An 82-year-old clipped copy of Pearse’s graveside oration

A few years ago I inherited some family-related personal items upon the death of one of my mother’s sisters, my aunt. She had saved many of the items for decades, including correspondence from Ireland, and the U.S. citizenship papers of her father (my grandfather Willie Diggin) and mother, and her mother’s brother and sister. All four emigrated from Kerry a few years before the 1916 Easter Rising, each sailing separately to Pittsburgh.

Also among the items was a copy of “History of Ireland,” a text book written in 1903. Stuffed inside the book were several yellowed newspaper clippings, mostly poems cut from The Gaelic American, an Irish nationalist weekly published in New York from 1903 to 1951 (Limited scanned issues available online from Villanova University.) One clipping, dated 13 December 1941 and headlined “America First, Last and All the Time,” says the new war with Germany and Japan “will have the fighting support of every worth-while drop of Irish blood in the United States.”

Willie died four days later, 10 days after the Pearl Harbor attack. It is the inclusion of an Irish Times editorial from 19 June 1974, that makes me believe the book and its collection of clippings belonged to his brother-in-law, John Ware. I knew “Uncle John” to be an avid newspaper reader and follower of Irish politics. I was 15 at the time the editorial was written, which was two and a half years after Bloody Sunday. The piece begins, “Loyalists and Republicans are marching around in the North, like lost legions, in the dark.” We know a lot more darkness followed.

PP_0753All this is the background to the clipping shown at left, a 19 August 1933 reprint of Pádraic Pearse’s oration at the graveside of Fenian leader O’Donovan Rossa. The clip dates 18 years after the 1 August 1915 funeral and Easter Rising, which soon followed in April 1916. It is 11 years after the creation of the Irish Free State and four years before the 26 counties adopted a Constitution in 1937. In America, the Great Depression was four years old. Roosevelt was just past his first 100 days in office.

In August 1933 John Ware was 47 years old, a veteran of World War I who fought in France. I wonder what Pearse’s stirring speech represented to him? What did he think of the history of Ireland to that point, especially the partitioned North the Times would write about 41 years later?

The oration “has been published more than once in The Gaelic American,” the newspaper’s editors wrote by way of introduction. “At the earnest request of a reader we give it again. Repetition cannot take away from it and it cannot be read too often. A great many people have memorized it.”

John Ware clipped the speech from the newspaper and carefully placed it in the history book that contains not one word about O’Donovan Rossa in a three-page section titled, “The Fenian Movement in America.”

Here’s an online link to the speech that’s easier to read.

Centennial of Pearse’s oration at O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral

One of the seminal events of Irish republican history marks its 100th anniversary 1 August: the Dublin funeral of Fenian leader O’Donovan Rossa. As the Irish Independent recalls, “it was a brilliantly choreographed pageant of separatist propaganda.”

Rossa died 29 June 1915 in New York. The revolutionary’s body was returned to Ireland a month later for five days of public viewings. The political highlight was the masterful graveside panegyric delivered by writer and poet Pádraic Pearse, with its stirring climax:

“They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! – they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”

The entire speech is read aloud in the video below by an unknown narrator. It contains actual footage from 1915 funeral, plus images from the Easter Rising, which occurred nine months later.

“One of the most shocking murders … in Ireland”

LONDON — During my trip here I was able to spend time at the British Library researching the 29 July 1888 murder of Kerry farmer John Forhan. The document below (which mistakenly uses the date 30 July and gives the wrong first name, James, plus a common surname variation without the letter “h”) is from an 1891 government report about agrarian crime in Ireland.

In the weeks ahead I’ll be updating my timeline of the story and adding other research details in the Forhan/Scanlon Project section of this blog.

From an 1891 government report.

From an 1891 government report.


St. Patrick’s Church in London’s Soho Square

Exterior of the church, across from Soho Square.

Exterior of the church, across from Soho Square.

LONDON — Irish Catholicism is hardly the first thing that comes to mind when considering the historic sweep of this great city of the world. But it holds a small corner of Soho.

I wanted to visit St. Patrick’s Catholic Church here, as I have in other cities. Now I have.

“St Patrick’s is the first Church in England, at least since the Reformation, dedicated to St Patrick,” according to this parish history. “It was also one of the first Catholic parish Churches established after the passing of the Catholic Relief Acts of 1778 and 1791, which brought freedom of teaching and worship.”

St. Patrick and the sanctuary.

St. Patrick and the sanctuary.



Remembering the dead with annual cemetery Mass

The annual Mass for the dead at Killahenny graveyard is 17 July at 8 p.m. I wish I could attend. My maternal great grandparents and numerous relations are buried at this tiny cemetery next to the Ballybunion Golf Course.

Undated photo of John and Johanna Diggin, who died in 1940 and 1945, respectively.

Undated photo of John and Johanna Diggin, who died in 1940 and 1945, respectively.

“The Cemetery Mass, or annual Pattern, is a very special date that communities revolve around,” Miriam Donohoe wrote in this 2014 piece for the Irish Independent. She continued:

“A lot of work goes into sprucing up graveyards. Weathered headstones are freshly scrubbed, graves decorated with fresh flowers and wreaths and plots weeded. It is significant event, reaffirming bonds of kinship through the previous generations. Cemetery Sunday [not always on a Sunday] is about honoring ancestors, remembering parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and reminding ourselves of the larger connections within the community.”

Here’s another story about Cemetery Sunday from the A Trip to Ireland Blog.

As for Killahenny, it came to great attention after President Bill Clinton played the Ballybunion Golf Course (opened in 1893) in September 1998. In a Golf magazine story about his favorite courses, Clinton recalled:

I stood on the first tee in front of more than 10,000 people, without having taken a single practice shot, looking at one of the most intimidating opening shots in golf. A cemetery borders the fairway for 200 yards down the right side, and on that day, a strong wind was blowing from left to right. I aimed the driver well left but the wind curved it over and beyond the cemetery anyway. I was so keyed up I missed the next two shots and made a triple-bogey 7.

A 2002 story in the Wall Street Journal quoted a course official as claiming the cremated remains of at least 50 golfing businessmen from around the world had been scattered from the bunker above the 17th tee, the highest point on the course. Friends of other deceased fans of the course reportedly have returned with the clubs of their playing partners, burying them in the Killahenny cemetery.


Catholic parish records now available online

Catholic parish records held by the National Library of Ireland are finally available online. The Irish Times said:

These parish register records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 census. Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, they cover 1,086 parishes throughout the island of Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records.

Here’s more background on the project from NLI. Or, start searching.

In a helpful blog post, Kay Caball at My Kerry Ancestors warns that because the records are not indexed researchers should have some idea of the parish, date and even month they are looking for. “You can’t just pop someone’s name in and hope that all will be revealed.”


Confederate battle flag and NI marching season

It’s marching season in Northern Ireland, and this year there’s some extra attention on appearances of the Confederate battle flag, subject of much controversy in the American South.

Writing in National Catholic Reporter, Mary Ann McGivern notes the similarity of arguments between those who believe celebrating Protestant King William of Orange’s 1690 victory over Catholic King James II is a matter of heritage, and those who say it represents hate. She writes:

As far as I can see, most of the people who wield these symbols of supremacy and privilege don’t have the ugly history in the forefront of their minds. The flags and songs are an excuse for drinking and maybe for finding someone to beat up — in short, for exercising privilege today.


The U.S. has been focusing attention on the June murder of nine African-Americans inside their South Carolina church, and the alleged 21-year-old killer photographed with the battle flag on a website attributed to him and filled with racist rants. South Carolina political leaders are trying to remove the flag from the statehouse grounds. But Business Insider reported the “stars and bars” also flies in other nations around the world, for various reasons. In Northern Ireland, the dissident Red Hand Defenders have marched with the flag due to their links with Ulster-Scots who fought for the Confederacy.

Now, with marching season building to its 12 July climax, the Confederate flag has been erected outside the home of a black family in East Belfast. One local politician told the UK Independent“The flying of this flag is closely intertwined with historical slavery and racist tension, as can be seen by its glorification during recent racially-motivated attacks in the US.”

And in Co. Antrim, the Belfast Telegraph reported Confederate and Nazi flags were flown along with the Union Jack and loyalist paramilitary flags near a Carrickfergus bonfire site. The BBC later reported the Nazi flags were removed.

Hillary’s Northern Ireland chats revealed in email dump

The latest batch of government email from Hillary Clinton’s private server contains several strands of conversation about Northern Ireland.

The Irish Times reports that Clinton, as Secretary of State in 2009, passed on participating in a panel discussion about the North after first saying it was “a good idea.” The panel was being hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative, the family foundation she runs with her husband, the former president, and daughter. It was to feature Irish and Northern Irish officials. Clinton bowed out of the event after an aide suggested her appearance might be perceived as a conflict.

In another conversation, the 2016 Democratic presidential front runner express her glee that Co. Tipperary businessman Declan Kelly received a State Department security clearance to serve as her economic envoy to Northern Ireland. Kelly runs the New York public relations and corporate advisory firm Tenco with  Doug Band, a former adviser to Bill Clinton.

Clinton used a private account during her State Department tenure to shield her email from public record requests. A U.S. judge ordered the State Department to release the emails in batches every 30 days until all 55,000 pages she gave to the agency in December are released.

One other note on U.S.-Irish relations: Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner met with Taoiseach Enda Kenny. They discussed the Irish economic recovery, immigration reform including the plight of the undocumented Irish in the U.S., and the situation in the North, according to the Times.

Boehner was accompanied to Dublin by seven members of Congress.

Making Dublin city center a car-free zone

As someone nearly clipped by cars a few times in hectic Dublin city center, I was pleased to read this Fast Company story passed along by my friend Margaret C.:

…the city wants to route cars around the city center, and turn major streets into car-free plazas and passages for buses, bikes, pedestrians, and a new tram line. Along the banks of the River Liffey, polluted roads will become promenades. On Grafton Street, a former car lane will turn into a tree-shaded terrace with cafe tables, while the other lane has tram tracks. New bike lanes and wider sidewalks will be added as well.

Transit, but no cars, leaves more room for pedestrians in Dublin city center.

Transit, but no cars, leaves more room for pedestrians in Dublin city center.

The Irish Times calls it “the most radical redrafting … ever” of transportation plans within the downtown area. This story contains a good map and video report of the proposals, which have an eight-year horizon. Here’s additional reporting from RTE.

Or go directly to the proposal website.

Wonders and threats in Ireland’s natural environment

A few environmental stories:

  • Irish marine scientists have discovered a new cold water coral habitat nearly 200 miles off the Co. Kerry coastline. Story in The Irish Times.
  • The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, were visible in Co. Donegal and parts of Northern Ireland due to a huge solar storm, the Belfast Telegraph reports.
  • Meanwhile, the Times also covered a recent “climate justice” conference, where scientists complained the government isn’t doing enough to address greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists say 2014 was the warmest in Ireland since 1880 (start of the Land War period) and average temperatures had increased by 0.5 degrees since 1981. At current rates, temperatures in Ireland are expected to rise by between one degree and 1.5 degrees over the next 30 years.

Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency offers this scorecard of key environmental indicators, including ratings for climate change, water, air, land and nature.