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It all started with a Canadian fisheries treaty with the United States in 1923. Normally, when Canada concluded fisheries agreements, they were signed on Canada’s behalf by the British Ambassador to the United States. But in this case, for the first time the signature of a Canadian minister, Ernest Lapointe, was attached to the treaty. And this precedent opened the door for the nascent Irish Free State to operate a foreign policy independent of the United Kingdom.
As pro-Treaty forces gained control of the Irish government following the Civil War, the policy of the ruling party, Cumann na nGaedheal, and the first President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, W.T. Cosgrave, was to critically engage with the Commonwealth. Cumann na nGaedheal essentially controlled a one-party state because the party receiving the second most votes in the initial elections, Sinn Féin, refused to take its seats. Cumann na nGaedheal worked to develop precedents, international relationships, and participation in transnational organizations which would allow Ireland to assert itself as a legitimate, independent nation on equal standing with the other nations of the world. Continue reading
Canada’s 150th birthday is coming up in a few days! As part of my doctoral work at the University of Edinburgh, I looked at visits across the Atlantic by Ulster unionists who aimed to publicize their cause and to counter Irish nationalism during the Home Rule era. One of the more interesting stories involving Canadian history that I came across involved two of these Ulster unionists, who toured North America in 1886.
Reverend Dr. Richard Rutledge Kane and barrister George Hill Smith were commissioned by the Ulster Loyalist Anti-Repeal Union shortly after the defeat of the first Home Rule Bill to present the unionist cause to the North American public which they believed were blinded by a pro-nationalist press.
Kane was a fairly notorious figure within Belfast society as the rector of Christ Church, the Grand Master of Belfast’s Orange Order, and a prominent unionist speaker; he was accused of inciting the Belfast riots in 1886. Smith was a barrister from Armagh who spoke throughout England and Scotland on behalf of the Ulster Loyalist Anti-Repeal Union and other Irish unionist organizations.
Kane and Smith’s tour first took them to Canada and then to the United States. Speaking at gatherings of Irish immigrants and their descendants, and to Orangemen, they promoted the cause of Irish unionism and attempted to discredit Irish nationalists. But there was one particularly remarkable incident that stood out both to me and to Smith, who considered it one of the most extraordinary things to happen in his long speaking career. Continue reading
You are asked to think over English history as a whole and consider if you cannot find some meaning, some method in it, if you cannot state some conclusion to which it leads. Hitherto perhaps you have learned names and dates, lists of kings, lists of battles and wars. The time comes now when you are to ask yourselves, To what end? For what practical purpose are these facts collected and committed to memory? If they lead to no great truths having at the same time scientific generality and momentous practical bearings, then history is but an amusement and will scarcely hold its own in the conflict of studies…. No one can long study history without being haunted by the idea of development, of progress.
J.R. Seeley wrote these words as part of a series of lectures he gave at the University of Cambridge in 1881 and 1882, published as The Expansion of England: Two Courses of Lectures in 1883. Seeley was a professor of modern history at Cambridge from 1869 to 1895.
Seeley examined modern British history with the goal of answering the question of what direction the world was headed. His answer? Toward liberty, democracy, and the advancement of “greater” Britain. Continue reading
Since last week’s election, the Democratic Unionist Party has received more attention outside of Northern Ireland than it has in years, now holding the balance of power in the UK Parliament. While the DUP was founded by Ian Paisley in 1971, the separation of political parties in Northern Ireland from the main United Kingdom parties has roots in the late nineteenth century before and during the Home Rule era.
In the 1870s, sectarian strife in the north of Ireland was at a low ebb as both Catholics and Protestants united through Liberal Party politics. Continue reading
Patsy Donovan was a quintessential player of his age, and was quite possibly the most successful Irish-born baseball player. Like many other players of the deadball era, Donovan hit for high average but little power, compiling a lifetime batting average of .301 with 1,957 singles out of his 2,256 career hits. He was fast and aggressive on the base paths, stealing 518 bases over his career. And he played for seventeen years, spending time on the Boston Beaneaters, Brooklyn Bridegrooms, Louisville Colonels, Washington Statesmen, Washington Senators, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, and Brooklyn Superbas.
Donovan was born in Cobh (then Queenstown), County Cork, in 1865 (or possibly 1863 – he may have fabricated his age to appear younger) and immigrated with his family to the United States as a young child as part of a huge wave of Irish immigrants in the second half of the nineteenth century. They moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts, where Donovan went to work in the cotton mills after finishing elementary school.
He got his start in baseball in his home town, playing for the Lawrence club in the New England League. From there, he joined other clubs in the minor leagues, playing in Salem, Massachusetts, and London, Ontario, before making his major league debut with the Boston Beaneaters in 1890. The outfielder was soon noted for his leadership abilities. As David Jones notes, “In a decade that was infamous for rough play and rowdyism, Donovan was most admired for his quiet dignity and work ethic.” He is a strong contrast against negative stereotypes of Irish and Irish-American players of his era. Consequently, Donovan was hired as a player-manager of the Pirates in 1897. He was replaced as manager after leading the team to a 60-71 record, but granted a second chance in 1899. In total, he spend eleven years as a manager of the Pirates, Cardinals, Senators, Superbas, and Boston Red Sox, where he also worked as a scout. Donovan was one of the first managers to regularly use relief pitchers, with his 1899 Pirates team handing to ball to a reliever 39 times that season, the most ever at that time. He is known for convincing the Red Sox to sign Babe Ruth after watching him play for the minor league Baltimore Orioles in 1914.
After his time in the big leagues, Donovan spent 14 years as a minor league manager and continued to scout until 1946.
Over the history of the major leagues, forty-seven players have been born in Ireland, mainly from the 1870s through the 1910s, an era which is heavily associated with Irish-American influence on the sport. Since 1910, there have only been three Irish-born players. Cork-born Joe Cleary was the most recent, appearing in a single game for the Washington Senators in 1945. Having pitched 1/3 of an inning, he had an unfortunate career ERA of 189.00.
Happy opening week of the baseball season! Go Rockies!
Brian Sheehy, “Baseball Star!,” Lawrence History News (Spring 2003) – Lawrence History Center: Immigrant City Archives and Museum.
John C. Skipper, A Biographical Dictionary of Major League Baseball Managers (2003).
In September 1945, Josephine Roche arrived in London as part of a European trip to investigate coal mining across the Atlantic and to attend the conference of the International Labor Organization, to which she was delegated by President Harry S Truman.
Roche was the remarkable owner of the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company, operating several coal mines in Colorado’s Northern Coal Field. Her career spanned everything from working as Denver’s first woman police officer, serving as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and running the United Mine Workers’ Welfare and Retirement Fund. She promoted workers’ rights, aided immigrants, ran for Colorado governor, supported Progressive Party politics, and fought for social and civic reform.
After Roche’s parents died in early 1927, she inherited her father’s minority holdings of the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company. After a strike, violence, and six deaths at the RMFC-owned Columbine Mine, Roche gained majority control of the company. She announced that employee welfare would be a key component in the way the company was run. The first permanent mutual union agreement ever signed by a coal mining company in Colorado was between the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company and the United Mine Workers in 1928. This was considered a groundbreaking agreement for coal miners’ rights. Roche became known for her concern for her employees and their rights.
As Assistant Secretary of the Treasury beginning in 1934, Roche was the second woman to serve under a United States President. She worked in the areas of education, finance, health, and welfare, helping to shape the Social Security Act and the National Youth Administration. Her work in the realms of health and welfare laid the foundations for Medicare and Medicaid.
Her prominence in the political realm, in labor relations, and in the coal mining industry are all key contexts to her European trip immediately following the end of World War II. Roche spent several days in London conducting background research, then traveled to Paris to attend the ILO conference.
Thirty-nine countries sent delegates to the International Labor Organization conference, held at the Sorbonne. In her autobiography of Roche, Elinor McMinn writes of the conference, “The delegates described their wartime struggles to survive and expressed their common concern: to activate Europe’s paralyzed industrial and economic facilities and increase production of food, clothing, coal, and shelter.” Roche was assigned by the ILO to study European coal production. Robyn Muncy writes in Relentless Reformer, “Suffering terrible fuel shortages by war’s end, both France and Britain had nationalized their coal industries, and Roche was interested in how nationalization was affecting workers and whether the mines in each country would be able to retool fast enough to provide fuel for winter heating and industrial production.” Roche also was commissioned by the Department of Industrial Studies of the Sage Foundation to collect information on British coal mining. In addition, she wrote articles for the Survey Graphic and New York Herald Tribune about her findings and experiences – highlighting the interest in the United States for information about coal mining, industrial, and labor issues abroad.
After the end of the ILO conference, Roche toured coal mines of the Nord and Pas-de-Calais, reportedly becoming the first woman to descend into a French coal mine. She perceived the French coal mining industry as being in a more positive position than the British because they had regained their pre-war production levels.
Traveling back to Britain, she embarked on a tour arranged by the Ministry of Fuel and Power. Roche inspected the coal fields of Wales, northern England, and Scotland, going down into at least one mine per day, and discussing mining conditions with everyone from superintendents, engineers, miners, and even the miners’ wives. She also studied the history of coal mining in Britain from medieval times. Roche found that the root of current problems in the coal mining industry was the ownership structure, which she believed would have continued repercussions after nationalization. McMinn writes, “Approximately four thousand families owned all the mines and leased them to many different operators, who all worked simultaneously to produce quick royalty profits for the owners. Thus, an excessive number of small and poorly designed mines operated with a capacity inadequate to justify the equipment or technical staff essential for efficient mining practice.” Mines had also been neglected and had inadequate technology, and also produced far less coal per day than American mines. In addition, there was a postwar shortage of labor.
During her trip, the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act was introduced in Parliament and subsequently passed on 12 July 1946. The Act established public ownership and control of the coal industry, set up the National Coal Board, and aimed to tackle issues with efficiency in the country’s coal mines.
Roche believed that a better course of action would be to empower the coal miners through strong unionization. She stated, “The chief need in the English coal mines, where production remains a million tons a week below pre-war levels, appears to be a strong national union headed by a leader who can get results.” She did not think that organizing coal mines to work in the national interest necessarily would be in the workers’ best interests. Muncy writes that Roche believed the British Labour Party had betrayed the miners. She approved of the government taking some role in economic intervention or regional planning, but in this case believed that miners “had simply exchanged one set of employers for another” without having a chance to bargain collectively for higher wages and safer working conditions.
According to Muncy, on this European trip, “what had crystallized for Roche was a belief that, in the achievement of economic justice, the crucial thing was not whether government or private interests operated an industry; the crucial issue was whether workers maintained independent power.” After returning to the United States, Roche’s views of the European coal mines were part of her speeches on the lecture circuit, as audiences were eager to learn of post-war conditions abroad.
Leigh Campbell-Hale, “Remembering Ludlow but Forgetting the Columbine: The 1927-1928 Colorado Coal Strike” (Unpublished PhD Diss., University of Colorado, 2013).
Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame: http://www.cogreatwomen.org/project/josephine-aspinwall-roche
Larry Dorsey, “Josephine Roche, a ‘Grand Old Gal,’” Superior Historian 3, no. 3 (Winter 2005).
Elinor McGinn, A Wide-Awake Woman: Josephine Roche in the Era of Reform (Denver: Colorado Historical Society, 2002).
Robyn Muncy, Relentless Reformer: Josephine Roche and Progressivism in Twentieth-Century America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014).
After the United States entered World War II following the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the first American troops were deployed to assist in the defense of the United Kingdom. US troops debarked in Belfast on January 26, 1942, a contingent of 4,058 led by Major General Russell P. Hartle. Private First Class Milburn H. Henke was the first to descend the gangplank onto Northern Irish soil. By May of that year, about 32,000 troops and 2 divisions were in Northern Ireland.
US troop presence had an impact throughout Northern Ireland. For example, the 34th Infantry Division was headquartered in Omagh, County Tyrone, while the 1st Armored Division was based at Castlewellan, County Down. The V Corps was headquartered in Lurgan, County Antrim, and American soldiers and sailors participated in training throughout the country.
Each American soldier and sailor received A Pocket Guide to Northern Ireland to get them “acquainted with the Irish, their country, and their ways.”
“You will start out with good prospects,” the guide enthused. “The Irish like Americans. Virtually every Irishman has friends or relatives in the United States; he is predisposed in your favor and anxious to hear what you have to say. This, however, puts you under a definite obligation: you will be expected to live up to the Irishman’s high opinion of Americans. That’s a real responsibility.”
Over the course of the war, 300,000 American servicemen were stationed in Northern Ireland. American troops in the United Kingdom worked with British forces to fight for control of the Atlantic and Mediterranean, to launch operations for invasions of North Africa, the air war in Europe, and D-Day.
Francis M. Carroll, “United States Armed Forces in Northern Ireland During World War II,” New Hibernia Review 12, no. 2 (Summer 2008)
I first saw this Thomas Nast cartoon in Ely M. Janis’ A Greater Ireland: The Land League and Transatlantic Nationalism in Gilded Age America. It captured my attention because it plays into so many of the narratives propagated by Ulster loyalists about Charles Stewart Parnell’s visits to the United States and of Irish nationalism in general.
Parnell arrived in America in January 1880 for a three-month speaking tour to promote the Land League. He spoke in 62 cities, addressed the U.S. House of Representatives, and raised $300,000. Janis uses the Harper’s Weekly portrayal of Parnell to discuss the racial representation of the Irish. The magazine does not “reduce him to the simianized or apelike stereotype commonly used in this period when illustrating Irish and Irish-American nationalists. In fact, an extensive, though not exhaustive, review of American political cartoons and anti-Land League attacks in this period revealed no simianized images of Parnell.” Parnell’s Irishness is signified through other means. Janis concludes, “Parnell’s Protestantism, his half-American and half-Irish descent, and his upper-class background as gentlemanly landowner insulated him from many of the common stereotypes placed on the Irish character by unfriendly American commentators.”
In the cartoon, Nast depicts Parnell as “Pat Riot,” a tramp who goes door-to-door begging, hat-in-hand, from Irish domestic servants. But when she offers him a ship “full of food for Ireland,” he responds, “Ah! you innocent Bridget, darlint, sure it’s not a starvation of food that troubles us, but it’s money we’re afther.”
Irish loyalists propounded similar themes as those depicted in the cartoon. Innocent and honest Irish “servant girls” in America hoped to donate money to relieve Irish rural distress. But the leaders of the Land League and Irish nationalism exploited them for their money. Irish nationalists were depicted as unrepresentative of the Irish in Ireland or in the United States, working only to benefit themselves. Unionists denied that the causes of Home Rule and separatism had any substantial backing in either country, with Land League funds coming from mere “servant girls” who were being manipulated by nationalist leaders.
Harper’s Weekly also published several cartoons in the same decade with negative depictions of nationalist dynamiters begging from Irish domestic servants in America. See Niall Whelehan’s analysis in The Dynamiters: Irish Nationalism and Political Violence in the Wider World, 1867-1900 for further exploration of these depictions.
A few weeks ago I looked at the tours of Ireland by Ulysses S. Grant, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon. You can find that post here.
Now let’s take a look at the visits from American presidents since the 1980s.
Earlier this year, RTE’s History Show did a podcast on Reagan’s visit to Ireland, which you can find here. It highlights the mixed reception he was subjected to throughout his visit, given American policies in Central and South America at the time.
Reagan arrived at Shannon for a four-day visit on 1 June 1984. He received an honorary degree, which caused quite a bit of controversy, at NUI Galway
On 3 June, Reagan visited his great-grandfather’s hometown of Ballyporeen in Tipperary. Before his visit, he had little knowledge of his family roots because his father had been orphaned at a young age, so there was not much of a sense of connection to the family’s past.
It’s difficult to express my appreciation to all of you. I feel like I’m about to drown everyone in a bath of nostalgia.
-Ronald Reagan at Ballyporeen
He stopped in at Ballyporeen’s Ronald Reagan Lounge, the facade and fittings of which were later moved to the Reagan Presidential Library in California.
From there, Reagan went to Dublin, where he stayed at the US Embassy in Phoenix Park and addressed a joint session of the Irish National Parliament, highlighted by his celebration of the connection between the US and Ireland, as well as addressing IRA attacks in Northern Ireland and London.
Bill Clinton arrived in Northern Ireland at a key moment in 1995. His decision to previous year to grant a visa to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams had garnered both praise and high levels of criticism. He became the first sitting US President to visit Northern Ireland, arriving in Belfast on 30 November. He was self-consciously leading the US to intervene in British-Northern Ireland relations, calling for reconciliation to end the Troubles.
Over the last 3 years since I have had the privilege to be the President of the United States I have had occasion to meet with Nationalists and to meet with Unionists and to listen to their sides of the story. I have come to the conclusion that here, as in so many other places in the world, from the Middle East to Bosnia, the divisions that are most important here are not the divisions between opposing views or opposing interests. Those divisions can be reconciled. The deep divisions, the most important ones, are those between the peacemakers and the enemies of peace: those who, deep, deep down inside, want peace more than anything and those who, deep down inside, can’t bring themselves to reach out for peace; those who are in the ship of peace and those who would sink it; those who bravely meet on the bridge of reconciliation and those who would blow it up.
-Bill Clinton in Derry
Clinton’s visit was considered extremely successful, leading the United States to play an undeniably key role in the peace process. With George Mitchell as lead negotiator, the Good Friday agreement was agreed in 1998.
Clinton made two further presidential trips to Ireland. In September 1998 his trip included a visit to Omagh, shortly after the bombing there. And he returned in December 2000, including a visit to Dublin and Drumconda.
GEORGE W. BUSH
George W. Bush’s visit to Ireland was marked by controversy before it started. He conducted an exclusive RTE interview (seen above) with Carole Coleman from the White House the day before his visit, causing tensions with tough questions on the Iraq War, conduct of American soldiers, terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction. RTE had planned another interview with Laura Bush, but this was cancelled.
Bush arrived at Shannon on 25 June 2004, staying at Dromoland Castle in County Clare and attending a two-day European Union-US summit. He also met with Bernie Ahern and Mary McAleese.
His visit was marked by the need for high levels of security, and protests against the Iraq War and American military actions.
The most recent Presidential trip to Ireland was that of Barack Obama in 2011. He arrived in Dublin with the First Lady on the morning of 23 May, meeting with Mary McAleese and Enda Kenny.
Next, he traveled to his ancestral hometown of Moneygall, County Offaly, shaking hands with as many as possible who came out to greet him in the rain.
After enjoying a pint of Guinness, the Obamas headed back to Dublin. President Obama gave a speech in College Green before departing for London amidst the Iceland volcanic ash cloud.
Now, of course, an American doesn’t really require Irish blood to understand that ours is a proud, enduring, centuries-old relationship; that we are bound by history and friendship and shared values. And that’s why I’ve come here today, as an American President, to reaffirm those bonds of affection.
-Barack Obama in Dublin
Is féidir linn