Signed M. Bracken Art Gallery collection pre-1974
Molly Bracken, the second child of a family of seven in Queen Street, Clonmel, was a national school teacher employed at the Sisters of Charity National School in Morton Street. One former pupil described her arrival there during World War II as ‘not only a wind of change, a whole hurricane…’ (Rossiter, 1990). She taught art at a time when the subject was actively discouraged by the Department of Education. As Margaret Rossiter testified, she introduced children to nature, to scale, shape, perspective, mood, texture and colour (Ó Cléirigh, 2012). The artist John Keating said ‘In national school, I had a very enlightened teacher who set up her classroom like an atelier; one part of the room had percussion instruments, another part a puppet theatre and we used to make the papier-maché puppets. She was very creative, very inventive. She had a great love of the work of Yeats (see page ??) and Kokoschka. Anyway, she took an interest in me. I remember one weekend when she took me off for a weekend's drawing, … she wouldn't be able to do it now,’ (O’Sullivan, Irish independent, 7/12/2012).Apart from a visit to Spain and painting trips to Achill, Molly Bracken did not travel much beyond the confines of her native town, but she designed and painted sets for local theatrical and operatic performances, including an operetta, An Gobán Saor, composed by her brother, Fr. Joe Bracken. She was a fluent Gaelic speaker and her interest in Irish culture is reflected in some of the titles she used for her paintings.Apart from her own artwork she was a committed supporter of R. J. Long’s attempts to develop an art collection for Clonmel and to find an appropriate home for it. A retrospective exhibition of her work, organized by her niece, Marie O’Reilly, was held in 1990 in the public library, Clonmel. An Fear Siúbhail, undated, is almost certainly modelled on a member of her family who were often used as models for her work, and bears a clear resemblance to her O’Reilly relatives with whom she shared a house on Queen Street. Molly Bracken painted landscapes and portraits, a collection of which were found in her room when she died. She had a great rapport with the tramps and wanderers, celebrated in Irish folklore as An Fear Siúbhail, who were seen as the traditional bearers of news and information from the outside world.