The Sister Patricia Lahiff Photographic Collection
Published on 23rd September 2020
Just before the pandemic shutdown in March 2020, Sister Patricia Lahiff signed over her vast collection of personal photographs to Dublin City Library and Archive in Pearse Street, to be safely stored and eventually digitised.
The photographs are of the Finglas Traveller Community and were taken by Sister Lahiff between the early 1970s to the present day. Not one for pomp or ceremony, she insisted that she did not want any kind of handover event. It was an important moment nonetheless.
One of the founders of the Irish Traveller Movement, Sister Lahiff came to Finglas as a young teacher in the early 1970s, straight from a stint working in an exclusive boarding school. Her job in Finglas was to teach some of the young Travellers, who often left school early. She immersed herself in the community helping them make the difficult transition from centuries of nomadism to a settled way of life.
Her deep fondness for her pupils and their families is evident from talking to her, but it was from behind the camera that Sister Lahiff really captured the stories, faces, and families of the Traveller Community in Finglas. Decades of weddings, communions, social trips, outings, impromptu gatherings, were all recorded by the amateur photographer and carefully stored away. Before she handed her collection over to Dublin City Library and Archive, she worked feverishly, with the help of some of the families in the photographs, to put names to all of the faces. "For posterity."
Posterity is the reason that Sister Lahiff parted with her beloved collection. She wanted to ensure that this social history would be available for future generations. The history of Irish Travellers is often lost, written out, not considered valuable. Thanks to this woman; a small, but important piece of history will be saved. Submitted by Barbara in Finglas library.