Upon Small Shoulders

I love Sinéad O’Connor, I always have.  When I first heard ‘Troy’ the haunting love song from her first album, The Lion & The Cobra, she was singing from my heart, from my soul.  She screamed for me, from me.

As a lover of Yeats’ poetry, and as a child born and raised in Ireland, I understood the symbolism of the lines, I knew too the places about which she sang. 2 years her junior, I was there.

I remember it,
Dublin in a rainstorm,
sitting in the long grass in summer,
keeping warm

I too remember it, to be fair even the warmest days in summer in Dublin are rarely warm, and Irish people carry umbrellas pretty much all year round.  It rains. That’s why the grass is long in summer.  In London it is usually brown and parched.  As I walked through Dublin last Monday with my dad, the line that kept running through my head was ‘I remember it, Dublin in a snowstorm

Sinéad O’Connor Singing ‘Troy’

Troy was not her most popular song from that album, but it is mine, and although I love many others of her compositions and arrangements since then, including the wonderful ‘Nothing Compares 2 U‘ by Prince, I still hold Troy as my favourite.  Maybe it’s because I was that age, maybe it was because I also loved the children’s story ‘The Phoenix and the Carpet

Since the Lion and the Cobra I have always bought all of Sinéad’s albums, and I have followed her public profile, sometimes proudly, sometimes sadly, for at times she opens her heart too much to the public, who in general do not really care.  She makes extreme gestures and statements, and then appears confused and hurt when she is then rejected by those she criticizes.  She wears her heart on her sleeve at times, on the internet, in the papers, on television… and yet as soon as she generates an interest she cries out to be left alone by the press.

A woman of extremes, a contradiction in her own skin, an egoist with an inferiority complex. A mother, a child, a lover, a girl, a woman, a leader, outraged, shy. I know her well.

I am so lucky I have found a solution to the insanity inside me, I have found peace.  I hoped that she would find peace in her spirituality, but she doesn’t seem to have found it yet.  I pray she does, if not, she might die.  I nearly did.

My favourite album of hers is Universal Mother, probably because she released it as I became a mother, and as she did for the second time.  I used to sing the songs to my children as lullabies.  They have had no choice but to be huge Sinéad fans 🙂

This song written by Phil Coulter never fails to bring a tear to my eye: Scorn not his simplicity

When I heard Sinéad’s new album How about I be me (and you be you)? was to be released near my birthday, I asked for a special edition of the album incorporating 2 CD’s, one of a concert in Dublin and Reykjavik and a DVD of exclusive video content, a booklet of background information on the album, and contributions by John Grant who wrote the song Queen of Denmark featured on the album, and her proud big brother, Joseph. The booklet also contains lyrics of the songs, and a poster of the picture on the cover ‘Upon small Shoulders‘ by Neil Condron

I completely love the picture on the front of the album, and without knowing anything about the painting or the meaning behind it, I felt that the picture represented Sinéad beautifully, and what she wanted to say with this album.

It was only when I was in Dublin this time, that my dad showed me a postcard of this photograph, that I realised the meaning behind the painting.  On the reverse it says:

Ireland’s economy spiralled into the abyss as a result of corporate arrogance, individual greed and negligent governance. The burden of our shattered economy and massive debt has become our children’s legacy.
This large oil painting (7’x3’) depicts a small child sitting precariously on rusted scaffolding with the Irish tricolour draped behind her. The old scaffolding of an unfinished property development represents the remnants of Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom. The little girl represents the children of Ireland left vulnerable and destitute with a crippling burden to carry as a result of greed and negligence. The flag ‘our brightest colours’ is Ireland, her heritage.
Her expression however isn’t one of fear and her posture is confident and defiant.
She is captivated by something that has distracted her from her plight and her outstretched arm gestures to the viewer. What she is looking at and the meaning of her gesture are for you to interpret.
I hope you enjoy it.

I love it even more now!  Wanting to know more, and realising that Condron’s studio is not far from where my parents live, I was eager to visit his studio in the hope that he might be there.  Indeed he was and he talked with us about the painting and even signed one of the postcards for me (and another for my dad with a special birthday message).  It turns out that Sinéad bought the painting from him in 2011, and then following the release of the album she sold the painting in aid of the Irish Charity ‘Penny Dinners raising €19,500

Neil outside his studio in Enniskerry, with a print of 'Upon Small Shoulders' in the window, beside a portrait of the tiny model's beautiful red-headed sister

Neil outside his studio in Enniskerry, with a print of ‘Upon Small Shoulders’ in the window, beside a portrait of the tiny model’s beautiful red-headed sister Georgia

Georgia, sister of Tia featured in 'Upon Small Shoulders

Georgia, sister of Tia featured in ‘Upon Small Shoulders

A cropped section of 'Upon Small Shoulders'

A cropped section of ‘Upon Small Shoulders’

My header image has been changed to reflect this post.  The view is from my parent’s bedroom window.  In my childhood this area was all fields, and then became developed as an environmentally friendly low rise industrial estate during the 1980’s.  Microsoft (a company we had not heard of in the ’80’s) set up a huge headquarters there, and local people who worked there then and stayed long enough, made quite a killing on employee share schemes.

Unfinished buildings

Unfinished buildings

During the Celtic Tiger, Microsoft sold off their land for a small fortune and developers moved in.  For years the place was known locally as ‘craneland’.  Many buildings stand now unfinished, and property owners are straddled with massive debts and negative equity that will take decades to clear.

About Barbara

Born in Dublin, living in London with Peter, my two daughters, Wilson our Spaniel & Woordow our Malshih (Shih Tzu-Maltese cross)
This entry was posted in Daddies, Dublin, Music, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Upon Small Shoulders

  1. Maxi says:

    “…massive debt has become our children’s legacy.” This is what the government has done to the children of America.
    blessings ~ maxi


  2. Neil Condron says:

    Thanks for your kind endorsement of my work and your generous words. It was a pleasure meeting yourself and the birthday boy (your dad). 🙂


    • Barbara says:

      I’m not sure which one of us was more excited!! Glad you like what I wrote & I know dad will be singing your praises all over the country, and showing off his birthday message 🙂

      The meaning behind your painting is very close to his own heart, he was the one who made me take the picture from their bedroom window.


    • Barbara says:

      From my dad;

      Loved the Blog and comments.

      We were out for a meal tonight before going to thr Theatre. Just before we finished eating they played Sinead and “Nothing Compares 2 U’. Just could not be thinking of you.

      Love Dad


  3. Grannymar says:

    Sean O’Casey got it right: “Th’ whole worl’s in a terrible state o’ chassis” – Captain Boyle, Act III, Juno and the Paycock.

    Wonderful post. I did recognise the header view, it stopped me in my tracks.


  4. Al says:

    Wow. This is introspection to the nth degree. And beautifully penned.

    I love those paintings of the young girls, he is indeed quite a talent.

    This is one of your very best posts, Barbara. There is a lot of work, talent and heart revealed in it.


    • Barbara says:

      Thank you… I have been composing it in my head since seeing the postcard. As a huge fan of Sinéad it struck me greatly that the picture she chose as her album cover meant so much to my dad, as the devastation in Ireland is very close to his, and he loved the painting, not knowing it was on the cover of Sinéad’s most recent album.

      My parents too know all the words to all the songs on Sinéad’s first album because our house was not big & had paper thin walls, and I played my few albums as loud as I could get away with, on permanent repeat while I lived there. Sinéad’s release of ‘nothing Compares 2 U’ coincided with my first serious break-up, and any time they hear that song they think of me.

      I have watched the Celtic Tiger from afar, I have lived here permanently since 1990. I came over here first in 1987 because there was no work in Ireland for anyone, let alone students, and then stayed when I got married in 1990. I worked in banks here in London in the 90’s and took many phone calls from heartbroken home-owners who faced repossession as house prices had plummeted coinciding with a huge increase in interest rates meaning that many people couldn’t pay their mortgages and were in a negative equity trap which ultimately led to them losing their homes.

      I watched house prices in Dublin rising rapidly, and worried as they began to outstrip their UK equivalents. My parents house in Dublin, became more valuable than an equivalent house here. That made no sense to me, since although Ireland is a lovely place to live, to put it extremely simply, it does not have enough people living in it to sustain such high house prices.

      Inevitably the market did crash, and there are horror stories all over of individuals who have lost everything due to the greed and criminal behaviour of some banks and property developers. I started to write a post a while back about the harrowing story of the people who bought apartments in a place called Priory Hall. Maybe I will finish that post now as I seem to have written the introduction.


  5. Barbara says:

    Lovely post Barbara


      • Barbara says:

        It was so nice that you were able to find the artist, it just completes the picture! (so to speak…..)


        • Barbara says:

          Yes, reading the back of the postcard felt like completing the circle, but then when dad said he had found the postcard in a shop in Enniskerry, not too far away from their house, I wanted to go & get one for me.

          It was only when we got to Enniskerry did I realise that Neil had a studio in the village too & we were thrilled to find the artist ‘at home’

          Wanting to link to his website from my post, I find he is on WordPress too. Serendipity


  6. Awesome post Barbara. I’ve only one Sinead CD, but I still listen to it after all these years. It seems like the greedy have been everywhere, especially here in America. It makes me sad to think that you had fields to play in and now children see unfinished buildings. I enjoyed finding out about and seeing Neil Condron and his beautiful pictures.


  7. Pingback: Daily Prompt: Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall | Day One

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