Friday, December 3rd, I arrived in Austin, Texas as I was teaching an Irish cooking class at Central Market. I was early. The Capitol Building was calling me. I had visited once before, ever so briefly but had this urge to go back. Upon entering the building I noticed quite a few tour guides eagerly waiting to share their knowledge. One guide in particular caught my attention. He was talking to two boy scouts with such animation that I knew immediately he was the one ! The child in me needed someone 'who loved' what they do to share this afternoon with. I was not disappointed.
Upon walking into the Senate Chamber, I was struck by the magnificence of two paintings hanging on the walls. As my tour guide continued to talk and ask questions,I participated eagerly. His comment was quite funny ,as he said 'young lady, you must have been a good 5th grade student in Texas History'. Obviously he had not noticed my Irish accent as it was not quite what I was studying at the Ursuline Convent Cork ! However, having two boys educated here in Texas helps somewhat. I continued to ask more questions as I noticed in the painting ' Dawn at the Alamo' that James Bowie was very much alive and I had thought he was dead or injured by the time the battle occurred.
James Bowie was indeed dead or at least dying at that time but the painter had made changes. This famous battle, (although 'The Battle Of San Jacinto' is more significant) depicted the Fall Of The Alamo in March 6th 1836. There is a somewhat humorous depiction of Santa Anna himself on a donkey as little more than a caricature ! The painter had a sense of humor.
H.A McArdle was born in Belfast in 1836. His parents died when he was a teenager and he immigrated to America. He was a draftsman during the Civil War for the Confederate Navy and later he made maps for Robert E Lee. After marrying he settled in Texas and taught art at Baylor Female College. Later the President of Baylor, William Carey Crane recommended McArdle to the Governor of Texas. He was commissioned to paint a portrait of Jefferson Davis for the Capitol. McArdle moved to San Antonio and painted numerous portraits of Sam Houston. One of his portraits are on display in the DeGolyer Library at SMU (Southern Methodist University)
The House of Representatives in the Texas Capitol houses 'The Settlement of Austin's Colony'. More of his work can be found across the street in the 'Texas State Library' and in Baylor University in Waco, Texas. I was so incredibly proud of this Irishman and wanted to see more. It was time to leave for Central Market but you can be sure that I was eager to share this information with all the students in the cooking school. Amazing what you learn when you just stop for a moment and take in your surroundings.