1839 - Francis Stewart Beatty made the first daguerreotype in Ireland – a view of a Lagan bridge

Francis Stewart Beatty (1807- 1891) a Belfast engraver was the first person to make a daguerreotype in Ireland. Although this photograph no longer exists, on 20 September 1839 the editor of the Belfast Newsletter noted receipt of a daguerrotype and published Beatty’s letter which explained the process. This is the earliest reference to a photograph made in Ireland. It was made just seven months after news of Daguerre and Fox Talbot’s inventions had been announced in the Belfast newspapers, and within a week of Daguerre’s manual being published in English.

On 4 August 1840, The Newsletter reported that, “Mr. F. S. Beatty has produced another photogenic drawing of the now fast fading Long Bridge of Belfast, taken from the western bank of the river. It is a beautiful specimen of the art which Mr. Beatty is pursuing so successfully and shows a progress towards perfection, which talent, taste and close application alone could not achieve”.

Beatty ground and polished ‘a concave mirror of short focus in speculum metal’, which reduced exposure time and thereby enabled him to produce his first portrait in 1841. On foot of this it appears he came to the attention of Beard and took up a position in Beard’s Regent Street studio in October. Beard offered him the job of operative manager of a Daguerreotype Portrait Gallery he was proposing to establish in Dublin. Beard offered to pay Beatty a percentage of the work done, but the terms were unacceptable. Beatty realised that Beard’s control of patent did not extend to Ireland and that he was free to set up a portrait studio on his account.

In August 1842 Francis Beatty sold his engraving business and two months later, together with a partner, opened a daguerreotype portrait gallery in Castle Street, Belfast. But the market couldn’t sustain it, and the venture floundered. In the late 1850s he moved to Dublin and worked at 16 College Green as a photographer, engraver and photo-lithographer. His work was highly regarded by Fox Talbot and other distinguished pioneers. Though highly skilled and innovative he never achieved financial success and he died in a Dublin workhouse in 1891.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *