Discover Holly Bough's past covers!

by John Dolan, Holly Bough editor.

The Holly Bough cover designs have long held a fascination for readers, and those on display on these pages show distinct phases - the one almost constant being the distinctive red cover.

Although the very first cover in 1897 contained no ads, by 1924, the cover contained nothing else. Among the ‘messages’ that year was one for Fitzgerald’s, ‘the famous shirtmaker’ of 44, Patrick Street, and Cheapside, London. ‘Men like useful presents,’ it proclaimed, adding a list of suggestions: ‘Gloves, socks, pyjamas, umbrellas, ties, handkerchiefs.’ The store, it added, had ‘the best variety, best quality, and newest notions’.

Holly Bough Cover 1897

Cover from 1897

Holly Bough Cover 1924

Cover from 1924

The next cover available on the City Library archive, from 1933, incorporated carol singers, with one holding a Christmas tree, and a stylish lady carrying an abundance of presents, along with two adverts down the sides.

Remarkably, the sole advertiser on the covers of the Holly Bough from at least 1933 until 1959 - and sporadically into the 1960s - was Howard Bros flour mills of Bellmount Mills, Crookstown, Co Cork - makers of “the famous Oneway wholemeal flour”.

Holly Bough Cover 1933

Cover from 1933

Holly Bough 1956 Ad

Ad from 1956

Holly Bough 1950 Ad

Ad from 1950

Holly Bough 1937 Ad

Ad from 1937

Religion was a central part of the Cork Christmas in the mid-20th century, and the 1936 and 1937 covers were adorned by artwork showing two churches.

The artist here, J.B Killen, also produced the 1940 cover depicting the Mardyke Walk, the 1941 one depicting UCC, and the one for 1949 showing City Hall and the North Gate Bridge - I would love to know more about J.B Killen.

Holly Bough Cover 1936

Cover from 1936

Cover from 1937

The artist here, J.B Killen, also produced the 1940 cover depicting the Mardyke Walk, the 1941 one depicting UCC, and the one for 1949 showing City Hall and the North Gate Bridge - I would love to know more about J.B Killen.

Holly Bough Cover 1940

Cover from 1940

Holly Bough Cover 1941

Cover from 1941

Holly Bough Cover 1949

Cover from 1949

Other cover designs down the years in this period were done by Lyman Kinmonth and showed Cork scenes such as Blackrock Castle, the Mardyke Walk, and skating on the Lough.

Mr Kinmonth produced the art for the covers in 1939 and 1940 when he was still in his twenties.

He worked as a sketch artist for the Cork Examiner in the days before photographs were common, drawing scenes of crime and defendants in court cases.

The Holly Bough traced his daughter, Ann Anas, to her home in Ontario, Canada, and she explained that her father was born in Cork city on August 14, 1913, to William Paul Kinmonth and Harriette Carraher, the youngest child of eight.

When he was a child his family lived for a time at Ferney House in Mahon. This substantial property, which was demolished in the 1970s, overlooked Lough Mahon, and its 25 acre estate stood on the area now partly occupied by St Luke’s Home.

Both Lyman’s parents died before his tenth birthday, so he was taken in by his oldest sister, Lilian O’Sullivan and her growing family. Lyman spent a lot of time in his youth and early adulthood as an artist, drawing, painting and making wood carvings, and got occasional commissions from the Examiner.

A few years after designing those Holly Bough covers, he moved to England, married and had two children. He worked at Cadburys in Birmingham.

Lyman moved to Gloucester and then Canada with his family, eventually settling in London, Ontario.

There, he worked as a commercial artist for Strike-Rite Matches, designing match book covers. He died of a stroke 50 years ago this year, in 1972, aged 59.

His daughter Ann said: My father would be ‘chuffed’ knowing all four of his grandchildren, like his own two children, attained university degrees. There are now eight great grandchildren, all residing in Canada.”

A relative of Lyman became a cover artist 60 years later… more on that anon.

Holly Bough Cover 1939

Cover from 1939

Holly Bough Cover 1940

Cover from 1940

Holly Bough Cover 1950

 Cover from 1950

Occasionally, a cover, such as in 1941, 1947, 1951, 1954, and 1956, was white, presumably owing to issues sourcing the red paper.

The 1950 Holly Bough cover (inset, far left), a beautiful work of art displaying St Ann’s, Shandon, and the quays, was designed by Frank Sanquest, an acclaimed painter who for many years was a set designer at Cork Opera House. Born in 1912 in Passage West, Sanquest began studying at Crawford School of Art at 16, where he went on to lecture for three decades.

After the Opera House fire in 1955, he needed alternative employment and joined the Examiner as art editor. He died on Christmas Day, 2007, aged 95.

Another stunning cover, from 1956, showed a gorgeous wintery city scene, looking out on the northside, with skaters gliding on the freezing Lee. This was the work of another esteemed Cork artist, Marshall C. Hutson.

Born in Nottingham in 1903, to a Cork mother, Hutson took up a teaching position at Crawford School of Art in 1930, and remained there until his retirement in 1966. A prolific artist, he received numerous commissions for church murals and public sculptures.

One of his most striking works is the eight-metre-long sculpture, completed in 1957, of the Cork Coat of Arms above the entrance to the Cork Harbour Commissioners building.

Holly Bough Cover 1956

Cover from 1956

Holly Bough Cover 1958

Cover from 1958

Santa Claus made his first appearance on the Holly Bough cover in 1958, and a year later, Thady Lehane was the cover artist, penning a typically mischievous and humorous portrait depicting people enjoying Christmas, with Blarney Castle as a centrepiece.

Born 100 years ago, on May 20, 1922, at 87, Wolfe Tone Street in Cork, Tadg set up a small art studio on the top floor of 9, Patrick Street, above J. Lees Peters, Tailor, and Madame Duval’s (later Declan’s) hairdressing salon.

His son, Shane Lehane, is a folklorist and course Director of Cultural and Heritage Studies in CSN, and wrote in a 2018 Holly Bough article: “Tadg took great pride in developing the commercial interests of Cork and, as secretary of the Patrick Street Traders Association, was instrumental in buying - from Brighton Pier - the city’s first set of electric Christmas lights.”

Tadg became Assistant Curator of the Crawford Art Gallery and died in 1988.

Tadg Lehane

Picture of Tadg Lehane

Tadh Legane retirement party

Tadg Lehane, 66, with son Shane, 23, at his retirement party in the Crawford Art Gallery, just before he died

Holly Bough Cover 1959

Cover from 1959

The 1960 Holly Bough cover was the first in modern times not to contain adverts, and it marked the start of a six-year stint of artworks by Soirle MacCana, at the time Principal at the Crawford College of Art, a position he held from 1937 to 1967.

Soirle’s art for the Christmas publication made up just one aspect of his life, which included being sentenced to death in the War of Independence, while today his artwork is on show in UCC, City Hall, the Crawford Gallery - and even Arás an Uachtaráin.

His Holly Bough covers were often religious in tone, befitting the era, and he also depicted the English Market, carol singers, and St Peter’s church. Soirle died in 1975.

Holly Bough Cover 1960

Cover from 1960

Holly Bough Cover 1961

Cover from 1961

As mentioned, the Holly Bough covers benefited from new colour press treatment from 1967, and for a number of years, the tradition was for a single colour image of a Cork scene, often with a religious flavour or featuring children - it would be great to trace some of those Holly Bough cover children now they are older!

It’s interesting to note the impact of inflation on the price of the publication in this era: it rose from 5pm in 1973 to 50p in 1983. 

From 1985, the cover began to feature a montage of colour photos, and it’s fair to say the 1987 artwork was the oddest yet: a strange new-age-style portrait presumably of Wren Boys, but rather in the style of Picasso!

Holly Bough Cover 1967

Cover from 1967

Holly Bough Cover 1985

Cover from 1985

The 1997 cover stands out as a beauty - while the gorgeous nativity-style 1999 and 2001 artworks were designed by Cloda Hassett.

The daughter of Declan Hassett, Cloda said: “I went to the Crawford College of Art and Design and was teaching art at the time I did the Holly Bough cover.”

She now works at Beaumount nursing home in Blackrock, and carries out art projects for the residents, including those with dementia, who can find art beneficial.

Holly Bough Cover 1997

Cover from 1997

Holly Bough Cover 1999

Cover from 1999

Holly Bough Cover 2001

Cover from 2001

“The image I created offered an alternative to the hustle and bustle - and sometimes madness - of the Christmas period. It was entitled Joy To The World. The idea was to encourage people to stop and listen... and maybe even sing!”

Lillian O’Sullivan,

The 2000 cover, a close-up of a Robin, was drawn by Lillian O’Sullivan, who told the 2019 Holly Bough: “It was the Millennium Year when I was asked to design the front cover, so from the outset I felt honoured that it was such a significant edition.

“The image I created offered an alternative to the hustle and bustle - and sometimes madness - of the Christmas period. It was entitled Joy To The World. The idea was to encourage people to stop and listen... and maybe even sing!”

It was a poignant feather in her cap, for Lillian’s grand-uncle, Lyman Kinmonth, had produced art for the Holly Bough covers decades earlier.

Lilian never met her grand-uncle but remembered coming across some of his work as a child.

“My father was Lyman’s nephew,” said Lilian, “and one day I remember finding a sketchbook by him in our home, depicting emotions such as horror, sadness, and shock.

“Unfortunately, when my parents died, I looked for the sketchbook but couldn’t find it.

Holly Bough Cover 2000

Cover from 2000

When I became editor, I set out to use a Christmas photo from the Echo and Examiner archives as the cover image, with a few parts colourised to lift them off the page - a trend that has caught on massively in recent years.

These proved hugely successful among readers and got people talking - to the extent that we invariably traced and named the people who featured on the covers for the following year’s edition!

The 2002 edition set the tone, as it showed Santa presenting gifts to children at the Munster Arcade in 1955, and for the 2003 edition, we reunited one of those children, the now grown-up Pat Coghlan, with the Santa, John Linehan - who was still plying his trade in the red costume, and then working at Wilton Shopping Centre.

When Pat, who became manager of The Lough Credit Union, and John met 47 years later for our photo, they were amazed to find they knew each other. “You won’t refuse me a loan next time I see you,” quipped Santa, with a twinkle in his eye.

Only in Cork...!

Holly Bough Cover 2002

Cover from 2002

Holly Bough Cover 2003

Cover from 2003

Holly Bough Cover 2005

Cover from 2005

Our 2005 cover showed boys skating on the frozen Lough in 1963, and among them was Philip King, who went on to be a renowned musician, film-maker and broadcaster on programmes such as Other Voices, and a founder member of the band Scullion.

In 2006, after a request from Suzanne Crosbie, a long-serving librarian for the Examiner and Echo, we resumed the tradition of the red covers.

That year’s edition showed three children building a snowman in Grenville Place in 1963, and from it we traced brothers Eoin and Colum O’Neill, who were living on the street at the time.

Holly Bough Cover 2006

Cover from 2006

Holly Bough Cover 2007

Cover from 2007

The 2007 cover showed a choir singing in Cobh on Christmas Eve, 1952, and the following year, one of them, Patrick Kavanagh, recalled the events of that day when he was nine, including being awoken at 4am with his brother for the performance for passengers arriving on the Dutch ship SS Ryndam. Patrick duly named everyone in the photo!

The 2010 cover was especially endearing, showing children with Santa in the Munster Arcade in 1970 - and we tracked down the girl sat in his lap. Lynda Bell (nee O’Connor) told how she and her two older brothers made that outing and added: “My brother told me that after the picture was taken, I burst into tears!”

Holly Bough Cover 2010

Cover from 2010

Holly Bough Cover 2011

Cover from 2011

The 2013 Holly Bough cover showed a children’s Christmas party in Collins Barrack in 1953, and lots of the youngsters came forward, and the same happened with the following year’s cover, depicting a children’s Christmas party in 1949 for the Cork Telephone Exchange at the GPO.

The latter was perhaps our most successful cover, in terms of people coming forward to identify themselves; in fact, we managed to name 32 of the people from that 2014 cover!

However, by 2016, I was starting to feel we were running out of suitable festive photos in our archives to adorn the cover.

This, allied to an investment in stronger, better quality paper for a new-look wraparound cover, led to the decision to reintroduce the Holly Bough tradition of selecting a Cork artist to design the front page, calling on all the glorious colour available.

This has been a spectacular success and the person who was asked to spear-head this new era was artist Will Sliney, of Ballycotton, best known as the Marvel artist who draws Spider-Man.

His cover showed various Cork personalities such as John Creedon, Cillian Murphy, Darina Allen, and - yes! - Echo Boy Michael O’Regan and in a Festive Patrick Street.

Holly Bough Cover 2016

Cover from 2016

Holly Bough Cover 2017

Cover from 2017

The 2017 cover showing the Glow wheel on Grand Parade was designed by Niall McCarthy, of Garryvoe, while Jill Cotter, of Rochestown, drew the 2018 cover, showing the Christmas tree on Pana.

Holly Bough Cover 2018

Cover from 2018

Holly Bough Cover 2017

Cover from 2019

The year after Don Carey, from Kinsale, produced a nostalgic cover showing a festive scene from Daunt Square, and Jason O’Gorman, of Ballintemple, was the artist behind the 2020 cover which featured Santa soaring over the famous Shandon fish.

Last year, Keith Anderson, of Douglas, stepped up to the plate with a design centred on the South Gate Bridge and St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, and this year’s artist is Sheena Dempsey.

Holly Bough Cover 2020

Cover from 2020

Holly Bough Cover 2021

Cover from 2021

Each have put their own unique stamp of brilliance on the Holly Bough in recent years, and showcased the amazing artistic talents we have here on Leeside.

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If you have a copy of the Holly Bough in your possession from before 1935, please email  hollybough@theecho.ie

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Holly Bough Cover 2022

Holly Bough 2022

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