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Dead Bears - A Photographic Collection
November 18, 2012 3:59 AM   Subscribe

"Dead Bears" is a photographic collection by artist Michael Fortune documenting the regional Irish habit of erecting stuff animals wearing local Gaelic sporting colours as territorial markers.

(These nailed-up teddies are very common on certain roads in Ireland, and will be left to decay through the years until they look utterly bedraggled.)

The website offers an eclectic body of work, focusing primarily on aspects and oddities of rural Irish life and culture. A documentation of his granny's kitchen. "My Harry Potter Wand" used to discipline the dogs.

Fortune has also done a lot of work documenting spoken Irish folklore, and quite a few of the videos are available online. One of these is a 2005 collection of Limerick schoolchildren telling local ghost stories: "The Banshee Lives in Handball Alley". You might require the version with subtitles.
posted by distorte (12 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just when I thought GAA fans couldn't get any weirder.
posted by anaximander at 4:06 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've not seen any of these in Co. Kerry--there may be deep sociopolitical/cultural reasons, or they may be here, but given the nature of our roads and drivers it is much to dangerous to ever look around.
posted by rmhsinc at 5:23 AM on November 18, 2012


BTW, much more civilized, hanging Teddy Bears, than as happens in other parts of Europe where they have taken to hanging up the supporters of opposing teams.
posted by rmhsinc at 5:29 AM on November 18, 2012


I've not seen any of these in Co. Kerry
It may be that they were more common in the eighties and early-nineties, but perhaps I simply noticed them then as I was trapped in the back seat of the car. I associate them with the midlands—Tipp, Kilkenny, Offaly—but I've certainly spotted one or two in Kerry around match time.
posted by distorte at 5:41 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Given that the bear is "dead", I imagine that you dress them up in the colors of the local team's opponents? As opposed to "marking your territory" by showing your team's colors?

And (if so) do you do it with the colors of your team's upcoming opponent? Your team's classic rival? Any random team other than your own? What?
posted by Flunkie at 6:29 AM on November 18, 2012


I appreciate that they were kind enough to give one bear a chair to relax in.
posted by arcticseal at 6:37 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The bears aren't meant to be dead Flunkie, they're just something to dress in up in your county or club colours.

I think it is much more usual with the counties that aren't usually successful and so getting to Croke Park is a bigger deal, that's why Kerry might not have so many.

And in many places dying your sheep your county colours has taken over. (my internet connection is a crap 2g crawl at the moment, otherwise I'd provide links to more images but here is one of Dongal sheep sharing a field with a Mayo sheep)
posted by Fence at 6:54 AM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


The bears aren't meant to be dead
Huh. I don't understand, then. Why is the photographic collection entitled "Dead Bears"?

Why does the intro to the collection say that it "echoes the historical use of adorning town walls and boundaries with the bodies of the executed or slain"?

And why do a lot of them look like they're strung up as punishment? For example this guy tied to the pole with his hands behind his back or this guy who sure looks like he is being hung by the neck.

Others look more like they're intended as a positive display, such as this guy, but many or perhaps even most of them look to me like gibbeted criminals/enemies.
posted by Flunkie at 7:22 AM on November 18, 2012


Why is the photographic collection entitled "Dead Bears"?
I suppose Fortune used "dead bears" because the bears, as I said, get left up year after year and eventually become pretty awful-looking. So it begins to look like punishment. Therein lies the humour (for me). They're not colloquially known as "dead bears" as far as I know.
posted by distorte at 8:10 AM on November 18, 2012


I think it is much more usual with the counties that aren't usually successful and so getting to Croke Park is a bigger deal, that's why Kerry might not have so many.

It's been a while since I've been back to Donegal, but I never noticed them there growing up or travelling around. I must have just been oblivious or maybe it's a regional thing. Or something more recent?
posted by lesbiassparrow at 9:17 AM on November 18, 2012


It's an Irish custom I never heard of before.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:06 PM on November 18, 2012


Myself & Mr Fence have just bought a house (yay!) and driving around near the local village we came across a "dead teddy". Didn't get a good look at it myself as I was busy trying to peer around the next bend in the road.
posted by Fence at 7:41 AM on November 25, 2012


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