Wholely in Earnest,
This review is from: Artist of the Revolution: The Cartoons of Ernest Kavanagh (1884 - 1916) (Paperback)Few people will have heard of Ernest Kavanagh (1884-1916). I certainly hadn't until I went to a talk by James Curry in the National Library of Ireland. Kavanagh's main claim to fame is his cartoons for Jim Larkin's paper, The Irish Worker, between 1912 and 1916. These cartoons regularly appeared on the front page of the paper and are credited with helping to stoke up feelings against the employers and their police allies, particularly during and after the 1913 lockout.
This is a great little book and introduces the reader to a significant figure who has been lost sight of in modern times. Fortunately the centenary of the Lockout this year has provided a useful occasion to remember the contribution of Kavanagh's cartoons to Big Jim Larkin's cause.
It is interesting that there is a sort of rediscovery going on into the work of some of the cartoonists of yore. Felix M Larkin has published a book on the Shemus Cartoons of Ernest Forbes covering the period 1920-1924, and the National Library of Ireland has acquired a collection of the cartoons of Gordon Brewster covering the period 1922 to 1932.
It is hard to assess the influence of these cartoons on the readers of the papers on which they appeared but their instant appeal must surely have made a major contribution to the formation of readers' attitudes over time.
Kavanagh produced two cartoons in particular, demonising both the employers' leader, William Martin Murphy, and the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, John Redmond, which have been used extensively in the history books, but without being credited to Kavanagh.
In his book, Curry draws attention to two cartoons which appeared on the same day and shortly after the 1913 Lockout. The one by Kavanagh, depicts Murphy as a vulture, perched on the pillar of the gates of his splendid home in Dartry, while the bloodied body of a worker lies on the pavement outside the locked gates. This is one of the two iconic cartoons referred to above.
On the same day, Gordon Brewster has a cartoon in the Evening Herald, showing a sturdy boot, representing Dublin employers, kicking Jim Larkin out of town. The contrast could not be more stark.
This is a marvellous little book and a wonderful memorial to Kavanagh. It adds a further dimension both to the 1913 Lockout and the 1916 Rising, during which Kavanagh was shot dead on the steps of Liberty Hall as he was trying to enter his place of employment.