Tag Archives: county clare

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Unnamed sources

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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“When he wants to throw out some offensive innuendo on the Irish Party, or the Irish people, or the Irish Priests–anything Irish so it be on the National side–he nearly always introduces some unnamed and, as I believe, unnameable individual to to the work for him.”
–Father Patrick White commenting on William Henry Hurlbert

In a fortuitous coincidence, my launch of this project coincided with the January 2018 release of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

Micheal Wolff

Wolff’s book about the American presidential administration and Hurlbert’s 1888 publication about Irish political agitation share one significant characteristic: frequent use of unnamed sources.

As we’ve discovered in this blog serial, Hurlbert was very transparent about his sympathies for Irish landlords and the unionists supporters of London’s ruling conservative Tory government. He openly disdained Irish nationalists and the island’s urban and rural poor.

In his attacks on the latter, Hurlbert often relies on unnamed sources to make his point, as Father Patrick White noted in his rebuttal pamphlet to the American’s book, Hurlbert unmasked : an exposure of the thumping English lies of William Henry Hurlbert in his ‘Ireland Under Coercion.’ [The text doesn’t show a year published. It appears to have been released in 1890 or 1891.]

Father White was Catholic parish priest in Miltown Malbay, about 20 miles west of Ennis, County Clare. In his book, Hurlbert accused the priest of organizing boycott activities, which Father White strongly rebutted in his pamphlet. I’ll return to this matter in a future post.

In a section of Hurlbert unmasked headlined “Mr. Hurlbert’s Anonymous Informants,”  Father White savaged the American author’s use of unnamed sources, which included a …

  • Catholic from the south of Ireland
  • sarcastic Nationalist acquaintance of mine
  • jarvey with a knowing look
  • shrewd Galway man
  • resident of the county who gave me his views on the Plan of Campaign
  • magistrate familiar with Gweedore

“I will not here mince words,” Father White wrote. “Such tactics as these are cowardly and contemptible … [Hurlbert] finds vent by this devise for a stream of contempt and scorn poured out on the Irish representatives, which must have been pleasant reading, indeed, for all Unionists.”

William Henry Hurlbert

Or, as the New York Sun noted in its 1891 review of Hurlbert umasked, “the third person singular indefinite is a difficult witness to rebut.”

Father White heaps more scorn on Hurlbert for cloaking some of the people he encountered late in his travels with a series of  “* * * *” in place of their name or identifying characteristics. The priest calls the device “a sensational novelty” and “a fit crowning to the work.”

In a footnote, Hurlbert explained:

After this chapter had actually gone to press, I received a letter from the friend who had put me into communication … [with these people] begging me to strike out all direct indications of their whereabouts, on the ground that these might lead to grave annoyance and trouble for these poor men from the local tyrants. … What can be said for the freedom of a country in which a man of character and position [his “friend”] honestly believes it to be ‘dangerous’ for poor men to say things recorded in the text of this chapter about their own feelings, wishes, opinions, and interests?

The explanation bolsters Hurlbert’s contention that the worst coercion in Ireland came from shadowy and violent agrarian activists, not the police and government officials who enforced the laws of London. Ireland Under Coercion does identify people in this latter group, which is why the book remains relevant for historical study.

Which brings us back to 2018, and the furor that Fire and Fury has created over reporting with unnamed sources, whether in daily online journalism or modern book publishing. I give the last word to my wife, Angie Drobnic Holan, editor of PolitiFact, from her 9 January review of Wolff’s book:

The lack of sourcing is a problem because it means evidence is given a back seat to narrative oomph. It encourages people to suspend their critical thinking skills and follow their emotions into a pleasing narrative. That narrative might be true or it might not be, and it’s almost impossible to independently evaluate.

NOTES: Bulleted “sources” from pages 54, 71, 88, 125, 152 and 179, respectively; footnote from page 361, of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. … Father White’s comments on pages 24, 25 and 28 of Hurlbert unmasked : an exposure of the thumping English lies of William Henry Hurlbert in his ‘Ireland Under Coercion.’ Special thanks to Hesburgh Libraries at the University of Notre Dame. … New York Sun, 31 January 1891, page 7.

NEXT: Kilkenny visits

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Saturday in the stacks: ‘set-piece eviction’ timeline

Irish history stacks at Catholic University of America.

I spent a few hours in the main Mullen Library at Catholic University of America, browsing the Irish history collection in the open stacks. I selected from one of the shelves “A New History of Ireland, Volume VI: Ireland Under the Union: 1870-1921,” edited by W. E. Vaughan. I settled into a chair to read the chapter, The Parnell Era, 1883-91, by R. V. Comerford.

The Irish “Land War” period of tenant-landlord agitation is typically framed as 1879-1882. But agrarian unrest on the island began during the Great Famine of the mid-19th century and lasted throughout the 1880s. In reading about British administration of Ireland during the year 1887, Comerford makes this statement that caught my eye:

“This was the great era of the transportable battering-ram and of the set-piece eviction scene, producing images that have been frequently superimposed on earlier times.” (My emphasis.)

Eviction scene with battering-ram in County Clare, July 1888.

Obama will return to Ireland in ‘coming year or so’

Outgoing President Barack Obama will return to the Republic of Ireland “in the coming year or so,” according to U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley. “The last sentence the president said to me … [4 January] when we were saying goodbye, was ‘please tell them I’m coming’,” O’Malley told RTÉ host Marian Finucane.

While the location or context of his return is less clear than the timing, Obama is generally popular in Ireland. His May 2011 visit included a stop in Moneygall, County Offaly, the ancestral home of his great-great-great grandfather.

Since then, a service plaza was erected in Obama’s honor on the M7 motorway just outside the village. In addition to petrol and fast food, the place is packed with Obama souvenirs, plus memorabilia of popular presidents Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy. In a contemporary sense, it might be the most Irish-American spot in all of Ireland, through certainly not the most scenic or historic.

Barack Obama in Moneygall in 2011.

Obama, who also visited Northern Ireland in June 2013 for a G8 summit, leaves office 20 January, the inaugural of President-elect Donald Trump, who owns a golf resort in Doonbeg, County Clare. O’Malley will leave his Dublin post a few days earlier due to a demanded from the incoming administration that all non-career ambassadors depart immediately.

IrishCentral, citing a tweet from New York Times writer Maggie Haberman, reports the next U.S. Ambassador to Ireland will be philanthropist and businessman Brian Burns, the grandson of an emigrant from Sneem, County Kerry.  Burns, 80, and his wife, Eileen, have been close friends of Trump through the Palm Beach and Mar-A-Lago connection.

O’Malley, a St. Louis trial lawyer whose grandparents emigrated from County Mayo in the early 20th century, was appointed by Obama in June 2014 after a record-setting 18-month gap following the departure former ambassador and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney.

Ali in Ireland: More than a boxer

The 3 June 2016 death of boxing legend and global personality Muhammad Ali is generating retrospectives and remembrances around the world. There’s plenty of coverage of his visits and connections to Ireland.

  • Ali fought in Dublin in 1972. “Ever the showman, [he] immediately captured the heart of a nation by announcing that he had Irish roots.” Ali was the great grandson of Abe Grady, who left Ennis in County Clare sometime in the 1860s and married an emancipated slave in Kentucky. From the BBC.
  • “On the morning they played their Croke Park final against Kerry in September 2002, each member of the Armagh [Gaelic football] squad woke up in the CityWest Hotel to find an inspiring letter had been pushed under their doors in the middle of the night.” From The Belfast Telegraph.
  • In June 2003, Ali and former South African president Nelson Mandela opened the 11th Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin. From The Irish News.
  • Ali returned to Ennis in 2009. From the Daily Mail.
  • “The Parkinson’s Association of Ireland is deeply saddened to hear of the death of the great Muhammad Ali.” Letter in The Irish Times.
IRELAND__MUHAMMAD_ALI_2641f.jpg (636×437)

Ali in Ennis. Photo: AP.

 

Willie’s emigration centennial: Day 3 of 12

HIS KERRY ROOTS…

William Joseph Diggin was born in County Kerry, Ireland, on January 12, 1894. He was the third child born to John Diggin and the former Johanna Behan. As their first son, he was by custom named after his paternal grandfather, who died five years earlier.

The Diggin family leased a small house and five-acre farm near Ballybunion village since at least 1864, according to property records. John and Johanna were raising seven children at the house by the time the census enumerator knocked at the door on March 31, 1901.

Diggin was a common name in Kerry, shared by some 50 families in the county. It derives from the Irish dubh ceann, or black-headed people, which refers to their hair color. William soon acquired the nickname Willie.

The family lived in Lahardane townland, from the Irish leath ardan, which means half the hill. The rural community, still there today, is located midway on the western slope of Knocanore Hill, an 880-foot peak isolated from Kerry’s taller mountains to the south.

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Early 20th century view of Ballybunion village with Knocanore Hill in the background. National Library of Ireland

A Dublin entomologist exploring the hill in August 1897 described the abundance of wildflowers on Knocanore’s slopes as “a mine of wealth to the insect-hunter” because it attracted so many species to collect. He wrote of orange Hawkweed, purple Knapweed and blue Scabious, which drew “butterflies of the coloured kinds, especially the Peacock, the Small Cooper and the Grayling.”

Willie could see a broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean from his home on the hill. He would have heard stories about the Killsaheen, a mythical village the old people said occasionally emerged from beneath the waves near the coast. As family and others from north Kerry continued emigrating to America, it is easy to believe that Willie also dreamed about or dreaded crossing the sea himself one day.

A hike to Knocanore’s height provides more sweeping views of northwest Kerry, where two rivers empty into the sea. To the south is the shallow Cashen, a favorite of salmon fishermen. To the north is the broad, deep Shannon, its wide mouth formed by the Loop Head peninsula of County Clare. Ireland’s verdant interior stretches toward the east. 

In 1908, when Willie was about 14, the Irish Independent wrote that Knocanore’s summit offered “one of the finest views” in Kerry, “embracing three counties and extending from the Aran Islands to Limerick City, and away to the far-off Killarney Mountains.” 

These views are much the same today, though there is more development near Ballybunion village. The hilltop is one of my favorite places in Ireland.

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June 2012 image looking southwest from the top of Knocanore Hill toward the Cashen (left) and the Atlantic Ocean. 

Tomorrow: MAJESTY AND MISERY

Remembering the Great Hunger as 2013 Famine Commemoration nears

A good overview of The Great Hunger and the harsh conditions of 19th century Ireland in Current Archaeology magazine. The story focuses on mass graves at the Kilkenny Workhouse, which were excavated in 2006.

Despite the desperate circumstances driving the burials and the extreme poverty of those interred, the mass graves did not take the form of bodies merely dumped in pits. The importance of dignity in death was keenly felt in 19th century Ireland, with the traditional Irish wake forming an essential custom for rich and poor alike. 

The story also offers a reminder of how desperate conditions were for Ireland’s poorest even before the potato blight. Writing in 1835, Frenchman Gustave de Beaumont observed:

I have seen the Indian in his forests, and the Negro in his chains, and thought, as I contemplated their pitiable condition, that I saw the very extreme of human wretchedness; but I did not then know the condition of unfortunate Ireland … In all countries, more or less, paupers may be discovered; but an entire nation of paupers is what was never seen until it was shown in Ireland.

The 2013 National Famine Commemoration is set for 12 May in Kilrush, County Clare.