Monday, November 23, 2015

Turkey Shoot

With Thanksgiving looming in a few days, I thought it would be fun to share some turkey pictures. The unpublished photographs below were made by Tony O'Shea in Dublin in the early 1990s. Entitled Slouching Toward Bethlehem, they're presented here with Tony's comments. 

For more information or to see the entire set of 50+ photographs, please email Tony. Thanks to Brian Sparks for the tip. Happy T-Day everyone.

I did a lot of work for a newspaper called the Sunday Business Post in the 90s and noughties. One Friday evening just before Christmas some scribe got the brilliant notion that a Christmas picture was needed for page 4 (at about 4 pm, just as dusk was about to fall). Needless to say I wasn't very delighted about the timing as I thought I had already finished my shift. But off I went anyway and that was my first encounter with the Turkey Market.

They used the picture of the woman with glasses walking down the street holding 2 turkeys she had just purchased. I had no knowledge of the event before this but was immediately drawn into it. It felt like a rural invasion of this part of the city. On this street (Mary's, Lane) there used to be a morning fish market held inside a warehouse and there is also a fruit and vegetable market. 

What I found most interesting about it was the improvised and anarchic nature of the display of goods and services, no neat tables or benches, no cellophane wrapping but instead there was an earthiness and an almost ritualistic feeling to things. The traders  were dignified and resourceful people trying to make hay while the sun shone. I went back a few times the following year. I made 4 or 5 visits in total and would have spent a total of 10 hours maximum. Generally speaking people were tolerant and good humoured and it was easy to work there.

I think it closed down the following year. I went up the next year and it was gone. In the 80s Ireland went through a bleak enough  time, serious unemployment and a severe hemorrhage of youth from the country but by the early to mid 90s things had started to pick up a little driven by globalisation and the decision by major international tech companies to set up shop here and use Ireland as a base for European operations. Also there was a whole raft of new regulations from Europe to do with food production etc., so I don't think the market could have survived in its then-state for very long.

The area has been cleaned up a bit and one of the largest fruit importers Fyffe's have their business on Mary's Lane. The car park is tidier and more professional looking but the large blocks of flats still look more or less the same but of course the absence of the Turkey sellers for a few days before Christmas means that the special feeling has evaporated and very few people remember the dynamic chaos of those years when the whole ambiance of those streets changed for a few days.

One project I have been working on for 20 years on and off is a form of dog racing down in the SW of Ireland called Drag Hunting. It happens between May and September each year and the dogs follow a scent made from a mixture of oils and aniseed which is laid down by pulling some rags soaked in this mixture along the ground. It has certain similarities with the market, e.g. the Dramatis Personae are limited, a maximum of 20 families and it is again in a certain way deeply ritualistic and of course redolent with a particular relationship with the land, the weather and some kind of need to venture out with their dogs......a type of Beagle. Very few people ever come to look at them and there is a vaguely primordial feeling so it is quite a lonely feeling.


Anonymous said...

Excellent stuff. Could a Café Royal booklet be in the works?

Blake Andrews said...

It's in the works as I write this.