Category Archives: History

Deciphering Ewart’s 1921 ‘Journey in Ireland’ diary

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

Wilfrid Ewart

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

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

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

IRELAND

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my 2021 series:

See my full American reporting of Irish independence series.

References

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irish Pittsburgh’s views on Treaty

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

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

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

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

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

Ideas for the new Ireland

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

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

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

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

Pittsburgh in 1916, six years before the delegation visit.

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

After Pittsburgh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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’).

Two Irish immigrant journalists return home, 1920. Part 2

Rev. James H. Cotter and Francis Hackett were unique among American journalists covering the Anglo-Irish War. Both were Irish immigrants who became naturalized U.S. citizens, then made separate but overlapping summer 1920 trips back home. Each man detailed the atrocities they witnessed in Ireland for U.S. publications in October 1920. A month later, both testified about their experiences before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. This post is about Hackett. See Part 1 about Rev. Cotter.

‘America’s moral interest’ in Ireland

Hackett was probably a better known journalist than Rev. Cotter at the time, as described further below, and in subsequent scholarship of the revolutionary period. Maurice Walsh devotes a chapter to Hackett and Philadelphia Public Ledger correspondent Carl Ackerman.[1]Walsh, Maurice, The News From Ireland: Foreign Correspondents and the Irish Revolution. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008. Other historians have cited Hackett’s work, but I have not yet found any similar references to Rev. Cotter

Hackett in 1935. Library of Congress.

Hackett emigrated from Kilkenny in 1900, age 18. He started his career as a beat reporter in Chicago, but later admitted he wasn’t cut out for the job. He shifted to writing editorials and literary criticism. By 1920 he was associate editor at The New Republic magazine.

Hackett visited Ireland in 1912/13 to care for his aging father.[2]Evidence on Conditions in Ireland, Testimony of Francis Hackett, Nov. 19, 1920, pp. 137-174. His stay resulted in Ireland: A Study In Nationalism, published in 1918. In the preface to the third edition, published six months after the establishment of Dáil Éireann and start of the Irish  war, Hackett wrote:

So long as Britain holds an unwilling Ireland, her hands are unclean, and Ireland must continue to appeal to the society of nations against her. What, in the name of democracy, has Britain to gain? The whole import of this book is the crime that Britain has committed against democracy in denying self-determination to Ireland. That, with all its economic implications, is the substance of my argument. The situation is the kind of situation that confronted the founders of the United States. The proper answer in that case was the American Republic. And the proper answer in this case is–the Irish Republic.[3]Hackett, Francis, Ireland: A Study In Nationalism, B.W. Huebsch, New York, 1919, p. xx.

In spring 1920, shortly before returning to Ireland, Hackett used the appointment of Sir Auckland Geddes as the new British ambassador to the United States to re-emphasize President Woodrow Wilson’s ideal of “self-determination” for small nations. Hackett wrote:

America has a moral interest in the agonizing struggle of any small nation striving against a more powerful nation … according to the ideas of internationalism that we preached during the war. … The Irish recognize just as well as Sir Auckland Geddes that America is the court of last resort. If America does “stand aside,” as England begs it to do , it is really taking sides against the principles of the recent war or any serious application of those principles to England.[4]Hands Off Ireland?“, The New Republic, April 28, 1920, p. 283-284.

Hackett wrote three Ireland pieces for the New Republic between his return to America and testimony to the American Commission:

  • Oct. 13, The Impasse In Ireland: “What is the practical outlook for Ireland? After a six weeks’ investigation it is rash to make an answer, but it is important in venturing any answer to recognize the conversion of seventy-five percent of Ireland to Sinn Fein.”
  • Oct. 20, A Sinn Fein Court: A novel-like treatment of the rival justice system established “in an act both of usurpation and propaganda,” Walsh says in his analysis of this piece.
  • Nov. 3, Books and Things: A reflection on the hunger strike death of Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney in a London prison nine days earlier based on a revisit of Sir John Pope Hennessy’s 1883 book, Sir Walter Raleigh in Ireland.

Walsh notes:

Aside from their undisguised partisanship, Hackett’s articles on Ireland for the New Republic are clearly literary. His declared purpose not only to collect facts but to interpret them, his treatment of people and events through a series of novelistic scenes and the revelation of his political convictions in argument show that he had no intention of being bound by the standard rules of mainstream American journalism. The fact that he was writing for an intellectual magazine and not a mass-circulation newspaper only partially accounts for his suppressed disdain for conventional reportage.[5]Walsh, News, p.133-34.

Hackett did write a six-part series for the New York World, which syndicated the work to other U.S. dailies in early October 1920, before his American Commission testimony.[6]As published in the Boston Post: “Erin Abused Says Editor”, Oct. 3, 1920, 1 of 6; “Tax Secured By Sinn Fein”, Oct. 4, 1920, 2 of 6;”Erin Prosperous Writes … Continue reading The series introduction identified Hackett’s “just concluded visit” to Ireland, his Kilkenny heritage, role at the New Republic, and 1918 Study in Nationalism book. It also said:

This brilliant writer is a strong Sinn Fein partisan, and his point of view may be summarized in a sentence which appears in his first article. Mr. Hackett writes: ‘In this duel, in which my own sympathies are on the side of the republic, there is no doubt whatever that the superior morale is the morale of the Sinn Fein, that it is the British who are vindictive, lawless and demoralized.'[7]”Abused”, Boston Post, Oct. 3, 1920.

Hackett returned to the theme of morale, and his previous trip home, in his third installment:

A great change has taken place in the morale of the Irish people since I last visited here in 1913. … The pre-war Ireland is gone, never to return. The people now ‘have a heart in them.’ Their feelings and purposes are realized and organized now as never before in their history.[8]”Prosperous”, Boston Post, Oct. 5, 1920.

Promotion for Hackett’s six part series, New York Times, Oct. 2, 1920.

The News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom, a partisan monitor of press coverage of Ireland, praised Hackett’s work for the World, not the New Republic, as an “extremely intelligent series of articles on the present situation in Ireland.” The weekly described him as “a veracious American journalist” whose “personal observations in Ireland” contradicted pro-British accounts of the war and “aroused many thinking Americans.” Rev. Cotter received no such attention from the News Letter. [9]News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom, Washington, D.C., Oct. 16, p. 4, Nov. 27, p. 4., and Nov. 13, p. 2.

Two years later, Hackett published The Story of the Irish Nation, a history. He thanked Herbert Bayard Swope, editor of the World, for his “superb confidence” to encourage the project. The author said the editor gave him “courage to attempt even this popular story.” Among dozens of sources, Hackett cited the American Commission’s report in his bibliography. He died in 1962.

References

References
1 Walsh, Maurice, The News From Ireland: Foreign Correspondents and the Irish Revolution. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008.
2 Evidence on Conditions in Ireland, Testimony of Francis Hackett, Nov. 19, 1920, pp. 137-174.
3 Hackett, Francis, Ireland: A Study In Nationalism, B.W. Huebsch, New York, 1919, p. xx.
4 Hands Off Ireland?“, The New Republic, April 28, 1920, p. 283-284.
5 Walsh, News, p.133-34.
6 As published in the Boston Post: “Erin Abused Says Editor”, Oct. 3, 1920, 1 of 6; “Tax Secured By Sinn Fein”, Oct. 4, 1920, 2 of 6;”Erin Prosperous Writes Hackett”, Oct. 5, 1920, 3 of 6.; “Union Deadliest Thing In Ireland”, Oct. 6 ,1920, 4 of 6; “Hackett Scores Racial Hatreds”, Oct. 7, 1920, 5 of 6; and “Home Rule Not Ready For Erin”, Oct. 8, 1920, 6 of 6.
7 ”Abused”, Boston Post, Oct. 3, 1920.
8 ”Prosperous”, Boston Post, Oct. 5, 1920.
9 News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom, Washington, D.C., Oct. 16, p. 4, Nov. 27, p. 4., and Nov. 13, p. 2.

Two Irish immigrant journalists return home, 1920. Part 1

The Anglo-Irish War, 1919-1921, received regular attention in U.S. newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, and books. Journalists based in Ireland and visiting correspondents provided daily coverage, which ranged from straight news to opinion pieces, including propaganda from both sides of the conflict and both sides of the Atlantic.

Rev. James H. Cotter and Francis Hackett were unique among the American press who contributed to this body of work. Both men were born in 19th century Ireland, emigrated separately in their teens, and became naturalized U.S. citizens. In 1920, they made separate but overlapping late July through late September trips to Ireland to visit family and report on the war.

Rev. Cotter, 63, and Hackett, 37, each detailed the atrocities they witnessed in Ireland for U.S. publications in October 1920. A month later, both testified about their experiences before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. It is likely, but unclear, if their day-apart appearances at the Washington, D.C., hearings were prompted by their published work. Only one other journalist was among the three dozen American, Irish, and British witnesses called before the Commission from November 1920 through January 1921. Ruth Russell reported from Ireland in spring 1919 for the Chicago Daily News, then retold her experiences in magazine articles and a book published earlier in 1920.

Rev. Cotter and Hackett were hardly America’s first Irish immigrant journalists. Others included Jerome Collins, John F. Finerty, Patrick Ford, John Boyle O’Reilly, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, and Margaret Sullivan. During the Irish war, immigrants John Devoy owned and edited the Gaelic American, New York City, and Joseph McGarrity published the Irish Press, Philadelphia. What sets Hackett and Rev. Cotter apart is their summer 1920 travel to Ireland and American Commission testimony. It is unknown whether they read each other’s work or met in Washington that November.

‘Anxious to see conditions there’

Rev. Cotter emigrated from Tipperary in 1872, age 15, and was ordained at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland, in 1881. He became a Shakespeare scholar, author, and public speaker in addition to his priestly duties. Rev. Cotter served as editor-in-chief of the Catholic Union and Times in Buffalo, N.Y., and was a founder of the Catholic Press Association. He wrote for Donahoe’s Magazine, a Catholic-oriented general interest monthly, and later became an editor at The Columbiad, organ of the Knights of Columbus.[1]Evidence on Conditions in Ireland, The American Commission on Conditions in Ireland, Official Report, May 1921. Testimony of Rev. James H. Cotter, Nov. 18, 1920, pp. 75-91; “125th Anniversary … Continue reading

Rev. Cotter, 1913 newspaper image.

The priest was “proudly conscious of the character of Tipperary in everything which makes life estimable,” as he wrote in a 1915 column about the popular war song, “It’s A Long, Long Way to Tipperary.” He criticized the lyrics as “another instance of Albion’s [Great Britain’s] trickery to make Erin ridiculous.”

In the same column, Rev. Cotter revealed his Irish nationalist views by praising 19th century figures such as novelist and IRB man Charles Kickham; Young Islander William Smith O’Brien, “the lion-hearted”; and “the uniquely glorious” Robert Emmett of the 1798 and 1803 risings. “Let Ireland make the way to Tipperary short,” Rev. Cotter wrote, “by keeping her brave sons at at home for her great purpose and not permit them to go ways that they may never tread again. … God bless Tipperary! and control for her own destiny the fighting blood of her brave sons!”[2]”Tipperary”, The Catholic Tribune (St. Joseph, Missouri), Feb. 27, 1915, as cited from the Columbiad.

On Nov. 18, 1920, Rev. Cotter told the American Commission his return home was his first in 23 years. “I went to visit Ireland because I was anxious to see for myself the conditions there,” he said.[3]Evidence, Cotter testimony, p. 75.; Year: 1930; Census Place: Upper, Lawrence, Ohio; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0021; FHL microfilm: 2341561; and Find a Grave database and images, memorial … Continue reading Shortly after his return to America, Rev. Cotter gave an interview to the New York American, which most likely was a written statement handed to the daily. The the weekly Gaelic American, New York, and the Kentucky Irish American, Louisville, soon republished the story. The priest said:

I personally saw many British atrocities and was fresh on the scene after others, and talked to the people. I made it a point to talk specially to Protestants. … I found that Protestants and Catholics alike are united in their firmness for Irish freedom. …

One murder was committed before my very eyes [at Galway.] … I was in Dublin the night [Sept. 23, Sinn Féin County Councillor] Jack Lynch was foully murdered at his room at the Exchange Hotel … I was in Limerick when a bomb was exploded in the next square and in Millstreet, Bantry and Cork when the nights were made hideous by armed ruffianism having all its own way.

Rev. Cotter also traveled to Brixton Prison in London to see Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney, then on hunger strike. The priest said he was denied access, but met outside the walls with Anna and Mary MacSwiney, the prisoner’s sisters. Rev. Cotter said the family used a camera that belonged to his niece to take a photo, which showed the hunger striker’s “terrible emaciation. The teeth protrude, the temples are hollow, the eyes sunken, but for all that the mighty majesty of the man suffuses a holy calm over his face.”[4]Press accounts are dated Sept. 24, or just before Rev. Cotter sailed back to America. McSwiney died Oct. 25, 1920, age 41.

Oct. 23, 1920, headline over Rev. Cotter’s story in the Kentucky Irish American.

Rev. Cotter’s published account did not include his Sept. 10 visit to the Galway Express newspaper offices the morning after a military raid. “The owner of the paper was picking up pieces of broken type off the floor,” he told the American Commission. “They gathered together enough to print a paper on a sheet about the size of that (indicating a sheet of business letter size), and in big block letters on the top of the sheet was ‘Keep Cool,’ which is really the philosophy of the passiveness that Ireland is practicing right now.”[5]The New Haven, Conn.-based staff of the Knights of Columbia’s Columbia magazine, 1921 successor title of Columbiad, told me there were no articles by Rev. Cotter in the October, November, and … Continue reading

In 1929, Rev. Cotter published Tipperary, which sprang from his 1915 column. He later worked as an associate editor and contributor to the The Irish World, New York, including a 1936 collection of his columns: Ireland: Travel Tabloids. I welcome information on locating a copy of either of these books, or more about Rev. Cotter. The priest died in 1947.

Next: Francis Hackett on ‘America’s moral interest’ in Ireland

References

References
1 Evidence on Conditions in Ireland, The American Commission on Conditions in Ireland, Official Report, May 1921. Testimony of Rev. James H. Cotter, Nov. 18, 1920, pp. 75-91; “125th Anniversary of St. Lawrence O’Toole Church, Ironton, Ohio, 1852-1977”, a church-produced history, p. 17; and assorted period newspaper articles.
2 ”Tipperary”, The Catholic Tribune (St. Joseph, Missouri), Feb. 27, 1915, as cited from the Columbiad.
3 Evidence, Cotter testimony, p. 75.; Year: 1930; Census Place: Upper, Lawrence, Ohio; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0021; FHL microfilm: 2341561; and Find a Grave database and images, memorial page for James H Cotter (19 Aug 1857–9 Dec 1947), Find a Grave Memorial ID 99674115, citing Sacred Heart Cemetery, Ironton, Lawrence County, Ohio, USA ; Maintained by CalamariGirl.
4 Press accounts are dated Sept. 24, or just before Rev. Cotter sailed back to America. McSwiney died Oct. 25, 1920, age 41.
5 The New Haven, Conn.-based staff of the Knights of Columbia’s Columbia magazine, 1921 successor title of Columbiad, told me there were no articles by Rev. Cotter in the October, November, and December 1920 issues. A more extensive review of the archive was not immediately possible.

Guest post: Detailing the Crosbies of North Kerry

Michael Christopher Keane is a retired University College Cork lecturer and author of three books about the Crosbies, leading and often controversial landlord families in County Kerry for over 300 years. Keane’s own genealogy revealed that one branch of his North Kerry ancestors were transplanted tenants on one of the Crosbie estates. His newest book, ‘The Crosbies of Cork, Kerry, Laois and Leinster’ (2021), and earlier ‘From Laois to Kerry’ (2016) and ‘The Earls of Castlehaven’ (2018), are available in Kerry bookshops and online at omahonys.ie, hannas.ie, and kennys.ie. Email Michael at mjagkeane@gmail.com. … Journalists, historians, authors, researchers, and travelers to Ireland are always welcome to offer guest contributionsMH

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My first book focused on the initial arrival of the Crosbies into Kerry and in particular their role in transplanting many members of the leading Septs of County Laois in the Irish midlands to Kerry in 1607. The historic “Seven Septs of Laois”, Moores, Kellys, Lawlors, Dowlings, Dorans, McEvoys, and Deevys or Dees, had been in almost continuous rebellion through the late 1500s as they vigorously resisted the plantation of their county by the English.

Following defeat at the landmark Battle of Kinsale in 1601 they accepted the plantation of Laois, which had been renamed Queens County. This was facilitated by the large-scale transplantation of the Laois Septs to about 10 parishes in North Kerry extending from Tarbert in the northeast to Ballyheigue.

These lands had been taken over by the Crosbie brothers Patrick and John, the latter having been appointed Protestant Bishop of Ardfert and Aghadoe 1601-1621. From Laois to Kerry includes a detailed tracing of the descendants of the Seven Septs of Laois in North Kerry through the generations to the present time. Many of the Laois Sept surnames are still quite prominent in North Kerry, especially Kellys, Lawlors, Dowlings, Moores, and Dees. However, all seven continue to have a distinct presence, with many families still established over four centuries later in the original 10 parishes to which their distant ancestors were first transplanted.

Ardfert Abbey

The Crosbies of Cork, Kerry Laois and Leinster aims to reveal the complete story of the Crosbie family from the 1500s to the present time. The Crosbies had highly unusual origins. Their story begins with the MacCrossans of Laois who were historic bards to the two leading clans of the Irish midlands, the O’Moores of Laois and the O’Connors of Offaly. In the 16th century two MacCrossan children, Padraig and Sean, were fostered in Laois by new English planters, the Cosbys of Stradbally Hall (now of Electric Picnic fame) and changed their names to Patrick and John Crosbie. They both became large landowners in North Kerry.

In the next generation, Sir Pierce Crosbie, heir to Patrick, as well as being a large North Kerry landowner, also became a trusted member of the English royal court during the reigns of James I and Charles I, attaining membership of the English Privy Council and the Irish Parliament and Privy Council. His marriage to the widow of the 1st Earl of Castlehaven led to the story of my second book. The War, Sex, Corruption, Land, subtitle gives a hint of the content.

The Crosbies were particularly noted for marrying widely into virtually all the “big houses” of Kerry, leading to the expression “Kerry cousins,” denoting the close family links between the county’s landlords of the time. As an example, the Crosbies became closely intermarried at an early stage with their neighbours the Fitzmaurices of Lixnaw, Earls of Kerry. The Fitzmaurices were the leading family of North Kerry through the generations until their dramatic demise in the 1700s. Their glory and decline are detailed in two fine books by fellow North Kerry historians: Kay Caball’s, The Fall of the Fitzmaurices, and Martin Moore’s Deeds Not Words: The survival of the Fitzmaurices Lords of Kerry 1550 to 1603.

Having become the new dominant family of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy era in North Kerry, the Crosbies developed several mansions, including Ballyheigue Castle, Ardfert Abbey, Tubrid House in Ardfert and Rusheen House in Ballylongford. Along with a couple of other leading landlord families, they dominated Kerry politics throughout much of the 18th and 19th centuries, representing the county almost continuously in Parliament, firstly in Dublin and then in Westminster.

Having obtained the rank of Earldom in the later 1700s, the Ardfert Crosbies, as Earls of Glandore, lived in great style for a time both in Kerry and in their fine Dublin townhouse, now Loreto Hall, on St. Stephens Green. That era led to the long stewardship at Ardfert of William Talbot-Crosbie, or “Billy the Leveller” as he became widely known, from 1838 to 1899. While he was an innovative agriculturalist, his extremely harsh treatment of tenants, which included widespread evictions and his activities during the Great Famine, remain highly controversial to the present time. The evidence clearly shows that the main parishes of the Crosbies, Ardfert, Ballyheigue and Abbeydorney experienced some of the worst losses of life and of emigration of all Kerry parishes during the decade of the Great Famine. Remarkably, “Billy the Leveller’s” successor at Ardfert Abbey, Lindsey Talbot-Crosbie, supported land reform and Home Rule, while his son in turn Maurice was a candidate for the Irish Parliamentary Party in Cork in the 1918 general election. Their two great houses in Kerry, Ballyheigue Castle and Ardfert Abbey, were both burned down during the War of Independence and the Civil War.

Like many large extended families of their time, the Crosbie family story contained its share of scandals. These included the shipwrecking of the Golden Lion laden with bullion at Ballyheigue, which resulted in one of Kerry’s most famous unsolved mysteries. Accusations against the Crosbies and others led to arrest, jail, alleged murder, and multiple court hearings, with much manipulation of the legal system at the time. In the modern era, the Crosbies of the Examiner newspaper dynasty of Cork also trace their roots to Thomas Crosbie who arrived in Cork as a young journalist from North Kerry in 1842.

Ballyheigue, County Kerry, Ireland, 2019. The gateway to a ruined castle and golf course.

U.S. press reactions to sledging of ‘The Freeman’s Journal’

Top portion of the one-page Freeman’s Journal handbill of March 30, 1922. More text below.

Shortly past midnight March 30, 1922, dozens of Irish republicans opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty burst into the Freeman’s Journal newspaper offices in Dublin. They threatened the staff at gunpoint, smashed the presses with sledgehammers, and set fire to the building. Their attack was driven by the Freeman’s “accurate, but uncomplimentary information” about the inner workings of the republican movement, including a supposedly secret convention a few days earlier.[1]Horgan, John, Irish Media: A Critical History Since 1922. Rutledge, London 2001, p. 9.

Producing the usual broadsheet later that day became impossible. But the Freeman’s staff published a one-page handbill, which was pasted to poles and walls across the city. It declared:

The Freeman’s Journal does not appear in its usual form this morning. BUT IT APPEARS. … And it will continue to say what it chooses. It will expose tyranny in whatever garb it shows itself. Whether the khaki of the British or the homespun on the mutineers (anti-treaty Irish republicans). … The paper that has fought for Irish liberty so long will not be silenced.[2]”Suppressed Again”, The Freeman’s Journal, March 30, 1922, as reproduced in facsimile on a photo page of The Standard Union, Brooklyn, New York, April 11, 1922, and in the … Continue reading

The Freeman’s support of the treaty, ratified in January, was generally regarded as “unduly partisan,” notes Dublin historian Felix M. Larkin, who has written extensively about the newspaper. “It included intemperate editorials, the suppression of anti-treaty manifestos and speeches, and a notably malevolent treatment of Erskine Childers,” an ally of republican leader Éamon de Valera.[3]Larkin, Felix M., ” ‘A Great Daily Organ’: The Freeman’s Journal” in Living With History: Occasional Writings, Kingdom Books, Ireland, 2021, p. 12. Original article … Continue reading Childers would be executed by Irish Free State authorities later in 1922.

Simultaneously, “de Valera’s tone became if anything more bellicose,” with numerous “inflammatory utterances,” during the interregnum between the treaty vote and republican occupation of the Four Courts in April 1922, biographer David McCullagh has written. A few weeks before the attack on the Freeman’s Journal, de Valera told republican supporters at Killarney they would have “to march over the dead bodies of their own brothers” and “wade through Irish blood.”[4]McCullagh, David, De Valera, Rise, 1882-1932, Gill Books, New York, 2017, p. 276 (“bellicose”) and p. 273 (“blood”).

The Freeman’s Journal was suppressed by the British military during the 1919-1921 war, and its editor and proprietors were imprisoned. It was among many Irish papers stopped from publishing–usually only for a few days–under the Defense of the Realm Act, which Irish republicans skillfully exploited in their domestic and international propaganda against British rule.

“Being a newspaper editor in Ireland is a ticklish job,” the New York Globe’s Harry F. Guest told American readers in his early 1920 reporting from the country. “If you publish something which offends Dublin Castle, the police or military raids your offices and carry away vital parts of the presses. If you criticize Sinn Féin too severely, your office is likely to be stormed and the presses smashed.”[5]”British suppression of Irish newspaper raised big storm of protest” , The New York Globe, March 24, 1920, and syndicated to other U.S. newspapers.

The Freeman’s Journal produced another one-page handbill on March 31, then published a seven-page booklet on Gestetner machines from April 1-21. Republicans terrorized newsagents in counties Sligo and Mayo into refusing to sell the paper. They also intercepted mail trains and burned copies of the newspaper destined for other parts of the country.[6]Horgan, Irish Media, p. 9-10.

U.S. press reactions

From front page of the New York Times, March 30, 1922.

Like most events in revolutionary Ireland, the attack on the Freeman’s Journal received considerable attention in the American press. U.S. big city dailies featured same-day news coverage, often starting from the front page, including the example at right in The New York Times.

Several papers also weighed in on their editorial pages, such as the Joseph Pulitzer-established Evening World in New York City:

Some American advocates of freedom for Ireland may not be convinced that the Free State Government under Collins and Griffith is the best possible. But after the disgraceful wrecking of the plant of the Freeman’s Journal in Dublin, can anyone doubt that the Irish Republican Army movement is wrong, dead wrong, unqualifiedly and absolutely wrong? … Raiding and smashing the Freeman’s Journal is a confession of moral bankruptcy by the de Valera forces. It is a confession that their case can not stand the light of day. It is a denial of the cause of freedom to which a free press is essential.[7]”They Condemn Their Cause”, The Evening World (New York City), March 31, 1922.

And this wasn’t the Evening World’s last word on the matter. After a letter to the editor writer suggested the Freeman’s “was always a British paper,” the New York daily snapped back in a second editorial that such a view “shows how a minority of the Irish have become so poisoned by hate that they no longer reason … they are not moved by desire for freedom for Ireland. Hate of England is the motive in their conduct. They are insane, driven mad by a mania.”[8]”What Helps Keep Ireland In Turmoil”, The Evening World (New York City), April 5, 1922.

Irish American press reactions to the attack on the Freeman’s reflected the division in Ireland.

The anti-treaty Irish Press of Philadelphia published a front page news story and inside editorial about the attack. Like the Evening World’s letter writer, the opinion piece described the Freeman’s Dublin offices as “the nursery ground of the shoneen (an Irish person who imitates or aspires to the English upper class) and the place hunter.” The vandalism, the editorial said, “for a time at least removes one of the bulwarks of British rule in Ireland.”[9]The Freeman’s Journal“, The Irish Press, April 8, 1922.

The pro-treaty Gaelic American of New York used the Freeman’s misfortunes for another round of recriminations in the feud between its publisher, longtime Irish nationalist John Devoy, and de Valera, whom it described as “would-be dictator” and “Infallible Political Pope, whose every utterance (not simply those issued ex-Cathedra) must be above criticism.” The piece re-litigated a series of grievances against de Valera from his June 1919-December 1920 tour of America, including a break in at the Gaelic American’s offices.[10]Mimeographed ‘Freeman’s Journal’ Appears in Dublin“, The Gaelic American, April 22, 1922.

Publishing again … briefly

The regular Freeman’s reappeared on April 22. The front page featured an advertisement for newspaper composing machines such as those “the sledgers” had smashed three weeks earlier. “This Journal is now Equipped with A Battery of 10 Intertypes,” it declared. Among the stories about how the paper had recovered from the attack was a roundup headlined, “What Americans Think.” It included the editorial from the Evening World as well as the Chicago Tribune.

“With hindsight, many anti-treatyites came to recognize that it had been a bad mistake to attempt to suppress the Freeman,” Larkin has written. “The effect of that and other similar occurrences was to associate the anti-treaty side with military dictatorship and censorship – to give the impression that, as the prominent republican Todd Andrews later wrote, people ‘were liable to be pushed around at the whim of young IRA commanders’.”[11]”The Press In Time Of Strife”, Larkin’s letter to the editor, The Irish Times, Nov. 24, 2014.

Alas, The Freeman’s Journal  folded on Dec. 19, 1924, due to internal business troubles, ending a 161-year run. The assets and title were eventually bought by the Irish Independent. The pro-de Valera Irish Press of Philadelphia folded on May 6, 1922, after 50 months of weekly publication. De Valera started his own Dublin daily of the same title in 1931. The Gaelic American survived Devoy’s death in 1929. The New York weekly ceased publication in 1951.

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See more stories in my American Reporting of Irish Independence series.

References

References
1 Horgan, John, Irish Media: A Critical History Since 1922. Rutledge, London 2001, p. 9.
2 ”Suppressed Again”, The Freeman’s Journal, March 30, 1922, as reproduced in facsimile on a photo page of The Standard Union, Brooklyn, New York, April 11, 1922, and in the Freemans’s Journal, April 22, 1922.
3 Larkin, Felix M., ” ‘A Great Daily Organ’: The Freeman’s Journal” in Living With History: Occasional Writings, Kingdom Books, Ireland, 2021, p. 12. Original article published in History Ireland, Vol. 14, No. 2, May/June 2006. See also his Oct. 26, 2019, guest post on this site, “The Slow Death of the Freeman’s Journal.”
4 McCullagh, David, De Valera, Rise, 1882-1932, Gill Books, New York, 2017, p. 276 (“bellicose”) and p. 273 (“blood”).
5 ”British suppression of Irish newspaper raised big storm of protest” , The New York Globe, March 24, 1920, and syndicated to other U.S. newspapers.
6 Horgan, Irish Media, p. 9-10.
7 ”They Condemn Their Cause”, The Evening World (New York City), March 31, 1922.
8 ”What Helps Keep Ireland In Turmoil”, The Evening World (New York City), April 5, 1922.
9 The Freeman’s Journal“, The Irish Press, April 8, 1922.
10 Mimeographed ‘Freeman’s Journal’ Appears in Dublin“, The Gaelic American, April 22, 1922.
11 ”The Press In Time Of Strife”, Larkin’s letter to the editor, The Irish Times, Nov. 24, 2014.

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.

St. Patrick’s Day, 1919-1922, in four quotes

War and other strife in Ireland drew special attention in America at St. Patrick’s Day from two months after the first Dáil Éireann in January 1919, to two months after approval of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in January 1922. The four quotes below reflect developments on March 17 over this period. They are taken from my American Reporting of Irish Independence archive .

St. Patrick’s Day in America, 1919: “Irish freedom was demanded, and the league of nations, as proposed at present, was condemned at a mass meeting last night at Liberty Hut under the auspices of the United Irish Societies of the District that was the climax of the National Capital’s celebration of St. Patrick’s day.” — The Washington Post

St. Patrick’s Day in America, 1920: Politics and poetry: “Those of our race who are citizens of this mighty land of America, whose thoughts will help to mould the policy of the leader among Nations–how much the world looks to you this St. Patrick’s Day–hopes in you–trusts in you.” —Sinn Féin leader Éamon de Valera, then touring America, in a message widely quoted in U.S. newspapers. Denis Aloysius McCarthy also released a poem that emphasized the historic connections between Ireland and America.

St. Patrick’s Day, 1921: ‘A Summons to Service’: “Day after day you read with fainting heart the desolation that is gripping Ireland. You know that what you read is but half the story. … This is not an ‘appeal.’ It is rather a summons to Americans to join wholeheartedly in an enterprise of mercy.” — From A Summons to Service from the Women and Children of Ireland, the 16-page booklet used by the American Committee for Relief in Ireland to support its humanitarian fundraising drive.

Dual delegations at St. Patrick’s Day, 1922: “The growing disunity among the nationalist leaders in Ireland was dramatically revealed to the Irish in America in the form of two rival delegations sent to the United States on behalf of their respective factions.” — Historian Francis M. Carroll. Civil war in Ireland began three months later and would not conclude until shortly after St. Patrick’s Day 1923.

Dual delegations at St. Patrick’s Day, 1922

St. Patrick’s Day of 1922 was the first since 1915 without war on the European continent or the island of Ireland. The saint’s feast arrived two months after Dáil Éireann narrowly approved the Anglo-Irish Treaty, a month before anti-treaty republicans seized the Four Courts in Dublin, and three months before their pro-treaty colleagues topped the 26-county Dáil election and bombarded the building holding outs, thus beginning the Irish Civil War.

Francis M. Carroll has written, “the growing disunity among the nationalist leaders in Ireland was dramatically revealed to the Irish in America in the form of two rival delegations sent to the United States on behalf of their respective factions. … Both groups began touring the country, denouncing their opponents in Ireland with all the malice and vituperation previously reserved for the British government. … This spectacle … severely demoralized the Irish American community.”[1]Carroll, Francis M., America And The Making of An Independent Ireland, A History, New York University Press, New York, 2021, p. 148.

The rival delegations arrived in New York City on St. Patrick’s Day 1922 aboard the Aquitania. The pro-treaty representatives included James O’Mara, Piaras Beaslai, and Sean MacCaoilte. Austin Stack and J.J. O’Kelly stood for the anti-treaty faction. The New York Evening World reported, “one hotel was not large enough to harbor both parties.” When Stack and O’Kelly checked into the Waldorf-Astoria, described by the paper as the original destination for all five men, the other three “traveled up Fifth Avenue until they reached the St. Regis, where they engaged quarters.”[2]”Two Rival Groups Come To Campaign For Ireland Here”, New York Evening World, March 18, 1922.

New York Evening World, March 18, 1922.

Both sides issued statements to the press. The pro-treaty group said:

We wish to make it perfectly clear that we have not come to America to make Irish internal political differences subjects of agitation in the United States. … We are not here to assert the exact political formula of the treaty is the ideal one which we would choose. It represents a compromise between two countries at war with each other, but we think the treaty gives us the substance of the liberty for which we fought–freedom from foreign occupation and foreign control–and the entire mastery of our own affairs without involving the abandonment of our right to future readjustment with England that might be considered necessary.[3]”Statement of the Free State Envoys”, The Gaelic American, March 25, 1922.

The anti-treaty delegation said it came to “explain the actual situation in Ireland” to national and state conventions of the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic, the group created by Éamon de Valera at the end of 1920, a year before the treaty, in a split with the U.S.-based Friends of Irish Freedom. The delegation statement continued:

Multitudes are being misled as to the real character of the proposed Irish Free State by a press propaganda that is ill-informed, biased and in many cases, partisan. We wish to explain to the people of America the actual nature of the so-called Treaty and to tell them what the Irish people think of it. The people of America have heard one side of the story.[4]”Rival Envoys Here From Ireland”, The Gaelic American, March 25, 1922.

The Gaelic American, March 25, 1922, page 1.

The pro-treaty (and anti-de Valera) Gaelic American of New York City and anti-treaty Irish Press of Philadelphia (with direct ties to de Valera) each published statements from both groups in their March 25 editions. The Free State comments published in the Gaelic American (above) were attributed to the New York Herald. The Irish Press published different, though similar, remarks from the Free Staters, but the same anti-treaty comments.

Visitors from Ireland reinforced both sides in the coming weeks: Denis McCullough on behalf of the Free Staters and Countess Markievicz and sister of Kevin Barry for the anti-treatyites. The division worsened as the Gaelic American accused de Valera of encouraging civil war, and the anti-treaty Irish World of New York described “Freak State” leaders as “traitors.”

As Carroll has noted, “Very soon after, events in Ireland surpassed even this. … The shelling of the Four Courts and the outbreak of the Civil War in Ireland were calamitous for Irish American morale. Observers were shocked and bewildered …”[5]Carroll, America … , p. 149.

More at my American Reporting of Irish Independence series.

References

References
1 Carroll, Francis M., America And The Making of An Independent Ireland, A History, New York University Press, New York, 2021, p. 148.
2 ”Two Rival Groups Come To Campaign For Ireland Here”, New York Evening World, March 18, 1922.
3 ”Statement of the Free State Envoys”, The Gaelic American, March 25, 1922.
4 ”Rival Envoys Here From Ireland”, The Gaelic American, March 25, 1922.
5 Carroll, America … , p. 149.