One of the paintings in the exhibition is by an artist called Mary Swanzy.
When her surname was mentioned, I immediately thought that I had only heard of one other person with that surname – Detective Inspector Oswald Ross Swanzy was believed to have organised the killing of Tomás MacCurtáin on this day, 20th March, in 1920 – his 36th birthday.
Just over a month before, I attended a talk by Vera Ryan, the curator of the ‘Made in Cork’ exhibition . At that exhibition, less than ten paces from where the Mary Swanzy painting now hangs, was a painting of Terence MacSwiney, a friend and successor Lord Mayor to Tomás MacCurtáin – this heightened my curiosity further.
‘Swanzy’ is not a very common name and I wondered as to whether Oswald and Mary were related.
There have been a lot of web-searches over the past two days and I have learned a lot about both.
Oswald Swanzy was killed leaving church in Lisburn, 22nd August, 1920, by Tomas MacCurtáin’s own gun - a gun held by Tomás MacCurtáin’s granddaughter upto when she donated it to Cork Museum recently.
He was stationed in Carlow R.I.C. Barracks and lived 33 Athy Road, Carlow from 1910 to 1916. The rootsweb directory says he was born 15th July 1881 and baptised on 11th December in Castleblaney.
He is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin as is his father, James (7/9/1849 to 26/2/07) and mother (1855 – 1922). The headstone includes the words ‘who gave his life in the service of his country’.
His parents married in Co. Monaghan in 1877. His father was a solicitor.
His brother, Captain Henry Hubert Swanzy, died of plague when serving in India, aged 28 years on 10th April, 1907. He was born 18th August, 1877.
It appears that the Swanzy had family connections in Belfast, Dublin, Antrim and Monaghan.
They are not listed on the 1901 census online.
Her first one woman show was in 1913. She continued to paint until her death, aged 96.
She was one of the first Irish abstract painters. Former art critic with the Irish Times, Brian Fallon, believes her to be the best female Irish painter. Elsewhere, I read that she was one of the best artists of her generation.
I learned that her father was an ophthalmic surgeon; wrote 2 books that are still available; was knighted in 1908; and was President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland from 1906 to 1908.
There is a bust of Sir Henry at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital in Adelaide Road in Dublin, where Dr. Kathleen Lynn, of 1916 fame, was the first female Doctor.
But I had to go back to where I started to get confirmation that Oswald Swanzy and Mary Swanzy, born exactly six months apart, were cousins.
That is one curiosity itch scratched.
If you are interested, details of the Swanzy’s listed in the online census returns are below.