Category Archives: Journalism

‘Born at Sea’ talk coming Sept. 15 in Baltimore

I’m giving a Sept. 15 presentation at the Irish Railroad Workers Museum in Baltimore about “Ireland’s Famine Children Born at Sea.” It is based on my story of the same headline in the Winter 2017/18 issue of the National Archives & Records Administration’s Prologue magazine.

The talk will including additional research that I’ve done since the story’s publication earlier this year. Register for the free event, which begins at 11 a.m. The museum is located near downtown Baltimore at 918 Lemon St., a group of five alley houses where many Irish immigrants who worked for the nearby B&O Railroad lived from the mid-19th century.

Here’s my earlier post about the museum, which is worth visiting anytime.

The Irish Railroad Workers Museum and Shrine at 918 Lemon St. in Baltimore.

A modern reference to a 130-year-old Kerry murder

Earlier this year, flying home to Washington, D.C., from Dublin, I opened Fergal Keane’s Wounds: a memoir of war and love, about the struggles of life and death in North Kerry, primarily in the 19th and early 20th century.

Somewhere over the Atlantic, and on page 74 of the book, I was gobsmacked to read a short passage about the summer 1888 murder of John Foran, a Kerry farmer shot in front of his young son and other witnesses on the road near Listowel. It was the first time I had seen a contemporary reference to the 130-year-old murder since I began writing about the case a decade ago.

In addition to period newspaper accounts, Keane references Bertha Beatty’s (nee Creagh) 1930s Kerry Memories, which contains her claim of seeing some “serious”-looking men talking at the crossroads hours before the fatal shots occurred at the site. I was not familiar with this source.

“The investigation followed a familiar pattern,” Keane writes of the Foran case. “There were arrests and court hearings, but nobody was convicted. The witnesses kept the law of silence.”

Keane, Africa editor for BBC News, has family ties to North Kerry through his father. Historian Diarmaid Ferriter reviewed Wounds in The Irish Times shortly after it was published last September.

Here is my work on the Foran murder, archived on this blog under the title Nora’s Sorrow, for the victim’s daughter who later wrote numerous letters to authorities about the case from America:

I am always looking for new information on sources or references to this crime, whether historic or contemporary. I am convinced there is more to learn about the case, including through the still publicly unavailable Irish Land Commission records, which date to 1881. Thanks to Kay Caball of My Kerry Ancestors for her assistance on the Beatty book and other help over the years.

Late 19th century view of countryside near Listowel. Knocanore Hill in the background.

Blogiversary: Six years, and a summer break

July marks the blog’s sixth anniversary.

Before publishing my next post, which will be my 600th, I want to thank my readers for their support. I appreciate those who subscribe to the blog via email, share the posts on social media, or just drop by from time-to-time. Special thanks to Angie Drobnic Holan, my lovely wife, who contributes to the effort as volunteer editor and webmaster.

The Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited project, which dominated my work the first half of this year with over 40 posts, was well received. January through June traffic on the site was 70 percent of the 2017 full-year total.

Over the next two months, I’ll be posting less frequently in order to enjoy the summer and work on several long-term projects. The latter includes:

  • Preparing for a 15 September presentation at the Irish Railroad Workers Museum, in Baltimore, based on my Prologue magazine story, Ireland’s Famine Children ‘Born at Sea’.
  • Additional research and editing of the Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited, project for an e-book version.
  • Planning for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I in November, and the following Irish War of Independence centenaries. I will attend the Newspaper & Periodical History Forum of Ireland‘s 10th Anniversary Conference, 9-10 November, in Galway. It will explore the 1918 British elections under the theme “The Press and the Vote”.

I will post a few history stories on the blog over the summer, including a new serialized version of my “Nora’s Sorrow” project, and keep up with contemporary events, such as Brexit and Pope Francis’ August visit to Ireland.

For now, however, thanks again for all of your support since 2012. Keep coming back!

Vintage presses displayed at the National Print Museum in Dublin, February 2018.

Shamrock Fund and the Irish War Exhibit of 1918

In the last week of June 1918, the “Countess of Kingston” visited Pittsburgh to debut a traveling exhibit of war items intended to raise money for the Shamrock Fund, a charity for wounded Irish soldiers. The collection included “German Uniforms, Helmets, Military Equipment, Hand Grenades, Propaganda Literature, Iron Cross, Lusitania medal, British Battleship Vindictive Souvenir, German Prison Bread, and a Wonderful Collection of British War Pictures,” according to newspaper promotions.

Ethel Lisette King-Tenison, nee Walker was the daughter of the late Sir Andrew Harclay Walker, a brewer and former Lord Mayor of Liverpool. In 1897, she married Henry Edwyn King-Tenison, 9th Earl of Kingston, a captain in the Irish Guards. He was wounded in September 1914 at the Marne, the first major battle of the Great War, and recovered at their home, Kilronan Castle, in County Roscommon.

Lady Kingston, then in her 40s, established the Shamrock Fund soon after. As she recalled after the war:

When our soldiers began returning from the western front in France and from the barren waste of Gallipoli the horrors that we had shrinkingly read about were to be met face to face on our streets in Ireland. Men without eyesight, legless, armless men, wrecks of men it seemed for whom a miracle must be worked if they were ever to be restored to usefulness in this world. They might be restored, but it required money, and where was it to come from? We could not find it in Ireland, we could not burden England, already carrying an awful weight, and it was then I said: ‘I shall go to the United States, where there is plenty of money and plenty of Irishmen.

She arrived 5 November 1916, in New York City, for her first visit to America. The United States’ entry into the fight in Europe was five months ahead, the Easter Rising in Ireland seven months past. The New York Times reported “the countess said that the trouble was quieting down and that the streets of Dublin had been cleared of debris preparatory to erecting new buildings in place of those destroyed in the rebellion.”

She disembarked the ocean liner St. Louis “with a large supply of shamrocks and the names of many people, patrons and patronesses of her society, among them many Americans now living on the other side who are aiding her work,” the Times told its readers. For small sums, donors received paper shamrocks with pins; those who gave $1 or more received finer pieces of enamel. As for herself, the countess frequently wore a wedding gift shamrock, “in green enamel, set with diamonds, a K for Kingston, L for Lisette, her own name, a solitaire diamond dewdrop in the center and a coronet surmounting the whole.”

Lady Kingston told the Times that about 800 men were being cared for by the Shamrock Fund, but the numbers were growing daily. Men who lost limbs in the war received pensions sufficient for their support, but soldiers with lesser injuries received only $1.25 to $2.50 per week, she said, which was “inadequate” for their civilian survival.

“Our chief object is to start a home for men who have been discharged for tuberculosis, which they contract through the exposure in the trenches,” the countess said. “After the war there will be thousands of Irish soldiers and sailors who will need assistance.”

She was right about that. Some 200,000 Irishmen enlisted in the British military from 1914 to 1918. Upwards of 49,000 were killed, and tens of thousands more were injured, both physically and psychologically. As with all wars, casualty figures are highly imprecise.

Money for Soldiers

The Shamrock Fund opened an office at 39 E. 58th St., New York. later moved to 14 E. 60th St. In Ireland, the effort was coordinated through an office at 30 Molesworth St, Dublin. In October 1917, the fund was listed among dozens of other “war relief charities rendering satisfactory financial accountings,” according to the U.S.-based Charity Organization Society.

From November 1916 until shortly after the November 1918 armistice, Lady Kingston crisscrossed the United States to enlist the financial and volunteer support of high society women and others in the cause helping disabled Irish soldiers. There were a few missteps along the way. Actor Charlie Chaplin failed to show for a New York concert, generating discontent among those who bought their tickets in advance. Some volunteers in Spokane, Washington state, were arrested for “aggressive fundraising” when they charged $4 for a sprig of shamrock.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Shamrock Fund also drew the attention of Parliament. In May 1918, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert McCalmont, an Antrim East M.P., raised questions about “the necessity for such an appeal to another country.” Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen, parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Pensions, told members the Shamrock Fund had donated £5,000 to the government’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Help Society (Irish Branch), which was providing its own training and help for disabled soldiers to secure employment.

The Irish War Exhibit was part of a new effort to raise $350,000. The Pittsburgh Daily Post reported that because of the assistance Lady Kingston received during her 1917 visit to the Pennsylvania city, then a major Irish immigrant hub, “and because of their interest, Pittsburgh was selected as the city in which the drive would be launched.” The display was free to the public 24-29 June, in the 11th floor auditorium of the Kaufmann’s department store. Someone donated a 200-year-old “Irish lace Limerick veil” for later auction, and at least $1,000 was raised in one day, according to newspaper reports.

From Pittsburgh, the countess and the war exhibit traveled west to Elgin, Illinois, and Des Moines, Iowa, during July; Butte, Montana, and Salt Lake City, Utah, in August; Seattle, Washington, in October; and Portland, Oregon, in November, among other stops, also typically at department stores. The war was ended by the time Lady Kingston and her collection of war curios reached the O’Connor, Moffat & Co., store in San Francisco, California, in early December.

As she prepared to return to Ireland in March 1919, Lady Kingston reported the fund had raised an audited sum of $71,400 and secured jobs for 2,630 men. A special hospital to help wounded soldiers also was established in Bray, County Wicklow. The countess said:

I have been everywhere and everywhere found friends and support. … While these broken men live their claim on Irish men and women is sacred, coming before every other claim. We Irish women (she reportedly was born in Scotland) realize what we owe them, and all we can do is pay something on account by showing them how to take up life again.

In the trenches of World War I.

NOTES:

Lady Kingston quotes and Dublin office address, New York Herald, March 23, 1919, page 58. … The New York Times, Nov. 6, 1916, page 11; Nov. 12, 1916, page 40; and Oct. 7, 1917, page 27. … Occasional fundraising troubles, from Little Book of Bray and Enniskerry, by Brian White, The History Press of Ireland, Dublin, 2016. No page numbers in online edition. … Parliamentary attention in May 1918, links to Hansard, the Official Report. … Pittsburgh details from Pittsburgh Daily Post, June 23, 1918, page 16; Pittsburgh Press, June 29, 1918, page 2. … Irish War Exhibit itinerary based on other local newspaper coverage, viewed via Newspapers.com.

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisted: Final thoughts

This is the last post in a blog serial that has explored aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. All of the hyperlinks below are to earlier posts in the series. All of the posts and other background material are available at the project landing page. Thanks for supporting #IUCRevisited.

***

“I went to Ireland … to learn what I could of the social and economical conditions of the Irish people as affected by the revolutionary forces which are now at work in the country.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

I discovered the digital edition of Ireland Under Coercion several years ago while researching the 1888 Kerry murders of James Fitzmaurice and John Foran. The former was shot at dawn, 31 January 1888, at Lixnaw, as Hurlbert awoke in Dublin for his first full day in Ireland. He mentions the murder several times in the book. Foran was shot in late July, as the first edition of IUC was in production for its August 1888 release.

Period illustration of the murder of James Fitzmaurice, survived by his daughter Nora, which occurred in January 1888 as Hurlbert began his six-month travels in Ireland.

I was intrigued by the book from an American journalist traveling in Ireland during a flare up in the decade-long Land War. Hurlbert’s six-month reporting trip began shortly after the Times of London published its “Parnellism and Crime” series and ended just as a special judicial commission began hearings that largely disproved the newspaper’s allegations. He was in Ireland as the Vatican issued the Papal decree against boycotting and the rent-withholding Plan of Campaign. Tenant evictions continued on several large estates during this period. The rapidly growing number of nationalist newspapers that covered these events, Hurlbert asserted, did so less for domestic consumption than for foreign audiences. Across the Atlantic, the Irish in America played a significant role in their homeland politics as mass emigration continued from Ireland.

Like other journalists who wrote books about their visits to Ireland during this period, Hurlbert described the beauty of the landscape. He also detailed the sights of Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Kilkenny and smaller towns. Today, there is a romantic, late 19th century aura to his travels by rail and jaunting car. One of my favorite passages in the book:

“I pity the traveler of the future here, if he is never to know the delight of traversing these wild and picturesque wastes in such weather as we have had today, on a [jaunting] car, well-balanced by a single pleasant companion, drinking, as he goes, deep draughts of the Atlantic air.”

A rural road in Donegal. Photo by Rita Wilson/Donegal Film Office.

Hurlbert’s main focus was the big issues of the day: Home Rule, boycotting and moonlighting. He interviewed numerous people who shaped the period: Land League leader Michael Davitt; Chief Secretary for Ireland Arthur Balfour; Catholic clergy and tenant activists Father James McFadden of Donegal, Father Patrick White of Clare, and Father Daniel Keller of Cork; Ulster Protestant clergymen and unionist supporters Rev. Dr. “Roaring” Hugh Hanna and Rev. Dr. Richard Rutledge Kane, both in Belfast; physically-challenged Irish aristocrat Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh; and the aging Fenian John O’Leary

To be sure, there are challenges to reading Hurlbert’s book. His conservative, pro-landlord, pro-unionist views frequently come across as smug, elitist and–history shows–wrong. He didn’t write the ugliest Irish stereotypes of the day, but they lurk between the lines. Many of his references to Irish and other world history, literature, and the law will be obscure to most modern readers.

Title page from digitized edition of Ireland Under Coercion.

Hurlbert’s 19th century writing style, meandering prose often filled with personal asides and other tangents, is grammatically correct; yet can be cumbersome for 21st century readers who prefer shorter sentences. Too many of the journal-dated sections of the book lack smooth transitions between paragraphs and could have benefited from subheads. Near the end of the book, Hurlbert accommodated the eleventh-hour request from one of his hosts to protect sources by replacing their names or other identifying information with clusters of * * * * *. It’s an unacceptable contrivance for a piece of journalism.

I don’t doubt that Hurlbert’s grave concerns about the outcome of Irish agrarian agitation and nationalist movements were deeply influenced by his experiences of witnessing the terrible American Civil War. Neither do I disagree with the contemporary critics who charged that Ireland Under Coercion was the American expat’s barely-disguised bid to cozy up to the British establishment. The project apparently generated some late-career income for Hurlbert after what appears to have been a comfortable and enjoyable tour of Ireland. He would need it, as his private life was soon caught up in a public scandal.

There is certainly more material in the book than I have been able to explore in the 40 previous posts of this series. I expect to return to this project in the future. For now, however, I’m moving on to other work. Thanks again for supporting Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited. MH

Map of Ireland showing Hurlbert’s 1888 travels.

NOTES: Top quote from page 10 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American.  

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Hurlbert researched

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

***

“…as we are dealing not with the history of Ireland in the past, but with the condition of Ireland at present … ”
–William Henry Hurlbert

In the 130 years since Hurlbert published his Irish political journal and travelogue, contemporary historians have occasionally, but sparingly, cited his reporting in their works about the Land War period.

Hurlbert

Among the earliest references was The fall of feudalism in Ireland; or, The story of the land league revolution, the 1904 book by Michael Davitt. Hurlbert briefly interviewed the agrarian activist. (See series posts Meeting Davitt and More Davitt.) In his book, the Irishman made a few brief mentions of the American, by then dead for nine years:

Ireland Under Coercion … was intended to show that Mr. Parnell and the National League, not Mr. Balfour and Dublin Castle, were the true coercionists in Ireland. What the purpose or motive of the book was has remained a mystery.

Here are three more recent examples:

  • Coercion and Conciliation in Ireland, 1880-1892, by Lewis Perry Curtis Jr., 1963. Citing an August 1888 letter from Arthur Balfour, Perry reported that Hurlbert “ingratiated himself” to the Irish chief secretary and other unionists “by professing his willingness to educate the American public about the ‘true’ nature of Irish nationalism.” (Curtis also referenced Hurlbert in his 2011 book, The Depictions of Eviction in Ireland, 1845-1910.)
  • Irish Terrorism in the Atlantic Community, 1865-1922, by Jonathan Gantt, 2010. In a one paragraph summary of IUC in his section about the Land War, Gantt noted that “…according to Hurlbert, the presence of ferocious agrarianism represented a failure for all concerned and marked a breakdown in civilization.”
  • Mr. Parnell’s Rottweiler: Censorship and the United Ireland Newspaper, 1881-1891, by Myles Dungan, 2014. Dungan wrote of Hurlbert:

He rejected the nationalist narrative of extreme agrarian distress and cited the significant rise in savings bank deposits in areas where the Plan [of Campaign] was in operation as proof of the capacity, and unwillingness, of tenant farmers to pay even arbitrated rents. He was also highly skeptical of the nationalist narrative of press suppression, suggesting there were greater abuses of press freedom by the Lincoln administration during the American Civil War.

Ireland Under Coercion is probably referenced in a few more history books, but not too many. Hurlbert’s work was absent from dozens of books and websites that I consulted in researching this blog series. I suspect he has been overlooked either because he was an American, or because of his pro-landlord, pro-unionist views.

“There is another and more important factor,” Irish historian Felix M. Larkin, co-founder and former chairman of the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland, wrote in an email: “Historians are loath to use contemporary press reports and journalists’ memoirs as sources.”

Larkin just wrote a piece for The Irish Catholic newspaper that criticizes the new, four-volume Cambridge History of Ireland for ignoring the print media. Hurlbert isn’t cited in its index, either, he wrote.

Nevertheless, the online availability of Hurlbert’s book may prompt some fresh looks at his travels in Ireland. As noted earlier in this series, Hurlbert’s quote about Sion Mills is included in a 2014 BBC online profile of the village; and extended passages of his visit to Milltown Malbay are posted on the County Clare Library website.

Ireland Under Coercion also figures into two books about the mystery of “The Diary of a Public Man.” The anonymously-authored North American Review article about the eve of the U.S. Civil War was published in 1879. The mystery of “a public man,” a historical detective storya 1948 book by Frank Maloy Anderson, and  A secession crisis enigma : William Henry Hurlbert and “The diary of a public mana 2010 exploration by Daniel W. Crofts, each reference Hurlbert’s 1888 Ireland book. Crofts concluded that Hurlbert wrote the magazine piece nine years earlier.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Hurlbert’s trip to Ireland is detailed in Travellers’ Accounts as Source-Material for Irish Historians, a reference by Christopher J. Woods, and The Tourist’s Gaze, Travellers to Ireland, 1800 to 2000, edited by Glen Hooper, which features a passage from IUC.

Hurlbert and his Ireland work are long gone, but not completely forgotten.

Title page from digitized edition of Ireland Under Coercion.

NOTES: Top quote from page 291 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an AmericanDavitt, page 559; Curtis, page 263; Gantt, page 125; and Dungan, pages 291-93. Crofts, especially pages 180-187.

NEXT: Final thoughts

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Hurlbert reviewed

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

***

“Although barely a month has elapsed since the publication of these volumes, events of more or less general notoriety have so far confirmed the views taken in them of the actual state and outlook of affairs in Ireland, that I gladly comply with the request of my publisher for a Preface to this Second Edition.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

The first edition of Ireland Under Coercion was published in August 1888. The Preface of the second edition, quoted above, was dated 21 September 1888. Mixed reviews of the book appeared that autumn in Irish, English and American newspapers and literary journals.

The Times of London devoted nearly a full page to the book, with “no apology for placing before our readers copious extracts.” It described IUC as “entertaining as well as instructive.” More importantly, the organ of Britain’s ruling Tory party “attached still greater value to the book as a collection of evidence on the present phase of the Irish difficulty, the genuineness of which it would be idle to impeach.”

This was ironic. The review appeared weeks before a special judicial commission began investigating alleged crimes by Charles Stewart Parnell and other Irish nationalists, driven primarily by an 1887 Times series. Once the commission exposed those reports as false, included the newspaper’s use of forged letters, the Times had to pay damages to Parnell. 

The pro-Parnell United Ireland, which Hurlbert described in IUC as “that dumb organ of a downtrodden people,” weighed in a week after the Times‘ review. It labeled Hurlbert “a clever politico-journalist hack, his ambitions, throughout a somewhat extended career, have ever outrun the appreciation of his countrymen … a slighted genius.” It condemned IUC as a “libelous book on Ireland … fit to take its place amongst other grotesque foreign commentaries.”

The same day, The Kerry Evening Post wrote that Hurlbert’ “ruthlessly dethrones many of the ‘pure-souled patriots’, who have been held up to the admiring gaze of the Irish peasants.” The Tralee paper circulated in the region of the Lixnaw murder and Glenbeigh eviction reported by Hurlbert. It generally represented “Protestant interests and conservative politics.” The Post concluded: “The opinions of an intelligent and instructed foreigner may well be commended to Mr. [William] Gladstone’s study, as an answer to his boast that the ‘civilized world’ is on his side in the great controversy of the day.” [The former and future PM supported Home Rule for Ireland.]

Hurlbert

The Saturday Review, a London newsweekly, described Hurlbert as “an American gentleman to whom the condition of Ireland is gravely interesting, because to a certain extent his own country is responsible for it. … He is evidently possessed of a keen sense of humor, and he writes like a well-educated Englishman, while he views men, morals and manners with all the disinterestedness to be expected from a foreigner.”

The Review also criticized Hurlbert for not attempting “any process of solution, short and summary, or tedious and expensive, by which the Irish difficulty might be solved … he has no pet plan to suggest.”

In America, cloth-bound, gilt top editions of Hurlbert’s book were sold for $1.25 by S.A. Maxwell & Co. The Brooklyn (New York) Daily Eagle described the book as “… a sort of high class piece of newspaper reporting … [with] a map claiming to show the most disorderly and the most distressed districts, and that the latter are not the former.”

The Literary World, an American journal, explained to its readers: “The rule of the Land League is, in Mr. Hurlbert’s opinion, the only coercion to which Ireland is subjected; and the title of his volume has reference to this view.” The monthly praised IUC as a “keen and fair-minded report .. [that] may be commended as a practical and thoughtful treatise upon the Irish question.”

The Literary World also suggested that Hurlbert’s book could be read together with Philippe Daryl’s Ireland’s Disease, the English in Ireland, and George Pellew‘s In Castle and Cabin: or Talks in Ireland in 1887. “The three supplement each other well.”

“Hurlbert unmasked’

Hurlbert moved on to another political travel journal, this time about France. But his Ireland book got fresh attention in 1891 when Father Patrick White published a rebuttal pamphlet, Hurlbert unmasked : an exposure of the thumping English lies of William Henry Hurlbert in his ‘Ireland Under Coercion.’  

In his book, Hurlbert had accused the parish priest of organizing boycott activities  at Miltown Malbay, based on his February 1888 visit to County Clare. In Hurlbert unmasked, Father White disputed the charge, and criticized the American reporter on numerous other fronts.

The New York Sun noted that Father White ridiculed the former editor of the rival New York World “as a snob who made his tour of Ireland under the conduct and patronage of lords and others of social and Tory distinction, and who is scrupulous and persistent in advertising the fact.” Following the priest’s lead, the Sun also criticized Hurlbert’s use of unnamed sources.

In a review of Hurlbert’s book about France, The New York Times recalled the 1888 Ireland work as “superficial and tedious,” written “for no higher object and with no less ignoble a spirit than to please certain English nobles in the world of fashion.” At least, the Times suggested, Hurlbert did so “with very respectable success.”

Hurlbert’s book contained a map of his travels “claiming to show the most disorderly and the most distressed districts, and that the latter are not the former.”

NOTES: Top quote from Preface of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an AmericanReviews from Times of London, Aug. 18, 1888, page 12; United Ireland, Aug. 25, 1888, page ??; The Kerry Evening Post , Aug. 25, 1888, page 2; The Saturday Review, Sept. 29, 1888, pages 386-387; IUC advertised in The Chicago Tribune, Dec. 1, 1888, page 13; The Brooklyn (New York) Daily Eagle, Nov. 25, 1888, page 7; The Literary World; a Monthly Review of Current Literature, Jan. 19, 1889; page 22; The New York Sun, Jan. 31, 1891, page 7; The New York Times, April 27, 1890, page 19.

Protestant interests and conservative politics,” from page 196-97 of Newspapers and Nationalism: The Irish Provincial Press, 1850-1892, by Marie-Louise Legg, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 1999.

NEXT: Hurlbert researched

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

As abortion referendum nears, Ireland seems divided

Republic of Ireland voters head to the polls Friday, 25 May, for a referendum to decide whether to repeal or retain the anti-abortion Eighth Amendment in the country’s constitution, which gives equal value to the life of the fetus and the woman.

Early polling showed the repeal side favored to prevail, but the margin has narrowed in recent weeks, and anything is possible in the final days of the campaign on such an emotionally charged issue.

Here’s a short roundup of news and commentary as of 20 May, starting with a background piece:

History lesson: What happened during the 1983 abortion referendum?

An extremely strong campaign had emerged early in the 1980s to lobby the government to introduce a ‘Pro-Life amendment’. The move came in the wake of the Roe versus Wade verdict in the U.S. Supreme Court, which allowed for the introduction of less restrictive regimes. There was genuine fear in Ireland that the courts could do something similar here unless a Constitutional provision prohibiting abortion was introduced. … [The Eighth Amendment] passed on 7 September 1983 with a 67 percent majority. It was signed into law just one month later.

From TheJournal.ie

As polls narrow before the [2018] abortion vote, is rural Ireland setting up a Brexit moment?

The polls have narrowed so much that a result once nearly taken for granted now hangs in the balance; the media are under fierce attack for bias; and questions are swirling about foreign influence and online ads. … The long shadow of two recent surprise election results – the Brexit referendum across the Irish sea, and Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential poll – is hanging over Irish voters. … The final result is expected to hinge on the one in five voters still undecided.

Emma Graham-Harrison, The Guardian

‘Dark ads’ cast a shadow over Ireland’s referendum on abortion

Attempts by Facebook and Google to tackle ‘dark ads’ and foreign interference in the run-up to Ireland’s referendum on abortion haven’t been entirely successful, according to an online transparency group.

From CNN

The Irish Exception

[Repealing the amendment] would put an end to an all-but-unique experiment in Western public policy: an attempt to combine explicitly pro-life laws and generally pro-family policy making with a liberalized modern economy and the encouragement of female independence and advancement.

Ross Douthat, The New York Times

Irish abortion referendum: Abortions could be offered to NI women

Women from Northern Ireland could cross the border to have an abortion if there is a yes vote in the upcoming referendum. … Abortions are only allowed in Northern Ireland if a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her physical or mental health. Rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities are not circumstances in which they can be performed legally. Currently women from Northern Ireland can travel to England to have a free NHS abortion after charges were abolished in June 2017.

From the BBC

Legalizing abortion would betray Ireland’s future

In Ireland, one might suspect that on a sociopolitical level this referendum is further evidence of a longer-term reaction against the Catholic Church, whose decline in authority and influence in Ireland has been paralleled by referendums in 1995 that legalized divorce and in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage. If so, there will be no small irony involved: that the Catholic Church’s support for the Eighth Amendment will hurt the amendment’s chances in Ireland.

The Editors, America, the Jesuit Review

One way or the other, the referendum will change Irish politics

If it is a No vote … the consequences for Leo Varadkar’s Government will be calamitous. This shaky and unsure coalition is almost certainly in its last year – actually probably its last six months – … and a defeat on Friday would be sufficiently destabilizing to bring the end closer, and maybe much closer. It is hard to see how the Government could muster the political capital to do anything after such a devastating defeat. … [A Yes vote] will reinforce the image of Varadkar as a young, liberal, progressive leader – and crucially as one who wins elections … [and] would carry the Government through the forthcoming Brexit travails and into the autumn budget.

Pat Leahy, The Irish Times

Which side will prevail in Ireland’s abortion referendum? Image from the BBC.com

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Dinner guests

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

***

“We were five at table … “
–William Henry Hurlbert

Rolleston

In late June 1888, Hurlbert sat down for dinner with four other men who made their mark on Irish history to greater and lesser degrees. T. W. Rolleston, a writer and editor whom Hurlbert described as “an uncompromising Protestant Home Ruler,” hosted the evening meal at his home in Delgany, County Wicklow.

Also gathered around the table:

  • John O’Leary, the “Fenian patriot … whose name is held in honor for his courage and his honesty for all who know anything of the story of Ireland in our times,” according to the American.

    Sigerson

  • Dr. George Sigerson, a physician, scientist, supporter of the Irish literary revival, and “an authority on the complicated question of Irish Land Tenures,” Hurlbert wrote.
  • John F. Taylor, “a leading barrister of Dublin, an ally on the Land Question of Mr. Davitt, and an outspoken Repealer of the Union of 1800,” as well as a journalist and friend of Alice Stopford Green.

Hurlbert admitted that he “had long wished to meet” O’Leary, especially since 1886, when the Fenian sent him “one of the most thoughtful and well-considered papers I have ever read on the possibilities and impossibilities of Home Rule for Ireland.”

The American devoted several pages to O’Leary’s biography, from his Tipperary birth to his early nationalist activity with the Young Ireland movement at Trinity College Dublin in the “battle summer, 1848,” and his 1865 arrest and trial for treason felony.

O’Leary

O’Leary’s speech from the dock “made a profound impression upon the public mind in America,” Hurlbert wrote. “It was the speech not of a conspirator, but of a patriot.” The convicted Fenian spent five years in an English prison and 15 years exiled in Paris and America.

Of the contemporary agrarian agitation, Hurlbert reported that O’Leary “has so far preserved an attitude of neutrality.” Later accounts suggest O’Leary was more hostile to the Land League and its activities.

Historian Owen McGee noted that O’Leary made clear that he opposed the Irish Republican Brotherhood becoming directly, or indirectly, engaged in agrarian violence. If so, “he would immediately resign from the [IRB] movement in protest; an action, it might be noted, that he never felt it necessary to take.”

O’Leary, while still exiled, met with Charles Stewart Parnell as the Land  War was getting started in 1879, but he balked at becoming engaged in the effort. He generally frowned on the constitutional nationalist efforts of Parnell and other Irish M.P.s to secure Home Rule.

At the dinner, Hurlbert quoted O’Leary as saying:

What certain Parnellites object to in Mr. Rolleston, and in Mr. Taylor, and in me, is that we can’t go out gathering grapes of thorns or figs of thistles. Some of them expect to found an Irish republic on robbery, and to administer it by falsehood. We don’t.”

Hurlbert

The passage appeared on page 291 of Vol. 2 of Ireland Under Coercion. In the later consolidated edition of the book, page 389, the three identifying pronouns were removed from the quote and the attribution changed to “one of the [dinner] company.” This was due to O’Leary’s complaint to Hurlbert in a 9 September 1888, letter, included in the appendix of the consolidated edition.

“I am giving more bother about what you make me say in your book than the thing is probably worth,” O’Leary wrote. He continued:

Most certainly I do not expect to found anything on robbery, or administer anything by falsehood, but I do not in the least believe that the National League [Parnellites] either expects or desires to found an Irish republic at all! Neither do I believe that the Leaguers will long retain the admiration of such small measure of Home Rule, as I now believe we are going to get. My fault with the present people is not that they are looking, or mean to look, for too much, but that they may be induced … to be content with too little.

Home Rule never happened in Parnell’s or O’Leary’s lifetimes, which ended in 1891 and 1907, respectively. A year after the dinner party, O’Leary’s “means were considerably reduced by the fall in the value of his houses in Tipperary, brought about by the Plan of Campaign movement—which he never ceased to condemn,” The Times of London said in its obituary.

As for Rolleston, he edited Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland in 1888, including his contribution of a poem about O’Leary. Hurlbert wrote about the collection in his book.

Rolleston soon moved to Killiney, closer to Dublin city, where he “was part of almost every vital ‘happening’ of the literary and cultural revival scene,” the Independent reported in a 2016 story. But he “was written out of popular Irish history because his views piqued the nationalist rump of the literati.”

Rolleston’s former house in Killiney, Co Dublin.

NOTES: From pages 383-390, and 466-67 (Appendix) of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American.  … “He would immediately resign…” From page 79-80 of The IRB: The Irish Republican Brotherhood from the Land League to Sinn Fein, by Owen McGee, Four Couts Press, Dublin, 2005.  … “His means were reduced…” from The Times‘ of London obituary of O’Leary, 18 March, 1907, page 6.

NEXT: Irish America

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Uncrowned king

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

***

“Mr. Parnell and the National League are really nothing but the mask of Mr. Davitt and the Land League.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Parnell

Hurlbert disagreed Michael Davitt’s agrarian agitation, but he respected the activist, whom he interviewed. The American reporter had nothing but contempt for Charles Steward Parnell, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, whom he had observed for a decade, but does not appear to have met.

Davitt and Parnell were each involved in the Irish National Land League, which was was outlawed in 1882 and replaced by the similarly-named Irish National League. To Hurlbert, Davitt was more authentic and reasonable, while Parnell had “one voice for New York and Cincinnati, and another for Westminster.”

This should not have surprised Hurlbert. Political leaders frequently vary their messages for foreign and domestic consumption, and often carefully calculate their rhetoric even within constituencies.

Hurlbert was editor of the New York World when Parnell arrived in the city on New Year’s Day, 1880, as the Land War heated in Ireland. Over the next three months, Parnell made a 62-city tour of the United States and Canada that raised over $300,000 in tenant relief. It was considered so successful that supporter Timothy Healy proclaimed Parnell the “uncrowned king” of Ireland as they sailed home. The nickname held.

In his 1888 book, Hurlbert tried to recast Parnell’s visit. He suggested the M.P.’s first U.S. interview “made on the whole an unfavorable impression in America.” Further, it was only because Davitt  and leaders of Irish organizations in America “came to the rescue” that Parnell achieved any success, including his “off day” visit to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Reception display

“His tour, however, on the whole, harmed more than it helped the new Irish movement on my side of the Atlantic,” Hurlbert wrote.

Ely M. Janis has noted Parnell’s visit “especially rankled several important American newspaper editors,” though the historian did not name Hurlbert. “Several commentators noted Parnell’s subdued style in public meetings and believed him unable to stir Irish Americans to action,” Janis continued, but his rhetorical skills improved during the tour and he helped make the Land League a success in the years to come as he emerged “as the dominant Irish leader of his generation.”

Daniel Crofts, Hurlbert’s biographer, wrote that his subject “failed to recognize the astuteness of the great Irish leader or to recognize Parnell’s claim on the Irish heart.” Hurlbert saw Parnell and Henry George “as dangerous subversives who stood ready to undermine both property and political order.”

Curiously, Hurlbert never mentioned the “Parnellism and Crime” series published by The Times of London a year before his trip to Ireland. The series implicated Parnell in the Phoenix Park murders of 1882. As he traveled during the first half of 1888, momentum was building for a special commission to investigate the Times‘ report, which Parnell and his supporters claimed was based on a forged letters.

The commission was established in August 1888, a month before Hurlbert wrote the preface for Ireland Under Coercion. His views, dated 21 September 1888, predicted “an imminent rupture between the Parnellite party and the two wings–Agrarian and Fenian–of the real Revolutionary movement in Ireland.”

Parnell was vindicated in 1889 by the special commission, which exposed the forged letters. He enjoyed a brief period of triumph. But the Parnellite party splintered the following year when the leader became embroiled in a famous divorce case. Personal behavior, not political tactics, caused his downfall.

Parnell died at the end of 1891, age 45.

Parnell’s grave at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, July 2016.

NOTES: From pages 161 (top quote), 39, 18 and xi of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an AmericanPages 186 and 191 of  A secession crisis enigma : William Henry Hurlbert and “The diary of a public man, by Daniel W. Crofts, LSU Press, 2010. Also, “Anointing the ‘Uncrowned King of Ireland”: Charles Stewart Parnell’s 1880 American Tour and the Creation of a Transatlantic Land League Movement,” by Ely M. Janis, in German Historical Institute Bulletin Supplement 5, 2008.

NEXT: Dinner guests

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan