IRELAND: Woman having her panniers weighed at Clifden, Co. Galway, c. 1908. Mediadrumimages/John Breslin

By Rebecca Drew


STUNNING colourised images celebrating the rich history of Ireland and its people have been painstakingly brought to life in a new book.

Vibrant colourised pictures showed members of the Irish Women Workers’ Union (IWWU) outside Liberty Hall in early 1914 – four years before women aged 30 and over were given suffrage in Ireland – and the locals of Gweedore, Co. Donegal, posing for a photograph whilst wearing traditional dress in front of their thatched cottages.

Other images offered a glimpse into life in rural Ireland with pictures of people and cattle socialising on a fair day in May 1910 in Ballybricken whilst in another, a woman is pictured with a donkey having her panniers weighed at a weigh station in 1908 at Clifden, Co. Galway.

IRELAND: Generations living in the Blue Stack mountains, Niall de Búrca, Joe Mac an Luain, Seán Ó hEochaidh, John Mac an Luain, Joe Beag Mhic an Luain, Máire Bean Mhic an Luain and Pat Mac an Luain, taken in 1950, Croveenananta, Co. Donegal. Mediadrumimages/ John Breslin

The historical photographs feature in Old Ireland in Colour by John Breslin and Sarah-Anne Buckley. It is published by Merrion Press.

The project started when academic lecturer Professor John Breslin developed an interest in historic photo colourisation in 2019 which started with his own family images.

Using a combination of cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology and his own historical research, John moved from family photographs to photographs of Galway and Connemara, and then on to others taken across the island of Ireland in the 19th and 20th centuries.

IRELAND: Locals grouped and posing for the photographer in traditional dress in Gweedore, Co. Donegal, 1880-1900. Mediadrumimages/John Breslin

“This book, and the Old Ireland in Colour project, aims to bring Ireland’s modern history to life through the colourisation of black and white photographs,” wrote John and Sarah in the book’s introduction.

“The first hundred years of photography, during which most of the images in this book were taken, was one of dramatic demographic, social, economic, political, cultural and technological change in Ireland and internationally.

“This change and transformation is a key tenet of this book and the photographs it contains. Each was chosen with several considerations in mind: a reflection of Ireland’s different social classes, the need for a diverse geographical spread, permissions and availability, and the importance of gender, religion and ethnicity.

IRELAND: Linda O’Reilly (née Ward) was an American model who married Brendan O’Reilly, a RTÉ Television presenter. Pictured on a photoshoot in Dublin, 1960 -1966, and is watched by two local boys who are in awe of her. Mediadrumimages/John Breslin

“Although Ireland was predominantly agricultural at the turn of the twentieth century, urban life and streetscapes are an important feature.”

John has meticulously colourised a varied and fascinating selection of images with breath-taking attention to detail and authenticity.

With photographs from all four provinces, and accompanied by fascinating captions by historian Sarah-Anne Buckley, Old Ireland in Colour revitalises scenes.

IRELAND: Locals grouped and posing for the photographer in traditional dress in Gweedore, Co. Donegal, 1880-1900. Mediadrumimages/John Breslin

Published by Merrion Press, Old Ireland in Colour by John Breslin and Sarah-Anne Buckley is available for £22.99 at