Archive1: The Mattie Rynne Archive.
John Martin ‘Mattie’ Rynne was postmaster of Kilnaboy for over fifty year. From all accounts he led a solitary childhood, and ill-health led to his removal from school at the age of twelve. He took care of his mother until her death in the 1960s and lived alone in the building until his death on 17th January 2000. The postmaster was a circumspect and discreet man who insisted his customers wait outside the post office while he dealt with each individual and the Post Office in Kilnaboy used to be the busiest in North Clare. While people waited, local news was exchanged. He left the Post Office building to James Maher, who was the last postmaster of Kilnaboy and it closed in 2003. The building remained shut until 2007 when it was re-opened as X-PO.
My first action was to document the contents of the post office, both the ‘public’ office space and the private living space. The private half of the house was left much as it was when Mattie died. The post office still contained his many books and journals, manuals and tapes. I cleaned, collated and catalogued the contents. The collection of books, papers, objects and his own archive of newspaper clippings revealed an intellectually curious, private man who was passionately interested in the world at large. Mattie’s lights shone late into the evening as he communicated to the world beyond Kilnaboy on his short-wave radio, indicating a desire to communicate with the world decades before the advent of the internet. The unmistakable tones of BBC World Service presenters resonated in the background when doing business in the post office.
Documents and old jotters contained essay assignments for correspondence courses run in the UK in the 1960s: there were writings on numerology and essays on “The Social State” and books on history, politics, astrology and self-help. There were course books for in ‘Radio Inspector and Practical Equipment’ and ‘Advanced English’ and objects, that also spoke to a life of intellectual enquiry. There were eighty-five cassettes of recordings made by Mattie from BBC language courses in French, German, Italian, Dutch and Spanish going back to the early 1970s. Mattie loved technology and had manuals on radio engineering and electronics. Photographs found in an old broken teapot taken in the 1940s show a stylish man in sunglasses, a blackthorn tree and a dry-stone wall in the background.
The Life and Times of Mattie Rynne included a wall-drawing made with soot from the kitchen stove which was intended to draw people into the space. The installation pointed to an almost Beckettian, existential quest to find meaning in a circumscribed experience and a resistance to a boundaried, exclusionary idea of community where all know their place. Lucy R. Lippard points to the appeal of such collections ‘caught en dishabille’ that speaks to the collective unconscious and it prompted reflection amongst visitors, both local and from further afield, on the social role of the rural post office and the loss of neighborliness in everyday life. (Lippard 1999: 108). It suggested a form that alternative representations of local knowledge might take, foregrounding the potential of archival processes to challenge dominant and essentializing narratives and suggested a possibility for spectators to become active as interpreters, a possibility that was embraced by several of the groups who used the space on a regular basis.