Monthly Archives: April 2014

19th Century European Broadcasting

HISTORY

19th Century European Broadcasting

The centre of the birth of European radio in the late 19th Century was Ireland. Although this was not realised at the time history would soon make it an absolute fact. Ireland was perfectly located on the north Atlantic of north-west Europe which gave it a great advantage for transatlantic communications at the birth of what was to become the communications revolution of the early 20th century. Ireland would remain very much in the dark about these advantages until the arrival of Italian-Irishman, “the father of radio” Guglielmo Marconi built his first Irish station at Crookhaven, County Cork in 1902.

As far back as February 1893 an article headed “Electric Messages without Wires” the Irish public were alerted to a new reality, “the promise of electrical communication between two points without the agency of an intervening wire.” The article explains, “Today electricians are easily transmitting electric messages across a Wireless distance of three miles, without any sign of approaching the limits of the electric function in this direction.”[1] If there were any public enthusiasm for the revelation it was not obvious for another three years.

In December 1896 Irish readers saw reports of an amazing scientific development. Newspapers explain, “A young Italian scientist named Marconi appears to have perfected a system of electrical communication by which vibrations set up in one apparatus are communicated to a nearby receiver without wires. The secret being that the receiver must respond to the vibrations of the sender.”[2] While Wireless Telegraphy may have been a new idea to Irish readers these developments were the latest in a long series of experiments dating back to 1844.

In that year Samuel Morse, aged 53, would send the first four words ever dispatched; “What hath God wrought?” flashed over an electric Telegraph wire in ‘Morse Code’ on a line from Washington to Baltimore. Essential to Morse’s idea was signals would be sent by the opening and closing of an electrical circuit, that the receiving apparatus would, by electromagnetic, record signals as dots and dashes on paper, and that there would be a code whereby the dots and dashes would be translated into numbers and letters.[3]

By increasing battery power Samuel Morse was able to send messages one third of a mile on electrical wire around a large lecture hall. He then devised a system of electromagnetic relays, this being the key element; it meant no limit to the distance a message could be sent. Morse went on to working out a system for transmitting the alphabet in dots and dashes, in what was to be known as ‘Morse Code’. Morse’s invention was quickly established as a means of communication in America but, importantly to him, also in his beloved Europe, in the heart of Paris.

In 1839, after a series of long legal wrangles with the English Government in relation to the Patent of his invention he sailed for Paris where he met with expansive recognition as a genius. It was said of Morse’s invention that, “it transcends all yet made known and clearly another revolution is at hand.”[4] For financial reasons Morse was forced to return to America and four years later in 1844 he opened a Telegraph line, built with congressional appropriation, between Washington and Baltimore, a distance of 34 miles.

Morse’s experiments were so successful that when the contentious 1844 Democratic National Convention at Baltimore became deadlocked; hundreds gathered in Washington for updates. Martin Van Buren tied for the nomination with Lewis Cass. On the eighth ballot, the convention chose compromise candidate, James Polk. The rapid transmission of information was reported as, “the utter annihilation of space.” Morse’s invention became America’s only means of communication. By 1867 so indispensable had Telegraphy become that 50,000 miles of Western Union wire carried more than two million news dispatches annually.[5]

Seven years later in 1874 in Bologna, Italy the second son of Giuseppe Marconi and his Irish wife, Annie Jameson from County Wexford was born and christened Guglielmo. By his late teens he developed an insatiable desire to communicate from point to point without wires. The idea was not inconceivable to other inventors but it was Marconi who dedicated himself exclusively to taking it from idea to reality. He saw its seaworthy potential and wanted to exploit it as a means of generating handsome profits. Marconi was not only a communications wizard but also a businessman seeking fame and fortune.

Marconi was strategically placed during his early years to be later referred to as, ‘the true father of radio’, because of his interest in science and electricity. He was fascinated by the work of Heinrich Hertz, who, in 1888, demonstrated that one could produce and detect electromagnetic radiation or Hertzian Waves, now known as radio waves. After Hertz’s death in 1894 Marconi assisted a neighbour and friend, University of Bologna physicist Augusto Righi, in researching Hertz’s work and thus birth was given to Marconi’s lifelong obsession with the airwaves.[6]

But Marconi’s vision for the uses of Wireless communication was restricted as being a means by which one could communicate a message to another. The concept of one communicating to an audience was not familiar to him at this stage in his career. The prospect of sending communications for more than one person was a frightening one to the journalists of Marconi’s age; “with Wireless Telegraphy what is to become of the small boy who views the ball games from the tops of the Telegraph poles?”[7]

The early radio experimentations gave little confidence for its future; ‘Experiments in Wireless Telegraphy are completed; long distance Telegraphy by this means is far from established’.[8] Lord Kelvin, British mathematician, physicist and president of the British Royal Society, stated ‘Radio has no future’.[9] Perhaps the future was not in radio but in broadcasting which came following a succession of inventions including electric Telegraph, Wireless Telegraph and Wireless telephony or radio which would broadcast music and speech.

The story of Irish broadcasting began in a remote windy landscape in Connemara in 1901 as a series of ‘Buzzing sounds’ are heard heralding in an age of communication which suffered because of political division. Marconi once stated, ‘I made the discovery by accident’[10] often fell victim to this divide and became so infuriated by it that he wrote; ‘Have I done the world well, or have I added a menace?’[11]

This public and corporate divide was identified by Bertolt Brecht who stressed the idea of telecommunications as an artistic medium. Brecht advocated ‘two-way communication’ for radio to give the public power of representation and to pull it away from the control of corporate media.[12] Today, Brecht’s vision still seems idealistic. But, the fact remains that Radio has had a tremendous global impact. The revolutionary medium prepared the ground for television and the internet by loosening the strictures on global public discourse.

With Wireless Telegraphy came the search for its purpose. In 1897, the Irish Times gives an optimistic account of Marconi’s experiments; “In addition to the possibility of exploding gunpowder magazines on board ships from long distances off Marconi foresees that he will be able to set all the watches in the pockets of a town’s inhabitants.”[13] Such possibilities were true to Marconi but the use of Wireless Telegraphy as a weapon was the truest of all and he was willing to sell these weapons to the highest bidder.

Very soon Irish Newspapers reported on the ‘warfare possibilities’ of Marconi’s invention and state that he was travelling across Europe exploiting Wireless Telegraphy’s possibilities. The most startling of all the suggestions for Marconi’s invention is that it may be possible to fire the magazine of any battleship by simply passing an electric current of sufficient degree of intensity through the water on which the ship was riding.[14] Wireless Telegraphy had the power to kill people from afar and Marconi was ready to profit on the demand for his product.

Marconi’s propaganda machine was quick to swing into action. By September 1897 interest in Wireless Telegraphy was growing as reports about covert experiments appeared on a frequent basis and in greater detail. The Irish Times tells readers that tests in Wireless Telegraphy are being arranged at Dover and are ‘unusually important’ and will last for some time; “In recent operations between ships the Italian Navy and the coast have developed the latest practical phase of the system.”[15] The article declares that there may be military uses for the invention.

The public were developing an appetite for all things ‘Wireless’ and the academia responded. One public lecture held in Birr, County Offaly, “involved practical demonstrations of recent discoveries including a new phonograph by Edison and, the main feature, which appeared to awaken the largest measure of interest was the demonstration of Wireless Telegraphy. The instrument demonstrated was an induction coil made capable of sending Telegraphic signals for a distance of nearly 6 miles passing through all obstacles varying in density from a stone building to a mountain.”[16]

What blossomed to be “a romance between Marconi and the Irish” began in January 1898 when Newspapers announce, “Marconi’s mother is Irish and related to John Jameson of whiskey fame. She was musically talented and attended the Conservatoire of Bologna where she met and married Marconi’s father. When her son launched his invention he came to London to his cousin, Henry Davis and the Wireless Telegraph Company was established.”[17] The Irish public had great affection for the inventor and when other nations criticised him, the Irish strengthened their support.

One of the first public lectures in Wireless broadcasting occurred in March 1898 with a talk given by Msgr Gerald Molloy at the Theatre of the Royal Dublin Society. Molloy lectures on “Principals of Electric Signalling without Wires.” He explains Marconi’s Wireless signals are transmitted through space using electromagnetic waves.[18] Molloy’s lecture was so popular that the general public demands a return visit for those who could not attend the first time round.”[19]

The public appetite by the late 1890s for new information in relation to Wireless Telegraphy was voracious. Lectures were given countrywide and were always attended by large crowds eager to learn about the “most marvellous discovery of the century.”[20] Most of these lectures were attended by the working press who, immediately after the lecture, filed reports on the latest updates. The numerous articles which appeared in the newspaper in relation to Wireless Telegraphy clearly suggests that the interest in Marconi was not just in Dublin but nationwide.

On Wednesday, May 11th 1898 the first Irish installation of Marconi’s system was made at Clara in Offaly. The transmitter was placed in the office of Clara Flour Mills and a receiver, one mile away, at Goodbody’s Jute Works. Messages were sent and say Newspapers, “This is the first attempt at Telegraphing without wires across a town in Ireland. The signals were so good that the messages were read by the sound emitted by Marconi’s Tapper and Decoherer, and the ordinary Morse instrument was dispensed with altogether.”[21]

While these transmissions were taking place further experiments were successfully going on in other parts of Ireland. Marconi was being congratulated by the President of the Board Of Trade, Lord John Hay [Admiral of the Fleet], Lord Charles Beresford and others on the success attending a demonstration he gave them. Several naval officers sailed on the admiralty yacht to the Needles, where is situated the permanent station of Marconi’s new Telegraphy system, and for two hours sent messages and received replies between the Needles and Bournemouth, about sixteen miles.[22]

Some days later there are reports that a rival to Marconi has turned up in Nikola Tesla, “an American of course” who claims to have invented a new machine, “More powerful than any ever before.” With it he expects “to send messages without wires for very long distances.” He has offered the invention as a free gift to his Government in the hope it proves useful for the transmission of signals by the Army and Navy during the troubles with Spain.”[23]

However, Marconi was more preoccupied with other events. At Dublin’s Kingstown’s Regatta, “A novel feature was the successful reporting of the sailing match carried out with the aid of Marconi himself. In the morning the gentlemen of the press embarked on board the steam tug Flying Huntress, and followed the yachts engaged in the race. Marconi used his transmitter and receiver to contact the shore sending messages from the tug while in rapid motion following the yachts and when received on shore the messages were telephoned to newspaper offices.”[24]

The world’s first text messages were sent in 1898 by Marconi between the Queen’s residence at Isle of Wight and the Royal Yacht ‘Osborne’ moored at East Cowes. The distance between the stations was a mile and each station was hidden from view of the other by hills. The electric waves easily passed over the hills; “The Prince was keenly interested in the experiments and conducted prolonged conversations with Marconi on the intricate workings of the apparatus.”[25] To impress English royalty would soon be a major coup for Marconi.

By April 1899 faith in the future of the invention began to dwindle. Prof Silvanus Thompson, a prominent electrician, tells Irish media the success of Marconi’s experiments was the natural result of the development of well-established principles by Hertz and Oliver Lodge. The implication being Marconi was manipulating the research of others to generate profits. Thomson states, “There is no such thing as Wireless Telegraphy. One can send signals for a distance of yards without wires; but in the recent successful attempts to telegraph across space wires are used.”[26]

But Prof JA Fleming, of University College, London disagrees and says the time has arrived for a little more generous appreciation by his scientific contemporaries of the fact that “Marconi’s work is no small achievement. His apparatus is ridiculously simple and not costly. With the exception of the Flagstaff and 150 feet of vertical wire at each end, he can place on a small kitchen table the appliances, costing not more than £100 in all, for communicating across 30 or even 100 miles of land or water.”[27]

In a letter to the London Times another of Marconi’s supporters speaks out, “much of the future depends on Government action; it is to be hoped the Post Office will not claim this Wireless Telegraphy is included in the monopoly they possess of Telegraphy. Marconi has modest confidence in the future. I trust that those who are interested in the subject will accord him all the aid and support that his inventiveness deserves, and that he may live to see his effort is crowned with complete success.”[28]

Days later Irish Newspapers report intense interest in Marconi’s system; “Marconi’s experiments have been closely followed with a view to placing lightships and lighthouses in communication with the shore. The importance of this was recently demonstrated when in foggy weather a vessel got into difficulties while at sea. The men of the East Goodwin lightship, who had been given elementary instruction in Marconi’s system, transmitted messages to the shore resulting in lifeboats losing no time in getting to the scene; the Crew owe their lives to Wireless Telegraphy.”[29]

Politicians began to pay attention to Marconi’s invention. Penrose Fitzgerald, at the House of Lords demands to know “Is it time to adopt the Wireless system?”[30] The admiration being bestowed on Marconi by the upper echelons of English politics was good for business. Marconi is offered a lucrative contract to establish transatlantic communication, “Marconi has been approached by representative of a syndicate wishing to acquire sole rights to establish communication between England and America.”[31]

But the word from America was not positive. Some experiments had been carried out in Chicago showing that ‘land obstacles’ remain to be overcome, “It has been discovered the system is impractical in cities studded with “sky-scraping” buildings, and is too slow for commercial use.”[32] But these reports take nothing from Marconi’s confidence that the connection of England and America by Wireless Telegraphy is no dream; he believes although there are difficulties to be surmounted, they are not as great as those that have been overcome.

One such difficulty is the height of the poles necessary to erect on either side of the Atlantic. They would have to be 1500 feet high but technical improvements will, Marconi believes, diminish these requirements.[33] Inventor WH Preece did not share Marconi’s optimism, “Two years after the practicability of Wireless Telegraphy was affirmed, and not a single independent commercial circuit exists. Marconi’s operations are more concentrated on the stock exchange than on establishing useful circuits.”[34]

Preece’s comments had little effect on Marconi, or anyone else involved in the science including French electrical savant, Dr Lee Bon, who was exploring Wireless technology in modern warfare. The result is an apparatus which would be able to project a current capable of annihilating a fleet of ships, “An explosion would be followed by a shower of sparks resulting from the contact between the projected current and electric wires on board ship, which would be so intense it would ignite powder and shells on board.”[35]

The value of Wireless Telegraphy in warfare seemed limitless with reports that Royal Engineers have been testing for the purpose of dropping explosive charges. By means of balloons and an elaboration of Marconi’s systems large quantities of explosives such as dynamite could be released from a balloon 3 miles away and made to explode inside any fortified work, killing the garrison and dislodging the guns, “The Hague Conference condemns such methods, but, possibly, an enemy sore pressed in real war, would scarcely hesitate to break through such restrictions.”[36]

But the march of progress was relentless. In new experiments in ship to shore communications greater distances are being achieved. By now messages were being transmitted over forty miles. The increased distances do not have the slightest effect upon the current and messages are being received with unvarying distinctiveness, “An interesting feature of current experiments is the facility with which Marconi’s latest development for ‘cutting out’ stations was applied. Messages are being sent without other stations interrupting them. The results of these experiments are successful.”[37]

Meanwhile, trials of military balloons and Marconi’s systems are being made in Vienna. This first attempt to make use of Wireless Telegraphy from a balloon was made by three Austrian officers, who ascended in the military balloon Eagle.[38] “The balloon was provided with receiving apparatus and successfully interpreted messages dispatched from the ground. It will probably be demonstrated that Wireless Telegraphy has its part to play in the warfare of the future.”[39]

The investigations into Military applications for Wireless Telegraphy were becoming a daily occurrence and Marconi is invariably present to clench any lucrative deal. At Bangor Bay near Belfast a number of battleships and cruisers are anchored and experimenting with Marconi’s system. The cruiser Juno and the flagship Alexandra are fitted with Wireless equipment and Marconi is on board testing the usefulness of the invention in naval warfare.”[40] The newspaper later reports Wireless Telegraphy is fast going ahead, and now the War Office is adopting it by sea and land.

The Admiralty are also impressed with further experiments going on between stations at Epsom and Aldershot. The tests proved it possible to maintain continuous correspondence from station to station, and that messages cannot be intercepted. Expert officers have made special reports to the War Office, and the effect of the report will be the inauguration of the Marconi system as a means of conveying intelligence. Many ships will shortly be “circuited” and should all go satisfactorily, the system would become universal, as far as the United Kingdom was concerned.[41]

The possible military applications for Wireless Telegraphy are beginning to scare the general public. The Daily News reports “Grim Possibilities of Wireless War” with the announcement that a Patent in the name of John Munro has been brought to their attention. The Munro Patent’s most obvious application is the making of explosions in the atmosphere in order to influence the weather, “But it is easy to see that it can also be utilised in dropping explosives on the country, fortresses, or camps of an enemy underneath.”[42]

Dr Peter Stiens has invented an apparatus by which people could ‘Wirelessly’ telephone over long distances.[43] Stiens claims the device will allow persons in London and New York to distinctively communicate.[44] The possibility of “mobile phones” had come to light. There are also reports of experiments conducted at Newbury in which a building containing explosives was blown up without direct contact.”[45]

Scientists are impressed by a practical demonstration of Marconi’s invention during the annual general meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science arranged in conjunction with the corresponding French Association holding its conference at Boulogne, “Marconi’s system allowed for messages to be sent to France from an apparatus located at Dover Town Hall. One of the messages sent by Telegraph without wires cross-channel was a greeting from the president of the British Association to the president of the French Scientific Association who responded to the salutation.”[46]

Thus, on the eve of the 20th century Wireless Telegraphy was an invention that still sought purpose. There were many people laying claim to it but it was not the invention of any one person but the culmination of many minds brought to perfection by Marconi. As the 20th century unfolded engineers and inventors were focused on the Maritime and international news exchange possibilities for the invention. But there were also visionaries who sought purposes in such fields as medicine, telephony and public service. Few of these visionaries had considered the possibility of communication not as exclusively one-to-one but one-to-many.

In the late 19th Century the facts about Wireless broadcasting emerged after Hertz’s 1887 discovery; ‘The contrast between these beginnings and the present uses of radio is tremendous’.[47] Marconi’s accomplishments in radio were equally as important. In 1892 Tesla wrote; ‘Ere long intelligence, transmitted without wires, will throb through the earth like a pulse through a living organism’.[48] It would take Marconi to fulfil Tesla’s prophecy.

Marconi had noble notions for his invention; “In the new era, thought itself will be transmitted by radio.”[49] The potential of his invention created global excitement even in the upper echelons of the Catholic Church; “Radio is a new demonstration of the harmony between science and religion. Those who speak of the incompatibility of science and religion either make science say that which it never said or make religion say that which it never thought.”[50]

Radio had critics especially those who feared freedom of expression. Broadcasting from the beginning was closed to private enterprise; ‘Such control is ascribed to radio’s technical complexity and military functions. Many democracies have outrun technical and military imperatives in their zeal to control the airwaves’.[51] But Radio never lost its importance as documented by the Irish Times in 1897; “Nothing is of more importance to science than Wireless Telegraphy.”[52]

Most public interest radio formats permit criticism of the state but the balance of political opinion is invariably tilted in the Government favour. The establishment of Irish radio fixed the state’s relationship to broadcasting. This may be partly due to the fact that Ireland’s first Postmaster General (Communications Minister) J.J. Walsh, was an anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi sympathiser.[53] His legacy remains detrimental to Irish freedom of expression.

Marconi’s inventor status was persistently challenged but his genius was never questioned, “Marconi has large ideas but to what extent these ideas will be realised none can tell.”[54] American Newspapers remained cynical about Marconi; “Edison and Tesla would smile at the promises made in Marconi’s name.”[55] However, the power of Marconi’s invention was obvious and the birth of Irish radio was a war declaration between conservative rulers and liberal advocates of free expression.

As the 20th century unfolded each year brought developments demonstrating how the ‘Air Wars’ were fought. In these pages is a century long account of events leading to Irish radio broadcasting as it is today. It is the story of a nation in fear of technology that became determined to suppress freedoms to receive and give information, expression and speech. These important three F’s are the pivot of human development, essential if we are to share, analyse, understand, and move forward; ‘yet these three F’s are continually under attack’.[56]

Although Marconi noted; ‘This form of communication could have some utility’[57] such ‘utility’ remained under the scrutiny of political pioneers in the pre-Independence era; ‘Britain’s Irish dominance was underpinned by control of Irish communications systems’.[58] Arthur Griffith complained about this; ‘There is a ‘paper wall’ around Ireland’.[59]

Griffith was always at heart a journalist and advocate of freedom of expression. He was a lucid writer with a vivid turn of phrase but as the century progressed, Griffith’s observation faded into oblivion, but the reality remains unchanged. Radio has come through a century of development that has brought about the medium as we know it today. The exploration of these events in the course of the 20th century reflects Marconi’s contention that; ‘Every day sees humanity more victorious in the struggle with space and time’.[60]

Early Irish radio is often considered by Historians as a foil for television. Historians link the transformation of Irish society in the 20th century to television but dismiss radio as an agent of repression rather than social development. In post WW2 Irish Radio became interactive and consequently achieved Bertolt Brecht’s ideal of serving as a ‘system of communication’[61] based on audience response rather than being a unidirectional distribution system.[62]

Until the 1960’s the primary source of information available to the world was radio and it influenced people. Common national culture was shaped more by radio than television or newsprint. By 1960 most European families owned a radio and it occupied prime space in the home.[63] The arrival of battery transistor radio in the 1960’s increased mobility but contributed to radio’s new lowly status as an aural medium in a visual age. Young people drifted to television but for older people radio retained its charms.

What follows is an exploration of a century of European broadcasting documenting the most significant events in the age of global communication. It is a relentless story that began with the words of Guglielmo Marconi when he sent the first message across the Bristol Channel in 1897 stating, “Let it be so.” It is a story full of twists and turns, of a series of unfailing political regimes in fear of freedom. At the dawn of the digital age, these fears persist and it is as if history will repeat itself unless the lessons of the radio ages are learned.

[1] Weekly IrishTimes,1893 ElectricMessageswithoutWires. Weekly Irish Times, 04thFebruary,p.1.

[2] Lady, A,.1896. TalkoftheTown. Weekly IrishTimes,26thDecember, p.4.

[3] McCullough,D,.2011 Samuel Morse’sReversalof Fortune.SmithsonianMagazine,VolumeSeptember,2011.

[4] Ellsworth, H,.2011 SamuelMorse’sReversalofFortune Smithsonian Magazine,VolumeSeptember,2011.

[5] McCullough,D,.2011 Samuel Morse’sReversalof Fortune SmithsonianMagazine,VolumeSeptember,2011.

[6] McHenry, R,.1993. Guglielmo Marconi. In:Encyclopedia Britannica. London:Encyclopedia Britannica.

[7] WashingtonPost 1897 Article 26 [NoTitle] TheWashington Post,9th August,p. 6.

[8] IrishTimes 1897. NewsfromAll PartsIrishTimes,20th November, p.5.

[9] Kelvin,L,.1897.Permanent.com[Online]Available at: http://www.permanent.com/infamous-quotes.html [Accessed 21st June 2012]

[10] Marconi 1897 SendsMessages Without Wires.Chicago Daily Tribune,2ndAugust,p. 2.

[11] Baker,D. C,.1998. WirelessTelegraphyduring the Anglo-Boerwarof1899-1902  MilitaryHistory Journal 11[2]

[12] Brecht, B,.1932. TheRadioas an Apparatus ofCommunication [Online]Available at:http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/source-text/8/ [Accessed03 September 2012]

[13] IrishTimes,1897 SignorMarconi’s Invention.Irish Times,18th August,p.6.

[14] IrishTimes,1897 What Next?Irish Times, 29thJuly, p. 5.

[15] IrishTimes,1897 WirelessTelegraphy. IrishTimes,08th September, p.6A.

[16] Freemans Journal,1897. WirelessTelegraphy atBirr. FreemansJournal,12th October, p.11.

[17] Freemans Journal,1898. KingstownRegatta.FreemansJournal,21stJuly, p. 12.

[18] Freemans Journal,1898. Marconi ComesToDublin. FreemansJournal,22nd August,p.12.

[19] Molloy,G,1898.Marconi’sWireless Telegraphy[Letters].The FreemansJournal, 12th April, p.10.

[20] Anglo Celt,1898. FromDayto Day.Anglo Celt,14thMay, p.3.

[21] Freemans Journal,1898. System of WirelessTelegraphy. FreemansJournal, 22nd April, p.8.

[22] Anglo Celt,1898. Nikola Tesla.Anglo Celt,21stMay,p. 3.

[23] AngloCelt,1898. WirelessTelegraphy: The MostMarvelousDiscoveryof the CenturyExplained. Anglo Celt,16thApril, p. 4.

[24] Freemans Journal,1898. WirelessLecture.FreemansJournal,09thMarch, p. 11.

[25] Freemans Journal,1898. WirelessTelegraphy.FreemansJournal,12th April, p. 8.

[26] IrishTimes,1899. SocialMovements. Irish Times,17th April,p. 6.

[27] Fleming,P. J, 1899. OnWirelessTelegraphy.IrishTimes,04th April, p.5.

[28] Page, S. F,1899. LondonTimesLetter. IrishTimes,04th April, p.5.

[29] IrishTimes,1899. Intense Interest. Weekly IrishTimes,08th April, p.8.

[30] Fitzgerald, R. P,1899. London Correspondence.Irish Times,12th April, p.7.

[31] Weekly IrishTimes,1899. LatestWirelessTelegraphyTrials.WeeklyIrish Times,24thJune, p.6.

[32] Westminster Gazette, 1899. Criticism of Wireless Wiring. Weekly Irish Times, 29th April, p. 6.

[33] Westminster Gazette, 1899. Criticism of Wireless Wiring. Weekly Irish Times, 29th April, p. 6.

[34] Preece,W,1899. AethericTelegraphy.IrishTimes,04thMay, p. 6.

[35] Bon,D. L,1899. WirelessTelegraphy inWar.IrishTimes,27thMay, p. 4.

[36] DailyTelegraph,1899. Wireless at War.IrishTimes,15th June, p.4

[37] Weekly IrishTimes,1899. LucrativeContractforMarconi. Weekly Irish Times, 15th April, p.7.

[38] Weekly IrishTimes,1899.WirelessAerialTelegraphy.Weekly Irish Times,22nd July, p.4.

[39] IrishTimes,1899.MarconiSystemandWarBalloons.IrishTimes,17th July, p. 5.

[40] Irish Times, 1899. Naval Maneuvers. Irish Times, 24th July, p. 4.

[41] IrishTimes,1899. NavalManeuvers.Irish Times,24th July, p. 4.

[42] IrishTimes,1899.GrimPossibilitiesof WirelessWar. IrishTimes,05th August,p. 4.

[43] IrishTimes,1899.WirelessTelephone.IrishTimes,25th July,p. 4.

[44] IrishTimes,1899. Fraternising with theFrench.Irish Times,14th September, p. 6.

[45] IrishTimes,1899.WarOfficeWirelessTelegraphy[London Correspondence]. Irish Times,31stJuly, p. 5.

[46] IrishTimes,1899.WirelessTelegraphyExplosion.Irish Times,27th July,p. 5.

[47] Whittemore,L. E,1929. The DevelopmentofRadio. Annals of the American Academy ofPolitical &Social science, Issue March 1929, p.1.

[48] Tesla, N,1892. ElectricalEngineer.ElectricalEngineer,Issue 609, p. 11.

[49] Marconi, G,1934.Quotation Marks. NewYorkTimes,11th October, p.2.

[50] Pope PiusXI,1931.Opening of the Vatican CityRadio Station. Rome: s.n.

[51] Kasza, G. J,1986.Democracy and the Foundingof JapanesePublicRadio. The Journal of AsianStudies,45[4], p. 745.

[52] IrishTimes,1897.WirelessTelegraphy.IrishTimes,15th August,p. 6.

[53] Dwyer,T. R,1988.Strained Relations: Ireland atPeace and theUSAat War,1941-45.1 ed.Dublin: Gill&MacMillanLtd. DXArchive,1996.DXARCHIVE (Online)Available at:http://www.dxarchive.com/ireland_dublin_radio_dublin_pre75.html[Accessed20 052012].

[54] Molloy,G,1898.WirelessTelegraphy.FreemansJournal, 15th March, p. 9.

[55] San Francisco Chronicle, 1897.Marconi BoomHas An Object. San Francisco Chronicle, 5thSeptember, p.13.

[56] D’Arcy,M,1990. PlayingWith theAirwaves. MITPress,p.179.

[57] Marconi, G,1897.Guglielmo Marconi Quotes (Online]Available at:http://refspace.com/quotes/Guglielmo_Marconi[Accessed21stJune2012].

[58] Fisher, D,1978. CaseStudies on BroadcastingSystems: Broadcasting In Ireland.1 ed.London: Routledge& Kegan Paul Ltd.

[59] Oireachtas, 1952. Parliamentary Debates: Dáil Éireann – Volume 129 – 12 March, 1952[Online] Available at: http://historical‑debates.oireachtas.ie/D/0129/D.0129.195203 120066.html [Accessed 06 06 2012].

[60] Marconi, G,1899.Guglielmo Marconi Quotes (Online]Available at:http://refspace.com/quotes/Guglielmo_Marconi[Accessed21stJune2012].

[61] Brecht, B,1932. Brecht onTheatre. NewYork:Hill & Wang.

[62] Morgan,E,2001.QuestionTime: RadioandtheLiberalistationof IrishPublic Discourse afterWW2.History Ireland,9[4],p. 39.

[63] Judt, T, 2006.Postwar: A History ofEuropesince1945.1sted. London:Penguin Books.

19th Century European Radio

Marconi Room on the Olympic.

Rising Radio Revolution

The centre of the birth of European radio in the late 19th Century was Ireland. Although this was not realised at the time history would soon make it an absolute fact. Ireland was perfectly located on the north Atlantic of north-west Europe which gave it a great advantage for transatlantic communications at the birth of what was to become the communications revolution of the early 20th century. Ireland would remain very much in the dark about these advantages until the arrival of Italian-Irishman, “the father of radio” Guglielmo Marconi built his first Irish station at Crookhaven, County Cork in 1902.

As far back as February 1893 an article headed “Electric Messages without Wires” the Irish public were alerted to a new reality, “the promise of electrical communication between two points without the agency of an intervening wire.” The article explains, “Today electricians are easily transmitting electric messages across a Wireless distance of three miles, without any sign of approaching the limits of the electric function in this direction.”[1] If there were any public enthusiasm for the revelation it was not obvious for another three years.

In December 1896 Irish readers saw reports of an amazing scientific development. Newspapers explain, “A young Italian scientist named Marconi appears to have perfected a system of electrical communication by which vibrations set up in one apparatus are communicated to a nearby receiver without wires. The secret being that the receiver must respond to the vibrations of the sender.”[2] While Wireless Telegraphy may have been a new idea to Irish readers these developments were the latest in a long series of experiments dating back to 1844.

In that year Samuel Morse, aged 53, would send the first four words ever dispatched; “What hath God wrought?” flashed over an electric Telegraph wire in ‘Morse Code’ on a line from Washington to Baltimore. Essential to Morse’s idea was signals would be sent by the opening and closing of an electrical circuit, that the receiving apparatus would, by electromagnetic, record signals as dots and dashes on paper, and that there would be a code whereby the dots and dashes would be translated into numbers and letters.[3]

By increasing battery power Samuel Morse was able to send messages one third of a mile on electrical wire around a large lecture hall. He then devised a system of electromagnetic relays, this being the key element; it meant no limit to the distance a message could be sent. Morse went on to working out a system for transmitting the alphabet in dots and dashes, in what was to be known as ‘Morse Code’. Morse’s invention was quickly established as a means of communication in America but, importantly to him, also in his beloved Europe, in the heart of Paris.

In 1839, after a series of long legal wrangles with the English Government in relation to the Patent of his invention he sailed for Paris where he met with expansive recognition as a genius. It was said of Morse’s invention that, “it transcends all yet made known and clearly another revolution is at hand.”[4] For financial reasons Morse was forced to return to America and four years later in 1844 he opened a Telegraph line, built with congressional appropriation, between Washington and Baltimore, a distance of 34 miles.

Morse’s experiments were so successful that when the contentious 1844 Democratic National Convention at Baltimore became deadlocked; hundreds gathered in Washington for updates. Martin Van Buren tied for the nomination with Lewis Cass. On the eighth ballot, the convention chose compromise candidate, James Polk. The rapid transmission of information was reported as, “the utter annihilation of space.” Morse’s invention became America’s only means of communication. By 1867 so indispensable had Telegraphy become that 50,000 miles of Western Union wire carried more than two million news dispatches annually.[5]

Seven years later in 1874 in Bologna, Italy the second son of Giuseppe Marconi and his Irish wife, Annie Jameson from County Wexford was born and christened Guglielmo. By his late teens he developed an insatiable desire to communicate from point to point without wires. The idea was not inconceivable to other inventors but it was Marconi who dedicated himself exclusively to taking it from idea to reality. He saw its seaworthy potential and wanted to exploit it as a means of generating handsome profits. Marconi was not only a communications wizard but also a businessman seeking fame and fortune.

Marconi was strategically placed during his early years to be later referred to as, ‘the true father of radio’, because of his interest in science and electricity. He was fascinated by the work of Heinrich Hertz, who, in 1888, demonstrated that one could produce and detect electromagnetic radiation or Hertzian Waves, now known as radio waves. After Hertz’s death in 1894 Marconi assisted a neighbour and friend, University of Bologna physicist Augusto Righi, in researching Hertz’s work and thus birth was given to Marconi’s lifelong obsession with the airwaves.[6]

But Marconi’s vision for the uses of Wireless communication was restricted as being a means by which one could communicate a message to another. The concept of one communicating to an audience was not familiar to him at this stage in his career. The prospect of sending communications for more than one person was a frightening one to the journalists of Marconi’s age; “with Wireless Telegraphy what is to become of the small boy who views the ball games from the tops of the Telegraph poles?”[7]

The early radio experimentations gave little confidence for its future; ‘Experiments in Wireless Telegraphy are completed; long distance Telegraphy by this means is far from established’.[8] Lord Kelvin, British mathematician, physicist and president of the British Royal Society, stated ‘Radio has no future’.[9] Perhaps the future was not in radio but in broadcasting which came following a succession of inventions including electric Telegraph, Wireless Telegraph and Wireless telephony or radio which would broadcast music and speech.

The story of Irish broadcasting began in a remote windy landscape in Connemara in 1901 as a series of ‘Buzzing sounds’ are heard heralding in an age of communication which suffered because of political division. Marconi once stated, ‘I made the discovery by accident’[10] often fell victim to this divide and became so infuriated by it that he wrote; ‘Have I done the world well, or have I added a menace?’[11]

This public and corporate divide was identified by Bertolt Brecht who stressed the idea of telecommunications as an artistic medium. Brecht advocated ‘two-way communication’ for radio to give the public power of representation and to pull it away from the control of corporate media.[12] Today, Brecht’s vision still seems idealistic. But, the fact remains that Radio has had a tremendous global impact. The revolutionary medium prepared the ground for television and the internet by loosening the strictures on global public discourse.

With Wireless Telegraphy came the search for its purpose. In 1897, the Irish Times gives an optimistic account of Marconi’s experiments; “In addition to the possibility of exploding gunpowder magazines on board ships from long distances off Marconi foresees that he will be able to set all the watches in the pockets of a town’s inhabitants.”[13] Such possibilities were true to Marconi but the use of Wireless Telegraphy as a weapon was the truest of all and he was willing to sell these weapons to the highest bidder.

Very soon Irish Newspapers reported on the ‘warfare possibilities’ of Marconi’s invention and state that he was travelling across Europe exploiting Wireless Telegraphy’s possibilities. The most startling of all the suggestions for Marconi’s invention is that it may be possible to fire the magazine of any battleship by simply passing an electric current of sufficient degree of intensity through the water on which the ship was riding.[14] Wireless Telegraphy had the power to kill people from afar and Marconi was ready to profit on the demand for his product.

Marconi’s propaganda machine was quick to swing into action. By September 1897 interest in Wireless Telegraphy was growing as reports about covert experiments appeared on a frequent basis and in greater detail. The Irish Times tells readers that tests in Wireless Telegraphy are being arranged at Dover and are ‘unusually important’ and will last for some time; “In recent operations between ships the Italian Navy and the coast have developed the latest practical phase of the system.”[15] The article declares that there may be military uses for the invention.

The public were developing an appetite for all things ‘Wireless’ and the academia responded. One public lecture held in Birr, County Offaly, “involved practical demonstrations of recent discoveries including a new phonograph by Edison and, the main feature, which appeared to awaken the largest measure of interest was the demonstration of Wireless Telegraphy. The instrument demonstrated was an induction coil made capable of sending Telegraphic signals for a distance of nearly 6 miles passing through all obstacles varying in density from a stone building to a mountain.”[16]

What blossomed to be “a romance between Marconi and the Irish” began in January 1898 when Newspapers announce, “Marconi’s mother is Irish and related to John Jameson of whiskey fame. She was musically talented and attended the Conservatoire of Bologna where she met and married Marconi’s father. When her son launched his invention he came to London to his cousin, Henry Davis and the Wireless Telegraph Company was established.”[17] The Irish public had great affection for the inventor and when other nations criticised him, the Irish strengthened their support.

One of the first public lectures in Wireless broadcasting occurred in March 1898 with a talk given by Msgr Gerald Molloy at the Theatre of the Royal Dublin Society. Molloy lectures on “Principals of Electric Signalling without Wires.” He explains Marconi’s Wireless signals are transmitted through space using electromagnetic waves.[18] Molloy’s lecture was so popular that the general public demands a return visit for those who could not attend the first time round.”[19]

The public appetite by the late 1890s for new information in relation to Wireless Telegraphy was voracious. Lectures were given countrywide and were always attended by large crowds eager to learn about the “most marvellous discovery of the century.”[20] Most of these lectures were attended by the working press who, immediately after the lecture, filed reports on the latest updates. The numerous articles which appeared in the newspaper in relation to Wireless Telegraphy clearly suggests that the interest in Marconi was not just in Dublin but nationwide.

On Wednesday, May 11th 1898 the first Irish installation of Marconi’s system was made at Clara in Offaly. The transmitter was placed in the office of Clara Flour Mills and a receiver, one mile away, at Goodbody’s Jute Works. Messages were sent and say Newspapers, “This is the first attempt at Telegraphing without wires across a town in Ireland. The signals were so good that the messages were read by the sound emitted by Marconi’s Tapper and Decoherer, and the ordinary Morse instrument was dispensed with altogether.”[21]

While these transmissions were taking place further experiments were successfully going on in other parts of Ireland. Marconi was being congratulated by the President of the Board Of Trade, Lord John Hay [Admiral of the Fleet], Lord Charles Beresford and others on the success attending a demonstration he gave them. Several naval officers sailed on the admiralty yacht to the Needles, where is situated the permanent station of Marconi’s new Telegraphy system, and for two hours sent messages and received replies between the Needles and Bournemouth, about sixteen miles.[22]

Some days later there are reports that a rival to Marconi has turned up in Nikola Tesla, “an American of course” who claims to have invented a new machine, “More powerful than any ever before.” With it he expects “to send messages without wires for very long distances.” He has offered the invention as a free gift to his Government in the hope it proves useful for the transmission of signals by the Army and Navy during the troubles with Spain.”[23]

However, Marconi was more preoccupied with other events. At Dublin’s Kingstown’s Regatta, “A novel feature was the successful reporting of the sailing match carried out with the aid of Marconi himself. In the morning the gentlemen of the press embarked on board the steam tug Flying Huntress, and followed the yachts engaged in the race. Marconi used his transmitter and receiver to contact the shore sending messages from the tug while in rapid motion following the yachts and when received on shore the messages were telephoned to newspaper offices.”[24]

The world’s first text messages were sent in 1898 by Marconi between the Queen’s residence at Isle of Wight and the Royal Yacht ‘Osborne’ moored at East Cowes. The distance between the stations was a mile and each station was hidden from view of the other by hills. The electric waves easily passed over the hills; “The Prince was keenly interested in the experiments and conducted prolonged conversations with Marconi on the intricate workings of the apparatus.”[25] To impress English royalty would soon be a major coup for Marconi.

By April 1899 faith in the future of the invention began to dwindle. Prof Silvanus Thompson, a prominent electrician, tells Irish media the success of Marconi’s experiments was the natural result of the development of well-established principles by Hertz and Oliver Lodge. The implication being Marconi was manipulating the research of others to generate profits. Thomson states, “There is no such thing as Wireless Telegraphy. One can send signals for a distance of yards without wires; but in the recent successful attempts to telegraph across space wires are used.”[26]

But Prof JA Fleming, of University College, London disagrees and says the time has arrived for a little more generous appreciation by his scientific contemporaries of the fact that “Marconi’s work is no small achievement. His apparatus is ridiculously simple and not costly. With the exception of the Flagstaff and 150 feet of vertical wire at each end, he can place on a small kitchen table the appliances, costing not more than £100 in all, for communicating across 30 or even 100 miles of land or water.”[27]

In a letter to the London Times another of Marconi’s supporters speaks out, “much of the future depends on Government action; it is to be hoped the Post Office will not claim this Wireless Telegraphy is included in the monopoly they possess of Telegraphy. Marconi has modest confidence in the future. I trust that those who are interested in the subject will accord him all the aid and support that his inventiveness deserves, and that he may live to see his effort is crowned with complete success.”[28]

Days later Irish Newspapers report intense interest in Marconi’s system; “Marconi’s experiments have been closely followed with a view to placing lightships and lighthouses in communication with the shore. The importance of this was recently demonstrated when in foggy weather a vessel got into difficulties while at sea. The men of the East Goodwin lightship, who had been given elementary instruction in Marconi’s system, transmitted messages to the shore resulting in lifeboats losing no time in getting to the scene; the Crew owe their lives to Wireless Telegraphy.”[29]

Politicians began to pay attention to Marconi’s invention. Penrose Fitzgerald, at the House of Lords demands to know “Is it time to adopt the Wireless system?”[30] The admiration being bestowed on Marconi by the upper echelons of English politics was good for business. Marconi is offered a lucrative contract to establish transatlantic communication, “Marconi has been approached by representative of a syndicate wishing to acquire sole rights to establish communication between England and America.”[31]

But the word from America was not positive. Some experiments had been carried out in Chicago showing that ‘land obstacles’ remain to be overcome, “It has been discovered the system is impractical in cities studded with “sky-scraping” buildings, and is too slow for commercial use.”[32] But these reports take nothing from Marconi’s confidence that the connection of England and America by Wireless Telegraphy is no dream; he believes although there are difficulties to be surmounted, they are not as great as those that have been overcome.

One such difficulty is the height of the poles necessary to erect on either side of the Atlantic. They would have to be 1500 feet high but technical improvements will, Marconi believes, diminish these requirements.[33] Inventor WH Preece did not share Marconi’s optimism, “Two years after the practicability of Wireless Telegraphy was affirmed, and not a single independent commercial circuit exists. Marconi’s operations are more concentrated on the stock exchange than on establishing useful circuits.”[34]

Preece’s comments had little effect on Marconi, or anyone else involved in the science including French electrical savant, Dr Lee Bon, who was exploring Wireless technology in modern warfare. The result is an apparatus which would be able to project a current capable of annihilating a fleet of ships, “An explosion would be followed by a shower of sparks resulting from the contact between the projected current and electric wires on board ship, which would be so intense it would ignite powder and shells on board.”[35]

The value of Wireless Telegraphy in warfare seemed limitless with reports that Royal Engineers have been testing for the purpose of dropping explosive charges. By means of balloons and an elaboration of Marconi’s systems large quantities of explosives such as dynamite could be released from a balloon 3 miles away and made to explode inside any fortified work, killing the garrison and dislodging the guns, “The Hague Conference condemns such methods, but, possibly, an enemy sore pressed in real war, would scarcely hesitate to break through such restrictions.”[36]

But the march of progress was relentless. In new experiments in ship to shore communications greater distances are being achieved. By now messages were being transmitted over forty miles. The increased distances do not have the slightest effect upon the current and messages are being received with unvarying distinctiveness, “An interesting feature of current experiments is the facility with which Marconi’s latest development for ‘cutting out’ stations was applied. Messages are being sent without other stations interrupting them. The results of these experiments are successful.”[37]

Meanwhile, trials of military balloons and Marconi’s systems are being made in Vienna. This first attempt to make use of Wireless Telegraphy from a balloon was made by three Austrian officers, who ascended in the military balloon Eagle.[38] “The balloon was provided with receiving apparatus and successfully interpreted messages dispatched from the ground. It will probably be demonstrated that Wireless Telegraphy has its part to play in the warfare of the future.”[39]

The investigations into Military applications for Wireless Telegraphy were becoming a daily occurrence and Marconi is invariably present to clench any lucrative deal. At Bangor Bay near Belfast a number of battleships and cruisers are anchored and experimenting with Marconi’s system. The cruiser Juno and the flagship Alexandra are fitted with Wireless equipment and Marconi is on board testing the usefulness of the invention in naval warfare.”[40] The newspaper later reports Wireless Telegraphy is fast going ahead, and now the War Office is adopting it by sea and land.

The Admiralty are also impressed with further experiments going on between stations at Epsom and Aldershot. The tests proved it possible to maintain continuous correspondence from station to station, and that messages cannot be intercepted. Expert officers have made special reports to the War Office, and the effect of the report will be the inauguration of the Marconi system as a means of conveying intelligence. Many ships will shortly be “circuited” and should all go satisfactorily, the system would become universal, as far as the United Kingdom was concerned.[41]

The possible military applications for Wireless Telegraphy are beginning to scare the general public. The Daily News reports “Grim Possibilities of Wireless War” with the announcement that a Patent in the name of John Munro has been brought to their attention. The Munro Patent’s most obvious application is the making of explosions in the atmosphere in order to influence the weather, “But it is easy to see that it can also be utilised in dropping explosives on the country, fortresses, or camps of an enemy underneath.”[42]

Dr Peter Stiens has invented an apparatus by which people could ‘Wirelessly’ telephone over long distances.[43] Stiens claims the device will allow persons in London and New York to distinctively communicate.[44] The possibility of “mobile phones” had come to light. There are also reports of experiments conducted at Newbury in which a building containing explosives was blown up without direct contact.”[45]

Scientists are impressed by a practical demonstration of Marconi’s invention during the annual general meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science arranged in conjunction with the corresponding French Association holding its conference at Boulogne, “Marconi’s system allowed for messages to be sent to France from an apparatus located at Dover Town Hall. One of the messages sent by Telegraph without wires cross-channel was a greeting from the president of the British Association to the president of the French Scientific Association who responded to the salutation.”[46]

Thus, on the eve of the 20th century Wireless Telegraphy was an invention that still sought purpose. There were many people laying claim to it but it was not the invention of any one person but the culmination of many minds brought to perfection by Marconi. As the 20th century unfolded engineers and inventors were focused on the Maritime and international news exchange possibilities for the invention. But there were also visionaries who sought purposes in such fields as medicine, telephony and public service. Few of these visionaries had considered the possibility of communication not as exclusively one-to-one but one-to-many.

In the late 19th Century the facts about Wireless broadcasting emerged after Hertz’s 1887 discovery; ‘The contrast between these beginnings and the present uses of radio is tremendous’.[47] Marconi’s accomplishments in radio were equally as important. In 1892 Tesla wrote; ‘Ere long intelligence, transmitted without wires, will throb through the earth like a pulse through a living organism’.[48] It would take Marconi to fulfil Tesla’s prophecy.

Marconi had noble notions for his invention; “In the new era, thought itself will be transmitted by radio.”[49] The potential of his invention created global excitement even in the upper echelons of the Catholic Church; “Radio is a new demonstration of the harmony between science and religion. Those who speak of the incompatibility of science and religion either make science say that which it never said or make religion say that which it never thought.”[50]

Radio had critics especially those who feared freedom of expression. Broadcasting from the beginning was closed to private enterprise; ‘Such control is ascribed to radio’s technical complexity and military functions. Many democracies have outrun technical and military imperatives in their zeal to control the airwaves’.[51] But Radio never lost its importance as documented by the Irish Times in 1897; “Nothing is of more importance to science than Wireless Telegraphy.”[52]

Most public interest radio formats permit criticism of the state but the balance of political opinion is invariably tilted in the Government favour. The establishment of Irish radio fixed the state’s relationship to broadcasting. This may be partly due to the fact that Ireland’s first Postmaster General (Communications Minister) J.J. Walsh, was an anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi sympathiser.[53] His legacy remains detrimental to Irish freedom of expression.

Marconi’s inventor status was persistently challenged but his genius was never questioned, “Marconi has large ideas but to what extent these ideas will be realised none can tell.”[54] American Newspapers remained cynical about Marconi; “Edison and Tesla would smile at the promises made in Marconi’s name.”[55] However, the power of Marconi’s invention was obvious and the birth of Irish radio was a war declaration between conservative rulers and liberal advocates of free expression.

As the 20th century unfolded each year brought developments demonstrating how the ‘Air Wars’ were fought. In these pages is a century long account of events leading to Irish radio broadcasting as it is today. It is the story of a nation in fear of technology that became determined to suppress freedoms to receive and give information, expression and speech. These important three F’s are the pivot of human development, essential if we are to share, analyse, understand, and move forward; ‘yet these three F’s are continually under attack’.[56]

Although Marconi noted; ‘This form of communication could have some utility’[57] such ‘utility’ remained under the scrutiny of political pioneers in the pre-Independence era; ‘Britain’s Irish dominance was underpinned by control of Irish communications systems’.[58] Arthur Griffith complained about this; ‘There is a ‘paper wall’ around Ireland’.[59]

Griffith was always at heart a journalist and advocate of freedom of expression. He was a lucid writer with a vivid turn of phrase but as the century progressed, Griffith’s observation faded into oblivion, but the reality remains unchanged. Radio has come through a century of development that has brought about the medium as we know it today. The exploration of these events in the course of the 20th century reflects Marconi’s contention that; ‘Every day sees humanity more victorious in the struggle with space and time’.[60]

Early Irish radio is often considered by Historians as a foil for television. Historians link the transformation of Irish society in the 20th century to television but dismiss radio as an agent of repression rather than social development. In post WW2 Irish Radio became interactive and consequently achieved Bertolt Brecht’s ideal of serving as a ‘system of communication’[61] based on audience response rather than being a unidirectional distribution system.[62]

Until the 1960’s the primary source of information available to the world was radio and it influenced people. Common national culture was shaped more by radio than television or newsprint. By 1960 most European families owned a radio and it occupied prime space in the home.[63] The arrival of battery transistor radio in the 1960’s increased mobility but contributed to radio’s new lowly status as an aural medium in a visual age. Young people drifted to television but for older people radio retained its charms.

What follows is an exploration of a century of European broadcasting documenting the most significant events in the age of global communication. It is a relentless story that began with the words of Guglielmo Marconi when he sent the first message across the Bristol Channel in 1897 stating, “Let it be so.” It is a story full of twists and turns, of a series of unfailing political regimes in fear of freedom. At the dawn of the digital age, these fears persist and it is as if history will repeat itself unless the lessons of the radio ages are learned.

 

[1] Weekly IrishTimes,1893 ElectricMessageswithoutWires. Weekly Irish Times, 04thFebruary,p.1.

[2] Lady, A,.1896. TalkoftheTown. Weekly IrishTimes,26thDecember, p.4.

[3] McCullough,D,.2011 Samuel Morse’sReversalof Fortune.SmithsonianMagazine,VolumeSeptember,2011.

[4] Ellsworth, H,.2011 SamuelMorse’sReversalofFortune Smithsonian Magazine,VolumeSeptember,2011.

[5] McCullough,D,.2011 Samuel Morse’sReversalof Fortune SmithsonianMagazine,VolumeSeptember,2011.

[6] McHenry, R,.1993. Guglielmo Marconi. In:Encyclopedia Britannica. London:Encyclopedia Britannica.

[7] WashingtonPost 1897 Article 26 [NoTitle] TheWashington Post,9th August,p. 6.

[8] IrishTimes 1897. NewsfromAll PartsIrishTimes,20th November, p.5.

[9] Kelvin,L,.1897.Permanent.com[Online]Available at: http://www.permanent.com/infamous-quotes.html [Accessed 21st June 2012]

[10] Marconi 1897 SendsMessages Without Wires.Chicago Daily Tribune,2ndAugust,p. 2.

[11] Baker,D. C,.1998. WirelessTelegraphyduring the Anglo-Boerwarof1899-1902  MilitaryHistory Journal 11[2]

[12] Brecht, B,.1932. TheRadioas an Apparatus ofCommunication [Online]Available at:http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/source-text/8/ [Accessed03 September 2012]

[13] IrishTimes,1897 SignorMarconi’s Invention.Irish Times,18th August,p.6.

[14] IrishTimes,1897 What Next?Irish Times, 29thJuly, p. 5.

[15] IrishTimes,1897 WirelessTelegraphy. IrishTimes,08th September, p.6A.

[16] Freemans Journal,1897. WirelessTelegraphy atBirr. FreemansJournal,12th October, p.11.

[17] Freemans Journal,1898. KingstownRegatta.FreemansJournal,21stJuly, p. 12.

[18] Freemans Journal,1898. Marconi ComesToDublin. FreemansJournal,22nd August,p.12.

[19] Molloy,G,1898.Marconi’sWireless Telegraphy[Letters].The FreemansJournal, 12th April, p.10.

[20] Anglo Celt,1898. FromDayto Day.Anglo Celt,14thMay, p.3.

[21] Freemans Journal,1898. System of WirelessTelegraphy. FreemansJournal, 22nd April, p.8.

[22] Anglo Celt,1898. Nikola Tesla.Anglo Celt,21stMay,p. 3.

[23] AngloCelt,1898. WirelessTelegraphy: The MostMarvelousDiscoveryof the CenturyExplained. Anglo Celt,16thApril, p. 4.

[24] Freemans Journal,1898. WirelessLecture.FreemansJournal,09thMarch, p. 11.

[25] Freemans Journal,1898. WirelessTelegraphy.FreemansJournal,12th April, p. 8.

[26] IrishTimes,1899. SocialMovements. Irish Times,17th April,p. 6.

[27] Fleming,P. J, 1899. OnWirelessTelegraphy.IrishTimes,04th April, p.5.

[28] Page, S. F,1899. LondonTimesLetter. IrishTimes,04th April, p.5.

[29] IrishTimes,1899. Intense Interest. Weekly IrishTimes,08th April, p.8.

[30] Fitzgerald, R. P,1899. London Correspondence.Irish Times,12th April, p.7.

[31] Weekly IrishTimes,1899. LatestWirelessTelegraphyTrials.WeeklyIrish Times,24thJune, p.6.

[32] Westminster Gazette, 1899. Criticism of Wireless Wiring. Weekly Irish Times, 29th April, p. 6.

[33] Westminster Gazette, 1899. Criticism of Wireless Wiring. Weekly Irish Times, 29th April, p. 6.

[34] Preece,W,1899. AethericTelegraphy.IrishTimes,04thMay, p. 6.

[35] Bon,D. L,1899. WirelessTelegraphy inWar.IrishTimes,27thMay, p. 4.

[36] DailyTelegraph,1899. Wireless at War.IrishTimes,15th June, p.4

[37] Weekly IrishTimes,1899. LucrativeContractforMarconi. Weekly Irish Times, 15th April, p.7.

[38] Weekly IrishTimes,1899.WirelessAerialTelegraphy.Weekly Irish Times,22nd July, p.4.

[39] IrishTimes,1899.MarconiSystemandWarBalloons.IrishTimes,17th July, p. 5.

[40] Irish Times, 1899. Naval Maneuvers. Irish Times, 24th July, p. 4.

[41] IrishTimes,1899. NavalManeuvers.Irish Times,24th July, p. 4.

[42] IrishTimes,1899.GrimPossibilitiesof WirelessWar. IrishTimes,05th August,p. 4.

[43] IrishTimes,1899.WirelessTelephone.IrishTimes,25th July,p. 4.

[44] IrishTimes,1899. Fraternising with theFrench.Irish Times,14th September, p. 6.

[45] IrishTimes,1899.WarOfficeWirelessTelegraphy[London Correspondence]. Irish Times,31stJuly, p. 5.

[46] IrishTimes,1899.WirelessTelegraphyExplosion.Irish Times,27th July,p. 5.

[47] Whittemore,L. E,1929. The DevelopmentofRadio. Annals of the American Academy ofPolitical &Social science, Issue March 1929, p.1.

[48] Tesla, N,1892. ElectricalEngineer.ElectricalEngineer,Issue 609, p. 11.

[49] Marconi, G,1934.Quotation Marks. NewYorkTimes,11th October, p.2.

[50] Pope PiusXI,1931.Opening of the Vatican CityRadio Station. Rome: s.n.

[51] Kasza, G. J,1986.Democracy and the Foundingof JapanesePublicRadio. The Journal of AsianStudies,45[4], p. 745.

[52] IrishTimes,1897.WirelessTelegraphy.IrishTimes,15th August,p. 6.

[53] Dwyer,T. R,1988.Strained Relations: Ireland atPeace and theUSAat War,1941-45.1 ed.Dublin: Gill&MacMillanLtd. DXArchive,1996.DXARCHIVE (Online)Available at:http://www.dxarchive.com/ireland_dublin_radio_dublin_pre75.html[Accessed20 052012].

[54] Molloy,G,1898.WirelessTelegraphy.FreemansJournal, 15th March, p. 9.

[55] San Francisco Chronicle, 1897.Marconi BoomHas An Object. San Francisco Chronicle, 5thSeptember, p.13.

[56] D’Arcy,M,1990. PlayingWith theAirwaves. MITPress,p.179.

[57] Marconi, G,1897.Guglielmo Marconi Quotes (Online]Available at:http://refspace.com/quotes/Guglielmo_Marconi[Accessed21stJune2012].

[58] Fisher, D,1978. CaseStudies on BroadcastingSystems: Broadcasting In Ireland.1 ed.London: Routledge& Kegan Paul Ltd.

[59] Oireachtas, 1952. Parliamentary Debates: Dáil Éireann – Volume 129 – 12 March, 1952[Online] Available at: http://historical‑debates.oireachtas.ie/D/0129/D.0129.195203 120066.html [Accessed 06 06 2012].

[60] Marconi, G,1899.Guglielmo Marconi Quotes (Online]Available at:http://refspace.com/quotes/Guglielmo_Marconi[Accessed21stJune2012].

[61] Brecht, B,1932. Brecht onTheatre. NewYork:Hill & Wang.

[62] Morgan,E,2001.QuestionTime: RadioandtheLiberalistationof IrishPublic Discourse afterWW2.History Ireland,9[4],p. 39.

[63] Judt, T, 2006.Postwar: A History ofEuropesince1945.1sted. London:Penguin Books.

Home Rule & Marconi 1912

 

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Historians view the 1912 Marconi Scandal as an over exaggerated affair faded into oblivion. Closer analysis of these events raises questions about Home Rule. This essay argues that the scandal can be interpreted as a Unionist plot designed to discredit five, later acquitted, highly placed members of a Government determined to grant Home Rule. It gives us an insight into the depth of the Unionist and Nationalist divide at this time. Unionists were determined to sabotage Home Rule by any means including assassinating the integrity of Ministers in coalition with Nationalists, perceived by Unionists, as collaborators in a contemptible cause.

In 1912 Irelands Third Home Rule Bill had something in common with Wireless Telegraphy according to some nationalist newspapers fatalistically reporting, “Home Rule is a farce now ended because some politicians who should have been present when the ‘signal’ was sent were absent.” The article predicts, “So it has always been. So it will always be.”[1] Later at the opening of the House of Commons debate on Home Rule politicians remained absent and one editorial gave a clue as to why, “Clearly some members were thinking about Marconi not Ireland.”[2]

One contributing reason for this ill-timed absenteeism was an attempt to discredit Liberals advocating Home Rule. Asquith’s Party had fought two General Elections, restricted House of Lords powers; enforced revolutionary budgets and constitutional amendments. They were social reformers passing acts in Insurance, Pensions, and Labour Exchanges. They aimed to disestablish the Welsh Church and were determined to grant Ireland Home Rule.[3] But five equally determined Unionists, Joseph Chamberlain, Arthur Samuels, Walter Guinness, Cecil Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc knew how to discredit them.

By 1912 Ulster unionists had become proficient propaganda merchants and conducted a media-blitz against Home Rule targeting the British electorate, “The Home Rule struggle was an ideological battle between two irreconcilable concepts of Ireland, a British vision and an Irish one.”[4] Unionists claimed the high moral ground by denouncing corruption and Nationalists were equally as corrupt as their coalition partners. Liberals quickly acquired an unsavoury reputation. Unionists could then depict themselves as “impending victims” of an apocalyptic society under Home Rule.

The Irish Unionist Party was aligned to The Liberal Unionist Party which had formed a political alliance with Conservatives in opposition to Irish Home Rule. The two parties merged in 1912 with Unionist campaigner Joseph Chamberlain, “known as Judas Iscariot”[5] as Leader. Chamberlain reasoned that Home Rule would lead to the break-up of the British Empire. Chamberlain’s word was law with Unionists and he stated not legislation but, “sentiment makes a nation.”[6] Chamberlain used The Times to publicly appeal for funds to, “bury Home Rule.”[7]

Arthur Samuels was one of the most effective Unionist critics of Home Rule and was criticised by Stephen Gwynn MP as insincere, “he has the misfortune of being a lawyer and uses arguments merely as an exercise of ingenuity.”[8] Gwynn claimed that Samuels was an enemy of Home Rule, “the Bill is good enough for Nationalists but not good enough for this Unionist determined to hinder the progress of Irish freedom. Samuel’s condemns Home Rule because it does not give to Ireland independence enough, because it is not nationalist enough.”[9]

Walter Guinness was a Conservative Anglo-Irish politician and businessman who took the Conservative line on Home Rule.[10]  Guinness was a long-time supporter of the Irish Unionist Alliance and had attended their meetings as far back as 1907.[11] Guinness publicly described Home Rule as a “mad gamble.”[12] By 1912 he was the Editor of ‘Outlook’ magazine which broke the ‘Marconi Scandal’ accusing Liberal ministers of fraud while at the same time demanding that they should, “make a clean breast of it…”[13]

Cecil Chesterton was a controversial anti-Semite journalist who had co-written a contentious book with Anglo-French writer Hilaire Belloc alleging collusion between the front benches to raise funds by selling honours, “a theme which Belloc frequently debated.”[14] Both Unionists enjoyed exposing political corruption. In their book they state, “The Irish are people to whom nothing matters but nationality.”[15] Chesterton’s credibility was frequently questioned. One Marconi Scandal trial observer testified, “There could not be a worse or shiftier witness.”[16]

These five Unionists were key players in revealing and promoting insinuation and rumour in the infamous ‘Marconi Scandal.’ Unionists would later openly speak of their desires to, “Smash Home Rule by means of the Marconi Scandal; a wave of opinion might arise in the House of Commons to destroy the Government that cannot be trusted if the Bill passes.”[17] The Unionists five primary targets were Lloyd George (Chancellor of the Exchequer), Rufus Isaacs (Attorney General), Herbert Samuel (Postmaster General), Alexander Murray (Liberal Party Treasurer) and perhaps most important of all Liberal Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith.

Brilliant politician but incompetent businessman Lloyd George, “Who muddles nearly everything he touches”[18] strongly supported Home Rule believing it would be the best solution for the Empire. George advocated devolution, federalism, and Home Rule and agreed that this Bill was the best option. It is still undecided whether George purchased Marconi shares through corruption or ineptitude but when he expressed contrition for his mistake he was widely acquitted of fraudulent intent and, for him, the scandal died.[19]

Intransigent Unionist arguments against Home Rule were frequently adeptly answered by Rufus Isaacs, a renowned Unionist critic. Isaacs had many times taken them to task, most notably, when he challenged Edward Carson, Irish Unionist politician and barrister, if the Home Rule Bill were submitted to electors and the electors approved the Bill, would Unionists then accept it and whether objection from three Northern Ireland counties should stop the other willing twenty-nine?[20] An irate Carson remained silent but clearly Isaacs proved himself no friend to Unionists and this made him a prime target in their campaign.

Postmaster General Herbert Samuel dismissed Unionist’s finance issues in relation to Home Rule. Samuel favoured Home Rule because, “the burden to the British taxpayer would be decreased and Unionists guaranteed precisely the opposite.” Samuel compellingly argued that the expenses of running Ireland under British laws were too exorbitant. He stated, “No country is willing to exchange its national spirit and self-government for money. We must inform the people of Britain that Unionists only wish to add to the burden of the British taxpayer while those wishing to pass this Bill wish to lighten this burden.”[21]

At first sight the evidence against Chief Government Whip Alexander Murray seemed strong and he resigned. He claimed he bought the shares on behalf of the Liberal Party. When later invited to give evidence he declined stating he was, “abroad on business negotiations.” Murray was indeed involved in very real business transactions and had not personally profited from the shares and had been “indulging in a half guilty flutter.” [22] But Murray’s early resignation gave Unionist allegations enormous credence.

Unionists must have been totally infuriated with Prime Minister Herbert Asquith to learn, as Home Rule loomed, he was openly sympathetic to the demands of John Redmond and his fellow Nationalists, “For the first time in their history, Nationalist members conferred with the Prime Minister in the sacred Cabinet room at Downing Street. The Irish leaders are satisfied with the result of their deliberations. It may be confidently predicted, notwithstanding Unionist hopes to the contrary, that a Bill which has the approval of the Nationalist Party will be accepted at their forthcoming Convention in Dublin.”[23]

Thus, these five men; George, Isaacs, Samuels, Murray and Asquith were clearly in the line of fire of Unionist’s odious contempt. Coincidentally, and very conveniently for Unionists pursuing any ammunition they could lay their hands on, they all had something in common. All five men had recently privately invested in Marconi Shares and one of them, Rufus Isaacs, was the brother of British Businessman Godfrey Isaacs, who had recently become Managing Director of Marconi’s British Company. Furthermore, another, Herbert Samuel, was negotiating with Marconi for a very lucrative Government contract. The pickings for Unionists were far too rich to ignore.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s lacklustre Economy reflected the administrative condition of a nation in a state of political unrest, instability and turbulence in January 1912. Many people, regardless of their political ideology, were not at all optimistic about Home Rule, “the immediate home political outlook is seriously complicated by the coming Home Rule proposals for this country, and until the provisions of this great contemplated political change are before the country and disposed of one way or the other, there can be no reason to anticipate a revival of trust and confidence in the future of Ireland.”[24]

From within this social milieu there emerged success stories that were few and far between. For the wealthier stock-trading members of Irish society this unease was not shared. One of Ireland’s leading publicly owned companies ‘The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company’ were in a unique position and were announcing increased dividends, optimistic projected business profits for the year ahead and a very positive commercial outlook. At the same time Irish Banks had suffered heavy falls in stock and this disaster was being ascribed to, “sympathy with the existing political unrest over the coming Home Rule legislation.”[25]

It seemed Marconi’s Company was invulnerable to its economic environs. This trend continued for weeks, “Dublin’s Exchange is quiet except for sharp rises in Marconi Shares.”[26] However, things changed when Henry Asquith, announced the Government would introduce the Home Rule Bill. Immediately Ulster’s Liberal Unionists declared that Asquith strengthened Ulster’s resolve, “Ulster will not be relegated to the control of a Parliament under whose impossible constitution and unrestricted powers it is vainly hoped to settle the Irish question.”[27] The battle lines between Ulster Liberal Unionists and London Liberals were drawn.

The Liberal Government were determined to introduce the Home Rule Bill and their resolve prompted Nationalistic endorsement, “This Government means business. While the Opposition present the Government as reluctant the contrary is true. There is Liberal Party enthusiasm for Home Rule. Ministers are anxious to proceed with this legislative task.”[28] William Field MP stated that no matter what opposition, “to obtain an entrance to the harbour of liberty, which we call Home Rule, we shall remain resolute,” and he renounced Unionist suggestions that Catholics would persecute Protestants under Home Rule.[29]

Irish Liberal Unionists were infuriated at speculation about the forthcoming bill and organised a National Convention in Dublin. Invitees included national organisations, public bodies, trades organisations and friendly societies.[30] Coincidentally, Marconi shares began to crash. Clues to any association between Marconi and Home Rule were sparse to unsuspicious observers. Newspapers were aware of a rumoured looming Liberal Government collapse, “the only thing to prevent the Home Rule Bill from becoming law is some unforeseen situation on other questions. But…” the Editorial insists, “All attempts to discredit the Government have failed.” [31]

Liberal Unionists wanted to undermine the Liberal Government and organised public meetings to muster-up support for their cause. A General meeting of Irish County Councils expressed concerns, parallel to those of Joseph Chamberlain, about Home Rule finance. They demanded that under an acceptable Home Rule scheme Ireland should have complete financial autonomy. To many observers these demands were the minimum terms which Ireland could accept Home Rule.[32] Meanwhile, at the Dublin Stock Exchange,   Marconi shares were at an, “excited volume of dealing.” This excitement was caused by Home Rule proposals.[33]

But such criticisms were having little effect on the Liberal Government according to John Dillon who announced that he was not over sanguine as to the present position of Home Rule which, “was now supported by an unbroken Liberal Party. Ireland would not submit to the audacious ascendancy claim by Ulster, or be terrorised by the language of Mr. Bonar Law or Sir Edward Carson.”[34] Consequentially the Nationalist Party, “which is not very cheerful just now,” are pretending to believe that Presbyterians are weakening in their attitude to Home Rule.”[35]

After the Prime Minister introduced the Third Home Rule Bill the Irish Unionist Alliance protested. They argued Ulster enjoyed a booming economy dependant on Britain. Furthermore, the proposed Dublin parliament would have different economic priorities to those of Ulster. Thus, Ulster deserved separate treatment because it was socially and economically closer to Britain. The proposals of the Bill were condemned by the Irish Unionist Alliance who passed resolutions protesting against its implementation in Ireland. They based their condemnation primarily on its financial elements, “If it comes into operation Ireland will be bankrupt within five years.”[36]

Because John Redmond’s Nationalist Party had used their majority leverage to persuade the Government to introduce the Third Home Rule Bill they had reached the pinnacle of their success. Redmond had gone further than any predecessor in shaping British politics to Ireland’s needs. Nationalist objectives were frustrated by Unionist criticisms. Nationalists expected Unionists attitude to be, “Non-negotiable repudiation of Irish Home Rule.” [37] A policy which would have suited Redmond as it ensured the Bill’s speedy transit. Unbeknownst to Redmond and his cohorts Irish Unionist Alliance’s objections had bought crucial time to expose Liberal Party corruption.

After it emerged that Asquith’s Government approved construction of numerous wireless stations by Marconi articles by Unionist sympathisers Chesterton and Belloc appeared in ‘Eye Witness’ magazine. They suggested ‘Marconi knaves’[38], George, Isaacs, Samuels and Murray, under the watchful eye of Herbert Asquith, used insider knowledge to profit in Marconi Shares.[39] Although, “the scandal’s short-term consequences were slight, the long term consequences for Home Rule were catastrophic.[40]

Rumours have sources and conjecture proffers a plausible explanation. For Unionist John Jameson Home Rule presented, “a fearful spectacle.”[41] He led Dublin’s Unionist community.[42] Jameson was a friend and associate of Edward Carson and also related to Marconi’s mother Annie Jameson.[43] Had she inadvertently divulged detrimental information?

Whatever its source the French newspaper Le Matin  turned rumour to allegation and accused Ministers of corruption. Isaacs and Samuels sued and Le Matin apologised. But Isaacs admitted he bought shares in American Marconi and sold some to Lloyd George and Alexander Murray.[44]  The scandal was partly resolved by an investigative committee finding that all involved were not guilty. The Liberal members of the committee exonerated the Ministers while Unionists accused them of “grave impropriety.”[45]

Unionists proposed to indict Liberals because, “Insinuations have impugned the honour of the House.”[46] In Unionist magazine ‘Punch’ a cartoon headed ‘Liberal Pleasure-Party at Sea’ Liberals are sailing aboard ‘People’s Will’ a ship with a gagged peer as a figurehead and containing the emblems of Liberal deception, Marconi and Home Rule.[47] The ships sail bears the inscription ‘Home Rule’, with Asquith turning a wheel marked, ‘Wait and See.’[48]

In fear of the damage done to Liberals many members of Ireland’s Nationalist Party went on the campaign trail and visited the streets of rural towns and villages speechifying Home Rule with an air of gloom, “we may take it for granted that these speeches reflect fears prevalent in higher quarters.”[49] The details of the Bill were essentially unknown but speculation dictated that control of Irish finances remained in England. Consequently, for Nationalists, the Home Rule Bill was unacceptable. This rift between Nationalists and Liberals gave further fuel to Unionist’s vociferous anti-Liberal allegations of corruption.

With the Third Home Rule Bill slipping from nationalists grip it was necessary for staunchly nationalist newspapers to help clean up the mess by defending politicians, even English ones, against malicious speculation. For example, the Leitrim Observer, carefully words its report, “Sinister charges are bandied about in the darkness and there is nothing in them. There is no evidence of corruption and the Ministers deny attempting to profit from insider knowledge. There was a time in History when Ministers should fear an inquiry, but not now. The British Government has for generations been beyond reproach.” [50]

But the Liberals came out fighting. Lloyd George asserted the “corruption” charges were a Unionist attack. He read from transcripts of statements made on Oath by the owner of “Outlook” magazine, Walter Guinness whom George accused of starting malicious rumours, “The charges made by Guinness have long since exploded, but the deadly afterdamp remains and the noxious fumes of these Unionist slanders are at this moment in the air.” He said his mistakes were exploited by Guinness to help achieve Home Rule aims and the House agreed with standing ovations and shouts of “Guinness, Guinness.”[51]

But Walter Guinness backed down and attempted to defend the action of ‘Outlook’ by denying the paper brought charges of corruption against Ministers. It charged the Postmaster General with inefficiency and favouritism and nothing else.[52] Members of the Select Committee claimed much of their time had been occupied listening to irrelevant Unionist witnesses, including procrastination and abuse from an infuriated Winston Churchill. The Select Committee knew there was always a temptation to use the Marconi Scandal for party purposes, and admitted the deliberations of the Marconi Committee were tainted with party prejudice and bias.[53]

Lloyd George insisted that whatever might be said by Guinness, it was the fact that his newspaper which first gave currency to malicious rumours. It was a lie. There was not the smallest justification for the charges which had been made against him. The Attorney General and he had not had a single conversation with respect to these transactions. But there is nothing as paradoxical as politics. The net political result of the Marconi revelations was an actual strengthening of the Liberal Party.[54]

But the Unionists had succeeded in their campaign to frustrate Home Rule. Marconi debates had succeeded in slowing down the progress of the Bill. By mid-Summer 1912 politicians were concerned as to the little time being allotted to the Bill while Marconi was taking up precious parliamentary time. F. E. Smith stated that in 1693 the Home Rule Bill took 93 days but now it was only being allowed two days, “The result of this is that there will be no time to conclude the Home Rule Bill in 1912.”[55] But more was to come.

By the autumn of 1912 new rumours were rampant that the present government would not survive the Marconi Scandal and with their departure Home Rule would fade into oblivion.[56] Dissolution rumours were so widespread that Lloyd George and Rufus Isaacs were, “going about telling everybody that the present Parliament will last until 1915.” But, pessimistic newspapers stated, “These men seem not to recognise the fact that the old-fashioned Gladstonian Liberals are getting very restive regarding Home Rule. The Prime Minister will have a hard task to keep his men together.”[57]

But Asquith rose to the challenge and soon there was a noticeable change in the attitude of Unionists both in the House of Commons and in the Press. They realised their campaign to discredit Liberals was failing. There was no further talk of a Government collapse or of Ministers backing down from their Home Rule pledges, “Instead of indulging in bunkum the enemies of Ireland are now reduced to incoherent horror by the realisation that Mr Asquith and his colleagues are actually determined to do what they have always openly declared was their fixed intention.”[58]

Interestingly this transformation of attitude came in the aftermath of the vindication of the five Liberal politicians. For months the insinuations regarding their honesty was unwaveringly challenged by Tories anxious for a House of Commons debate. When the debate finally arrived there was total silence in the House. Nobody dared to put forward a single charge, contenting themselves with a tissue of paltry insinuations and demanding further investigation. But the Government had already instigated such an inquiry and the so-called ‘Marconi knaves’ willingly supported it, “That must have left their accusers feeling sorry for themselves.”[59]

This Select Committee inquiry into the scandal is often cited as the reason why select committee investigations gave way to independent tribunals. The Committee produced their report in 1913.[60] Any advancement of the Home Rule Bill would only come after a House of Commons debate on their findings.[61]  That took until June 1913 and the House divided on party lines over the report’s conclusions. But, most importantly, Unionists succeeded in delaying Home Rule by over a year.

Meanwhile, the relationship between Nationalists and Liberals deteriorated for two reasons; firstly, because of delays and secondly, a reputation tarnished by corruption allegations. Although Liberals committed to introduce the Home Rule Bill in 1912 they had become reluctant because Conservatives had garnered greater Unionist support. When the Bill was discussed, Conservatives demanded to have the Unionist north-east of Ireland treated separately from the rest of Ireland because Ulster Protestants constituted a separate nation. They hoped this argument would stop Home Rule and suggested it would result in an unstable Ireland containing two national identities. But there was a further problem.

Asquith’s Bill purported to be “final settlement,” and accepted as “the best we can get” by Nationalists. Claiming to be a Bill to establish independence it succeeded by silence. The Irish Party relinquished all right to debate. Former Parnellite politician John Dillon MP’s silence verified this indifference played in the Bill’s construction by powerful Nationalists in London. From start to finish in the debates involving Ireland’s “final” fate her representatives failed to suggest any amendment. Consequently, a defective Bill passed without alteration of one word, “So it has always been. So it will always be.”[62]

Irish citizens had been prevented from discussing the provisions of the Bill or the misconduct of their representatives. They celebrated unknowingly rejoicing the Partition of Ireland. Nationalist and Liberal colluders later professed surprise when young rebels contemplated these insults and sprang to arms in Easter 1916 punishing Parliamentarianism. However, Ulster unionists, determined to sabotage home rule  exaggerated the Marconi Scandal and that proved a brilliant time delaying strategy. It took until 1914 with the outbreak of WWI before the Home Rule Bill was finally enacted. But its implementation was suspended for the duration of the war. So, the Unionists won.

 

[1] Skibbereen Eagle, 23November 1912

[2] Irish Times, 10 June 1913

[3] George McClellan Harvey, ‘Asquith: The Master Statesman’ in The North American Review, 198, no 695 (1913),  p. 438

[4] Michael Foy, ‘Ulster Unionist Propaganda Against Home Rule 1912-14’ in History Ireland,  4, no 1 (Spring, 1996),  p 51

[5] Anglo Celt, 17 February 1912

[6] Donegal News, 13 January 1912

[7] Freemans Journal, 22 June 1912

[8] Freemans Journal, 20 May 1912

[9] Irish Times, 21 May 1912

[10]Hansard, 5th series, 39, 1129

[11] Irish Times, 31 August 1907

[12] Irish Times, 20 April 1912

[13] Irish Times, 10 June 1913

[14] Irish Times, 20 January 1911

[15] Hilaire Belloc & Cecil Chesterton,  The Party System ,  (London, 1911),  p 21

[16] Irish Times,  1 September 1962

[17] Irish Times, 29 May 1913

[18] Irish Times, 8 June 1912

[19] Henry W. Nevinson, ‘Lloyd George: The Leader of British Liberals’ in Foreign Affairs, 9, no3 (1931), p. 461

[20] Freemans Journal, 7 May 1912

[21] Irish Independent, 16 April 1912

[22] Denis Judd, ‘Lord Reading, Rufus Isaacs, First Marquess Of Reading, Lord Chief Justice And Viceroy Of India, 1860-1835’, (London, 1981), p. 4

[23] Irish Independent, 28 March 1912

[24] Irish Times, 1 January 1912

[25] Irish Times, 1 January 1912

[26] Irish Times, 3 March 1912

[27] Irish Times, 13 April 1912

[28] Irish Independent, 12 March 1912

[29] Irish Independent, 1 April 1912

[30] Irish Times, 3 April 1912

[31] Freemans Journal, 10 April 1912

[32] Irish Times, 4 April 1912

[33] Irish Times, 12 April 1912

[34] Irish Times, 23 May 1912

[35] Irish Times, 8 June 1912

[36] Irish Times, 25 April 1912

[37] Irish Times, 21 May 1912

[38] New York Times, 13 June 1913

[39] Winfried Georg Max Sebald, ‘Tacita Dean’ in October Journal, Autumn, (2003), p. 129

[40] Alvin Jackson, Home Rule: An Irish History 1800—2000,  (Oxford, 2003) pp 10, 3

[41] Alvin Jackson, Home Rule: An Irish History 1800—2000,  (Oxford, 2003) pp 10, 3

[42] Stanley Warren, ‘Montrose House and the Jameson Family in Dublin and Wexford: A Personal Reminiscence’, in The Orogon of the Ui Cinsealaigh Historical Society, no. 28 (2007), p. 97

[43] National Archives of Ireland , www.census.nationalarchives.ie, accessed 8 April 2014

[44] Ian D. Colvin, Carson the Statesman, (Montana, 2005),  p. 179

[45]  W.J. Baker, The History Of The Marconi Company 1874-1965, (New York, 1998 ), p. 146

[46] Irish Independent, 1October 1912

[47] Joseph P. Finnan, ‘Punch’s Portrayal of Redmond, Carson and the Irish Question 1910-18’ in Irish Historical Studies, 33 no. 132 (2003), p. 439

[48] Punch, 2 July 1913

[49] Irish Times, 12 January 1912

[50] Leitrim Observer, 26th October 1912

[51] Irish Times, 19th June 1913

[52] Irish Times, 19 June 1913

[53] Ibid

[54] Writer Uncredited, ‘Asquith: The Master Statesman’, in The North American Review, 198, no 695 (1913), p. 439

[55] Irish Times, 18 June 1912

[56] Irish Times, 2 October 1912

[57] Irish Times, 2 October 1912

[58] Freemans Journal, 12 October 1912

[59] Freemans Journal, 12 October 1912

[60] Special report from the Select Committee on Marconi’ Wireless Telegraph Company, Limited, http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1912/oct/28/marconi-wireless-telegraph-company, accessed on, 10 April 2014

[61] Irish Times, 3 October 1912

[62] Skibbereen Eagle, 23November 1912

Ireland’s Famished Years

 

famine

Irelands Famished Years

The Irish Holocaust 1845 -1855

This document takes a look at what triggered the great hunger in Ireland, and what it meant for the people living there at the time. It also explores what happened to those Irish people who decided to leave Ireland because of the famine, and the impact they had on their new homes. Finally the paper introduces one of the stickiest issues in Irish history; the ownership of the land, the attempts that were made to rectify the situation.

The Great Famine of the 1840s marked a watershed in modern Irish history. Of course, there had been famines before in Irish history, and there had been heavy emigration before the 1840s and changes in family structure, farm size, marriage patterns, agricultural output, religious practice, even political outlook, can be detected before the arrival of the potato blight. Nonetheless the extraordinary intensity of the Great Famine, that is to say, the compression into a few years of changes that would ordinarily have taken decades to work through, moves it decisively beyond the role of a mere accelerator of earlier trends. Especially, the famine set in train the unprecedented mass emigration which throughly reconfigured Irish life and society in the later 19th and 20th centuries. From the 1850s on, with the formation of an Irish nation abroad, the history of Ireland and the history of the Irish people decisively diverged, with profound consequences for both Ireland and the Irish.[1]

In September 1845 the first signs of a fungal disease in Irish potatoes appeared. The potato had fed generations of Irish people and now was inexplicably rotting in the fields and people started to go hungry. The impact of the potato blight was immediate. So much so that the editor of the Gardeners Chronicle made a dramatic announcement “We stop the press with very great regret to announce that the potato Murrain has unequivocally declared itself in Ireland. The crops above Dublin are suddenly perishing. Where will Ireland be in the event of the universal potato rot?” In that year only one third of the crop was lost, but in 1846 the fungus reappeared and the failure of the potato harvest was near total. The crops failed again in 1848 and 1849, and the knock-on effects of poor harvests and lack of food began taking their toll on the population.

The potato ‘murrain’ or blight was phytophthora infestans, a microscopic fungus spread by the wind and the rain, particularly during mild and humid weather. This previously unknown disease, brought from America, rapidly turned the potato stocks black and reduced the tubers in the soil to a stinking pulp. As the crop was being lifted during the autumn of 1845 reports of failure came from across the island.  A Belfast newspaper, The Vindicator, predicted on October 22, “the failure of the potato crop in Ireland is now confirmed. A large portion of the crop turns out to be quite useless for purposes of food. A dearth is inevitable; and a famine is extremely probable. The Irish peasantry rely almost exclusively upon potatoes for their subsistence; and when the crop fields, they have nothing to fall back on the grass, nettles, and seaweed.”

Families were decimated by the famine, and in many cases entire generations perished. During the course of the famine Ireland suffered terribly. In the ten-year period in 1841 to 1851 the population had fallen from 8 million to 6 1/2 million. More than half this figure had died from hunger or associated disease. The remainder had fled the famine and emigrated. In 1841 the Irish census revealed that just over 8 million lived on the island; and, by 1845, when the potato blight struck, that figure was probably closer to 8.5 million. By 1851, when the famine had run its course, the census of that year showed that the Irish population had fallen by over 20%, with 1 million dead from starvation and disease and another million or so having fled to Britain or North America.[2]

The numbers who lost their life in the famine, or who chose to emigrate, represents a disaster of epic proportions. It changed Ireland forever, and had a profound effect on many other nations. Beneath the figures were thousands of personal and family tragedies, stories of charity and, in some cases, weak and misguided government decisions that exasperated an awful situation.

In 1847 the fungus that had struck the potato did not return. Despite this good news, 1847 was one of the worst years of the famine, and has earned the name Black 47. Although the fungus did not return to blight the potato crop in 1847, the loss of life and dislocation that had been caused in 1846 meant that few potatoes had actually been planted. As a result the crop in 1847 was small and inadequate to feed the population. In the winter of 1847, 400,000 people died in Ireland as a result of the famine.

When the potato blight struck for a second time in 1846, every part of Ireland was affected. Fr. Theobald Mathew, after travelling from Dublin to Cork, wrote to Charles Trevelyan, Head of the Treasury, on August 7th: “I beheld with sorrow one wide wasteland of putrefying vegetation. In many places the wretched people sat on the fences of their decaying gardens, wringing their hands and wailing bitterly on the destruction. The food of a whole nation has perished.”[3]

The soup kitchens that were established across Ireland in 1847 were invaluable in keeping countless people alive who would have otherwise starved. The effort, which was undertaken by government, local authorities, charities, and private individuals, was an amazing achievement in the context of the enormity of the crisis. There were, however, negative aspects to the endeavour. Stories circulated that Protestant organisations established soup kitchens, but would only feed those families who converted from Catholicism to Protestantism. The level of desperation meant that many undertook the change and were derided with the label ‘soupers’.

While the potato crop either failed or was small during these years, much Irish land was actually farmed commercially and was designed to produce crops for export out of Ireland. In 1847, while people were dying in great numbers, exports of food crops from Ireland were high. The British government believed in free trade, and for them the market was king. Ideologically they did not believe in government intervention. Rather than the food being kept in Ireland to feed people, it left the ports for its intended export market. In 1847 alone, it is estimated that 4000 ships left Irish ports laden with food grown in Irish soil, but destined for sale in foreign markets.

With only a small yield of food from the potato crop, people were dependent on charity. Otherwise they would die. The government had three main approaches to feeding people and these were: employing them on large-scale public works schemes in return for their wages, feeding them directly through soup kitchens or providing food and shelter for them in workhouses. By the end of 1847, believing the worst was over; the government scaled down the public works programme and closed the soup kitchens. The following year the potato fungus returned with renewed ferocity and people starved once more.

One of the biggest killers during the famine wasn’t the actual starvation; it was the diseases that the weakened bodies succumbed to. Contagious diseases were a common feature of mid-19th-century life, and epidemics of diseases such as cholera weren’t unusual. In addition, during the famine years the conditions in Ireland where unsanitary – even by 19th-century standards. People were in weakened states, and less resistant to the various diseases that affected the country. The most common diseases where are diarrhoea, typhus, cholera, dysentery, and scurvy. It was these illnesses which were devastating to the starving population.

Disposing of bodies was a huge problem. Given the faith of the Irish, the act of burial was an important one. But in an environment of numerous deaths such procedures could not always be followed. Bodies were found in cabins, in the fields, and by the roadside. Until they could be buried, rats and stray dogs were devouring the corpses. Such conditions only hastened the spread of disease and forced the authorities to act. At various times during the famine bodies had to be buried, without Coffins, in large trenches.

The cycle of starvation and disease was difficult to break. In the context of the famine, 1849 was one of the better years in terms of the potato crop, and a slight decline in the number of dead. However that year, a cholera epidemic hit Ireland and many of those who survived the famine succumbed to the disease. The absence of food in a society will always lead to hunger and starvation. The most virulent killer in such situations will always be those diseases associated with unsanitary conditions, problems with the water supply, and the difficulties of disposing of dead bodies.

When the potato crop failed, and people started dying in Ireland, British Prime Minister Robert Peel was forced to act. In November 1845 he set up a central relief commission, and, he bought £100,000 of maize then known as American Indian corn to feed people in Ireland, and also set up a scientific enquiry to investigate what caused the fungus to strike the potato. As the cargoes arrived from America in February 1846 Peel made more money available and ordered the army commissariat to set up the depots across the country to store 44 million pounds of corn. The plan was not to give up the corn free, but to sell it at cost price. The effect was to keep down the price of other foodstuffs. This “yellow means”, was at first condemned as ‘Peel’s brimstone’ but a government halfpenny pamphlet, telling people how to cook it, sold in tens of thousands. Peel also set up a scientific commission which issued completely useless advice on how to protect stored potatoes from infection. The experts of the day were quite unable to find a way of halting the blight.

The Prime Minister also put bills through Parliament in January 1846 to fund public works for the destitute so that they could earn money to buy food. Then, in June 1846, Peel committed an act of political suicide. With the aid of the Whig opposition, he brought about the repeal of the Corn Laws in an attempt to encourage the importation of cheap grain into Ireland. For the Tory grandees this was unforgivable treachery. The Duke of Wellington was outraged: “rotten potatoes have done it all,” he expostulated; “they put Peel in his dammed fright.” Peel had no choice but to resign. In July the opposition Whig leader, Lord John Russell, formed a government. Russell turned for advice to Charles Trevelyan, the civil servant at the head of the Treasury. Trevelyan recommended a drastic reduction in the distribution of subsidised food and a major extension of public works. Free-market forces must not be disrupted by government interference. The poor must work for their food. In his memorandum to the Cabinet on 1 August 1846 Trevelyan advised that “the supply of the home market may safely be left to the foresight of private merchants.”[4]

Trevelyan devised a new system of public works in August. To fit in with Trevelyan’s free-market philosophy, warmly shared by the Whig government, the works were not to compete with capitalist enterprise, and they were confined to building walls, roads, bridges, causeways and fences. The new relief works were to be financed entirely out of rates – Irish property was to pay for Irish poverty. It was not until October that this cumbersome bureaucracy (eventually numbering 12,000 officials) could issue tickets giving employment to those considered sufficiently destitute. There were also suggestions that the Irish ports should be closed to stop the further exports of corn. This proposal was firmly rejected by Trevelyan who said he did not want to encourage the idea of prohibiting exports, perfect free trade in his opinion was the right course.

Meanwhile the depots providing subsidised Indian corn, set up by Peel’s Tory government in the previous year, were being closed down. Too late in the day Trevelyan decided to attempt to buy corn abroad. The harvest across Europe in 1846 had been very poor, and there was no surplus for sale. The American maize harvest had already mostly been bought up. Even if corn could be purchased, it would not be ready for transportation until December, a month when American Rivers were mostly frozen over. And yet oats, wheat and barley, grown and harvested in Ireland, continued to be shipped out of the country across the Irish Sea.

The effects of the famine didn’t have the same impact on Ireland’s individual regions. While all areas were affected by lack of food and the spread of disease, the resulting number of deaths was not uniform. It was the poorest areas, those whose agricultural development was lowest, that were worse affected. In parts of the country where peasant farmers had large families, but small plots of land, the death toll was highest. Two groups suffered most: families that depended on their income from small holdings (subsistence farming on a small acreage to produce food for the family), and landless labourers (those who relied on employment working on the farms of others). If one was lucky enough to live in Ulster, where there was industrial employment, the effects of the famine where negligible. If one lived in the poor rural areas of the west and south-west, and were trying to survive on a small plot of potatoes, then one’s chances of dying were highest.

One of the many who recorded the devastation was the Rev Samuel Montgomery, rector of Ballinascreen, Co. Londonderry. He made this entry in the parish register: “On the three last days of July and for six days of August 1846 the potatoes were suddenly attacked, when in their full growth, with a sudden blight. The tops were first observed to wither and then, on looking to the roots, the tubers were found hastening to decomposition. The entire crop that in the month of July appeared so luxuriant, about 15 August manifested only black and blue withered stems. The whole atmosphere in the month of September was tainted with the odour of the decaying potatoes.”[5] The real worry was whether or not the potatoes successfully saved would escape the blight. Soon the worst fears were confirmed. News began to come in the potatoes were rotting in clamps and stores. The medical officer for Coleraine workhouse reported: “nothing else is heard of, nothing else is spoken of, and Famine must be looked forward to.”[6]

 

[1] Thomas Bartlett, Ireland A History, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 282

[2] Peter Gray, Famine, Land And Politics; British Government And Irish Society 1843–50 (Dublin, 1999);Cathal Poirteir (ed), The Great Irish Famine (Cork, 1995); James Donnelly Jr, The Great Irish Potato Famine (Stroud, Gloucs., 2001); Cormac O Grada, The Great Irish Famine (Dublin, 1989); Timothy Guinnane, The Vanishing Irish: Households, Migration, And the Rural Economy in Ireland, 1850 – 1914 (Princeton, 1997).

[3] Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ireland In 250 Episodes, Gill & Macmillan, (2009), p.375

[4]  Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ireland In 250 Episodes, Gill & Macmillan, (2009), p.374

[5] Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ireland In 250 Episodes, Gill & Macmillan, (2009), p.373

[6] Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ireland In 250 Episodes, Gill & Macmillan, (2009), p.373

 

USA: Untold History

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It has been said that when you’re defending you’re losing. Oliver Stone has become a media darling in the USA and spends his days defending his perception of reality. With heavyweight historian Prof Peter Kuznick on his side it might be best if Stone stops defending and allows this 10 part documentary series and 750 page tome speak for themselves. If that were to happen then ‘Untold History’ or, more accurately, ‘Overtold History’, citing over 2,000 ‘Told History’ sources in 14 Chapters might end up on the immaculate shelves of Democrats with voracious appetites for sinister reasons to despise Republicanism.

Historians agree that History must be challenged. Stone & Kuznick argue that the narrative of American history, devoted to liberty and justice, is only part of the story, “We must understand our history; it helps us to shape the here and now.”[1] The authors are recent arrivals in a line of revisionist historians presenting known facts in a skewed order leading to a skewed conclusion.  One wonders if the next revisionist historian to reinterpret this work may be a ‘post-revisionist’.

The inspiration for this journey through America’s ‘untold history’ may be the valiant Maj Gen Smedley Butler who won numerous medals for heroic escapades. He once wrote, “I helped make the world safe for American oil interests. I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”[2] Stone & Kuznick use Butler’s words as a foundation stone for their flawed reconstructed interpretation, “War is a racket as US troop’s storm their way around the world to defend American capitalism.”

Once one is willing to accept this argument then the rest flows very naturally and the main players, presidents, politicians, soldiers, bankers and businessmen in the saga are either good (Democrats) or evil (Republicans). The book contends that the ongoing construction of the rapidly expanding ‘American Empire’ is leaving in its wake a trail of chaos preventing America from playing a role in advancing rather than retarding humanity. The USA, claim the writers, have remained in the grip of militarists and empire builders and presidents have been “brainwashed” into sustaining the repressive state that oversees US domination of the world.

The two main heroes here are Henry Wallace who urged the United States to usher in what he called “the century of the common man” and JFK who by 1963 was on the verge of rejecting Cold War thinking and leading the USA on the road to peace and prosperity. Wallace was vilified, by all but Kennedy, for suggesting the banning of colonialism and economic exploitation. Kennedy’s death handed back the country to dark ‘enemies’ who wanted war and repression.[3]

Stone & Kuznick suggest modern America has been created by these ‘enemies’, a minority of wealthy Americans exerting control over US domestic and foreign policy while the masses experience rapid diminution of power and living standards, “Americans are now victims of intrusive surveillance, government intrusion, abuse of civil liberties, and loss of privacy.”[4] In the United States those who are driven by personal greed and self-interest are empowered over those who extol kindness, generosity, compassion, sharing, empathy, and community building.

Such are some of the issues addressed in these pages which attempts to advance President John Quincy Adam’s condemnation of British colonialism and declaration that the USA, “goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy”[5] Stone & Kuznick are left-leaning historians seeking deliverance from the evils of society and, it seems, liberation cannot come from politicians but some badly defined movement envisaged as US citizens learning the lessons of this ‘Untold History’.

The ‘revelation’ that America is ‘imperialist’ is timeworn. The US expansionist impulse exists since the earliest British colonies, an impulse later embodied in “Manifest Destiny” and reflected in the Monroe Doctrine; “since the first settlers America was an imperial nation”[6] The American Empire is exceptional; it is concerned with economic domination not controlling populations. The USA has resorted to force to protect those economic interests. Recent Pentagon figures indicate that the USA had military presence in 132 nations.[7]

The American Empire has evolved over a century. After fulfilling what journalist John L. O’Sullivan termed its “Manifest Destiny” by spreading across North America, the United States looked overseas. As the Europeans seized land in the late 19th century Henry Cabot Lodge observed, “the great nations are rapidly absorbing for their future expansion and their present defence all the waste places of the Earth”, he urged the USA to move quickly to make up for much lost time.[8]

The USA needed markets abroad to absorb its growing overproduction surplus. Capitalists endorsed the approach thereby ensuring to involve USA in world affairs. American industrialists prospered and demanded compliant foreign governments protecting their interests. Political instability afforded the USA a pretext to intervene militarily and reinstall governments.[9] In short, argue Stone & Kuznick, the globalisation of American democracy proceeded at gunpoint financed by capitalists. To trace the roots of this ‘modern evil’ one needs to return to President Woodrow Wilson.

Stone & Kuznick claim Wilson had major weaknesses, “descended from Presbyterian ministers, moralistic and self-righteously inflexible. He believed he was carrying out God’s plan”.[10] Wilson disapproved of radicalism and expressed greater sympathy for business than for labour, “Wilson abhorred radical change. A true diehard imperialist he refused to recognise the Mexican government and sent thousands of American troops to the Mexican border.[11]

While the United States was busy policing its neighbours to the south, more ominous developments were occurring in Europe. Wilson was not to know that the predominantly European bloodletting – the Great War, World War I – would be only the start of an era of unending warfare and horrific violence, human and technological barbarism on an unimaginable scale, which would later come to be known as the American Century. Americans of all political persuasions feared getting dragged into Europe’s bloodletting. Antiwar sentiment held strong and despite overwhelming sympathy for the allies, the United States declared neutrality in the war; “we have to be neutral,” Wilson explained, “since otherwise our mixed populations would wage war on each other.” [12] American neutrality existed in principle but not in practice. Economic interests clearly placed the United States in the Allied camp.

After the sinking of the Lusitania Roosevelt called for war. Despite initial disclaimers, the ship was in fact carrying a large cargo of arms to Great Britain. Though Wilson had won re-election in 1916 under the slogan “He kept us out of war,” he was increasingly coming to believe that if the United States didn’t join the war, it would be denied a role in shaping the post-war world. [13] In April 1917, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war, saying, “The world must be made safe for democracy.” Opponents attacked Wilson as a tool of Wall Street. “We are about to put the dollar on the American flag,” charged Sen George Norris of Nebraska. [14] The American public were not enthusiastic to take part in the Great War but the propaganda machine quickly took control of public opinion and became a central element in all future war planning. “During the war period it came to be recognised that the mobilisation of men and means was not sufficient; there must be a mobilisation of opinion.” [15] Stone & Kuznick argue that the war years did, however, bring on unprecedented collusion between large corporations and government in an attempt to rationalise and stabilise the economy, control unfettered competition, and guarantee profits – something that top bankers and corporate executives had striven for decades to achieve. As a result, American banks and corporations thrived during the war, with munitions makers leading the pack.

In Paris on January 12, 1919 Wilson’s “fourteen points” proved a weak foundation on which to base negotiations. The Allies balked at Wilson’s terms. They had little interest in making the world safe for democracy, freedom of the seas, and “peace without victory.” They wanted revenge, new colonies, and naval dominance. Europe was crumbling, starvation was rampant, disease was spreading and displaced populations were seeking refuge. Few of Wilson’s 14 points remained in the final treaty.

Wilson’s verbal promises to spread democracy and end colonialism were broken with his actions. Bankers and munitions manufacturers brought America into WW1 and Wilson’s ineffectiveness about settlements and League of Nations created American scepticism about international involvement and hampered America’s response to the threat of advancing fascism in the 1930’s.

History would soon prove that Wilson had reason to be alarmed at the radical tide sweeping Europe and beyond. American workers also participated in the radical upsurge; steelworkers, miners and textile workers went on strike for higher wages but were soon to learn that police, courts, troops, and the entire apparatus of the state would be arrayed against them when they struggled for better conditions, higher pay and the right to join unions. Thousands of alleged radicals were arrested and many were incarcerated without charges for months. J Edgar Hoover headed up the campaign against the “un-Americanism” and by 1921 he had compiled a list of over half a million potentially subversive individuals, groups, and publications.

Historians have long since discredited the myth that revulsion caused by the war and European entanglements plunged the United States into isolationism in the 1920s. In fact, World War I marked the end of European dominance and the ascendancy of the United States and Japan, the wars two real victors. The 1920s saw a rapid expansion of American business and finance around the globe. New York replaced London as the centre of world finance. The era of US domination of the world economy had now begun. Among the leaders in this effort were the oil companies. The war proved that controlling oil companies was central to projecting and exercising power.

But some people nevertheless clung to the belief that the United States had engaged in a great crusade for freedom and democracy, but for many the phrase rang hollow. Some expressed anger at the war. Others just expressed profound sense of post-war malaise. Hollywood produced several successful anti-war movies including “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930). The war proved demoralising and now seemed to showcase barbarism and depravity, “Put simply, the faith in human capability and human decency had disappeared. Negative views of human nature were reflected in a loss of faith in essential human capabilities.”[16]

Thus the war would have consequences that went far beyond the horrors of the battlefield. The United States never joined the League of Nations, rendering that body impotent in the face of Fascist aggression in the 1930s. Revelations that the United States had entered the First World War on false pretences, while bankers and munitions manufacturers – later labelled “merchants of death” – had raked in huge profits, created widespread scepticism about foreign involvement at a time when the United States needed to contend with a real “axis of evil”: Germany, Italy, and Japan. By the time the United States acted, it was much too late. The necessity of finally combating fascism would, however, afford the United States an opportunity to reclaim some of that democratic, egalitarian heritage on which its earliest greatness and moral leadership had rested. And, though late in entering World War II, the United States provided crucial assistance in defeating Europe’s fascists and played the decisive role in defeating Japan’s militarists. But by setting up the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the war, the United States, once again, proved itself unready to provide the kind of leadership a desperate world cried out for.

By 1920 the world was on the mend from the Great War but by 1930, problems seemed insurmountable. The United States was in the worst depression in its history, the banking system had collapsed, bread lines formed in every town and city, homeless walked the streets, and misery was ubiquitous, despair pervasive. [17] The rest of the world was also in bad shape and had not experienced the relative prosperity in the 1920s that had  that cushioned America. In Europe the trouble was looming Mussolini was in power in Italy, Adolf Hitler had come to power in Germany and in 1931 Japanese forces had seized Manchuria. Roosevelt had attacked Pres Hoover for spending too aggressively and unbalancing the budget. He acknowledged the suffering of the people and called for a “new deal.” He had to solve some very real and very practical problems. Thus after his election the first issue he was to deal with was that of the banking system. “But Roosevelt connected with a deeper reality: Americans’ desperate need for renewed hope and confidence. And that he set out to restore”.[18]

In 1940, Stone & Kuznick write, Roosevelt first named his brilliant secretary of agriculture, Henry Wallace, as his running mate thus overruling reluctant party bosses. Four years later, with Roosevelt’s health declining the party bosses knew that the nominee for vice president might well soon become president so they conspired to dump Wallace and replace him with Harry Truman. Too enfeebled to put up any fight Roosevelt still made it clear in an open letter to the Democratic convention that he wanted Wallace. Rank-and-file Democrats rose up against “the bosses” stranglehold over the convention and mounted a demonstration and very nearly nominated Wallace, but were caught short when the bosses forced adjournment against the wishes of the delegates. Truman prevailed and thus came about the first major setback to hopes for a peaceful post-war world. Stone & Kuznick contend that History might have turned out more happily if only this virtual conspiracy to undermine Wallace never took place. In fact Wallace was a major source of concern for party bosses primarily because of his esoteric interests. He once said of himself, “I am a searcher for methods of bringing the ‘inner light’ to outward manifestation”. This search put him under the influence of some oddball prophets. These abstruse interests along with political incapacity gave Wallace notoriety in Washington and his critics deemed him unfit for presidency. Wallace himself was very aware of the fact that Roosevelt had little or no confidence in him as presidential material, “I am certain that the president wanted to ditch me as noiselessly as possible.”

By the time Roosevelt was inaugurated, banking had been halted completely or sharply limited everywhere. Conditions were ripe for dramatic changes in the banking system public anger against bankers had been building since the stock market crash. The media of the day exposed fraud and wrong doing on the part of the nation’s top bankers, including obscene salaries, unpaid taxes, hidden bonuses, unethical loans, and more. Magazines began calling bankers “banksters.”

In this climate, Roosevelt had pretty much a free hand to do what he wanted. He declared a four-day national bank holiday, conferred with the nation’s top bankers on his first full day in office, called a special session of Congress to pass emergency legislation, and calmed citizens fears with the first of his famous fireside chats. Congress passed and Roosevelt signed the emergency banking act, written largely by the bankers themselves. The banking system had been restored without radical change.

Roosevelt’s solution to the banking crisis would serve as a template for how he would handle most issues and his instincts were fundamentally conservative. He would save capitalism from the capitalists. He would face allegations that his “new Deal” was fascistic. In fact, in 1976 Ronald Reagan claimed that “fascism was really the basis of the new Deal.” [19] There was great uncertainty about where Roosevelt was taking the country, leading some observers to compare the United States with Fascist Italy. Some News magazines were unabashed supporters of Mussolini and extolled Italian fascism which they claimed embodied ancient virtues of the race including discipline, duty, courage, glory and sacrifice. [20]

Roosevelt focused from the outset on jumpstarting the US economy and getting Americans back to work. Solving international problems would take a back seat. Roosevelt’s inward looking approach was apparent across the board. He repudiated his earlier support for joining the League of Nations and willingly sacrificed foreign trade in order to stimulate domestic recovery. He even took steps to reduce the countries 140,000 man army which prompted a visit by secretary of war George Dern. Dern brought along Gen Douglas MacArthur, who told the President that he was endangering the country’s safety.

Following FDR’s death and Truman’s arrival as president in the Oval Office came ‘disaster’. The United States dropped atomic bombs even though, according to the authors, the Japanese already knew they were defeated. Truman dropped the bombs to intimidate Stalin into post-war submission and a combination of the Truman Doctrine, the Berlin airlift and the Marshall Plan led the Soviets into the Cold War and a conflict which escalated into a nuclear arms race that imperilled civilisation with the only objector being Wallace whom FDR appointed secretary of commerce. This all sounds logical in theory but the reality is far different. The authors offer no real evidence to back their claim that the Japanese was close to surrender prior to events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Historians generally accept the Japanese were not close to ‘unconditional surrender’ and would fight hard for a ‘mild’ negotiated settlement to protect their adored Emperor. This being true then Stone & Kuznick’s basic contention that Truman was less than honest about his motive for dropping the bomb, namely, to spare American GI lives, and the chain of events that followed including the Cold War, Soviet paranoia,  McCarthyism and the Cuban Missile crisis would never have occurred. There are ample grounds to condemn some of Truman’s actions, not least the loyalty oath program in 1947 but by glorifying Wallace by stating what could have happened the authors merely indulge in serious conjecture. In its most basic form the Cold War was about Liberalism versus Communism and the reality is that each side could learn from the other. The Cold War was the driving force of the American Empire.

Stone & Kuznick’s book and TV series presented as new has a misleading title. Most of the interpretations they present from the war in the Philippines to Afghanistan have appeared in revisionist histories of American foreign policy written over the last 50 years. The authors have conceded this point in their sources and claimed that what they call their “revisionist narrative” that informs their book has become “the dominant narrative among university-based historians.”

The authors devote themselves almost entirely to America’s role in world affairs since 1900 and particularly since 1939. Their aim is to describe America’s seizure of global supremacy during and after World War II, and its imperial exploits up to the present day. It is a tale of good and bad men but mostly bad. By the 1920s the Democratic Republic all but disappeared to make way for an America whose unique mixture of idealism, militarism, avarice, and realpolitik propelled it toward becoming a world power. The book is not so much a work of history than a slanted political document restating and updating a particular view of the world that leaves plenty of space for further historical revisionism. No doubt that too shall come.

[1]Stone, O. & Kuznick, P., 2013. The Untold History of the United States. 2013 ed. New York: Simon and Schuster.

[2]Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People’s History of the United States, 2nd. ed. (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2009), pp251-252

[3]Stone, O. & Kuznick, P., 2013. The Untold History of the United States. 2013 ed. New York: Simon and Schuster.

[4]Stone, O. & Kuznick, P., 2013. The Untold History of the United States. 2013 ed. New York: Simon and Schuster.

[5]Gardner, L. C., LaFeber, W. F. & McCormick, T. J., 1976. Creation of the American Empire (United States Diplomatic History to 1901). Chicago: Rand McNally College Publishing.

[6]Kennedy, P., 2002. The Eagle Has Landed. Financial Times, 22 February.

[7]Freedland, J., 2002. Is America the New Rome?. Guardian, 18th September.

[8]Shoultz, L., 1998. Beneath the United States: A History of US Policy Toward Latin America. 1998 ed. Cambridge, Massachusetts.: Harvard University Press.

[9]Stone, O. & Kuznick, P., 2013. The Untold History of the United States. 2013 ed. New York: Simon and Schuster.

[10]Stone, O. & Kuznick, P., 2013. The Untold History of the United States. 2013 ed. New York: Simon and Schuster.

[11]Hofstadter, R., 1949. The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

[12]Herring, G. C., 2008. From Colony to Superpower: US Foreign Relations since 1776. New York: Oxford University Press.

[13]Herring, G. C., 2008. From Colony to Superpower: US Foreign Relations since 1776. New York: Oxford University Press.

[14]Knock, T. J., 1992. To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order. New York: Oxford University Press.

[15]Lasswell, H. D., 1927. Propaganda Technique in the World War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

[16]Stone, O. & Kuznick, P., 2013. The Untold History of the United States. 2013 ed. New York: Simon and Schuster.

[17]Kennedy, P., 2002. The Eagle Has Landed. Financial Times, 22 February.

[18]Stone, O. & Kuznick, P., 2013. The Untold History of the United States. 2013 ed. New York: Simon and Schuster.

[19]Reagan, R., 1976. The Nation: I’ve Had a Bum Rap. Time, 17th May, p. 19.

[20]Michael Augspurger, “Henry Luce, Fortune, and the Attraction of Italian Fascism,” American Studies 41 (Spring 2000), p115

Kate O’Brien’s Limerick Life

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Boru House in Limerick is a late Victorian house that served as a family home and as headquarters of a thriving 19th-century horse trading enterprise owned and run by one of Limericks merchant princes. It is located on Mulgrave Street, “the street of bad, mad and dead” and was once occupied by Limericks controversial feminist writer, “a pioneer in Irish fiction”[1] Kate O’Brien. This article explores the influence of Boru House on the writer’s sense of place and religious beliefs. O’Brien’s tumultuous bourgeois childhood, Irish catholic middle class experience and early teenage years at Boru House obeying the rigorous rules of middle class convention led to her being a social, political and spiritual outcast and recluse. She was, by many accounts, an ‘outsider’ born and raised in a house unbefitting its time and location and as such it too was an ‘outsider’ and she became the personification of its character. However, O’Brien’s continued local, national and international success and veneration as a writer testifies to the significance of land and belief in the formation years of an artist and individual.

One of Limerick’s most famous structures is the Victorian Boru House on Mulgrave Street. It is an elaborate late Victorian house built by the grandfather of controversial Limerick writer Kate O’Brien (1897-1974). One of ten children born of Tom O’Brien (1853-1916) and Katty Thornhill (1864-1903), her grandfather Thomas O’Brien Snr moved to Limerick in 1852 after eviction from his Bruree home.[2] Kate wrote about him, “This Tom O’Brien was by Kilfinane standards, indeed by any, a man of the world. He was in fact a child of the post-famine evictions, for his father had been turned out of his small- holding near-by, in Bruree county – about 1850, and had made his way with wife, young daughter and two sons, and with a few household remnants on an ass-cart, as far as Limerick.”[3] Thomas was a horse dealer, breeder and supplier to “the imperial economy”[4].

Thomas was also very much aware of the fact that the nearby Fairgreen, “where thousands of horses are to be seen”[5] was the home of one of Ireland’s largest frequent Horse Fair’s and in 1880 he built Boru House a mere fifty yards or so away from the fairgrounds. It was a solid red brick dwelling. While its name and the arm and sword that perch on top of it conjure up shades of Brian Boru, the carriage wheel design on the stable gates are symbols of her father’s trade for, like his father before him, he was a horse breeder and dealer.[6] In fact on so large a scale was the business that one of Kate’s uncles lived permanently abroad where they mounted cavalry officers in many countries, sold hunters to all the great masters of Foxhounds, and matched carriage horses for the nobility. [7]

Limerick was rapidly becoming the horse capital of western Ireland and there were ongoing efforts to arrange the revival of the Limerick Horse Show and every effort would be made to “request the citizens of Limerick to subscribe and nothing be left undone to ensure the success of the show.”[8] Horses provided much of the locomotion and power of the age, and the O’Brien’s’ provided the horses for the merchants, the clergy and the garrison. Such was the wealth of Tom O’Brien that he could afford to buy some historic O’Brien diamonds from the Earls of Clare and have them set in a ring for his wife.[9]

Mulgrave Street had expanded during the 19th century due to rural migrants reflecting a rising local urban modernity. Mulgrave Street housed new institutions including the Artillery Barracks (1807), County Infirmary (1811), County Gaol (1821), District Lunatic Asylum and Mount Saint Lawrence Cemetery (1849)[10]The modern institutionalisation of space in O’Brien’s early life milieu imbued her with an awareness of the centrality of place as a means to anchor essential themes.[11]

Limerick born broadcaster and journalist David Hanly in 1980 had vivid memories of his childhood on Mulgrave Street, “It was a place of curiosity, in my childhood it had not yet suffered the shock of burgeoning suburbia. It was a quiet place; the clock at the mental hospital dominated the street. On one side of the street was a prison, an asylum and a graveyard, a street inhabited by the bad, mad and the dead. On the other side were social climbers, shop keepers and the fairly well off.”[12] A former neighbour of the O’Brien’s, Mickey Hanrohan also had fond memories of the O’Brien family when he wrote to the Sunday Press as to how he had lived next door to Boru House, stating, ‘I kept a few Pigeons next door and could be seen from O’Brien’s Nursery. Master Jack, Miss May, Tom and Kate and Mrs O’ Mara brought me Pigeons from Shannon View their Uncle Michael’s Home & Stables.’[13]

Born in 1897 into a, “comfortable, relatively privileged Limerick of the merchant princes,”[14] She arrived at a time when the family business was enjoying exceptional success because of the recent re-arrival of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment to Limerick to their newly refurbished Barracks and in need of horses.[15] Furthermore, her Grandfather was campaigning on behalf of the cash-strapped farmers of Ireland who were being forced to pay exceptionally high sire fees which was resulting in a nationwide crisis in the horse breeding industry. He told a special hearing in Dublin, “The farmers of Ireland cannot afford to pay the fees demanded by sire owners owing to the bad times, and farmers should be helped by the Government to get good thoroughbred sires cheap.”[16]

Kate was a girl in the revolutionary period, but her provincial bourgeois family had no place, or obvious interest, in the political ferments of the time. This aspect of “Irishness” hardly makes an appearance in her work.[17] However, her father was an ardent supporter of Parnell and greatly believed in the importance of Limerick in the early days of the Home Rule campaign.[18]

Although Kate only spent the first 18 years of her life in Limerick, the city had a powerful and lasting influence on her life and on her writings[19]. Her daring literary perspective dissected and critiqued the social and political milieu of the Catholic petite bourgeoisie which supported the adoption of the 1937 constitution that imposed a quasi-religious and patriarchal structure of political architecture upon the fledgling post-independent nation.

Fianna Fail’s social legislation of the 1930s was increasingly vetted by a staunch right-wing Catholic hierarchy. In tandem with cultural nationalism the State and Church had determinedly ‘anathematized everything from jazz to modern fiction.[20] Subsequently, writers such as O’Brien would face the reviled Censorship Board in 1929.’[21] She was one of the first Irish writers to focus on the crisis of being a woman in a man’s world.[22]

Limerick impacted on O’Brien, It was there that I began to view the world and to develop the necessary passion by which to judge it. It was there indeed that I learnt the world and I know that wherever I am it is still from Limerick that I look out and make my surmises. It is really all you know about yourself – that life began, that you became involved, that you asked all your leading questions there in Limerick.”[23] The O’Brien siblings mixed socially with the sons and daughters of other middle class families such as the Egans, O’Maras, Ebrills, Gaffneys and Bourkes, and went pony-riding and to parties with them, especially during holiday times.

Life was not all work for the merchants and the professional classes. Drinking, dancing, race-going, hunting, card-playing, dinner-partying, womanising, discussing politics and religion filled much of their leisure hours. In this world the role of women was rigidly defined and regulated. Housekeeping, breeding, child-rearing and serving as decorative appendages of their husbands was their socially ordained functions. But for single women the social pressures and tensions were inescapable. Without a husband, a woman was automatically relegated to an inferior status. The iron laws of convention decreed that young women should marry in their first flush of youth. To remain “on the shelf” was to be stigmatised as an ‘old maid.’[24]

 Jim Kemmy (1936-1997) said, “It is over simplifying Kate O’Brien’s attitude to say she had a love hate relationship with Limerick.” She had ambivalence and uneasiness because she found it restrictive, claustrophobic and oppressive. She knew little about Limerick’s proletariat and this was obvious in 1949 when she told Harvey Brett of the New York Times, “Poverty and backwardness doesn’t seem to me the kinds of soil out of which great novels come.”[25] Kemmy further elaborates on this, “She captured for all time the ethos of the middle class commercial Limerick as it was at the turn of the century; the lifestyle and mores of the Catholic merchant princes of the city.” She didn’t understand the Limerick of the working people but she loved the city and its history and almost all her writing is redolent of this affection.”[26]

In her writings she explored the unnatural sterility and cruel idleness of mind and body of middle class women. Dr Lorna Reynolds of UCD suggests the ‘holier than thou’ attitude was anathema to her, “Catholicism seemed not to know that ignorance is not innocence, and without freedom to choose there is no virtue.”[27] Describing herself as a ‘Catholic Agnostic’ O’Brien wrote with some sense of remembered pleasure about religion, religion as hindrance, religion as refuge, religion as the moral reliquary, religion as motivating force; force rather than passion.[28]

Her novel The Ante Room is arguably the quintessential example of how Limerick impacted on her, “for all its melodrama it is extremely important in the context of O’Brien’s understanding of Irish society, particularly that of the Irish Catholic middle class and its self imposed vulnerabilities.” [29] The novel is sharp, multifaceted and portrays a narrow society, highlighting the small mindedness which sustains and oppresses it. Class fears undercut much of O’Brien’s work. Social exposure is viewed as the greatest shame in a world in which sexual or romantic deviation is so damning their deeper implications are unacknowledged.

O’Brien has been described as an “outsider”, “O’Brien remains a literary outsider; an independently minded maverick”,[30] her wealthy merchant bourgeoisie class, boarding school years, sexuality, relationship with Catholicism and significantly her Anglophile ideology was not part of the founding myth of the new Ireland. She admired the values and manners of her own early 20th Century bourgeoisie class in popular political culture and class consciousness. These idiosyncrasies were not unique but symbolic of a class attacked by a new era of nationalistic and religious influences.[31]

It was O’Brien who first and most comprehensively chronicled the rise of the Irish Catholic middle class experience. O’Brien’s lasting contribution to Irish literature is her exploration of a specific way of life and the many repressions which helped shape it. She was a formidable woman; a rebel, a loner, a traveller, a believer in education’s saving power for women, an astute political and cultural prophet, and a woman both of her time and beyond it, a European. Above all, perhaps, she is both storyteller and social historian.[32]

Kate’s bittersweet romance with her own indelibly linked land and belief manifests itself in later writings, “My life began in Limerick, my memories start there and to weave and wind from that first focus.” She sees her land as “grave but surprising and corrective of literary fancies.” Its first manner is sceptical, quiet and deprecatory. And of her religious beliefs, “Limerick’s churches are the very life and expression of the place, for comedy and anger, conviction and pride, music and formality, for ceremony – and always for prayer.”[33]

The structure of Boru House remains unchanged. It is a detached six-bay, two-storey polychrome red brick building with a single-bay two-storey gabled entrance and a three-sided canted bay window to the west. The use of polychrome brickwork in conjunction with stonework and the coursing of the eaves brickwork are all typical of the closing decades of the nineteenth century. The house has some non-domestic characteristics because it also functioned as the head quarters of the then prosperous family business.[34]

The national and local social and political climates of 1880 were at odds with the affluence of the O’Brien family. Many Limerick citizens were feeling the impact of poverty, famine, rural agitation and political unrest. County Limerick ratepayers had to pay more than most other counties for additional Royal Irish Constabulary because of Land League agitation.[35] There were demands of emigrants to financially intervene to rescue the country from the abyss of British suppression, aggression and enslavement. The founding of the Irish National Land League in the USA was the response and aimed to abolish landlordism and enable poor tenant farmers to possess their own land.[36]

Amidst this social milieu Kate’s grandfather built a substantial business and his rise from evicted tenant farmer to prosperous dealer in bloodstock was rapid and attest to his fortitude. He was an assertive, pompous and determined man and went about building the substantial Boru House beside his paddock and stables. He insisted that the house had the O’Brien coat of arms emblazoned onto the roof ridge. His granddaughter was proud of her birthplace, her origins and her class. They provide the settings for many of her novels.[37]

Kate’s formative years at Boru House influenced her writing. After her mother’s death of cancer in 1903 Kate studied at Laurel Hill Convent before progression to UCD, a fellow student writing as Quidnunc in the Irish Times in 1936 recalls, “When I remember her as a student at the National University she was a very pretty girl.”[38] Irish Broadcaster Ciaran Mac Mathuna (1925-2009) was born and grew up in a house on Mulgrave Street about 50 yards from the O’Brien family home. “It was a strange looking house; they were a strange family,” he remarks.[39]

If strange is a good word to use to describe her family then it is equally as good to describe her writings. Her play ‘Distinguished Villa’ (1928) launched her career. Her novel, chronicling middle class Irish life, ‘Without My Cloak’ (1931) demonstrated her main themes, Irish women’s struggle for freedom against family, society and Catholicism. The heroine of ‘The Ante Room’ (1934) is torn between love and Catholicism, so is ‘Mary Lavelle’ (1936), it was banned under censorship laws, as was ‘The Land of Spices’ on May 5th, 1941: “A prohibition order is placed on Kate O’Brien’s ‘The Land of Spices’ by the Censor, due to a sentence hinting at a homosexual act”[40], O’Brien later stated of the Irish censorship Board, “It’s five old gentlemen. I don’t know who they are. Just five old gentlemen who, when they get a complaint, read the book, and decide on whether to take action or not. Censorship is a disgrace, it’s too silly, and puts Ireland in a ridiculous position.”[41] O’Brien’s most successful novel was ‘That Lady’ (1946).[42]

Constructing an elaborate dwelling in impoverished Limerick was extravagant. Local people experienced food shortages that Britain doubted, “this famine fever is an outbreak of typhus.’[43] A view challenged in Ireland, “Epidemic fever follows famine.”[44] But ‘An Gorta Beag’caused hunger not death. It was due to new food production techniques, different structures of land-holding and the disappearance of the sub-division of land and cottiers. A combination of Irish emigrant’s donations and British political promptness controlled the starvation.[45]

To Kate such issues were of little concern. She talks in autobiographical writings of a happier childhood, “scenes of early childhood are those which shine clearest. We discover our childhood at the end of life as if it were something sculpted when much of the rest of us is by every good right dead or dead-alive”.[46]

According to her cousin Don Thornhill in 2008 Kate’s happy childhood came from money which became a theme in her Limerick (romantically fictionalised as Mellick) novels, “Her characters are at ease with money.” John Broderick wrote of her in 1963, “Since most novelists are preoccupied throughout their lives by the world of their childhood and youth, it is not surprising that Miss O’Brien’s imagination is apt to linger on those years immediately before the First World War: the last days of the great 19th century peace. Her milieu is that of the rich Catholic merchants of Limerick before the lights went out all over Europe.” It was a comfortable, leisurely world; casually accepting values which it imagined at the time to be immortal; and imbued with those subtle, generous and slightly diffident manners. It is out of this rich background with its solid Victorian conventions and its age-old Catholicism that Miss O’Brien’s heroines emerge.[47]

There are other themes influenced by Boru House. Her Anglophile tendency is easily traced, “English regiments flirted and courted among Limerick women with traditional allure, my memory tells me, they must have been an answer to life, those enemy troops, if not literally an answer to prayer”[48] She was embittered by the growing influence of Irish nationalism leading to the 1918 collapse of her family’s fortune and loss of Boru House thus rendering her homeless.[49]

O’Brien draws from this experience when she reminisces on her childhood amid British military surroundings, “Yes, it was a gay town, within memory, when the troops were in; up to 1914. It was a garrison town, and did not deny itself this glitter and spangle. The married women of Limerick around the time I am remembering were often gay and gentle with the fair-haired lieutenants and trim captains from ‘across’. Troops are no longer gay, in any part of the world; the decorative thin notion died around 1914.”[50]

June 1916 marked a turning point in the family’s financial affairs because of her father’s death. The Limerick Chronicle newspaper reported on the funeral, “The cortege was of large proportions and testified to the esteem in which the deceased was held in the city and the sympathy felt for his family in their great affliction”[51] Following from Kate’s father’s death her uncle Mick O’Brien took over the family business, “always a poor judge of horse-flesh and was not equipped to run the business on his own.” [52] Family debts soon accumulated, forcing Mick to sell his mansion, Shannon View, and to move with his wife to St. John’s Villas, a short distance from Boru House. Kate O’Brien’s brothers and sisters began to scatter, and Boru House was sold to the Lloyd family. Apart from occasional visits, Kate O’Brien was never again to live permanently in her native city.

But in ‘My Ireland’ she fondly retraced her childhood steps. Writing of a striking feature of her birthplace under the shadow of St. John’s Church, “still pointing its holy finger to a recognisable sky” she states, “St. John’s is located in a shabby north-east corner between Garryowen and the slums of Irishtown, it has taken its place since the 1860’s in a tired and history tattered town, as if it was itself a part of the long uneasy record. The church epitomised the town and once ‘a greyish blue on the blue and green and out of it raising a spire they will know that they have arrived at Limerick.”[53]  She later says of her city, “Limerick is full of monumental and ‘forward’ ideas. Our urbs antiqua (ancient city) has been taking a great shake up, and yet she still manages to look quite an old beauty, when you catch her in a good light” [54] In her final years her love for her native city was obvious, “I will be home soon in the very heart of that self confident town which, Limerick woman though I am, I cannot but admit is very easy on the eye.”[55]

O’Brien died in 1974. Her literary legacy is realism of immense psychological intensity, subtle insights and a deceptively physical quality. Her characters for all their repression, touch each other, reach out, and are tactile and emotional. In ‘Pray for the Wanderer’ (1938) she wrote about her life as a writer returning home and perhaps comes closer to explaining her life and work than any critic can. Outsider to the end, she was not above asking for the understanding she never fully received as either artist or individual. Her tombstone bears that title as inscription.[56] Though she was born on Mulgrave Street and spent her formative years there, she did not retain happy memories of the place. She never liked the “ugly” house, as she called it, and was slightly embarrassed at her father’s extravagant heraldic device at the top of the building. Boru House is situated directly across the road from St. Joseph’s Mental Hospital and Kate O’Brien always had unpleasant childhood memories of poor, demented patients entering and leaving the asylum grounds. The circumstances leading to the sale of the house had also hurt her.[57]

Critics draw a picture of Kate O’Brien’s life in terms of her childhood, where she lived, her family context, social environment and the Catholic middleclass milieu which dominated her. One of Ireland’s foremost poets Eavan Boland accurately captures the spirit of Kate O’Brien’s childhood Limerick which was struggling upwards. The horrors of the famine lay far behind her. It was a city of style and refinement and a class with a thirst for upward mobility; “Good horse flesh, solid silver and dresses made in Dublin were beginning to prevail.”[58]

The city was starting to attract international attention with a growing demand for Limerick Lace. There is reference to the reviving nationwide Lace making industry with Limerick’s designs being of special interest.[59] But there was also urban unrest, for example, in 1897 The Bishop of Limerick had to intervene in negotiations to bring an amicable solution to striking Irish bacon trade workers in Limerick. Angry producers refused to sell to pig buyers until profiteering middlemen agents or so called ‘blockers’, men who purchased at fairs and resold thus reducing the price to producers, were dispensed with.[60] In the midst of this were a class who were Catholic Ireland but never Nationalist Ireland, “A constellation of perhaps blinkered, smug lives, political blindness, the mainstays of a society but only at the cost of ignoring many more urgent and more powerful realities.”[61]

Kate O’Brien was a pioneering writer and her contribution to Irish literature and to an understanding of the psychology and sexuality of women has not yet been fully recognised. She was a warm-hearted and fallible human being who believed in the primacy of the feelings of the heart. Her writings are a record of her life and passions. It comes as no surprise to learn that her favourite quotation was George Santayana’s “The holiness of the heart’s affections”. Kate O’Brien was an intellectual and a profound writer. A full assessment of her work is long overdue, but it can be said with certainty that she assured Limerick and its people of an enduring place in Irish literature.[62]

Many of O’Brien’s books deal with issues of female agency and sexuality in ways that were new and radical at the time. Throughout her life, O’Brien felt a particular affinity with Limerick. O’Brien was committed to progressive politics.  A feminist, her novels promoted gender equality and were mostly protagonised by young women yearning for independence.[63] Boru House clearly influenced the writer Kate O’Brien’s sense of place and religious beliefs. Her chaotic childhood, Irish catholic experience and teenage years obeying the meticulous rules of middle class life led to her being an ‘outsider’ but her writings continue to command the respect and adoration of her peers. O’Brien was an ‘outsider’ born and raised in a house incongruous to its time and place and consequently an ‘outsider’ too. O’Brien personified the character of Boru House. But her continued local, national and international success and veneration as a writer testifies to the significance of land and belief in the formative years of an artist and individual.

 

 

 

[1]The Kate O’Brien Papers, University of Limerick, (Special Collections) Available at: http://www2.ul.ie/pdf/57753018.pdf Accessed On: November 20th 2013. p.i.

[2] Humphreys Family Tree, The O’Briens Family Tree, Available At: http://humphrysfamilytree.com/OMara/obrien.html Accessed On: 11th November 2013.

[3]Kate O’Brien, My Ireland quoted in Jim Kemmy, Kate O’Brien’s Limerick  in The Old Limerick Journal, Vol 17, Winter 1984

[4]Irish Times, 2006

[5]Irish Times, 1897

[6] Limerick Leader, 2007

[7]Irish Times, 1981

[8]Irish Times, 1897.

[9]Kate O’Brien, My Ireland quoted in Jim Kemmy, Kate O’Brien’s Limerick  in The Old Limerick Journal, Vol 17, Winter 1984

[10] J. Logan,  Family and Fortune in Kate O’Brien’s Limerick, in With Warmest Love: Lectures for Kate O’Brien, 1984-1993, (Limerick: Mellick Press, 1994) p. 115.

[11] Trinity College Dublin, Digital Literary Atlas of Ireland: Writers: Kate O’Brien Available At: http://www.tcd.ie/trinitylongroomhub/digital-atlas/writers/kate-obrien/ Accessed On 15th November 2013.

[12]David Hanly, Memories of Mulgrave Street, in Old Limerick Journal, Vol 2, March 1980.

[13] The Kate O’Brien Papers, University of Limerick, (Special Collections) Available at: http://www2.ul.ie/pdf/57753018.pdf Accessed On: November 20th 2013. p.80

[14]Irish Times, 1994

[15]Irish Times, 1897

[16]Freemans Journal, 1897

[17]Irish Times, 2006

[18]Irish Times, 1994

[19]Jim Kemmy, Kate O’Brien’s Limerick  in The Old Limerick Journal, Vol 17, Winter 1984

[20] Roy Foster, Modern Ireland, 535.

[21] Ibid.

[22]Limerick Leader, 1990

[23]Kate O’Brien, My Ireland quoted in Jim Kemmy, Kate O’Brien’s Limerick  in The Old Limerick Journal, Vol 17, Winter 1984

[24]Kate O’Brien, My Ireland quoted in Jim Kemmy, Kate O’Brien’s Limerick  in The Old Limerick Journal, Vol 17, Winter 1984

[25]New York Times, 1949

[26]Irish Times, 1981

[27]Irish Times, 1984

[28]Irish Times, 1987

[29]Irish Times, 1997

[30]Ibid

[31]Kate O Brien, Limerick  in Old Limerick Journal, Vol 3, June 1980.

[32]Irish Times, 1997

[33]Kate O Brien, Limerick in Old Limerick Journal, Vol 3, June 1980.

[34]National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, Boru House, Mulgrave Street, Blackboy Road, Limerick City. Available At:http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=LI&regno=21519001 Accessed On: 10th November 2013.

[35]Irish Times 1897.

[36] Diarmaid Ferriter, The Transformation of Ireland, 1900–2000, Profile Books, London (2004), pp. 62–63

[37] Don Thornhill (Speech), Kate O’Brien On Transforming Power, Kate O’Brien Weekend (1.03.2008), Limerick.

[38]Irish Times, 1936

[39]Irish Times, 1996

[40]Irish Times, 1941

[41]New York Times, 1949

[42] Limerick Post, 2008

[43] Belfast Newsletter, 1880

[44]Nenagh Guardian, 1880

[45] New York Times, “The Herald of Relief from America”, Available At: http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/harp/0228.html  Accessed On: 12th November 2013

[46]Kate O’Brien, Warmest Love, Old Limerick Journal, Vol 4, September 1980.

[47]Irish Press, 1963

[48]Kate O Brien, Limerick in Old Limerick Journal, Vol 3, June 1980.

[49] Don Thornhill (Speech), Kate O’Brien On Transforming Power, Kate O’Brien Weekend (1.03.2008), Limerick.

[50]Kate O Brien, Limerick in Old Limerick Journal, Vol 3, June 1980.

[51]Limerick Chronicle, 1916

[52]Kate O’Brien, My Ireland quoted in Jim Kemmy, Kate O’Brien’s Limerick  in The Old Limerick Journal, Vol 17, Winter 1984

[53]Kate O Brien, Limerick in Old Limerick Journal, Vol 3, June 1980.

[54]Irish Times, 1969

[55]Irish Times, 1971.

[56]Irish Times, 1997

[57]Jim Kemmy, Kate O’Brien’s Limerick  in The Old Limerick Journal, Vol 17, Winter 1984

[58]Irish Times, 1985

[59]Irish Times, 1897

[60]Ibid

[61]Irish Times, 1985

[62]Jim Kemmy, Kate O’Brien’s Limerick  in The Old Limerick Journal, Vol 17, Winter 1984

[63] A.L. Mentxaka, Kate O’Brien and the Fiction of Identity (McFarland, 2011)

Brian Boru: High King of Ireland

 

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Brian Boru: High King of Ireland

By

Roger Chatterton Newman

Roger Chatterton Newman’s book ‘Brian Boru: King of Ireland (Mercier Press, Cork, 1983), according to the author, sets out to elaborate on the High Kings achievements and contribution to Irish society but his reputation is, for the most part, based on fiction, “what the annalists would have us believe is romantic fiction”[1]; and the book presents itself as the first ever full length biography of Brian Boru. Newman wants to remove all this fiction and myth to reveal the ‘real’ Brian Boru. The book leaves no doubt that Brian Boru was the right man, in the right place at the right time, “Brian lived in the heyday of the Viking age, when Ireland was part of a scattered empire that stretched across northern Europe”[2] He is shown in the Western Europe of his day, largely divided but struggling towards a unified monarchical system. The Vikings were plundering and pillaging and Ireland needed a united front to drive back the foreigners. Other national leaders such as the Ui Neill’s were not, it seems, overly concerned with the Viking occupation or demonstrated any real desire to end outside domination so the task was left to Boru. Such unification, new contends, was by no means a new idea, the 10th century is marked with numerous attempts by the Ui Neill, amongst others, making deliberate attempts to ensure the King of Tara ruled all Ireland. Brian’s successful attempt to bring Ireland under his control had local and European patterns.

According to Newman the heroic Boru, not unlike the later Napoleon Bonaparte, “a product of middle-class pretentiousness” [3] was a man who knew how to fight his way to the top and he was determined to have his own way, impose his own rules, have his own will respected and was willing to enforce his demands by diplomacy or by force whenever the need necessitated, “Brian’s policies and reforms, unusual when compared with the average politics of his age, were based on a genuine desire to bring peace and prosperity to his realm.”[4] But, although Boru was very much aware that there were advantages to having the Vikings resident on Irish soil, Newman contends that the Vikings are undeserving of fashionable applause by todays historians, “they should not be credited with greater contributions to Irish history than is their due…they did much for Ireland in trade and commerce but their legacy should be compared at all times with what has been left by native craftsmen, scribes and builders of the same time.”[5] They advanced agriculture, knew how to build comfortable residences and were efficient traders in communication with many fellow traders in foreign lands. These benefits meant Boru was not determined to wipe them out but merely to tame them. Their immense economic and social benefit to Ireland would have enormous advantages for Brian’s kingdom.

Brian’s greatness came from the fact that he was equally skilled as warrior and politician and he was determined to break foreign rule. In Brian Boru’s Ireland foreigners were welcome as traders and visitors or peaceful residents but those seeking power on the island were dealt with using brute force, violence and bloodshed. Newman makes the point that the decline of Ireland’s naval power rendered the country vulnerable to foreign invaders. Because Ireland was a small island by comparison to other European countries the country was easy pickings for the Vikings. Ireland’s neighbours across the English Channel were equally as vulnerable but learned the lesson and developed itself as a powerful naval force. Ireland failed to do so and thus paid the price.

Newman contends that Boru was a most temperamental power monger who was a product of his own environment, “Boru was subject to sudden outbursts of temper, in the end, to cost him his own life and end his dynastic aspirations. It makes him more human.”[6]He was the youngest son of a petty king with little prospect of inheriting greatness but a combination of fortune and fortitude intervened and Brian built his own reputation through guerrilla warfare. His courage and determination convinced the Dal Cais that he was a true leader and from this moment on his campaign to secure the High Kingship of Ireland had become unrelenting. Although his relationships were not in keeping with the Catholic philosophy he was embraced by the Catholic Church because of his kindness and adherence to every other aspect of the religion. The church was perfectly willing to turn a blind eye to his marital fiascos in exchange for his support both monetary and moral. Newman finds Brian’s family life, although chaotic, most unusual in familial loyalty. Such loyalty, he argues, is evidence of Boru’s charisma.

The book pays too much attention to the ups and downs of warfare, divisions and rivalries; who won, who lost and what were the consequences and it can make the narrative somewhat confusing for those with only a passing interest. But the author attempts to resolve this issue by inserting comprehensive notes at the back for those eager for such information. The author cites the annalists as his primary sources but never loses sight of the fact that such sources are lacking in credibility.

Regardless of the fact that the book is academically written and is a scholarly study, supported by extensive research it remains a most readable work about a most mesmerising man. Newman’s more human ‘Brian Boru’ is clearly a great reformer and warrior and a very skilled administrator, but, perhaps most obvious of all a devout flag-waving nationalist, “that over-used word patriot is undoubtedly justified.”[7]

 

 

 

[1] Roger Chatterton Newman, ‘Brian Boru: King of Ireland’, (Cork, 1983) E-Edition, p 376

[2] Roger Chatterton Newman, ‘Brian Boru: King of Ireland’, (Cork, 1983) E-Edition, p 9

[3] Roger Chatterton Newman, ‘Brian Boru: King of Ireland’, (Cork, 1983) E-Edition, p 110

[4] Roger Chatterton Newman, ‘Brian Boru: King of Ireland’, (Cork, 1983) E-Edition, p 17

 

[5] Roger Chatterton Newman, ‘Brian Boru: King of Ireland’, (Cork, 1983) E-Edition, p 389

[6] Roger Chatterton Newman, ‘Brian Boru: King of Ireland’, (Cork, 1983) E-Edition, p 335

 

[7] Roger Chatterton Newman, ‘Brian Boru: King of Ireland’, (Cork, 1983) E-Edition, p 300

The Transformation Of Brian Boru

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Conventional interpretations judge Brian Boru as a martyr hero who led his people to victory but more recent interpretations have favoured the view that the battle was little more than the culmination of a rebellion against Boru by the insubordinate king of Leinster and his Dublin associates. Dr Seán Duffy, claims, “Brian Boru the man and the myth are right at the core of the Irish imagination. It is time that the real Brian, his real achievements and legacy are properly understood and interpreted for a modern audience.” Duffy’s statement suggests that, thus far, representations of Boru are in some way inaccurate and in need of revision. One primary reason for 20th Century representations of Boru being at the core of the Irish imagination is the manner in which he was depicted in Ireland’s local and national popular press throughout the period. By tracing the course of these articles there emerges a 19th Century warlord Boru, distinct in many ways from a 21st Century statesmanlike Boru.

 

Then glance the page of history down to valiant Brian Boru,

O’Rourke, O’Connor, O’Neill, O’Donnell, those clansmen tried and true;

We honour Robert Emmet, too; Fitzgerald and Wolfe Tone,

While O’Connell’s name upon our hearts we ever shall enthrone.

Laurence McGowan [1]

 

Traditional interpretations judge Brian Boru as a martyr hero who led his people to victory but more recent interpretations have favoured the view that the battle was little more than the culmination of a rebellion against Brian, the king of Munster, by the insubordinate king of Leinster and his Dublin associates. Dr Seán Duffy, Associate Professor of Medieval History in Trinity, claims, “Brian Boru the man and the myth are right at the core of the Irish imagination. It is time that the real Brian, his real achievements and legacy are properly understood and interpreted for a modern audience.” [2] 

Duffy’s statement suggests that, thus far, representations of Boru are in some way inaccurate and in need of revision. The reality is that Boru’s persona is permanently in a state of revision. One primary reason for 20th Century representations of Boru being at the core of the Irish imagination is the manner in which he was depicted in Ireland’s local and national popular press throughout the period.

By tracing the course of these articles there emerges a 19th Century warlord Boru, distinct in many ways from a 21st Century statesmanlike Boru. If anyone doubted whether the strategy worked or not then history could offer further proof of Boru’s far reaching greatness as a statesman into the late 20th century with claims that one of his descendants “a mirror reflection of Boru” was running America, “A firm link has been established between Brian Boru and Ronald Reagan.”[3] The high point of Reagan’s presidential visit to Ireland in 1984 was the presentation to him of a scroll attesting to his descent from Brian Boru. One present reporter later stated, “I was not allowed a close sight of the document, but I wonder if it is possible to trace definitively Reagan’s ancestry back for 1,000 years or thereabouts.”[4] But the ‘Boru’ distinction occurs not because history, as it is perceived by contemporary historians; “a word to do with digging and delving, a word which takes the glamour from the shoulders of Brian Boru”[5]; has changed in any way but interpretations of history have changed dramatically.

It is best to begin with what we think we know. One of Ireland’s oldest names is O’Brian, “With reference to the origin of the surnames in Ireland it may be mentioned that, in the eleventh century, the Irish Monarch Brian Boroimhe (Boru) made an ordinance that every Irish family and clan should assume a particular surname (or sire-name); the more correctly to preserve the history and genealogy of the different Irish tribes.”[6] The pedigree of this family is taken in John O’Hart’s Irish Pedigrees as from one Cormac Cas, who was the second son of Olioll Olum, King of Munster, whose mother was a daughter of Conn Cétchathach; Connof the Hundred Battles.[7] This Cormac had a son whose birth is recorded as 167 A.D., which gives a good idea of the long ties the O’Brien’s have in the history of Ireland.[8] Mac Lysaght’s Irish Families says the Dalcasian clan, known as Ui Toirdealbhaigh, took the surname O’Brien from Brian Boru.”[9]

Historians in the mid-19th century perceived Brian Boru as, “a delicately organised, thoroughbred Milesian, a maiden loving, harp-taught, council-swaying King of Erin.”[10] Furthermore, Boru was a brave, ambitious and generous prince; “he made presents of gold to the church of Armagh”[11], the friend and patron of religion and learning, “His value to Ireland may be best estimated from the independence, prosperity and glory of Ireland under his sway.”[12] Not everyone totally agreed with this estimation of the High King, “And yet, if we reflect upon it, this man the grandest figure in our history, was still a usurper of the National crown.”[13]

By 1879 the “tragedy” of Brian Boru is brought to the Dublin stage and its London writer, J.T.B., favourably compares his work, “a dramatization of historical reality” to Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra. He is condemned by Irish theatre critics for manipulating history, “No art, no ingenuity, no dramatic or moral purpose, can justify the violence done to our great historical figure.”[14] The public affection for Boru clearly ran deep.

Boru’s heroic status had continued unquestioned in newspapers as far back as the 18th Century. For example, February 19th 1879 as the steamship Countess of Dublin left the North Wall with a detachment of the 77th Regiment, consisting of 148 rank and file members, sergeants and corporals, all Londoners, destined for the Anglo-Zulu War in South Africa; as the steamer moved away from her moorings the band triumphantly played Brian Boru’s March.[15] The minor event, in the great scheme of history, gives us a little insight into the deep affection for the fearless warrior Boru has had in Irish History. He is the personification of Irish militaristic force, courage and heroic valour.

Over a decade later widely commended Irish poet M.C. Hime claimed Boru as an accurate representation of Irish patriotism with a “daintily conceived poem celebrating the achievements of Brian the Brave. The versification is full of national spirit.”[16] Many Irish newspapers quickly adopted the notion and proclaimed, “Brian was one of those men in whom the patriotic impulse superseded all others.”[17] Thus, the poet M.C. Hime was never alone in such thinking and many historians fully agreed, “All Irishmen should honour the name of this great Irish General, and in the march of modern civilisation steps should be taken that spots such as that on which he stood, hallowed by historic events, should be perfectly preserved.”[18] On the eve of the 20th century Limerick celebrated it’s sept-centenary as natives recollected of their homeland “the granary of Ireland” being harassed by hordes of adventurers, not just Danes, “Limerick was stained with the crimson blood of rapine until Boru settled the order of things.”[19]

Some early 20th Century romantic Irish historians claim that Brian Boru was so famous that even William Shakespeare made reference to him in Hamlet when he wrote, “to take up arms against a sea of troubles” which contains a mixture of metaphors from which one might infer that some of Hamlet’s ancestors were among the unwelcome Danes which, “Brian Boru showed the door”; and the still more famous saying, “It is a custom more honour’d in the breach than in the observance” goes far to support the same theory.”[20]

In the very early 20th Century it was generally believed that the Danes came to Ireland as a plundering race at the close of the eighth century, and for 165 years they were nothing but brigands, settled in batches in seaport towns, which they fortified and ruled. The history of their ultimate defeat dated from the historic moment in 968 CE, when Mahon, King of Munster, and Brian Boru called the people together in County Clare, and discussed the question of war or peace with the Danes. The decision was war, and war followed by an immediate attack on the Danes and the capture of Limerick. From that date until the close of the tenth century there were continuous efforts to free the country of the Danes but mostly including Clontarf in 1014.[21]

Whatever his accomplishments in Clontarf and whether or not he ever really held the throne of High King of Ireland, he most certainly, through his mythical or otherwise valiant deeds, conquered the hearts and minds of the people of Ireland who fondly embraced his memory if and when a true Irish hero was needed. His scope was nationwide from far south to far north, east and west across the length and breadth of Ireland and was as widespread as the nationalists who were quoting his noble cause in their speeches, “Patrick showed us the way to Heaven and Brian Boru to glory.”[22]

It seemed as if whenever a true ‘nationalist’ hero needed to be trotted out then Boru was called upon. As was the case in 1905 in the midst of a political debate into the nationalisation of school life in Ireland, “My teacher never taught me much about Irish history. A few scant words about Brian Boru and St. Patrick and that was it. But that teacher could trace his descent to Oilioll Olum.”[23] But, Boru had taught the Irish a lesson in Unity, “the man who will do most for Irish unity must know how to play the game as Brian Boru played it.”[24]

By 1910 rural Nationalists applauded the Rev. Canon Flannery, “a good old soggarth” when he declared, “although Boru is dead the nationalist movement will continue to infuse the Irish spirit into their movement and show the country that the spirit of Brian Boru is not dead.”[25] In 1912 the Nationalists contemplating a successful Third Home Rule Bill wondered whether the new Irish flag should be red because, “Brian Boru’s flag at Clontarf in 1014 was a red one.”[26] Furthermore, “when we raise the flag we better have Brian Boru’s March in tramping order. We’ll want it.”[27]

In Westminster the name Boru was raising howls of laughter on for Unionists on the eve of the 900th anniversary of Clontarf when nationalist John Redmond’s brand of ‘new patriotism’ was compared to Boru’s more traditional approach, “It is extraordinary that 900 years after the great man’s death another great man in the person of Mr John Redmond should have arisen; Boru had never allied himself inseparably with the fortunes of England and never accepted £2,000 a year to lead the forces of his country.”[28] When the anniversary arrived in 1914 nationalists were reminded, “Brian Boru came of fighting stock, “Men whose lives were used up in defence of their home and country. They were devoutly attached to Christ and the Vikings objective was to plunder and destroy the Christian spirit of Christ.”[29]

Boru’s reach went much further than his own homeland. In 1920, Irish Nationalists in Chicago were implored to support the Irish cause and by so doing they too were equally as important to the course of Irish history as Boru’s loyal and patriotic troops. As the attendees celebrated Boru’s victory at the battle of Clontarf they were informed that on the eve of the 1014 battle Boru addressed his troops and told them, “We are here today to defend the faith and the all-powerful hand of our Saviour will be with us in the fight. There will be courage from God in the heart of every man who faces the enemy.”[30]

Boru’s courage and victories were also in no doubt back in South Cork where patriots are reminded, “Ireland can boast of many heroes who fought and bled for their native sire land, but, alas, with most of them their sacrifices were in vain. They failed to accomplish what they fought for and they left to posterity a legacy of disappointed ambitions and hopes deferred. But there was one notable exception to the list of failures, it is Brian Boru.”[31]

Over in North Tipperary the residents who claimed, “you cannot throw a stone in Tipperary without hitting a Ryan” were reminded that this was so only because the ancestors of this clan were first brought to this side of the country from Wexford by the mighty Brian Boru, who had quarrelled with the original chieftains of Tiobrid Arainn, disposed them in his own high handed way, and planted the sept Mulryan, who were his Leinster allies, in their place.”[32]

In 1921 nationalist residents of South Armagh were quite proud of the fact that, “Boru was buried here, he was the King of all Ireland and this is good enough reason that Armagh should be selected as the site for a Parliament proposed to be set up for the six counties.”[33] A further protest, “declaring ourselves committed to resist the partition of Ireland,” later the same year were reminded, “We hold the ashes of Brian Boru who struggled for Irish Independence.”[34] A sentiment still not forgotten in 1933, “Brian Boru’s bones, dust by now, lie here, borne here from Clontarf by a mourning army.”[35]

But further south something of a Brian Boru re-evaluation was beginning to occur and it began with his name. Some historians debated the contentious issue of how best to spell Boru’s name after a Judge in Galway declares, “I see no reason why the hero of Clontarf should have his name spelled ‘Brian Bóroimhe’instead of ‘Brian Boru’. It would be pleasing to the old warrior to know that the rising generation would be better able to grapple with his name.”[36]

By the mid 1920’s the relevance and wisdom of teaching Boru in schools was being questioned, “There is a good deal of talk about the teaching of Irish history, boys are being taught more about Brian Boru than about the days of their own fathers.”[37] But Boru supporters were having none of it and suggested that, not only should it be taught in schools but, their idol was suitable for canonisation, “Our own Brian Boru was mooted as a possible candidate for canonisation; an honour which the most enthusiastic of his contemporaries would hardly accord him.”[38]“It was further noted that a t Liverpool Cathedral there is a chapel dedicated to St. Patrick and the saints of Ireland. A stained glass window contains an appropriate image of the national apostle, and in subordinate places appears St. Columba and St. Bride and one of the panels is filled with the image of Brian Boru.”[39]

Weeks later in the town of Ennis where the centenary of Daniel O’Connell’s election to the Imperial Parliament was being celebrated nationalist visitors were reminded that they walked on the hallowed ground of significant historical events, “to the east Brian Boru built a castle and from this stronghold marched his Dalcassians to the conquest of not only Munster, but of the sovereignty of all Ireland.”[40] Such was the affection for Boru in Clare that in 1929 there was public outrage at the impending sale of three hundred acres of timber being sold from nearby Cratloe Woods, “These splendid Oaks have ancient associations with the historic Brian Boru. For it was here, in this forest, Boru and his guerrillas often retired after sallies against the Danes of Limerick.”[41] While closer to Boru’s home turf, in Clare, there was a controversy raging about the sacred and hallowed ground that was ‘Brian Boru’s Fort’, so precious a place that there was a question as to whether tourists should be allowed anywhere near it.[42]

Hence, Irish patriotism long cherished the theory that Brian’s victory at Clontarf saved Western Europe from Norse domination, “The century after his death, despite dynastic quarrels, saw remarkable progress in letters, learning and the peaceful arts and crafts, and scholars are tracing the fruit of his toil in the records of ancient homes of learning throughout the basin of the Shannon.”[43]

A young Eamon De Valera who had, “attempted to destroy the Labour Party” was being alluded to by his political enemies as, “a second Brian Boru”[44], a title seized upon by Unionists who accused him of, “wanting one more Battle of Clontarf as Brian Boru had before to sweep the enemy into the sea.”[45] Some years later Journalists criticised the view and attributed it to a dying Unionist population, “His critics are just old men who discuss De Valera in the language of Brian Boru.”[46] But De Valera himself was not unimpressed with the appellation and, in 1933, on the site of Brian Boru’s Killaloe fort referred to the fourteenth anniversary of the Declaration of Irish Independence, and, “expressed the hope that in the not far distant future we shall see the freedom and unity Brian Boru achieved in his generation.”[47] In Toomevara, years later, they continued to agree that, “Mr De Valera was the greatest leader of the Irish people since Boru had placed in the forefront the independence of his country.”[48]

But, back in 1930 something of a Boru renaissance was in full swing. Discrepancies between accounts about Clontarf in the Irish annals and ‘non-Irish’ encyclopaedias and reference books began to emerge. While Irish Annals accounts were quite voluminous the records were ‘scanty’ in non-Irish publications, “these latter narratives popularise history as part of the education of Irish youth.” [49] For example, the widely read Century Encyclopaedia condenses  the “greatest battle ever fought in Western Europe” and merely states, “Clontarf, a village in Ireland, north of Dublin, and scene of a famous battle in which Brian Boru, king of Ireland, and 20,000 men defeated King Sitric with 21,000 Danes. King Brian and his son and 7000 Irish fell; the Danes loss numbered 13,000.”[50] Irish historians and their books such as Cusack’s History of Ireland gave greater accounts, went into better detail and the descriptions are sourced from chronicles preserved and survived through the centuries in Irish repositories, “King Brian possessed a powerful mind and a strong will, with the vision of a statesman and the character of a law giver. The mighty Boru stands only second in its stature to the gigantic proportions of St. Patrick, he increased the prestige of the Irish race in every Irish centre throughout the world.”[51]

The transformation of Brian Boru had begun. He was being reinterpreted not just as a warrior warlord but, as his political role was being better understood, he was now being more aptly described as, “Our last great Soldier-Statesman,”[52] and even the tune he is most associated with ‘Brian Boru’s March’ was worthy of reconsideration, “the tune supposed to have some connection to Brian Boru was a well-known Hornpipe the ‘Return from Fingal’ borrowed by Boru’s Irish pipers as the March played as the Munster troops returned from Clontarf.”[53] But Boru’s redefined statesman persona had stuck and, furthermore, he was also now being depicted as the man who brought literature to Ireland, “It has been suggested that the hereditary custody of literature was designed by Brian Boru, who was a constructive statesman as well as a warrior.”[54] Under Brian Boru, who was now being seen as a type of cultural monarch like Alfred the Great and Charlemagne, there was great activity in all departments of literature. The wondering bards were greatly honoured, and became attached to the hereditary literary families, “Henceforth scribes, poets, chroniclers, and lawyers were very active in the literary life of the country.”[55] But, literary advocate and statesman or not Boru’s only failure was to, “succeed, by diplomacy or force, in overcoming the individualism and parochialism which have been the eternal bane of Ireland in politics.”[56]

Historical revisionists also questioned the veracity of the suggestion that Donagh O’Brien, son of Brian Boru, on the occasion of his visit to Rome, made a present of Ireland to the Holy See;

“Donough O’Brien o’er the foam

Bore Ireland’s Crown away to Rome;

To that deed we trace our woe,

From it all our ills did grow.[57]

“There is no trustworthy evidence that Donough purported to make such a grant. In point of fact, he was scarcely able to maintain his own position as King of Munster, and it would have been sheer impertinence on his part to make a gift of what did not belong to him.”[58] There are other allusions to that event, vague and sad, but it is not narrated what Donough did with the royal relic, “No one knows now, I suppose, where the Crown was laid, or what fate befell it.”[59]

Relics aside, some historians began to argue that, “If Brian Boru and his whole family had not been slain at Clontarf; Irish history might have been different;”[60] With his death came about the demise of the first man in Irish history who could have united Ireland in a single monarchy and, “saved us much woe.”

In Kerry, historians were by now asserting, “We now know that Brian Boru and his brother Malachi were not of the ferocious kind far too common, not only in the period of which they lived, but long afterwards.”[61]  Quoting P.W. Joyce’s book[62] as a definitive source the article emphatically states, “The forgotten Malachi was the most distinguished king who had reigned for many generations in Ireland, and was second only to his great contemporary, King Brian Boru.” Malachi had come to the attention of the general public but was portrayed as second-class to Boru, “He died in 1022 leaving behind him a noble record of self-denial, public spirit and kingly dignity.”[63]

Historians were also floating some theories that the true cause of Boru’s demise was, “a slighting remark made by Murragh, son of Brian, to Maelmoradh, while playing a game of chess.”[64] Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and another theory stated in fact one woman; she was Boru’s jilted lover Gormflath, wife of Cormac MacCullanan, King of Munster, about 900AD was responsible for bringing in the Norsemen at the Battle of Clontarf. She was married two times before becoming the wife of Brian Boru, “It was because she was repudiated by Brian that she plotted to bring in the Norsemen in 1014. Her hand was offered to Earl Sigurd with the Kingdom of Ireland. The battle of Clontarf was fatal to her plans, and ended in the death of Brian. She thus ruined ‘Ireland’s cause’ when it had produced its greatest man. In all that she could control she was the most evil of women.”[65] She had aligned herself to the O’Brien’s, because of their station, they even had a place of inauguration when the times came for such ceremony. This place was at Magh Adair, in County Clare, “It is worthy of mention that Tara was the chief residence of the head of the O’Brien’s, King Brian Boru. His palace was called Cean Cora, which was, according to all accounts, a place of splendour and magnificence;”[66] A befitting home and base of power for a learned and art loving individual attractive to any self-respecting power hungry female. Later, historians simplified their argument, “I’m inclined to side with those who look on the battle of Clontarf as one of the biggest in-law rows in Irish history.”[67]

Dr Brian O’Cuiv, University College, Dublin endorses Boru’s cultural impact on Irish nationalism when he writes, “The 11th century was a time of renaissance in Ireland, following Brian Boru’s reign and his decisive victory over the Norse at Clontarf. The literary activity which took place was the prelude to the evolution of ‘Classical Modern Irish,’ the literary standard which was to be the medium of the professional poets for the following four hundred years.”[68] All of which comes as no surprise when it is recalled that Boru’s family were descended directly from the line of Heber, a minor character in the Book of Genesis, and as such had plenty of time to develop their literary and political skills. That influence continued for many more years to come. According to Myles na Gopaleen, in an open letter to John F. Kennedy in 1963, “Brian was the son of Cenneide; a wild Munster Chieftain who lived about the middle of 900 AD. His son had a bit of an obsession about taxes and his name was Brian Boru; ‘Boru’ is an Irish word meaning tax.”[69]

But, by the end of the 1930’s ‘old myths’ about Boru were starting to be exposed. Ringleader of the critics was Rev. John Ryan, published by the Royal Society of Antiquaries, who was offering a ‘new history’ of the Battle of Clontarf, “In the story of this famous battle a lot of romantic and sentimental nonsense has been superimposed upon the sober facts. It is time to reveal the truth.” Ryan claimed to have delved into original Irish, Welsh and Norse sources, twelve in all, and now concluded that it was not the Norsemen, but the men of Leinster, who played the predominant part in the series of events which culminated in the momentous battle.

Of the fundamental errors commonly accepted as fact which he now laid bare, the most remarkable is that concerning the real issue and significance of the conflict; the age old determination of the Leinstermen to maintain their independence against the High King, “In the first place it was not simply a battle between the Irish and the Norse. Brian’s army was not a national army but an army of Munster men, increased by the troops from two small south Connacht states. The opposing force was not an army of Norse, but an army composed of Leinstermen and Norse troops, in which the former were certainly the predominant element and constituted two-thirds of the whole.”

He also demolishes the theory that it was a battle between paganism and Christianity because the majority of the troops opposed to Boru were Irish Catholics like himself. Furthermore, within a generation after Clontarf Dublin was a Christian state. At Clontarf itself some of the visiting Norsemen were Christians. Ryan examines closely the long disputed question of the actual site of the struggle and reaches what he terms the revolutionary conclusion that the Battle of Clontarf was fought at Clontarf.[70]

But the traditional historians were infuriated and were quick to point out that the powerful Eoghanacht of Loch Lein and their heroic followers accompanied Boru to the Battle. They asked had it not some significance that Brian was educated at Innisfallen, advanced to that fight against the pagans of Western Europe on Good Friday, holding the Crucifix aloft, and that after the battle the remains of himself and his son and grandson were reverently borne to Armagh, and there buried in the primatial cemetery which is now under Orange rule?, “And now who will say that our struggle then, as ever since, was not truly a fight for Faith and Fatherland?”[71]

But some diehard Boru supporters had to concede that there may be more to the Clontarf story than had been originally believed. At a Fianna Fail Convention held in Mullingar in May 1940, the Minister for the Co-Ordination of Defence Measures, Frank Aiken told delegates, “When Brian Boru secured unified control of the national forces the Danes were driven out; although it now seems certain Irish factions fought against him at Clontarf.”[72]

It seemed as if almost every aspect of Boru’s life, personality, history, beliefs and reputation was under close scrutiny so it was perhaps inevitable that the famous Fort at Killaloe would fall foul of the revisionist historians, “It now seems that the Royal Palace which stood where the fort is situated was never there at all. The real name of the fort is Beal Borumha, a relic of the Glacial Ages in existence centuries before Brian Boru.”[73] At best, it now seemed, Boru merely happened to pass the site, liked its location and set up some soldiers to stand guard there and prevent enemies passing over the Shannon River. However, down in Thurles they had something, a little more tangible than mere here say, in a piece of broken metal found in 1935 “among the sweepings of an 8th Century church” near Thurles which had taken ten years to be identified as having been inscribed for Brian Boru. The inscription reads “C Cenedic Do Rig E” which Dr Sean Raftery, of the National Museum, said meant, “For Brian, the son of Kennedy; for the King of Ireland.” The find was made not far from Cashel, or Kincora, which were both used as royal residences by Boru.[74] Furthermore, it seemed likely that Boru liked to roof these palaces with Killaloe Slate, “The palace on Royal Kincora was roofed with slate dug up from the bowels of a 350 foot deep yawning chasm on the Arra Mountains.”[75]

In 1947 another new revelation comes to light when Dr Reidar Christiansen, a noted Norwegian archivist discussing the relations between Norsemen and Irishmen. He believed the early Norsemen settled in Northern Ireland and learned the Irish language and so, by the time of the Battle of Clontarf, there were some Vikings on Brian’s side. To prove that they were bilinguists he said that early places conquered by the Norse, for instance the Shetland Islands, bore Norse place names, while placers conquered later, the Hebrides bore Irish place names. It was not the desire to plunder that brought the Norse to Ireland but the scarcity of land at home.[76] So then, some of the Vikings who lost their lives at Clontarf were, in fact, fighting for Boru.

But that fight had even deeper impact across the European continent than previously thought according to an Irish politician, Michael J. Keyes, laying a wreath on the tomb of Boru’s son Donnchadh O’Brien in Rome, “By the victory of Brian Boru over the heathen Norsemen the power of heathenism in Western Europe was broken.”[77] Keyes was leading a ‘religious pilgrimage’ from Ireland in the company of the Bishop of Limerick, Dr O’Neill and Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Rodgers.[78] Boru was firmly established as a religious icon, “Near here a road meanders away silently leftwards. It is Via S. Stefano, which takes its name from the church so dear to Irishmen because Boru’s son is buried in this sacred place.”[79]

But revisionist historians disagreed that Clontarf was ever such a great victory, religious or otherwise, after all. Nor was Boru such a person of renown. Boru started out to avenge his brother’s death with the assistance of 1,400 Lochlannaigh and defeated Maolmhuaidh at Bealach Leachta. He later on defeated the Sochlannaigh of Leinster in 26 battles, “It is clear however, that his objective was to secure the Ardriship rather than to defeat the Danes. He sent envoys to Malachi telling him that it was not right for him to hold the Sovereignty unless he devoted his time to banishing foreigners and as Malachi was given to luxury and comfort and ease and Brian undergoing the labour of banishing them it was only right that Brian should have the sovereignty.

With the Lochlannaigh and Gaels of Leath Mogha he marched on Tara and demanded the submission of Malachi to him as King of Ireland. He was put off for a year, but at the end of that time he proceeded to Athlone leading all the Lochlannaigh of Athcliath, Portlairge Soch Garman, Corca, Suigheach and Ui Cinnsealaigh as well as the forces of Leaih Mogha. Malachi naturally submitted to him and thus did he obtain the Kingdom of Ireland. He probably never would have got it were it not for the assistance of the Danes, whom he ostensibly set out to defeat. And if at Clontarf he drove the Danes out of Ireland, then so much the poorer was Ireland as a result. We know that one of the great benefits conferred on Ireland by the Danes was that they taught the Irish the art of trade and commerce. Once they were overthrown the country was neglected to an inferior place in the matter of trade for it then fell back into the hands of a class who had no experience in the matter beyond trading in dogs. Ireland’s downfall was on the horizon. The position of Malachi was analogous to that of Alfred of England and might have been handled just as astutely were it not for Brian’s ambitions. Alfred was obliged to skulk about in disguise for fear of the Danes. For twelve months he laid concealed having abandoned every mark of royalty. Oddune, the Earl of Devon, redeemed the situation. He armed his vassals and fell suddenly on the Danes and routed them. Alfred took courage on seeing this; he sallied forth and eventually overcame the Danes. He neither lost his crown, Oddune did not claim it, nor did he drive out the Danes. He gave them the option of remaining as Christians with a chief exercising authority under him.[80] The revelation should come as no surprise to those who had been reliably informed that, “Brian Boru and Queen Elizabeth of England are blood relations. Therefore, we of Ireland are the true British people.”[81]

He may have been a blood relative but some argue that Boru certainly lacked her class and was, by all accounts, “most brash.” A historian calling himself Mac Alla states, “On the evening of the Battle of Clontarf a lady who made an allusion to the Danes as ‘running home like cows to be milked,’ and got her front teeth broken by her husband, who happened to be the Dane, Sitric, King of Dublin, and the lady the daughter of Brian Boru that had been pressed on Sitric by Brian with a big dowry of Cows, though it turned out the day after the wedding the Cows were whipped from Carlow.” Mac Alla also alleges that this, and many other facts, had escaped the attention of historians. For example, how did the men of Leinster end up on the side of the Danes, was did Malachi stand idly by as the battle progressed, why did the men of Ossory turn on Boru’s son on the road home, and, why was Boru’s daughter married to Sitric? All of this proves that there was a certain ‘uppishness’ about Boru and this overbearing side of his personality should not be allowed to continue to encourage impertinence in those who study him, “Boru has not been an exhaustible source of inspiration to the people of Ireland but the provocativeness that went with his character has also been taken as a ‘sine qua non’ of true patriotism.”[82]

But something even more provocative was to come when historian J.J. Brady reported his findings, “Many facts have been suppressed by historians and the reality is that Brian Boru did not drive the Danes out of Ireland, and he was a usurper.”[83] Not just Boru but the authenticity of the old conceptions of a high-kingship of Ireland in ancient times was now being questioned by researchers as ‘ancient origin tales’ were being investigated. Some of these tales had never been translated from the very early Irish in which they were written shortly after a script was developed. Such tales represent traditions on Irish pre-history which conflict with the Latin monastic traditions of the ‘Book of Invasions,’ written centuries after the introduction of Christianity. This was elaborated upon by Prof. Myles Dillon who wrote, “There was an Ard Ri of Connaught and one at Tara but there was not an acknowledged ‘High King’ of all Ireland until after the era of Brian Boru, “The Ari Ri of Cashel never acknowledged the lordship of Tara.” Furthermore, claimed Dr R. Dudley Edwards, Professor of History at U.C.D., “A uniformity of Culture that had evolved throughout Ireland by the time of the Norse Invasions helped to develop the conception that a High-Kingship had existed from an earlier time.”[84]

Prof. Edwards contended that, “The unity of Ireland goes back to the ninth century, when, in the face of the Scandinavian invasion, the historians set out to stress the unity of the cultural tradition but political unity was not really achieved until the high-kingship of Brian Boru after the Battle of Clontarf.[85] Edwards was not alone in this thinking and his perspective remained in the late 1950’s, “In Ireland the example of Brian Boru had shown that the old order was dying. It was a natural evolution that there should be a High King who would not only rank first in dignity but would form a strong central government, cutting out the powers of lesser kings. The various struggles between ruling armies were, therefore, an effort towards real unity.”[86] Historian H.J.McManus stated, “I don’t agree with this Brian Boruism; it isn’t desirable to emphasise it unduly. To me it was the common people who made the Irish nation.”[87]

By 1970 new ideas started to emerge from the ruins of two 8th century churches which evidence suggested enjoyed the benefaction of Brian Boru.[88] Historian Liam de Paor wrote, “Like Killaloe and Toomgraney, it was patronised by Brian Boru and his successors who built stone churches and other monuments.”[89] Tradition has it that the ancient Church at Killaloe was built by Brian Boru, but scholars are inclined to date it some two centuries later than Brian’s time.”[90] But Boru’s religious influence and heroic efforts were being questioned by even more perplexed historians now changing their view on the pre 20th century ‘Boru’ compared to the ‘new’ one; the transformation was nearing completion.

Further ‘historical inaccuracies’ are brought to light when it was revealed that the validity of the famous Saltair of Cashel, “begun in the fifth century and completed by Brian Boru”[91] as a source on Brian Boru, is now being questioned. It emerged that one of the most eminent authorities, Eugene O’Curry, Professor of Irish History and Archaeology in the Catholic University of Ireland in 1886 had claimed that the Saltair of Cashel was compiled by Cormac Mac Cullinan, King of Munster and Archbishop of Cashel who was killed in 903 AD and makes no reference to Brian Boru, “Therefore it is impossible for this manuscript to have had its origin in the fifth century, as previously believed, but must have been posterior to that period by at least 300 years, and also must have been completed a considerable time anterior to the monarchy of King Brian Boru.”[92] In one swoop a primary source to date on Boru was wiped off the map.

Romantic and long held theories about Boru and Clontarf were being openly criticised. Sean Dowling of the Old Dublin Society claimed that Gormlaith, the discarded wife of Boru, had got a raw deal from historians and did not cause the battle because, “elderly statesmen do not go to war to please the most glamorous of grandmothers, and Gormlaith was at least 45, and possibly 65, in 1014. Dowling believed that the Kingship of Ireland was at stake in the battle. Sitric probably hoped to supplant Brian, his father-in-law, and may have offered his own kingdom of Dublin to Sigurd, the Earl of the Orkneys, in return for his help. The battle was not the outstanding success historians to date had claimed. According to the Irish account, Sitric did not take part in it. he undoubtedly did, and escaped across the Liffey. Dowling also rejected the theory that the weir of Clontarf, where the Vikings were drowned, was in the Tolka. It was in the Liffey. Dubhgall’s Bridge, the weir of Clontarf and the Ford of the Hurdles, were all one and the same structure. The battle was fought in the territory now lying between Parliament Street Bridge and Ballybough.

The warriors, too, were not all we were led to believe they were. Turlough, son of Brian’s eldest son, Murrcha, according to the Irish account, was only 15 years old, but one of the greatest warriors of Clontarf. After the battle his drowned body was found impaled on a stake of the weir at Clontarf with a dead Norseman in each hand and another beneath him. This fairy tale has been given as historical fact. If Turlough existed, why was his body not taken, with those of his father and grandfather, for burial in Armagh? The head of Conaing, perhaps all that could be recovered, was taken to Armagh and Conaing was only Brian’s nephew.[93]

In 1966 Professor Francis J. Byrne outlined the progress of the ancient Kings and stated that the downfall of the ancient Ulster Fifth of Eamhain Macha and the rise of the Ui Neill in the fifth century disrupted the old system of the ‘Five Fifths’ and the descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages became the most important kings in Ireland. Byrne believed this claim of importance was not admitted by Ulaidh or the kings of Munster but successful levying of the borumha cattle-tribute from Laighin over-ruled the theory that the King of Leinster had no overlord. By the beginning of the ninth century Ui Neill, King of Tara was interfering in the dynastic affairs of Leinster. Kings of Cashel challenged the Ui Neill claims, but in the middle of the ninth century Mael Seachlainn 1st made the High Kingship a reality by obtaining the submission of Ulaidh and of Mumhain. From the time of St. Colum Cille, the church wished to strengthen the royal authority, which was limited in Irish law. The See of Armagh was anxious to promote the concept of a central High Kingship to support politically its own position as Primatial See. It acknowledged both Brian Boru and his great grandson, Muirchertagh O’Briain, rather than the weaker Ui Neill claimants.[94]

Historian Dr W.L. Warren was also demanding, “a new look at Irish history” at a conference at Queen’s University. In his public lecture on interpretation of twelfth century Irish History Warren threw out so many ‘illusions’ in history that, “it would lead to a considerable modification of the view generally held of the history of the century, of the events leading up to the Norman invasion of Ireland, and of its immediate results.”[95] Warren admitted that there had been a movement towards giving a new concept to the kingship of Ireland before the conquest but he did not see Brian Boru as the leader of the movement but rather Muircheartach O’Briain, who seemed to be aware of European developments at the time. It would appear that the bishops who were striving for ecclesiastical reform were anxious that the high-kingship should become a high-kingship more than in name.

Some noted historians were getting peeved with the seemingly relentless conjecture and ‘true Irish patriot’ and noted Fenian Dr Micheal William O’Reilly was determined to remind people of the reality of Boru, “I am not given to hero worship but if there is any hero I worship, it is Michael Collins. Ireland produced two outstandingly great men in the last 1500 years, Brian Boru and Collins. I cannot pay higher tribute than that.” He further wrote, “For if Brian Boru rid Ireland of the Danes, it was largely Collins who rid it of the English.”[96]

A 1969 flurry of interest in Boru was initiated by ‘an act of vandalism’ when the famous Brian Boru Harp, “the most elaborately carved harp in existence” is stolen from the library of Trinity College, Dublin, “The harp was on display near the Book of Kells which is normally locked away for the night but he harp, because of its delicacy is handled as little as possible.”[97] Some historians contend that the affair is ‘much ado about nothing’ because, “the harp is only 600 to 700 years old and therefore could not be Brian Boru’s.[98] Bur other reports state, “When the great Harp was x-rayed, dismantled, treated, cleaned, polished and restored there was much rejoicing among those who value antiquarian relics and its origins can be traced back 1400 years.”[99] The culprits were soon captured after, “they demanded money with menaces from Trinity College Dublin.”[100]

Such articles led some journalist to reminisce about such school days and the subject of Brian Boru, “I remember my own schooldays and the masters telling us we got our kicks at Clontarf. The official version was that Boru was done-in by a Dane. There was a bit of sex thrown in when his red-headed wife went to the Danes on the morning of the battle and told them to give Brian hell.” He continues, “Seems now Brian screwed the Danes and then copped it. Never mind the fanciful story that a Dane slew him as he knelt in prayer. More likely under the Danish horned helmet was a mean little Leinster bastard who knew if Brian survived after beating the Danes he’d be too powerful.”[101]

Irish historian Donnchadh Ó Corráin was having none of this propaganda. He argued that contrary to popular belief Boru was not a national monarch and neither was he the first Irish nationalist. Nor was he an outstanding patron of the church and the arts. In fact, he was the first of a long line of hard-headed power politicians. The career of Brian had been too much interpreted through the sagas, stories, and later poems, which grew up about him, and the Battle of Clontarf, and which were extremely popular as long as the Irish manuscript tradition survived. These were very much O’Brien dynastic propaganda produced in the 12th century by what must have been the most effective school of propaganda ever to exist in medieval Ireland.

Brian’s achievements were substantial and had; no doubt, battle axed his way to the Kingship of Ireland. But was he really as powerful as historians would have us believe?  He did not create a national monarchy or the institutions associated with a national kingship, but he contributed greatly to advancing the idea of kingship of the whole island. He shattered the Ui Neill primacy in Ireland and opened up the struggle to create a national kingship and helped shape the course of Irish history in the 11th and 12th centuries.

O’Corrain declared that Brian’s struggles with the Norse were greatly exaggerated. Long before Clontarf they had become a minor political force in Irish affairs. In fact, Clontarf was part of the internal struggle for sovereignty and was essentially the revolt of the Leinster men against the dominance of Brian. Its most important result was the blow it dealt to the powers of the Munster kings.

However, in subsequent tradition, both Irish and Norse, Clontarf became a heroic battle of saga and song. The ranks of the combatants were swelled by numerous additions because everyone wished his ancestors had participated in it, “The Viking contingents from the isles and from Man, themselves not the major part of the forces which opposed Brian, became the forces of the entire Viking world and Brian became in story what he never was in fact – the sovereign of Ireland who led the forces of the nation to victory over the foreigners.”[102]

These revelations implied that Boru was a nationalist monarch and military man with deeply held religious beliefs. Littleton Bog in Co. Tipperary had been revealing minor historical treasures and thus began new thinking on Brian Boru. The bog was located on the path of one of the most ancient roads of Ireland which crossed from Leinster into Munster. Myles na Gopaleen writes, “This had been the main road to Tara made by the Kings of Ireland. It was the main road to the north and Brian Boru fixed it up.”[103]

In 1972 Liam de Paor questioned the idea that Boru had ever really conquered Ireland at all. It is a forced contention that Ireland was politically unified under native rule between AD 1002 and AD 1014, when the usurping Boru exercised a somewhat precarious suzerainty all over Ireland. Long before the arrival of the Anglo-Normans Irish dynasts struggled to achieve national monarchy. None succeeded and ‘high-kingship’ remained a political concept which eluded them.

The island was divided, as it had always been, and after the invasion there was a new concept of political unity, that of the lordship of Ireland, and this too was never achieved. The island was partitioned between the land of English law and the land of Irish law, racially, culturally as well as politically. It took until Henry VIII before the country was finally conquered; the triumph of English culture over Irish culture.[104] Such conjectures began to strip away at Boru’s credibility as a warlord but garnished some support for the notion that he may have been more of a politician.

In May 1972 the publication of James F. Lydon’s ‘The Lordship of Ireland in the Middle Ages’ led to further debate. Although Lydon stated his aim was to be interpretive he makes some sensitive observations on medieval Ireland leading to critical castigation, “His interpretation is surmise and it is not enough for an author of what explicitly purports to be an interpretive work to relate facts that appear to be inconsistent, without an attempt at greater explanation.”[105] Critics say interpretation is inevitable subjective to some degree but Lydon’s treatment of Irish history is blatantly inadequate and inaccurate. Lydon claimed that Henry II came to Ireland to finalise the church reform and to settle the problem of the power vacuum caused by the death of Brian Boru (more than one 150 years earlier) and, say critics, this is historical nonsense on all counts.

As early as 1938 Rev. Professor Ryan criticised the notion that Brian created a greater political authority as his predecessors and there was overwhelming evidence that later kings like Muirchertach O’Brien and Rory O’Connor exercised greater authority than Brian. With regard to Henry’s attitude to Ireland it had been argued that the papal Bull Laudabiliter granting Ireland to Henry was acquired through the influence of Canterbury, that it was ignored by him, and that he came to Ireland only to prevent the first invaders from establishing a powerful independent kingdom.

By 1977 a new interpretation of Boru had fully emerged. Historians now contend of all the Irish Kings, Brian Boru is probably the only one who can be considered equal to great monarchs of European history. Supreme in the national territory to which he laid claim, he was accomplished in the arts of war and peace. Nor in his own time was he known only in Ireland; his lifelong contest with the Norsemen made his reputation to be sung almost in his own lifetime wherever Norse influence was felt. He was a remarkable man and within his lifetime he managed to supersede the O’Neill’s who had a proud lineage extending backs into the mists of pagan times.

If his military skills made him High King, Brian showed remarkable qualities of statesmanship in his exercise of the office. He did little to interfere with the traditional rights of petty kings and was more or less content with their recognition of him as their superior. In accepting the religious primacy of Armagh and all that went with it, he made the point that a High King from Munster could be as good a friend of the Church as any Northerner could be. The Northern clergy, it is assumed, responded by throwing the weight of their influence behind his kingship. The bond must have been a strong one, since before his death on April 23 1014, Brian made a will expressing the desire to be buried at Armagh, the seat of Patrick, and that the community there should be given lavish gifts. And there, after his last triumph at Clontarf, his body as brought to rest forever among the men of the North whose pride he had once so offended by his claim to authority over them.”[106] With such reports the 20th Century transformation of Brian Boru from Warlord to Statesman was complete.

By now historians were comparing Boru to England’s Alfred the Great, “There is a striking parallel between the lives of England’s Alfred the Great and that of Brian Boru. Both were younger brothers who began at an early age a lifelong struggle with the Danes, both succeeded to leadership at a time of great crisis, both, while never shirking war used well the blessings of peace. And both were far ahead of their contemporaries as soldiers and as statesmen.”[107]

But Boru’s escapades, if unworthy of the attention of either an American President, a British Monarch or the Bard of Avon, was most certainly well worthy of scribes from Ireland’s ancient annals right up to 21st century media. Boru is the only political leader of his time who remains well known yet, despite his firm place in folk-memory, as a figure he remained curiously vague. Historians, throughout the 20th Century and on into the present day, continue to attempt to correct this and sometimes trip each other up with their revelations, findings, conjectures and opinions. Some even wondered if Boru was more myth than fact; an invention of his loving kinfolk desirous of scaring their enemies into submission.

By 1977 O’Corrain was claiming that the County Clare Dalcassian clan, that “produced” Boru, was, in fact, a tribe called the Deisi who crossed the Shannon from Limerick in 600 AD and later faked the genealogy, “they produced Brian Boru and the two succeeding O’Brien kings, who were the most powerful rulers that Gaelic Ireland knew.”[108] He argued the Deisi became powerful in Clare and faked a genealogy by which they claimed to be of the Eoganacht, who were over the premier Munster dynastic families, having originated in Kerry.

The argument was given some credence when Professor John Byrne argued that the official life story of Brian Boru was compiled by his great-grandson, Muircheartach O’Briain who was King of Munster from 1086 until 1119, “he was the most powerful King in Ireland and claimed to be High King of Ireland. During his reign the story of Brian Boru emerged and reflects Muircheartach’s own ambitions.”[109] Two years later, in 1979, Liam de Paor endorses this view. He wrote it was not until the end of the eleventh century that the Dal Cais dynasty had sufficiently recovered from the pyrrhic victory at Clontarf to produce another virtual high king of all Ireland, “Brian Boru by then had been enhanced in reputation and his time was being looked back to as a golden age. In due course pseudo historical tracts were produced glorifying and exaggerating the achievements of the Dal Cais in the days when the founders of its greatness were expanding their power. Brian became the ‘mirror for Princes’ and a great Christian and Irish hero fighting against the heathen and the foreigner.”[110]

The year 1980 was declared ‘Viking Year’ and their reputation also got a major clean-up and, some historians would argue that life with the Vikings may not have been quite as bad as we had been led to believe, “Fading into the past is our notion of Vikings as merely marauders. We now realise that the Irish were equally as good at creating chaos. The Scandinavians made a much more positive contribution to the life and culture of medieval Ireland by founding towns and cities.”[111]

Numerous books are published celebrating the Vikings, most notable of these being, James Graham Campbell’s ‘The Viking World’ which explored their rich culture, their art, script and literature as well as their mode of daily life and the towns and states which they founded. In his book he argues, “It is misleading to describe the Vikings as raiders or pirates for, by no means, all Scandinavians were.”[112] The publication of Morgan Llewellyn best-selling ‘Lion Of Ireland – The Legend of Brian Boru’ brought the mythological hero firmly into popular culture, “Through its pages she puts flesh on the bones of Brian Boru, the man she describes as being larger than life; rough yet elegant.”[113] Her illusion was so fantastic that even Hollywood’s Warner Brothers Film Studios was tipped to pay out $15m to make the movie with Clint Eastwood to play Boru. Even President Ronald Reagan had something to say, “I think the story is worthy and would make a wonderful action film.”[114] Movie Director Herb Wright tells the Irish media, “I believe Brian has not got his proper international recognition and he deserves the same treatment as Gandhi and Lawrence of Arabia.”[115] This particular production was later postponed.[116]  But it wasn’t the end of Boru’s Hollywood career, thirty years later, in 2013 it is announced that ‘Boru’ an $80m big-budget biopic of the hero is set for filming in Ireland, “Epic battle scenes will be filmed and it is hoped Boru will match the success of Mel Gibson’s ‘Braveheart’; the Boru biopic is a story about, “bravery and human spirit”.[117]

But by the mid mid-1980’s historians continued to defend their beliefs, “As a general Brian Boru was a man apart. He left nothing to chance and unlike his contemporaries; he never fought an engagement unless he was sure of success. He was a brilliant strategist.”[118] But, “he was the hero on whom lesser men tried vainly to model themselves, forgetting that his military skills had been supplemented by many of the qualities of the true statesman.”[119]

The publication of Roger Chatterton-Newman’s book ‘Brian Boru; King of Ireland” in 1983 is hailed by historians as a turning point in the historical research into Boru, “Biographers have neglected, to the point of ignoring Boru who was regarded as Emperor of the Irish. Sources are scarce and obscure because of the ravages of time and warfare; and unreliable since ancient annalists suffered as much from bias as do modern historians.”[120] Chatterton is praised as having carved away the myth and presenting the ‘real’ Brian Boru, “Boru’s rise to power did not follow established ‘rights’. He imposed his rule by his own will through diplomacy as well as by sword. His justification was success.”[121]

Apart from some minor references to Boru in the last decade of the millennium which he occupied he all but vanished from the media. In the early 1990’s historian Fergal Keane was claiming that the relationship between the Irish and the Danes was still not fully restored, “We have an unrequited love for the Danes. With a distrust level of 10% among the Irish, Denmark is our second most trusted nation after Luxembourg. But more than 17% of Danes feel they could not trust us, Brian Boru included, no doubt.”[122] Boru’s campaign against the Danes was continuing to have impact a full millennium after the events at Clontarf. Whatever about the Danes there was good reason for the British to mend their attitude to Ireland; Prof. Noel Mulcahy of the University of Limerick claims that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is really Irish. She is descended directly from Brian Boru. Believing In alliances, as he did, Brian married one of his daughters off to Malcolm II of Scotland, “Now that may seem to be a fairly innocuous statement, but when one considers the implications it gives one food for thought, because the marriage of Malcolm and Brian’s daughter, gave rise to a line of Scottish monarchs that led eventually to the line of British monarchs right down to Queen Elizabeth of today. So we have this fantastic irony that the monarch of the United Kingdom is descended directly from Brian Buru; so the British queen is really Irish,” according to Mulcahy.[123]

But such revisionist historians are becoming the targets of serious doubt, “Revisionism is a good thing, in the sense that all good historians are revisionists. The problem is that not all revisionists are good historians. And while there is much to be said for this effort to look again at the legacy of Clontarf, the danger of casting doubt on the significance of Clontarf, however laudable the intention, is that we throw the baby out with the bathwater.”[124] Irish academics have traditionally presented themselves as detached observers detailing a value-free, impartial account of history. But it is difficult, if not impossible, to be non-judgemental when contemplating some of their conjectures. Their tales, of course, are often exaggerated, sometimes even fictional. Because such stories are conducive to an exaggerated nationalist interpretation, scholarly accounts of Brian Boru have tended to be detached, even clinical. One may wonder why anyone should seek to cheapen and demean the Irish past in such a way. Revisionist historians would argue that they are not doing this. They would point out that history has to be continually revised in order to separate fact from fiction.[125] This is irrefutable. But revisionism Irish-style has been driven not by a desire to uncover new facts but by a craving to debunk the nationalist version of history. This was provoked by the revitalisation of the I.R.A. in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. Southern nationalist mythology, they believed, had contributed to the renewal of the radical militant nationalism of the I.R.A. The I.R.A. claimed that they were acting in the name of the Irish people and continuing the fight for freedom initiated by Pearse and Connolly with the 1916 rising. The revisionist historians, foolishly, essentially accepted this theory and have ever since kept themselves busy by ‘demythologising’ and patronising almost every Irish figure of note, most notably Brian Boru.

By the dawn of the new millennium Brian Boru’s transformation from Warlord to Statesman was not only complete but as the 1000th Anniversary of Clontarf was approaching there seemed to be a final push to copper fasten his Statesman persona, “The millennium just past, proved history has been a pretty tragic business and while we had a bit of a lift at the start with Brian Boru and the Danes, it was mostly all downhill afterwards.”[126] Boru, by all accounts was a devoted Christian who had done a lot for Ireland. He set about the restoration of libraries and the rebuilding of monasteries, “He had established peace and helped convert the Vikings, who eventually lived with the Irish in harmony. He believed a united country was far stronger than a divided one.”[127] In June 2002 the 1,000th anniversary of the crowning of Brian Boru as High King of Tara is celebrated and he is hailed as the only High King who ever had control over the entire island and he was responsible for beginning reform in the churches, schools and monasteries. He is remembered as an extraordinary leader and as a brilliant military tactician.[128]

In Northern Ireland some historians are calling for a rethink on Unionist teachings on the importance of Brian Boru to British history, “Boru and the Battle of Clontarf is significant because it was one of the largest battles in Europe of its era, and had major implications for the influence of the Vikings, yet is barely known by many school children in Northern Ireland today. Such odd gaps in our understanding of history are not merely explicable by the different slants than unionists or nationalists put on the past.”[129]

By 2014 Boru is being described as, “a man who brimmed with extraordinary fortitude of character, political innovation, military and diplomatic genius.”[130] He was an immensely significant figure even before his victory at Clontarf because he led a 25-year diplomatic and military struggle to subvert the ruling dynasty. Therefore, Brian Boru’s greatest achievement is in fundamentally altering the parameters of Irish politics. This explains, in part, why the efforts of revisionists to re-examine the justification for the Rising have been mirrored by an attempt to contest the ‘myth’ of Brian’s expulsion of the Vikings. This process has been under way for the last three-quarters of a century, so that it is regularly stated nowadays that far from being about the defence of Ireland from the Scandinavians, Clontarf was merely the culmination of a rebellion against Brian, the king of Munster, by Máelmórda, the defiant king of Leinster, and his Dublin underlings.

Boru memorabilia remained important as Conor O’Brien, Lord Inchiquin; a direct descendant of Boru reveals that he is on the trail of the original crown entrusted to the Vatican nearly 1,000 years ago. He believes that the crown originally worn by his 32nd generation ancestor may still lie in the Vatican vaults. The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles John Brown, admitted that this was the first he had heard that “we might have it”, but said: “If anyone can find it, Pope Francis can.”[131] More significantly the famous 9th Century Book of Armagh is now officially declared as the only surviving item from antiquity known to have been in Brian Boru’s presence. The ancient text clearly defines Boru, not as a warrior but as an Emperor. Dr Denis Casey states, “In it Boru is memorably styled Imperator Scotorum, or Emperor of the Irish.”[132] The transformation of Brian Boru from warlord,a military commander and aggressive regional chief with individual autonomy, to the highly elevated status of sovereign ruler of an empire and statesman of equal calibre to his descendants Ronald Reagan and Queen Elizabeth II, amongst others, was finally complete.

 

[1] Leitrim Observer, 14 May 1932

[2] Trinity College Dublin, ‘Truth of the Battle of Clontarf Investigated at Conference’, www.tcd.ie, accessed on 16.04.2014

[3] Irish Times, 17 November 1980

[4] Irish Independent, 7 June 2004

[5] Irish Press, 6 June 1932

[6] John O’Hart, ‘Irish Pedigrees or, The Origin And The Stem, or The Irish Nation’, (Dublin, 1892) p. xxi

[7] Library Ireland, The Line Of Heber, http://www.libraryireland.com/Pedigrees1/Heber.php, accessed 5 April 2014

[8] John O’Hart, ‘Irish Pedigrees or, The Origin And The Stem, or The Irish Nation’, (Dublin, 1892) pp. 61,62

[9] Irish Times, 10 February 1999

[10] Belfast Newsletter, 24 September 1829

[11] Meath Chronicle, 1 January 1921

[12] Tuam Herald, 13 January 1844

[13] Nation, 23 November 1872

[14] Nation, 25 January 1879

[15] Irish Times, 20 February 1879

[16] Irish Times, 20 March 1889

[17] Anglo Celt, 13 January 1894

[18] Weekly Irish Times, 28 September 1895

[19] Irish Times, 27 December 1897

[20] Weekly Irish Times, 29 June 1901

[21] Weekly Irish Times, 6 February 1904

[22] Southern Star, 12 November 1904

[23] Kerryman, 21 January 1905

[24] Donegal News, 27 May 1905

[25] Nenagh News, 8 October 1910

[26] Irish Independent, 22 March 1912

[27] Connaught Telegraph, 15 June 1912

[28] Skibbereen Eagle, 25 October 1913

[29] Ulster Herald, 14 May 1914

[30] Chicago Daily Tribune, 20 April 1920

[31] Southern Star, 16 October 1915

[32] Nenagh Guardian, 27 November 1920

[33] Ulster Herald, 19 March 1921

[34] Freemans Journal, 17 September 1921

[35] Irish Press, 3 October 1933

[36] Connacht Tribune,  11 March 1922

[37] Irish Times, 14 June 1926

[38]Irish Press, 2 April 1974

[39] Irish Times, 27 August 1928

[40] Irish Times, 3 October 1928

[41] Irish Times, 6 February 1929

[42] Limerick Leader, 21 August 1929

[43] Irish Times, 20 August 1929

[44] Southern Star, 19 April 1930

[45] Longford Leader, 31 May 1930

[46] Irish Press, 26 July 1932

[47] Irish Press, 23 January 1933

[48] Nenagh Guardian, 26 June 1937

[49] Anglo Celt, 19 April 1930

[50] Century Encyclopaedia, quoted in, Anglo Celt, 19 April 1930

[51] Anglo Celt, 19 April 1930

[52] Kerryman, 16 August 1930

[53] Donegal News, 18 October 1930

[54] Irish Press, 25 September 1931

[55] Irish Independent, 20 March 1935

[56] Anglo Celt, 20 February 1932

[57] Irish Press, 30 June 1933

[58] Southern Star, 8 October 1932

[59] Irish Press, 30 June 1933

[60] Irish Press, 16 January 1934

[61] Kerryman, 12 May 1934

[62] Patrick Weston Joyce,’ ‘A Concise History of Ireland’, (Dublin, 1910)

[63] Kerryman, 12 May 1934

[64] Leitrim Observer, 19 January 1957

[65] Irish Times, 9 February 1939

[66] Times Pictorial, 20 December 1952

[67] Limerick Leader, 7 August 1993

[68] Irish Times, 18 November 1959

[69] Irish Times, 28 June 1963

[70] Irish Independent, 6 September 1938

[71] Kerryman, 15 April 1939

[72] Irish Press. 6 May 1940

[73] Limerick Leader, 21 September 1940

[74] Irish Press, 23 January 1945

[75] Irish Press, 19 January 1949.

[76] Connacht Sentinel, 25 November 1947

[77] Irish Independent, 14 October 1950

[78] Irish Independent, 14 October 1950

[79] Irish Independent, 8 April 1952

[80] Ulster Herald, 6 January 1951

[81] Irish Press, 28 November 1952

[82] Irish Press, 13 February 1953

[83] Donegal News, 29 January 1955

[84] Irish Independent, 2 September 1955

[85] Irish Independent, 12 December 1955

[86] Meath Chronicle, 14 March 1959

[87] Irish Press, 7 August 1959

[88] Irish Times, 3 July 1970

[89] Irish Times, 4 August 1971

[90] Irish Independent, 28 July 1962

[91]Connacht Tribune, 14 July 1967

[92]Irish Independent, 27 May 1960

[93] Irish Press, 31 January 1963

[94]Irish Independent, 14 January 1966

[95] Irish Press, 29 May 1967

[96] Irish Independent, 22 February 1968

[97] Irish Press, 26 March 1969

[98] Irish Independent, 26 March 1969

[99] Irish Independent, 27 March 1969

[100] Irish Press, 1 August 1969

[101] Irish Times, 28 August 1971

[102] Irish Times, 28 August 1971

[103] Irish Times, 29 January 1972

[104] Irish Times, 23 August 1972

[105]Irish Press, 6 May 1972

[106] Irish Press, 23 April 1977

[107] Irish Press, 26 October 1977

[108] Irish Times, 19 April 1977

[109] Irish Times, 29 August 1977

[110] Irish Times, 18 May 1979

[111] Irish Press, 20 March 1980

[112] James Graham Campbell, ‘The Viking World’, (London, 1980), p10

[113] Irish Press, 8 July 1980

[114] Sunday Independent, 1 March 1981.

[115] Irish Press, 23 February 1983

[116] Irish Press, 17 June 1983

[117] Sunday Independent, 19 May 2013

[118] Irish Press, 23 April 1981

[119] Irish Press, 10 March 1982

[120] Irish Press, 27 June 1983

[121] Ibid

[122] Irish Press, 16 July 1990

[123] Irish Press, 17 March 1995

[124] Irish Independent, 18 April 2014

[125] Southern Star, 15 November 1997

[126] Southern Star, 1 January 2000

[127] Westmeath Examiner, 9 September 2000

[128] Meath Chronicle, 29 June 2002

[129] Belfast Newsletter, 8 March 2014

[130] Irish Independent, 12 April 2014

[131] Irish Independent, 18 April 2014

[132] Irish Independent, 12 April 2014

 

 

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