Tag Archives: O’Connell Street

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisted: Meeting Balfour

(This is part 3 of my work-in-progress blog serial about the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and background material are available at the project landing page. #IUCRevisited )


“What you expect is the thing you never find in Ireland.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Within hours of arriving in Dublin, Hurlbert visited Chief Secretary for Ireland Arthur Balfour at Dublin Castle. The American described the seat of the British government administration in Ireland as “no more of a palace than it is of a castle … People go in and out of it as freely as through the City Hall in New York.”

Dublin Castle

Balfour, then 39, was “in excellent spirits; certainly the mildest mannered and most sensible despot who ever trampled the liberties of a free people,” Hurlbert wrote, tongue only partly in cheek. “He was quite delightful about the abuse which is now daily heaped upon him in speeches and in the press.”

The American asked Balfour about agrarian agitator Micheal Davitt’s statement the previous evening at Rathkeale, where he urged his supporters to stop using the phrase “bloody Balfour.”

“Davitt is quite right, the thing must be getting to be a bore to the people, who are not such fools as the speakers take them to be,” Balfour replied. “One of the stenographers told me the other day that they had to invent a special sign for the phrase ‘bloody and brutal Balfour,’ it is used so often in the speeches.”

This sounds a little dubious, a self-aggrandizing anecdote by the up-and-coming politician to the visiting journalist. It appears from the book passage that the interview did not last very long, but Hurlbert later insisted that Balfour had “obviously unaffected interest in Ireland.”

Hurlbert also sought an interview with Davitt, “who was not to be found at the [Irish] National League headquarters, nor yet at the Imperial Hotel, which is his usual resort …” He admitted to “sharing the usual and foolish aversion of my sex to asking questions on the highway” and being confused about the name of the major Dublin thoroughfare then transitioning from Sackville Street to O’Connell Street.

The Imperial Hotel on Sackville/O’Connell Street. Archiseek.com.

When the reporter settled on sending a note to the revolutionary, an unnamed companion warned him to seal it with wax.


“All the letters to well-know people that are  not opened by the police are opened by the nationalists clerks in the Post-Office. ‘Tis a way we’ve always had with us in Ireland.”

NEXT: Home Rule

NOTES: This post is based on pages 42 to 53 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

It looks like 1,916 book titles about 1916 (but it’s not)

DUBLIN~In December, I filed this post about the number of new books and reissued titles being published for the 1916 Easter Rising centennial.

Below is a look at the shelves in Eason & Son on O’Connell Street next to the General Post Office, epicenter of the rebellion. The Dublin bookseller since 1819 closed during the week-long outbreak of violence, but employees still got paid, according to an exhibit inside the store.

Nearby, what seems like 1,916 books about 1916 line the shelves. There are only 252 titles in the inventory, according to the store’s online catalog.

File_000 (15)

Clerys store closes on O’Connell Street in Dublin

Clerys, a landmark department store in Dublin that dates to 1853, was closed Friday after being sold to real estate and venture capital interests.

One hundred thirty store employees lost their jobs, as did another 330 employed by 50 concession holders who operated in the department store, according to The Irish Times.

Irish Times photo.

Irish Times photo, and 10 “fascinating facts” about Clerys.

The O’Connell Street store is located across from the General Post Office, epicenter of the 1916 Rising, when the wide boulevard was known as Sackville Street. At the time, the store was destroyed.

Clerys was placed in receivership in 1941, and again in 2012.

Through the decades the large clock that hangs over the front entrance of Clerys was a popular rendezvous point for Dubliners and visitors to the city. In that regard, it reminds me of the tradition of meeting under the Kaufman’s clock in my native Pittsburgh.