Category Archives: Arts & Culture

Visiting Ireland in photos, part 1

Some images from my current visit to Ireland. More posts to follow.

St. Stephen’s Green has a colorful history at the center of Dublin since the mid-17th century.

Photos are prohibited inside the Reading Room of the National Library of Ireland, but are widely available online.

The legend of St. Patrick at Skerries, about 20 miles north of Dublin.

Detail of altar at 13th century Straid Abbey in County Mayo. At center, Mary hold Jesus after the crucifixion. St John at left; Mary Magdeline (supposedly) at right.

 

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Other books

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“Before reaching Limerick we passed through so much really beautiful country that I could not help expressing my admiration of it to my only fellow traveler.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

My last post mentioned Hurlbert’s reference to French journalist Philippe Daryl, who wrote about his 1886 and 1887 travels to Ireland in a book published shortly before the American arrived in Dublin. Hurlbert referenced several other contemporary accounts in his book.

There have been numerous travel books written about Ireland, and not just by journalists. Travellers’ Accounts as Source-Material for Irish Historians, is an excellent 2009 reference by Christopher J. Woods. It details 209 accounts from Sir William Brereton in 1635 to S.P.B. Mais in 1949, including Hurlbert. Woods provides travel dates, itinerary, people encountered and content overviews.

Map of Ireland showing Hurlbert’s 1888 travels.

By the 18th century, “the act of ‘writing one’s journey’ became commonplace, and by the 1750s reading and emulating printed narratives was a firmly entrenched intellectual pursuit that heralded the golden age of travel writing, waning in the 1850s with the advent of rail,” Sylvie Kleinman commented in a History Ireland review of Woods’ book. “Accounts of journeys, even if not infallible sources, can especially serve the historian as material on a wide range of issues, if only as a record of conditions or places long since altered.”

The Tourist’s Gaze, Travellers to Ireland, 1800 to 2000, edited by Glen Hooper, contains excerpts from 72 accounts, including several titles not listed in Travellers’ Accounts. Tourist’s Gaze features a portion of the March 8, 1888, passage of Hurlbert’s Ireland Under Coercion. (Elsewhere in the book, Hurlbert references his own 1878 and 1883 trips to Ireland.)

My exploration of Hurlbert’s book is part of my broader interests in 19th century Ireland, especially the 1880s Land War/Home Rule period. Among other digitized titles from that decade, representing a range of views:

Now, on the eve of my seventh trip to Ireland in 18 years, I will take a short break from my Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited project as I do further research on this and other topics. I will update the hand-written entries of my black leather travel journal of my 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2012 and 2016 trips. I also will post on the blog about my latest travels.

The #IUCRevisited project will resume by early March.

NOTES: Top quote from page 168 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an AmericanHurlbert notes his earlier visits to Ireland on pages 41-42. Historic books linked via HathiTrust Digital Library.

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: National Gallery

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“It already contains more really good pictures than the Musée either of Lyons or of Marseilles, both of them much larger and wealthier cities than Dublin.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

On Valentine’s Day in Dublin, Hurlbert did not mention the late saint’s reliquary a few blocks from his hotel. Instead, he visited the closer National Gallery of Ireland on Merrion Square. Gallery Director Henry Edward Doyle walked him through the art museum, founded in 1864.

Hurlbert was impressed with the collection, including paintings by Jan Steen, Giovanni Bellini, Jacob Ruysdaels, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Jan Both, Paul Potter and Cornelius Begyn. He also noted the popular drawings of his host’s brother, Richard Doyle, who had died five years earlier.

“I wish the Corcoran Gallery [founded in 1869] were half as worthy as Washington, or the Metropolitan Museum [established in 1870] one tenth part as worthy of New York,” the American visitor enthused.

National Gallery of Ireland

Hurlbert never missed the chance to jab at Irish nationalism. He described the gallery director as “a devout Catholic who is also an outspoken opponent of Home Rule.” Doyle, he wrote, relayed the story that “a young sister” of Irish Parliamentary Party leader Charles Stewart Parnell [probably Anna Parnellonce was “an assiduous student” at the gallery. When Doyle revealed he did not support her brother’s political efforts, she replied with “melancholy resignation” that they no longer could be friends.

Hurlbert also referenced the gallery visit of French journalist Paschal Grousset, who spent the summers of 1886 and 1887 in Ireland as a special correspondent for Le Temps. Writing under the pseudonym Philippe Daryl, his newspaper articles were collected in the 1888 book Ireland’s Disease, the English in Ireland, and an English translation, Ireland’s Disease, Notes and ImpressionsHurlbert wrote that he “picked up” a copy of the book in Paris.

Daryl briefly described the Dublin gallery early in his first chapter, “First Sensations.” With a few exceptions, he wrote, “…the collection is not worth much … It is only a pretext for a national collection of portraits where are represented all the glories of Ireland,” including Jonathan Swift, Lawrence Sterne, Edmund Burke, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Daniel O’Connell and Henry Grattan. “Art exiled in the background, and patriotism shining to the fore.”

Doyle, the museum director, curated the portrait collection in 1874. He expanded it in 1884, shortly before Daryl and Hurlbert arrived in Dublin, to become the Historical and Portrait Gallery. These portraits of Irish heroes still hang today.

In his nod to Darly, Hurlbert also mentioned the “glories of Ireland” gallery, with its “wits and statesmen, soldiers and belles, rebels and royalists, orators and poets.” But the American dismissed the Frenchman’s suggestion that its presence “proves the passionate devotion of Dublin to Home Rule.”

NOTES: From pages 157 to 159 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an AmericanPage 10 of Ireland’s Disease, and page 142, The Tourist’s Gaze, Travellers to Ireland, 1800 to 2000Edited by Glen Hooper, Cork University Press, Cork, 2001.

NEXT: Other visitors, other books

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Kilkenny visits

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“Kilkenny, chiefly known in America, I fear, as the city of the cats, is a very picturesque place, thanks to its turrets and towers.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

After nearly two weeks in the northwest of Ireland, Hurlbert made his way back to Dublin for a quick stop. Next, he boarded a train at Kingsbridge (now Heuston) Station for the 35 mile trip southwest to Kildare town, then another 30 miles by carriage to Abbeyleix, County Queens (now Laois).

Abbeyleix House

The American was a guest at the “large, rambling, delightful house” of Viscount de Visci. He mentioned the fountain memorial in honor of his host’s father at the center of town, and the ancient Catholic abbey that gave the place its name, which “stood in the grounds of the present mansion.”

On 13 February 1888, the party traveled 20 miles south to Kilkenny in a snowstorm, which “enlivened rather than diminished the scenic effect of the place … [with its] two cathedrals, a Round Tower, a Town Hall with a belfry, and looming square and high above the town, the Norman keep of its castle. … The castle windows look down upon the [River] Nore, spanned by a narrow ancient bridge and command, not only all that is worth seeing in the town, but a wide glorious prospect over a region which is even now beautiful, and in summer must be charming.”

Kilkenny Castle and surrounding town.

The group visited Kilkenny College, “at which Swift, Congreve, and Farquhar,–an odd concatenation of celebrities–were more of less educated,” Hurlbert recorded. The party had luncheon at the Imperial Hotel.

Hurlbert returned to Kilkenny in March and again in June. On his second visit to Kilkenny Castle, he viewed a supper menu from a feast given by the second Duke of Ormonde to an unknown number of guests on 23 August 1711. Hurlbert recorded the menu in the appendix of his book. It included:

  • 5 Pullets, Bacon and Collyflowers
  • 6 Buttered Chickens
  • Pikes with White Sauce
  • Hasht Veal and New Laid Eggs
  • A Shoulder and Nick of Mutton
  • Haunch of Venison
  • Lobsters
  • Ragoo Mushrooms
  • Kidney Beans
  • Ragoo Oysters
  • Fritters…

…and more. Nothing is said here about the beverages served at the meal. Hurlbert described the wines and other 1668 living expenses of the first Duke of Ormonde, from the upkeep of 19 horses to buying seven dozen tallow candles, in the pages that chronicled his first visit to the castle.

NOTES: From pages 141 to 152; 319; 375-383; and 465 (menu) of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

NEXT: National Gallery

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Catching up with modern Ireland: January

I’ve spent January producing my Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited blog serial, which explores aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Thanks for the great reader response. Before the next post, I want to catch up with the month’s developments in modern Ireland and Northern Ireland:

Tourism poster of Innisfallen, Killarney, in County Kerry, from the 1920s.

Best of the Blog, 2017

Welcome to the fifth annual Best of the Blog, which follows my 2012 launch anniversary and 500th post in July. I hope you enjoy this Irish news and history feature year-in-review. I’ve got some great things planned for 2018, including … wait for it … my seventh trip to Ireland!

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In 2017, the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly and fallout from Brexit created some of the biggest headlines, including debate about the border between the North and the Republic, and a surge of Irish passport applications from Ulster and other U.K. residents seeking E.U benefits.

Heading into 2018, it remains uncertain whether the nationalist/unionist power-sharing Assembly can be reconstituted by April’s 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. For now, it appears the island of Ireland will avoid check points and other hassles of a “hard border” once the North and Britain leave the E.U. in March 2019. Meanwhile, expect to hear more talk about a united Ireland, with the North welcomed into the E.U.

Among political personalities in 2017, Sinn Féin‘s Martin McGuinness died … Gerry Adams retired … the DUP’s leader Arlene Foster teamed with Tory PM Theresa May … and Fine Gael‘s Leo Varadkar replaced Enda Kenny as taoiseach. Much was made of the fact that Varadkar, just 38, is openly gay and the son of an Irish mother and Indian father. He leads a precarious governing partnership with Fianna Fáil that could easily erode and spark snap elections. … A national referendum is set for June on whether to repeal the constitutional amendment that bans most abortions. 

U.S. philanthropist and businessman Brian Burns, the grandson of Kerry emigrants, was nominated by the new Trump administration to replace former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley. Burns withdrew due to health concerns, however, and a replacement has not been named. Reece Smyth is the current chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin. … In August, Daniel Mulhall became the new Irish Ambassador to the U.S.

The Past

Here is some of my original research and curated content about Irish and Irish-American history milestones in 2017.

170 years ago:

150 years ago: 

125 years ago:

100 years ago:

The Irish Americans

I produced original research about Irish prisoners in the U.S. during the late 19th and early 20th century:

Other stories about the Irish in America included:

The Irish shrine mural in Baltimore by artist Wayne Nield.

The Census

Ireland’s 2016 Census was released to the public in 2017. Among many details about modern Ireland, it shows:

The Church

I added to my list of St. Patrick’s Churches, with visits to:

  • Rome, Italy, where the church’s 1888 founding coincided with the papal warning about the Irish Land War.
  • Cumberland, Md., Newry, Pa. and Harrisburg, Pa., where Irish immigrant laborers and ascendant professionals carried the Catholic faith of their homeland to America.

Stained glass image of St. Patrick in Harrisburg, Pa. church.

The Media

I explored U.S. press coverage of Northern Ireland; Dublin media protesting descriptions of the Irish capital in an ESPN The Magazine profile of native son Conor McGregor; and Irish media “past, present and future.”

Freelance Stories:

In 2017, I published three stories outside the blog:

I have a story about the Famine set to publish in the Winter issue of Prologue, the magazine the National Archives and Records Administration. Two other pieces are under consideration with two other publications.

Guest Posts:

I always appreciate the offerings of guest bloggers, this year including:

Lovely Louth countryside. Photo by Cathy Cahill.

The Departed

  • Ronan Fanning, professor emeritus of modern Irish history at University College Dublin and the author of several books, in January at age 75.
  • Thomas Kenneth Whitaker, “the most influential public servant” in the history of the Republic of Ireland, in January, a month and a day after his 100th birthday.
  • Martin McGuinness, former IRA man and Sinn Féin leader, in March at age 66.
  • Dan Rooney, former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland and longtime owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, in April at 84.
  • Liam Cosgrave, former Irish prime minister, in October at age 97.
  • William Hastings, Northern Ireland hotelier, in December at age 89.

Visiting Ireland in 2018

  • Me, to Mayo and Dublin, in February
  • An exhibition from the Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., to Dublin and Cork, from March through October.
  • Pope Francis to Dublin, in August, with a possible historic side trip to Northern Ireland.

BOB Archive

Winter solstice at Newgrange: watch it live, anywhere

Fáilte Ireland and the state’s Office of Public Works are live streaming the winter solstice at Newgrange, County Meath, the mornings of Wednesday, 20 December, and Thursday, 21 December, from 8.30 a.m. local time.

Subscribers to the tourism agency’s “Ireland Ancient East” YouTube Channel will get alerts to tune in at the appropriate times. The livestream will also be embedded to watch at http://www.irelandsancienteast.com/ with more context about Ireland and the nearby Boyne Valley.

Newgrange is a 5,200-year-old passage tomb built by Stone Age farmers. It is world famous for the illumination of its interior chamber by the winter solstice sun. As Newgrange.com explains:

Above the entrance to the passage at Newgrange there is a opening called a roof-box. This baffling orifice held a great surprise for those who unearthed it. Its purpose is to allow sunlight to penetrate the chamber on the shortest days of the year, around December 21st, the winter solstice. At dawn, from 19-23 December, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber.

As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9 a.m. The accuracy of Newgrange as a time-telling device is remarkable when one considers that it was built 500 years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge.

The intent of the Stone Age farmers who built Newgrange was undoubtedly to mark the beginning of the new year. In addition, it may have served as a powerful symbol of the victory of life over death.

Newgrange, Co. Meath.

Outside views: Brexit, taxes and tourism

Following my last post about Irish media, it’s always interesting to see how media outside of Ireland covers the island. Here are three recent examples:

Irish media: past, present and future

I am reading Newspapers and Nationalism: the Irish provincial press, 1850-1892, by Dr. Marie-Louise Legg.

The book offers a “survey and analysis of the ‘Fourth Estate’and its impact and involvement on nationalist politics in Ireland in the second half of the Victorian age,” as detailed in this review. Legg “gets inside the period and writes to us about the newspapers themselves, their editors, the people who bought them and, those who actually read them and whether or not were influenced by them in their morals, intellects and politics.”

This title belongs to the important niche of books about Irish media, including:

These studies explore how journalism impacted politics and society, and visa versa, before, during and after Ireland’s revolutionary period, 1912-1922, now commemorating its “decade of centenaries.”

There are also important contemporary developments in Irish media.

  • Irish lawmakers are trying to criminalize the use of social media and technology to spread “fake news” to influence political debate, as detailed by Poynter’s Daniel Funke.
  • Irish Times columnist Una Mullally organized a forum to explore sexual harassment, gender discrimination and female under representation in the media industry.
  • The Irish Times’ parent company has agreed to acquire all the publishing and media interests of Landmark Media Group, the Cork-based owner of the Irish Examiner newspaper and other media assets.
  • Dublin-based Maximum Media, the company behind “digital lifestyle brands” JOE.ie, Her.ie, SportsJOE.ie and HerFamily.ie, is investing in a new Galway office and adding 20 new jobs  in copywriting, design, journalism, sales and client services.

Learn more about what’s happening in the industry today–and what’s on the horizon for tomorrow–at The Institute of Future Media & Journalism (FuJo) at Dublin City University.

Image of press plates, circa 1935, from the Independent Newspapers Collection at the National Library of Ireland.

Guest post: Frank Sinatra at Kate’s Bar, Derry

I’m always happy to publish a guest post from people visiting or just returned from Ireland. This piece is by Dick Davis, a retired San Francisco Bay area stockbroker and author of “Bus Journey Across Mexico” and other photo journals; and Victor A. Walsh, a retired California State Parks historian who has written about Ireland and Irish America for the San Francisco Irish Herald, Irish America, Eire-Ireland, and Journal of American Ethnic History. MH

Massive 17th-century siege walls surround the city of Derry (Londonderry to Loyalist Protestants) in Northern Ireland.  Waterloo Street, which parallels the old gray walls, rises steeply above the Bogside. In a 2002 visit, at a late hour, it’s empty; the buildings a silhouette of dark forms in the black night.

At the corner where Waterloo turns toward Diamond Square, we spot a brightly lit pub — a glow of life on the otherwise dreary street. The sign in front says, “Tonight Frank Sinatra”; below in smaller letters, “Jimmy Breslin.”

This is nuts, I think. I’m in Ireland, not New Jersey, and Frank’s dead.

We enter Kate’s Bar. It’s packed. Men are standing shoulder to shoulder drinking black pints of Guinness. Wisps of cigarette smoke and loud conversation fill the stale air. Some of the men are wearing white polo shirts with a football patch. Three ladies, near the front corner by the mike, more than fill a bench meant to seat four.

They remind me of buxom cafeteria workers from my high school days, only without aprons. All of them are blondes and their hair is curled and teased in the beehive style of the early ‘60s. It’s clear that they are here to listen to Frank.

We push through the throng of people, and find two tall stools against the back wall. A fellow next to me with tousled wavy black hair tells us that there are some empty tables in the next room. “Thanks,” says my friend Vic, “but we want to hear the music of Hoboken, Ireland.”  He nods somewhat quizzically and introduces himself as Declan.

Just as he begins to speak, someone yells, “Mop,” and Declan springs into action. A tray in front of a golden retriever sitting underneath the bar in front of us has been kicked over. As Declan quickly mops up the floor, he tells us that the dog belongs to a blind man, a regular seated at the bar. The tray is refilled, and the dog goes back to contentedly lapping up the Guinness.

At the far end of the bar stands an animated chap alternately talking and listening to his neighbor. When a point is made or something funny is said, he twirls his hand in a spiral motion and pokes his finger at the ceiling. I couldn’t tell if he was challenging God or keeping score.

Being newcomers, we begin to attract attention. “Where you from?” asks a thin fellow with a brown, droopy moustache. “California, near San Francisco,” I reply. “Oh, you’re a Yank,” he says in a friendly manner. He introduces himself as “Fergus,” with an emphasis on the “fer.”

We chat, and soon Declan returns. Like several other men at the pub, he is wearing a white polo shirt with a Celtic Football Club badge embroidered in green with a shamrock in the center. The patch is sewn on the right side of his shirt. On the left side, stitched in a circle with Irish flags are the words, “Celtic Supporters Club, McSheffrey and Deery.”

“Can I buy one of these shirts here?” I ask him. “They’re not for sale. They’re commemorative. They honor the memory of me friends, Eddie McSheffrey and Paddy Deery. We lost them to The Troubles here in ’87.”

“To your friends,” I saluted with my glass raised high and took a drink. Fifteen years, I thought, and The Troubles are still here, but friends are never forgotten.  

The stone walls that encircle Derry rose out of history. They stood in 1689 when Protestant defenders repelled a 105-day siege by the Catholic army of King James II.  They straddle the steep ground above ‘Free Derry’, the Catholic Bogside where British paratroopers in 1972 without provocation opened fire on unarmed Catholic civil rights marchers, killing 13 (a 14th person died later) and wounding 17 protesters in a massacre remembered as “Bloody Sunday.”

The murals and slogans painted on the walls and ramparts—“No Surrender”, “End The Torture”; “We Salute Those Who Gave Their Lives For Irish Freedom”—are a living testament to what divides the two cultures into segregated communities: one Protestant, British and Unionist; the other, Catholic, Irish and Republican.

As I think about this, someone whistles. The crowd claps, a cheer goes up, and a ruddy-faced version of Jimmy Breslin steps forward and screams into the mike, “It’s time for Frank!”

He’s dressed like a young Sinatra in a white-on-brown plaid sports jacket and fedora with the hat cocked and the brim turned down. He taps the mike; the crowd quiets as he fixes his gaze on the lady with the tallest beehive and sings, “I’ve got a crush on you…” She throws back her head; her face enveloped in a great smile. Her two friends nudge and jostle her.

As Sinatra croons “You do something to me…,” I look out at the blissful gathering, sparkling eyes, happy faces, people at the bar talking and laughing, small men dancing with large women, more joy and love than I’d ever seen in a church on Sunday.

Fergus comes over, taps me on the shoulder, and whispers, “To New Jersey,” referring to Sinatra’s home state.

Declan, who had disappeared when Frank began, returns with a white polo shirt. “Let me check the sizes. I couldn’t see in that cave-dark store room,” he explains. It’s extra-large, my size. As he hands it over to me, I could see a tear of joy in his eyes. “The club stocks the shirts, but we never sell our memories,” he says.

In June 2017, I returned to Derry with my granddaughter and grandson. We visited the Museum of Free Derry. The film clips on The Troubles were both personal and deeply moving, especially Prime Minister David Cameron’s apology on June 15, 2010, for what happened on Bloody Sunday. The Bogside was jubilant; the fallen finally remembered as victims, not perpetrators. In this sense Free Derry represents a future together as much as a past apart. .

Afterwards, we walk up Waterloo looking for Kate’s Bar. Uncertain, we ask around until I spot a pub called Castle Bar. For me, it’s still Kate’s.

When we enter, my commemorative polo shirt catches people’s attention. At the bar, I ask if anyone remembered Kate’s. “Yes,” an older fellow shouts while nudging his way forward. When he sees the polo shirt, he slowly bends his head, kisses the logo with the two names, and then praises me for bringing my grandkids, letting them know about The Troubles.

The mood is subdued; almost reverential. No one spoke. Words did not matter for the faces in that moment of silence simmered with the memory of tribal wrongs.

(Editor’s Note: Patrick Deery and Edward McSheffrey were among nearly 100 people killed in Northern Ireland in 1987. Nearly 3,600 violent deaths–nationalists, loyalists, British troops and innocent civilians– occurred during The Troubles, which lasted from 1968 to 1998.)

The worst of the Troubles ended nearly 20 years ago with Good Friday Agreement, but neighborhoods in Derry/Londonderry remain divided between Unionist/Loyalists, top, and Nationalists/Republicans, below. June 2017 photos by Dick Davis.