Tag Archives: Irish Pittsburgh

Don’t drink: Father Mathew’s temperance tour in Pittsburgh

Father Theobald Mathew, Ireland’s 19th century temperance priest, visited Pittsburgh in July 1851 during a two-year American tour. Cork-born Michael J. O’Connor, who eight years earlier became the first bishop of the new Catholic dioceses in Western Pennsylvania, hosted the itinerant from July 13 to July 30 at the ecclesiastical residence.

O’Connor “set the example to this flock by solemnly receiving the pledge from the hand of the venerable ‘Apostle of Temperance’ and adding his name to the list of those who were already enrolled in the good cause,” The Pittsburgh Catholic reported.[1]”Father Mathew”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, July 26, 1851. O’Connor established the newspaper in 1844. The secular Pittsburgh Daily Post described the bishop kneeling to receive the pledge as “a glorious spectacle.”[2]”Father Mathew: Most Interesting and Edifying Proceedings”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 22, 1851.

It also was an extraordinary turn for O’Connor, who like other U.S. Catholic prelates had been skeptical of Mathew’s methods and reputation years before his American tour. Part of the reason was Mathew’s “easy fraternization with Protestants,” according to Catholic author and lecturer Michael J. Aquilina.[3]”Pittsburgh Takes the Pledge”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, Aug. 5, 2005, quoted, and Aug. 12, 2005. Written by and adapted from Aquilina’s April 17, 2005, Lambing Lecture, Holy Spirit … Continue reading O’Connor characterized his own temperance efforts as being “on a more religious basis than it is in Ireland. The pledge is administered before the altar.”[4]Quinn, John F., Father Mathew’s Crusade: Temperance in Nineteenth-Century Ireland and Irish America, University of Massachusetts Press, Boston, 2002. p. 158 and Note 13, p. 228. Quote from … Continue reading

His was not the first or only effort to dry the city. “The temperance movement was probably as characteristic of Pittsburgh morality as any reform and possessed more interest and dramatic vigor than most. A number of local temperance societies had been organized before 1830, but in that year the various societies formed a union and undertook a real campaign.”[5]Baldwin, Leland D., Pittsburgh: The Story of a City, 1750-1865. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 1937. p. 249.

Soon after becoming bishop in 1843, O’Connor traveled to Europe to recruit religious personnel to build the new see. In Ireland, he accepted an invitation to speak at one of Mathew’s rallies. “It was probably that personal encounter with Father Mathew and the eyewitness experience of his work that changed Bishop O’Connor’s attitude,” Aquilina wrote. The Kerry Evening Post reported in August 1845 that O’Conner offered grace before the meal of “a great fete” for Mathew hosted by the Teetotalers of Killarney.[6]”The Rev. Theobald Mathew In Killarney, Festivities On The Lake”, Kerry Evening Post, Aug. 23, 1845.

Father Mathew visited Pittsburgh in July 1851.                            Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

An estimated 8,000 people took the temperance pledge during Mathew’s two-week Pittsburgh crusade. The Catholic and secular press coverage did not detail the demographics of those vowing to reject alcohol, though presumably most were men. The reporting also did not reference the famine-fleeing Irish who began arriving in the years immediately before Mathew’s visit. By 1851, about 12,000 Irish immigrants lived in Pittsburgh and neighboring Allegheny City, just over 20 percent of the area population. Victor Walsh has asserted:

Many of Father Mathew’s pledge signers were the Irish-Catholic laboring poor who believed that he possessed supernatural powers that would protect them from evil and misfortune. Passive and capricious, they flocked to the crusade more out of deference to Father Mathew than out of a commitment to organized personal reform. As a consequence, the cause quickly faded in its appeal after Father Mathew’s departure.[7]Walsh, Victor A., “Across ‘The Big Wather,’ The Irish Catholic Community of Mid-Nineteenth Century Pittsburgh”, The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, Vol. 66, No. 1, … Continue reading

Mathew spoke on topics other than temperance, such as charity. “Never did we hear the claims of the poor, or the affluence of the rich, more ably or eloquently enforced; in some cases the effect was thrillingly impressive,” the Daily Post reported.[8]”Father Mathew”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 29, 1851.

After Mathew departed, the Catholic offered this editorial assessment:

He has been successful in Pittsburgh beyond the most sanguine expectations of the friends of total abstinence. During the time of his stay, the number of those who have visited the Bishop’s residence for the purpose of taking the pledge from him has been steadily increasing, and he was compelled to prolong his visit beyond his original intention … We sincerely believe that the benefits produced by the visit will be permanent. … If [Mathew’s estimate that only 4 percent of those who take the pledge later “violate the promise”] is correct, his exertions in the cause of temperance have been an inestimable blessing to those amongst whom he has labored. It is not difficult to get men to take the pledge when it has become the rage to take it in a particular locality; but to get men to adhere to the pledge when the temporary excitement is passed, is a difficulty which our most zealous temperance reformers in this country have found it impossible to overcome.[9]Father Mathew“, The Pittsburgh Catholic, Aug. 2, 1851.

The editorial lamented “how few” of the 6,000 Pittsburghers adhered to the temperance pledges they made in 1841, when frequent anti-drink parades marched to “whip up enthusiasm” for the campaign begun in 1830.[10]Baldwin, Story of a City, p. 250.

Four decades after Mathew’s departure, another Irish-born priest, Rev. Morgan Sheedy, operated “a large temperance society” from St. Mary of Mercy Catholic Church in the city’s “Point” district, then an Irish ghetto. He regularly protested against liquor licenses and claimed “the number of saloons was greatly lessened and the liquor traffic brought under restraint.”[11]Sheedy, Rev. Morgan M., “Ten Years on Historic Ground: Early and Later Days at the Pittsburgh Point.” Western Pennsylvania History Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 2, April 1922, p. 141.

Aquilina noted that Alcoholics Anonymous, created in the 1930s, “would have been unthinkable without Father Mathew’s advance guard,” while in Pittsburgh his “good effects cascade down the generations and down the centuries.”[12]”Pittsburgh Takes the Pledge”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, Aug. 12, 2005,

See more of my work on the Pittsburgh Irish.

Pittsburgh, circa 1850s.                                                                    Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

References

References
1 ”Father Mathew”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, July 26, 1851. O’Connor established the newspaper in 1844.
2 ”Father Mathew: Most Interesting and Edifying Proceedings”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 22, 1851.
3 ”Pittsburgh Takes the Pledge”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, Aug. 5, 2005, quoted, and Aug. 12, 2005. Written by and adapted from Aquilina’s April 17, 2005, Lambing Lecture, Holy Spirit Byzantine Church Hall, Pittsburgh, Pa. Bates, John C., The Catholic Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania: Its Origins, Establishment, and Resurrection. The Catholic Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, 2020, p. 352.
4 Quinn, John F., Father Mathew’s Crusade: Temperance in Nineteenth-Century Ireland and Irish America, University of Massachusetts Press, Boston, 2002. p. 158 and Note 13, p. 228. Quote from O’Connor letter to Paul Cullen, Jan. 10, 1842.
5 Baldwin, Leland D., Pittsburgh: The Story of a City, 1750-1865. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 1937. p. 249.
6 ”The Rev. Theobald Mathew In Killarney, Festivities On The Lake”, Kerry Evening Post, Aug. 23, 1845.
7 Walsh, Victor A., “Across ‘The Big Wather,’ The Irish Catholic Community of Mid-Nineteenth Century Pittsburgh”, The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, Vol. 66, No. 1, January 1983.
8 ”Father Mathew”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 29, 1851.
9 Father Mathew“, The Pittsburgh Catholic, Aug. 2, 1851.
10 Baldwin, Story of a City, p. 250.
11 Sheedy, Rev. Morgan M., “Ten Years on Historic Ground: Early and Later Days at the Pittsburgh Point.” Western Pennsylvania History Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 2, April 1922, p. 141.
12 ”Pittsburgh Takes the Pledge”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, Aug. 12, 2005,

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.

Guest post: From Donoughmore, Co. Cork, to Altoona, Pa.

Donoughmore, County Cork, historian Gerard O’Rourke is the author of ‘Ancient Sweet Donoughmore: Life in an Irish Rural Parish to 1900.’ He is trying to reach people with Donoughmore ancestors who settled in Altoona, Pennsylvania. The story below offers a clue about the connection. Visit Gerard’s website, donoughmore.com, or reach him at gerorour@gmail.com. MH

***

Ireland’s Great Famine devastated Donoughmore, a rural parish 17 miles west northwest of Cork city. About 3,000 people died in Donoughmore from 1841 to 1851, which was 40 percent of the population at the time and roughly equal to the number living there today.

“There died of famine and fever from November 1846 to September 1847 over 1,400 of the people and one priest …. numbers remained unburied for over a fortnight, many were buried in ditches near their houses, many without coffins,” reads an entry in the Donoughmore parish Roman Catholic Baptismal register.

As in other parts of Ireland, this upheaval resulted in mass emigration. Many people from Donoughmore settled in Altoona, about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh. Among them was John Tuigg, who sailed to America in December 1849, just shy of age 30. He studied in St. Michael’s seminary in Pittsburgh, was ordained in 1850, and became missionary pastor to Altoona from 1853 to 1876, when he was consecrated as the third bishop of Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh’s first bishop, Michael O’Connor, also was a Corkman, born at Queenstown/Cobh. He administered the new Pittsburgh dioceses from 1843 to 1860. He was succeeded by Michael Domenec, originally from Spain, who was transferred to a new dioceses in the region when Tuigg was appointed to oversee Pittsburgh.

Bishop Tuigg

Upon his accession, Bishop Tuigg found that the diocese’s property was financially encumbered. With foresight, energy, and extraordinary ability he reformed the diocesan finances with measures that, though harsh, endorsed and substantiated his wisdom and supreme management.

The Altoona Times reported that “he combined to a rare degree the unusual qualities of firmness and gentleness. Strong and unyielding … he was kind and courteous to those who differed and tender and sympathetic to the weak and erring. He possessed astonishing executive abilities, as the schools, the convent, and the splendid church of St John bear witness. Those that listened to his fervent and lucid appeals ranked him among the foremost preachers of the state.”

Bishop Tuigg became ill in December 1882 and remained in poor health for the next seven years. He died Dec. 7, 1889, just six months after a record flood killed more than 2,200 people in Johnston, 45 miles southeast of Altoona and part of the Pittsburgh dioceses.

Bishop Tuigg’s death created a vast outpouring of grief and loss. Altoona Mayor Edmund H. Turner described him as “one of Altoona’s oldest and most honourable citizens.” He urged residents to suspend business during the funeral. Fire companies were directed to attend the service. Other organisations, both secular and Christian, such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians, also paid tribute. The Altoona Tribune reported it was “the largest funeral ever held” in the city.

Bishop Tuigg was buried at St. John’s Cemetery in Altoona. He was succeeded by Richard Phelan of Ballyragget, County Kilkenny.

Whether Bishop Tuigg’s affiliation with Donoughmore influenced many people from this part of Ireland to settle in Altoona is a matter of debate. The fact that he was a native of the parish and held a prestigious position in America possibly attracted many of Donoughmore’s Catholics. Altoona’s thriving economy in the second half of the 19th century, a hub of the Pennsylvania Railroad, also would have lured these emigrants.

Your assistance with my research about the Donoughmore-Altoona connection is greatly appreciated.

Altoona in the late 19th century, with Pennsylvania Railroad shops in the foreground.

A letter from troubled Kerry, January 1921

On Jan. 24, 1921, widowed farmer John Ware of Killelton townland, Ballylongford, mailed a hand-written letter from the rural County Kerry community on the south shore of where the wide mouth of the River Shannon empties into the sea. It was addressed to his same-name, bachelor son, a streetcar motorman in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a noisy, smokey manufacturing city of more than a half million people, a hub of Irish immigrants, including two of his sisters, with a brother on the way.1

The 87-year-old father2 began the letter by thanking his 35-year-old son for an earlier postal order for £3, equivalent to about $200 today.3 Such remittances from immigrants were vital to the Irish economy and perpetuated still more departures.

Your prosperity in America is a great consolation to me. Your generosity and kindness since you left home.

John Ware of Pittsburgh in World War I military uniform.

John Ware the younger left home in 1910. Sisters Nora4 and Bridget followed him to Pittsburgh in 1912 and 1916, respectively. He was naturalized in 1917, entered the U.S. Army as as private in April 1918, and shipped to France two months later. John survived the Great War and returned to Pittsburgh in February 1919.5

The father reported that another son in Ireland had just welcomed a baby girl to his family three weeks earlier. A third son had sailed from Queenstown four days before he wrote the letter, also destined for Pittsburgh.

We all felt so happy he [was] able to get away giving to the present state of the country. That state of the case in Ireland at present is very bad.

War in Ireland

Ireland was in turmoil in January 1921. Two years had passed since Irish separatists established the first Dáil Éireann in Dublin. The Irish Republican Army’s guerrilla war against British authority, typically followed by military and police reprisals, had escalated steadily since summer 1920.

There was a policeman shot in Listowel a week ago. There is a fear there will be great damage done the town of Listowel through envy.

D.I. Tobias O’Sullivan

District Inspector Tobias O’Sullivan was shot multiple times at close range mid-afternoon Jan. 20, 1921. He was only a few yards from the Listowel barracks. The victim was accompanied by his 5-year-old son.6

In Pittsburgh, John Ware may have read the next-day, front-page newspaper coverage of the O’Sullivan killing,7 which occurred about eight miles from his father in Killelton, Ballylongford. The city’s papers reported several of the shootings and fires deliberately set to houses, creameries, and other businesses that occurred in North Kerry since fall 1920,8 one episode only a few weeks earlier:

At Listowel, in the marshal law area, crown forces  were fired on by civilians while arresting men wanted. They returned the fire, killing one and wounding two who were captured and sent to a hospital. Five arrests were made.9

The most notorious event in the area, however, flared a month after John Ware’s letter, on Feb. 22, 1921, when two constables were ambushed and killed at Ballylongford, followed by retaliation from the authorities:

In the history of reprisals no place has proportionally been visited with such wholesale destruction as the prosperous little town of Ballylongford. What was one time the business center of North Kerry, the wealthiest district in the county because of its port … is now little more than a smoking ruin. … The houses remaining are shattered and the people occupying them are confined indoors. Those whose places were destroyed and who fled in terror in the dead of night with no notice save the discharge of rifle, revolver, and machine-gun fire,  the rattle of petrol tins and crackling of flames found refuge with their country friends and are afraid to return.10

These and other episodes of violence against civilians, but not IRA attacks on military and police, were cataloged by the Dáil in a document titled “The Struggle of the Irish People,” presented in May 1921 to the U.S. Senate.11 A century later, the burning of Ballylongford “has still not been forgotten locally.”12

Agricultural distress

War violence was not the only trouble John Ware mentioned in his letter from Kerry:

The past year in the country is the worst that was ever remembered. The most of the year was all raining, the farm produce was never before so bad.

Farming in Kerry in the early 1920s.

His assessment is confirmed in Kerry newspapers of autumn 1920, which reported the impacts of a “late spring” and “continuous wet weather” that created a “black outlook not only for the farmers but for the people in the towns as well.”13 Government reports also recognized the decline in agricultural activity that year, though quantifying it was complicated by the war and relied on estimates and summaries. “In 1920 it was not found practicable to obtain particulars of either crops or livestock on all farms.”14

John Ware in Kerry did not mention his two daughters in Pittsburgh, who worked as household servants and perhaps also sent remittances. He concluded the letter to his son with wishes for a Happy New Year, a year that would soon bring a truce to the fighting and end with the treaty that created the Irish Free State.

Best of the Blog, 2020

Welcome to my eighth annual Best of the Blog. The pandemic prevented me from traveling to Ireland or doing any in-person domestic research this year, but I am grateful that so much work can be done online. Enjoy this year’s roundup. MH

Centenary series

I added more than 30 posts to my American Reporting of Irish Independence centenary series, up through Éamon de Valera’s December 1920 return to Ireland after 18 months in America. Highlights included:

  • a 10-part post on New York Globe journalist Harry F. Guest’s 1920 reporting in Ireland;
  • American journalist Dorothy Thompson’s “last interview” scoop with Irish separatist Terence MacSwiney before his Aug. 12, 1920, arrest for sedition;
  • the Irish question and the 1920 U.S. presidential election; and
  • several of my freelance pieces published beyond this blog and guest contributors welcomed to this space. (See below.)

Here are a few of my favorites from this year’s centenary series:

This was the most viewed story in the series this year:

Pittsburgh newspaper headline about Bloody Sunday, November 1920.

Ruth Russell remembered

My wife and I gave a March 7 presentation at the Irish Railroad Workers Museum, Baltimore, about “Ruth Russell in Revolutionary Ireland,” based on my 2019 research. I also had Ruth’s name inscribed on the gravestone in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she was buried with her sister.

Ruth’s name and dates were added to the headstone of the grave where she is buried with her sister, Cecilia.

Freelance work

I had six freelance pieces published on four websites beyond this blog. The work was collected in my previous post, From Boycott to Biden.

Guest posts

Journalists, historians, authors, researchers, and others are welcome to offer submissions via a new landing page and contact form. This year contributors included:

News & other history through the year

The pandemic was the biggest story of the year, of course, but there was other news, and more history to explore than just 1920. Below are the top story from each month, followed by a link to my regular monthly roundup.

From my August 2019 visit to Inisheer. God willing, I’ll get back to Ireland in 2021.

From Boycott to Biden: My 2020 freelance work

This year I had six freelance pieces published on four websites beyond this blog. I thank the editors who worked with me on these projects and hope my readers will explore their websites after enjoying the articles linked below. MH

Will Biden Shake Up a Century of US-Ireland Relations?
History News Network, Dec. 13, 2020

Joe Biden.

Though annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities at the White House have become a familiar tradition, Ireland hasn’t always fared well with U.S. presidents. Woodrow Wilson grew agitated with Irish activists, who helped scuttle the post-WWI League of Nations with war ally Britain. John F. Kennedy also was reluctant to jeopardize America’s “special relationship” with Britain during the Cold War. Now, Joe Biden’s presidency may be a boon to Irish politics, including new focus on the island’s century-old divided status.

Home at War, 1920: Diaspora Witness Statements to the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland
Irish Diaspora Histories Network, Nov. 15, 2020

Clare native Patrick J. Guilfoil returned to Ireland in 1920.

Half of the 18 American witnesses who testified a century ago about their experiences in Ireland during the War of Independence were natives of the country who returned home in 1920. Their first-person accounts of the period’s violence and unrest, totaling more than 160 pages of verbatim transcript, illustrate both Irish nationalist and American identities. Most of the nine witnesses said they returned to Ireland to visit family. Then they got caught in the crossfire of war.

The History of the Boycott Shows a Real Cancel Culture
History News Network, Aug. 2, 2020

Charles Boycott

Dozens of writers, artists and academics signed a letter in Harper’s Magazine that warned of growing “censoriousness” in our culture, including “a vogue for public shaming and ostracism.” While so-called “cancel culture” often deploys modern social media technology, it is hardly a new tactic. It most famously dates to 1880 in the west of Ireland, when English land agent Charles Boycott’s last name became a verb for the practice.

‘Likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty’, the Seizure of Irish newspapers
The Irish Story, May 17, 2020

The British government in Ireland wielded suppression powers over papers and printing works they deemed were “used in a way prejudicial to the public safety” or potentially bothersome to King George V, as quoted in the headline. On Sept. 20, 1919, authorities made simultaneous raids on three printing works that published six anti-establishment newspapers. An American journalist in Ireland later observed that among papers suppressed and then allowed to resume publication, “it is the custom to come out in the next issue with a blast against the government which makes the previous ‘libel’ read like a hymn of praise.”

When Irish Was Spoken in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Quarterly, March 16, 2020

Hyde’s travel journal was reissued in 2019.

Irish language scholar Douglas Hyde described Pittsburgh as “the dirtiest and blackest city in America” and complained “the wind would cut your nose off” during his January 1906 visit. But the 45-year-old Irishman hadn’t sailed across the Atlantic for mild weather or fine scenery. As with the other stops on an eight-month U.S. tour, Hyde came to raise awareness about the Gaelic League, the language revival organization he helped found in 1893 to nurture both cultural and political nationalism.

Ruth Russell in Revolutionary Ireland
The Irish Story, Jan. 8, 2020

1919 passport photo of Ruth Russell.

American journalist Ruth Russell interviewed Éamon de Valera and other leading political and cultural figures of the Irish revolution, including Arthur Griffith, Maud Gonne McBride, Michael Collins, Constance Georgine Markievicz, and George William Russell (no relation) during her 1919 reporting trip. Russell also mixed with Ireland’s poorest citizens, people in the shadows of the revolution. Back in America, she protested outside the British embassy in Washington, D.C., and testified before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland.

Irish Pittsburgh’s November to remember, 1920

Terence MacSwiney

Pittsburgh’s Irish community in November 1920 mourned the hunger-strike death of Terence MacSwiney and remembered the Manchester Martyrs of 1867. It followed news of “Bloody Sunday” in Dublin; the opening of the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland hearings in Washington, D.C.; and the launch of the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR) to rival the established Clan na Gael and affiliated Friends of Irish Freedom (FOIF).

About 14,000 Irish immigrants lived in Pittsburgh at the time, or 2.4 percent the city’s population; down from an 11 percent post-Famine peak of 27,000 in 1890.1 The population of first generation Irish Americans with at least one Irish-born parent in the city and surrounding regions is not clear.

Mourning MacSwiney

A reported 5,000 Irish sympathizers packed the Lyceum Theater in downtown Pittsburgh the evening of Oct. 31, 1920, to mourn MacSwiney’s death six days earlier. Another 2,000 unable to get inside held an overflow demonstration on Penn Avenue. Both groups listened to speeches for more than two hours about MacSwiney and the other hunger strikers Joseph Murphy and Michael Fitzgerald.2

Lyceum Theater sign can be seen in middle of the block of this 1914 photo. The downtown vaudeville house was a popular meeting place for Pittsburgh’s Irish community, including an anti-conscription protest and “Self-Determination for Ireland” rally in 1918.

Three days later, Catholic church hierarchy and over 2,000 mourners attended a solemn high mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the city’s Oakland district. An Irish tricolor was placed over a coffin. Subsequent memorial masses were held at St. Patrick’s Church, near downtown, with a sermon on “Destiny of the Irish Race”; and St. John the Evangelist, on the city’s Southside. 3

Martyrs Meeting

Western Pennsylvania representatives of the Clan na Gael packed the Lyceum again on Nov. 21 to hear Fenian legend John Devoy, then 78. There is no indication in the Pittsburgh newspaper coverage that news of the Bloody Sunday events hours earlier that day in Ireland reached the meeting. Instead, Devoy framed his Manchester Martyrs remembrance around the launch of the AARIR by Harry Boland and Éamon De Valera.

Pittsburgh newspaper headline the morning after John Devoy appearance in the city.

The “attempt to wreck the old organization which has kept the I.R.B. in Ireland alive for half a century, has had no effect whatever in Pittsburgh, except to make the members angry at [the] unwarrantable action, and they crowded the theater with their wives, children and neighbors to testify to their unbroken faith in the organization and the cause it represents in America but for its steadfastness and devotion.” Devoy’s Gaelic American reported two weeks later.4

The New York newspaper said its editor’s Pittsburgh hotel quarters were crowded “with old timers and young men who came to pledge their support in opposing the attempt to break the organization and to learn the inside history of the latest scheme to make a split among the American Irish.”

John Devoy

In his speech, Devoy recounted that he was locked up at Millbank Prison in London, about 200 miles south of Manchester, when William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, and Michael O’Brien were executed. He said newspaper accounts were smuggled to him by the I.R.B.’s Tom O’Bolger, who had avoided capture in the attempt to free Fenian prisoners from English custody, the event that ensnared Allen, Larkin, and O’Brien.

“The executions were intended to strike terror into the Irish people, but they had the very opposite effect. A wave of anti-English feeling swept over Ireland,” Devoy told the Lyceum audience.5

‘Avoid Splits’

Devoy also warned the Pittsburgh Irish to “avoid splits, which have ruined every Irish movement for the past 100 years. … Now, when the Irish in America are more united than at any other period in the history of the country, a new split is launched. It can only help England and bring discouragement to the people in the Old Land. The one thing that Ireland needs most is a United Irish Race in America, standing shoulder to shoulder, and acting under their own elected leaders.”

The split did occur, as further reported in the same issue of the Gaelic American: “… De Valera … said there was no split and that the two organizations could get along without friction. While making this statement he was making all the friction he possibly could. … [FOIF members were] induced by gross falsehood and misrepresentation to succeed and join the rival organization which is creating disunion in America while Lloyd George is butchering the people of Ireland.”6

Commission Hearings

The American Commission on Conditions in Ireland was a non-U.S. government body created in autumn 1920 to generate political support for the Irish cause. Pittsburgh Leader Publisher Alexander P. Moore was selected to sit on the high-profile panel. A year earlier, as event co-chairman for de Valera’s visit to Pittsburgh, Moore described himself as “the son of an Ulster Protestant whose father was driven out of Ireland because he fought for Irish freedom.”7 The newspaper man excused himself from commission service because he was “unable to give the time necessary to the inquiry,” with hearings that lasted from November through January 1921.8

In early December, Pittsburgh innkeeper and Irish immigrant Patrick J. Guilfoil was called before the commission to testify about his experiences in Ireland earlier in the year. He described how Irish republican gunmen killed two Royal Irish Constabulary officers at Feakle, Co. Clare, where he was staying, which resulted in military reprisals on the village 50 miles north to Limerick city. Guilfoil also described the Cork city funeral procession of hunger striker Michael Fitzgerald. “Pittsburgh Witness In Irish Probe P.J. Guilfoil Tells of Raid by Military on County Clare Town’ and “Local Man Tells of Burning of Town in County Clare,” the city’s newspapers headlined.9

Guilfoil’s testimony was noted in other U.S. newspaper coverage of the Dec. 10 hearing, but it was overshadowed by the same-day testimony of Mary MacSwiney, sister of the late hunger striker; and by three former RIC officers who quit the force in protest of British “misrule” in Ireland. A treaty to separate Ireland from that rule and end the war would be agreed within a year. But the island was partitioned and the new free state plunged into civil war.

Related Work:

Three stories published beyond the blog

(I am currently working on long-term projects. The linked headlines below are from stories that I’ve freelanced this year beyond the blog. Please check back for occasional new posts over the summer. Enjoy. MH)

‘Likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty’, the Seizure of Irish newspapers
The Irish Story, May 17, 2020

At midday Sept. 20, 1919, as “squally,” unseasonably cold weather raked across Dublin, “armed soldiers wearing trench helmets” joined by “uniformed and plain clothes police” made simultaneous raids on three printing works that published six anti-establishment newspapers. (See “Secret” document related to the raids at bottom of this post.)

When Irish Was Spoken in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Quarterly, March 16, 2020

Douglas Hyde opened his 1906 speech in Gaelic, and many in the audience shouted back in Irish, according to the press reports: “It is doubtful if a more completely Irish assembly has ever been gathered together in Pittsburgh.”

Ruth Russell in Revolutionary Ireland
The Irish Story, Jan. 8, 2020

The Chicago Daily News reporter interviewed leading Irish political and cultural figures. She also mixed with Ireland’s poorest citizens, people in the shadows of the revolution. Back in America, she joined a protest against British rule in Ireland, and testified favorably to the Irish republican cause before a special commission. 

See my American reporting of Irish independence series for more stories about journalists and newspaper coverage of the Irish revolution. See my Pittsburgh Irish archives for more on the city’s immigrants.

Memorandum outlining the September 1919 newspaper raids from the secret files of British authorities in Ireland. Army of Ireland, Administrative and Easter Rising Records, Subseries – Irish Situation, 1914-1922, WO 35/107, The National Archives, Kew.

Irish & American connections, before & during pandemic

In February, a month before the COVID-19 pandemic engulfed the world, I received a telephone call at my Washington, D.C., office from Michael Larkin in County Mayo, Ireland. He found me through this blog, and reached me on my mobile device, which is so much more than a phone.

More on that in a moment.

Thomas Larkin eventually returned to Mayo.

It turned out that Michael and I share a connection to Pittsburgh, the city of my birth; the destination of my Kerry emigrant grandparents; and the place where his ancestor, Thomas Larkin, secured employment with the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania and became one of the early Telephone Pioneers of America. (Today–April 25–is National Telephone Day.)  

Michael, a health services professional, is the author of the 2019 book, Making the Right Connections. As he describes:

The book depicts the emigrant journey of Thomas Larkin, as well as themes relating to emigration, transatlantic connectivity, evolution of telecommunications, predictions made regarding the early telephones and an overview of the social history of Ireland and Irish America in the early 1900s.

While Thomas Larkin was just another Irish immigrant hoping to find employment of any kind in the USA, the words ‘connection’,  ‘connectedness’, etc., are particularly apt in the context of Irish American connectivity and also in the context of the early telephones, when the services of an operator were required to ‘make the connection’ in order for a telephone conversation to occur. 

“Believe me, the day will come when you will be able to ‘see’ the person who you are speaking to on the telephone”.

When Thomas Larkin uttered the above words, following his retirement from the Bell Telephone Company and return to a predominantly rural Ireland, they were greeted with suspicion and doubt. Perhaps if he could now ‘see’ the advances in telecommunications, or realize that some of his almost forgotten telephone memorabilia items illustrates and symbolizes Irish American connectivity in its many facets, he might simply say, “I told you so”. 

While my phone conversation with Michael was a “simple” voice connection, we just as easily could have seen each other across the Atlantic on Zoom, Skype or other digital platforms, which so many of us now use as we huddle in quarantine. I also connect with Michael, and with other friends and family in Ireland, via email and Twitter messages, sending words, images, and video in addition to voice. I can do it all on my “phone.”

Perhaps because of that incredible technology, and the extraordinary times we find ourselves living in, I am fond of the trove of my family’s hand-written letters between Ireland and Pittsburgh. The earliest date from the 1920s. The writers mention wars and sickness, economic hardships and other challenges. They also confirm good health, and share news of marriages, babies, graduations and other joys. We are often separated and unable to be with the each other, and yet always find ways to remain connected.

Making the Right Connections is available through Book Hub Publishing  and Mayo Books.

Many Irish Americans have found their ancestor’s name on these documents.

Reprising three stories for St. Valentine’s Day

It’s time for a break from the Irish elections. The first of the three previously publish stories below is focused on Ireland’s direct connection to St. Valentine. The Feb. 14 date in the other two stories is a coincidental element, but I hope you enjoy reading them all the same. MH

Statue and crypt of St. Valentine at Whitefriar Street Church, Dublin.

St. Valentine rests at Carmelite church in Dublin: The third century saint’s mortal remains are a popular attraction. Watch a 2-minute video, and link to more history from the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitefriar Street.

***

Reporter’s 19th century visit to Ireland’s National Gallery: On Valentine’s Day 1888, American journalist William Henry Hurlbert toured the Dublin collection with Gallery Director Henry Edward Doyle. From my Ireland Under Coercion: Revisited series.

***

An Irish-American’s most perilous summer, 1918: Kerryman John Ware immigrated to Pittsburgh in 1910; shipped to France as a U.S. soldier in 1917; and was finally released from the military on Valentine’s Day, 1919. From my Pittsburgh Irish series.