Worth a thousand words

The one thing that seems to have most impressed readers of the Democrat, especially the older ones, about the revamped newspaper in recent weeks is the inclusion of the old photographs from the Lawrence Collection in post card form with the publications.

The one thing that seems to have most impressed readers of the Democrat, especially the older ones, about the revamped newspaper in recent weeks is the inclusion of the old photographs from the Lawrence Collection in post card form with the publications.

The saying that is probably most common in connection with news and other media presentations in modern times is “one picture is worth a thousand words!” But do those who use it really know where that saying comes from?

Having done some research into the saying, I have discovered that its origins are a bit complex.

Apparently Napoleon Bonaparte said something along those lines when he exclaimed, in French of course, that one sketch was worth a thousand words, when discussing a battle plan.

The person most closely associated with the saying in modern times, however, was a New York advertising manager named Fredrick R. Barnard, who wrote in the trade magazine ‘Printer’s Ink’ in December 1921 that ‘One look is worth a thousand words’, attributing it to some unknown Japanese philosopher. He expanded the idea some years later when he wrote, in an advertisement in the same journal, that ‘One picture is worth ten thousand words’.

This time he attributed the origins to some ancient Chinese proverb; which makes me suspect that he actually made it up himself.

Whatever the truth the idea really caught on, perhaps because it was a really astute observation, and now is one of the most often repeated sayings in relation to news events of modern times.

These thoughts came into my mind when I looked as the picture, included with last week’s editions, of a busy day in Earl Street of about 100 years ago. William Lawrence was a Dublin photographer who took thousands of pictures in every county of Ireland from about 1890 onwards and now his ‘Collection’ is rightly regarded as national treasure. H

e took many in North Louth and, while I had seen most of them over the years, I don’t think I had actually seen this one previously. It brought back a lot of memories to me personally because I had spent a lifetime regarding this particular Dundalk street during the course of my work as a journalist.

I had seen many changes there since the 1940s but I judge that this particular photograph was taken sometime between 1900 and 1920. How, you may ask, do I known that dating for certain? Well, I know that it was after 1900 because you can see the new for the time Post Office building in Clanbrassil Street and that it was before 1920 because Craig’s drapery premises, which was burned down in August 1920, is also visible.

But those observations are not what struck me most about the photograph. It was the two horse drawn ‘buses’ drawn up on the far side of the street to old Democrat offices. There were a number of public transport operators around Dundalk at the beginning of the last century, one of the most famous being McGeough’s who ran a service from Blackrock to Dundalk.

I think, however, that this must have been a service run by a man known as ‘Captain’ P. J. Watters who later opened a motor garage in Park Street. The reason I think it was his service is that he was related to Thomas Watters who ran the licensed grocery and confectionery in Earl Street, beside Carolan’s wholesale grocery, and, indeed, it may well have been the Watters family home. It must have been fairly early in the century as there is not a motor vehicle to be seen in the busy street.