’s diary entries but many records had been lost . Repeated viewing, once the images had been digatilised, made further links possible, through the identification of prominent individuals, familiar buildings ,landscapes ,military events, uniforms, correspondence ,studio props and backdrops.

A particularly elusive image would require the involvement of a number of people ,with specialist expertise , inspecting it, in minute detail, for hours. There would be great jubilation when we got a result.

Eventually, like pieces of a jigsaw, everything began to fall into place. It was also at times, a painful exercise when correspondence being conserved, revealed the inevitable skeletons in the family cupboard. The end result was the successful exhibition, Fond Memories Bring Delight, in the Hunt Museum, 
in 2010.

Franz S.Haselbeck’s Ireland -Selected Photographs, will be published by The Collins Press, Cork, in September, price €24.99.