The German-Irish Association of Würzburg has, as a special project, curated an exhibition with the title ‘John Millington Synge: The Wicklow Photographs – Seine Bilder aus Wicklow’ which will be on show for the whole month of September in Würzburg town hall. On display will be twenty photographs of the Wicklow and Dublin area, taken by Synge, and an additional small biographic section showing Synge’s links with Würzburg. The originals of these photographs are in M&ARL.
The exhibition will officially open on 3 September 2014 with the Lord Mayor of Würzburg, Christian Schuchardt, and the Irish Ambassador to Germany, Michael Collins, attending. This project aims to raise awareness in Germany about Synge, who represents a link between the city of Würzburg and its ‘twin’ region of Wicklow where Synge lived; it also marks fifteen years of partnership between Würzburg and Bray.
Even in Ireland many may be unaware that it was Synge’s original intention to become a professional musician when he graduated from Trinity College. Synge’s mother was very sceptical about her son’s commitment to music; he only succeeded in continuing his studies in Europe with the support of a relative, Mary Synge, who was a concert pianist and who was able to persuade John’s mother to give up her resistance to her son’s plans. Mary accompanied Synge on his trip to Europe in 1893; the Royal School of Music in Würzburg, under its director Karl Kliebert, had a very good reputation in the late-nineteenth century, which attracted Synge to the city.
The original house where Synge lived in Würzburg was destroyed in WWII, but in 2014 – 120 years after his stay – the German-Irish Association put up a memorial plaque on the building which now stands on the original site.
During his time at the Royal School of Music, Synge realized that he was not cut out to be a musician. Thus it was in Würzburg that he took the important decision turn away from music as a career. Synge subsequently travelled to Rome and to Paris, where he met William Butler Yeats, who encouraged him to write about the life of the people on the Aran Islands, a subject which was unrepresented in Irish literature.
Chairman of the German-Irish Association in Würzburg