Category Archives: Irish America

Reprise: Speechwriter behind Obama’s Irish references

UPDATE: Cody Keenan’s Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America, released in October by HarperCollins, is the subject of this Nov. 11 Irish Times‘ podcast.

ORIGINAL POST:

Barack Obama has given some 3,000 speeches since entering the White House in 2009, and about 1 percent of them have included strong references to Ireland. That might not seem like much at first glance, but there’s hardly another country or subject that gets as many mentions from the presidential podium.

Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan, left, interviewed by Simon Carswell, Washington correspondent for The Irish Times.

Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan, left, interviewed by Simon Carswell, Washington correspondent for The Irish Times.

“The Irish have a stranglehold on one full day,” Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan told the 15 September gathering of Irish Network-DC. “They get three speeches on St. Patrick’s Day.”

That’s 24 speeches over eight years. Other notable Obama talks involving Ireland have included his May 2011 visit to the Republic and June 2013 trip to Northern Ireland, plus his 2009 eulogy of Sen. Ted Kennedy and  2015 remarks at the funeral of Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden.

For Keenan, an Irish-American with ancestral roots to Dublin and Cork, the 2011 College Green speech was a plum assignment. “It’s rare you get to write about something you have such personal passion about,” he said.

Keenan noted that the president “is his own chief speechwriter. … We take all our cues from him.”

New details on Ruth Russell in revolutionary Ireland

My ongoing research of American journalists in revolutionary Ireland, 1918-1923, has revealed new details about Ruth Russell, a Chicago correspondent who covered the early months of the war. I wrote a December 2019 series about Russell, linked below, and gave several history conference presentations about her before the Covid pandemic.

Ruth Russell, 1919.

The most significant new information is that Russell joined Chicago-area efforts to raise financial relief for Ireland after the April 1916 Easter Rising, then was denied permission to travel to Ireland to help distribute the aid. British diplomats in America raised objections about her association with The New World, Chicago’s pro-Irish Catholic weekly. The 27-year-old Russell came to the attention of some of the highest ranking officials in the U.S. and British government, according to digitized Dublin Castle records accessed through Harvard’s Widener Library. Three years later the Chicago Daily News supported Russell’s passport application and the U.S. State Department permitted her travel to Ireland in March 1919.

Separately, in January 1924, Russell wrote to Albert Jay Nock, libertarian author and editor of the Freeman magazine, about the publication’s imminent demise after four years of U.S. circulation. Referring to herself as an “unmoneyed schoolteacher,” Russell offered to send $100 to help keep the magazine afloat. She did not, however, mention her two 1920 stories about Ireland for the publication, based on her year-earlier reporting for the Daily News. I found the letter in the B.W. Huebsch Papers at the Library of Congress while researching Francis Hackett.

I have made other minor edits and updates to the five-part series, found here:

My 2020 update on Russell’s burial spot: Ruth Russell remembered in stone … 57 years later

My full series on journalists: American Reporting of Irish Independence

‘St. John’ wreck recalled on South Shore Irish Heritage Trail

The Oct. 7, 1849, wreck of the Irish emigrant ship St. John near the Massachusetts Bay community of Cohasset is one of the historical highlights of the South Shore Irish Heritage Trail. More about the trail below. From 99 to upwards of 160 passengers and crew, mostly from counties Clare and Galway, were killed when a storm dashed the brig on rocks less than a mile from the shore, about 25 miles south of Boston Harbor. Eleven people survived.

Sandy Cove, Cohasset, at low tide, Oct. 16, 2022. The ‘St. John’ wrecked less than a mile from this beach, where many of the dead where recovered. Henry David Thoreau described the scene in his book, ‘Cape Cod.’

American writer Henry David Thoreau witnessed the aftermath of the wreck, which he described in his 1865 book, Cape Cod, based on his 1849, 1850, and 1855 walks along the distinctive peninsula.  This book was published 11 years after Walden, in which Thoreau described Irish railroad workers living near the pond he made famous. Here are some of his descriptions of the scene in Cohasset immediately after the St. John disaster:

On reaching Boston (from his home in Concord, Mass.), we found that the Provincetown steamer, which should have got in the day before, had not yet arrived, on account of a violent storm; and, as we noticed in the streets a handbill headed, “Death! one hundred and forty-five lives lost at Cohasset,” we decided to go by way of Cohasset. We found many Irish in the cars, going to identify bodies and to sympathize with the survivors, and also to attend the funeral which was to take place in the afternoon;—and when we arrived at Cohasset, it appeared that nearly all the passengers were bound for the beach, which was about a mile distant, and many other persons were flocking in from the neighboring country. …

As we passed the graveyard we saw a large hole, like a cellar, freshly dug there, and, just before reaching the shore, by a pleasantly winding and rocky road, we met several hay-riggings and farm-wagons coming away toward the meeting-house, each loaded with three large, rough deal boxes. We did not need to ask what was in them. …

It appeared to us that there was enough rubbish to make the wreck of a large vessel in this cove alone, and that it would take many days to cart it off. It was several feet deep, and here and there was a bonnet or a jacket on it. In the very midst of the crowd about this wreck, there were men with carts busily collecting the sea-weed which the storm had cast up, and conveying it beyond the reach of the tide, though they were often obliged to separate fragments of clothing from it, and they might at any moment have found a human body under it. Drown who might, they did not forget that this weed was a valuable manure. This shipwreck had not produced a visible vibration in the fabric of society. …

Yet I saw that the inhabitants of the shore would be not a little affected by this event. They would watch there many days and nights for the sea to give up its dead, and their imaginations and sympathies would supply the place of mourners far away, who as yet knew not of the wreck. Many days after this, something white was seen floating on the water by one who was sauntering on the beach. It was approached in a boat, and found to be the body of a woman, which had risen in an upright position, whose white cap was blown back with the wind. I saw that the beauty of the shore itself was wrecked for many a lonely walker there, until he could perceive, at last, how its beauty was enhanced by wrecks like this, and it acquired thus a rarer and sublimer beauty still.

This monument at the mass grave of those killed in the wreck of the ‘St. John’ at the Cohasset Central Cemetery was erected through the efforts of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and its Ladies Auxiliary. It was dedicated on May 30, 1914, and now part of an annual remembrance. The group at left are students from the Irish Studies program at Boston College.

A memorial to the dead Irish emigrants is part of the South Shore Irish Heritage Trail, which includes monuments, museums, and other attractions in nine towns from Weymouth to Plymouth. Up to 40 percent of the population along this 30-mile coastal stretch claim Irish heritage, thus its nickname as the Irish Rivera. One of the newest additions to the trail is a monument to the 1916 Easter Rising, found at the Scituate waterfront. Learn about other stops at the heritage trail website.

Memorial of the 1916 Easter Proclamation at Scituate on the South Shore Irish Heritage Trail.

Selling Irish history & politics books: Hackett & Creel

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

Ben Huebsch in 1918 passport photo.

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

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

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

George Creel in 1917.

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

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

A Study in Nationalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Ireland books

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

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

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

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

Hackett’s second book

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

Francis Hackett in 1935.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

References

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

Recalling the 1922 kidnapping of Dublin press correspondent

This post is part of my American Reporting of Irish Independence series. I am developing this content and new research into a book. MH

***

American journalist Hayden Talbot returned to Ireland a decade after he published a newspaper serial and instant biography of Michael Collins. Talbot had conducted several interviews with the Irish leader shortly before he was killed in an August 1922 ambush. In a 1932 magazine piece, the journalist recalled working in Ireland on the eve of civil war:

The Dublin of 1922 was not a salubrious place for alien journalists. The fact that there were 112 of us ‘covering’ the first meeting of the Dail helped, however. Only one pressman, in fact, suffered. He was kidnapped and held prisoner for several days. But we were all suspect. Dublin was substantially an armed camp. You were either for ‘Mick’ Collins or for de Valera. The fact that we alien reporters—for the most part—didn’t know a thing about either man (and cared less) was incomprehensible to the man in the street in Dublin.[1]Hayden Talbot, “Dublin Isn’t Troublin”, Answers ; London  Vol. 88, Iss. 25,  (May 7, 1932): 12

A. B. Kay’s photo appeared in the New York Daily News on Jan. 28, 1922, weeks after his safe return.

There are several aspects of Talbot’s comments, and others in the piece, that are ripe for exploration. For this post, I want to focus on the kidnapped pressman. His name was A. B. Kay, a correspondent for the Times of London. His Jan. 5, 1922, abduction came as Dáil Éireann reacted to criticism from the Dublin-based Freeman’s Journal, which grew into a larger debate about press freedom in Ireland. Days later the Dáil narrowly approved the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which prompted the resignation of President Éamon de Valera.

Because of those subsequent events, Kay’s kidnapping and quick release were soon forgotten. But it was front-page news for a day in large U.S. dailies such as the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, which published reports from their representatives among the 112 Dublin correspondents. Smaller papers across the country relied on an Associated Press dispatch, which reported Kay was getting a bite to eat with other newsmen in a Dublin grocery when he was abducted at gunpoint. He had recently reported that some members of the republican army were turning in favor of ratifying the treaty. This led to threats of being “put in a vault with corpses and a candle.”[2]”London Times Man Kidnapped By Sinn Fein”, Medford (Oregon) Mail Tribune, Jan. 5, 1922, and other papers.

Dozens of the foreign correspondents in Dublin met to formulate a protest against the kidnapping, including a boycott of further coverage of the Dáil’s treaty debates. “The American and Irish correspondents joined the English newspaper men in signing the protest,” AP reported.[3]Ibid. Given the magnitude of the treaty vote and de Valera’s resignation, the proposed boycott never would have withstood the pressure to report.

And the kidnapping became secondary as anti-treaty members of the Dáil vented about unfavorable coverage in the Freeman’s Journal. In an editorial headlined “Vanity of Vanities,” the paper blasted de Valera for his “criminal attempt to divide the nation in the crisis of its fate,” among other criticisms.[4]”Vanity of Vanities”, Freeman’s Journal, Jan. 5, 1922. Mary MacSwiney wanted the Freeman’s reporter barred from the chamber. Sean Milroy argued against evictions of the press–or even representatives of Dublin Castle: “I think we are not afraid to hear the worst or the best that they can say.”

  • The full debate can be read from where the assembly resumes at 8.35 p.m.

Only a few days earlier, the anti-treatyites had launched the first issue of Poblacht na h-Éireann (The Republic of Ireland) newspaper in response to the overwhelmingly pro-treaty views of Ireland’s urban and provincial press, not just the Freeman’s Journal. In March, so-called “irregular” republican forces threatened the Freeman’s staff at gunpoint, smashed the presses with sledgehammers, and set fire to the building. 

As University College Cork’s Donal Ó Drisceoil has noted:

This reflected poorly on the democratic claims and general reputation of republicans at a time when they were engaged in what was partly a struggle to win over public opinion, including that of the diaspora, especially Irish-America, and was also largely counter-productive. It allowed their opponents to draw parallels with British attacks on and suppressions of Irish newspapers in the recent past; to characterize anti-Treatyites as lawless, thuggish and potentially dictatorial; and to cast themselves as a democratic bulwark against ‘anarchy’, representative of a majority and champions of the liberty of the press (which, conveniently, happened to be overwhelmingly pro-Treaty).[5]Press, Propaganda and the Treaty split“, RTÉ’s Atlas of the Irish Revolution, June 15, 2022.

 

References

References
1 Hayden Talbot, “Dublin Isn’t Troublin”, Answers ; London  Vol. 88, Iss. 25,  (May 7, 1932): 12
2 ”London Times Man Kidnapped By Sinn Fein”, Medford (Oregon) Mail Tribune, Jan. 5, 1922, and other papers.
3 Ibid.
4 ”Vanity of Vanities”, Freeman’s Journal, Jan. 5, 1922.
5 Press, Propaganda and the Treaty split“, RTÉ’s Atlas of the Irish Revolution, June 15, 2022.
6 ”Writer Describes Irish Kidnapping”, The Washington Herald (Washington, D.C.), Jan. 7, 1922.
7 Ó Drisceoil, “Press, propaganda…”

American journalists describe Michael Collins, 1919-1922

This post is part of my American Reporting of Irish Independence series. I am developing this content and new research into a book about how U.S. journalists covered the Irish revolution. MH

***

Days after Michael Collins was killed in an Aug. 22, 1922, military ambush, Hearst newspapers rushed to publish American journalist Hayden Talbot’s interviews with the slain Irish leader. The chain’s newspapers from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco promoted the series–more than two dozen installments in some papers, depending on editing–as an exclusive Collins biography “as told to” Talbot. The content was a huge “beat,” the contemporary slang term for scoop.

“ ‘One the run’ from the Black and Tan, then ‘on the run’ from Irishmen who put personal feelings above the principal of freedom, ‘on the run’ pursuing enemies in the field, and ‘on the run’ mentally in the Dáil  to meet parliamentary tricks, Michael Collins had few leisure moments to write his biography or to tell of his aspirations for Ireland,” an editor’s note exclaimed. “He said to Hayden Talbot: ‘I’ll tell it to you. You write it for Ireland.’ ”[1]“Collins’ Story of Life”, The Washington Times, Aug. 25, 1922.

Talbot, a veteran newspaper reporter and playwright, produced a similar treatment with stage and screen actress Mary Pickford a year earlier for the McClure Newspaper Syndicate.[2]“‘My Life’ By Mary Pickford”, The Atlanta Constitution, May 29, 1921, and other papers. The Collins newspaper series and instant book blended authorized and unauthorized biography, since Collins consented to the interviews and reviewed some of the early chapters before his death.

Talbot raced to finish the series as it was being published. He dictated more than 10,000 words a day over 10 days using a corps of stenographers and Dictaphones, then his installments were “wirelessed” from London to America.[3]”Daily News Letter” column, New Castle (Pa.) News, Sept. 25, 1922, and other Hearst papers. In an example of the rush, Dublin’s Gresham Hotel appeared as “Graham,” an error corrected in the book.[4]”Collins Story”, Washington Times, and Hayden Talbot, Michael Collins’ Own Story Told to Hayden Talbot (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1923).

The portrait of Michael Collins appeared as the front piece in Hayden Talbot’s book on the Irish leader.

Collins was “the most interesting figure” of Dáil Éireann, parliament of the 26-county Irish Free State, Talbot reported in his opening installment. “It was greatness in big things that made him Ireland’s leader; it was greatness in every little thing that enshrined him in every Irish heart—and for all time.”[5]”Collins Story”, Washington Times.

The series also appeared in the Sunday Express of London, which distributed copies in Ireland. Piaras Béaslaí, chief censor of the fledgling Irish Free State, immediately suppressed the content. He called Talbot’s reporting “a deliberate forgery” and vowed to stop further circulation of the series and book in Great Britain and America.[6]“Suppressed”, Belfast Newsletter, Sept. 11, 1922, and other Irish papers. The Express dropped the series[7]“Michael Collins’s Own Story Told to Hayden Talbot”, Book review in The Guardian, London, June 21, 1923. but published Talbot’s rebuttal.

If any of his content about Collins was fiction, the American reporter wrote, “it was fiction supplied to me not only by Collins” but also other Irish insiders.[8]“Suppressed”, Belfast Newsletter, and “Addendum” in Michael Collins’ Own Story. He fired back at Béaslaí, saying most American correspondents in London knew he had been negotiating to write “inside stuff” about Collins for the past year but failed to obtain approval. “In the past nine months I have been alone with Michael Collins more days than he has been minutes,” Talbot boasted.[9]More documentation of this tit-for-tat in the Piaras Béaslaí Papers, National Library of Ireland.

Béaslaí was selected to write Collins’s biography “late in 1922 by the Collins family, overcoming considerable reluctance within the government and army leadership,” according to the online Dictionary of Irish Biography.[10]Béaslaí, Piaras” by Patrick Maume, Dictionary of Irish Biography, October 2009. The entry is silent about Talbot, as is DIB’s profile of Collins. Béaslaí’ in 1926 published a two-volume Collins biography, which was roundly criticized at the time and now considered hagiography.

Mystery man

A century after his death, Michael Collins is familiar to many Americans, thanks to the 1996 biopic starring Liam Neeson in the title role. Most U.S. newspaper readers would have been unfamiliar with Collins at the start of the Irish War of Independence in January 1919. Frank P. Walsh, chairman of a pro-independence delegation from America that visited Ireland that spring, wrote a column that said the finance minister of the upstart Irish parliament was “undoubtedly a fiscal expert of remarkable ability.”[11]“What American Irishman Saw at ‘Siege of Dawson Street’”, The Pittsburgh Press, June 30, 1919. Chicago Daily News correspondent Ruth Russell described the “keen, boyish” Collins in her newspaper reporting and book about the early months of the war.[12]Ruth Russell, What’s the matter with Ireland?, (New York: Devin-Adain, 1920), pp 68, 73, & 79.

In June 1919, Irish republican leader Éamon de Valera arrived in America and became the center of U.S. press attention over the 18 months of his visit. Simultaneously, as the war in Ireland escalated, Collins became more elusive as he focused on the guerilla campaign against the British military and police. Harry F. Guest of the New York Globe, Francis Hackett of the Nation, and other reporters who traveled to Ireland in this period wrote multiple dispatches without naming Collins. Others, such as Webb Miller of United Press, made short mentions of Collins that helped establish his reputation as an “on the run” mystery man. This paragraph is from January 1920:

Within the past week, Collins walked boldly down the main thorofare (in Dublin), and met two government secret service men who immediately recognized him. Collins coolly shoved his hand in his hip pocket and walked between the detectives. Knowing his reputation as a desperate and daring fighter, the detectives feared to tackle him. Within a few minutes the district was swarming with police but Collins had vanished.[13]“Irish Cabinet Holds Secret Meetings”, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa., Jan. 30, 1920.

Miller’s story is ambiguous as to whether he observed this episode. Likewise, he reported without any source attribution Collins’ narrow escape from Sinn Féin‘s Dublin headquarters by jumping to an adjoining hotel rooftop. The reporter cited Irish Republic loan drive appeals plastered on the city’s walls and signboards as evidence of Collins’ role as finance minister.

Top of Carl Ackerman’s August 1920 exclusive interview with Michael Collins.

Ackerman exclusives

In late August 1920 Carl Ackerman of the Public Ledger, Philadelphia, obtained “the first interview ever granted” by Collins.[14]“Irish Never Will Accept Premier’s Terms—Collins”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York, N.Y., Aug. 26, 1920. “First interview” quote from editor’s note at top of story. The correspondent’s copy burnished the Collins mystique:

I knew that the British military authorities and police considered him the field marshal of the Irish Army and that they fear him as he was able to guide, direct and inspire the republican forces and at the same time evade arrest. Mr. Collins himself confessed to me what I had already been told by competent military authorities: that the British government for two years had been trying to capture him.

Ackerman received regular briefings from British military and government officials prior to this interview and acted as a liaison between the two sides of the war, as Maurice Walsh has detailed.[15]Maurice Walsh, The News from Ireland: Foreign Correspondents and the Irish Revolution (New York: I. B. Tauris, 2011) pp 144-146. “I do not accept their opinion of me,” the reporter quoted Collins, who added individual leaders were of little importance in the Irish republican movement. This no doubt was Collins’ effort to soften his “feared field marshal” image.

Collins most likely wrote out his quotes for Ackerman, as was customary at the time. The editor’s note leading the story acknowledges that Collins “approved” Ackerman’s report. In his book, Talbot described such arrangements as being typical between U.S. journalists and European statesman. “Whereas in America anything that is said to a newspaper man is properly part of an interview and so to be published” Talbot wrote.[16]Michael Collins’ Own Story p.15.

Ackerman’s description continued:

… I found Mr. Collins a young man, apparently still in his thirties, (He turned 30 on Oct. 16, 1920, after the story was published.) has such a keen sense of humor that no one enjoys so much as he the efforts of the British authorities to capture him. His face reflects the confidence in Ireland, in the Sinn Fein and in himself. … He spoke always with a smile and a kindly expression on his face. He seemed throughout the interview to be the last man in Ireland to be the terrorist I had been told he was.

Ackerman interviewed Collins again “from somewhere in Ireland” in April 1921. “How I arrived here and where I am is a secret and must remain so,” his story began. The reporter wrote of his caution to “cover up my tracks” to avoid being responsible for the British discovering the rebel headquarters. But Collins “had no anxiety,” Ackerman reported. “Being an Irishman, he feels secure in his own country.”[17]”Irish Armies Winning”, Boston Evening Transcript, April 2, 1921.

This story, and others like it, was clipped and added to Dublin Castle’s growing file on “IRA propaganda” in the foreign press.[18]Irish Government. Public Control And Administration, 1884-1921 (CO 904, Boxes 159-178). Public Records Office, London, England. 1921 CO 904/162; Seditious Literature, Censorship, Etc.: Seizure Of … Continue reading

Post truce

With the July 1921 truce in the war and start of negotiations between Irish republicans and the British government, Collins did more interviews, and his name appeared more frequently in U.S. newspaper coverage. Retired U.S. federal judge Richard Campbell, secretary of the American Committee for Relief in Ireland, met twice in London with Collins and the other four Irish negotiators. Originally from County Antrim, Campbell began his professional career in America as a journalist before becoming a lawyer. In a newspaper column syndicated shortly before the Dec. 6, 1921, Anglo-Irish Treaty announcement, he wrote of Collins:

… from his appearances is still under 30 years of age. (Collins had just turned 31.) He reminds one of the whirlwind virility of the late Theodore Roosevelt, (Campbell had worked in Roosevelt’s administration.) and gives one the impression of a perfect athlete fresh from the football field. … He is above medium height, broad shouldered (and) walks with a quick, long stride. … He is always in a rollicking humor, as if life were a great joke. But when you draw him into conversation you find a man who is keenly alive to the problems of the hour, both in domestic and world politics. … Collins is a singularly modest man … There is no doubt Collins has been one of the great driving forces of the republican movement and his career in Ireland will be a notable one, I am sure.[19]”Gives Impressions of Sinn Fein Leaders”, The Evening News, Wilkes Barre, Pa., Nov. 29, 1921, and “Meets Sinn Fein Delegates”, Sioux City Journal, (Iowa), Dec. 4, 1921.

As the Dáil debated and ratified the Anglo-Irish Treaty in January 1922, another portrait of Collins emerged from the typewriter of Samuel Duff McCoy. He arrived in Ireland in February 1921 as secretary of the relief committee’s eight-member delegation sent to access Ireland’s humanitarian needs. He returned to America that spring to publish his report, then sailed back to Ireland, where he remained until November. Collins and Ireland’s other four treaty delegates signed an Oct. 30, 1921, letter that thanked the relief committee for its work, including McCoy by name.

“On the very first day I arrived in Ireland I heard about Michael Collins. And what I learned … (was) the British government ranked (him) as their most dangerous enemy,” McCoy wrote in his “The Lads Who Freed Ireland” series, which United Features Syndicate distributed to its U.S. subscribers.[20]”The Lads Who Freed Ireland: Michael Collins”, Minneapolis Morning Tribune, Feb. 8, 1922. McCoy quoted British Gen. Sir Nevil Macready as describing Collins as “‘head of the whole rebel gang’” in Ireland, “snorting with rage as he pronounced the name.”

Nine months later, during a treaty negotiating session in London, McCoy reported that British Prime Minister David Lloyd George summoned Macready into a room at No. 10 Downing Street, where Collins sat with the other Irish negotiators. George asked Macready a few questions about alleged truce violations, then quickly dismissed the general. But Collins remained at the table with George, McCoy emphasized, a long way from being “the ragged outlaw being hunted through the country like an animal.”

McCoy repeated the story of Collins’ daring rooftop escape. More significantly, he noted that since the truce, “thousands” of photographs of Collins entering and leaving the London talks had become public worldwide. It surely frustrated the British army, which “never had quite sufficient intelligence … to lay hands on” Collins, McCoy wrote. “No wonder they cursed.”

But McCoy’s early 1922 portrait of Collins was soon dated by events in Ireland: the split of the Irish parliament over the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the start of civil war, and the death of Collins. Talbot’s newspaper series and book were not the last word on Collins, but the opening lines of what has become a century of articles and books speculating what might have happened had he lived to lead his country.

Michael Collins grave at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. From my 2016 visit.

References

References
1 “Collins’ Story of Life”, The Washington Times, Aug. 25, 1922.
2 “‘My Life’ By Mary Pickford”, The Atlanta Constitution, May 29, 1921, and other papers.
3 ”Daily News Letter” column, New Castle (Pa.) News, Sept. 25, 1922, and other Hearst papers.
4 ”Collins Story”, Washington Times, and Hayden Talbot, Michael Collins’ Own Story Told to Hayden Talbot (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1923).
5 ”Collins Story”, Washington Times.
6 “Suppressed”, Belfast Newsletter, Sept. 11, 1922, and other Irish papers.
7 “Michael Collins’s Own Story Told to Hayden Talbot”, Book review in The Guardian, London, June 21, 1923.
8 “Suppressed”, Belfast Newsletter, and “Addendum” in Michael Collins’ Own Story.
9 More documentation of this tit-for-tat in the Piaras Béaslaí Papers, National Library of Ireland.
10 Béaslaí, Piaras” by Patrick Maume, Dictionary of Irish Biography, October 2009.
11 “What American Irishman Saw at ‘Siege of Dawson Street’”, The Pittsburgh Press, June 30, 1919.
12 Ruth Russell, What’s the matter with Ireland?, (New York: Devin-Adain, 1920), pp 68, 73, & 79.
13 “Irish Cabinet Holds Secret Meetings”, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa., Jan. 30, 1920.
14 “Irish Never Will Accept Premier’s Terms—Collins”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York, N.Y., Aug. 26, 1920. “First interview” quote from editor’s note at top of story.
15 Maurice Walsh, The News from Ireland: Foreign Correspondents and the Irish Revolution (New York: I. B. Tauris, 2011) pp 144-146.
16 Michael Collins’ Own Story p.15.
17 ”Irish Armies Winning”, Boston Evening Transcript, April 2, 1921.
18 Irish Government. Public Control And Administration, 1884-1921 (CO 904, Boxes 159-178). Public Records Office, London, England. 1921 CO 904/162; Seditious Literature, Censorship, Etc.: Seizure Of Articles In Various Journals And Other Publications: 1. I.R.A. Propaganda In Dominion And Foreign Newspapers.
19 ”Gives Impressions of Sinn Fein Leaders”, The Evening News, Wilkes Barre, Pa., Nov. 29, 1921, and “Meets Sinn Fein Delegates”, Sioux City Journal, (Iowa), Dec. 4, 1921.
20 ”The Lads Who Freed Ireland: Michael Collins”, Minneapolis Morning Tribune, Feb. 8, 1922.

Remembering An Gorta Mor … as hunger persists

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

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

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

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

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

This post was corrected to reflect the New Jersey memorial.

Mary Robinson paraphrased these words in her 1997 unveiling speech.

References

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

Our 10th blogiversary brings a new location & phase of work

I launched this blog on July 22, 2012, as a platform for “research and writing about Irish and Irish-American history and contemporary issues.” Since then I’ve published more than 900 posts on the site, contributed nearly three dozen stories to external publications, and presented seven in-person or virtual talks at museums and history conferences.

I have enjoyed connecting with readers and editors in Ireland and America. I am grateful for their assistance, feedback, corrections, and–in some cases–friendship. The blog has more than 100 email subscribers and averages about 1,500 page views per month. I appreciate the interest and support, especially from my guest post contributors and the librarians and archivists on both sides of the Atlantic who have provided in-person and remote assistance.

I debuted the blog from Tampa, Fla., moved to Washington, D.C., in January 2014, and now head to Boston as of Aug. 1. My wife, Angie Drobnic Holan, received a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University for the 2022-2023 academic year. I will enjoy access to the university’s libraries and other assets through spousal “affiliate” status. I’m going to devote the next year to what has become my main research interest: how American journalists reported the Irish revolutionary period, 1912-1923, both on the ground in Ireland and related events in America. See my American Reporting of Irish Independence series.

I except to publish fewer, but more detailed, history posts over the next 12 months. I will continue to report important contemporary developments in Ireland and Northern Ireland. I hope to return to the island for the first time since before the pandemic.

For now, thanks again for supporting the blog for 10 years.

Delivering my presentation on Ruth Russell in Revolutionary Ireland at the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland, Queens University, Belfast, November 2019.

Letters reveal Samuel D. McCoy’s Irish literary connections

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

***

UPDATE, July 20, 2022:

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

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

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

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

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

ORIGINAL POST, July 14, 2022:

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

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

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

Daniel Corkery

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

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

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

From McCoy Papers, Princeton University.

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

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

Recognize this signature? 

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

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

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

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

E. Byrne Hackett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Stephens

James Stephens

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

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

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

Arthur Griffith

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

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

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

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

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

Connacht story 

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

The piece begins:

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

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

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

Connemara, County Galway.                                                                                                                      ©Tourism Ireland

References

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

American editorials on June 1922 Irish elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See my full American Reporting of Irish Independence series.