An Túr Gloine
January 19. 1928 — 25th Anniversary of An Túr Gloine, Sherlbourne Hotel, Dublin, Ireland
I . . . not only am unaccustomed top public speaking but this is my very first attempt in that line, and I hope you will allow me courage, fi not discretion, or consideration for you.
But it seems too good an occasion to miss, for explaining one or two matters, so with your leave I go on:
First it may be asked in what way the work done in Pembroke Street differs from that done in the ordinary stained glass manufactory . . . Well in these shops the window is standardized, it is divide up among a number of nameless employees who each draw or paint a certain part to sample as it were. This method led to a sometimes skillful but always tiresome and dead uniformity, devoid of all personality, just safe at its best in style and colour. At its worst we know it too well.
Now we hold each window should e in all its artistic parts the work of one individual artist, the glass chosen and painted by the same mind and hand that made the design and drew the cartoon, in fact a bit of stained glass should be a work of free art as much as any other painting or picture. Thus with us, each person gets a window or mosaic panel to do, and does it alone all through according o his own ideas. The Co-operation goes no further than supplying the craft means to do this; for stained glass which Mr. Chesterton calls “the ting that is more intoxicating than all the wines of the world” is unluckily the least handy of the fine arts to make.”
You cannot do it in a romantic studio with silk cushions, but must work in a grubby work shop, and must have kilns, and a large stock of glass and lead, etc., and someone to cut and glaze, etc., for you. All this is troublesome and expensive, and it is obvious no young artist uncertain of his orders could embark on it. Hence the “Co-operative” — for though only legally established this last year, our system has always been the same . . .
Our grief is that we are not 125 years old instead of 25. Think of the chance Ireland had then. All the Catholic Churches and great ecclesiastical establishments to be built through Ireland — almost all the Protestant Churches either to be built or remodelled, and all the glass, altars, furnishings of all sorts to be got.
A people full of genuine piety, ready out of their poverty to give unstintingly, and gifted in the most remarkable way for decorative and manipulative art. Well, we know the result — if only the architects and Schools of Art and the clergy had joined hands and worked up to this enormous demand Ireland would undoubtedly now be the greatest centre of religious art in the world. No other Nation was quite in the same fortunate position. It seems a simple idea to grasp, but the usual Great Enchantment fell on us, and the chance was lost, and in the matter of glass the current was set so persuading people against bringing in a poorer art than they could get here.
It has been a bit disappointing that the Churches have not been more generally enthusiastic in realising we were doing their work, that we should have to look abroad for orders, and to our sorrow to discourage many obviously talented young artists from joining us. . . Still we have held on, and have a lot of work to our account, our last order is numbered (637) in our books. We have glass in a Museum at Detroit, in Canada, New Zealand, in India, in Smyrna — (think of glazing the “Seven Churches of Asia Minor!”) in the States, in England and Scotland, besides the large secular work in glass and Mosaic in Singapore. Our work is in every county in Ireland, in all sorts of remote little spots. We purpose now, since motors and busses can easily bring folks to all of these, to get a list of them for the Tourist, and so hope to spread the light.
I myself, though I hope I am some judge of glass, am not a stained glass worker in the sense we give to the word, as I ex pained it before. My only output is a tiny window in the porch at Loughrea, something in the nature of a curiosity. I designed . . . some of our early windows, but though the real glass artists obligingly painted them, we never found it satisfactory. Now I would not have troubled you with these personal matters only that it is greatly on my mind to correct a misapprehension I very often come upon, and which annoys me very much — that the artists in 24 Pembroke Street are in some way my pupils and under my directions. This, of course, is entirely not so. They are each born with their own imagination and sense of colour, and learned to draw before specialising in stained glass, and have each developed their technique on lines of their own for handling the material, and are not interfered with by anybody, and, as far as is possible, in this rather confusing business they get the credit or blame personally for their work . . . .
Our relations with our patrons have been most happy. The “Bishops and curates, and congregations committed to their charge,” have been kind and satisfied. I have drawers full of testimonials and expressions of their approval. . . .
On that 1st January, 25 years ago, we had our first tea party. . . The shop was quite new, and, oh, so cold! We gathered round the kiln and drink champagne out of tea cups — it didn’t taste very well, and we betook ourselves to the teapot. Now the much grander and snugger tea you are giving us must be getting cold, so we can all only ask you to believe us sincerely grateful and very much touched and heartened by this expression of our liking for us, and this testimony of your appreciation of the work we have done, and which we will go on the more courageously doing for the memory of this evening.
Source: Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Celebration: An Túr Gloine Stained Glass and Mosaic Works, 24 Upper Pembroke Street Dublin (Dublin, Ireland) 1928, pp. 8-13.