Here are 10 of my favorite St. Patrick’s posts from the blog’s archives. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. MH.
The Irish War of Independence had grow increasingly violent by St. Patrick’s Day, 1920. In America, Sinn Féin leader Éamon de Valera continued his effort to raise money and political support for the Irish cause. His St. Patrick’s Day message was quoted in many U.S. newspapers. It said, in part:
Sons and Daughters of the Gael, wherever you be today, in the name of the Motherland, greeting! … Never before have the scattered children of Eire had such an opportunity for noble service. Today you can serve not only Ireland, but the world. … Those of our race who are citizens of this mighty land of America, whose thought will help to mould the policy of the leader among Nations–how much the world looks to you this St. Patrick’s Day–hopes in you–trusts in you. You can so easily accomplish that which is needed. You have only to have the will–the way is so clear. What would not the people in the old land give for the power which is yours!1
New York City’s Irish community “answered the call to arms” in de Valera’s message “by throwing the greatest parade in the history of a city that held its first in 1766.”2 The Irish leader attended the March 17 Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, celebrated by Archbishop Patrick Hayes, who was appointed to the post a year earlier. Both men were seated together at the parade reviewing stand in front of the landmark church, along with New York City Mayor John F. Hylan and New York State Gov. Al Smith.
By odd coincidence, considering the Irish visitor, all four of these honorary parade-goers were New York natives. De Valera was born in the city in 1882 to a Irish immigrant mother and a Spanish father, who died three years later. The toddler was sent to Ireland to be raised in County Limerick by his relatives.
Any small talk about their shared birthplace, however, was secondary to the simmering tensions between de Valera and the American-based Friends of Irish Freedom, which was led by Gaelic American newspaper editor John Devoy and New York Supreme Court Judge Daniel F. Cohalan. At issue were disputes over control of the money being collected for Ireland and the efforts to influence American political leaders and U.S. policy.
None of this was on public view for the big day. As Hannigan writes:
At the end of St. Patrick’s Day, when Ireland held the city in its thrall, the impression may have been that the various combatants had put aside their personal grievances for the greater good. Though de Valera and Cohalan were at the same dinner by evening’s end with the appearance all was well, the truth was much different. The two men seemed to picture of professionalism that night, the politicking, scheming and plotting continued backstage. It would come to a boil very soon.”3
For St. Patrick’s Day 1920, Denis Aloysius McCarthy released a poem that emphasized the historic connections between Ireland and America, especially in the struggle for freedom. Like de Valera’s message, “St. Patrick’s Day” also was circulated in U.S. papers.4 It including these stanzas:
When America first uprose
And flung defiance at her foes
No laggards were the Irish then
In purse or purpose, means or men.
And ever since in all our wars,
Wherever gleamed the Stripes and Stars,
The loyal Irish, heart and hand,
Have fought for this beloved land.
So in the springtime of the year
When St. Patrick’s Day again is here,
T’is not alone on Irish breasts
The spray of Ireland’s shamrocks rests.
Our great Republic’s heart
Reveals today its tend’rer part,
As, smiling in her state serene,
She wears a touch of Ireland’s green.
This poem should not confused with McCarthy’s “St. Patrick’s Day Memories” , from his 1906 collection, Voices From Erin.
The poet and journalist emigrated from Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, to America in 1886. He eventually settled in Boston. The Boston Globe did not mention him as having strong feelings about Irish independence in its August 1931 news obituary.
Welcome to my seventh annual Best of the Blog–BOB. As always, I want to thank regular readers and new visitors for their support, including social media shares. Special thanks to my wife, Angie Drobnic Holan: editor, webmaster … my dear companion.
Back to Ireland …
This year I made my ninth and tenth trips to the island of Ireland, traveling both times to the Republic and Northern Ireland. I’m starting this year’s BOB with a sampling of highlights from these 10 trips in just under 20 years:
May 2000: Pilgrimage to the Lahardane (Ballybunion) and Killelton (Ballylongford) townlands, North Kerry, birthplaces of my maternal grandfather and grandmother, respectively; and walked the Cobh waterfront where they emigrated in the early 20th century.
September/October 2001: Climbed Croagh Patrick … Interviewed surviving family at the Bloody Sunday Trust/Museum and watched testimony in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry at the Guild Hall, Derry. (Journalism fellowship from the German Marshall Fund.)
August 2007: (With Angie) Enchanted by the monastic ruins of Clonmacnoise (Offaly) and Glendalough (Wicklow). … Attended first play at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin: The Big House, by Lennox Robinson.
February 2009: Researched historic newspapers and census records at the National Library of Ireland and The National Archives of Ireland, Dublin, before they were digitized and made available online.
May/June 2012: (With Angie) Attended the Listowel Writers’ Week and heard Paul Durcan recite his poem “On the First Day of June” … on June 1, 2012 … at the Listowel Arms Hotel, the River Feale framed by the window at his back. … Strolled the Kinsale to Charles Fort (Cork) coastal walk, stopping for a lovely outdoor lunch.
July 2016: Toured the Falls/Shankill neighborhoods of Belfast by Black Taxi … Visited Titanic Belfast … EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum … and Glasnevin Cemetary (Part 1 & Part 2), the last two in Dublin.
November 2018: Walked a muddy, cow-crowded road to reach Killone Abbey (Clare), following the footsteps of American journalist William Henry Hurlbert, who wrote of visiting the site in 1888.
July/August 2019: (With Angie) Cycled the Great Western Greenway from Achill Island to Westport (Mayo). … Hiked the circumference of Inisheer (Aran Islands, Galway) on my 60th birthday, and viewed the Cliff of Moher, which I had visited on my 2000 trip, from the sea.
November 2019: Presented my research about American journalist Ruth Russell’s 1919 travels to Ireland at the Institute of Irish Studies, Queens University Belfast for the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland annual conference.
Here are 2019 photo essays from both sides of the border:
- Meath, Downpatrick & Belfast
- Remembering the Dead, Belfast
- Antrim Coast
- In the West
- From Downpatrick to Croagh Patrick
- South Connemara to North Kerry
- Belfast Botanic Gardens
A few more photo essays from Irish America:
- Old St. Patrick’s Church, Chicago
- Art of Chicago/Galway sister city relationship
- Irish American Savannah
1919, Revisited …
This year I enjoyed exploring U.S. mainstream and Irish-American newspaper coverage of 1919 events in Irish history. Find all 32 stand-alone posts, plus the five-part monograph, Ruth Russell in Revolutionary Ireland, at my American Reporting of Irish Independence series.
Other history highlights …
- Henry Clive’s ‘face’ of Ireland in 1921
- From Marconi to Twitter in 100 years
- St. Colman’s Cathedral (Cobh) celebrated its centennial
- Douglas Hyde’s ‘American Journey’ re-launched in D.C.
- Ireland’s Carnegie libraries commemorated with new stamps
… and guest posts
I am always grateful to the contributions of guest bloggers. This year:
- A touching surprise at the Mansion House, Sister Cathy Cahill, OSF
- ‘Milkman’ is dark, grim & terrifically funny, Angie Drobnic Holan
- The slow death of the Freeman’s Journal, Felix Larkin
Other news of note:
RIP Lyra McKee, journalist killed in Derry on April 19. She was 29, the same age as Ruth Russell when the American reporter arrived in Ireland in 1919. … U.S. President Donald Trump, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi–first, second, and third in succession of power in the American government–each visited Ireland in 2019. I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. … Republic of Ireland golfer Shane Lowry won the British Open at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland, the first time since 1951 the Open has been held on the island of Ireland. … American businessman Edward F. Crawford became the new U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. …Abortion and same-sex marriage were decriminalized in Northern Ireland, in part due to the dormant Northern Ireland Assembly. … See more at my monthly roundups from 2019 and previous years of Best of the Blog.
Libraries and Archives
Special thanks for the in-person help I received at these institutions in 2019:
- Catholic University of America, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, and Mullen Library, Washington, D.C.
- Georgetown University, Lauinger Library, Washington, D.C.
- Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
- Arlington Public Library, Central Library, Arlington, Va., and the numerous libraries that made books available through the Interlibrary Loan program.
- University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center, Pittsburgh
- Heinz History Center, Detre Library & Archives, Pittsburgh
- The Archives of the Sister of Charity of Seton Hill, Greensburg, Pa.
- The Newberry, Chicago
- Chicago Public Library, Herald Washington Library Center, Chicago
- Queens University Belfast, McClay Library Special Collections, Belfast
And digital assistance from these institutions:
- University College Dublin, Papers of Éamon de Valera (1882–1975), (Thanks again John Dorney of The Irish Story.)
- National Library of Ireland, Patrick McCartan Papers (1912-1938)
- University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research Center
- Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, (Newspaper Collection), Springfield, Ill.
- Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main, Pennsylvania Dept. Collections
- Villanova University, Falvey Memorial Library, Joseph McGarrity Collection, Philadelphia
- University of Kentucky, Margaret King Library, Louisville
- University of Louisville, Ekstrom Library
- Louisville Free Public Library
- The Filson Historical Society, Louisville
- Library of Congress, Chronicling America
- Irish Newspaper Archives
Thanks again to all the librarians, archivists, and readers. Keep visiting this “journalist’s blog dedicated to Irish and Irish-American history and contemporary issues.”
The final set of photos in this series from my just completed seventh visit to Ireland has a religious theme. I’ll be returning to my Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited series, and other history and contemporary issues shortly. As always, thanks for spending some time on my blog. MH
I returned to Knock, County Mayo, for the first time since 2001. The Basilica in 2016 added a giant mosaic of the 1879 apparition. The original church is being restored in anticipation of a potential visit by Pope Francis this August. Here’s my June 2017 piece on Knock’s vision visitors.
After visiting the National Museum of Country Life near Castlebar, Mayo, I made the short drive to the Turlough Round Tower. It was built in the 9th century, with the church graveyard added to the grounds in the 18th century church.
I’m writing this post 17 September, which many pubs and other marketers with even the most tenuous connections to Ireland now promote as “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day.” By coincidence, I was in Harrisburg, Pa., for some Irish research at the Pennsylvania State Archives (though not their Molly Maguires collection) and visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral on State Street, two blocks from the hilltop capitol.
The parish and earlier iterations of the church date to the early 19th century, when the construction of a vast system of canals, railroads, and turnpikes along the Susquehanna River brought many Irish immigrants to the area, according to the cathedral’s official history. Construction of the present building began in 1904 and was completed three years later.
The church was officially dedicated 14 May 1907, though liturgies began earlier in the year. The Ancient Orders of Hibernians, Division 5 in Harrisburg, gathered at the new cathedral for a 7 a.m. St. Patrick’s Day Mass, a Sunday that year, either inspiring or requiring extra piety.
The fraternal group paid the $1,800 for the transept window of St. Patrick, holding a shamrock to explain the Trinity to the royal court at Tara. The men surely admired the beautiful stained glass from Munich, Germany.
“The Apostle of Ireland is a splendid figure … arrayed in full pontificals, even to the gloves,” is how the Harrisburg Telegraph described the window in a story detailing the church’s architecture and amenities.
But even the grand new worship space had to compete with the holiday’s contemporary commercialism.
“It is doubtful if St. Patrick ever in his life saw such a profusion of tributes to himself as are now displayed,” The (Harrisburg) Courier reported. “[H]is memory has not only been kept green, but his fame has increased. It may be whispered that there are certain tokens which he might not appreciate.”
The paper detailed an array of tchotchkes such as high hats and pipes, “green pigs of every variety,” “clovers growing in pots” and boxes decorated with harps and green flags. The items sold for a few pennies to 20 cents.
About 100 clerics attended the official dedication in May, including Archbishop P.J. Ryan of Philadelphia. He donated the exterior statue of St. Patrick that is mounted over the entrance of the church.
Two days after the dedication, Irish nationalists in Dublin denounced the limited self-government for Ireland bill offered by Irish Chief Secretary Augustine Birrell. The Sinn Fein Society called the measure “an insult to Ireland” and urged nationalists in the London parliament to “devise measures for the material betterment of Ireland and securing international recognition and support of Ireland’s political rights.”
Timothy Healy and William O’Brien were at the forefront of this latest split with Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond. The Catholic Church hierarchy also rejected Birrell’s bill. Read more about this period of Irish history.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Harrisburg is the 20th St. Patrick’s church that I’ve visited in four countries. See the list.
I visited two St. Patrick’s churches during an a recent research trip; one in Maryland for the first time, the other my longtime favorite back home in Pittsburgh. See my list of 18 St. Patrick’s churches.
In Cumberland, Maryland, the late 18th century St. Mary’s was rededicated as St. Patrick’s in 1851 due to the town’s growing Irish population. The church was closed when I passed through late in the evening, but Catholic Sanctuaries has more than 50 images posted on Flickr.
Architect John Tehan lived from 1796 to 1868. It appears he may have been an Irish American from nearby Frederick, Maryland, where he is buried, rather than an Irish native. Tehan is not in the Dictionary of Irish Architects, 1720-1940.
Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has decided to remove three seminarians from his dioceses at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, due to “an atmosphere of strange goings-on” at the national seminary. Martin is transferring the trainee priests to the Irish Pontifical College in Rome, according to The Irish Times.
In May, The Irish Catholic reported on “allegations of a gay culture in the seminary were made in an anonymous letter to the Irish bishops.” Martin would not comment for the 1 August Times‘ story on whether those allegations weighed on his decision.
In this June analysis, former Irish Catholic editor David Quinn said the seminary is in need of significant reform:
“…[I]f Maynooth was a place of dynamic orthodoxy (absolutely not to be confused with rigidity and fundamentalism), it would be attracting considerably more vocations. If the seminary sounded a certain trumpet, not an uncertain one, it would be attracting more vocations, and if these constant worrying stories about Maynooth dried up, not because they were suppressed, but because the seeming problems were dealt with, then it would attract more vocations.
I spent some time walking around the County Kildare campus during my recent visit to Ireland. Students were gone for the summer, and most of the buildings were locked, including the beautiful late 19th century chapel that I had intended to visit.
I want to get away from all the noise and nonsense that’s come to surround St. Patrick’s Day, the once reverent, if myth-filled, holy day turned raucous global celebration.
So here’s a reminder of a simpler St. Patrick’s Day, a 1953 letter from a sister in Kerry, Ireland to her brother in Pittsburgh, USA. It’s from a collection of letters I inherited from my aunt a few years ago. A few other letters from the 1950s also included sprigs of shamrock from the north Kerry countryside.
Keep in mind that 1953 was seven years before the election of John F. Kennedy as president (a decade before his return to Ireland and assassination later the same year), and nine years before Chicago began to dye its river green. While the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin dates to 1931, it was nothing like today’s massive multi-day festivals.