Skip to main content

Bobbie Hanvey photographic archives

Collection MS-2001-039: Bobbie Hanvey photographic archives


  • Creation: 1970 - 2012

Content notice

Many of the images in this collection contain depictions of violence, destruction, death, injury, and trauma during the political and religious conflict known as the Troubles. This includes images of the aftermath of bomb explosions and the affected people and communities.

Scope and Contents

A collection of photographs by Bobbie Hanvey featuring people and scenes from Northern Ireland during and after The Troubles, a period of violent conflict between Protestant unionists and Roman Catholic nationalists in Northern Ireland. The collection contains portraits, candid shots, and documentary images of everyday life, public events, paramilitary activity and violence, as well as political and religious figures. Hanvey also photographed artists, entertainers, performers, poets, singers, and writers including Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney, and Gusty Spence. Additionally from the early 1970s-1990s Hanvey chronicled The Travelling People, an Irish ethnic minority with their own history and culture based on a nomadic tradition.

Photographic formats include black-and-white negatives, color negatives, and color transparencies on primarily 35mm and 60mm film, as well as some photographic prints and digital photographs. Glassine sleeves, which originally held the photographs and were annotated by Hanvey, were retained.


Language of Materials

Graphic materials including some text in English and Irish.

Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research; available digitally. Access is limited to the digital version.

Transparent media and digital storage media (hard drives) are not available for use; access limited to the online digital version.

Restrictions on use

Copyright and intellectual property rights have been transferred to the Trustees of Boston College for this collection. The Bobbie Hanvey Photographic Archives are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. John J. Burns Library grants you permission to use these images within these parameters; please review the licensing language and conduct your own risk assessment.

Biographical Note

Bobbie Hanvey was born on October 31, 1945 in Brookeborough, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland to Johnny and Mary (Donnelly) Hanvey. Johnny was from Doran's Rock, near Saintfield in County Down, and Mary was from Colebrooke Cross in Fermanagh. Johnny was a lumberjack in rural Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s who took photographs of both the men and machines at work. Johnny bought Bobbie a tape recorder as a child, and Bobbie would use his father's camera to photograph the neighbors and record their songs and ceilis (social gathering with singing and music).

After working in textile factories and singing in a folk club in England during the summer of 1965, Bobbie returned to Northern Ireland and took a job as a student psychiatric nurse at the Downshire Hospital in Downpatrick. Though he had no nursing experience, the hospital offered music therapy and Bobbie was hired based on his ability to play guitar. The nurses also filmed patients as a way to entertain them and Bobbie began helping them while also taking still photographs of the patients singing traditional songs. Nurses at the hospital initially taught him how to develop and print photographs and he strengthened that knowledge by reading books and spending a great deal of time in the darkroom. By the early 1970s, though he had qualified and worked as a psychiatric nurse, Hanvey left the Downshire to work full time as a professional photographer, shooting weddings, babies, current events, and music album covers.

As a photographer, writer, and musician, Hanvey records people and life in Northern Ireland. His long-running weekly Downtown Radio program “The Ramblin' Man,” which began in the late 1970s, interviews guests from across the cultural spectrum from politicians to artists. His photographic work has been used by news services, published in two volumes, Merely Players (1999) and Last Days of the RUC-First Days of the PSNI (2005), and featured in The Irish Century (published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998). He is also the author of the prose work, The Mental, based on his experience as a psychiatric nurse. In the mid-1980s Hanvey garnered three consecutive Northern Ireland Provincial Press Photographer of the Year Awards and two Northern Ireland overall “Best People Picture” awards. He continues to work as a photographer for his own business and personal interests.

He lives in Downpatrick and has three children, Steafán, Ciarán, and Sarah Ann.


Dukehart, Coburn. Like Father, Like Son: Creating Art In A Time Of Troubles, NPR online, June 14, 2013. Accessed on July 12, 2021.

Hanvey, Bobbie, and Turner, Brian S. Merely Players: Portraits from Northern Ireland, Colourpoint Books, 1999.


6.75 Linear Feet (32 containers)


Photographs by twentieth-century Northern Irish photographer Bobbie Hanvey documenting people and life in Northern Ireland during and after the Troubles. Materials include black-and-white negatives, color negatives, color transparencies, digital and print photographs. Glassine sleeves, which originally held the photographs and were annotated by Hanvey, were retained as well.


Photographic archives arranged in ten series: I. Artists, journalists, and writers; II. Bombs and violence; III. Boston College; IV. Entertainers; V. Ordinary life during the Troubles; VI. Paramilitary organizations; VII. Politicians and political activities; VIII. Religious leaders and activities; IX. Security forces; and X. The Travelling People.


Acquired through purchases and gifts from Bobbie Hanvey over a period of years (2001-2017).

Existence of digital copies

The majority of this collection is available digitally. Links are included in the inventory.

Related Materials

Boston College collection of photographs of Ireland, MS.1986.092, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Michael Schwartz Northern Ireland photographs, MS.2018.005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Processing Information

Hanvey's original groupings were made into the ten series with the following changes made during processing: Seamus Heaney and Brian Friel were added to Artists, journalists, and writers; Eamon de Valera was added to Politicians and political activities; Gusty Spence was added to Paramilitary organizations; and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was added to Security forces. Singers and entertainers was renamed Entertainers.

Digitization information

Hanvey's 35mm and 60mm film photographic negatives and positives at the John J. Burns Library have been scanned with a Nikon Super CoolScan 9000 film scanner, using Nikon Scan 4.0 software. Each image is scanned at a resolution of 3000 ppi as uncompressed TIFF images in order to capture all of the image information on the film.

Bobbie Hanvey Photographic Archives
Archives department
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States