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About admin

I am a proud Irish-American journalist living in metro Washington, D.C. In 1997 I claimed Irish citizenship through my maternal grandparents from Lahardane townland (Ballybunion) and Kilelton townland (Ballylongford) in north County Kerry. I have made five trips to Ireland since 2000, exploring most of the island, including the partitioned north. I have published numerous articles about Ireland in newspapers, magazines and websites, including my online blog. I received a Journalism Fellowship from the German Marshall Fund of the United States that paid for a month-long reporting trip to Ireland in 2001. I generally support the reunification of the island of Ireland for reasons of historical and geographic integrity. I recognize there are vast differences in the religious, social and political traditions of north and south, just as I realize there are differences between native Irish and Irish Americans.

UK’s Johnson resigns; Northern Ireland impacts developing

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resigned after months of political scandal. He will remain on the job until the ruling Tories select a new leader. That decision will have enormous impact in Northern Ireland, where the Assembly government remains in limbo two months after elections and Brexit continues to cause friction between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists. It also will impact relations with Ireland and the European Union. This post will evolve over several days from July 7. Email subscribers should check the website for updates. MH

Boris Johnson

UPDATES:

Johnson’s resignation has left Northern Ireland in a “precarious situation” and could delay the restoration of the Assembly at Stormont, the grand secretary of the Orange Order has warned at July Twelfth commemorations. The Irish Times quotes Rev. Mervyn Gibson as saying that while the Brexit trade protocol remains in place “there’ll be no Northern Ireland Executive and we want to get government back in Northern Ireland as quickly as possible.”

Unionists oppose the protocol, which avoided a hard border on the island of Ireland by placing an economic border in the Irish Sea.

Annual Orange Order parades to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne, this year marking its 332nd anniversary, are returning to normal footing following two years of COVID disruptions. Police estimate that 250 bonfires were lit the night of July 11, with nearly 600 parades to take place on July 12. The BBC NI ditched its live broadcast coverage after two year of pandemic layoff. 

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Shailesh Vara has replaced Brandon Lewis as Northern Ireland secretary. Lewis was among the once-loyal cabinet members who stepped down to force out Johnson. Vara was a minister in the Northern Ireland Office for five months before quitting in November 2018 to protest former prime minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal with the EU.

See Vera’s official statement.

ORIGINAL POST:

“The downfall of Boris Johnson comes as a huge relief to the government in Dublin, which has been locked in a long running conflict with him over the Northern Ireland Protocol,” Stephen Collins writes in The Irish Times. “However, it would be foolish to assume that things will necessarily improve under his successor as Conservative Party leader, or even under a Labour government … The lesson from the entire Brexit saga is that the two big parties in the UK are so focused on narrow party political advantage that they are prepared to ignore the long term interests of the British people, never mind the consequences of their actions for the island of Ireland.”

Sounds like Republicans and Democrats in the USA.

“It has been an utter absurdity that the people here have been subjected to Boris Johnson for any length of time,” Northern Assembly First Minister (Designate) Michell O’Neill of Sinn Féin tweeted. “He is a figure of absolute disrepute. Anyone who tries to sabotage our peace agreements, a quarter century of progress and our shared future is truly no friend of ours.”

The BBC has more reactions from other Northern Irish and Irish leaders.

American partners help restore Four Courts archive

Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury is a new database and website that catalogues substitute sources for the records destroyed in the June 30, 1922, fire at Dublin’s Four Courts. The fire began as forces of the provisional Irish Free State government removed IRA rebels who had occupied the building since April 1922. This was the start of the Irish Civil War.

The new virtual Four Courts resurrects millions of words from the destroyed documents, now linked and reassembled from copies, transcripts, and other records scattered among archive and library collections in Ireland, Britain, and America. Here are the U.S.-based partners:

  • American Conference for Irish Studies
  • Historical Society of Philadelphia
  • Houghton Library, Harvard University
  • Huntington Library, San Marino, California
  • Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas
  • Library Company of Philadelphia
  • Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
  • The Morgan Library and Museum, New York City
  • Hesburgh Libraries, University of Notre Dame

Watch a short video introduction of the project:

Getting the story: Reporting challenges in 1922 Dublin

International journalists faced two challenges in late June 1922 as Irish Free State forces began to oust anti-government rebels from the Four Courts in Dublin. First, the reporters had to reach the military engagement along the River Liffey. Then they had to find a way to send their observations to their newspaper offices.

This story dated June 28, 1922, published the following day. Story continued beyond clipped portion.

IRA “irregulars” had occupied the government buildings since April. As Free State troops moved to retake the property, the rebels severed the telegraph “submarine cable” between Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) and Anglesey, Wales. A second cable at Belfast remained untouched, but communications within Ireland were cloudy. As New York Times special correspondent Frederic B. Harvey reported:

“While Dublin is thus in a ferment a veil of silence has closed down on the rest of the country, for use of the telephone except for official purposes is forbidden and the telegraph is subject to censorship. There is no communication at all with Ulster (Belfast), and there is that uncertainty of feeling with regard to the rest of the county which this silence always induces.”[1]“Reports Dash With Dublin News”, The New York Times, June 30, 1922. Story dated June 29.

This was no coincidence. In the post-Great War era, “armies realized that information sent ever more speedily over the telegraph wire meant that vital knowledge was disseminated much faster,” Maurice Walsh noted in The News From Ireland, his survey of foreign correspondents covering the Irish revolution. “Increasingly they kept the correspondent away from the front line, making him dependent on the military for information, and insisting his copy be check before it was transmitted.[2]Walsh, Maurice, The News From Ireland: Foreign Correspondents and the Irish Revolution. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008, p.31.

Harvey and reporter L.J. Randall flew to Dublin as the battle at the Four Courts began the morning of June 28. First World War aviator and test pilot Hubert Stanford Broad flew the De Haviland aircraft from the London aerodrome at Hendon, about eight miles northwest of Westminster.[3]See Hubert Broad. The trio likely squeezed into a bi-winged, open cockpit DH.4, which had been flown as bombers in the war and now were being retrofitted to carry mail and commercial passengers.

“Bad weather during the early part of the journey and a constant strong headwind made flying difficult, but we reached Dublin in four hours,” Randall reported. (Today the flight takes about 75 minutes … inside a closed cabin.) “Before landing we flew over the city and were able to observe the extent of the battle.”[4]“Views Dublin Fight From An Airplane” The New York Times, June 29, 1922. Story dated June 28

In his separate dispatch, Harvey reported being detailed by British military authorities at Collingstown aerodrome a few miles north of Dublin, site of the modern Dublin Airport. He did not mention Randall in his story, as Randall referenced Harvey. Harvey claimed he was held until the following afternoon, June 29, when he was “told I was free to proceed wherever I wished.”

Story dated June 29, 1922, published the next day. Story continued beyond clipped portion.

While most coverage of the Four Courts battle focused on key participants, such as rebel leader Rory O’Connor, and maneuvers related to the fighting, the reporting occasionally referenced people and scenes away from the main action. Harvey’s dispatch included these descriptions of Dublin:

“The streets through which I passed where practically free of all wheeled traffic, but numbers of pedestrians were about, and I even saw women wheeling out their babies … Ambulances are busy and all over the city the hospitals are filling. Business is at a standstill, all shops being closed, but on the outskirts of the city bread carts are delivering as usual. … Inner Dublin, in short, is not a place to linger in unless your business there is urgently necessary. … Beyond roughly a mile circle drawn with the Four Courts for centre, the risks are so lessened as to be practically negligible. … A touch of irony is supplied by the fact that Trinity College, in spite of the racket outside and the circumstances that the fate of the nation is in the melting pot, is holding examinations for degrees within the gray old pile of College Green.”

Such copy is an example of reporters “accreting details when they didn’t have a clue” about what was going on with the main story, to paraphrase a review of historian Deborah Cohen’s Last Call at the Hotel Imperial, a new portrait of American foreign correspondents between the two world wars. It was a period when “plucky stringers could elbow their way into almost any beat.”[5]Krithika Varagur, “The Birth Of The American Foreign Correspondent” in The New Yorker, March 17, 2022.

Harvey and Randall were both English correspondents. Once they collected their observations, they still needed to file their dispatches to London before the copy could make its way across the Atlantic to American papers. Here, the two reporters diverged not only in when and how they transmitted the content, but also a key detail of their Dublin arrival.

Again, Randall’s dispatch named Harvey. He reported that at Collingswood, the Irish airfield, “we learned that the commanders of the Free State troops had received wireless news of our impending arrival and through the medium of the British Headquarters had issued orders that we were to be detained. At one time it seemed we should be unable to leave the aerodrome, but through the good offices of one of the chief officials of the Free State, to whom Harvey was well know, permission was given for me to return to England with news which he had been able to gather.” (My emphasis.)

Randell reported Broad flew him from Dublin to Shotwick R.A.F. Aerodrome, about 15 miles south of Liverpool, just inside the Wales border. They took off from Ireland at 8:45 p.m. June 28, the same day as their arrival, and covered the shorter distance over the Irish Sea in 70 minutes. Randall filed his story to the London Daily Chronicle, probably via telegraph at the air force base. The Chronicle made the content available to the New York Times, which published it on the front page June 29.

It appears Harvey and Randall both reported from Dublin during the afternoon and early evening of June 28. While Randall was able to leave Ireland, Harvey was detained overnight, then made a second tour of the city on June 29. To file his story bearing the latter date, Harvey boarded the mail boat Hibernia, used its wireless at sea, then finished the job by telephone at Holyhead. His “reporter’s dash” was highlighted in the headline, editor’s note, and an ALL CAPS dateline of a “special cable” on the front page of the Times’s June 30 issue.

Smoke from a massive explosion at the Four Courts, Dublin, June 1922.

Harvey returned to Dublin and filed a July 2 story, published in the Times the next day. He reported having to dodge sniper fire with another colleague named Powell.  He added: “When one uses the word quiet in regard to this city it is purely a relative term … No trams were running. Still, at noon numbers of girls and even elderly women could be seen mingling with the sparse traffic on their way to and from mass, prayer books in hand …”[6]”Quiet Before The Attack”, The New York Times, July 3, 1922.

The battle at the Four Courts drew international media attention. Extolling airplane reporting and extraordinary measures to file stories was part of the period’s competitive newspaper market. At the time, photography was still being introduced to regular coverage and radio was in its infancy. A century later, the Russian war on Ukraine is reported in words and moving images disseminated in real time via international television feeds, websites, and social media.

“We trust our correspondents on the ground first and foremost,” the New York Times explained of its coverage early in the current conflict. “In situations where they cannot be physically present, we work to obtain reliable, first-hand information about events, interviewing witnesses throughout the region. We strive to see through the fog of propaganda and misinformation that emanates from governments on both sides of the conflict.”

And so it was at the 1922 start of the Irish Civil War.

References

References
1 “Reports Dash With Dublin News”, The New York Times, June 30, 1922. Story dated June 29.
2 Walsh, Maurice, The News From Ireland: Foreign Correspondents and the Irish Revolution. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008, p.31.
3 See Hubert Broad.
4 “Views Dublin Fight From An Airplane” The New York Times, June 29, 1922. Story dated June 28
5 Krithika Varagur, “The Birth Of The American Foreign Correspondent” in The New Yorker, March 17, 2022.
6 ”Quiet Before The Attack”, The New York Times, July 3, 1922.

American editorials on June 1922 Irish elections

From The New York Times, front page, June 19, 1922

Five months after the separatist Sinn Féin party narrowly approved the Anglo-Irish Treaty to end the war with Britain, rank and file voters in the partitioned 26 counties of southern Ireland went to the polls on June 16, 1922.  The Irish Free State’s first general election was complicated by a pact between the pro-treaty faction of Michael Collins and the anti-treaty side of Éamon de Valera. The deal provided incumbent Sinn Féin members would not oppose each other. The publication of a draft constitution a day before the vote caused additional confusion.

It took days to finalize the results under the single transferrable vote system. There were allegations of voter intimidation and ballot irregularities. (Sound familiar?) At last it became clear that the pro-treaty Sinn Féin and candidates from like-minded independents and smaller parties prevailed with the support of three quarters of the electorate.

Below are six editorial views on the election from the U.S. mainstream, Irish American, and Catholic press. The opinions range from seeing the results as a clear mandate for the pro-treaty faction to just another sign of uncertainty and division in the fledgling nation. The editorials were overly optimistic, considering the Irish Civil War erupted before the end of June 1922.

“…the best indication of the defeat of the de Valera forces comes in the vigorous complaints uttered by their representative newspapers. … It would appear that the Irish settlement moves on from crisis to crisis, but those who are closely watching events are convinced that each crisis brings a satisfactory close to the rebellion nearer.”–“The Irish Elections”, Brooklyn (New York) Daily Times, June 19, 1922

“The election has served to strengthen the group which favors acceptance of the treaty. Moderates are usually in the majority everywhere. It becomes clearer that Ireland is no exception to the general rule which makes people prefer a peaceable settlement.”–“The Treaty Stronger”, The Boston Globe, June 21, 1922

“Not more clearly or emphatically could the Irish people have manifested their disapproval of lawless violence, or have voiced their desire for peace than they have now done. They have declared for the treaty and for the Free State in a manner which admits of no misunderstanding, and the malcontents will have no excuse for refusing to abide by the verdict they have rendered.”–“Irish Vote A Pro-Treaty Landslide”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 22, 1922

“The elections in Ireland have given the Free State a large majority, but the result is by no means conclusive. … the best that can be said of the election is that it gives an opportunity to create a temporary working Government in Ireland that, if sanity prevails, may tide over the present internal crisis and enable Southern Ireland to present a united front to England and to Northeast Ulster. … Ireland, as the result of the elections, has been given a respite, and a respite only.”–“Irish Elections Not Decisive”, The Gaelic American (New York), July 1, 1922

“With patience and skill Griffith, Collins and their colleagues brought about working arrangements with the Republicans and with the British. Their tactics have shown a complete realization of the problems of compromise, and a supreme confidence in the ability of Ireland to work out those problems to the ultimate ends of unity and self-determination. They have been justified to the extent that at the election just held a decisive majority of their fellow countrymen of Southern Ireland have voted with them to accept the treaty. The opportunity to test the treaty as a practical working arrangement has been achieved; the final test of the faith of those who have steadily believed in Ireland is at hand. … Will mutual forbearance, understanding and cooperation … go down before a storm of popular fury? We cannot think it.”–“Ireland: A Faith On Trial“, The New Republic, July 5, 1922 

“While the various factions of American citizens of Irish lineage were presuming to dictate to the people of Ireland what kind of a government should be established in the Emerald Isle, The Catholic Telegraph held consistently to the opinion that this vitally important matter should be left to the decision of those personally and immediately concerned, namely, the inhabitants of Ireland. We were convinced that this was the only proper way to conform to the principle of the self-determination of peoples. We felt that, if there were family differences “at home,” there was enough intelligence, patriotism, justice and charity among the sons and daughters of Mother Erin’s household to compose them satisfactorily. The political sea has not been without its storms, but brave and keen Irish statesmen have been steering their vessel to the secure harbor of national freedom. The Anglo-Irish Treaty has been approved by an overwhelming majority of the people: and the charter of the Irish Free State is now being drawn.”–“Voice Of Irish People”, The Catholic Telegraph (Cincinnati, Ohio), July 13, 1922

See my full American Reporting of Irish Independence series.

From Irishman to American, 100 years ago

Willie Diggin, undated.

My grandfather’s May 1913 emigration from Kerry and June 1922 naturalization as a U.S. citizen frame Ireland’s revolutionary period in our family. Willie Diggin was among 156,000 Irish who sailed to America between the pre-Great War rise of unionist and nationalist militias, partition of the island, and outbreak of civil war among southern republicans. (See tables at bottom.)

He was “admitted as a citizen” at a June 15, 1922, “special term” session of the U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania, in Pittsburgh. Details such as this date, his name, physical characteristics, and address were typed within blank spaces of the pre-printed “United States of America Certificate of Naturalization” form. Willie and the clerk of the  court each signed Certificate No. 1830933, which came wrapped in a tri-fold black leather cover produced by the Naturalization Publishing Co. of Pittsburgh.

Among 170,447 U.S. naturalizations in 1922, many would have been Irish natives who had lived in America for at least five years, as required by law. The U.S. government did not begin to compile data on the number of aliens naturalized by country or region of former allegiance until July 1, 1922, two weeks after Willie became an American.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 16, 1922.

Nationality and nationalism were topical on both sides of the Atlantic in June 1922. In Ireland, the first general election of the 28-county Irish Free State was held the day after Willie’s naturalization. Sinn Féin supporters of the Anglo-Irish Treaty that ended the war with Britain prevailed over the party’s anti-treaty faction. Part the campaign debate focused on the “Oath of Allegiance” that included “the common citizenship of Ireland and Great Britain” as forming the British Commonwealth of Nations. Anti-treaty candidates argued against the oath, and partition of the six-county Northern Ireland, as antithetical to the republic declared in 1919.

A few days after the Irish election, The Pittsburgh Press published an editorial about America’s challenges to assimilate its many immigrants, the “different ingredients into our huge melting pot.” It continued:

Is the meaning of the word ‘American’ changing as much as some of the students of our national life–particularly those specializing on immigration–fear and declare? … Does the immigrant become an American by the mere act of taking up his residence here, or by receiving naturalization papers, or must he acquire new ideas, a new point of view. … Historians say Rome broke down under the effort (to harmonize and merge many races). America is confident she will succeed where the Roman empire failed. But shall we succeed without due regard for the difficulties of the program.[1]”The Modern Babel”, The Pittsburgh Press, June 19, 1922.

In Washington, D.C., Congress legislated the Cable Act,  which was passed in September. It restored citizenship to American-born women who had married non-citizen husbands and lost their citizenship under the Expatriation Act of 1907. The new law reversed the discriminatory law that set married women’s citizenship according to that of their husbands and enabled white women to retain their U.S. citizenship despite marriages to foreign men.[2]Cable Act of 1922, from Immigrationhistory.org.

Other changes in immigration laws and naturalization requirements meant that when Willie married a Kerry women in 1924, she did not immediately become a U.S. citizen, while their six daughters were Americans upon birth. My grandmother wasn’t naturalized until September 1939. The cause of her delay is unclear to me, though most likely due to raising six children.

Irish immigrants in America:

1910:  1,352,155
1920:  1,037,233
 1930:    923,642

From Ireland to America by year:

1912: 25, 879
1913: 27,876
1914: 24,688 (WWI begins in August)
1915: 14,185
1916:   8,639 (Easter Rising in April)
1917:   5,406
1918:      331 (WWI ends in November)
1919:     474  (Irish war)
1920:   9,591 (Irish war)
1921: 28,435 (Irish war, truce in July.)
1922: 10,579 (Includes Northern Ireland. Civil War begins in June.)

11-year total: 156,083[3]All data from “Historical Statistics of the United States, 1789 – 1945”, Chapter B. Population Characteristics and Migration (Series B 1-352).

References

References
1 ”The Modern Babel”, The Pittsburgh Press, June 19, 1922.
2 Cable Act of 1922, from Immigrationhistory.org.
3 All data from “Historical Statistics of the United States, 1789 – 1945”, Chapter B. Population Characteristics and Migration (Series B 1-352).

‘Don’t get shot.’ Samuel Duff McCoy’s 1921 Ireland travels

This post is based on my review of the Samuel Duff McCoy papers at Princeton University. It is part of my American Reporting of Irish Independence series, which I am expanding into a book. MH

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Journalist Samuel Duff McCoy began a year of travel in revolutionary Ireland with a three-day side trip to Washington D.C.; arriving Jan. 22, 1921, by train from New York City.[1]Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Series 3, Correspondence, 1915-1963, Ireland, Conflict with Great Britain, 1921, Related correspondence, A, Folder 20, McCoy’s expense report, Jan. 27, 1921. His itinerary in the capital included a stop at the Quality Shop, 1307 F Street, N.W., three blocks from the White House. The 39-year-old probably admired the shop’s selection of new phonographs, perhaps he even sampled some music in one of the “soundproof, comfortable demonstrating parlors.” An advertisement promised “the afternoon’s work will be more pleasant and you will work with more zest if you drop in for a half hour or so and hear Art Hickman’s latest jazz hit, Bert Williams’ new ‘blues,’ Nora Bayes’ character song or inimitable Al Jolson.”[2]“Washington’s New Columbia Shop” advertisement, Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), Nov. 21, 1920, p. 21.

McCoy’s 1921 passport photo.

But McCoy visited the shop to pose for a passport photo as he readied to cross the Atlantic. Leaders of the newly-formed American Committee for Relief in Ireland had just appointed him as the secretary of an eight-member delegation that would assess humanitarian needs after two years of war between Irish separatists and British authorities. Dressed in a dark suit and vest, a lightly polka dotted bow tie tucked underneath his white shirt collar, McCoy faced the camera with a serious, determined look.[3]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 17. Undated passport photo with Quality Shop stamp on back and Jan. 22, 1921, letter of introduction from Richard Campbell.

The Iowa-born McCoy began his newspaper career in 1903 after graduating from Princeton University. He started at the Washington Times, moved on to the Brooklyn Eagle and New York Evening Sun, then the Public Ledger and Evening Bulletin in Philadelphia. In 1917, when the United States entered the war in Europe, McCoy became publicity director for the Philadelphia chapter of the American Red Cross. He rejoined the Sun in New York after the armistice. [4]McCoy Papers, Box 10, I. Writings, F. Autobiographical Notes. Who’s Who In America, Vol. 20, 1938-1939, with supplementary notes.

But McCoy was no ordinary newspaper man. From age 16 he contributed prose and poetry to national magazines. He was among only a few non-senior editors of Princeton’s Nassau Literary Magazine, and later co-founded the journal Contemporary Verse. In 1904, Chicago’s Marshall Field hired McCoy as a private tutor for his two grandsons during a two-month trip to Augusta, Ga., aboard the private rail car of Robert Todd Lincoln, president of the Pullman Company and son of the assassinated Civil War president. McCoy also worked as an editor at the Bobbs-Merrill book publishing company in Indianapolis, Ind.

As McCoy completed the paperwork for his 1921 passport, U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer wrote a letter of introduction on his behalf to U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain John W. Davis in London. Palmer and McCoy knew each other from Philadelphia, and they potentially reconnected in Washington that January. Palmer wrote to Davis: “I do not know what he is going to England for, but I can vouch for the character of any work undertakes.” He described the journalist as “a loyal American, a keen observer, and a splendid writer.”[5]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, Unidentified, Folder 1, Jan. 24, 1921, Palmer to Davis.

Within days of Palmer’s letter, attorney Richard Campbell, the New York City-based secretary of the American Committee, sent a hand-written letter to McCoy about the upcoming trip. The County Antrim native mentioned his family and business contacts in Ireland who would either look up McCoy in Dublin or welcome him to other parts of the country. “Have as good a time as you can. Don’t get shot—remain indoors at night,” Campbell advised.[6]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 18. Jan. 27, 1921, Campbell to McCoy.

Cover of McCoy’s 14-page report, released in April 1921.

First trip

By mid-February, McCoy and the seven other Americans sat down in London with British officials to discuss the situation in Ireland. Then, the U.S. delegation crossed the Irish Sea to Dublin. They spent six weeks in Ireland, traveling to nearly 100 cities and villages in 22 of the island’s 32 counties.[7]See “American investigators visit Ireland, February 1921.”

McCoy wrote the delegation’s official report, “Distress in Ireland,” as he returned to America in April.[8]See “American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921.” His narrative, addressed to the American Committee’s executive board and released to the public as a 14-page pamphlet, refers to “your delegation” and “our investigation.” McCoy turned self-referential in the last paragraph of the report:

The need from the burning of homes seems to me to be both great and pressing. We went through dozens of towns where there were homes and shops burnt; in most cases these people have made claims for damages, but in the meantime, these claims have not been paid, in many cases there is little probability of their ever being paid. As an individual I am entirely convinced that many of these people were entirely innocent of any complicity in the acts for which there were punished by having their homes burnt.

Back in Washington, McCoy unsuccessfully lobbied U.S. State Department officials to support the relief effort. The American government balked at providing domestic aid to Great Britain as London officials declared the relief effort succor to the Irish separatists. Despite its stated desire to remain non-partisan, the American Committee would have to work directly with the Irish White Cross, which was sympathetic to the Irish republican cause.

McCoy received correspondence from Clemens J. France, the delegation leader who had remained in Ireland. “I am very anxious to know regarding your reception by the (American) Committee in New York,” France wrote from Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel. “As yet I have received no word from the Committee as to future plans. Every one here, of course, is very anxious about the reconstruction work” being funded by the American relief money.[9]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 4. April 30, 1921, France to McCoy.

The relief effort also faced sectarian headwinds. France sent McCoy a copy of his letter to Campbell, the lawyer and Committee secretary, detailing efforts to collect the signatures of 1,000 prominent Irish Protestants who supported the American relief. “I think you will agree with me that these are times which call for active co-operation by all who are interested in the Christian principals of humanity, and it is in this spirt that I am making this appeal for your personal co-operation,” France wrote in his “Dear Sir (or Madam)” cover letter to potential signers. He told Campbell “about two hundred” had signed.[10]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 4. April 30, 1921, France to Campbell, and undated appeal cover letter on American Committee stationary showing the names of the eight-member … Continue reading

Through May McCoy attended public events to support the American fund raising effort, including Lord Mayor of Dublin Lawrence O’Neil’s stop in Boston. But the reporter soon returned to Ireland, this time accompanied by his wife.

Second trip

“Welcome back to Ireland,” Frank Daly, chairman of the Cork Harbour Commission and Irish White Cross member wrote to McCoy in Dublin in late June. “We are rather in a state of chaos here just at present. … There are a great many cases requiring attention … “[11]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 4. June 30, 1921, Daly to McCoy.

McCoy’s itinerary through October included a mix of relief work, efforts to market his own writing and the manuscripts of Irish authors, and sightseeing. He was in Ireland for the start of the truce, partition of Northern Ireland, and prison release of separatist leaders as British and Irish negotiators in London hammered out the treaty that ended the war. He reunited with France. They rendezvoused with American Committee Treasurer John J. Pulleyn and Campbell, who had warned about gun violence, then making their own visit to Ireland. [12]See “The lawyer, the banker & money to Ireland, fall 1921.”

As Pulleyn and Campbell prepared to sail back to America, the Irish negotiators in London issued a special letter thanking the American Committee “and all those in the United States who have contributed to its funds for the generous assistance sent to Ireland for the relief of the suffering, loss and misery incurred by the Irish people in their struggle for national independence.” The letter also expressed “appreciation of the able and devoted work done in Ireland on behalf of your committee my Messrs. France and McCoy and those associated with them.”[13]Reports, American Committee for Relief In Ireland and Irish White Cross, 1922, Irish Delegation of Plenipotentiaries to Campbell and Pulleyn, Oct. 29, 1921, p. 56.

McCoy, moved by the acknowledgement, penned a note to Irish leader Arthur Griffith on R.M.S. Aquitania stationary. He wrote:

Throughout my association with the relief work in Ireland my one constantly recurring regret was that I could not do something directly for Ireland’s cause; the little that I might do in other directions seemed, and still seems, nothing compared with the devotion of Irish men and Irish women; and so, although the kind thing said in your letter moved me deeply because it came from such men as you, I can accept it only for what I inwardly hoped to be able to do and not for anything I did do.[14]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 14. Nov. 12, 1921, McCoy to Griffith. Underlined words in original letter.

‘The Lads’ series

A different image of McCoy was used in this newspaper advertisement for his 1922 series. Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.) Feb. 1, 1922.

Upon completing his fourth Atlantic crossing in mid-November, McCoy began to write a newspaper series about his 1921 experiences in Ireland. He “locked himself in at the Princeton Club (in New York City) and has been writing like mad against time ever since,” United Feature Syndicate manager Norris A. Huse told prospective editors days before Christmas.[15]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 27. Dec. 22, 1921, Huse to Dear Sir. Huse continued:

“McCoy’s stuff is graphic. It will grip the readers and make an indelible impression. His words are alive. They pulsate. They paint a picture that moves. The papers that run this series will have a tremendous opportunity to make a tremendous circulation building feature of it. It’s big stuff–it’s news–it’s hot off the griddle–it’s a real BEAT!”

Huse syndicated McCoy’s 10-part, 20,000-word series in January 1922 under the headline “The Lads Who Freed Ireland.” The New York Morning World, Chicago Daily News, San Francisco Examiner, Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.), Fall River (Mass.) Globe, and Grand Island (Neb.) Daily Independent were among the U.S. papers that purchased the series for $20 per article. McCoy’s reporting from Ireland also appeared in Leslie’s Weekly and The Literary Digest magazines.

McCoy had met leading characters and witnessed important events in the final year of the Irish revolution. He didn’t get shot. But the heroic triumph of Irish separatists that he described was soon sullied by the Irish Civil War.

I will explore the series in a future post.

References

References
1 Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Series 3, Correspondence, 1915-1963, Ireland, Conflict with Great Britain, 1921, Related correspondence, A, Folder 20, McCoy’s expense report, Jan. 27, 1921.
2 “Washington’s New Columbia Shop” advertisement, Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), Nov. 21, 1920, p. 21.
3 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 17. Undated passport photo with Quality Shop stamp on back and Jan. 22, 1921, letter of introduction from Richard Campbell.
4 McCoy Papers, Box 10, I. Writings, F. Autobiographical Notes. Who’s Who In America, Vol. 20, 1938-1939, with supplementary notes.
5 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, Unidentified, Folder 1, Jan. 24, 1921, Palmer to Davis.
6 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 18. Jan. 27, 1921, Campbell to McCoy.
7 See “American investigators visit Ireland, February 1921.”
8 See “American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921.”
9 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 4. April 30, 1921, France to McCoy.
10 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 4. April 30, 1921, France to Campbell, and undated appeal cover letter on American Committee stationary showing the names of the eight-member visiting delegation.
11 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 4. June 30, 1921, Daly to McCoy.
12 See “The lawyer, the banker & money to Ireland, fall 1921.”
13 Reports, American Committee for Relief In Ireland and Irish White Cross, 1922, Irish Delegation of Plenipotentiaries to Campbell and Pulleyn, Oct. 29, 1921, p. 56.
14 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 14. Nov. 12, 1921, McCoy to Griffith. Underlined words in original letter.
15 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 27. Dec. 22, 1921, Huse to Dear Sir.

‘Fighting’ Father O’Flanagan’s anti-treaty visit to Pittsburgh

Three Anglo-Irish Treaty supporters from Ireland visited Pittsburgh in early May 1922 to make the case for the agreement, as detailed in a guest post by Dr. Anne Good Forrestal, granddaughter of one of the delegates. An anti-treaty delegation headlined by Rev. Michael O’Flanagan arrived in the city at the end of the month.

‘Fighting’ Father O’Flanagan

“The so-called Irish Free State treaty is not a treaty for it does not establish a free State,” Rev. O’Flanagan said upon his arrival. “It will not be acceptable to the Irish people and it positively will not establish peace between Ireland and Great Britain, as English rulers think,” [1]” ‘Fighting Priest’ Here From Ireland; To Speak in Lyceum”,  Pittsburgh Daily Dispatch, May 28, 1922.

Rev. O’Flanagan, of County Roscommon, was no stranger to America. He toured the country almost continuously between 1906 and 1910. On return to Ireland, he became active with Sinn Féin from 1911 through the Easter Rising and War of Independence. In November 1921, the party sent him to North America on a fund-raising tour. He remained away from Ireland until April 1925.[2]O’Flanagan, Michael” by Patrick Maume, Dictionary of Irish Biography, October 2009.

The Pittsburgh chapter of the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR) hosted Rev. O’Flanagan and writer Peter Golden. Éamon de Valera established the national group in November 1920 in the split with the Friends of Irish Freedom. The association’s publicity material for Rev. O’Flanagan’s visit explained his nickname as “the fighting priest”:

While Father O’Flanagan never carried a gun or a sword, and never led a company of the Irish Republican Army, the fact that he was actually under fire on several occasions when attempts were made on his life and his courage in carrying on his work for the Republic in the most dangerous sections and periods won for him his title.  … His visit to Pittsburgh will form part of a tour embracing the entire country during which his fiery oratory has inspired crowded houses in all the principal cities.[3]From John B. Collins Papers, 1913-1976 AIS.1977.17, University of Pittsburgh, ULS Archives & Special Collections, American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic, 1921-1932, Box … Continue reading

The publicity material was mailed to Sarah Moffit, 45, an 1895 Irish immigrant and member of the Pittsburgh AARIR chapter. Her husband, 12 years older, was an 1883 Irish immigrant who worked as a gas company pipe fitter, according to the 1920 U.S. Census. The couple were joined by three step children, a nephew, and two “roomers” at the same address seen in the letter below.[4]1920 U.S. Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 22, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1524; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 673.

In a reflection of the city’s Irish community at the time, six of the 50 people shown on the same census sheet for the city’s North Side neighborhood were born in Ireland, while 10 others born in America had at least one Irish immigrant parent. Pittsburgh’s 14,000 native Irish in 1920, down from 19,000 in 1910, was 2.4 percent of the city population.

Moffit and the AARIR secured advance newspaper publicity about Rev. O’Flanagan’s visit, but the local press did not cover his speech; the last significant Irish event in the city before the civil war erupted in June 1922. The AARIR chapter remained active until at least 1925, according to contemporary newspaper reports.  

Cover letter for publicity material related to anti-Treaty visit to Pittsburgh. John B. Collins Papers, University of Pittsburgh.

References

References
1 ” ‘Fighting Priest’ Here From Ireland; To Speak in Lyceum”,  Pittsburgh Daily Dispatch, May 28, 1922.
2 O’Flanagan, Michael” by Patrick Maume, Dictionary of Irish Biography, October 2009.
3 From John B. Collins Papers, 1913-1976 AIS.1977.17, University of Pittsburgh, ULS Archives & Special Collections, American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic, 1921-1932, Box 1 Folder 5. Digital scans of 16 pages relating to O’Flanagan’s May 1922 Pittsburgh visit, including cited newspaper quote, provided March 30, 2022.
4 1920 U.S. Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 22, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1524; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 673.

On ‘The Irish Press’, ‘Celtic Outlook’, and Villanova digital

A May 6, 1922, editorial page notice in The Irish Press informed “friends and subscribers” the Philadelphia weekly was suspending publication “after having withstood heavy financial loss for the past four years.”[1]Notice To Our Friends And Subscribers“, The Irish Press, May 6, 1922.

Joseph McGarrity

Tyrone-born Joseph McGarrity, who became wealthy in liquor wholesaling and real estate, launched the paper in March 1918 as the U.S. Post Office, “yielding to British diplomatic pressure,” banned the New York-based Irish World and Gaelic American from the mail due to war-related suspicions of espionage.[2]Dennis Clark, The Irish in Philadelphia: Ten Generations of Urban Experience, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1973, pgs. 151-52.

The Irish Press will be an Irish Ireland journal, and its support will be given to all movements having for their object the national regeneration of Ireland,” the paper’s first editorial stated. “It will support everything that deserves support and will criticize everything that deserves criticism.”[3]The Irish Press, An Irish National Newspaper and ReviewThe Irish Press, March 23, 1918.

Circulating his paper in New York was more than a business opportunity for McGarrity. His move signaled forthcoming division inside the U.S.-based Clan na Gael and Friends of Irish Freedom. In particular, the Irish Press competed with John Devoy’s Gaelic American “as the voice of the militant exiles.”[4]Terry Golway, Irish Rebel: John Devoy and America’s Fight for Ireland’s Freedom, St. Martin Press, New York, 1998. p. 261.

Patrick McCartan edited the Irish Press from its launch through the Sept. 11, 1920, issue. He and McGarrity were staunch supporters of Éamon de Valera. The newspaper published de Valera’s bylined pieces about Ireland during his June 1919 through December 1920 U.S. tour.

Unsurprisingly, Devoy celebrated his competitor’s fate. “Joe McGarrity’s Irish Press has gone to Davey Jones’s locker,” began the Gaelic American’s editorial. After five paragraphs of re-hashing old grievances with the rival publisher and arch enemy de Valera, Devoy concluded:

The Irish Press has been a wasp in the Irish beehive, and its death is a distinct gain. It is only one more evidence of the disintegration of De Valera’s Split, which will soon be only an evil memory.[5]Exit The ‘Irish Press’ “, The Gaelic American, May 13, 1922.

Name plate from first issue.

This later proved incorrect. Three years after Devoy’s 1928 death, De Valera launched The Irish Press daily in Dublin. A year later, he regained power as taoiseach, or prime minister, of Ireland. He dominated Irish politics for most of the 20th century. His newspaper folded in 1995.

Celtic Outlook

In its last issue, as it began doing in December 1921, the Irish Press reminded readers to watch for a new quarterly magazine, The Celtic Outlook, “devoted to Irish art, science, and literature.” Earlier notices promised “the first number will be issued at St. Patrick’s Day 1922.” The last issue said the magazine was “now in the hands of the printer.”[6]The Celtic Outlook” advertisement, separate from the editorial page notice, The Irish Press, May 6, 1922. The first issue finally published later that summer.

The Catholic Standard and Times, Philadelphia’s diocesan weekly, in August 1922 reported the magazine’s first issue included these contributions:

  • “Story of the Irish Music Revival” by Carl G. Hardebeck
  • “Pages of Irish History” by George Sigerson
  • “Ballad of Twenty-one” and “Irreconcilables” by Garrett O’Driscoll
  • “Dramatic Ideas In Ireland” by Peter McBrian
  • “Animal World In Ireland” by Douglas Hyde
  • “Egan O’Rahilly” by Daniel Corkery
  • “Ulster and America” by Francis Joseph Bigger
  • “Labor and the Republic” by Aodh de Blacam (Harold Saunders Blackham)

The Standard and Times reviewer wished the new journal “a long and inspiring career.”[7]”Busybody’s Corner” column, The Catholic Standard and Times, Aug. 19, 1922. How long The Celtic Outlook survived is unclear. Such publications are notorious for short runs. Digital newspaper databases of Philadelphia’s secular dailies do not return mentions of the magazine.

I welcome any information from readers who know more about this publication.

Thanks Villanova

Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library digital archives makes available the full four-year run of the Irish Press, March 23, 1918 to May 6, 1922; the Gaelic American from 1903 to 1924 (some issues are missing); and select issues of the Catholic Standard and Times, 1913 to 1922, with ongoing digitization.

The Joseph McGarrity Collection contains personal papers, books, photos, and ephemera. The university’s Digital Library contains many other resources.

The Villanova digital collections have been (and will remain) a valuable resource to my American Reporting of Irish Independence series, now more than 100 posts about the revolutionary period from the December 1918 elections forward. Digital archives such as this are regularly adding new content and have become an increasingly important research tool. This would have been true without COVID-19; it has come into even sharper focus because of the pandemic.

I am especially grateful for the newspaper collections. Rare is the time I review an issue looking for a specific item that I do not see something else of interest. I am grateful to the writers, editors, and others who originally produced these papers, and for institutions such as Villanova University for making the content so easily accessible today. Thank you.

References

References
1 Notice To Our Friends And Subscribers“, The Irish Press, May 6, 1922.
2 Dennis Clark, The Irish in Philadelphia: Ten Generations of Urban Experience, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1973, pgs. 151-52.
3 The Irish Press, An Irish National Newspaper and ReviewThe Irish Press, March 23, 1918.
4 Terry Golway, Irish Rebel: John Devoy and America’s Fight for Ireland’s Freedom, St. Martin Press, New York, 1998. p. 261.
5 Exit The ‘Irish Press’ “, The Gaelic American, May 13, 1922.
6 The Celtic Outlook” advertisement, separate from the editorial page notice, The Irish Press, May 6, 1922.
7 ”Busybody’s Corner” column, The Catholic Standard and Times, Aug. 19, 1922.

Deciphering Ewart’s 1921 ‘Journey in Ireland’ diary

Journalist and author Wilfrid Ewart traveled through revolutionary Ireland from mid-April to early May 1921. He kept a notebook and wrote articles for several London newspapers, published from a week after his May 10 departure from Belfast through mid- June. His material was later expanded in the book, A Journey in Ireland, 1921.

Wilfrid Ewart

Ewart’s 140-page handwritten notebook of his 22-day Ireland journey is held at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Charles E. Young Research Library. The collection also includes corrected typescripts, clippings of Ewart’s newspaper work, and several letters to the editor that disagreed with his reporting. I sought this material in early 2021, before I published my 10-part centenary series about Ewart’s trip, found below. The archive material was delayed by the COVID pandemic, but has now been provided by UCLA. Thank you.

Ewart’s notebook appears to have been written in pencil, as far as I can tell from the digital scan. Portions of the text are so faded that they are impossible to read. In his published book, Ewart referenced “the hieroglyphics in my notebook.” He said interview conversations “were taken down, in some cases literally as they were spoken, in others salient features or the sense of them were noted immediately afterwards.[1]Ewart, Wilfrid, A Journey In Ireland, 1921. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, April 1922, p. 128 and ix.

Here are his opening entries, as best I can decipher them:

IRELAND

April 18th Powers’ (Royal) Hotel[2]47 Kildare Steet, corner of Nassau Street, near Trinity College Dublin and the National Gallery of Ireland. Thom’s 1921 Great Britain and Ireland Trades Directory, p. 2254.—Bomb known at corner of Grafton Street during dinner (7:15). Nobody disturbed. Fine evening. Crowded in streets. Took tram from Baggot St. to Pembroke & back to Nelson’s Pillar … [unreadable] … It’s a long, long road and other  … [unreadable] … moonlit silence, a shot ringing out.

Interesting discussion with American journalist, Irish journalist, student. Education is the [unreadable] of Ireland.

April 19th—Sunny, cold wind. Sat in Phoenix Park. “Vote for Sinn Fein” – De Valera expects Dublin to do its duty chalked up on wall in Philsborough Road. Small boys shout of ‘Up the Rebels!’ Dinner at Jammet’s

Ewart’s dispatches in The Times of London appeared as “From a Correspondent”,  while two other papers gave him a byline. He produced at least eight newspaper stories, as indexed in the UCLA archive:

  • The Westminster Gazette: “Talks With Sinn Fein”,  June 10, 1921.
  • The Times: “Life in Dublin”, May 17, 1921; “Life in Cork”, May 18, 1921; “Life in Mallow”, May 19, 1921; “In Rebel Hands”, May 20, 1921; and “On the Road to Ulster”, May 23, 1921.
  • The Sunday Times: “A Student in Ireland, I”, June 5, 1921, and “A Student in Ireland, II”, June 19, 1921.

Here is my 2021 series:

See my full American reporting of Irish independence series.

References

References
1 Ewart, Wilfrid, A Journey In Ireland, 1921. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, April 1922, p. 128 and ix.
2 47 Kildare Steet, corner of Nassau Street, near Trinity College Dublin and the National Gallery of Ireland. Thom’s 1921 Great Britain and Ireland Trades Directory, p. 2254.

Guest post: Pro-Treaty delegation in Pittsburgh, May 1922

Dr. Anne Good Forrestal is a former lecturer in Sociology at Trinity College Dublin. Her 2021 historical novel, ‘Fierce Tears, Frail Deeds’, is based on the experiences of her grandparents, Seán and Delia MacCaoilte, in the first half of 1922; between the January Dáil Éireann vote to ratify the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and the June outbreak of the Irish Civil War. MacCaoilte was part of the pro-Treaty delegation that visited America that spring, including a stop in Pittsburgh. This story is based on one of his actual letters from the city. Dr. Forrestal’s novel is available from seaweedmillpress.com.

***

Seán’s photo in the Boston Globe, April 3, 1922.

One hundred years ago, Seán MacCaoilte, Sinn Féin leader on the Dublin Corporation (or city council) visited Pittsburgh as part of the delegation sent by Michael Collins to argue the case for the Anglo-Irish Treaty in America. Seán was joined by Dáil Éireann member Piaras Beaslai, and James O’Meara, a prominent businessman.

The mission had been urgently organized in response to concerns expressed by John Devoy, head of the Friends of Irish Freedom (FOIF) and editor of the Gaelic American newspaper. Devoy, who reluctantly supported the Treaty, warned the Provisional Government in Dublin of the consternation produced among Irish Americans by press rumors of possible civil war in Ireland. The mission’s task was to convince America that the Dáil’s ratification of the Treaty had been the correct decision in the prevailing circumstances. In Ireland, Treaty supporters and opponents prepared to face Irish voters in a critical election set for June. Both Seán and Beaslai were due to stand for Sinn Féin in the election.

The trio arrived in New York in mid-March, having crossed the Atlantic on the same ship as a rival delegation opposed to the Treaty. That evidence of disunity and rancor within the formerly united Sinn Féin movement caused dismay and even derision in America.[1]

The pro-Treaty mission began with private meetings in New York City and then proceeded to Boston. The delegation visited dozens of American cities and towns over subsequent weeks and reached Pittsburgh on May 6, near the end of their tour. Pittsburgh press reports noted the arrival of the “three distinguished Irishmen.”[2]

While in Pittsburgh, Seán, 37, wrote to his wife, Delia, who remained in Dublin with their four, soon to be five, children. His letter describes the delegation’s work and comments on his impressions of Pittsburgh itself. The letter, written on stationary from the William Penn Hotel[3], is held in a private collection of Seán’s surviving papers at the National Archives in Dublin.

Top portion of the first page of Sean’s letter to his wife.

Irish Pittsburgh’s views on Treaty

From Pittsburgh, Seán’s letter offered an optimistic assessment of the delegation’s work. He was convinced the trio could return to Ireland as planned on May 16, since, in his view, their job was largely done. He wrote:

We hear here that the A.A.R.I.R.[4] has gone to pieces. They had the best Council in the States in Pittsburgh but as usual it depended on the work of a few persons. Tomorrow a Miss (Margaret) McQuaide the vital force in the Council lunches with us and we are told is altogether with us.

The meetings in Pittsburgh bolstered his view that Irish America was now with Collins and the Provisional Government. Any anti-Treaty efforts to convey a different impression were, in Seán’s view, deceptive and dishonest.  He continued:

We have heard no reports yet from the Washington (D.C.) Convention (of the A.A.R.I.R.). It will, we understand, be a sorry affair in comparison with previous conventions …the great majority of the members have already fallen away considering the work for which it was started done. It will be sought to represent their actions however as the actions of the old-time association though the membership has fallen by 80 or 90%. Many of the States have dissolved automatically through non-renewal of membership subscriptions and will not of course be represented at the Convention.

Subsequent developments confirmed Seán’s assessment. Newspapers in Ireland reported several cables sent to Collins declared that most Irish American organizations backed the Provisional Government. “Supporters of Irish cause in Pittsburgh desire an early decision of the Irish people on the treaty, and depreciate intimidation,” said one letter signed by Margaret McQuade and others.[5]

Ideas for the new Ireland

Seán was a forward-thinking young man with a growing family, whose prospects he hoped would be improved by independence. On Dublin Corporation, he represented a deprived area of the city and was especially interested in a new public housing program. For these reasons he regularly punctuated his political comments with descriptions of what he was learning about America and what lessons he drew for improving the lives of the Irish people. In Pittsburgh, his thoughts were focused on possible new industrialization in the Free State.

Seán was interested in potential employment opportunities for Irish working people in industries that might be established or expanded through American investment. In April, the delegation had visited the Ford Motor Company headquarters in Michigan. They heard about plans for the Ford plant in Cork, which opened a few years earlier. Ford employed almost 2,000 Irish workers from hitherto impoverished parts of the city, where the British military had notoriously attacked civilians and burned buildings in December 1920.

However, as Seán was driven around Pittsburgh, he reflected on the somewhat worrying impact of the city’s large-scale industry. He wrote to Delia:

We have had a ride around Pittsburgh today in a car owned by a Mr. Collette. The centre of the town is a maze of great Chimney stacks. The mills are not all working yet and so the air is somewhat cleaner than usual. This is a great iron and steel manufacturing centre. Here is where the Ohio river starts from the confluence of two others. The mills extend for miles down the river and in themselves are a tribute to the value of waterpower for manufacturing industry.

Pittsburgh in 1916, six years before the delegation visit.

As a man who had been raised in a quiet rural area of Co. Offaly, Seán also had concerns about the negative impact of such industrialization, which he could see in Pittsburgh: “I’m afraid however I should not like to see the beautiful valleys of Ireland filled with such huge smoke-belching stacks as crowd this erstwhile beautiful valley of the Ohio.”[6]

After Pittsburgh

This was not Seán’s final reflection about Pittsburgh. When the delegation reached Washington, D.C, his thoughts turned back to the Pennsylvania city, to the pros and cons of large-scale industrialization for Ireland. His view was characteristically practical and pragmatic. He wrote again to Delia:

Washington is certainly a beautiful place. It has all the airs and dignity of a capital. After Pittsburgh it is a restful experience to drift in here. But I suppose only for places like Pittsburgh you would scarcely have Washington!

Seán returned to Ireland a few weeks later. But his health deteriorated that summer, having already been weakened from months in prison during 1920 and 1921, stress from the American tour, witnessing horrors of the civil war, and grief over the August 1922 assassination of Collins. Seán died a month later.

[1]  See Dual delegations at St. Patrick’s Day, 1922.

[2] “Irish Free State Chiefs Ask America To Be Neutral”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, May 8, 1922. Local coverage named James M. Sullivan, an attorney, not O’Meara, as the third member of the delegation. Sullivan is also referenced in articles from Ohio and Kentucky, immediately before the trio arrived in Pittsburgh.

[3] The William Penn Hotel, still operating in the city center, opened in March 1916, a month before the Easter Rising in Dublin. Other Irish visitors of the period included Eamon De Valera in October 1919 and James G. Douglas of the Irish White Cross in November 1921.

[4] American Association for the Recognition of an Irish Republic, created by Eamon de Valera in late 1920 and anti-Treaty rivals of Devoy and the FOIF.

[5] “Let The People Decide”, Freeman’s Journal, May 11, 1922, and “Cablegrams to Irish Leaders”, Irish Independent, May 11, 1922.

[6] Irish language scholar Douglas Hyde described Pittsburgh as “the dirtiest and blackest city in America” during his January 1906 visit. See When Irish Was Spoken in Pittsburgh.