Tag Archives: Irish Pittsburgh

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irish Pittsburgh’s views on Treaty

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

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

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

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

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

Ideas for the new Ireland

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

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

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

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

Pittsburgh in 1916, six years before the delegation visit.

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

After Pittsburgh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb. 17 presentation: The Irish Revolution in Pittsburgh

About 14,000 Irish immigrants lived in Pittsburgh during Ireland’s War of Independence, fifth largest in the United States, with tens of thousands more first-generation Irish Americans in the city and surrounding region. They read letters and newspaper accounts of developments in Ireland, staged rallies both for and against separation from Britain, and welcomed several Irish leaders to the city.

I will give a free virtual talk on this topic for the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. Eastern, Feb. 17.  REGISTER HERE

The presentation is based on my work for this blog and other publications, which can be found in the Pittsburgh Irish section. I hope you’ll join me.

A Pittsburgh boy remembers ‘Bloody Sunday’, 1972

Above the fold: Pittsburgh’s morning daily after Bloody Sunday …

As a 12-year-old boy in Pittsburgh, I was beguiled by the brogues of my Kerry immigrant relations as they talked at the kitchen table. Ireland seemed a misty, green isle of shamrocks and St. Patrick, 3,400 miles away across the Atlantic. The bloodshed and deaths in Derry on Jan. 30, 1972, changed that childish view as I read the newspaper coverage seen on this page.

Read my piece on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday for History News Network at George Washington University.

… and the city’s evening paper later the same day.

America’s 1921 relief to Ireland, revisited

Most of my work this year for the American Reporting of Irish Independence section of this blog has focused on the American Committee for Relief in Ireland. The 1921 fund drive provided $5 million to Ireland through summer 1922. Three of the 10 stories below were published outside the blog. Three key relief committee documents are also linked below the photo.

American investigators visit Ireland, February 1921

St. Patrick’s Day, 1921: ‘A Summons to Service’

Cardinal Gibbons, who died 100 years ago, was committed to Ireland, Catholic Review (Baltimore)

American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921

The Pittsburgh fight over 1921 relief to Ireland 

War relief to Listowel and North Kerry, 1921Listowel Connection

‘A duty to their own flesh & blood’

Forgotten Charity Between Ireland and America, 1889 & 1921, The Irish Story

The lawyer, the banker & money to Ireland, fall 1921

Irish visitor thanks America for 1921 financial relief

The American Committee for Relief in Ireland inspecting factory ruins at Balbriggan. Hogan, W. D. (1921).

KEY DOCUMENTS

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 his 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 was another factor. 

The campaign against the American Committee described below is an under-examined, if not untold, story of the 1921 Irish relief drive. Opponents 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. Historians Francis M. Carroll and Bernadette Whelan have not referenced this counter campaign in their analysis of the relief effort.[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 for 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 Charles 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 fiery anti-Sinn Féin speeches, frequently interrupted by pro-independence counter protesters, who were escorted from the theater by police.

“If they do this sort of thing to us here, what chance have we, a minority, in Ireland,” Maguire said. “I admit that a majority of the people of Ireland want a republic, but insist that one third of the inhabitants do not.[9]“Overflow Meeting of Ulster Delegation, Jan. 12, 1920, in John B. Collins Papers, 1913-1976 AIS.1977.17, Box 5 Folder 21, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh, and … Continue reading

Afterward, McFadden 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. Similar comments from Maguire in Collins Papers account of the January 1920 meeting. NOTE: … 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 “Overflow Meeting of Ulster Delegation, Jan. 12, 1920, in John B. Collins Papers, 1913-1976 AIS.1977.17, Box 5 Folder 21, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh, and “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. Similar comments from Maguire in Collins Papers account of the January 1920 meeting. 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.