RIFNET (Reconstituting the Irish Family Network) have teamed up with the National Museum of Ireland to host a digital storytelling event, ‘ReCollecting the Irish Family’. Five members of the public were invited to tell their stories through family objects – an object which spoke to them about family. They were then interviewed about the objects to explore the meaning of LGBTQ+ families in Ireland today. These object-based interviews make an important contribution to the meaning of family in Ireland. Here, we share snippets of their stories which draw out themes of family and love, and work to challenge outdated notions of ‘what is the Irish family?’
The stories of these five objects shed light on the meaning of the Irish family, and especially the LGBTQ+ family.
Click on each object to hear its unique story told by family members.
These objects and their stories were collected on 21 April 2022 as part of RIFNET’s ‘ReCollecting the Irish Family’ event. The event took place at the Decorative Art & History Museum, NMI, Collin’s Barracks in Dublin.
Philippa and Helen Ryder told their story of family life through a Star Trek Fanzine. Both are active in Star Trek fandom and purchased the fanzine at a fan event in 1980. Of special note, is that the couple first met at the event in Leeds, at 10.05am on 20 September 1980.
1. ‘Our’s was not a traditional family’: Philippa tells the story of her transition and family.
2. ‘I think we’re pretty open as parents’: Helen reflects on their relationship with their daughter.
Francis Timmons and Darren Lamont shared a picture, taken of them on their wedding day. The photograph depicts them as husband and husband, and is titled ‘Making History’. Listen to Francis and Darren talk about what that day, and the photograph, means to them.
2. ‘It’s different from the pictures of us just being together’: what the photo means to Darren.
3. ‘It’s about people who love each other’: Listen here to how Darren and Francis define ‘family’.
Geoff McGrath shared a sash that he was awarded at a ‘Mr Wonderbar’ pageant in Dublin in 1998. Geoff tells his story of family life and his relationships through the sash.
1. ‘it brings me right back’: Geoff explains how the sash still makes him smile.
2. ‘there were no gay couples’: Geoff recalls making up his own relationship rules.
Cathal Kerrigan told his story of family with a colour photograph, taken at the ‘Irish Quilt Tour’ in 1991. The photograph depicts Cathal (far left), his mother, Margaret, and Áine Casey, in Cork City Hall, at the event. It was taken by George A. Healy, a photographer.
1. ‘they were gay, they left Ireland’ : listen to Cathal reflect on the significance of the Aids Quilt.
2. ‘I’m leaving the family home to you’: Cathal explains the significance of his family home.
Margot Slattery chose to tell her story of family life with a photograph. The image, taken on 27 June 2014, is of Margot and her wife, Sarah, on the day of their civil partnership. The photo was taken by their friend Louise, and presented to Margot and Sarah on the same day.
1. ‘As perfect as life can be’: Margot explains the significance of her civil partnership in June 2014.
2. ‘my gay family, my friends were fantastic’: Margot’s thoughts on family and its meanings.
3. ‘this really feels like family’: Margot explains how her family unit is a ‘force for good’.
RIFNET is a team of academic researchers, museum and heritage professionals interested in retelling the story of the Irish family. We aim to champion stories of Irish families that sit outside of what society perceives as the ‘traditional’ form. We recognise that the Irish family is (and has always been) diverse. Our network members have active interests in areas including stepfamilies and blended families; LGBTQ+ families; single-parent families; divorced – and widowed spouses; single persons; sibling networks; Travellers’ and their families; and religious families.
We are interested in exploring how the objects and memorabilia that you and others may have in their possession can tell us interesting stories about families that may otherwise be lost or hidden from our history. Our work was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Irish Research Council We are interested in capturing the messy realities of Irish family life and we aim to create a more inclusive picture of what it means (and has always meant) to be part of “the family” in Ireland.