Tag Archives: Belfast

The Pittsburgh fight over 1921 relief to Ireland

The two-year war between Irish separatists and the British military grew so bitter by 1921 that even providing humanitarian relief to innocent victims turned controversial. British and U.S. government officials said money from the American Committee for Relief in Ireland succored the rebels. Historic animosity between pro-unionist Protestants and pro-nationalist Catholics became another factor. 

The campaign against the American Committee described below is an under-examined, if not untold, story of the 1921 Irish relief drive. It probably suppressed fundraising in Western Pennsylvania and elsewhere, though it was not widely covered by the press in 1921 or mentioned in the 1922 final reports of the American Committee and Irish White Cross, which is not surprising. Historians Francis M. Carroll and Bernadette Whelan have not referenced this counter campaign in their analysis.[1]Carroll, Francis M.“The American Committee for Relief in Ireland”, in Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 23, No. 89 (May, 1982), pp. 30-49. Whelan, Bernadette. United States Foreign Policy and … Continue reading Readers are encouraged to point out work I might have missed or suggest sources of further exploration.

American Committee leaders in Pittsburgh asked clergy of all denominations to announce from their pulpits on Sunday, April 3, 1921, the nationwide fundraising campaign to aid victims of the war in Ireland. The committee emphasized “impartial distribution of food and clothing to Protestant and Catholic women and children who are suffering.”[2]”Church Pleas For Irish Relief Tomorrow Asked”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 1921. The Ulster Society of Pittsburgh countered with a quarter-page advertisement that denied the need for relief in Ireland and alleged the appeal was “purely a political stunt.”[3]”American Committee” advertisement, page 10, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 1921.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 1921.

This was the latest provocation between Pittsburgh’s Irish Protestant immigrants, who settled in the city from the early 19th century, and famine-fleeing Irish Catholics who arrived mid-century. In 1914, a ground-breaking sociological study of the city observed “here the old Irish cleavage has been repeated in the two strong religious elements in the community life.”[4]Woods, Robert A., “Pittsburgh: An Interpretation Of Its Growth” in The Pittsburgh Survey, Findings in Six Volumes, edited by Paul Underwood Kellogg, Survey Associates Inc., New York, 1914, p.9. This cleavage deepened during the Great War as Irish republicans stepped up their campaign for independence and the United States allied with Britain.   

The “cablegram of inquiry” mentioned in the Ulster Society ad was initiated by Rev. Edward M. McFadden, who founded the group soon after the 1912 Ulster Covenant was signed in Belfast. He organized an annual “Ulster Day” commemoration of the declaration against Irish home rule and was quoted using the familiar formulation of “Home rule means Rome rule.”[5]”Local Ulsterites Claim”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 23, 1914 McFadden had emigrated from Larne, County Antrim, in 1883, age 20, and settled in Philadelphia. After being ordained by the city’s Reform Presbyterian Theological Seminary, he preached in Rhode Island, Iowa, and Ohio, as well as Dumbarton, Scotland. He arrived in Pittsburgh about 1911.[6]“Rev. E. Marshall McFadden”, obituary, The Pittsburgh Press, Jan. 7, 1933. McFadden obituary in Presbytery of Monongahela (Pa.), minutes, March 28, 1933, from Presbyterian Historical Society. PHS … Continue reading

McFadden in undated photo used for his 1933 obituary.

Once the Irish war began in January 1919, McFadden would have become more familiar to the city’s 14,000 native Irish[7]1920 U.S. Census, Vol. 3, “Population-United States, Composition and Characteristics”, Table 13, Country of Birth for Cities of 100,000 or More, p. 50. and their offspring. That July, he invited Ulster unionist leader Sir Edward Carson to the United States to “offset the propaganda for Irish independence.” In December, he testified against recognition of the Irish republic at a U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing in Washington, D.C.[8]“Sir Edward Carson Asked To Come Here”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 17, 1919, “Ulster Day Is Observed At Services”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, Sept. 29, 1919, and U.S. Congress, House Committee … Continue reading 

Also in December 1919, McFadden traveled to New York City to meet a delegation of Protestant ministers from Ulster who sailed to America to speak against Irish separatism. The group included the same C. Wesley Maguire quoted in the 1921 Ulster Society ad against Irish relief. McFadden welcomed the Ulster delegation to Pittsburgh’s Syria Mosque theater in January 1920 for what became a raucous evening of anti-Sinn Féin speeches and pro-independence counter protest.[9]“Hecklers Lose In Disorder At Irish Meeting”, “Speaker Denies That Ireland Is Downtrodden; Calls It Most-Favored Island”, “Irish Speaker Means Tumult, Speaker Says” and “Sinn Fein … Continue reading Afterward, he joined the visiting ministers as they toured other cities, while members of the Ulster Society of Pittsburgh boasted about the delegation’s local visit in letters back to Belfast:

“Sinn Feinism is dead in this country. No chance of any recognition of Irish republic,” one wrote. Another cheered: “Hurrah! Hurrah! Our society slew that horrid monster, Sinn Fein … and it will see that it is never resurrected.”[10]”The Ulster Delegation in Chicago”, The Christian Workers Magazine, March 1920, p. 544, (McFadden toured), and “Effect Of Their Work: Testimony From Pittsburgh”, Belfast … Continue reading

On the first Sunday of April 1921, when Pittsburgh’s religious leaders were asked to announce the American Committee’s relief drive, McFadden scheduled a sermon titled, “What The Starving Irish Need.”[11]“Religious Services Tomorrow”, p. 8, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 1921. He likely reflected the Ulster Presbyterian view of Irish Catholics as misled by Rome and republican radicals. His preaching probably sounded similar to what Ulster delegation ministers had delivered 15 months earlier, as recalled by Maguire: ” … the secret of Irish unrest is neither oppression nor lack of self-determination, but a closed Bible, with all that a closed Bible means in the life of the community.”[12]”Ulster Delegation, The Visit to America” by C. W. Maguire, Belfast News-Letter, Feb. 21, 1920. NOTE: Protestant ministers W.J. Dempster and David Lang of Pittsburgh traveled to Belfast … Continue reading  

Press coverage

The Protestant Ministerial Union of Pittsburgh passed a resolution that also denied the existence of hunger in Ireland. It cast the Irish relief campaign as a “scheme … of Sinn Féin propaganda to raise funds to assist those who are in rebellion against the constituted authorities of their country.” The resolution urged “our people to do nothing to aid a movement having for its object creating a spirit of antagonism between the United States and its friend and ally in the late war, Great Britain.”[13]“Ministers Score Irish Relief Campaign”, Los Angeles Times, April 22, 1921.

In addition to Maguire’s cable to McFadden, the resolution referenced a second message from Belfast[14]Attributed to “Sir Robert Liddell, former Lord Mayor of Belfast.” The title was incorrect. Sir Robert Liddell held the government designation of deputy lieutenant and was a member of the … Continue reading to Ulster Society Secretary John H. Fulton. This statement made a simple and incendiary sectarian connection: “Relief fund, Roman Catholic administration.”

Above the fold: The Pittsburgh Catholic, April 7, 1921.

The Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper described the counter campaign as “malicious propaganda introduced by bigoted factionalists” in one of four front page stories on April 7. Only the death of Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore competed for space above the fold. An advertisement for the American Committee campaign filled the issue’s back page. Inside, one editorial lamented “Ireland’s Plight” of poverty and another urged “all liberty-loving Americans” to attend the fifth anniversary observance of the Easter Rising, the failed 1916 strike for independence.

A week before the Ulsterite counter campaign, the Catholic complained that a “preliminary canvas” of city parishes yielded poor responses to the plea for Irish relief. “In hundreds of homes where they called at the supper hour, the head of the family left a table weighted down with food, to ignore the call from Ireland. It is a notable fact that few gave more than a dollar,” the paper reported.[15]“Pathetic Plea Of Starving Women And Children Has Touched America’s Heart”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, March 31, 1921.

While the Catholic newspaper fumed, the city’s secular press ignored the controversy, including the Ministerial Union’s demand that its resolution be published in full. There were a few exceptions outside the region.

Los Angeles Times, April 22, 1921.

Some 2,500 miles west of Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles Times did publish the resolution. Publisher Harry Chandler was a critic of Irish nationalism’s impact on the League of Nations, which he supported. In November 1919, the Times splashed its front page with seven negative headlines about Sinn Féin leader Eamon de Valera’s visit to the city.[16]Hannigan, Dave, De Valera in America: The Rebel President and the Making of Irish Independence. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2010, page 88; and “Dev’s bad headline day in L.A.” , Mark … Continue reading

News of Maguire’s cable and the Ministerial Union’s resolution also reached a Sacramento paper, which reported it reignited “war” and “bickering” between the local Protestant church federation and pro-nationalist Irish societies. These hostilities had smoldered since Maguire and the Ulster delegation visited the California state capital in January 1920, soon after their stop in Pittsburgh.[17]“Church Union Is After Parish”, The Sacramento Star, April 16, 1921; “Irish Party Here Jan. 28”, Sacramento Daily Union, Jan. 11, 1920.

A secular newspaper in central Ohio also published the resolution in a letter to the editor. The writer indicated the content was copied from the pages of the Methodist Recorder in Pittsburgh, which demonstrates some extra attention to the resolution in the originating city.[18]“The Irish Question”, The Coshocton (Ohio) Tribune, May 9, 1921, citing the “People’s Forum” section of the Methodist Recorder newspaper in Pittsburgh.

Other secular and religious publications probably reported this story but are not available to review in digitized newspaper archives. The limited search returns from the hundreds of digitized titles indicates the coverage was not widespread. The trouble in Pittsburgh was not covered by the National Catholic Welfare Council News Service, which supplied content to diocesan newspapers, and pro-Irish republican organs including The Irish Press, Philadelphia; The Gaelic American, New York City; and the Friends of Irish Freedom News Letter, Washington, D.C.

The Catholic New Service did report on a cablegram to the American Committee from 30 “prominent non-Catholics” in Ireland, including poet William Butler Yeats, writer George Russell, and playwright Lennox Robinson, in addition to Church of Ireland, Methodist, and Jewish clergy who attested to the need for immediate relief. “Having heard that statements have been made in America that there is no distress in Ireland … we desire to express our opinion that there is work to be done,” the signatories wrote.[19]“Prominent Protestants Urge Relief For Ireland”, NCWC News Service, Week of April 25, 1921, p. 22. It is unclear whether they were responding to the counter campaign in Pittsburgh (and the quoted cables from Belfast), or statements by the British Embassy in Washington, which also cast doubt on the need for Irish relief. It’s possible that government propaganda operatives had planted the Ulster Society effort from the start.    

 Anti-Catholic

The Ulster Society of Pittsburgh fraternized with local Orange Order lodges and other Protestant groups, newspaper society columns show. More insight about the Society is found in the personal papers of businessman and former Memphis, Tennessee, mayor Harry H. Litty. The collection includes three Society newsletters from January, February, and March 1922, each signed by Fulton, the secretary who received the “Roman Catholic administration” cablegram from Belfast a year earlier. I have not determined whether the newsletter was published in spring 1921, and, if so, the circulation of the mailing list. But the three 1922 issues illustrate how it could have further damaged the Irish relief campaign.

March 1922 issue of the Ulster Society of Pittsburgh newsletter.

One issue fondly recalls the 1920 Ulster delegation visit to America. Another urges the year-old Northern Ireland parliament to “put down the Sinn Fein murderers.” And the Society’s anti-Catholic bias is clear: “It is certainly an anxious time for those of us who have relatives living on the old sod, but we know that Ulster will fight to the death before it submits to be ruled by murderers and cut-throats who represent that blood-stained fabric called the Roman Catholic Church.”[20]Harry H. Litty Family Collection, Box 1, Folder 12, “Litty, Harry H.–Clubs & Societies Involved In”, Jan. 12, 1922, Feb. 16, 1922 (1920 reference), and March 14, 1922 (both quotes). … Continue reading

Anti-Catholic bias was a regular feature of the war, from the bigotry in Birmingham, Alabama, when de Valera visited in April 1920, to the brutality of Belfast later that summer. Though the American Committee described itself as a “non-political and non-sectarian body, solely humanitarian in aim,” it closely affiliated with the Catholic Church through Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore, an honorary national vice chairman, and other high-profile clergy.

“The whole Catholic Church of America is deeply indebted to the Irish people,” Gibbons wrote in a St. Patrick’s Day appeal at the start of the relief drive, shortly before his death. “It is not too much to expect that in every parish of our land effective means be taken to collect funds for the relief of suffering in Ireland.”[21]”non-sectarian” from “American Committee For Relief In Ireland, Part 1, Suggested Plan for National Organization”, Undated. From Series X: Manuscripts & Printed Material, page 1, … Continue reading Several U.S. Catholic dioceses, institutions, and individuals sent money directly to Ireland outside the collections by the American Committee; notably, newly-elevated Cardinal Dennis Joseph Dougherty of Philadelphia.

This ad appeared on the back page of the May 5, 1921 issue of The Pittsburgh Catholic, front page show above.

The American Committee also deployed hardball tactics. An advertisement in Pittsburgh said the executive committee, in reviewing the donors list, “was surprised to note the number of well-known men and women … conspicuous by their absence.” Its name-and-shame threat targeted the local Irish immigrant community, “the very people who have drawn the line when their own flesh and blood is appealing have had their names high up in the lists of every other movement in Pittsburgh.”[22]“Names of Men and Women … “ advertisement. The Pittsburgh Catholic, May 5, 1921. 

Relief results

The American Committee assigned a $1.5 million quota to Pennsylvania, or 15 percent of the campaign’s nationwide goal. The 23-county Western Pennsylvania region set a $400,000 goal, or just over a quarter of the state quota from a third of its 67 counties. Pittsburgh businessman J. Rogers Flannery, chairman of the Pennsylvania campaign, expressed early confidence in meeting both the state and regional goals.

By late May, as the national campaign was ending, Flannery announced that $256,321 was collected toward a new $300,000 goal, without a reason reported for the 25 percent reduction. In reporting both these figures, the Pittsburgh Catholic noted the returns of eight counties and 50 local teams remained outstanding. “The Pittsburgh result will be more than was raised throughout the entire state,” the Catholic predicted, without providing any details of the Pennsylvania total.[23]“Box Sale Begun To Complete Irish Fund”, Pittsburgh Press, May 24, 1921; and “Irish Drive A Big Success In Pittsburgh Dioceses”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, May 26, 1921.

The newspaper also qualified its enthusiasm. “No campaign ever conducted in Western Pennsylvania encountered so much public opposition,” it wrote. In addition to the Ministerial Union’s resolution and Ulster Society’s ad, the paper suggested that Pittsburgh’s department stores, “which have contributed in all worthy causes, sent out a message that they would not assist in the Irish drive.” This is curious, given that Flannery announced the $256,321 total during a meeting at Kaufmann’s department store, also site of the campaign’s mid-April kickoff banquet.

The Catholic also insisted the final record would show “few dollars came from other than Catholic sources.” If true, this could be more evidence the Ulsterite counter campaign had hurt the relief drive, at least in Western Pennsylvania.

This March 31, 1921, advertisement in The Pittsburgh Catholic quoted Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore, a national leader of the American Committee for Relief in Ireland, who died a week after the campaign’s St. Patrick’s Day kickoff.

A June 3 benefit show raised another $10,000 for the campaign, now largely closed. By November, when an Irish White Cross leader visited Pittsburgh to thank contributors, city newspapers reported “approximately $300,000” in local contributions.[24]“Irish Relief Show Of All Stars Nets $10,000 For Fund”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, June 4, 1921, and “Envoy Brings Thanks Of Irish For Funds”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov. 2, 1921.

There is a contradiction, however, between the $300,000 reportedly collected in Western Pennsylvania and the $210,798 credited to the entire state in the American Committee’s 1922 audited report. Moreover, even including separate Catholic donations, the state campaign failed to reach a third of its $1.5 million quota.[25]American Committee for Relief In Ireland, 1922, Schedule A, p. 44, and “Copy list for American subscriptions other than those of the American Committee for the Relief in Ireland”, Undated. In … Continue reading America’s second most populous state, with the third largest number of Irish immigrants, finished seventh in donations to the relief campaign.

The $5 million collected nationwide by the American Committee, though only half the goal, was still “a remarkable amount of money,” Carroll wrote. He also notes that by 1921, Americans had donated millions to post-war relief in Europe, and more than $6 million to Irish causes: $1 million to the Irish Victory Fund in 1919, and $5.1 million to the Irish bond drive of 1920.

The Pittsburgh fight over Irish relief was surely another factor that depressed the result in Western Pennsylvania.


See more stories in my American Reporting of Irish Independence centenary series, and Pittsburgh Irish series.

© 2021, Mark Holan

References

References
1 Carroll, Francis M.“The American Committee for Relief in Ireland”, in Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 23, No. 89 (May, 1982), pp. 30-49. Whelan, Bernadette. United States Foreign Policy and Ireland: From Empire to Independence, 1913-1929. Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2006.
2 ”Church Pleas For Irish Relief Tomorrow Asked”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 1921.
3 ”American Committee” advertisement, page 10, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 1921.
4 Woods, Robert A., “Pittsburgh: An Interpretation Of Its Growth” in The Pittsburgh Survey, Findings in Six Volumes, edited by Paul Underwood Kellogg, Survey Associates Inc., New York, 1914, p.9.
5 ”Local Ulsterites Claim”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 23, 1914
6 “Rev. E. Marshall McFadden”, obituary, The Pittsburgh Press, Jan. 7, 1933. McFadden obituary in Presbytery of Monongahela (Pa.), minutes, March 28, 1933, from Presbyterian Historical Society. PHS does not hold individually cataloged information about the Ulster Society of Pittsburgh, per July 27, 2021, letter from senior reference archivist Lisa Jacobson.
7 1920 U.S. Census, Vol. 3, “Population-United States, Composition and Characteristics”, Table 13, Country of Birth for Cities of 100,000 or More, p. 50.
8 Sir Edward Carson Asked To Come Here”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 17, 1919, “Ulster Day Is Observed At Services”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, Sept. 29, 1919, and U.S. Congress, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, “To provide for the salaries of a minister and consuls to the Republic of Ireland”, p. 86.
9 “Hecklers Lose In Disorder At Irish Meeting”, “Speaker Denies That Ireland Is Downtrodden; Calls It Most-Favored Island”, “Irish Speaker Means Tumult, Speaker Says” and “Sinn Fein Denounced, De Valera Assailed By Ulster Speakers”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan. 13, 1920.
10 ”The Ulster Delegation in Chicago”, The Christian Workers Magazine, March 1920, p. 544, (McFadden toured), and “Effect Of Their Work: Testimony From Pittsburgh”, Belfast Newsletter, Feb. 25, 1920.
11 “Religious Services Tomorrow”, p. 8, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 1921.
12 ”Ulster Delegation, The Visit to America” by C. W. Maguire, Belfast News-Letter, Feb. 21, 1920. NOTE: Protestant ministers W.J. Dempster and David Lang of Pittsburgh traveled to Belfast in August 1920. They were thanked for “services rendered” during the Ulster delegation’s Pittsburgh visit seven months earlier. “U.S. Ministers in Belfast”, Belfast News-Letter, Aug. 27, 1920.
13 “Ministers Score Irish Relief Campaign”, Los Angeles Times, April 22, 1921.
14 Attributed to “Sir Robert Liddell, former Lord Mayor of Belfast.” The title was incorrect. Sir Robert Liddell held the government designation of deputy lieutenant and was a member of the Down County Council. He helped establish the Ulster Volunteer Force and was involved in unionist activity, according to an April 17, 1928, obituary in the Belfast News-Letter. Another Robert Liddell, born in England, was mayor of Pittsburgh from 1878-1881. He died in 1893.
15 “Pathetic Plea Of Starving Women And Children Has Touched America’s Heart”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, March 31, 1921.
16 Hannigan, Dave, De Valera in America: The Rebel President and the Making of Irish Independence. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2010, page 88; and “Dev’s bad headline day in L.A.” , Mark Holan’s Irish-American Blog, Nov. 22, 2019.
17 “Church Union Is After Parish”, The Sacramento Star, April 16, 1921; “Irish Party Here Jan. 28”, Sacramento Daily Union, Jan. 11, 1920.
18 “The Irish Question”, The Coshocton (Ohio) Tribune, May 9, 1921, citing the “People’s Forum” section of the Methodist Recorder newspaper in Pittsburgh.
19 “Prominent Protestants Urge Relief For Ireland”, NCWC News Service, Week of April 25, 1921, p. 22.
20 Harry H. Litty Family Collection, Box 1, Folder 12, “Litty, Harry H.–Clubs & Societies Involved In”, Jan. 12, 1922, Feb. 16, 1922 (1920 reference), and March 14, 1922 (both quotes). Memphis Public Library. Retrieved and digital copies by Scott Healy, History Department, June 5, 2021.
21 ”non-sectarian” from “American Committee For Relief In Ireland, Part 1, Suggested Plan for National Organization”, Undated. From Series X: Manuscripts & Printed Material, page 1, in  “Maloney collection of Irish historical papers, 1857-1965”, New York Public Library; and American Committee for Relief In Ireland, 1922, p. 19. The letter was widely published, including the March 31, 1921 advertisement in The Pittsburgh Catholic shown in this post.
22 “Names of Men and Women … “ advertisement. The Pittsburgh Catholic, May 5, 1921.
23 “Box Sale Begun To Complete Irish Fund”, Pittsburgh Press, May 24, 1921; and “Irish Drive A Big Success In Pittsburgh Dioceses”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, May 26, 1921.
24 “Irish Relief Show Of All Stars Nets $10,000 For Fund”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, June 4, 1921, and “Envoy Brings Thanks Of Irish For Funds”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov. 2, 1921.
25 American Committee for Relief In Ireland, 1922, Schedule A, p. 44, and Copy list for American subscriptions other than those of the American Committee for the Relief in Ireland”, Undated. In Senator James Green Douglas Papers, National Library of Ireland.

A Journey In Ireland, 1921, Revisited: Final thoughts

Novelist and journalist Wilfrid Ewart traveled through Ireland from mid-April to early May 1921. His dispatches for London newspapers were later collected and revised in the book, ‘A Journey in Ireland, 1921.’ Previous installments of this centenary series are collected at American Reporting of Irish Independence, which also includes my earlier work on Ruth Russell. By coincidence, Russell is included in the just released ‘Toward America‘ video at the new Mná100 website, part of the Irish government’s Decade of Centenaries commemorative program.

***

Ruth Russell reported from Ireland in spring 1919, shortly after the separatist Dáil Éireann opened in Dublin and the first shots of the War of Independence. Wilfrid Ewart traveled through Ireland in spring 1921, shortly before the truce that helped end the war later that year.

Ruth Russell, 1919 passport photo.

Both journalists recorded their observations of Ireland for newspapers: Russell in America, Ewart in Britain. Each expanded their work into books that combined their journalism with literary flourishes: Russell’s What’s The Matter With Ireland?, and Ewart’s A Journey In Ireland, 1921.

The two books are complementary, similarly-styled snapshots from opposite ends of the war. Both reporters interviewed and quoted key people who are still remembered in histories of the period. Both also mingled with the Irish living in the shadows of the revolution: Russell among women and children of the Dublin slums and the west of Ireland; Ewart with characters he encountered on several 20-mile walks between towns and at markets and rail stations. Both journalists sought to calculate nationalist and unionist enthusiasm and measure Catholic and Protestant division.

Though written two decades into the 20th century, the two books each offer glimpses of the long dusk of 19th century Irish rural life. They also offer wartime descriptions of Cork, Limerick, Belfast, and Dublin.

From Russell:

In the evening I heard the murmur of revolution. With the shawled mothers who line the lane on a pleasant evening, I stood between the widow and a twenty-year-old girl who held her tiny blind baby in her arms. Across the narrow street with its water-filled gutters, barefoot children in holey sweaters or with burlap tied about their shoulders, slapped their feet as they jigged, or jumped at hop-scotch. Back of them in typical Dublin decay rose the stables of an anciently prosperous shipping concern; in the v dip of the roofless walls, spiky grass grew and through the barred windows the wet gray sky was slotted. 

From Ewart:

When night did finally close down and as curfew hour approached, the tide of the people set hurrying, over O’Connell Bridge towards the tram junction at the Nelson Pillar. The street lamps were lit and there were vague, shadowy crowds through which one had to press one’s way. Black motor cars containing mysterious-looking men rushed out of College Green at breakneck speed like bats or night-insects. Half an hour later–silence. I looked out of a window high up and saw spires, chimneys, rooftops bathed in moonlight, and heard one sound–a rifle shot.

Wilfrid Ewart

Both writers were college educated. Neither arrived in Ireland as wide-eyed innocents, nor were they as hardened and cynical as many journalists and politicians. Russell, 29, was the daughter of a Chicago newspaper editor who cut her reporting teeth on undercover assignments about women munitions plant workers. Ewart, 28, witnessed the horrors of Great War battlefields, where he survived wounds and illness. 

To be sure, Russell and Ewart each missed some nuisances of Irish revolutionary politics. Both appear to have allowed some personal bias to creep into their reporting. The same could probably be said of most journalists or historians.

On her return to America, Russell joined a Washington, D.C. protest against British rule in Ireland and testified about her experiences at the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. Ewart, a former British military officer, published an acclaimed debut novel about the Great War. 

Year-long delays in publishing their Ireland books and rapidly evolving events minimized the impact of their reporting in the country. Russell disappeared into the career of a Chicago public school teacher; Ewart was accidentally killed at the end of 1922. His book has received more attention and reissues than hers. One reason could be a sexist bias for the male military officer over the American woman. Another, I believe, is that Ewart wrote the better book.

This blog occasionally considers the cinematic possibilities of Irish history, such as the 1913 travels of two French women who produced the first color photographs of the country, and the Lartigue monorail of County Kerry. There is an opportunity for a movie about Russell and Ewart traveling through revolutionary Ireland, at the same time instead of two years apart. They compete for scoops, dodge danger, and, of course, fall in love. The film has either a tragic ending amid the ambushes and reprisals, or a happy one at the threshold of Irish independence.

For now, their accounts stand together as companions on my bookshelf.

Below: Adverts for Russell’s and Ewart’s Ireland books.

 

A Journey In Ireland, 1921, Revisited: Ulster attitude

Novelist and journalist Wilfrid Ewart traveled through Ireland from mid-April to early May 1921. His dispatches for London newspapers were later collected and revised in the book, ‘A Journey in Ireland, 1921.’ Previous installments of this centenary series are collected at American Reporting of Irish Independence.

***

In their “Introduction” to the 2009 UCD Press edition of Journey, Paul Bew and Patrick Maume devote considerable attention to Ewart’s time in what today is Northern Ireland. They note the author’s reference to his September 1913 visit to an Ulster Volunteer Force rally in Newry. It is unclear, they comment, whether Ewart, then 21, “was there for political sympathy, personal connection with the participants, or journalistic curiosity, though he speaks of ‘marching with the Covenanters’ which implies a certain degree of participation.”[1]“Introduction”, Journey, UCD Press edition, 2009, pp.xii-xiii. A year earlier, unionists signed the Ulster Covenant to protest Ireland leaving the United Kingdom under home rule, as proposed at the time.

Ewart’s material from his 1921 visit to Belfast, Bew/Maume continue, “is perhaps the most fascinating in the book,” and they provide considerable analysis of the events he covers.[2]Ibid, p. xvii. The author arrives in the northeast portion of Ireland as Ulster Unionist chief James Craig meets with Sinn Féin leader Eamon de Valera, and three weeks before the first general election of the new Northern Ireland parliament.

“All Befast was talking of the Craig-de Valera meeting, girding itself with an illusive expectancy, girding sometimes at its own leader [Craig], tending to lose sight of the major question in the momentary issue,” Ewart writes.[3]Journey, p. 156.

This meeting and the outcome of the election are well documented. More striking 100 years later is the unchanged and unmistakable political and cultural attitude of the region Ewart describes in Journey. It is personified by Sir Dawson Bates, then secretary of the Irish Unionist Alliance, “a downright hardheaded zealot, with a clear-cut horizon and no sentiment to spare,” Ewart says. “He speaks and looks and thinks and is–Belfast.”

At the Orange hall rally Ewart attends in East Belfast, Bates bellows:

We don’t want a United Ireland, we want a United Kingdom. … Some people hope that Ulster is going to make a mess of things. Failure means handing our bodies and souls over to Sinn Féin and the Roman Catholic Church. We’ve had enough of Dublin in the past. If we can crush Sinn Féin at the forthcoming elections, there’s a bright future for Ulster.[4]Journey, p.152-153.

A month later, Bates became Northern Ireland’s first minister for home affairs, a post he held for nearly 22 years. “His conspicuous distrust of the nationalist minority frustrated initial attempts to secure its cooperation, helped to minimize its power in local government, and encouraged an overtly discriminatory administrative style,” the Dictionary of Irish Biography says.[5]See Bates, Sir (Richard) Dawson, by Richard Hawkins, Dictionary of Irish Biography.

Northern Ireland Cabinet, 1921. Sir Dawson Bates at left, James Craig third from left. Others, l. to r, are Marquess of Londonderry, Hugh McDowell Pollock, E. M. Archdale, and J. M. Andrews. Ewart interviewed Pollock, who was finance minister.

Ewart also interviews finance minister-designated Hugh McDowell Pollock,  whom he characterizes as uncompromising and inflexible, a man who “can hardly be described as concessionable.” Pollock proclaims, “English people are stupid” because they fail to see that Ulster is “the only bulwark between them and the complete dissolution of the British Empire.” The people of southern Ireland, he says, are “full of sentimental ideas about nationalism.”[6]Journey, pp. 235-237. Also cited by Maurice Walsh, Bitter Freedom: Ireland in the Revolutionary World. W. W. Norton & Co., New York,  2015, pp. 306-307.

Bew/Maume detail how Ewart selectively reports “his vision of Ulster Unionist intransigence” by excluding moderate portions of the Craig speech he attends. They suggest Ewart was “more at home with the wistful and fearful Southern Unionists” who were willing to accept some form of Dominion status than the “more confident and intransigent” Ulstermen.[7]“Introduction”, p. xviii, and p. xiv.

The attitude expressed by Bates and Pollock prevailed in the region from the 1912 Ulster Covenant through the sectarian Troubles of the late 20th century, when it was personified by Ian Paisley. True, Paisley moderated his views after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, even developed an unlikely partnership with Irish republican Martin McGuinness. Echoes of Bates and Pollock reverberate in current outcries over Brexit’s impact on the region and increased talk of a united Ireland. More hard-line rhetoric is likely to be heard in the months ahead as the Democratic Unionist Party’s replaces resigned leader Arlene Foster.  

The next post in this series will catalog more of Ewart’s interview quotes from Belfast and other parts of Ireland on the two key subjects: the island’s 1921 partition, and the Easter Rising that preceded it in 1916.

Curious errors

In his chapters about Northern Ireland, Ewart’s book contains two historical errors: 

Cecil Doughty image of the 1882 Phoenix Park murders.

He suggests the first deaths of the Irish War of Independence, the Jan. 21, 1919, ambush of RIC officers James McDonnell and Patrick O’Connell at Soloheadbeg, County Tipperary, shared an anniversary date with the murders of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Henry Burke in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.[8]Journey, p. 143.

This is incorrect. The Dublin killings occurred nearly 40 years early, on May 6, 1882, during Ireland’s Land War period. 

A few pages later, Ewart quotes an unnamed “high official” in Belfast who criticizes de Valera, citing the quote: “If the Unionists do not come in on our side they will have to go under.” Ewart, in parentheses, attributes the comment to a July 5, 1919, speech at Killaloe, County Clare.

This place and date are correct, but the year was 1917, as de Valera campaigned in a special by-election for the seat opened by the death of Irish Parliamentary Party incumbent Willie Redmond. The Sinn Féin candidate won in a landslide five days later. Two years later, De Valera was in the early weeks of his 18-month tour of America to raise money and political support of the Irish republic.

As with most fact errors–and I have made my share–it is not so remarkable that mistakes were made in the first place, but that they survived the copy editing of other readers before publication.

NEXT: Rising & Partition

References

References
1 “Introduction”, Journey, UCD Press edition, 2009, pp.xii-xiii.
2 Ibid, p. xvii.
3 Journey, p. 156.
4 Journey, p.152-153.
5 See Bates, Sir (Richard) Dawson, by Richard Hawkins, Dictionary of Irish Biography.
6 Journey, pp. 235-237. Also cited by Maurice Walsh, Bitter Freedom: Ireland in the Revolutionary World. W. W. Norton & Co., New York,  2015, pp. 306-307.
7 “Introduction”, p. xviii, and p. xiv.
8 Journey, p. 143.

Select press coverage of summer 1920 Belfast riots

On July 21, 1920, unionist mobs in Belfast, many affiliated with Protestant Orange Order lodges, forced thousands of mostly Catholic, nationalist workers from their jobs, including the Harland and Wolff shipyards. Days of sectarian street fighting followed, leaving more than a dozen dead and hundreds injured. A second round of riots began Aug. 22 in what became a two-year stretch of unrest in the northern manufacturing hub. The events were simultaneously related to, but separate from, the revolution against British rule occurring on the rest of Ireland.

Belfast became a regular dateline in U.S. mainstream newspapers and Irish-American press coverage of the turmoil on the island. Wire services provided mostly straight accounts, such as this from the Associated Press: “Serious rioting broke out in Belfast tonight, during which there was considerable shooting and some incendariarism.”1

Big city dailies also sent their own correspondents, often more opinionated, and syndicated the reporting beyond their own pages. For example, The Gaelic American, a pro-independence weekly in New York City, republished a favorable dispatch from the American correspondent Arno Dosch-Fleurot shortly after his work appeared in The New York World:

The rioting began with the expulsion from Harland and Wolff Shipyards of all the Catholic workmen by the champions of ‘civil and religious liberty,’ and the British Government did nothing whatever to prevent it, or to punish the rioters after their bloody work was done. This is how ‘justice’ is administered in Ireland by the British Government. Practically all the magistrates are Orangemen and they do not even make a pretense of being impartial. The rioters are ‘loyalists’ and therefore protected and encourage; all Catholic workmen are classified as ‘disloyal’ and therefore it is all right to break their heads or to kill them if the Orange mob is in the mood for murder, and the work is done to the cry of ‘To hell with the pope’ and ‘Down with the Papishes.’ Yet these Orange fanatics have nothing to gain by their insane work. They are nearly all members of the same labor unions as the men they attack and when strikes come Protestants and Catholics act together against the same Plutocrats who are the oppressors of both.2

By 1920, photography increasingly supplemented news coverage of events such as the Belfast riots. This is a cropped portion of a New York Times photo page; which contained two additional images of Belfast, and three unrelated photos.

U.S. papers also included reporting from the Irish and British press, and the perceived or actual bias of the cited newspapers could be used to either bolster or dismiss reporting of the events. For example, The Irish Press, a Philadelphia weekly with direct ties to the separatist parliament in Dublin, readily cited coverage from a half dozen English newspapers as proof the “Belfast Riots Were Instigated by British.3 The London Daily Telegraph, Morning Post, Times of London, Daily News, and Manchester Guardian all “admitted … the Belfast riots were organized at a meeting of Unionists and were begun by the Orange workers at the shipyards.”

In particular, the Press and the Washington, D.C.-based News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom4 quoted from July 23, 1920, coverage in the Westminster Gazette: “It is common knowledge in Belfast, and has frequently been admitted by individual Unionists, that plans were matured at least two months ago to drive all [nationalist] Home Rule workers in the shipyard out of their employment.”

The weekly Kentucky Irish American, without naming any publications, complained that accounts in many daily papers created “the impression that Sinn Féin is to blame” for the riots, but also noted “significant little paragraphs betray the real cause of the disorders” as Orangemen and the British government. “The Catholics of Belfast are simply defending themselves.”5 Likewise, the Gaelic American cited reporting from the Irish News, a nationalist paper in Belfast, about Catholics being “driven from their homes, the premises were taken possession of by Protestant families.”6

“As the conflict progressed, this meant that reporting of various incidents could be quite unbalanced,” Kieran Glennon, who wrote a centenary overview of the Belfast riots for The Irish Story, said in an email exchange. “Some of this imbalance may simply have reflected a degree of physical danger for reporters from one side’s papers trying to report on things that happened on the other side’s “turf.” As a crude example, if the Special Constabulary shot up a nationalist area, the Irish News would interview residents of the area, while the unionist papers might have to settle for simply carrying statements issued by the [police authorities, rather than going into the neighborhoods].

Photo in the Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, N.Y.), Aug. 13, 1920.

In Butte, Montana, a heavily Irish mining town 2,300 miles west of New York, the Daily Bulletin published an account from Belfast by the newly established Federated Press, a left-leaning, pro-labor wire service.7 It began:

Workers here are gradually realizing that the riots at shipyards on July 21, when the Protestants drove the Catholics from their jobs, were engendered by the employers for the purpose of keeping labor divided. Seventeen dead must be charged against those who reap the profits at the expense of the plain people.

The story concluded:

The Belfast newspapers, both Catholic and Protestant, have followed their usual tactics of publishing editorials which are counsels of perfection, and in the next column painting their opponents in a manner to further incite the mob.

***

See my “American Reporting of Irish Independence” series for more centenary coverage. See Glennon’s book, From Pogrom To Civil War: Tom Glennon and the Belfast IRA.

Catching up with modern Ireland: July

This time last year my wife and I were enjoying a two-week holiday on both sides of the Irish border. Millions of other visitors did the same last summer. Now, tourism to Ireland is experiencing “an extraordinary collapse” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as detailed by the Central Statistics Office.

Visitors have declined by two thirds over the first six months of this year against the same period last year; while June arrivals plummeted 97 percent compared to June 2019.

“Decimated is how I’d describe the business,” Dublin-born Niall Leogue, owner of Caddie Tours near Washington, D.C., told The Irish Times. The 10 tours he had arranged for some 400 people have been cancelled.

“No one wants to travel at this point,” said Leogue, an acquaintance through  Irish Network-DC. “What this will come down to will be the confidence of the consumer. Without the consumer there is no travel.”

Those who do visit are testing Ireland’s famous welcome and creating a new threat: “Tourists, particularly American ones, who flout Ireland’s quarantine rule,” The New York Times reported. “They aren’t the only tourists ignoring the requirement that people arriving in Ireland isolate themselves for 14 days, but most of the public complaints involve Americans.”

The U.S. Embassy in Ireland warns Americans to be prepared for the Irish government to enforce new “travel restrictions with little or no advance notice.” Its July 28 alert continues:

The Irish government continues to advise against all non-essential foreign travel, and requires visitors arriving in Ireland, with limited exceptions, to restrict their movements and fill in a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form indicating where they will self-isolate for 14 days. Failure to complete the form and providing false or misleading information is an offense under Irish law, with a fine of up to €2,500 (nearly $3,000) and/or imprisonment of up to six months.

Other news in July:

  • A Guardian editorial enthused: “Step by step, Ireland’s old nationalist politics, shaped by Britain in so many ways, have moved on. Ireland is prospering by doing things more rationally and in ways that are firmly rooted in the state’s membership of multilateral institutions.”
  • Archaeologists have discovered evidence of extensive activity at Navan Fort—a circular earthwork near Armagh city in Northern Ireland—including a vast Iron Age temple complex and residences perhaps occupied by the kings of Ulster.
  • The Irish government has provided €66,561 in funding to keep open the acclaimed Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN), which documents the Troubles. The comprehensive resource at Ulster University’s Magee campus in Derry still needs additional support to avoid future problems.
  • A Hong Kong property tycoon has proposed building a new city, called Nextpolis, between Dublin and Belfast, for up to 50,000 refugees of the troubled Asian financial hub.
  • Loftus Hall in County Wexford, said to the most haunted house in Ireland, is for sale, which has generated a wave of media reports.
  • Amazon announced it would add 1,000 jobs in Ireland, bringing its workforce in the country to 5,000.
  • First the pandemic cancelled St. Patrick’s Day parades, now it’s claiming Irish America summer events including the Pittsburgh Irish Festival, Milwaukee Irish Fest, and Great American Irish Festival (Utica, N.Y.), and businesses such as Fado Irish Pub in Washington, D.C., and the Irish Walk store in Alexandria, Va.
  • The Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha will be hosted July 31 at Dublin’s Croke Park, home of the 136-year-old Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and symbol of an Irish identity that was nationalist and Catholic. The open stadium is being used to meet social distancing requirements. And in this case, the Irish welcome appears to be fully intact.
  • See previous monthly roundups and our annual “Best of the Blog.”

No masks: Galway city, August 2019.

The other Irish aboard the ‘Lapland’ with de Valera

Stowaway Éamon de Valera was the most famous passenger aboard the S.S. Lapland’s early June 1919 voyage to America. He was smuggled aboard in Liverpool, suffered seasickness crossing the Atlantic, then secreted down the gangway at New York. It was the start of his 18-month tour of America through December 2020. See my American reporting of Irish independence series for stories about his travels and other developments in 1919 and 1920.

At least three dozen fare-paying Irish, detailed below, also sailed aboard the Lapland.1 They were among the rebuilding wave of emigrants to leave Ireland during the War of Independence and Civil War.

In 1918, the final year of the Great War, fewer than 400 people emigrated from Ireland. That was less than one one-hundredth of the previous 10-year high of 51,000 in 1910.2 The 1915 sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania and similar attacks at sea, and other factors related to the war, caused the reduced flow.

In 1919, however, Irish emigration surged tenfold to more than 4,300, with slightly more than half bound for America. It increased to 30,500 in 1920, as slightly more than three quarters sailed to U.S. ports. During the five-year War of Independence and Civil War period, 1919-1923, a total 115,477 people left Ireland (an average of 23,000 per year), with 73 percent (84,051) destined for America.3

As for the Lapland, it was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast, and launched in 1908. In April 1912, the Titanic’s surviving crew returned to England aboard the ship. It was requisitioned during the war as a troop transport; then returned to commercial service between Liverpool and New York within weeks of the armistice being signed in November 1918.

S.S. Lapland

Author Dave Hannigan set the scene as the Lapland made its way through the Narrows and up the Hudson River. As de Valera remained hidden below decks waiting for the cover of darkness:

… hundreds of passengers percolated to the top deck to catch a better glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, coming into view on the port side of the boat. … Manhattan lay off to their right, already steaming in the early morning of June 11, 1919, a shimmering monument to the progress in the still-young century. … From the soldiers returning from Europe to resume live interrupted, to the immigrants dreaming of their new lives, the reactions were similar as the skyline took their breath away. Awe. Excitement. Joy. Relief. Their destination was at hand.4

Below are the names of the Lapland‘s Irish passengers who arrived in New York on June 11, 1919. Most were from locations in today’s Northern Ireland, or northwest portions of the Republic. Several had visited America before the war, just as de Valera was returning to the country of his birth.

I’ve included the last place of residence, age, marital status, who going to see and where, and the length of stay, according to the manifest. Some planned to return within weeks or months; “always” and “permanent” were each used for those who intended to stay. There were probably additional Irish passengers aboard the ship among those listed with “British ethnicity” but no recorded place of residency.

I hope genealogists or relations of these passengers will be inspired to search for more details. Please contact me with any new information, which I’ll be happy to report in a future post.

  • John Bethune Armstrong, Belfast, 18, single, Uncle S. Murdock in Ridgemoor, N.J., 1 year.
  • Florence Carlisle, Belfast, 34, single, Sister Mrs. C.W. Salmond, Pittsburgh, Pa., 1 year.
  • Frank William Chambers, Dublin, 42, married, MacAlpine Hotel, New York, N.Y., 6 weeks.
  • William Mitchell Cooke, Belfast, 21, single, Friend Mr. Jackson, New York, 1 year/uncertain.
  • Agnes Copley, Dublin, 26, single, Sister Mrs. Howe, Brooklyn, N.Y., uncertain, See John James Black Mason below.
  • Minnie Courtney, Moy, 30, married, Brother (illegible), Philadelphia, uncertain.
  • Christopher Courtney, Moy, 3, See above.
  • Annie Dempster, Belfast, 47, married, Husband William Dempster, New York, N.Y., permanent.
  • Elizabeth Dempster, Belfast, 27, married, Father-in-law Wm. Dempster, New York, N.Y., uncertain.
  • John Dempster, Belfast, 25, married, Father Wm. Dempster, New York, N.Y., permanent.
  • Margaret Dempster, Belfast, 17, single, Father Wm. Dempster, New York, N.Y., permanent.
  • William Goag Dempster, Belfast, 13, single, Father Wm. Dempster, New York, N.Y., permanent.
  • John Russell Dempster, Belfast, six months, Grandfather Wm. Dempster, New York, N.Y., permanent.
  • Alice Ferguson, Stradbully, 30, married, Husband William Ferguson, Villanova, Pa., always.
  • William Ferguson, Stradbully, 4, Father Wm. Ferguson, See above.
  • William Dudley Fielding, Dublin, 17, single, Grandfather C. Mallow, Elgin, Ill., uncertain.
  • Delia Gorman, Killkee, 25, married, Husband T.J. Gorman, Kansas City, Mo., always.
  • Thomas J. Gorman, Killkee, 3, Father T. J. Gorman, See above.
  • John Peter Hayes, Roscrea, 35, single, Friend Bishop Schinner, Spokane, Wash., permanent.
  • Winifred Lynch, Ballyhaunis, 32, married, Husband Thomas Lynch, U.S. Army, permanent.
  • John James Black Mason, Belfast, 57, single, Sister Mrs. Howe, Brooklyn, N.Y., uncertain, See Agnes Copley above.
  • Harry A. McCormick, Belfast, 36, single, Mr. Ward, Sausalito, Calif., 1 month.
  • Alfred McClintock, Bruckless, 32, single, Brother-in-law Rev. F. Timperley, Brooks, Maine, 6 months.
  • Patrick Joseph McGrady, Dronmore, 28, married, Friend J. McPoland, Pittsburgh, Pa., permanent.
  • Anna Kathleen McGrady, Dromore, 25, married. See above.
  • Michael O’Connell, Knocklong, 26, single, Right Rev. Bishop Grace, Sacramento, Calif., permanent.
  • Kate Reilly, Belfast, 52, single, Sister Miss Mary Reilly, New York, N.Y., always.
  • Amy Torpey, Kenmare, 30, married, Husband Michael Torpey, Philadelphia, always.
  • Sarah F. Torpey, Kenmare, 3, Father Michael Torpey, See above.
  • Catherine Walsh, Belfast, 60, married, Daughter Mrs. Campbell, Newark, N.J., always.
  • Margaret Walsh, Belfast, 35, single, Sister Mrs. Campbell, Newark, N.J., always.
  • Bridget Walsh, Belfast, 19, single, Sister Mrs. Campbell, Newark, N.J., always.
  • Norman F. Webb, Randalstown, 33, single, Imperial Hotel, New York, N.Y., 7 weeks.
  • William Hubert Webb, Randalstown, 47, married, Imperial Hotel, New York, N.Y., 7 weeks.
  • John Whelan, Youghal, 31, single, Sister Lena Doolan, Elizabeth, N.J., always.
  • Elizabeth White, Tallyearl, 40, single, Uncle George Mano, Philadelphia, Pa., always.

RELATED: ‘The Irish Press’ withheld news of de Valera’s U.S. arrival

An American reporter in 1920 Ireland: Religion

Harry F. Guest

American journalist Harry F. Guest of the New York Globe spent January and February 1920 reporting from revolutionary Ireland. Upon his return to America, he wrote two dozen stories based on his interviews and observations, which were syndicated to U.S. and Canadian newspapers through May 1920. See earlier posts in this series and other stories about American reporting of Irish independence at the linked project landing page. Reader input is welcomed, including photos or links to relevant source material. MH

***

This series to date has covered half of Guest’s Ireland stories in the order they were published. This post explores three of his stories that primarily focused on religion.

Drastic Gov’t In Ireland Fosters Spirit of Hatred, Leading Churchmen Say1

“The Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland is equally outspoken in its denunciation of the crime and outrage now existing there and of the causes which it holds responsible–the withholding of self-government, military oppression, and invasion of the people’s rights,” Guest opened this story. He noted the Jan. 27, 1920, meeting of Ireland’s Catholic hierarchy at St. Patrick’s College Maynooth, County Kildare, about 25 miles west of Dublin, and quoted from their official pronouncement.

Cardinal Michael Logue

Guest also cited subsequent statements by Bishop of Cashel John Harty; Cardinal Michael Logue; Archbishop of Dublin William J. Walsh; Bishop of Waterford Bernard Hackett; and Bishop of Rapheo Patrick J. O’Donnell. It appears that Guest repeated their quotes from Irish newspaper accounts, rather than his own interviews.

The passage below shows Guest overstated the church’s diminished influence on Irish affairs, since the Catholic hierarchy would play a significant role in the development of the fledgling state through ratification of the Irish Constitution in 1937, and beyond. Guest could not have anticipated how much relations between the priests and the people would change as they have in the last 20 years due to church scandals. In March 1920, he wrote:

Although the church is still as strong numerically in proportion as it was a century ago, it is not the dominant influence politically today that it was then. I do not mean by this that those of the Catholic faith in Ireland are any less religious; they are not. But something of the awe with which the peasants used to regard the clergy and the mystical powers they were wont to attribute to the priesthood have been dissipated.  … 

The priest in Ireland is revered and loved today as much as ever, but he is less feared. The people see young priests mixing in politics and they appreciate that they are of the people, one of themselves. Better education, too, has helped the people think more for themselves. This is why I believe the church in Ireland has lost something of the power it formerly had to mould and direct public opinion. This holds true not only of the Catholic south of Ireland, but Protestant Ulster as well. 

The older leaders of both the Catholic and Protestant churches have not accepted this condition without resistance. Neither have the old-school politicians, who have not hesitated when they could gain their ends no other way to fan the slumbering fires of religious antagonism between the north and the south of Ireland.

Free Education As We Know It In This Country, Is Unknown in Ireland2

“Education and religion are inseparably interwoven in Ireland,” Guest wrote. “One cannot be educated at any school in the south or in Ulster without absorbing a great deal of religious propaganda. … Early in the school life the seeds of distrust and antagonism … are sown. … Unlike the north and the south in the United States, Ulster and the south of Ireland have never attempted to let bygones by bygones and forget the past.”3

Guest outlined the existing Irish education system and the proposed restructuring of it under 1919 legislation by the government in London. He referred again to the Jan. 27 meeting at Maynooth, presided over by Cardinal Logue, which issued a statement that described the bill “the most denationalizing scheme since the act of union.”4 The hierarchy’s opposition, Guest suggested, “well illustrates how closely education and religion are interwoven.”

The education bill was eventually withdrawn.

St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, July 2016.

Believe Irish Catholics And Protestants In Ulster May Bury The Hatchet5

Guest wrote that he asked nearly everyone he met in Ireland whether Catholics and Protestants would ever “bury the hatchet” of antagonism between the two religious traditions. “Taken in their entirety, the replies were not encouraging to the hope that someday the ancient bitterness … would disappear,” he reported. He suggested, as above, “those of little education were positive … an insurmountable barrier” would keep Ireland forever divided; while those “educated … to think for themselves” believed the barrier “would someday be shattered.”

Guest addressed the issue “with persons from all walks of life,” including a grocery store clerk; a farm laborer in County Tipperary; a linen mill superintendent and a hotel porter in Belfast; and a farm owner and his son in County Down. He also had conversations with Lord Justice James O’Connor in Dublin, and Liam Roche in Cork, but did not quote either in the story. Guest wrote:

… in almost every case, as between persons who had learned to think for themselves and others who had not, the lineup on one side of the question and on the other side was distinct, regardless of locality. … [Young Catholic priests and young Protestant ministers] will tell you quite frankly that this old enmity is a ‘bugaboo,’ which has been kept alive largely by frequent doses of stimulant administered by politicians in England and Ireland. …

Catholics and Protestants labor side by side in factories, mills and shops with only occasional friction. So long as the two refrain from religious or political discussion, all goes well.

NEXT: British Suspension of Irish Newspapers Raised Great Storm of Protest

Best of the Blog, 2019

Welcome to my seventh annual Best of the Blog–BOB. As always, I want to thank regular readers and new visitors for their support, including social media shares. Special thanks to my wife, Angie Drobnic Holan: editor, webmaster … my dear companion.

Back to Ireland …  

Inisheer, August 2019.

This year I made my ninth and tenth trips to the island of Ireland, traveling both times to the Republic and Northern Ireland. I’m starting this year’s BOB with a sampling of highlights from these 10 trips in just under 20 years:

May 2000: Pilgrimage to the Lahardane (Ballybunion) and Killelton (Ballylongford) townlands, North Kerry, birthplaces of my maternal grandfather and grandmother, respectively; and walked the Cobh waterfront where they emigrated in the early 20th century.

September/October 2001: Climbed Croagh Patrick … Interviewed surviving family at the Bloody Sunday Trust/Museum and watched testimony in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry at the Guild Hall, Derry. (Journalism fellowship from the German Marshall Fund.)

August 2007: (With Angie) Enchanted by the monastic ruins of Clonmacnoise (Offaly) and Glendalough (Wicklow). … Attended first play at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin: The Big House, by Lennox Robinson.

February 2009: Researched historic newspapers and census records at the National Library of Ireland and The National Archives of Ireland, Dublin, before they were digitized and made available online.

May/June 2012: (With Angie) Attended the Listowel Writers’ Week and heard Paul Durcan recite his poem “On the First Day of June” … on June 1, 2012 … at the Listowel Arms Hotel, the River Feale framed by the window at his back. … Strolled the Kinsale to Charles Fort (Cork) coastal walk, stopping for a lovely outdoor lunch.

July 2016: Toured the Falls/Shankill neighborhoods of Belfast by Black Taxi … Visited Titanic Belfast EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum … and Glasnevin Cemetary (Part 1Part 2), the last two in Dublin.

February 2018: Researched at the Michael Davitt Museum and grave (Straide, County Mayo); and read Davitt’s papers at Trinity College Dublin. (Part 1 & Part 2).

November 2018: Walked a muddy, cow-crowded road to reach Killone Abbey (Clare), following the footsteps of American journalist William Henry Hurlbert, who wrote of visiting the site in 1888.

July/August 2019: (With Angie) Cycled the Great Western Greenway from Achill Island to Westport (Mayo). … Hiked the circumference of Inisheer (Aran Islands, Galway) on my 60th birthday, and viewed the Cliff of Moher, which I had visited on my 2000 trip, from the sea.

November 2019: Presented my research about American journalist Ruth Russell’s 1919 travels to Ireland at the Institute of Irish Studies, Queens University Belfast for the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland annual conference.

Here are 2019 photo essays from both sides of the border:

From an evening walk on Inisheer, August 2019.

A few more photo essays from Irish America:

Before morning Mass at Old St. Patrick’s Church, Chicago, March 2019.

1919, Revisited … 

This year I enjoyed exploring U.S. mainstream and Irish-American newspaper coverage of 1919 events in Irish history. Find all 32 stand-alone posts, plus the five-part monograph, Ruth Russell in Revolutionary Ireland, at my American Reporting of Irish Independence series.

Other history highlights … 

… and guest posts

I am always grateful to the contributions of guest bloggers. This year:

The Antrim coast, July 2019.

Other news of note:

RIP Lyra McKee, journalist killed in Derry on April 19. She was 29, the same age as Ruth Russell when the American reporter arrived in Ireland in 1919. … U.S. President Donald Trump, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi–first, second, and third in succession of power in the American government–each visited Ireland in 2019. I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. … Republic of Ireland golfer Shane Lowry won the British Open at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland, the first time since 1951 the Open has been held on the island of Ireland. … American businessman Edward F. Crawford became the new U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. …Abortion and same-sex marriage were decriminalized in Northern Ireland, in part due to the dormant Northern Ireland Assembly. … See more at my monthly roundups from 2019 and previous years of Best of the Blog.

Libraries and Archives

Special thanks for the in-person help I received at these institutions in 2019:

  • Catholic University of America, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, and Mullen Library, Washington, D.C.
  • Georgetown University, Lauinger Library, Washington, D.C.
  • Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
  • Arlington Public Library, Central Library, Arlington, Va., and the numerous libraries that made books available through the Interlibrary Loan program.
  • University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center, Pittsburgh
  • Heinz History Center, Detre Library & Archives, Pittsburgh
  • The Archives of the Sister of Charity of Seton Hill, Greensburg, Pa.
  • The Newberry, Chicago
  • Chicago Public Library, Herald Washington Library Center, Chicago
  • Queens University Belfast, McClay Library Special Collections, Belfast

And digital assistance from these institutions:

  • University College Dublin, Papers of Éamon de Valera (1882–1975), (Thanks again John Dorney of The Irish Story.)
  • National Library of Ireland, Patrick McCartan Papers (1912-1938)
  • University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research Center
  • Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, (Newspaper Collection), Springfield, Ill.
  • Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main, Pennsylvania Dept. Collections
  • Villanova University, Falvey Memorial Library, Joseph McGarrity Collection, Philadelphia
  • University of Kentucky, Margaret King Library, Louisville
  • University of Louisville, Ekstrom Library
  • Louisville Free Public Library
  • The Filson Historical Society, Louisville
  • Library of Congress, Chronicling America
  • Newspapers.com
  • Irish Newspaper Archives

Thanks again to all the librarians, archivists, and readers. Keep visiting this “journalist’s blog dedicated to Irish and Irish-American history and contemporary issues.”

Some unusual maps of Ireland

The anthropomorphic maps of Ireland shown below were drawn by Lilian Lancaster (1852-1939 … also known under her married name, Tennant) in the mid-19th century. They are part of the “Purpose and Portrayal: Early Irish Maps and Mapmaking” exhibit at the Ulster Museum, Belfast, which I viewed earlier this month. The exhibit continues through 26 January 2020. Lancaster produced similar treatments of other countries, including the United States.

Below, note the discrepancy in the two maps of the former Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland on the spine of David Cannadine’s Victorious Century, which I found next to each other on the shelf of a Barnes & Nobel store in Pittsburgh. The 2018 hardcover at left shows only Northern Ireland (under the “KI” of Kingdom), though the island’s political partition didn’t occur until 15 years after the 1800-1906 period assessed in the book. The 2019 softcover at right corrects the error. “Yes, it was an oversight, which was later put right!,” Cannadine replied to my email outreach.

Map images of the U.K. and/or the Republic of Ireland typically shade the north and south differently to make the distinction, keeping whole the island’s physical geography. Less-used maps showing only the 6-county North, or 26-county Republic, floating between the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea must make cartographers crazy, and surely enrage # united Ireland supporters.

I can hardly wait to see the post-Brexit maps of Europe.

Remembering Belfast’s war dead, before the war ended

On a wall of a side entry into the ornate St. Malachy’s Catholic Church in Belfast, a modest plaque speaks to a troubled time, and not the period most would associate with the city. The brass-on-wood message reads, in part:

“Pray for the repose of the souls of the sailors and soldiers who have fallen in this war.”

In this case, “this war” is the Great War, “the war to end all wars.” The plaque is dated August 1917 … 15 months before the November 1918 armistice.

Praying for the dead of any period or place is encouraged in Catholic belief, particularly during the month of November, and the priests of this parish have never removed this reminder of early 20th century sacrifice. They are still talking about it at Mass.

The plaque at St. Malachy’s Catholic Church in Belfast. Yes, that’s me reflected in the brass after the Nov. 9, 2019, Vigil Mass.

Ireland’s Memorial Records, a digital archive of the Flanders Field Museum in Belgium, lists 2,268 fatalities who were born in Belfast among 49,000 Irish soldiers killed in the war. The archive does not record their faith affiliation, let alone their home church.

Some 4,000 Catholic men from Belfast enlisted in the nine Irish regiments of the British Army, many joining the 6th Connaught Rangers, “the regiment of choice for Belfast Catholics,” historian Eamon Phoenix of Strainmillis University College says in a 2014 BBC podcast about the plaque. Many of these men supported pro-Home Rule nationalist John Redmond’s Irish National Volunteers and probably worshiped at St. Malachy’s, Phoenix says.

Of nearly 63,000 war recruits from the then nine-county province of Ulster, about 27 percent (17,092) were Catholics, at the time 44 percent of the region’s population. Overall, however, more Catholics than Protestants joined the war from Ireland in the years just before the island’s 1921 partition. More on faith affiliation and “the numbers involved,” from the Queen’s University Belfast Irish History Live blog.  

At this time, British officer Major Charles Blakiston Houston, a Protestant, was married to Norah Emily Persse, a Catholic woman and benefactor of St. Malachy’s Church. (Such “mixed marriages” were less than 1 percent of all unions in early 20th century Ireland, even more rare in Ulster, according to a 2015 study.) Norah convinced her parish priest, Fr. Dan McCashen, to install the plaque while the outcome of the war remained unresolved, Phoenix says.

“This must be very unique across the British Isles, a plaque that went up before the end of the war to remember soldiers; usually they went up afterward about 1920 or 1922,” he adds.

Why the early memorial? Phoenix speculates Norah sensed the shift from Redmond’s Home Rule nationalism to the post-Easter Rising surge of separatist Irish republicanism. If she anticipated the Sinn Féin election triumph of December 1918, she wanted to be sure the Redmond nationalists were remembered and respected.

“Many veterans returning to nationalist areas met grudging acceptance, hostility, or even physical violence,” the Queen’s History blog says. “For all of them the high public honor and celebration with which they had departed contrasted sharply with the changed circumstances of their return.”

A July 1919 press report of a Belfast event to honor veterans, however, included “a notable demonstration of the part played by Belfast nationalists” in the war. But it took until the approaching centenary of the Great War for it to become more widely acceptable, even expected, to recognize the sacrifices of Irish soldiers, especially nationalist Catholics.  

At St. Malachy’s, they have never stopped remembering and praying for the war dead, including at the Vigil Mass I attended Nov. 9. The priest noted the plaque during his homily. Otherwise, I would have missed it, since this feature is not described in the history section or other parts of the church’s website.

I sent an email to the church after returning to America and finding the Phoenix account. I’ll update the post if I receive new information.

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Related: An Irish-American’s most perilous summer, 1918 Kerryman John Ware immigrated to Pittsburgh in 1910. Eight years later, he was shipped to France.

The Belfast Cenotaph commemorating World War I opened in 1929 at Belfast City Hall. July 2019 photo.