Tag Archives: GAA

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Nationalist poetry

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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“I have to-day been looking through a small and beautifully-printed volume of poems just issued here.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

In Dublin, Hurlbert picked up a copy of Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland. It was dedicated to Irish separatist John O’Leary and the Young Ireland Societies. Hurlbert noted “the spirit of all the poems it contains is the spirit of [the Young Ireland rebellion of 18]48, or of that earlier Ireland of Robert Emmett.

In 1888, O’Leary had only been back in Ireland a few years following a five-year imprisonment in England and 15-year exile in Paris and America that resulted from his conviction for treason. The new book’s dedication poem, “To John O’Leary,” included the stanzas:

Because you loved the nobler part / Of Erin; so we bring you here

Words such as once the nation’s heart / On patriot lips rejoiced to hear.

O’Leary

Scholar John Turpin attributed the poem, which is unsigned in the book, to William Butler Yeats. According to Susan O’Keeffe, director of the Yeats Society Sligo, it was written by T.W. Rolleston, who edited Poems and Ballads.

There is no dispute that O’Leary influenced Yeats. They met in 1885, when O’Leary was 55 and Yeats was 20. It was a year before the failure of the first Home Rule bill and the widening of the Catholic nationalist and Protestant unionist divide in Ireland. As historian Owen McGee wrote in a History Ireland piece:

O’Leary maintained a lifelong conviction that a non-confessional Irish nationalist political élite could emerge, even when this possibility had seemingly evaporated after 1886. His tenacious hold on this belief, which Yeats found inspiring and essentially inherited, virtually defined ‘Romantic Ireland’ to the young poet, for whom O’Leary acted as a patron.

O’Leary died in 1907. Six years later, in his poem “September 1913” at the start of Ireland’s revolutionary period, Yeats penned the memorable stanza:

Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone / It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yeats

Four poems in the 1888 collection are signed by Yeats: “The Stolen Child” , 1886, which Hurlbert described as “an exquisite ballad” ; “The Meditation of the Old Fisherman” , 1886; “The Madness of King Goll” ,1887; and “Love Song” , year unknown.

Hurlbert also commented on the poem, “Marching Song of the Gaelic Athletes,” attributed to An Craoibhín Aoibhinn (translated from Irish as, The Pleasant Little Branch), the pseudonym of Irish nationalist Douglas Hyde. It became the anthem of the Gaelic Athletic Association, or GAA, which was founded in 1884.

“These Athletes are numbered now, I am assured, not by thousands, but by myriads, and their organization covers all parts of Ireland,” Hurlbert wrote. “It the spirit of [18]48 and of [the Rebellion of 17]98 is really moving among them, I should say they are likely to be at least as troublesome in the end to the ‘uncrowned king’ as to the Crowned Queen of Ireland.”

Parnell

The uncrowned king was a reference to nationalist M.P. Charles Stewart Parnell. Hurlbert seemed to imply that the GAA and other Irish republicans would overwhelm Parnell’s second attempt at securing constitutional Home Rule. (More about Hurlbert’s views of Parnell in the next post.)

The 33 poems collected in the 80-page Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland were published by M. H. Gill and Son of Dublin. Hurlbert described the firm as “Nationalist publishers … who have the courage of their convictions, since their books bear the imprint of O’Connell, and not Sackville Street.”

Four years earlier, “in a rash of apparent nationalism,” Dublin Corporation opted to rename the street after Daniel O’Connell, the early 19th centurty “Liberator” of Catholic Ireland. Some unionist residents challenged the effort in court, preferring to remember the former Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The street name wasn’t officially changed until after independence in the early 20th century.

Inside title page of the digitized copy of the book, linked at top.

NOTES: From pages 391-392 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. Other sources are linked. UPDATE: This post was updated on 13 May 2018, to include information about the O’Leary poem from the Yeats Society Sligo.

NEXT: Uncrowned king

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

First history of GAA published 100 years ago

UPDATE:

I heard from Vincent Carmody of Listowel, a local historian and author. He writes that Thomas F. O’Sullivan and his book are not forgotten. Story of the GAA received at least five mentions in The G.A.A., A People’s History, a 2009 book by Mike Cronin, Mark Duncan and Paul Rouse.

Carmody continued:

When in Listowel, [O’Sullivan] was the driving force, both as a player and administrator of the local G.A.A. club. He later served as an administrator at both County and National level of the Association. He is credited with the proposal of Rule 27, of the G. A.A.s rule book. This came into force in 1902 and it read, ” any member of the association who plays in any way, rugby football, jockey or any imported game which is calculated or injurious affect our national pastimes, is suspended from the association” . This rule was commonly known as, The Ban. It was for a long time rigorously enforced, indeed in 1938, the then President of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, was banned from the G.A.A. , for his attendance at an International Soccer match in Dublin. The rule was deleted in 1971.

ORIGINAL POST:

A journalist’s book about the early decades of the Gaelic Athletic Association this year quietly reached the 100th anniversary of its publication. Thomas F. O’Sullivan’s Story of the GAA was based on an earlier series of newspaper articles.

thomas-f-osullivan-1The book’s 1916 publication has been lost amid all the attention to the same-year Easter Rising. Even the 1916 entry of the special 1913-1923 centenary section of the GAA’s website overlooks the book, written by one of its own members. You can read the organization’s 28 May 1916 official statement after the uprising.

Michael Cronin of the International Centre for Sports History and Culture at De Montfort University, Leicester, England, briefly noted O’Sullivan’s book in a larger essay on “Historians and the Making of Irish Nationalist Identity in the Gaelic Athletic Association.” He wrote:

O’Sullivan was a GAA official and the book presents a highly simplistic notion of the Association’s past beginning with the seven pioneers who met in Thurles in 1884 to reawaken the Gaelic nation through sport and taking the narrative up to 1916 by recounting details of major personalities, decisions taken by the Central Council and recording the results of matches.

Although there is no explicit mention of the Easter Rising as such an inclusion would have meant that the book would not be approved by military censors, there is an implicit celebration of the Rising as those GAA men who took part are included in the list of GAA personalities.

Although not a widely researched history, as it is more of a contemporary account, O’Sullivan’s book is important as it sets out an accepted chronology that is rarely challenged by subsequent authors. This chronology, while celebrating the games of the Gael, primarily revolves around the role of the GAA in reawakening the national spirit.

O’Sullivan’s book does receive several mentions in The GAA & Revolution in Ireland 1913-1923, edited by Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, a 2015 commemorative publication specially commissioned by the GAA.

O’Sullivan was a Kerryman, born in Listowel, according to a short History Ireland bio. He wrote for the nationalist Freeman’s Journal. 

Dubs beat The Kingdom in All-Ireland

Hate to say it, but Dublin beat defending champions Kerry in the All-Ireland Finals on Sunday. The match played through torrential rain at Croke Park, home of the Gaelic Athletic Association.

“The win was sweet because it was the first time Dublin have beaten Kerry in three successive championship encounters (after 2011 and ‘13) and two successive final contests,” The Irish Times reported. “In the end the disappointment was far more profound for Kerry, who never performed – as acknowledged by manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice.”

The All-Ireland championship dates to 1887. Kerry has won 37 times, the most any county.

GAA and NCAA football games capture Ireland’s attention

Ireland hosted two huge football games Saturday [30 August]; a GAA semifinal match in Limerick between Kerry and Mayo, and an NCAA season opener in Dublin between Penn State University and University of Central Florida.

Kerry and Penn State walked off as winners in thrilling games that each came down to the final minute (and overtime for Kerry-Mayo).

This was the fifth time U.S. college teams have played the American version of football in Ireland, a game that has been called the Emerald Isle Classic, the Shamrock Classic and, this year, the Croake Park Classic. The event is aimed at attracting Irish-American visitors to Ireland.

ESPN reported, “Penn State players received the Dan Rooney Trophy, a football made of ancient Irish bog wood that was specially commissioned for the game.” Rooney is owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.

Kerry footballer, left, runs past Mayo opponent. Irish Independent photo.

Kerry footballer, left, runs past Mayo opponent. Irish Independent photo.

The Kerry-Mayo contest was the rematch from an earlier game that ended in a tie. The GAA relocated west to Limerick because of the NCAA game, a decision that generated its share of grumbling. From the Irish Independent:

When players imagine and talk about playing on the big stage, that’s Croke Park they’re imagining and talking about. When you and I think of All-Ireland games, we think of walking up to Croke Park. And the spike in your stomach when you catch the first glimpse of the stadium and everything it houses for you, your family and your team. Memories, maybe medals and most definitely magic.

My wife and I watched the GAA contest at Fadó Irish Pub in Washington, where fans of the Kingdom heavily outnumbered Mayo supporters. Here’s the game report. We look forward to watching the final contest 21 September against the winner of the Dublin – Donegal match.

New book explores Kerry’s GAA history, 1884-1934

A new book about the first 50 years of Gaelic Athletic Association activity in County Kerry has come to my attention thanks to a review on the History Ireland website. “Forging a Kingdom: The GAA in Kerry 1884-1934” by Richard McElligott was published last fall by The Collins Press.

The book does a fine job of blending political, social and sporting events in Kerry in the context of the GAA’s role in the broader history of Ireland, according to the reviewer:

“No stone is left unturned in tracing the contours of this development, through the ups and downs of the Irish National League, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, agricultural productivity and the rural economy of Kerry, emigration, other sports, the Gaelic League, rail transport, the Irish Volunteers and the IRA, the wars of 1919–23, the internal structures of the GAA in the county and key administrative figures, as well as the role of Kerrymen in America and the evolution of the games themselves. Throughout the book, McElligott demonstrates clearly how interwoven was (and is) the GAA into the fabric of society. For this reason, “Forging the Kingdom” constitutes an invaluable text on the history of a county and the dynamics of rural nationalist Ireland, let alone on the sporting aspect.”

Forging_A_Kingdom

I don’t yet have my copy of the book. I used Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature to peek at some of what McElligott (@RichardMcELL) has written about my own area of interest, the Land War period of the late 19th century. He writes:

“By the mid-1880s, the press described the county as ‘the most criminally disturbed, the most evicted, the most rack-rent county in all of Ireland.’ Land agitation had gripped the county with such force that for most of the decade, Kerry was at the forefront of agrarian disturbance and subsequent government coercion to eliminate it.”

Here’s a NewsTalk podcast with McElligott.

The GAA (@officialgaa) has a history section on its official website. This link is to the Kerry GAA site, which also can be followed on Twitter @Kerry_Official.