Rua Red starts its new collection with two pieces from Mary Furlong’s photographic series ‘The Red Ribbon’

5th April 2019

We are delighted to start Rua Red’s new collection with two pieces from Mary Furlong’s photographic series ‘The Red Ribbon’. 

The Red Ribbon

A few years ago while living in Wexford Mary met a Traveller woman from the West, Mrs. Sweeney, who told her a superstition about wearing something red, a ribbon tied to your underwear, as a protection against harm.

The red ribbon story stayed with Mary and after moving back to Trim, the town she grew up in, she met Kay McCabe of the Castle Meadows Involve Youth Club. Mary talked to Kay about a project idea she had to collect more Irish Traveller traditional beliefs and superstitions and to illustrate them with photographs, Kay offered to help, the project was named The Red Ribbon.

In June 2015 Mary applied for and was awarded a Community Heritage Grant from Meath County Council for The Red Ribbon project. In September she started working with the staff and members of the Youth Club. Kay then introduced her to the residents of the Castle Meadows estate.

In the six months from September 2015 to February 2016 Mary collected over a hundred Irish Traveller traditional beliefs and superstitions on nearly forty different subjects and made a number of photographs to accompany them. Many of the photographs feature the Youth Club members and their families and the residents of Castle Meadows.

In late 2016 and early 2017 Limerick City and County Council invited Mary to work with the Traveller community in Limerick. She is still making photographs to accompany the traditional beliefs and superstitions she collected there and in Trim. Mary is continuing The Red Ribbon project and hopes to collect Irish Traveller traditional beliefs and superstitions countrywide.

The initial set of photographs have been exhibited widely and were shown as part of the 2016 PhotoIreland Festival in the group show Landscape Rising at the Solomon Fine Art Gallery, Dublin and selected for the 2016 Enniskillen Visual Arts Open. In 2017 three photographs from The Red Ribbon won the Solstice Visual Arts Award.

Mary Furlong

Mary Furlong was born in Dublin and spent her preschool days playing in her Mother’s toyshop. After working in fashion design she changed direction and returned to college to study photography. She worked as a research assistant/assistant to the Director in the Gallery of Photography and as a photography tutor in Griffith College, Ringsend CDVEC and St. Peters College, Killester.

From 1996 to 2012 she was the portrait photographer for the Alternative Miss Ireland, in 2004 these portraits were published in the book “Dancing at the Crossroads: Glamour Rooted in Despair”. She was Perry Ogden’s photo assistant and studio manager for ten years and the co-ordinator and tutor of the Ballymun Photography Club, a Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane educational outreach programme.

Mary lives in Trim, she is interested in stories, personal living histories and local places and their hidden histories, the commonplace and the generally overlooked. She is inspired by what she finds around her, everyday objects and situations, chance remarks, snippets and stories. Mary looks for what she thinks is extraordinary in the everyday. She also likes to work collaboratively within communities.


Additional information on the two pieces at Rua Red

'The elder tree' from The Red Ribbon project

If someone hits you with an elder stick you've to break it in three pieces, if not you'll get a hump in your back.

The elder tree they wouldn’t cut it, the elder tree was a symbol of Our Lord on the cross. So that tree was a big thing there in the Bible wasn’t it, so I don’t think that tree was used for to make anything out of or do anything with, it was very unlucky they say…my Father wouldn’t touch it. 

'Cover up the mirrors' from The Red Ribbon project

Cover up the mirrors when there’s lightning.

If you break a mirror it’s seven years bad luck.