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.
All 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.