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Void Gallery, Derry 2007

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Arrival Montreal 1st of Nov, 1909 My dear Bella Just a few lines in answer to your kind and

I hope your Mother and Johnny is well. I often

welcome letters which I received all right and

thought of her when my throat was sore. She

was very glad to see by it that yous are all well.

was so lucky. I was saying if I was a home it

We are all well at present but I was very bad

would be 驶run for Biddy始!.

myself this last week with a sore throat. I hope them times will all come again. I could hardly speak but it is a lot better this day, thank god. I think it was the cold I got coming over in the Boat and it just came with me now. Well, I was glad to get your letter as you send so much news in it. It始s terrible to think of the Hughes being away. I thought Maggie would not go without Mick Devine but I suppose some one was saying the same about myself.


Well, I must draw to a close. Hoping to hear from you soon and with fondest love to your mother and Johnny and yourself Yours Ellie O'Connor

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+ The Log: Day 1: 19th of July 2006 -12 midnight

I hope I sleep tonight Left London on the noon train from Euston to Liverpool Lime Street. Now sitting in a small cell like room in the Mount Pleasant district, just behind the Adelphi Hotel and the window is open. Hear the voices of drinkers and junkies outside. The heat has brought them out. Reminds me of Havana (not the people, the heat) only there they are prepared for it with fans in the rooms. My sister Briege and I stayed in Cuba, in 1991 for 3 weeks and the places where very basic but one hundred percent cleaner then this here!! It beggars belief. Pink velour curtains with black stained edges, carpet that looks black but is red, the real colour visible at the edge near the skirting board. No bare feet here. There is a corner sink unit (stained) and two chairs, one with green check, which hasn’t seen a damp cloth in its life, a small dressing table and a wardrobe for children or very, very small people. Perched on top of this is an old black and white TV. Switched it on just now and ‘Jude’, a film by Michael Winterbottom, emerges from the screen through a lot of static interference. He, Jude, is just taking an egg from the female protagonists bosom with his mouth.

Hope I sleep tonight, exhausted after dragging luggage all over Liverpool. Fiona is picking me up in the morning at 8 o clock to take me to the docks. I won’t have to endure breakfast (not that I would/could have eaten anything here) Sweat rolling down the backs of my legs now. The ship and the thought of cool sea breezes is calling.

Mum called this evening with more news of her mother and aunts letters just discovered in a relative’s house. It’s amazing that they found them just the day before I head for Montreal. The letters are from Ellie and Theresa O’Connor to their neighbour Bella McSorley and where sent from Montreal 1909 onwards. Mum read some of them out to me on the phone but she couldn’t find the one she wanted telling of her mother’s new job/training as a Bell telephone operator but said she’d call again tomorrow before I leave. Now have the address of the street where she lived so will be able to go there.

Hmmmmm The bed I’m sitting on/sliding off, has a floral, nylon cover but it has cotton white sheets (something at least).


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Limerick Installation, 2008

McClean's installation is terrific. Apparently utilising the abandoned office furniture of the erstwhile motor tax office on Lower Mallow Street, she distributes a collection of mini-DVD players through a darkened interior. Her piece, bell(a)exchange , inventively uses an earlier era of telephony as a metaphor in an exploration of personal histories and experiences. Aidan Dunne 漏 2008 The Irish Times Montreal May 23rd (note -they changed the number on our door on account of new houses going up-its 394)

takes a notion of acting Patrick McKeagney. You would just think she was at home again.

My dear Bella

The weather here is so hot. It is just killing. I often say I hope this weather won't go near Ireland as it would kill people to work out. Teresa and I still work in the same office. They call me nothing but Erin go Bragh.

Just a few lines hoping to find yous all well. We are all well here at present but very lonely since Barney died. We miss him terrible. Every Sunday Teresa and him and me would always go someplace we have never went-out any place since he died and the house is so quiet. Its not like it was at all. You might tell Ma that John William始s child that I stood for was buried yesterday. They called her Ellie. It took Diphtheria and died after a few days sickness. Well I hope that your all well. I suppose your mother is beginning to forget us by now give her my best love. Tell her I hope we will all meet again in Clougherney. I hope Da and Ma are well. We had a letter from Ma the other day and we were very glad to see it as we just thought she was sick when she was not writing and Minnie never said if they were all well or not. I suppose if they were sick she did not want to let us know. Teresa often makes me laugh when she


We both like it well. We often say we are going home to Ireland but they are so well used to us now they don't want us to leave at all but that wont keep us long, when we take the notion about Cloghereny. Tell our Joe that I am delighted to hear of my goat having kids. It great to think the more I'm away I have always something behind me. I was sorry to hear of poor James Pat. It始s too bad I suppose. It would take a nice girl to please Tom now. I'm thinking he will be leaving Johnny behind in the Lower end. Well I have not much news in this letter. We are both getting on as usual and like our work well.

+ The Liverpool Bed

The man running the B&B is v.v strange. Long grey hair in a ponytail, beard disguising very bad psoriasis. He has a big skinny, tired looking greyhound that looks just like him, minus the skin problem. Paid him £25. He then showed me the breakfast room (looked Dickensian only dirtier) Signed the visitors book and only then realised that I was the ONLY guest! (League of Gentlemen flashed into mind). Slight wobbly session in the bedroom when he left me. Couldn’t believe I hadn’t asked to see the room first but as the whole city is full to the gills with the sporting fraternity for the Wirrel Open Golfing Championship and what with the heat and the luggage struggle, beggars can’t be choosers. Went for a shower straightaway to try and cool down. Wore flip-flops the whole time. Dirtiest bathroom I have EVER been and certainly the smelliest! At least the water was cold…. Came out, got dressed, left to do some last minute shopping and had a think about my situation.



Notes For a Film Day 8 - Wednedsay 26th of July 2006

10AM Had a great sleep last night. Dreamt about Robbie Williams !! (again !!) Of course the same old story- him being interested in me and me in a dilemma, fancying him but knowing it will not last so decide not to get involved. In 2100hrs the dream I talk to him and say “ Robbie Williams has asked me out but I said no” Then Went to lunch and although it was a bit he says to me “Good decision” choppier than earlier but managed to eat chicken, chips and salad (Ahem!) All present Woke up to the alarm at 7.15. Went for breakfast. Only John there. Christian the and correct. Went back to the cabin to watch Captain comes in and says the weather Bergmans ‘Wild Straberries’ but only managed forecast is not great so be prepared for a about an hour of it before it got to difficult to rocky time over the next 24 hours. He said to read the subtitles and I thought the laptop make sure that everything is secured in the might fall of the table. Read a bit of Miss Smillie cabin etc. Went outside to get some air although the sea is a bit choppy so far so good. and then dozed. Watched and tried to film a Went to the bridge, Nico on duty, then down candle (in a tin) I brought with me from London to the cabin to download some photos I had as it slide back and forth across the floor but just taken but didn’t have too many due to didn’t do it very well. Eventually it was 6 o’clock choppy conditions (hard to focus) and time to go down to the mess again. Wasn’t sure if I wanted to go but then Gaby came up Don’t think I’ll eat too much today so that if I to see if I was ok so I decided to go and try to do start to hurl it won’t be too rotten- NO eat s/thing. When I arrived George said I MORE MEAT- rice and veg only for the next day or so. looked ‘a little green’ and laughed. There was rice and pork for dinner but I just had the rice Think I’ll start my new book ‘Miss Smilles and a slice of toast and a cup of tea. Bertrand feeling for Snow’ by Peter Hoeg, if I can was in fine spirits. concentrate without feeling queasy.


I stayed a little longer with B as he was drinking a Jameson. I then went upstairs and got my super 8 camera and came down to the deck where Bertrand was sitting. I had my rain-coat as there was a lot of water around. I filmed the choppy conditions and then went up to the 8th where B said there was a great ‘view point’ We had difficulty opening the very heavy door on that floor and as B pushed hard he exclaimed “Je suis Jean Val Jean” which was in reference to Les Miserables and the part played by Depardieu. This made me laugh so so much because he is the exact opposite of the character in the film. Left him sitting there looking into the eye of the storm getting blasted by the wind and the rain. I went to the cabin to read. I’m lying here now hoping that we come through the worst of it soon. I will be most relieved when this is over.


Letters and emails home

Quotes from Eliie’s letters and my emails 1909 and 2006

Many thanks for your mail. As always great to hear from you and all the news. When you're away, home is on your mind a lot and I can understand why Teresa’s and Ellie’s letters are full of it. Well, I’m beginning to settle in here but I’m MELTING... The humidity is just unbloody-believable! There is one fan in this little place and I have to keep moving it around the flat so at the moment it’s by me at the computer. I walked into the old town yesterday. It took about 1-2 hours (stopping at shops en route of course) and the sweat 'lashed' of me. One positive is I might loose those few extra pounds gained on the ship. As soon as I got here I went straight to shops and bought plums and peaches and nectarines which are so fresh. I had them with yogurt two mornings in a row (unheard off for me) which I really enjoyed.

Tell our ones I was asking for them. I will write them soon. We had a day of from our work on Friday on account of the Kings Funeral and we are again of on Tuesday next week as it's the Queens Birthday and our pay just goes on the same so its a bad wind that blows good to somebody so Biddy Carlton used to say. I draw to a close and hoping to hear from yous soon.

We are both going to have our picture taken tomorrow so as soon as they are ready we will send yous one. I hope they are all well at home. I must write a letter to Da the next time. It’s hard to get a letter out of him. Of course he has enough to do and men all hate to write. Hows your mother I suppose she is working away as hard as ever but she has made well of her work for I hear yous have a lovely new house. I'm sure it is not a bit too good for your mother for I don't think there could be a better woman living. It is always the same every time we get a letter from home. They are always talking about your goodness to them. Well I think I'll have to draw to a close as its getting dark. Teresa is gone to my uncles but she will write with the photos.

This morning I called the Donnelly relative, Carol, who lives here. She is in her nineties and I got her number through our other distant cousin in America, Ronnie. She seems so lovely on the phone and asked me to come and visit which I will do maybe over the weekend. She had a 3 month stay in hospital recently and although she sounds v old on the telephone she still was able to get a picture of who I was when I mentioned the O'Connors. Ok, I will finish off now and hope the temperature drops soon. There was a really big electrical storm last night with lots of rain but it hasn't made a blind bit of difference. Still too hot and humid for me…



Bella Exchange


MairĂŠad McClean Studio 4, 33 Stannary Street London, UK, SE11 AA

Bella Exchange  
Bella Exchange  

This booklet contains details of a trip I undertook in under to get material to make several dfferent installations and a film.