Category Archives: Business & Environment

Letter describes ‘extraordinarily beautiful’ Achill Island in summer 1923

(This post marks our 12th blogiversary. Thanks for your support. I’m away until September. MH)

Chester A. Arthur III, grandson of the late 19th century U.S. president, and his wife, Charlotte, lived in Ireland for several years beginning in 1922.[1]The couple married in June 1922 in England, then honeymooned and settled in Ireland. The also traveled to other parts of Europe and back to the United States. Chester was bisexual, including affairs … Continue reading Chester supported anti-treaty republicans in the Irish Civil War. He wrote letters to the editor and longer pieces about Ireland for U.S. newspapers.

The American couple befriended Irish nationalists Darryl and Millie Figgis. The Irish couple in 1913 had bought a small house and some land at Pullagh, Achill Island, in County Mayo, a place to escape the noise and grime of Dublin. That became more true during the ensuing decade of revolutionary violence. The Arthurs arrived as the Figgis’ guests in July 1923. Chester, then 22, described their “cozy little cottage by the broad Atlantic” in a letter to his mother.[2]From the large collection of Arthur family papers at the Library of Congress.

Lightly edited selections of his descriptions begin below the photo:

Achillbeg, Achill Island                                                                                                                                         Fáilte Ireland

“Although there is not a tree within miles, the huge cliffs, the golden beach, the heather purple hills and the turquoise green sea make this place one of the most extraordinarily beautiful I have ever seen. And here of course is the real Gaeltacht, the real Ireland unanglicized and pagan. Each family builds and repairs their own stone whitewashed walls and their own barley thatch. They are self-supporting, their clothes are hand-made from the sheep’s back to their own; they cure their own hams, grind their own oatmeal, brew their own poteen, and catch and dry their own fish.

“Irish of course is the language spoken and sung in plaintive harmony. The men wear short white jackets and big black hats; sometimes the sweater underneath is blue and sometimes burned orange (both dyes are taken from the sea). Their trousers are of the thick homespun which in England is only worn by gentlemen. The women sit behind them sidewise on the horse’s rump when they go to Mass. Their skirts are usually brilliant red, their bodices either green, blue or purple; the shawls over their heads are always black. They have very wide high cheekbones, rather delicately chiseled straight noses, and straight black or red hair. Their long eyes are almost always very beautiful, every color that the sea takes on incites moods. If they do not know you they are very shy, but after the ice is broken, they prove very witty and amusing.

“A cèilidh[3]A social gathering with singing, dancing, and storytelling. was gotten up in our honor. The Figgis’ are very popular here. Almost the whole village crowds into a small cabin and after a few songs the four most enterprising young men get out in the middle and beckon the four belles for the square dance. They clog and whirl themselves a space in the crowd, which packs up against the walls. The room gets very hot, the clean healthy sweat from the dancers fill the air with a primitive very stimulating aroma. Eyes begin to gleam; queer little stifled cries burst from the boys as they stomp and whirl around and around their partners, who turn and turn and command respect with their eyes, yet invite and call with every essence of their bodies. And all the time the fiddle is scraping away music thousands of years old, rhythm inconceivably quick and throbbing, yet in minor key, and with a queer bagpipe drone making almost a syncopation of discord; the very heart of the stranger beats in time to the little lame boy’s fiddling.

“Now as I write, I gaze out of the little deep set window across the boggy headland, where the old women are gathering peat, across the sea, which like a great cruel gray cat lies between the violet mountains, and purrs as its sleep. The wind is keening the drowned fishermen whom the grey cat has struck with his claws. And every now and then the wind dies down, in a flash of sunshine, the cat opens his long green eyes and looks at me; but always dozes off to sleep again.

“The wind is never still here. Sometimes it only moans and cries a drone to the seagulls’ piping; but then at other times it rises with the force of a hundred djinns (In Arabian and Muslim mythology, an intelligent spirit of lower rank than the angels) and carries away the roof of the houses however securely they are tied it to the imp-headed beams sticking out from the walls near the top. And then the people pray, some to God the Father, and some to Manannán,[4]Celtic sea god. and some to both—it is all the same, for they will have in any case to rob the cow of her barley straw, and weave a new thatch, and try some new device to keep it on. But sometimes the winds work under the slates of the new British built houses, and slates go flying over the bog and over the grey cliffs into the sea; then what glee among the natives that the newfangled roofs are really no better than the roof their fathers taught them to make, only when they do fly off  they cost twice as much and take twice as long to repair. …

“A fisherman was drowned the other day. The sea was dragged with grappling hooks, prayers were offered up for the recovery of the body for burial in holy ground. All Christian means having failed, the dead man’s coat was sent for. After it had been blessed by the priest, an incantation was whispered over it preserved from Druid days, and then it was taken out and thrown into the sea. The swift current bore it along until suddenly it seemed to resist the force of the current and rested still. The sea was dragged and just under the coat the man’s body was found, and great thanks were given up to God.

“… The lad[5]Presumably, D. Figgis. and I go on expeditions up the mountains and fishing on the sea. We swim twice a day, so we don’t care that there are no bathtubs. Charlotte and Mrs. Figgis accompany us whenever they can and keep each other company except at mealtime when they marvel at the quantity we eat. No life could be healthier than this, certainly. We are so tired at ten o’clock that we go to bed and right to sleep though it is still very light.

“I am certainly going to have a cottage on this wild west coast of Ireland to which I can go in retreat from the roiling of the great world. Everything here is primitive and oh so restful and refreshing after New York and Dublin. Real communism exists as a matter of course here, for the people love each other. Love and hard work and a close touch with nature, what more ennobling can be found in life?”

Not long after their visit to Achill Island, Chester and Charlotte Arthur witnessed the August 1923 arrest of Éamon de Valera at a campaign event at Ennis, County Clare. Within the next two years Millie and Darryl Figgis each committed suicide. The Arthurs divorced in 1932.

Keem Beach, Achill Island.                                                                                                                                  Fáilte Ireland


1 The couple married in June 1922 in England, then honeymooned and settled in Ireland. The also traveled to other parts of Europe and back to the United States. Chester was bisexual, including affairs with Irish republicans. See Maurice J. Casey’s, “A Queer Migrant in the Irish Civil War.”
2 From the large collection of Arthur family papers at the Library of Congress.
3 A social gathering with singing, dancing, and storytelling.
4 Celtic sea god.
5 Presumably, D. Figgis.

On recognition & partition: Ireland, Israel, & Palestine

Ireland’s decision to recognize Palestinian statehood has gravely disrupted diplomatic relations between Ireland and Israel. The latter condemned the gesture as “a reward for terrorism” perpetrated by Hamas in October and withdrew its ambassador from Dublin.

On May 22, Irish Taoiseach Simon Harris said:

“On the 21st of January 1919 Ireland asked the world to recognize our right to be an independent State. Our ‘Message to the Free Nations of the World’ was a plea for international recognition of our independence, emphasizing our distinct national identity, our historical struggle, and our right to self-determination and justice. Today we use the same language to support the recognition of Palestine as a State.” Read his full statement, which also condemns the Hamas attack and supports the Israeli state.

The recognition has generated a new round of media stories about why the Irish identify so strongly with the Palestinians. Such reports began long before the civilian death toll in Gaza from Israeli military strikes surpassed the number of victims from the Hamas incursion into Israel.

Palestinian flag

Fourteen months before that attack, Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab wrote a piece headlined “Comparing the Palestinian and Irish-Catholic Struggles.” In each case, he wrote, “a powerful force oppressed local indigenous populations in a clearly racist and paternalistic fashion.” He also details their differences with today’s Northern Ireland.

Kuttab noted that U.S. President Joe Biden, during a July 2022 speech in East Jerusalem, compared the Irish-Catholic struggle against Great Britain to the Palestinians against Israel. But the journalist questioned whether Biden, a strong supporter of Israel, is capable of “real and actionable policies related to Israel and the Palestinians.” The Biden administration has criticized Ireland’s recognition of Palestine, which was joined by Spain and Norway. But Ireland enjoys far more attention and goodwill from the U.S. government than the other two European nations.

In late May, a headline in the Jesuit magazine, America, declared, “Ireland recognizes Palestinian statehood: Why many Irish people resonate with the conflict in Palestine.”

Notice for Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign protest against U.S. weapons to Israel being shipped through Ireland. The bill has been delayed.

The piece quotes an Irish documentary filmmaker who says the Irish have a deep cultural memory of British rule and know what being colonized by a stronger neighbor is like more than most nations. The filmmaker has documented the efforts of peace activists to prevent the U.S. military from using Shannon airport in the west of Ireland as a refueling stopover for its Middle East adventurism, including arms shipments to Israel.

Catherine Connolly, an independent member of the Irish parliament, raised the Shannon issue in a May 23 interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Connolly rejected the suggestion that Ireland’s recognition of Palestine is a prize for terrorism. “This is a step for peace,” she said.

Partition plans

The sectarian and territorial conflicts between the Palestinians and the Israelis parallel those between nationalists and unionists, Catholics and Protestants, in the north of Ireland, as detailed by M.C. Rast at History Today.

Ireland and Palestine: United by Partition?” recounts how British officials in late 1930s planned to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states in much the same way they had divided Ireland along sectarian lines nearly two decades earlier. A British report suggested “the gulf between Arabs and Jews in Palestine is wider than that which separates Northern Ireland from the Irish Free State.”

Rast also quotes Dublin’s Irish Independent newspaper as saying: “Partition is the Englishman’s favorite way out of a difficulty. But it is in itself a confession of failure.”

Economic impact

The economic impact of Ireland’s recognition of Palestine is beginning to take shape. Israel’s national airlines announced it will not renew direct flights to Dublin, which were only launched last year. Irish officials have said its €15 billion sovereign investment fund would divest from six Israeli companies, the Irish Times reported.

Israeli flag

Israel’s trade deficit with Ireland was €4 billion in 2022. Israeli imports totaled €5 billion, seventh largest among trading partners, but less than a quarter of the U.K.-leading €29 billion and U.S. second-place €22 billion.

Just under 600 Israelis lived in Ireland in 2022, according to the Central Statistics Office. The same census return does not indicate the number of Palestinians, while 2016 data showed fewer than 200 Palestinians. There were fewer than 3,000 Jews living in Ireland in 2016 compared to more than 63,000 Muslims. These figures do not include Northern Ireland.

For more on how activists in Ireland are responding to the recognition, visit the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Ireland Israel Alliance.

A guide to celebrated, touristy Killarney in 1865

One of my sisters, an inveterate antique store browser, occasionally sends me 19th and early 20th century books that she discovers during her explorations. Her most recent gift is a copy of Black’s Guide to Killarney and the South of Ireland, from 1865.

The 1865 edition.

Nineteenth century travel guide books developed with a simultaneous expansion of the tourist industry. Victorian era travelers were looking for sublime encounters with nature and ancient history. Comprehensive guides replaced the earlier travel narratives of individuals or groups who described only their specific journeys. The new books had “a more streamlined look, with well-indexed sections that made it easy to flip to a certain area of interest and a more compact shape.”[1]See “Guidebooks and the Tourist Industry” in Villanova University’s “Rambles, Sketches, Tours, Travellers & Tourism in Ireland.

Black’s Guides were published by the Adam and Charles Black firm of Edinburgh, Scotland  (later London) from 1839 to 1919. They competed in the British Isles with similar series from Baedeker’s, Ward Lock, and Francis Guy’s. These guides are a great resource for historians.

The gifted 1865 edition of Black’s Guide to Killarney circulated 15 years after the devastation of the Great Famine. Work was just beginning to lay the first transatlantic telegraph cable from Valentia Island, Kerry, about 45 miles west of Killarney. The U.S. Civil War ended after claiming the lives of many Irish immigrant soldiers. Suppression of the Irish People newspaper began a nationalist agitation that two years later resulted in the failed Fenian Rising.

The guide opens with a 21-page summary of “interesting objects” to view from either side of three Great Southern and Western Railroad routes through the region. Key mile markers are provided on the lines from Dublin to Cork, through Kildare, Queen’s County (renamed Laois in 1922), Tipperary, County Limerick, and County Cork; from Kildare to Waterford, through Carlow and Kilkenny; and from Limerick Junction to Tipperary, Clonmel, Carrick-On-Suir, and Waterford. The next 86 pages contain more detailed descriptions of these natural and built landmarks. The last 32 pages is a “Catalogue of Books,” which sells additional guides, maps, and atlases, as well as the 21-volume Encyclopedia Britannica and a collection of Sir Walter Scott’s works. The Killarney book also features a foldout “Chart of the Lakes of Killarney and Surrounding Country” (below), two-page “Plan of Cork” city, and an illustration of the Killarney lakes (below).

Lakes of Killarney illustration in 1865 Black’s Guide of the region.

Similar view from my March 2023 visit.

Regional map from the 1865 guide. (The right edge has been cropped out due to tears.)

Of Killarney’s natural landmarks, Black’s stated:

From the over-strained laudation, and the multitude of paintings and engravings that have been produced of these justly celebrated lakes, the tourist is apt to form too high an estimate of their beauty. There can be do doubt, however, that the rocks that bound the shores of Muckross and the Lower Lake, with their harmonious tints and luxuriant decoration of foliage, stand unrivaled, both in form and coloring; and the character of the mountains is as grand and varied as the lakes in which they reflect their rugged summits.

A framed photo of my wife standing on the same rocky shores of Muckross graces a corner of my writing desk, herself looking even more lovely than the surrounding scenery. But Black’s was less charitable about Killarney’s built environment and denizens, which it described as “certainly not the cleanest town in the world, and it has the misfortune to be filled with beggars, touters, guides and other annoyances.” German journalist Richard Arnold Bermann made similar observations during his 1913 visit.[2]See my post, “Welcoming American tourists to Ireland, 1913-2021.” As if dirt and mendicants were absent in London and other destinations.

In 1865, Black’s also offered a comprehensive, island-wide guide to Ireland, and three other regional titles:

  • Belfast and Giant’s Causeway
  • Dublin
  • Galway, Connemara, and the Shannon

Several editions of these books from the 1870s to 1912 have been digitized by HathiTrust. Antique book sellers offer Black’s guides in very good condition at prices approaching $100; while print-on-demand copies are available for much less. Other guide series are also available.

Years ago one of my Irish relations spoke a memorable line that my wife and I still quote in our travel-related discussions: “Why would you want to be anywhere in the world but Killarney in May?”


1 See “Guidebooks and the Tourist Industry” in Villanova University’s “Rambles, Sketches, Tours, Travellers & Tourism in Ireland.
2 See my post, “Welcoming American tourists to Ireland, 1913-2021.”

Catching up with modern Ireland

March was a newsy month for Ireland, including the failed constitutional referendum, a sour St. Patrick’s Day visit to the White House, and the shock resignation of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Here’s some coverage and commentary that has caught my attention:

Varadkar resignation, Harris ascension, Donaldson resignation


The messiah complex: Neither Leo Varadkar, nor anyone else, could be a ‘savior’ of Fine Gael, Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times (Ireland)

“He was able, articulate and – in the twin crises of Brexit and the Covid pandemic – reassuringly adept. But his great talent was for riding out contradictions, not for resolving them. He managed to walk the line between politician and anti-politician, conservative instincts and an increasingly progressive society. …”

Update 1: The governing Fine Gael has selected Simon Harris as its new leader. There was no opposition to him within the party. At 37, he is set to become Ireland’s youngest taoiseach on April 9; a year younger than Varadkar when he took the job in June 2017. Some are already calling Harris the “TikTok Taoiseach.”

Harris was first elected to the Dáil in 2011 and managed Ireland’s COVID-19 response as minister for education, research and science. He has dismissed calls for a general election before the scheduled contest in March 2025.

Update 2: Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, abruptly resigned March 29 after being charged with sexual offenses. Leaders of the Northern Ireland say the development will not impact the power-sharing government, but it has rocked Irish and British politics.

Reverse reads on referendum result

Ireland’s Snakes of Secularization“, National Catholic Register (USA)

There is a very understandable desire among the faithful in Ireland — and elsewhere — to interpret this month’s rejection by Irish voters of a pair of “woke” constitutional amendments as a decisive Catholic inflection point. According to this narrative, the unexpected and overwhelming rejection of these amendments represents a watershed moment in terms of reversing the tide of secularization that has washed over Irish society in recent decades. Unfortunately, that’s probably untrue. … The hostility of voters toward the progressive inanities expressed by both amendments can’t be taken as a sign that secularism is now generally on the wane in Ireland — or that a concomitant rebirth of Catholic faith is broadly underway.

Ireland and the terrible truth about wokeness“, Spiked (England)

Ireland has become hyper-woke. Its elites are fully converted to the gender cult. They promote the ruthless policing of ‘hate speech’, which really means dissent. They damn as ‘far right’ anyone who raises a peep of criticism about immigration. Their culture war on the past is relentless. Woke is the state religion of Ireland now. And if you thought Catholic Ireland was sexist, irrational and illiberal, just wait until you see what wokeness unleashes. … The irony is too much: in ostentatiously distancing themselves from bad old religious Ireland, the elites have created a system of neo-religious dogmas that makes the Catholic era seem positively progressive in comparison.

Green (and blue) at the White House


Can the Irish Get Biden to Change His Policies on Gaza?, New York (USA)

Many of the actual Irish — the ones who came over from Éire for this annual celebration of the shamrock diaspora — spent the afternoon trying to talk sense to Biden over his Gaza policies, and his confounding (to them) support of Israel’s relentless military response to Hamas. … The Irish have a long-held kinship with the Palestinians. They see parallels between their struggle against Israel and the Irish struggle against British rule. They see in the famine that is gripping Gaza today a tragic echo of their own. This has been true for decades, but never more so than now. … So just beneath all the stout suds, these were the fault lines on display at Biden’s St. Patrick’s Day party this year: his assumption that the Irish were his friends and that so were the Israelis. But it’s no longer so easy to be both.

Three more stories:

  • Britain is appealing a ruling against its Legacy Act, which gives amnesty to ex-soldiers and militants involved in Northern Ireland’s “Troubles.” Victims’ families have challenged the law, and a Belfast court in February ruled it breached human rights. The Irish government is separately contesting the law before the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Rose Dugdale, who left a life of wealth to become a partisan activist fighting for Irish independence in the 1970s, died in Dublin, aged 82.
  • The Central Statistics Office launched the Women and Men in Ireland Hub, ” which features data from the CSO and other public sources broken down into six main themes: Gender Equality, Work, Education, Health, Safety & Security and Transport.

The Lartigue monorail’s 1888 opening–illustrated

In about the same time that it takes to read this sentence, I could take a photo (or short video) by tapping my smart phone, upload the image and a few words of description to any of several social media platforms, and publish the content for viewing on a similar device or computer nearly anyplace in the world. Just … like … that.

Images and words did not move as quickly on Leap Year Day 1888, when the Listowel & Ballybunion Railway opened between the two County Kerry towns. The 9.5-mile, elevated single-track system–a monorail–came to be known by the surname of its inventor, Charles Lartigue. It would operate through October 1924.

It took a month for illustrations and descriptions of the Lartigue to reach U.S. newspaper readers in 1888. The words and images appeared from late March until June, often edited to say the service opened “a few days ago,” but occasionally citing the unusual Feb. 29 date.

The three-image display above is from the April 7, 1888, issue of The Daily American, Nashville, Tennessee. The images first appeared March 10, 1888, in the The Illustrated London News[1]Image on page 246; story on previous page.

An accompanying story in the Tennessee paper was attributed to the London Standard. A different story, most likely from another British paper, appeared in the Chicago Tribune, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Indianapolis (Indiana) Journal, Savannah (Georgia) Morning News, Sunday News-Leader of Wilkes-Berra, Pennsylvania, among other U.S. papers. The content in a few cases was attributed the New York Graphic.[2]The New York Graphic most likely was The Daily Graphic: An Illustrated Evening Newspaper, published from 1873 to 1889. It should not to be confused with the New York Evening Graphic, published from … Continue reading

Several U.S. papers published the signalman image (above, bottom right), typically cropped in a single column square. A similar-sized illustration of the Lartigue’s twin-boiler steam locomotive and pannier-style passenger carriages also appears in the displays of several papers. It is enlarged below for easier viewing.

This “railway and train” image was not from The Illustrated London News. Other illustrations of the Lartigue circulated in popular periodicals until black and white photographs of the monorail became widely available before the end of the century. The British Strand magazine featured eight photos with an 1898 story written by William Shortis, the Ballybunion station manager. Robert French of the William Lawrence studios in Dublin photographed the line, though the precise date of his assignment to Kerry is unclear.

Black and white moving images of the Lartigue were captured by the British Pathé newsreel company. Its “Along the Line” film is inexplicably dated to 1931–seven years after the monorail was discontinued and scrapped. I’ll have more on the Lartigue closing in October.

As I’ve written earlier, the quirky Lartigue provides a perfect movie opportunity for the eccentric styles of film directors Wes Anderson or the Coen brothers.

This illustration is taken from the Lartigue Museum in Listowel, Kerry. Date and original source unknown.


1 Image on page 246; story on previous page.
2 The New York Graphic most likely was The Daily Graphic: An Illustrated Evening Newspaper, published from 1873 to 1889. It should not to be confused with the New York Evening Graphic, published from 1924 to 1932, or a London weekly published under several variations of the Graphic banner from 1869 until the 1930s.

Photo essay: 50 years of Ireland in the European Union

Ireland this year marks 50 years of membership in the European Union. The short video below explains the history and how Ireland’s membership has helped the country’s development. Below the video are several images from my current visit to Brussels, including a stop at the Parlamentarium, a multi-language, multi-media museum at the E.U. headquarters.

Ireland at the heart of Brussels

Multi-media display of Ireland’s 13 MEPs at the Parlamentarian, the EU museum and visitor center. See them all from this link.

The museum declares James Joyce is “one of Europe’s best-known writers.” He lived in Dublin, Paris, Zurich, Rome, and Trieste, Italy.

Sign outside the Embassy of Ireland in Brussels, unofficial capital of the E.U., is written in Irish, English, French, and Dutch.

Kilkenny Limestone has supplied Irish blue limestone for street and sidewalk projects in central Brussels since 2019. This work site is outside the newly renovated Bourse, the former Brussels Stock Exchange, circa 1873.

Of course, there’s an Irish pub in nearly every major (and minor) city. This is one of several in Brussels.

Catching up with modern Ireland

As we begin the final quarter of 2023, here’s another of my periodic roundups of external stories about contemporary Ireland and Northern Ireland. Enjoy:

  • The DUP is expected to publish its response to new British/E.U. rules intended to smooth the impact of Brexit in Northern Ireland. This is just ahead of the party’s Oct. 13-14 annual conference. That makes October a make-or-break month for reviving the collapsed Northern Ireland Assembly, veteran correspondent Shawn Pogatchnik writes at The DUP walked out of the North’s power-sharing executive 18 months ago.
  • The British Parliament passed the Legacy and Reconciliation Bill, which will stop most prosecutions for killings by militant groups and British soldiers during the Troubles. The move has united opposition from Northern Ireland’s major political parties, Catholic and Protestant churches, human rights organizations and the United Nations, the Associated Press reports.
  • The Republic of Ireland has a massive budget surplus, thanks to a boom in tax revenue from multinational companies. Whatever Dublin lawmakers decide to do with the money, “someone will be unhappy,” says The New York Times.
  • About 200 right-wing protestors harassed and threatened politicians, government staff, and journalists outside Leinster House, the country’s legislative home. “The crowd was apparently united not so much by a cause – their messages included Covid conspiracy theories, anti-immigration messages and attacks on transgender rights – as by a willingness to use aggression in a bid to shut down the heart of Ireland’s democracy,” The Guardian reported.
  • It remains unclear whether a referendum on general equality in the republic will take place in November, as promised. The government has not released the ballot language and suggested the vote might be delayed. A citizens assembly has recommended replacing existing language in the Irish constitution that states a woman’s “life within the home.”
  • U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs Joseph P. Kennedy, III, will host an Oct. 24-26 business conference. A U.S. delegation will join Northern Irish business leaders who have “started or grown” operations during the 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement.
  • Luke Gibbons, one of Ireland’s most profound if idiosyncratic cultural critics, seeks to bring Ireland’s early 20th century political and cultural revolutions into the same framework in an important new book, James Joyce and the Irish Revolution: The Easter Rising as Modern Event, Adam Coleman writes at Jocobin magazine.
  • The Notre Dame University “Fighting Irish” football team defeated the U.S. Naval Academy team 42-3 in late August at the Aer Lingus College Football Classic. The sold-out game at Aviva Stadium included nearly 40,000 fans who traveled directly from the U.S., according to media reports.
  • A group of 10 American travel professionals visited Ireland in late September to develop new luxury travel itineraries for their clients, according to Irish tourism officials.
  • The Central Statistics Office continues to release detailed data profiles from the republic’s April 2022 census. Here are some of the latest highlights:CSO graphic.

Arthur Gleason’s ‘inside’ reporting of post-Rising Ireland

(This post continues my exploration of how American journalists covered the Irish revolution. Visit the project landing page to access earlier work and resources. MH)

The United States’ April 1917 entry into the First World War had two immediate impacts on Ireland: increased scrutiny of Irish American efforts to support the revolution in ally Britain’s backyard, first exposed a year earlier during the Easter Rising; and more American newspaper correspondents based in London to cover the arrival and battlefield engagements of U.S. troops on the continent. In addition to their eastward journeys across the English Channel from Dover to Calais, these reporters also travelled westward across the Irish Sea, usually boarding the overnight mail boats from Holyhead to Dublin.

Arthur H. Gleason, date unknown

Arthur H. Gleason was among the first American journalists to assess post-Rising Irish nationalism within the British Empire. Born in 1878 in Newark, N.J., he graduated from Yale University in 1901 and joined the New York Tribune as a reporter. For 10 years from 1903 Gleason worked as a writer and editor at Cosmopolitan, Country Life in America, and Collier’s Weekly magazines. At the outbreak of the war in 1914, he joined the Red Cross and served with the Hector Munro Ambulance Corps in Belgium. Gleason was briefly captured by the Germans, but managed to escape and report his observations of the front lines, including several popular books about the war, notably Golden Lads, co-written with his wife.[1]“Arthur Gleason papers, 1863-1931”, MSS18382, Library of Congress, and multiple newspaper obituaries.

Gleason rejoined the Tribune in 1916 as a European correspondent as U.S. entry into the war became inevitable. Arthur Draper, another of the paper’s London correspondents, had covered the Rising in Dublin. He was “an outspoken proponent of including interpretation in foreign news reports,” rather than the just-the-facts presentation of the wire services.[2]Gerald L. Fetner (2017) Modern Foreign Correspondents after World War I: The New York Evening Post‘s David Lawrence and Simeon Strunsky, American Journalism, 34:3, pp. 313-332. Gleason wrote a series of articles for the Tribune‘s op-ed pages that aimed to educate readers about war conditions in Great Britain. He also produced articles on the same topic for Century Magazine. This work was collected nearly word-for-word as the book Inside the British Isles, published in spring 1917.


Gleason made what he described as a “brief visit” to Ireland, apparently before the end of 1916, to detail nationalist restiveness. “Sane opinion in Ireland is well aware that in any solution Ireland remains inside the federation of the British commonwealth,” he wrote, “but the status toward which the intelligent Irish work is that of a self-governing nation, like the free colonies.”[3]Arthur Gleason, Inside The British Isle (New York: The Century Co., 1917), p. 173.

Gleason’s analysis focused more on economic, market, and labor conditions than politics. He reported:

The real Irish question is poverty. … The slums of Irish cities are among the worst in Europe. … Many of the farms are too small for economic working, and what there is of them is not good enough soil. Much of the best tillage remains in the hands of landlords and is used for grazing instead of the production of crops. The hope of Ireland lies in trade unionism, education, and cooperation. Ireland’s real problem is to increase production and distribute prosperity.[4]Ibid, pp. 206-209, and “Poverty: The Real Irish Question”, New York Tribune, April 11, 1917.

Gleason viewed wealthy Irish Americans as an important source of this hope. At the time of his visit, he “found Ireland stimulated” by the news that Henry Ford proposed building a tractor factory in Cork city, near the industrialist’s ancestral homeland. The reporter continued:

If the very rumor (of Ford’s plant) has given cheer to an underpaid population, how much new hope will flow in if Irish Americans whose hearts bleed for Ireland will invest some of their money in Irish agriculture and industry. A few million dollars invested where the heart is will relieve a pressure on Ireland, which today is resulting in bad housing, undernourishment, overwork and an undue proportion of pauperism. The real Irish question is not solved by political wrangling and chronically jangled nerves inside the island, nor by hot temper at long distance. The Irish Americans who have planted the tradition of Ireland’s wrongs inside the United States are two generations out of date. … American money is not needed for nationalist propaganda. It is needed for agricultural and industrial development. Our rich Irish Americans can do an immense service to Ireland. They can aid to set her free. But not by parliamentary debates, speech-making campaigns, and pitiful abortive rebellions. They can set her free by standing security for land improvement, better housing, the purchase of machinery and fertilizer plants.

Gleason interviewed and quoted English social and economic academics such as Graham Wallas, Sir Alfred Eckhard Zimmern, and Sir George G. Butler. He also discussed matters with Irish nationalist writers and journalists James Stephens and George William Russell, known by the pseudonym AE, and he quoted Ulster leader Sir Edward Carson. Gleason did not meet or mention Sinn Féin leaders Arthur Griffith, Eamon de Valera, and Michael Collins, who were incarcerated by the British at the time.


Gleason spoke with Dublin-born Lord Northcliffe, a powerful press baron of London’s Fleet Street. The reporter devoted one of his Tribune op-eds and a chapter of his book to a comparison of the British, Irish, and American press. He wrote:

I think the little independent spirited Irish weeklies are admirable. They sass the censor and the Lord Lieutenant and the (Dublin) Castle. I met some of the editors—poor men and honest, editing and writing papers in which they believe. They seem to me worth all the sleek, timid New York crowd put together. … A man believes something hard, and, being Irish, he has the knack of statement, so he publishes a paper.[5]Inside, p. 263, and “A Batch of Papers”, New York Tribune, May 10, 1917.

New York Tribune headline of Gleason’s May 10, 1917, piece on the press.

Privately, Gleason shared drafts of his Irish reporting with key sources for their approval before publication, a common practice at the time but anathema to most modern journalists. His regular correspondents included Butler and Lord Eustace Percy, a British diplomat.

“Butler has handed me your article on Ireland: neither of us feel quite comfortable about making ourselves responsible for it to the extent of giving it special facilities for transmission to America as it stands at present,” Percy wrote to Gleason, then living in Hove, Sussex, on the English Channel coastline 65 miles south of London. “My criticism of your article is not that it is hostile to this country (though I think that is the net effect of it) but that it is not really calculated to enlighten America. … You are carrying coals to Newscastle in writing for America sentimental impressionism about great political problems.”[6]Percy to Gleason, Dec. 28, 1916, Arthur Gleason papers.

Gleason replied two days later.[7]Gleason to Percy, Dec. 30, 1916, Arthur Gleason papers. He agreed to make some “modifications” to the content and withdraw other passages from his Tribune and Century dispatches; but not from the book, which he argued provided fuller context of the relationship between the two islands. “I want the article to be passed,” Gleason wrote, an acknowledgement of the realities of war-time censorship in Britain, which would soon to be duplicated in America. “I think you will agree I have met you seven eighths of the way.”

Gleason bristled at Percy’s charge of sentimental impressionism. “That which is excellent in Belgium and Serbia does not become ‘sentimental’ or selfish in Poland or Ireland. It merely remains the same principal for which French and English (and soon Americas) are fighting—the right of self-government.”


Gleason’s reporting from Ireland was subject to further editing. Soon after the publication of Inside The British Isles, he wrote to Douglas Z. Doty, editor at the Century publishing company, to complain that “heavy hunks” of content totaling 16 pages had been cut from the manuscript. “Everything that explains the state of mind, everything that voices the young men, has disappeared,” Gleason complained. “Poems, quotations, the statement of a young rebel to me, all have disappeared.”[8]Gleason to Doty, June 4, 1917, Arthur Gleason papers.

Praise for Gleason’s book came from papers within the British Isles. Belfast Newsletter, April 1, 1918.

He questioned whether the missing material resulted from “editorial exigency” in New York or censorship by the British Foreign Office, which he claimed had approved the manuscript. The missing material, according to Gleason, included quotes from several Irish political leaders, among them Helena Malony, a 1916 Easter Rising participant and member of Cumann na mBan, the Irish republican women’s paramilitary organization. Malony’s feminism and labor activism were especially relevant to Gleason’s broader social and economic interests.

Also missing from the book, Gleason wrote, were his analysis of the Dublin rebellion; a tribute to the Gaelic League and similar Irish organizations; a poem written by executed Rising leader Pádraic Pearse; and references to The White Headed Boy, a 1916 comedy drama by Irish playwright Lennox Robinson.

Nevertheless, Inside the British Isles won praise on both sides of the Atlantic. “It is welcome as a contribution to the discussion which is not merely of interest to Ireland, but to thousands of Irish well-wishers and sympathizers in this country,” said one American review.[9]”The Irish Problem”, Buffalo (N.Y.) News, Aug. 27, 1917. An advertisement in the Irish press (image) collected several favorable reviews.


Gleason returned to America as Irish separatists launched a guerilla war against the British military and police in Ireland. He continued to work on labor and economic issues through the New York-based Bureau of Industrial Research and with social reformer Paul Underwood Kellogg. They co-authored British Labor and the War in 1919. But Gleason’s insights about Ireland were called upon again in late 1920.

Oswald Garrison Villard, editor of the weekly liberal journal the Nation, organized the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland on behalf of pro-Irish interests. He invited dozens of U.S. senators, state governors, big city mayors, college presidents and professors, religious leaders, newspaper editors, and other prominent citizens to form and oversee the eight-member panel of inquiry, which was not affiliated with the U.S. government. Villard and his supporters also intended to send a five-member investigative team to Ireland, including Gleason.

Other members of the proposed delegation included:

  • Major Oliver P. Newman, a journalist, sociologist, former Washington, D.C. commissioner and U.S. Army veteran of the Great War;
  • Rev. Norman Thomas, a Presbyterian minister, socialist political candidate, and publisher of the World Tomorrow;
  • James H. Mauer, a progressive labor leader and president of the Pennsylvania State Federation of Labor; and
  • Robert Morse Lovett, dean of the University of Chicago.

For several weeks in November and December 1920 the New York Tribune, Gleason’s former employer, and other American newspapers published conflicting reports about whether the group would, or would not, be issued passports to visit Ireland; based on the approval or objections of the U.S. or British governments. The dispute continued as the commission, which included Newman, Thomas, and Mauer, opened public hearings on conditions in Ireland at a Washington hotel.

Privately, Gleason was skeptical of the investigative delegation to which he was publicly named. “Unless the strongest kind of commission is sent to England and Ireland, it will be better to send none at all,” he wrote to Villard. “To send a half dozen unknown or slightly known persons will injure the cause of good-will you have at heart. The work will be discredited, or treated with indifference and irony.”[10]Gleason to Villard, Nov. 24, 1920, in Oswald Garrison Villard Papers, 1872-1949 (MS Am 1323), Harvard University, Box 37, Irish Commission, 1920-1921.

Gleason subsequently complained there were too many socialists in the proposed group, with “no bishop, no judge, no ‘big’ business man. So idealistic a commission will not avail.”[11]Ibid. “Since writing the above…” handwritten on same letter.

The proposed delegation scuttled by the time the commission concluded its hearings in January 1921. A month later another group of American investigators travelled to Ireland as part of an overlapping effort called the American Committee for Relief in Ireland. This group’s account of distress in Ireland was released within days of the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland report based on the Washington hearing testimony. Pro-Irish supporters cheered the two narratives critical of British rule; the British government condemned both reports as exaggerations and fabrications; and U.S. officials mostly tried to remain neutral and outside the fray.[12]See my earlier posts American investigators visit Ireland, February 1921, and American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921.


Though unstated in his letter to Villard, Gleason’s reluctance to join the proposed Irish delegation also might have been based on his skepticism of Irish American political meddling in the conflict, though he encouraged economic investment, as noted above. In his 1917 book, Gleason wrote:

The irreconcilable Irish in America had seemed to me a set of men “scrapping” volubly for the sake of words and dissension.  … (It is) the bitterness of Roman Catholic pulpits in Boston and Chicago, the railings of mass meetings in New York, the irresponsible perorations of Irish-American politicians that chiefly threatens the future of Ireland. … (Progressive British people) cannot and will not accept from America the last and worst doctrine of reaction.[13]Inside, pp. 173, 191.

It does not appear that Gleason wrote more about Ireland after 1917. The island was partitioned in 1921 as the war with Britain ended and devolved into the year-long Irish civil war. The revolutionary period that began at Easter 1916 ended in May 1923.

Gleason died of meningitis on Dec. 30, 1923, two weeks after his 45th birthday. He is buried in Washington, D.C.


1 “Arthur Gleason papers, 1863-1931”, MSS18382, Library of Congress, and multiple newspaper obituaries.
2 Gerald L. Fetner (2017) Modern Foreign Correspondents after World War I: The New York Evening Post‘s David Lawrence and Simeon Strunsky, American Journalism, 34:3, pp. 313-332.
3 Arthur Gleason, Inside The British Isle (New York: The Century Co., 1917), p. 173.
4 Ibid, pp. 206-209, and “Poverty: The Real Irish Question”, New York Tribune, April 11, 1917.
5 Inside, p. 263, and “A Batch of Papers”, New York Tribune, May 10, 1917.
6 Percy to Gleason, Dec. 28, 1916, Arthur Gleason papers.
7 Gleason to Percy, Dec. 30, 1916, Arthur Gleason papers.
8 Gleason to Doty, June 4, 1917, Arthur Gleason papers.
9 ”The Irish Problem”, Buffalo (N.Y.) News, Aug. 27, 1917.
10 Gleason to Villard, Nov. 24, 1920, in Oswald Garrison Villard Papers, 1872-1949 (MS Am 1323), Harvard University, Box 37, Irish Commission, 1920-1921.
11 Ibid. “Since writing the above…” handwritten on same letter.
12 See my earlier posts American investigators visit Ireland, February 1921, and American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921.
13 Inside, pp. 173, 191.

Catching up with modern Ireland

Here’s another of my occasional posts with headlines and curated content about contemporary Ireland and Northern Ireland. Enjoy:

Ireland’s Central Statistics Office released the country’s latest census figures, a snapshot of the Republic from April 3, 2022. Highlights include:

  • The population exceeded 5 million (5,149,139) for the first time in 171 years. This is an 8 percent increase from 2016. All counties showed at least 5 percent growth.
  • The proportion of the population who identified Roman Catholic fell to 69 percent from 79 percent in 2016. The “No Religion” category increased to 736,210 people from 451,941.
  • Almost 80 percent of Irish households have a broadband internet connection, up from 71 percent in 2016 and 64 percent in 2011. Nearly a third of workers indicated they did their jobs from home for at least part of the week.

The CSO’s Summary Report is the first of nine 2022 census releases. More detailed reports on topics such as housing, homelessness, and religion will follow throughout the year.

CSO graphic.

Other stories:

  • The Irish nationalist Sinn Féin party, which supports reunification of Ireland, followed last year’s historic Northern Ireland Assembly victory by defeating their pro-Britain unionist rivals in May council elections by a wide margin. Sinn Féin for the first time is the largest party at the local and provincial levels. The Assembly remains in limbo, however, due to the Democratic Unionist Party’s refusal to participate in the power-sharing government.
  • Ireland’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent in May, a record that surpasses the “Celtic Tiger” period of two decades ago. Unemployment in the North fell to 2.4 percent, slightly below pre-pandemic levels and just 0.1 percentage point shy of the record low.
  • Almost all sectors of the Irish economy will fail to meet 2030 carbon reduction targets, The Irish Times reported; while warming weather and rising seas continue to demonstrate the impact of climate change. A proposal to slaughter 200,000 cows to reduce methane emissions generated blowback from the agricultural sector, as expected, and from outside actors ranging from PETA to Elon Musk.
  • The Republic’s Department of Rural and Community Development has launched a 10-year “Our Living Islands” initiative to repopulate nearly two dozen islands from Donegal to Cork.
  • The New York Times detailed Ireland’s vanishing fishing fleet, following a similar story from in January.
  • Former President Donald Trump, now under state and federal indictments, earned nearly $25 million from his golf property in Doonbeg, County Clare, during his four years in office, Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington has reported. The revenue was part of a $160 million haul from overseas businesses with interests in U.S. foreign policy. Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence each stayed at Doonbeg at taxpayers expense while in office.

The entrance of Trump’s Doonbeg golf course in County Clare during my July 2016 visit.

Catching up with modern Ireland

I was pleased and grateful to return to Ireland this month for the first time since before the COVID pandemic; my 11th visit since 2000. I’ve included two photos from the trip as I conclude Irish Heritage Month with one of my periodic posts of curated content. Enjoy:

Minard Castle, west of Inch Strand, on the south side of the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry.

  • Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, is stepping down after 14 years in the role and a total of 21 years with the promotional organization. The job will be filled through an “open international competition,” said Christopher Brooke, chairman of Tourism Ireland.
  • A pilot program in the Republic is giving 2,000 artists $350 a week with no strings attached, allowing them to concentrate on creative pursuits. “Worrying about putting bread on the table really impacts artists’ creative juices,” Catherine Martin, Ireland’s culture minister, told the New York Times. “This is about giving them space to work.”
  • Ireland plans to hold a referendum in November to delete references to a woman’s place being in the home from its 86-year-old constitution, the government announced. The country has already removed bans on abortion and permit same-sex marriage. More coverage from the Irish Times.
  • As the Irish government lifted an eviction ban, historian Diarmaid Ferriter made the connection to what happened in Ireland during the 19th century.
  • Ireland’s rugby team defeated England 29-16 to win the Six Nations Grand Slam championship.

St. Patrick’s Day parade in Kilkenny town. Yes, it was a showery, but cleared later in the day.