They were not the pretty pictures of "willows by the river or beeches in the fog" that he was after, but rather the landscapes of a world violently "disturbed" by man.
In 1956, fashion designer Vera Maxwell visited Ireland to purchase wool for her new tweed collection. Since she didn't want to travel alone and also needed a photographer to take pictures of her models, she asked her friend Peter Bock-Schroeder to accompany her on this journey.
Maxwell and Bock-Schroeder had met in the early 1950s and had become close friends. Ms. Maxwell, who had founded her own company, Vera Maxwell Originals, in 1947 and whose design style had attracted clients such as Pat Nixon, Martha Graham and Lillian Gish, had traveled to Ireland in previous years. Her acquaintances and friends included President Kelly, William Robert Fitzgerald Collis and many more influential personalities of Irish society.
President Kelly shows his guest his personal copy of the Proclamation of the Republic. It is currently on permanent display in the main foyer of the Irish parliament building. Full copies of the Easter Proclamation are now treated as a revered Irish national icon. Other copies are on display in the GPO (headquarters of the Rising and the place where the Proclamation was first read), the National Museum of Ireland, the Trinity College Library's Long Room and other museums worldwide. Facsimile copies are sold as souvenirs in Ireland, and copies of the text are often displayed in Irish schools and in Irish pubs throughout the world. The proclamation is read aloud by an Officer of the Irish Defence Forces outside the GPO during the Easter Rising commemorations on Easter Sunday of each year.
For photojournalist Bock-Schroeder these contacts were a unique opportunity to get to know and photograph the establishment of Ireland. But equally important to him was to photograph ordinary people. For several days he walked through Dublin and documented the everyday life of the Irish capital. Playing children, praying people and the famed Irish pubs.
The Christianisation of Ireland is associated with the 5th century activities of St. Patrick. Saint Patrick's Day is observed on 17 March, the supposed date of his death. It is celebrated inside and outside Ireland as a religious and cultural holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland, it is both a solemnity and a holy day of obligation; it is also a celebration of Ireland itself. Legend credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God. This story first appears in writing in 1726, though it may be older. The shamrock has since become a central symbol for Saint Patrick's Day.
Irish pubs have existed for roughly a millennium, with the title "oldest pub in Ireland" held by Sean's Bar in Athlone, County Westmeath which was established in the 10th century. The Brazen Head in Dublin City was established in 1198 and holds the title "oldest pub in Dublin". It was not until 1635 that the government required pubs to be licensed. Grace Neill's in Donaghadee, County Down, Northern Ireland, which became licensed in 1611, holds the title of "oldest licensed pub in Ireland". Irish pubs or public houses were the working man's alternative to the private drinking establishments frequented by those who could pay for entry. In 1735 the Drink on Credit to Servants Act was enacted stating that any publican who sold a drink on credit to servants, labourers or other low-wage earners had no right to seek help from the law in recovering that debt. It is the oldest law related to pubs in Ireland that is still in effect. During the 18th century it also became illegal to be married in a pub.
Gambling in various forms has been regulated in Ireland for centuries. Historically, Ireland had a significant horseracing industry and there is a rich cultural history of associated on-course and off-course betting. The Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 used to be the main point of reference for any gambling related activity within Ireland.
By train Bock-Schroeder travelled on to Achill Island where he spotted fishermen at work in Keem Bay and photographed the ruins of houses at the deserted village.
It is believed that at the end of the Neolithic Period (around 4000 BC), Achill had a population of 500–1,000 people. The island would have been mostly forest until the Neolithic people began crop cultivation. Settlement increased during the Iron Age, and the dispersal of small promontory forts around the coast indicate the warlike nature of the times. Megalithic tombs and forts can be seen at Slievemore, along the Atlantic Drive and on Achillbeg.
The passing truck of the Swastika Laundry must have had a similar effect on Peter Bock-Schroeder than described by Heinrich Böll in "The Irish diaries".
I was almost run over by a bright-red panel truck whose sole decoration was a big swastika. Had someone sold Völkischer Beobachter delivery trucks here, or did the Völkischer Beobachter still have a branch office here? This one looked exactly like those I remembered; but the driver crossed himself as he smilingly signalled to me to proceed, and on closer inspection I saw what had happened. It was simply the "Swastika Laundry," which had painted the year of its founding, 1912, clearly beneath the swastika; but the mere possibility that it might have been one of those others was enough to take my breath away.
Nelson's Pillar was a large granite column capped by a statue of Horatio Nelson, built in the centre of what was then Sackville Street (later renamed O'Connell Street) in Dublin, Ireland. Completed in 1809 when Ireland was part of the United Kingdom, it survived until March 1966, when it was severely damaged by explosives planted by Irish republicans. Its remnants were later destroyed by the Irish Army. A prominent city centre monument honouring an Englishman rankled as Irish nationalist sentiment grew, and throughout the 19th century there were calls for it to be removed, or replaced with a memorial to an Irish hero.