3:21 James Hanley’s Firemen

20 years ago when I was working in TEAM Educational Theatre Company, I was working late one evening. I decided to give myself the rare treat of a taxi home on that winter night. As we reached the Upper Rathmines Road where I lived at the time, I saw people all running into the side road on which my house was. Kids were shouting ‘ look at the fire’. The taxi driver said, sorry I can’t get down there with all the fire tenders. I paid him and ran towards the house. There were 3 fire tenders parked all blocking the road immediately outside my home. There were crowds in the street. Smoke was billowing out the hall door. I tried to run in and was blocked by a fireman at the door. “but my husband”… I said. He told me his colleagues were inside and would get him out. A shout came from inside “fire’s out”, and the husband emerged from the smoke like some ‘Die Hard’ stereotype image, and hugged me. As I turned my face to look left I saw the outlines of 6 or 7 firemen all facing a painting becoming more visible as the moments passed. It was like developing photos in the dark room, where the image emerges…

“wow”, one said. “that’s amazing”, said another. The fireman who had held me back at the door said over my shoulder “Oh my God, that’s stunning, did you paint that”? With a bursting heart that my husband was safe and my house was not on fire, I replied “no, it was painted by one of Ireland’s finest painters, James Hanley is his name”. They asked me about him, and I told them about his work, and about the RHA, and how the painting had recently toured to Iceland. For a number of minutes we all stood there talking about art. I drank in the sight of 8 firemen in a smoke filled room admiring a painting. Now, that’s art appreciation.

James Hanley’s work can be seen in the 190th Annual RHA Exhibition, currently on view virtually here: https://rhagallery.viewingrooms.com/viewing-room/2-royal-hibernian-academy/