Category Archives: Arts & Culture

Assessments of Ireland, November 1922

The Nov. 24, 1922, firing squad execution of Anglo-Irish Treaty opponent Erskine Childers became one of the most high-profile events of Ireland’s civil war, then in its fifth month. Another six months of internecine conflict lay ahead. But as the 26-county Irish Free State and partitioned, six-county Northern Ireland governments formalized in December, the Irish began to consider life beyond the revolutionary period that had started a decade earlier. The reflections below–two from native Irish writers–appeared in U.S. newspapers in November 1922:

Seumas MacManus

The Donegal-born MacManus published ‘Story if the Irish Race’ in October 1921, then returned home in summer 1922 for the first time in eight years. He wrote:

MacManus

“One of the very first sights that interested me as well as one of the most pleasant–and also one of the most important for Ireland’s future–was the marvelous flock of children that seemed to spring from the ground wheresoever I went over the face of the country. … I was delighted to see the bands of little ones that dotted the roads–to see them and to hear them–for Irish children do not believe in locking their sweet joy within their tiny bosoms.”

“Of the many vital educational changes the greatest and most valuable is that which establishes and entrenches the Irish language in its place in practically every school in the country. … Though the Gaelic movement made great advances during the last twenty years, its progress within the next three years will be marvelous. There will be very few people of the younger generation who will not be Irish speakers and Irish readers. … The re-establishing of this rich and beautiful language again, giving a new orientation to the Irish mind, will be a spiritual blessing of profound significance.”

“The curse of landlordism, which had for ages blighted the nation’s life, is now almost entirely uprooted. The great majority of the small holders of the country now own their land without dispute. And this undisputed possession of the land that was theirs and their forefathers through centuries, has given them a stimulus  that transforms them. People are energetic who had been lethargic, are ambitious who had been crushed, and prosperous who had been poverty stricken. They now dress well who formerly could not afford a new coat once in five years, and they eat well, and they pleasure themselves and know the joy of living to which they had once been strangers.”[1]”Stork’s Busiest Days In The Emerald Isle”, New York Times, Nov.19 1922.

Irish culture goes on

“Americans undoubtedly gather the impression that Dublin is a city of murder and arson and that all of the old Irish culture has been subsumed in the clatter of and smoke of war. But this is not so. Irish culture goes on. A little circle of Irish intellectuals meet three nights a week to discuss literature, Irish history and Irish economics, and follows the trends and progress of the world. Often these meetings are held while the rat-tat-tat of machine guns continues in the streets. … A bit of American tinge is given to these sessions by occasional visits from American correspondents, some of whom are studying the intellectual side of Ireland. The war may go on, but Irish culture doesn’t die.”[2]Daniel O’Connell of the Hearst-owned International News Service, Nov. 24, 1922.

Padraic Colum

The Longford-born Colum published some of his earliest poetry in Arthur Griffith’s ‘United Irishman’ and was active in the Gaelic League and Abbey Theater before the revolutionary period. He emigrated to America in 1914, but traveled home frequently, including 1922. These excerpts are from two pieces:

Colum

“The salient thing about Ireland is that the country holds together. … No one feels this orphaned government is in real peril–the anti-governmental forces are felt as an inconvenience, an expense and an irritant, but they are not now felt as a danger. Mind you, there is no enthusiasm for the government or the Free State that is about to come into existence. … There was enthusiasm for the treaty last December but all zest has since been knocked out of the people. The Irish remember they are not clear of the British Empire.”

“It seems odd to speak of settlement and reconstruction in a country whose main activity is civil war; it seems odd to talk of reconstruction in a city where the children on the street play with toy revolvers and keep up games of taking prisoners and doing Red Cross services. It seems odd to talk of settlement and reconstruction in such a country and such a city. Nevertheless, the mood of the people makes it palpable that the epoch of revolution is past and that the only thing that will stir them again is reconstruction and the proper ordering of their affairs.”[3]”Ireland’s Epoch of Revolution is Ended, Says Padraic Colum; Now Comes Here Reconstruction” The Boston Globe, Nov. 12, 1922.

“Ireland is learning in many directions. She is learning to organize and operate an army; she is learning how to rebuild a police force and magistracy; she is learning what the elements of a constitution are; she is learning about parliamentary procedure; she is even learning what the price of civil disturbance may be. Above all, she is learning to do without England–that England was a symbol of injustice, rapine and atrocity. She has seen now what fearful blows Irishmen can deal at Irishmen and what injustices and evil-dealing can take place in an Ireland that is without a Dublin Castle. Ireland, in fact, is loosing her England ‘complex’ and soon she will be able to get about her business without any particular reference to her great and much distracted neighbor–a consummation devoutly to be wished for!”[4]”Literally ‘The Boys’ Rule Ireland”, New York Tribune, Nov. 19, 1922.

References

References
1 ”Stork’s Busiest Days In The Emerald Isle”, New York Times, Nov.19 1922.
2 Daniel O’Connell of the Hearst-owned International News Service, Nov. 24, 1922.
3 ”Ireland’s Epoch of Revolution is Ended, Says Padraic Colum; Now Comes Here Reconstruction” The Boston Globe, Nov. 12, 1922.
4 ”Literally ‘The Boys’ Rule Ireland”, New York Tribune, Nov. 19, 1922.

Selling Irish history & politics books: Hackett & Creel

In November 1922 journalist Francis Hackett wrote a letter to his brother, Edmond Byrne Hackett, to complain about the poor sales of The Story of the Irish Nation, which The Century Co. had published in March. “The Irish book sold 1,143 copies. Awful,” the author wrote. “Two people could help to sell it. One is George Creel, who sold his own book and knows the machinery. The other, Miss Lucile Erskine, worked to sell Ireland for Ben Huebsch.”[1]Francis Hackett to Byrne Hackett, Nov. 16, 1922, in Brick Row Book Shop records (New York, N.Y.), 1913-2015, Box 63, Folder 1. The Grolier Club. Assistance and digital scans provided July 18, 2022, … Continue reading

Ben Huebsch in 1918 passport photo.

Huebsch, a New York City publisher, released Hackett’s Ireland, A Study in Nationalism in 1918, a year before Creel’s Ireland’s Fight for Freedom arrived from Harper & Brothers. Many similar books competed for the attention and dollars of American readers during Ireland’s revolutionary period. Author and critic Edmond Lester Pearson included both the Hackett and Creel books in his November 1919 roundup of Irish titles for the Weekly Review. He described Hackett’s book as a “moderate” account of contemporary conditions, while Creel’s was a “vehement attack upon England,” quoting from a New York Times review.[2]Ireland”, The Weekly Review, Nov. 15, 1919. See “Mr. Creel’s View on Matters Connected with Ireland’s Fight for Freedom”, The New York Times, Aug. 10, 1919.

As with today’s instant political books, the success or failure of this genre usually depends on a combination of reviews and advertising, the author’s personal promotion, and how quickly or slowly new developments age the content between the covers. Creel and Hackett are good examples. I’ll take the former first.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent Creel to Ireland in February 1919 after Sinn Féin candidates elected to the British Parliament in December 1918 instead convened as Dáil Éireann in Dublin. Creel had just finished his duties as head of the Committee for Public Information, the Great War propaganda arm of the American government. His report to Wilson said the Irish separatists would accept some form of dominion status, but only if granted within the next few months. Otherwise, Creel insisted that hardline republican sentiment would take hold.[3]Francis M. Carroll, American opinion and the Irish question, 1910-23 : a study in opinion and policy, Dublin : New York, Gill and Macmillan ; St. Martin’s Press, 1978, p. 196.

George Creel in 1917.

Creel, an American journalist before he took the Wilson administration post, serialized his views about Ireland through the New York Sunday American, and an article in Leslie’s weekly. Ireland’s Fight for Freedom debuted in July 1919. The author described the 250-page book, “this little volume,” as designed to “furnish the facts upon which an honest and intelligent answer” could be found to the Irish question.[4]George Creel, Ireland’s Fight for Freedom, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1919, p. xiv.

Creel became “one of the more unlikely Irish apologist,” historian Francis M. Carroll has written. As part of the book promotion, Creel spoke at Irish Progressive League meetings. But he also continued to support Wilson, the League of Nations, and criticized several Irish American leaders.[5]American opinion, p. 144.  This drew an attack from the New York City-based Gaelic American, which republished Creel’s Leslie’s piece, then blasted it as “an absurd and fantastic misrepresentation of the Irish movement in America.”[6]George Creel Attacks Irish American Leaders”, The Gaelic American, Aug. 16, 1919, p 3.

A Study in Nationalism

The Hackett brothers each emigrated from Kilkenny at the turn of the 20th century. As Francis pursued a journalism and literary career, Byrne became a bibliophile, eventually opening shops in New York City and near the campuses of Yale and Princeton universities in Connecticut and New Jersey, respectively. Both brothers corresponded with Ben Huebsch, whose papers are held at the Library of Congress. Letters from Francis, the younger sibling, date to 1907, when he was a reporter and editorial writer at the Chicago Evening Post.

Ireland: A Study in Nationalism developed when Francis returned home in 1912-13 to care for his ailing father. It took him years to complete. He wrote to Huebsch from Kilkenny:

I have completed no work yet. Time dissolves like snow in Ireland. The hours are like flakes falling into a river. They disappear with an appalling softness.[7]F. Hackett to B Huebsch, Nov. 11, 1912, from 20 Patrick St., Kilkenny, Ireland, in Ben Huebsch Papers, Library of Congress.

Hackett nevertheless gave his publisher an assessment of Ireland two years before Parliament passed the Government of Ireland Act, then immediately suspend it due to outbreak of world war on the continent:

Home Rule is taken for granted already, and the Nationalists are tired of it all. Ireland is in a bad way with the Catholics in control of education and with no conscious about it. … Catholicism is ruining us. It favors our tendency to follow the line of least resistance, to repress and to negative. Ireland is comparatively crimeless, comparatively harmless. It gets drunk, men and women, and it backbites a lot, but it is negatived (sic) by the church.

Economically, the land acts favor the farmer, but the farmer is abysmally ignorant and conservative. He is Ireland, and his soul will have to be ripped up, plowed, harrowed, before anything can happen. And it will be a long fight.[8]Ibid.

When Hackett finally delivered the manuscript to Huebsch, the author wrote:

This book, finished since conscription was enacted (January 1916, in Britain) has been in hand for four years. It’s aim is to tell Americans the facts in the Irish case, the explanation of those facts, and a way of reconstruction. Besides being critical, it aims to be impartially informative, so that the Americans may judge the case for itself, on the merits.[9]Undated, unaddressed page with chapter headings similar to those in published book. The handwriting is consistent with other letters from F. Hackett, though I am not a handwriting expert. Huebsch … Continue reading

Huebsch did not publish Ireland until 1918. The reason for the delay is unclear, though it might have been related to the April 1916 Rising in Dublin, which left Hackett disenchanted.[10]Thomas J. Rowland, “The American Catholic Pres And The Easter Rising” in Ireland’s Allies: American and the 1916 Easter Rising, Miriam Nyhan Grey, ed., University College Dublin … Continue reading At last, he dedicated the book to his late father, “who loved and served Ireland.” The author soon began lecturing about Ireland in Chicago, Boston, and other cities. “In fact, demand for addresses on the subject are so numerous that were it not for his duties as an editor at the New Republic, Mr. Hackett could spend most of his time on the platform,” Publisher’s Weekly reported.[11]”Personal Notes”, The Publisher’s Weekly, April 12, 1919, p. 1011.

Other Ireland books

As noted above, the market for Irish books was crowded. In his 1919 roundup, Pearson also identified as pro-nationalist P. S. O’Hegarty’s Sinn Fein, an Illumination, (Maunsel, 1919); Francis P. Jones’s History of the Sinn Fein Movement and the Irish Rebellion of 1916, (Kenedy, 1917); and Shane Leslie’s The Irish Issue in its American Aspects (Scribner, 1917), “a brilliant discussion by a moderate Sinn Feiner.” For the “British and Unionist point of view,” Pearson recommended Phillip G. Cambray’s Irish Affairs and the Home Rule Question, (Murray, 1911) and Ian Hay’s The Oppressed English, (Doubleday, 1917).

But “for one book, if you can read but one,” the reviewer recommended Edward R. Turner’s Ireland and England in the Past and Present, (Century, 1919). In Pearson’s view, the University of Michigan professor of European history “tried to write an impartial study of the whole question. … He truly says that in America the whole question is usually discussed by extremists, and, of course, extremists will not like his book.”

True enough, as Pearson’s Weekly Review piece spread more widely through daily newspaper syndication, Turner’s book was savaged by the Irish National Bureau, the Washington, D.C.-based propaganda operation of the Friends of Irish Freedom. The Bureau published a 16-page pamphlet that declared the purpose of Turner’s book was:

…to induce American people to take the views of a certain class of English imperialist, to induce them to look kindly on a surrender of all those principals and purposes for which they poured out blood and treasure in the late war, to lead them to look with favor on English world-hegemony. In the pages of this book liberty, self-determination, independence seem to be matters for contempt, for ridicule, for things loathsome and to be avoided.[12]Daniel T. O’Connell, “Edmund Raymond Turner of the University of Michigan: Apostle and Apologist of Reaction,” Irish National Bureau, Washington, D.C., December 1919.

Hackett’s second book

In 1920, more than a year after the first Dáil and the war in Ireland growing more brutal, Hackett released an Irish Republic Editionof Study in Nationalism. While he originally favored dominion home rule, his later editions “bent the argument to support independence,” Carroll has written.[13]American opinion, p. 236. Hackett cited Creel’s book in the bibliography of his Irish edition. That summer, Hackett returned to Ireland for a reporting trip with his wife, Danish writer and illustrator Signe Toksvig. They witnessed British police and military atrocities and other impacts of the war.

Francis Hackett in 1935.

When they arrived back in America, Hackett wrote an October 1920 syndicated newspaper series and articles for the New Republic based on his observations. “A great change has taken place in the morale of the Irish people since I last visited here in 1913,” he wrote. “The pre-war Ireland is gone, never to return.”[14]“Erin Prosperous Writes Hackett”, Boston Post, Oct. 5, 1920. Hackett and his wife also testified before the pro-nationalist American Committee on Conditions in Ireland in November 1920.

By spring 1921, shortly before the truce, Hackett was thinking about a new Irish book. He wrote to Huebsch with a proposal to repurpose some content from A Study in Nationalism:

I don’t want to urge you to take it, and I can understand your feeling disinclined to do it, but if Ireland is petering out I want you to let me use whatever of the material I can and see if I can’t get out another book, and take my chance somewhere else. This won’t effect my feelings about you as publisher and as friend, but I feel I’m a fool not to sow another Irish crop–if necessary in fresh ground.[15]F. Hackett to B Huebsch, May 4, 1921, Huebsch papers.

Hackett’s second Ireland book, Story of the Irish Nation, took shape as a 1922 series for the New York World. He detailed the long arc of the island’s troubled history rather than a rehash of his 1920 reporting and public testimony. He mailed another letter to Huebsch about getting $2,000 from the World, and he promised to repay a $500 debt to the publisher. Hackett also revealed his plans to turn the series into the second Ireland book:

I have decided to give the history to the Century Company. I have made no contract with them as yet but the want it. They are willing to give me all foreign rights and a flat 15%, and are willing to get behind it in a commercial way. I am going to try them on this in the hope we will clean up enough money to be able to go to Denmark (his wife’s homeland).”[16]F. Hackett to B Huebsch, Jan. 28, 1922, from New York City, Huebsch papers.

Century published Story of the Irish Nation in March. Reviewers generally praised the book that summer, including a full-page feature in the New York Times by American writer and diplomat Maurice Francis Egan.[17]”Happy Times and Dragon’s Teeth in Ireland”, The New York Times Book Review and Magazine, June 18, 1922. By November 1922, when Hackett wrote to his brother, conditions in Ireland were much different than when the book was published. The Irish Civil War, sparked by the Dáil’s split over the Anglo-Irish Treaty, erupted after the release. Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins both died in August, and IRA “irregulars” and Free State troops committed atrocities at least as worse as during the war against Britain.

Given the fratricide and the Irish Free State constitution set to take effect in December 1922, Francis suggested to Byrne that Story of the Irish Nation “might begin to move.” He lamented that Century, his new publisher, “has no invention, but is faithful and plodding.” He also believed, “The Catholics, the K. of C., the A.O.H., are the people who would buy my history if they ever got started.”[18]Francis Hackett to Byrne Hackett, Nov. 16, 1922, in Grolier Club archives. “K. of C.” is Knights of Columbus. A.O.H. is Ancient Order of Hibernians.

But Francis Hackett knew better. Only days before writing to his brother, he mailed a letter to Huebsch. Hackett wrote wrote: “My Irish history fell in between the Republic and Free State squarrel (sic) and got mashed to nothing.”[19]F. Hackett to B. Huebsch, Nov. 2, 1922, in Huebsch Papers.

***

See my American Reporting of Irish Independence series, which I am currently developing into a book. 

References

References
1 Francis Hackett to Byrne Hackett, Nov. 16, 1922, in Brick Row Book Shop records (New York, N.Y.), 1913-2015, Box 63, Folder 1. The Grolier Club. Assistance and digital scans provided July 18, 2022, by Meghan R. Constantinou, librarian, and Scott Ellwood.
2 Ireland”, The Weekly Review, Nov. 15, 1919. See “Mr. Creel’s View on Matters Connected with Ireland’s Fight for Freedom”, The New York Times, Aug. 10, 1919.
3 Francis M. Carroll, American opinion and the Irish question, 1910-23 : a study in opinion and policy, Dublin : New York, Gill and Macmillan ; St. Martin’s Press, 1978, p. 196.
4 George Creel, Ireland’s Fight for Freedom, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1919, p. xiv.
5 American opinion, p. 144.
6 George Creel Attacks Irish American Leaders”, The Gaelic American, Aug. 16, 1919, p 3.
7 F. Hackett to B Huebsch, Nov. 11, 1912, from 20 Patrick St., Kilkenny, Ireland, in Ben Huebsch Papers, Library of Congress.
8 Ibid.
9 Undated, unaddressed page with chapter headings similar to those in published book. The handwriting is consistent with other letters from F. Hackett, though I am not a handwriting expert. Huebsch Papers.
10 Thomas J. Rowland, “The American Catholic Pres And The Easter Rising” in Ireland’s Allies: American and the 1916 Easter Rising, Miriam Nyhan Grey, ed., University College Dublin Press, Dublin, 2016, p. 294.
11 ”Personal Notes”, The Publisher’s Weekly, April 12, 1919, p. 1011.
12 Daniel T. O’Connell, “Edmund Raymond Turner of the University of Michigan: Apostle and Apologist of Reaction,” Irish National Bureau, Washington, D.C., December 1919.
13 American opinion, p. 236.
14 “Erin Prosperous Writes Hackett”, Boston Post, Oct. 5, 1920.
15 F. Hackett to B Huebsch, May 4, 1921, Huebsch papers.
16 F. Hackett to B Huebsch, Jan. 28, 1922, from New York City, Huebsch papers.
17 ”Happy Times and Dragon’s Teeth in Ireland”, The New York Times Book Review and Magazine, June 18, 1922.
18 Francis Hackett to Byrne Hackett, Nov. 16, 1922, in Grolier Club archives. “K. of C.” is Knights of Columbus. A.O.H. is Ancient Order of Hibernians.
19 F. Hackett to B. Huebsch, Nov. 2, 1922, in Huebsch Papers.

Remembering An Gorta Mor … as hunger persists

This memorial is a short walk from where I live in Cambridge, Mass.

Twenty-five years ago this summer Irish President Mary Robinson dedicated what press reports described as the first memorial in America to An Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger of the mid-19th century. The recognition came at the 150th anniversary of “Black ’47”, the worst year of the Irish famine. A few months earlier Robinson dedicated Ireland’s National Famine Memorial in County Mayo.

“I wish we could say as a people that in a world of plenty there would be no famine,” Robinson told 1,000 onlookers at Cambridge Common, next to the Harvard campus, across the Charles River from Boston.[1]”1st U.S. Memorial to Irish Famine”, Daily News, New York, N.Y., as reported by Reuters. Two views of the sculpture are seen above and below.

A list of more than 140 famine memorials worldwide shows a simple plaque-on-stone memorial was dedicated in 1995 in Bergen County, New Jersey. Still, 1997 marked a boom in more artistic representations of the deaths of 1 million Irish and emigration of 1 million others. The Irish Famine Memorial in downtown Boston was unveiled 11 months after the one in Cambridge.  At least three more have been added in greater Boston since then.

There are also an estimated 828 million people who experience hunger every day; far too many in a world of plenty.

This post was corrected to reflect the New Jersey memorial.

Mary Robinson paraphrased these words in her 1997 unveiling speech.

References

References
1 ”1st U.S. Memorial to Irish Famine”, Daily News, New York, N.Y., as reported by Reuters.

Letters reveal Samuel D. McCoy’s Irish literary connections

This post continues 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

***

UPDATE, July 20, 2022:

The 12-page, typed James Stephens (under James Esse) typescript titled “If You Have Not Been To Connacht” that is referenced in the original post below appears to have been part of a 32-page manuscript titled “Saluting Maeve, Queen of Connacht, Queen of Hearts, Queen of the Fairies.” It once belonged in the collection of bibliophile and philanthropist James A Healy, a New York stockbroker. Birgit Bramsbäck cited this collection in her monograph, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliographical Study, first published in 1959.[1]Birgit Bramsbäck, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliographical Study, Norwood Editions, 1975. Reprint of 1959 ed. published by Lundequist, Upsula. Issued as no. 4, Upsula Irish Studies. Thanks to … Continue reading Healy died in 1975.

The first seven lines of the longer “Maeve” piece are in ink, the remainder in pencil and “profusely revised,” according to one description.[2]Richard Cary, “James Stephens at Colby College” in Colby Library Quarterly, series 5, no.9, March 1961, p.224-253. “Maeve” description p. 238. The manuscript is inscribed at the end, “James Stephens / Cafe Napolitaine / Boui. des Italiennes / Paris / 14 Sep. 1921.”[3]Ibid, and noted by Bramsbäck. As noted in the original post below, effort was soon made to have a version of this story published in America.

The story is about Connacht, and primarily about Galway at “the first week of the truce” (July 11, 1921), according to the version in the McCoy papers. Bramsbäck quoted Stephens’s description of poor people being harassed by British troops in the west of Ireland. I have bolded one word from the typescript in the McCoy collection that differs from the manuscript quoted by Bramsbäck :

These stories can be multiplied and multiplied but it is asking (among) the poor one seeks for them, for it is the poor who pay. They are true not only of Ireland but of every country where backs have grown accoustomed to bowing and where the art of advertising his misfortunes has not been taught to the simple man, indeed, to consider misfortune as constant and compliance as a waste of time is the culture of the poor, and lends to him a fortune in distress which would bring a sense of shame to every person of a livelier intelligence or an easier situation.

Stephens’s papers are scattered among many locations, as noted below. Saluting Maeve” is held at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

ORIGINAL POST, July 14, 2022:

When he wasn’t publicly detailing Ireland’s war-related humanitarian needs in 1921, American journalist Samuel Duff McCoy privately promoted Irish arts and letters. At least the Irish urged him to.

McCoy had a literary background beyond his 20 years of working at Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia newspapers, plus a turn as Red Cross publicity director during the Great War. At Princeton, he was a student editor at the Nassau Literary Magazine. In 1915 he co-founded the journal Contemporary Verse and regularly contributed prose and poetry to national magazines.

During two 1921 trips to Ireland, McCoy had contact with several Irish writers and book dealers, as revealed in letters to him. Full details of the relationships are unclear, but the letters sketch efforts to bring the work of Daniel Corkery and James Stephens to American readers. McCoy’s papers also contain what appears to be an unpublished Stephens short story about Connacht.

Daniel Corkery

McCoy and his American Committee for Relief in Ireland colleagues established their headquarters at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. Patrick O’Daly (Pádraig Ó Dálaigh) of Talbot Press Limited wrote to McCoy soon after the delegation’s mid-February 1921 arrival.

“I have just had a note from a friend of ours, Daniel Corkery, author of ‘The Hounds of Banba,’ in which he mentions your name,” O’Daly wrote. “Do you not think it would be a good thing if we could have this book published in America? It seems to us, at least, that the present time ought to be kind of favourable when Ireland, and matters relating to Ireland, are so much in the public mind.”[4]Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Series 3, Correspondence B-Z, Folder 9. O’Day to McCoy, March 8, 1921.

Corkery (1878-1964) began writing short stories and plays in his 20s while working as a teacher. He also played the cello and dabbled in painting. Following the success of his debut collection, A Munster Twilight, in 1916, Talbot Press published The Hounds of Banba in 1920.[5]Daniel Corkery” in the online Dictionary of Irish Biography, October 2009.

From McCoy Papers, Princeton University.

Banba is a poetic name for the spirit of Ireland in an earlier age; one of a divine trio of eponyms along with Ériu and Fódla.[6]Online Oxford Reference. The hounds are the island’s occupiers, the British police and military. Corkery dedicated the book’s nine stories about nationalist revolutionaries to “The Young Men of Ireland.”

O’Daly asked McCoy to meet “at your convenience.” He also enclosed, at Corkery’s request, he wrote, the 1920-21 catalogue of Talbot Press, 89 Talbot St., Dublin, which listed The Hounds of Banba. The 28-page booklet also included John Butler Yeats’s Essays: Irish and American. “The stories are of the present day, dealing with the adventures of men ‘on the run’ and other works in the Sinn Fein Movement,” read the description. (McCoy’s papers also include the April 1920 catalogue of Maunsel & Co., Ltd., 50 Lower Baggot St., Dublin, and the “No. 1” 1920 catalogue of The Irish Book Shop, Limited, 45 Dawson St., Dublin. These items are not associated with letters.)

Recognize this signature? 

An undated, handwritten letter to McCoy by a correspondent with a mysterious signature says: “I understand from Mr. Corkery that you’ve expressed to him your interest in the publishing of his books.”[7]McCoy Papers, Correspondence Unidentified, Folder 13. Unidentified correspondent to McCoy, undated. The correspondent, who acknowledged a thank you note from McCoy for providing unspecified help to the American Committee, was chiefly interested in his assistance to re-issue Edward Bunting’s (1773-1843) Irish music catalogue.

It’s unclear from McCoy’s papers if he met O’Daly. Corkery’s papers at University College Cork contain several 1921 letters from O’Daly and Talbot Press regarding efforts to find a U.S. publisher for The Hounds of Banba. McCoy is not named in the finding guide descriptions, though possibly referenced in the letters. The New York publisher B. W. Huebsch issued the book in spring 1922.

McCoy used the book title–without reference to Corkery–in the opening segment of his 10-part series, “The Lads Who Freed Ireland,” syndicated from January 1922 in U.S. newspapers. McCoy wrote, “… the world gazes, dumbfounded, at the Hounds of Banba today. The first has become last. Have we, the powerful, what Ireland has shown us?”[8]”White Heat/Chapter 1” of “The Lads Who Freed Ireland”, Minneapolis (Minn.) Morning Tribune, Feb. 6, 1922, via United Features Syndicate.

That summer, Corkery’s story “Egan O’Rahilly” (1670-1726) appeared in The Celtic Outlook, the literary journal that succeeded The Irish Press, Philadelphia, weekly newspaper.[9]See my “On ‘The Irish Press’, ‘Celtic Outlook’, and Villanova digital.” He later devoted a chapter to the Irish language poet in his book The Hidden Ireland.

E. Byrne Hackett

McCoy returned to America in April 1921 to continue his work with the American Committee for Irish relief, including the release of its “Distress in Ireland” report and an unsuccessful request the U.S. State Department distribute the money.[10]See my “American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921. Carroll, F. M. “The American Committee for Relief in Ireland, 1920-22.” Irish Historical Studies, vol. 23, … Continue reading He steamed back to Ireland that summer, mixing his committee duties with traditional journalism, including two pieces for Leslie’s Weekly.[11]”George: A Letter to King George Concerning Colonel George”, June 11, 1921, and “How Belfast Greets Royalty,” Aug. 13, 1921. Kilkenny native and U.S. antiquarian bookstore owner Edmond Byrne Hackett wrote to McCoy at the Standard Hotel in Dublin on Oct. 22, 1921, from his New York office. He acknowledged receipt an article by James Stephens about Connacht.

“It will give me pleasure to attempt to market it, and I am sending it first of all to The Century as I happen to know that the editor is interested in the present status of affairs in Ireland,” reads an unsigned, typewritten copy.[12]McCoy Papers, Correspondence A, Folder 12. Hackett to McCoy, Oct. 22, 1921.

E. Byrne Hackett                (Martin Dostál, Geni.com)

Hackett (1879-1953) was the fifth son of Dr. John Byrne Hackett, the Kilkenny coroner. The son was educated at Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare, and St. Francis College, Sussex, England, then emigrated to the United States in 1899. In America, he worked as a salesman at Doubleday Page & Company in New York from 1901-1907, and as manager of publishing at Baker & Taylor Company from 1907-1909. He served as director of the Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., soon after its founding in 1908, and established the Brick Row Book Shop in that city in 1915.[13]Compiled from E. Byrne Hackett papers, Yale University; “Byrne Hackett and His Bookshops“, The Publisher’s Weekly, Oct. 1, 1921, p.1182; “E. Byrne Hackett Dies In … Continue reading

Byrne Hackett also was the brother of journalist and author Francis Hackett (1883-1962), who emigrated in 1900. Francis began his career as a beat reporter in Chicago but later switched to writing editorials and literary criticism. He became a founding editor of The New Republic magazine in 1914. In summer 1920, he returned to Ireland and detailed the war atrocities he witnessed for the magazine and in a six-part series for the New York World, which syndicated the work to other papers three month’s before McCoy’s “Lads” series. In November 1920, Francis testified before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. It seems more likely that McCoy was influenced by, rather than unaware of, Francis Hackett’s 1920 Irish reporting and commission testimony, given his correspondence with Byrne Hackett.[14]See Part 1 and Part 2 of my “Two Irish immigrant journalists return home, 1920” posts.

A second letter to McCoy from Byrne Hackett in the Princeton archive is handwritten and undated. It probably preceded the typed letter, most likely from late summer or early fall 1921.

“I am very sorry again to have missed you and James Stephens. I have only this minute got back from Kilkenny (one unreadable word) with some kinsfolk.”[15]McCoy Papers, Correspondence B-Z, Folder 15. Hackett to McCoy, Undated.

Hackett wrote he was in London buying books for the new Brick Row Book Shop at 68 1/2 Nassau Street in Princeton, N.J., which followed the summer 1920 opening of a second store in New York City. “It promises to do good work down at Princeton as has been done in New Haven for some time,” Hackett wrote of the third store.

This image illustrated the Brick Row Book Shop story in the Yale Banner and Pot Pourri, 1922 Year Book. It was not described as the New Haven, New York, or Princeton stores, or anyplace else.

The Princeton store opened in October 1921 and was soon described in Yale’s alumni weekly:

Commodious quarters consisting of reading and display rooms, as well as the main store, have been provided. The reading room has been fitted with comfortable lounges and chairs, and there prospective buyers are assured of an open fire, quite, and access to any book that the store has. The policy of fostering interest in good reading and of so arranging matters that anyone may browse without the necessity of buying was sure to meet with approval from the first, and the shop has been well filled with students since the day of the opening.[16]”The Brick Row at Princeton”, The Yale Alumni Weekly, Nov. 25, 1921, p. 250.

Hackett, who received an honorary Master of Arts degree from Yale in 1914, also teased McCoy about his college background: “You did not tell me you were a Princeton man,” he wrote.[17]Degree from Note 9, quote from Note 11.

James Stephens

James Stephens

Stephens (1880-1950) should not be be confused with the same-name Fenian leader (1825-1901). The author also wrote under the pseudonym James Esse. In his mid-20s, Stephens began writing for United Irishman, later Sinn Féin, and other papers edited by Arthur Griffith. These nationalist publications were often suppressed by the British government. In the second installment of his “Lads” series, McCoy quoted Stephens talking about Griffith :

” ‘His worst trouble, in those days,’ James Stephens to me, with a twinkle in his eye, ‘was thinking up new names for his paper. He used to lay awake nights, thinking up new names for it, he did so.’ “[18]”The Smiling Swordsman/Chapter 2” of “The Lads Who Freed Ireland”, Minneapolis (Minn.) Morning Tribune, Feb. 7, 1922, via United Features Syndicate.

McCoy also relayed a story–unattributed to Stephens, Griffith or anyone else–of the two men strolling down Grafton Street late one evening early in the revolutionary period.  A pair of “young rowdies” twice knocked Griffith’s hat off of his head. Without a word, he removed his glasses and struck a blow “that started from Griffith’s pacifistic shoulders and ended on the point of one of the young rough’s jaw, with the impact of a ton of brick.” Griffith and Stephens then continued their conversation from the point of interruption, according to McCoy’s telling.

Arthur Griffith

As Stephens was writing for Griffith, Irish writer and artist George Willian Russell, known by the pseudonym AE, introduced him to Dublin literary circles. In 1916, Stephens observed the fighting around St. Stephen’s Green at Easter week. His instant book, The Insurrection in Dublin, “is regarded as the most vivid account by a contemporary observer of the changing moods and scenes of Dublin during the rising,” according to the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

Whatever efforts Byrne Hackett might have made to place Stephens’s Connacht story, the piece did not appear in The Century. The magazine’s November 1921 issue featured an interview with Russell, who complimented Stephens, Austin Clarke, and John Millington Synge as among the best practitioners of modern Irish verse.[19]The Opinions of AE“, The Century Magazine, Vol. 103, No. 1, November 1921, pgs. 3-9. The Dial literary magazine, another American journal, reviewed the U.S. release of Stephens’s Irish Fairy Tales, published the previous year in Ireland.

In October 1922, The Century published Stephens’s “The Outlook for Literature, With Special Reference to Ireland.” The eight-page assessment of the post-war cultural and political landscape included this passage:

… during the last five years the national act of Ireland has been so real that it has achieved what older minds considered to be impossible, and has achieved by methods which the official and logical intellect, if its advice had been sought, could only have considered as infantile. It is the good fact of life that the infant wins always, and I think that Ireland awakens from her profound sleep as the youngest race now active in the world, and the best fitted to accept possible modifications with the curiosity and good humor of a brave young person.[20]The Outlook for Literature“, The Century Magazine, Vol. 104, No. 6, October 1922, pgs. 811-181.

Stephens also wrote Arthur Griffith: journalist and statesman, a tribute to his former editor, after the Sinn Féin founder died Aug. 12, 1922, due to several health complications.

Connacht story 

The McCoy papers at Princeton contain a 12-page typescript with the byline of James Esse.[21]Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Ireland, Conflict With Great Britain, 1921, American Committee for Relief in Ireland, Box 6, Folder 1. The piece is titled “If You Have Not Been To Connacht.” The word “Publicity” is handwritten in pencil in the top right corner.

The piece begins:

If you have not been to Connacht it is unlikely that a verbal description will assist you to realise the wonderful country. Many visits are necessary before the unearthly beauty, and, at times, unearthly radiance of that ancient kingdom become apparent to the traveller. A run through leaves one with a somewhat bewildering recollection of rocks, but when Connemara is recalled in the solitudes of ‘afterwards’ you may discover that you think of rocks with an affection you had never before dared to chance on stony ground.

The piece ends with a variation of the first sentence: “But if you have not been to Connemara it is unlikely that a verbal description will help you to realise the wonderful country.” My emphasis of the differences.

It appears this story was never published in America or Ireland. There are collections of Stephens’s papers at the New York Public Library , Kent State University (Ohio), Trinity College Dublin, and Stanford University Libraries, in addition to Colby. The TCD collection contains a 1926 letter to Stephens from McCoy, who expresses concern about the writer’s heath, saying he had “the same illness” five years earlier.[22]Stephen’s papers, MS 10408/26/1464, Trinity College Dublin, as relayed by July 16, 2022, email from Manuscripts & Archives Research Librarian Ellen O’Flaherty.

Connemara, County Galway.                                                                                                                      ©Tourism Ireland

References

References
1 Birgit Bramsbäck, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliographical Study, Norwood Editions, 1975. Reprint of 1959 ed. published by Lundequist, Upsula. Issued as no. 4, Upsula Irish Studies. Thanks to Colin Smythe at Colin Smythe Limited, who pointed me to this book, which I was finally able to review at the Library of Congress.
2 Richard Cary, “James Stephens at Colby College” in Colby Library Quarterly, series 5, no.9, March 1961, p.224-253. “Maeve” description p. 238.
3 Ibid, and noted by Bramsbäck.
4 Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Series 3, Correspondence B-Z, Folder 9. O’Day to McCoy, March 8, 1921.
5 Daniel Corkery” in the online Dictionary of Irish Biography, October 2009.
6 Online Oxford Reference.
7 McCoy Papers, Correspondence Unidentified, Folder 13. Unidentified correspondent to McCoy, undated.
8 ”White Heat/Chapter 1” of “The Lads Who Freed Ireland”, Minneapolis (Minn.) Morning Tribune, Feb. 6, 1922, via United Features Syndicate.
9 See my “On ‘The Irish Press’, ‘Celtic Outlook’, and Villanova digital.”
10 See my “American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921. Carroll, F. M. “The American Committee for Relief in Ireland, 1920-22.” Irish Historical Studies, vol. 23, no. 89, 1982, pp. 30-49. Whelan, Bernadette, United States Foreign Policy and Ireland: From Empire to Independence, 1913-29, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2006, See Ch. 8, “Harding, Irish Relief Aid And Recognition”, pp. 326-327.
11 ”George: A Letter to King George Concerning Colonel George”, June 11, 1921, and “How Belfast Greets Royalty,” Aug. 13, 1921.
12 McCoy Papers, Correspondence A, Folder 12. Hackett to McCoy, Oct. 22, 1921.
13 Compiled from E. Byrne Hackett papers, Yale University; “Byrne Hackett and His Bookshops“, The Publisher’s Weekly, Oct. 1, 1921, p.1182; “E. Byrne Hackett Dies In Hospital”, The Central New Jersey (New Brunswick) Home News, Nov. 11, 1953; and “Well Known Irishman’s Death in U.S.”, Irish Examiner, Nov. 18, 1953.
14 See Part 1 and Part 2 of my “Two Irish immigrant journalists return home, 1920” posts.
15 McCoy Papers, Correspondence B-Z, Folder 15. Hackett to McCoy, Undated.
16 ”The Brick Row at Princeton”, The Yale Alumni Weekly, Nov. 25, 1921, p. 250.
17 Degree from Note 9, quote from Note 11.
18 ”The Smiling Swordsman/Chapter 2” of “The Lads Who Freed Ireland”, Minneapolis (Minn.) Morning Tribune, Feb. 7, 1922, via United Features Syndicate.
19 The Opinions of AE“, The Century Magazine, Vol. 103, No. 1, November 1921, pgs. 3-9.
20 The Outlook for Literature“, The Century Magazine, Vol. 104, No. 6, October 1922, pgs. 811-181.
21 Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Ireland, Conflict With Great Britain, 1921, American Committee for Relief in Ireland, Box 6, Folder 1.
22 Stephen’s papers, MS 10408/26/1464, Trinity College Dublin, as relayed by July 16, 2022, email from Manuscripts & Archives Research Librarian Ellen O’Flaherty.

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.

The colorization of old Ireland

Life happens in color, but photographic documentation of it once occurred primarily in black and white. The limits of 19th and early 20th century monochrome technology prompted the simultaneous development of colorization techniques, which were applied to the original images of people, places, and events. Hand-tinted photochromes of Irish landscapes, an early tourism marketing tool, are a good example.

Advances in digital technology over the past few decades have enhanced and expanded the colorization of historic black and white photos and films, sparking debates about the manipulation of the original source material. Irish historian Diarmaid Ferriter wrote:

Whether colorizers spend minutes or hours working on a photo, there is an element of guesswork and computer programs and historical context can be uncomfortable bedfellows. The pictures that were taken at any moment in time were the pictures as the takers saw them; what those working with a 19th-century camera saw, in color, can be far from the same as what a colorized photograph becomes in the 21st century.[1]Colourisation undermines the essence of old photos“, The Irish Times, Oct. 29, 2021.

Children in Feothanach, Co. Kerry, 1946, from the National Folklore Collection.

These debate are unlikely to be settled soon, and I will not attempt to resolve them here. Engineer John Breslin and historian Sarah-Anne Buckley, who have collaborated on the books Old Ireland In Colour (2020) and Old Ireland in Colour 2 (2021)[2]Offered and provided to me by a representative of publisher Merrion Press, County Kildare. view their efforts “as part of the democratization of history, a tool to develop empathy and a connection with the past while the original photograph remains intact  … drawing attention to the existing collections as opposed to replacing them in any way.”[3]”Introduction” of Vol. 2 (‘democratization’) and Vol. 1 (‘drawing attention’).

The two Old Ireland volumes contain nearly 330 images, which range from just before the Great Famine to the outbreak of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The photos are arranged in broad categories “driven by public interest in the history of Ireland and the Irish–particularly the history of the Irish revolution, social and cultural history, gender history, the history of the Irish abroad, and images of Ireland’s beautiful landscapes and streetcapes,” the authors write.

Irish Travellers at Loughrea, Co. Galway, 1954. National Library of Ireland Collection. This image appears in Vol. 1.

Many of the black and white originals will be familiar to even casual students of Irish history: the General Post Office, Dublin, after the 1916 Rising; rifle-carrying anti-Treaty IRA men striding down Grafton Street in trench coats and fedoras; the battering ram brigades of Land War evictions; the RMS Titanic leaving Belfast; and famous figures such as ‘Jack’ Alcock and ‘Teddie’ Brown, Edward Carson, Michael Collins, James Connolly, Tom Crean, Éamon de Valera, John Devoy, Maud Gonne, Lady Gregory, ‘Mother’ Jones, James Joyce, John F. Kennedy, ‘Jim’ Larkin, Terence MacSwiney, Constance Markievicz, Charles Stewart Parnell, Peig Sayers, Oscar Wilde, and W.B. Yeats.

In an example of how easily errors are introduced to any historic work, the famous photo of de Valera and Devoy, joined by John W. Goff and Judge Daniel F. Cohalan at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, is incorrectly dated to March 1919 in Vol. 1. But Dev was still on the run from his month-earlier escape from Lincoln Prison. This hotel photo was taken in June 1919, within days of Dev’s arrival in America. Old Ireland sources the photo to the Library of Congress, which uses the incorrect date from Flickr Commons.

Colorization gives Dev a green tie, the neckware of the other three are hues of purple. Their suits remain dark and gray.

For me, the real magic of the Old Ireland books are the unfamiliar images of everyday Irish life, either populated by non-newsmakers, such as market scenes, or focused on the country’s natural beauty. I will not list favorites here, since I can’t reproduce them. The images invite viewers to linger and notice the details: shoeless children, absent power lines and automobiles, minimal commercial signage, the harmonious cohabitation of people and animals.

It’s worth remembering here that the French women Marguerite Mespoulet and Madeleine Mignon created the first color photographs of Ireland in May/June 1913. Their 73 autochromes suggest the Old Ireland collaborators have faithfully, if not flawlessly, recreated what century-ago photographers viewed in their cameras and captured in black and white.

Old Ireland in Colour are lovely gift books. If there is a Vol. 3, I’d love to see colorized images of Kerry’s famous Lartigue monorail, from the Lawrence Collection, National Library of Ireland, such as below. Buckley provides enough details to inspire further historical exploration … or a trip to Ireland. Because the true colors of Ireland are best seen in person.

The Lartigue monorail in Kerry opened on Leap Year Day in 1888. The line closed in 1924.

References

References
1 Colourisation undermines the essence of old photos“, The Irish Times, Oct. 29, 2021.
2 Offered and provided to me by a representative of publisher Merrion Press, County Kildare.
3 ”Introduction” of Vol. 2 (‘democratization’) and Vol. 1 (‘drawing attention’).

Fintan O’Toole’s ‘personal history’ of Ireland

Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole leverages his life experiences from the 50th anniversary of Ireland’s independence to its transformation “from backwater of Europe to one off the most globalized societies in the world” as “a different way of writing the history of a country.”

At a St. Patrick’s Day eve talk in Washington, D.C., to promote his new book, We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland, O’Toole said the Irish experienced “an existential crisis” during his mid-20th century youth. People were asking, “Is this place viable?” and “What does independence mean?”

Fintan O’Toole, March 16, 2022

Many answered the question with one-way tickets to England (The late oppressor, how ironic!), America, and elsewhere. Ireland’s population fell to half of what it had been 100 years earlier, before the Great Famine. The emigration, in turn, bolstered Ireland’s global identity as a conservative Catholic country. The church, O’Toole said, “governed lives and governed the state.”

Those who left, including a notable preponderance of single women, learned to nurture and manage diverse and even conflicting identities in their new homes. But they found themselves, “half there, half here” and suspended between versions of Ireland’s past and present. The Irish, O’Toole said, developed a profound capacity “for thinking one thing about themselves, and knowing it was something else.”

This concept is also reflected in the long-running “collusion” (O’Toole’s word, both joking and serious) between the Irish and Irish America. The Irish lied about themselves and their country to cover up painful truths; Americans agreed to believe the stories, which they weaved into an idealized nostalgia for a place “as unlike America as possible.”

Now, the Irish are staying home. Despite the economic setback of the “Celtic Tiger,” the country has grown progressive and prosperous. The Irish are comfortable (or becoming so) with “complex and multiple identities,” O’Toole said. They live in a world of grays, not only vivid greens … and orange. The “radical change” in Ireland, the author continued, is the Irish are learning this doesn’t make them “less Irish.”

O’Toole noted that demographers forecast Ireland’s population by 2040 will reach 8.5 million, the same as before the Famine. He concluded: “It’s quite an optimistic place to be.”

I’ve only begun reading this book, which is divided into 43 short chapters pegged to individual years or groups of years over the author’s lifetime. O’Toole and I are roughly contemporaries. He was born in suburban Dublin in February 1958, 18 months before my birth in suburban Pittsburgh. He was eight at the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising and subsequent commemorations of Ireland’s revolutionary period, soon overshadowed by the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I was six at the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War and subsequent civil rights turmoil; 17 when America celebrated its bicentennial in 1976.

Every country has national foundation myths and internal strife.

So I am very interested in O’Toole’s “personal history” as vehicle for “the history of a country.” As fellow Dublin writer Colum McCann writes in his New York Times review of the book, “it is not a memoir, nor is it an absolute history, nor is it entirely a personal reflection or a crepuscular credo. It is, in fact, all of these things helixed together: his life, his country, his thoughts, his misgivings, his anger, his pride, his doubt, all of them belonging, eventually, to us.”

I will write more in a future post.

Catching up with modern Ireland

A periodic post of curated content …

Northern Ireland Assembly election are scheduled for May 5. The DUP’s Paul Givan resigned in early February as the power-sharing Executive’s first minister to protest the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Brexit-driven trade rules that separate the region from the rest of Britain. Givan’s move resulted in Sinn Féin‘s Michelle O’Neill losing her role as deputy first minister and cast doubt on whether the Executive, or the Assembly, could return after the election … if it takes place. The New York Times featured Upheaval in Northern Ireland, With Brexit at Its Center.

  • Ireland is repealing nearly all of its COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches its second anniversary. Overall, Ireland did pretty well dealing with the pandemic when compared with how other countries responded, Irish Times Public Affairs Editor Simon Carswell told the Feb. 27 In The News podcast.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden will travel to Ireland this summer, according to media reports that surfaced before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He visited his ancestral County Mayo homeland as vice president in 2016 and 2017.
  • Claire D. Cronin presented her credentials as United States Ambassador to Ireland to President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins on Feb. 10. Cronin is 25th U.S. ambassador to Ireland and third woman in the role, following Margaret Heckler and Jean Kennedy Smith.

Higgins, left, and Cronin.

History notes:

  • Two former nuns created a “Coastal Camino” that is bringing travelers to an otherwise neglected part of Northern Ireland, reports BBC’s Travel section.
  • Seventh century Irish monks who were largely responsible for transforming this sacrament into the version with which we’re familiar, John Rodden writes in Commonweal.
  • My story on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday for History News Network at George Washington University.

See previous “Catching up with modern Ireland” columns and annual “Best of the Blog.”

Presentation thank you & suggested reading

My thanks to the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh for the opportunity to make my Feb. 17 presentation, “The Irish Revolution in Pittsburgh.” If you couldn’t attend, watch the recorded version, which should be posted within the next few days.

As promised to live attendees, here is some suggested Irish reading that will keep you busy up to St. Patrick’s Day … and beyond:

Irish Pittsburgh:

  • His Last Trip: An Irish American Story, by Mark Holan, 2014. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh called my book “a fascinating snapshot of one family’s Irish-American experience and how their lives were shaped by circumstances here and in Ireland.” Available at CLP and the Heinz History Center.
  • Irish Pittsburgh, by Patricia McElligott, 2013. Part of the Arcadia Publishing series about people and places, mostly photos and captions.
  • Pittsburgh Irish: Erin on the Three Rivers, by Gerard F. O’Neil, 2015. A more detailed general history.
  • “Across ‘The Big Wather,’ The Irish Catholic Community of Mid-Nineteenth Century Pittsburgh”, by Victor A. Walsh in The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, Vol. 66, No. 1, January 1983.
  • “A Fanatic Heart: The Cause of Irish-American Nationalism in Pittsburgh During the Gilded Age,” by Victor A. Walsh in Journal of Social History, Vol. 15, No. 2, Winter 1981.

General histories:

  • How The Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall
    of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, by Thomas Cahill, 1995. A bestseller and good
    foundation for subsequent events.
  • Ireland before the Famine, 1798-1848, by Gearoid O Tuathaigh
  • The Depictions of Eviction in Ireland: 1845-1910, by Lewis Perry Curtis, 2011. The late American historian gives an overview of how land-related hardships in rural Ireland during the second half of the 19th century set the stage for the nationalist revolution in the early 20th century.
  • The Modernisation of Irish Society, 1848-1918, by John Joseph Lee
  • The Transformation of Ireland: 1900-2000, by Diarmaid Ferriter, 2004. At 884 pages,
    this book may be more than you want, but it’s surprisingly readable, in part because it is carved up into bite-size subsections. Ferriter is probably Ireland’s most recognized
    contemporary historian. He writes a regular column in The Irish Times.
  • Peace After the Final Battle, 1912-1924, by John Dorney, 2014. The heart of the Irish
    revolutionary period.
  • Irish Rebel: John Devoy and America’s Fight For Ireland’s Freedom, by Terry Golway,
    1999. Devoy’s life and this book stretch from the Famine to the revolutionary period, including the role of the Irish in America. This “popular history” is a fast read.
  • Living With History: Occasional Writings, by Felix M. Larkin. The Dublin historian offers nearly 100 pieces, ranging from 500 to 5,000 words; sectioned under nine themes, including one on American people and events. Written for general audiences.

The Troubles:

It’s said that more books have been written about The Troubles than any other conflict. Maybe.
This go-to database contains more than 22,000 entries.

  • Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by
    Patrick Radden Keefe, 2018. A vivid, street-level view of the viciousness and brutality of the
    Catholic v. Protestant and Irish v. British conflict as told through the particulars of one notorious case. The title is from a 1975 Seamus Heaney poem about the conflict: “Whatever You Say, Say Nothing.”
  • Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland, by David McKittrick and David McVea, 2002.

Journalism & travel:

  • Christendom in Dublin, by G. K. Chesterton, 1932. The English writer and Catholic
    convert attended the June 1932 Eucharist Congress in Dublin, which drew an international crowd of about 1 million to the Irish capital a decade after the revolution. Arguably the peak of “Catholic Ireland.” One-sitting essay.
  • Irish Journalism Before Independence: More a Disease Than a Profession, Kevin
    Rafter, editor, 2011. (The subtitle comes from the Dublin Evening Mail, 1908.) Academic
    essays about 19th and early 20th century Irish reporters and reporting.
  • Politics, Culture, and The Irish American Press 1784-1963, Debra Reddin van Tuyll, Mark O’Brien, and Marcel Broersma, editors, 2021. Collection of 15 pieces “tell a number of important stories and provides invaluable insights about journalism, about Ireland, about America, and about the ethnicity of the Irish in America,” Irish Ambassador to the United States Dan Mulhall wrote in the Forward.
  • On Celtic Tides: One Man’s Journey Around Ireland by Sea Kayak, by Chis Duff, 1999;
    and The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland’s Border, by Garrett Carr, 2017. Social,
    political, and environmental journalism.
  • See Travellers’ Accounts as Source-Material for Irish Historians, by Christopher J. Woods, 2009, and The Tourist’s Gaze, Travellers to Ireland, 1800 to 2000, edited by Glen Hooper, 2001, for further reading ideas.

Poetry & literature:

  • Any collection of poems by William Butler Yeats or Seamus Heaney.
  • Dubliners (1914 short stories) and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916 novel) by James Joyce. The Irish capital at the turn of the 20th century.
  • Trinity, by Leon Uris, 1976. A hugely-popular best seller and an early influence on my interests in Irish history. Covers the period from the 1880s up to the 1916 Rising.
  • Transatlantic, by Colum McCann, 2013. Based on three historical events: Frederick
    Douglass’s 1845-46 lecture tour in Ireland; Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown’s 1919 flight
    across the ocean from Newfoundland to Ireland; and U.S. Sen. George Mitchell’s role in
    brokering the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
  • Short Stories of John B. Keane or The Teapots Are Out and Other Eccentric Tales
    From Ireland, or similar collections by the late essayist and playwright affectionately
    known as “John B”. A distant relation from the same corner of County Kerry as both of
    my maternal grandparents and other Irish relations. The dialogue in his short stories and plays perfectly captures their cadence and wit, which I still hear when visiting my living relations in this part of Ireland. More 20th century folklore and folkways, than history.

The North Kerry coast, July 2016.

James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ at 100

UPDATE:

ORIGINAL POST:

James Joyce’s Ulysses was published in Paris on Feb. 2, 1922. A new book by Dan Mulhall, Ireland’s ambassador to the United States , is among numerous international commemorations of the centenary. The 324-page Ulysses: A Reader’s Odyssey is “a turning of the sod rather than a full excavation” of Joyce’s masterpiece, the ambassador said during a Jan. 31 Irish Network-D.C. virtual event. “You could dig forever and ever and never get to the bottom of it. …

… if there is a bottom,” he later qualified.

James Joyce

Ulysses famously chronicles one day–June 16, 1904–in the life of Dubliner Leopold Bloom. Mulhall described the date as “the cusp of Irish history,” roughly halfway between the 1891 downfall and death of Irish parliamentary leader Charles Stewart Parnell, and the revolutionary period of the 1916 Easter Rising. A year after Ulysses was published, W. B Yeats called this period the “long gestation” of a “disillusioned and embittered Ireland.”[1]Irish poet William Butler Yeats. “The Nobel Prize in Literature 1923“.

Parts of Ulysses were serialized from 1918 to 1920 in The Little Review, an American literary journal. This resulted in a 1921 obscenity trial, which effectively banned the book in the United States for another decade. Joyce continued to revise the manuscript to within two days of publication, which happened to be his 40th birthday.

The publisher was Sylvia Beach, an American who had just opened Shakespeare and Company, an English-language bookshop in Paris. The print run of 1,000 included 750 numbered editions, some copies of which today sell for more than $70,000.

Press coverage and reviews of the Paris edition of Ulysses appeared in America by spring 1922. Dr. Joseph Collins, a prominent New York neurologist and author, reviewed the book for The New York Times under the headline “James Joyce’s Amazing Chronicle.” His opening sentence:

A few intuitive, sensitive visionaries may understand and comprehend ‘Ulysses,’ James Joyce’s new and mammoth volume, without going through a course of training or instruction, but the average intelligent reader will glean little or nothing from it — even from careful perusal, one might properly say study, of it — save bewilderment and a sense of disgust.

This was not an indictment, the Times reported 94 years later. Dr. Collins was simply acknowledging that the book was tough going. He was unequivocal when he got to his opinion of the work: “‘Ulysses’ is the most important contribution that has been made to fictional literature in the twentieth century.”

I began reading the book years ago but was unable to finish. I felt chastened by Mulhall’s comment: “You have to be willing to put in the effort. It’s like learning a difficult language, the more you put in the more get out.” My high school French teacher would surely agree.

As noted by his publisher, Mulhall has written and lectured around the world about Irish literature in general and Joyce in particular. He “has worked tirelessly throughout his career to further the impact and reach of Irish writing.”

The Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland and Centre Culturel Irlandais are also presenting a celebration across Ireland and Europe through June. Ulysses Journey 2022 includes the simultaneous world premieres of six newly commissioned music and film works. And come June 16,  “Bloomsday” events worldwide will again celebrate the book and Irish culture.

References

References
1 Irish poet William Butler Yeats. “The Nobel Prize in Literature 1923“.