A 92-year-old Carlow man living in England was astounded by the Internet reaction to his photos from 1960s Ireland. William Muldowney called the traffic to his Facebook page "astonishing," as emigrants from as far afield as the USA and Mexico flock to his photos.
Now resident in Southampton, he told the Irish Times: “I think we are lonely for a world that is gone.”
The paper reports that his daughter Maureen Flooks set up a page on the social networking site in September 2013 called Carlow Memories to connect her father to home.
She created the page after her father was unable to visit his native Carlow that summer, one of the first times he has failed to make the annual trip home since he left in 1944.
She has since posted more than 100 photographs from her father’s visits to Carlow, Laois, and Kildare in the 1960s.
The report says the page has gained more than 3,000 followers already and attracted interest from near and far. The images are intimate portraits of towns and villages standing still in time from Carlow and its surrounds.
These include the last thatched house in Ballylinan; Bambrick’s shop in Moneenroe; the church at Killeshin; the view of the sugar factory from Rossmore; a horse and trap in Graiguecullen; an overgrown playground at the Arles national school; and two women looking out a half-door at Meeting Lane in Athy.
Muldowney, who turned 92 on January 4, left for England during the Second World War after British Rail came to Carlow offering free passage to Irish workers for the railways.
He has lived in Southampton ever since, where he married and had three children.
But he told the paper that his "heart has always been in Ireland."
The photographs, which he began taking on a trip home in 1967, reminded him of what he was doing "when very innocent."
He said: “I really enjoyed my youth in Ireland. They were the happiest years of my life. We were poor but very happy. I expected nothing and did not get very much.”
One of a family of nine, Muldowney says the photos also offered solace to his parents who followed their children and immigrated to England in 1956.
He added, “They were quite lonely for Ireland. They had a difficult life in every way and didn’t cope well with old age.
“When I returned with the photographs that first summer my parents were astonished. My mother cried.”
After training in photography at electrical outlet Currys, Muldowney began his Irish photographic pilgrimage.
“My colleagues were taken aback by the clarity of the photographs – the lack of air pollution in Ireland made everything look as clear as crystal.
“One summer I took a super-8mm movie camera home. People looked at me as if I was from Radio Éireann or the BBC.”
Both father and daughter have been overwhelmed by the online reaction to the photos.
He has even been offered a book deal and said: “I never dreamed that people would find them that interesting, this interest now - I can’t explain.
“It is something about the past that is more mysterious now because of the way the world is at the moment. You look at a photo and you think, ‘Didn’t it look perfect back then?’”
* Originally published in 2013.