JERRY NOLAN (1936 - )

Jerry Nolan is a London-based freelance writer whose ongoing research is primarily concerned with exploring forms of Irish Cultural Nationalism in writers who have been marginalised in standard accounts of the Irish Literary Revival with the result that the intellectual legacy of these Irish writer has for many years at best been grudgingly acknowledged by the Irish Studies establishment.
Jerry Nolan has researched in some depth and written about William Beckford and Thomas Hope as writers with a strong interest in world cultures. He has compiled an online selection of his own poems written between 1965 and 2005.


Edward Martyn (1859-1923) - patron and writer
Standish James O'Grady (1846-1928) - All Ireland advocate
AE (1867-1935)- mystical seer
James Cousins (1873-1935) - Hindu-Celt
James Stephens (1880-1950) - Apocalyptic visionary
Eimar O'Duffy (1893-1935) - Celtic Satirist
Austin Clarke(1896-1974) - scribe of Irish monasticism
Sean O Faolain (1900-1991) - historian of the Irish
Desmond Hogan (1950 -) - Irish world traveller.
Thomas Moore (1779-1852) - Ireland's National Poet

Publications from 1994:

  • "Edward Martyn and Guests at Tulira" in Irish Arts Review Yearbook 1994
  • "Edward Martyn: First President of Sinn Fein" in Irish Studies Review Summer 1996
  • "Reading and Dreaming in Morgante the Lesser" in Proceedings of the Princess Grace Library Conference Monaco 1998
  • "Edward Martyn and the Founding of the Palestrina Choir" in New Hibernia Review Spring 2000 (Roger McHugh Award for Best Essay of the Year)
  • "Edward Martyn's Struggle for an Irish National Theatre 1899-1920" in New Hibernia Review Summer 2003
  • The Tulira Trilogy of Edward Martyn, Irish Symbolist Dramatist (Edwin Mellen,2003)
  • Six Essays on Edward Martyn, Irish Cultural Revivalist (Edwin Mellen 2004)
  • "Edward Martyn's Paths to Ireland" - online on this website

See details and comment on these books on:

Articles published in ABEI Journal (The Brazilian Journal of Irish Studies, University of Sao Paulo)

  • 2001: "The Awakening of the Fires: A Survey of AE's Mystical Writings 1897-1933"
  • 2002: "The Vanishing Ideas of Sean O Faolain"
  • 2003: "Travelling with Desmond Hogan: Writing Beyond Ireland"
  • 2005: "The Hindu Celticism of James Cousins (1873-1956)"

Other published Irish Studies articles:

  • "Standish James O'Grady's Cultural Nationalism" in Irish Studies Review 1999.
  • "Apocalypse in James Stephens 1912-1914" in Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies 2002
  • "The Savage Indignation of Jonathan Swift" Cairo University conference keynote address in New Readings of Old Masters 2003
  • "Remembering Voltaire's Fontenoy" in Remember Fontenoy! (The Irish Literary Society, 2005)
  • "The Irish/English Ring and Its Victorian Popularity" in Irish Theatre in England ed. Richard Cave & Ben Levitas (Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2007)
  • "Tom Moore and Two Friends", a talk at Bowood House, in The Sydney Smith Association Newsletter Issue 13 2008.
  • "In Search of an Ireland in the Orient: Tom Moore's Lalla Rookh" in New Hibernia Review, Autumn 2008

Another area of Jerry Nolan's ongoing research from 1996 has been the life and work of William Beckford (1760-1844), about whom he has written and has lectured in London and Bath.

His Beckford articles have regularly appeared in The Beckford Journal as follows:

  • 1997: "Beckford and the Apocalyptic Art of West and Danby"
  • 1998: "The Devotee Glances at the Glorious One"
  • 1999: "Beckford"s Excursion to the Grande Chartreuse Revised"
  • 2000: "William, Elizabeth & William or Female Impersonation and Radical Satire"
  • 2001: "Liber Veritatis or Why the Child has been so Abused?"
  • 2002: "Brief Encounter of Beckford and Disraeli, or the Radical Pair of Oriental Voluptuaries"
  • 2003: "Fatma Moussa-Mahmoud: Brief Encounter with an Egyptian Beckfordian"
  • 2004: "Redding"s Alpa and Beckford's Pencillings"
  • 2005: "The Myriad-Minded Book Collector"
  • 2006: "Redding's Recollections of Beckford 1844-1866"
  • 2007: Beckford in "Bath According to 'H'"
  • 2008: "Three Journeys into the Islamic Orient"
  • The Bodleian Library Record April 2003 published his "William Beckford's A Day at Tojal including The Idyllium of Hylas."

    THOMAS HOPE The results of Jerry Nolan's research into Thomas Hope (1769-1831) have appeared in two publications:

    • "The Tragic Mask of Anastasius/Selim: A New Introduction to Hope's Novel", Chapter 13 in Thomas Hope Regency Designer ed. David Watkin & Philip Hewat-Jaboor (Yale University Press, 2008)
    • "Thomas Hope: Triumph, Tragedy, Obverse Worlds" (Introduction), "Sandor Baumgarten: Hope's Forgotten Champion" (Appendix 11), "A Geographical and Chronological Study of Anastasius" (Appendix IV) in Anastasius by Thomas Hope (A Classic Travel Book published in 2008 by The Long Riders' Guild Press).

    See Thomas Hope Home Page

THE AGATHOPOLIS COMPANY - Publications 2008-2013

In 2008 Jerry Nolan set up a self-publishing company entitled The Agathopolis Company.

(The Agathopolis Company is a reference to the utopian island described in Morgante the Lesser by Edward Martyn)

See The Agathopolis Company

Cat of the Inner Cities and Other Outer Hebridean Poems:

38 Poems by Jerry Nolan
12 Illustrations by Michael F. Gilfedder (3 in colour)

ISBN: 978 0 955 84330 3

Extraordinary Views at Lansdown Tower: William Beckford & Cyrus Redding

A play in 3 Scenes with an Epilogue by Jerry Nolan
6 Lithographs of Lansdown Tower after Willes Maddox 1884 (5 in colour)

ISBN: 978 0 955 84331 0

The Golden Caterpillar with Black Tail: Fra Girolamo Savonarola 1494-1498

A play in 4 scenes with Prologue & Epilogue by Jerry Nolan
10 Illustrations (2 in colour)

ISBN: 978 0 955 84332 7
Beat the Last Trumpet

A play in 2 acts by Jerry Nolan Set in Ireland 1958 with 4 old County Kerry engravings

ISBN: 978-0955843334
The Window Ajar Alphabet

136 Poems by Jerry Nolan
3 Illustrations in colour

ISBN: 978 0 955 8434 1
Beckford of Lansdown

A Homage for the 250th anniversary of his birth by Jerry Nolan
10 Illustrations (1 in colour)

ISBN: 978 0 955 84335 8

Conjuring in Follies: Quartet of Plays

    1 & 2 by Jerry Nolan
  • 1. Golden's Ruby Double
    2. Tat's Shadowy Bolthole

    2 Illustrations (1 in colour)

    ISBN: 978 0 955 84336 5

Conjuring in Follies: Quartet of Plays

    3 & 4 by Jerry Nolan
  • 3. Marc's White Pigeon Loft
    4. The Red Siren Cardinal

    2 Illustrations (1 in colour)

    ISBN: 978 0 955 84337 2

Walter Spies: Magic Lantern & Magic Realism
To mark the 70th anniversary of his death

Play for Solo Performance & Afterword Essay by Jerry Nolan
10 Illustrations (8 in colour)

ISBN: 978 0 955 84338 9

Seven Movers in the Garden: Cycle of Nine Poems by Jerry Nolan

11 Illustrations from Hieronymous Bosch's triptych Garden of Earthly Delights in colour

ISBN: 978 0 955 84339 6

SELECTED POEMS (1965-2005)

Approach the window with firm step, and listen with emotion (C.P.Cavafy)

Jerry Nolan has been sifting through and editing what remains of some forty years of personal writings - chiefly unpublished poetry, plays and fiction. On a linked website may now be found a selection of the poems.

The 170 poems are presented in 7 Sections:

  • Out of Ireland
  • Lovers & Friends
  • Portraits & Sketches
  • Anecdotes & Parables
  • Teachers & Actors
  • Satires & Moralities
  • Devotion & Iconoclasm



Jerry Nolan

There are some references to Greece in the earliest writings of Edward Martyn (1859-1923), the Irish cultural nationalist from Tulira Castle in County Galway, which were cursorily examined by Denis Gwynn during the late 1920s in preparation for his complilation of Edward Martyn and the Irish Revival. Gwynn had been commissioned to write the memoir by Father Cyril Ryan, the Provincial of the Irish Carmelite, into whose safe keeping a seriously ill Martyn had entrusted his personal papers and other treasured items in 1922.

Selections from the Martyn Papers, partly transcribed and partly summarised by Gwynn, included a draft of a Martyn short story, re-written several times but never published, about an Irish country house, Crofton Court and its owner Gerald Crofton. Included in the story is a description of Grecian features in an Irish country house. In the great hall stood the high chimney piece supported by two Atlantes, masterpieces of seventeenth-century wood-carving. In the bright Dutch garden with beds of beautiful old-fashioned flowers stood a pedestal which had a marble copy of Apollino with his arm cast gracefully over his head. In the library, there was stored a great range of books on the shelves with a prominent place reserved for the books about Greece which had many Crofton pencillings.

There were ... the sermons of St.John Chrysostom, St.Basil's Homilies, and a liturgy of the Greek Church... Winckelmann and Goethe... The Journal of Hellenic Studies, the report of the German Government upon the excavations at Olympia...Upon the table lay a superb volume with coloured plates illustrating Byzantine Architecture. (Gwynn, 61-9)

The character of the young English guest at Crofton Court was a portrait of Sir William Geary, a fellow student of Martyn at Christ Church College Oxford who later shared rooms with Martyn at Pump Court in London. Geary, a barrister, became a frequently welcomed guest at Tulira during those years when Martyn was an Unionist landlord very much under the thumb of his mother and frequently absenting himself in London to sidestep his mother's matchmaking tendencies. Letters of thanks to Martyn from Geary for truly wonderful times at Tulira survived in the Martyn papers, from which Gwynn reproduced a few quotations, without actually naming Geary. In one of these letters, the non-Catholic Geary responded to the news that Martyn, in a serious fit of Catholic scruples occasioned by his intense attraction to the Greek Classical world, had destroyed the manuscript of a long poem based on a visit to Greece in 1888:

Now I would never advocate publishing anything directly contrary to Christianity...As a matter of fact I perceived nothing whatever incompatible in your poems as far as I read; how could there be in the Pheidas and Pericles...Why not consult some eminent theologian of your Church thereon? This at all events is what Pascal did. He had given up writing for reasons like you, but during insomnia, having thought out some problem and written it, he showed it to a friend of great piety, who told him to publish. (Gwynn, 76-9)

The linking of Hellenism and severe personal crisis was used by George Moore in the novel Mike Fletcher (1889) in which John Norton burns his Greek-inspired poems:

A great battle raged; and growing at every moment less conscious of all his soul's salvation, he walked through the streets...Decision came upon him like the surgeon's knife. It was in the cold darkness of his rooms at Pump Court...taking his manuscript, he lighted it in the gas. He held it till it was well on fire, and then threw it all blazing under the grate. (Mike Fletcher, 11)

John Norton had appeared in Moore's earlier novel A Mere Accident (1889) and reappeared in the collection of short stories Celibates (1895). What regularly characterised Moore's attempts to portray his old sparring partner 'dear Edward' was the stripping away of any Irish context. Moore's version of Martyn as Norton amounted to little more than the melodrama of an English Catholic neurotic male virgin. More than thirty years later, with Moore and Martyn by then estranged friends, the character of Hugh Monfert was dissected in a final story about Martyn which depicted, with a final vindictive flourish, a pathetically thwarted English Catholic homosexual. Martyn's Hellenism kept on nagging Moore, as is evidenced in the reference to Monfert's poem where Pheidas leads Pericles to the top of the Parthenon 'explaining the sculptures as they ascend'. (In Single Strictness, 730)

The prominence given to the admonitions of Geary letter in Gwynn's memoir, and Moore's fictional preoccupation with his distant cousin as a seriously disturbed homosexual victim of Catholic Church teaching ignored both the crucial historical fact of Martyn's rapid decision after the minor crisis of scruples in the late 1880s to move quickly onto the level of an argument about world culture in the light of Winckelmann's idea of Greece which he understood to be a view of society which should accord primacy, though not exclusiveness, to the development of the multiple artistic gifts of its people. This was attractive territory for Martyn since his visit in 1881 to the Roman Villa Albani, where Winckelmann had been the curator of antiquities. That visit inspired a hero-worshipping poem 'The Genius of the Villa Albani' which was only finally published over forty years later by D.P. Moran in The Leader 29 April, 1911:

Spirit of old! Winckelmann! pilgrim cast
In solitude through modern life to roam...
To tell the simple grandeur of Greek art,
And in its calm sublimely to rejoice.
Immortal form and youth thy haven of peace,
Great father of us all who love old Greece.

Martyn's exorcism of his scruples, documented in his novel Morgante the Lesser (published under the pseudonym of 'Sirius'), produced a version of Hellenism, linked yet significantly different to Pater's view - a fact which was never noted in Irish Revival memoirs. Morgante has been long ago consigned to literary oblivion as far as virtually all the Irish Cultural Revival scholars in academic institutions are concerned. Yet it was in Morgante that Martyn developed his own individually distinctive view of Greece, an interpretation which he firmly set in the polemical context of the conflict between materialist and idealist impulses which he was already observing in nineteenth century Europe, no doubt encouraged by his reading of his mentor, Thomas Carlyle, whose many books were prominent on the shelves of his library at Tulira Castle. In Morgante, Martyn's imagined Greece as an utopia on the all-male Greek island of Agathopolis - an uncloistered version of the all-male monastic Greek island of Mount Athos. By a subtle interweaving of his readings of the works of Winckelmann, John Chrysostom and Walter Pater, Martyn achieved a new synthesis of thought and feeling.

The civilised way of life of 'the uncloistered monks' on Martyn's Greek island of Agathopolis was imbued with Winckelmann's ideal of 'serenity', or Heiterkeit, as interpreted by Pater - the quality which Pater admired in Winckelmann who fingered 'pagan marbles with unsigned hands, with no sense of shame or loss.' (Pater, 114-149). Martyn imagined the men who came voluntarily to live on Agathopolis ready to be trained to harness together an enthusiastic love of beauty and an absolute freedom from 'sensuality' inspired by memory of how the great sculptors of Greece worked. Martyn's spokesman in the novel Theophilus proclaimed that the Greeks combine 'an enthusiastic love of beauty with an absolute freedom from sensuality, which is the temperament in which the great sculptors of Greece worked...Witness the the marbles of Pheidas: is there anything of voluptousness about them?' (Morgante, 277-8)

The conundrum, never consistently addressed by Pater, was how the supreme purity of the Hellenic Ideal might be transfigured into the Christian Ideal. The writings of Chrysostom here provided essential guidance for the intellectually inquisitive Martyn. Given Martyn's instinctive opposition to his mother's rule in Tulira as an all-embracing matriarch, Chrysostom's opposition to the ways of the Empress Eudoxia and his advocacy of the monastic ideal of celibacy must have greatly appealed to Martyn for the sheer drama of Chrysostom's confrontation of an Empress determined to lead a life of extravagance and ornament in Byzantium and determined to have erected a great statue of herself in front of the vestibule of the cathedral of Hagia Sophia in brazen mockery of the splendour of Byzantine liturgy within the Emperor Justinian's great cathedral. Eventually the Empress succeeded in exiling Chrysostom from Byzantium. In his treatise De Virginitate (written c.386), Chrysostom advocated the vocation to the monastic life where silence ruled in the heart, as in a quiet harbour, and a still greater peace in the soul. Martyn went further than Chrysostom by imagining uncloistered celibate men on Agathopolis, as in a great university, with the celibate benevolent 'Dictator' as the model of leader freely elected to direct the whole project of creating a viable alternative society to the widespread materialism and sensationalism of the age. (Morgante, 249-291)

The prospect of sacred liturgical music of the old Greek Church on Agathopolis, still in communion with Rome, produced in Martyn great enthusiasm:

Our church choirs, composed of very deep bass and marvellously sweet treble voices, vie in excellence with the renowned singers of the Sistine Chapel at Rome or of St. Isaac's Cathedral at St. Petersburg...Unspoiled by any instrumental accompaniment, the choristers chant in thrilling tone those plaintive old harmonies of our Greek hymns and responses, which even linger among the cupola when silence has settled upon the lips that gave them birth. (Morgante, 277)

The far and wide concerns of the elected Dictator of this Greek island state of Agathopolis ranged far beyond the cult of solemn liturgy. The Dictator decreed that the riches of the wealthy should be directed towards the furtherance of religious, charitable and philosophical aims. The Dictator set an example by becoming the patron of both the arts and sciences. While the most honoured citizens among the artists were the sculptors working in the tradition of the Greek Palaestra, scientists were encouraged to create the practical conveniences of civilisation and to achieve a cultural harmony between physical science and metaphysics; and the athletes were urged to continue the Greek tradition of gymnasia and athletic exhibitions.

During the period when he wrote Morgante the Lesser, the Unionist landlord Martyn, like his fellow absentee landlord George Moore, seems to have felt that Ireland as a nation was a barren ground for sowing seeds of cultural idealism. Reference to his native country was conspicuous by its absence from Morgante - there is but a single reference in a brief account of an Irish invasion by evangelical female mariners who were quickly put to flight when the crafty Irish discovered that conversion would not lead to acquiring land for next to nothing! (Morgante, 132-3) An understanding of why and how and to what result Martyn discovered a path from Greece to Ireland is a rarely told story. Yet some knowledge of that story is essential if the full story of Martyn's unique role in the Revival is ever to be objectively recorded. Without a close reading of Morgante, a mapping of Martyn's path from Greece to Ireland becomes impossible. Those who have even laid a casual eye on the cover of a copy of Morgante, let alone read it, are on the shortest of short lists. Doubtless the absence of reference to Martyn''s only novel in the writings of Yeats , Moore and Lady Gregory has encouraged very busy Revival scholars not to waste their invaluable time closely reading texts, already long consigned to the margins of their academic agenda. In very brief, what the inquisitive reader today will find in Morgante, whose genre is satiric romance, is a well structured synthesis of three strong imaginative strains: a satire against the growth of Morgante''s 'Enteris'm' or the practice of attention-seeking windy celebrity, which draws inspiration from Rabelais; a romance of the uncloistered monks of Agathopolis, which draws inspiration from Wincklemann, Chrysostom and Pater; and a revealing autobiographical quest for self-interpretation, which draws inspiration from Carlyle's Sartor Resartus.

Shortly after the publication of Morgante in 1890, Martyn decided, as it were, to return from Greece to Ireland by way of Norway as a result of seeing performances in London of the plays of Henrik Ibsen. Before Ibsen, Martyn had revelled in the ancient Greek Theatre with its literary vigour, strict codes for all performers who were restricted to troupes of men and boys in masks, and performances in bare amphitheatres without the distractions of fashionable scenery. (Morgante, 273-4) After Ibsen, Martyn became convinced that modern theatre, as a protest against the distortions of theatre on the nineteenth century commercial stages, should take on the form of the 'exquisitive music' of dramatic psychology. The fact that Ibsen's dramatic psychology repelled average playgoers only stimulated Martyn's belief in Ibsenite plays as the best way forward for Irish theatre. Martyn could not resist linking Ibsen's drama of the mind with Greece:

Much of this was in a way foreshadowed in ancient Greek drama; nothing happens on the stage, only the action of emotion is advancing. That is how there is subtle affinity with the antique in the Ibsen drama...the emotion is large and simple in the antique, with the great Norwegian it is intellectually subtle.

For Martyn the ardent musician, Ibsen's style of dramatic writing closely resembled the symphonic structures of Beethoven by manifesting 'a thematic development seemingly inexhaustible...where each idea is exhibited, and made to recur and explained, and coloured with changes in varied keys.' For Martyn the Revivalist, the national character of Ibsen's drama , 'primarily intensely Norwegian', stimulated Martyn's empathy with a cultural hero.(Gwynn, 142-8) It was largely under the inspiration of Norway, then, that Martyn was inspired to move beyond the satiric romance of Morgante by writing for the stage about his own situation at Tulira Castle in the three plays which I have dubbed The Tulira Trilogy and which marked the beginnings of the Irish Dramatic Movement which he co-founded in 1899 with W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory.

The presence of Greece remains somewhat veiled in the first play of the Trilogy, The Heather Field. In this play which has many fleeting echoes of Morgante, the dreaming Irish landlord Carden Tyrrell, at the age of thirty, falls victim to a wildly distorted dream about the cultivation of a wild heather field on his estate on the west coast of Ireland. The play revisits the central ground of Morgante: Tyrrell the ineffectual Irish landlord longs for a fruitful life-work, just as the Dictator of Agathopolis does; but, unlike the Greek's fully imagined utopia, the Irish landlord's dream collapses when the untameable heather field undermines all his efforts at self-expression. Tyrrell's eventual nervous breakdown is a metaphor of what would have happened if Martyn had obeyed his mother's wishes to behave like a responsible member of the Galway unionist gentry. The play's power is overwhelmingly Ibsenite in terms of psychology, symbolism and self-portraiture.

Tyrrell is psychologically ill-equipped to discharge his landlord duties during a turbulent period of great tenant unrest and agitation in Ireland. As a child, Tyrrell saw nothing real in the world outside his fairy dreams; and as a man, he married strictly within the narrow conventions of gentry parties and balls in the county. One of Tyrrell's happiest memories is of boy choristers singing Palestrina in Cologne Cathedral: 'How pure the silver voice chords soared to the vaults of stone.' (Tulira Trilogy, 41 ). These words movingly echo Martyn's enthusiasm for church music in the great Byzantine Cathedral of Agathopolis: 'Unspoiled by any instrumental accompaniment, the choristers chant in thrilling tones those plaintive old harmonies of our Greek hymns and responses, which ever linger among the mosaics in the cupola, when silence has settled upon the lips that gave them birth. ' (Morgante, 277). While the memories of choristers does not direct Tyrrell to fruitful action, the reference anticipates Martyn''s own battle to found the Palestrina Choir in Dublin''s Pro-Cathedral which was successful in 1903.

Tyrrell retreats to the library where his art books remind him of distant aesthetic pleasures and about which he can talk only to his beloved younger brother Miles: 'Look in this architectural book there are plates representing some buildings we saw then. Here is a Romanesque house at Boppart on the Rhine...the bishop's house at Wurzburg...what a genius these medieval architects had.' (Tulira Trilogy, 45) Tyrrell's wife Grace has little time for her husband's aesthetic notions when she surveys his library: 'Goodness me, what a litter the room is in with all these books and papers...You imagine yourself the busiest man in the world; and as a matter of fact you have nothing to do.' (Tulira Trilogy, 45). Grace's sentiments echo the view of Morgante's father Fitz-Ego in his declaration of love for England: 'For after all, in England, is it not almost everybody's highest ambition to move in fashionable society? I should like to know what is the use of philosophy, art, literature, everything, if they do not lead to this result.'' (Morgante, 102)
Tyrrell's choice of the Heather Field project as a form of self-assertion is central to the play's symbolism. The project proclaims the ideal of reclaiming every inch of waste land on the estate but on a totally literal level. Tyrrell proclaims: 'There is something creative about it - this changing of the face of the country...When from the ideal world of my books, these people forced me to such business, I was bound to find the extreme of its idealisation.' (Tulira Trilogy, 64 ) Like Ibsen's Wild Duck, Martyn's symbol of the Heather Field is like 'a magnet and the characters in the play so many filings held together by this centrepetal force' (Meyer, 561), and encompasses Tyrrell's eventual nervous breakdown and the ways in which the other characters contribute to and perceive his madness. It is left to his fellow landlord and friend Barry Ussher to intervene to help to save the estate for his wife Grace and his young son Kit whose fate are beyond the comprehension of the dreamer who finally hears only boys''s voices: 'The voices - yes, they are filling the house - those white-stoled children of the morning. The voices, I hear them now as triumphant in a silver glory of song.'' (Tulira Trilogy,92 ). These visionary voices are very far removed the majestic iceberg of Agathopolis 'which soars in its cold purity amid the abominable seas of the worl'd'. (Morgante, 291) Ussher ends the play with an epitaph on the Irish landlord who failed to survive:' 'The wild heath has broken out again in the heather fiel'd.' (Tulira Trilogy, 92) If Mar'tyn's ideal Dictator is a symbol of cultural triumph in Morgante, the Irish landlord is a symbol of cultural failure in The Heather Field.

In the second play of the Tulira Trilogy, Maeve, the inner life of the central character, daughter of the increasingly impoverished Prince of Burren, Colman O'Heynes, contemplates the ruins of a round tower, reads West Connacht poetry by the bard Dorban and often browses through an art book of Greek sculpture with many photographs. Maeve longs to imagine closer links between Greek sculpture and the Celtic arts of long ago, after she has observed links between Greek and Celtic ornament. Maeve's inspired dream is that the pattern of Celtic youth should follow the perfection of Greek youth as revealed in the Greek sculpture which has already been celebrated by Martyn in his only novel: 'The rare beauty of form and movement in our youth as seen in the circus or exercising ground where the noblest traditions of the Greek Palaestra are maintained, accustoms the eye of our sculptor ever to what is fittest for his art.' (Morgante, 277-8) The Prince of Burren knows little of his daughter's inner life - like Grace Tyrrell, his sole and very understandable utilitarian concern is to use marriage between his daughter and a rich Englishman as the last resort to end the family''s shameful poverty. The wealthy Englishman chosen as husband for Maeve is well-meaning, affable but incapable of entering into Maeve''s world of personal belief:

HUGH: I see nothing but ruins - that mysterious round tower - the stony mountains - and your gray castle through the leafless boughs of great ash trees...
MAEVE: Tuatha de Danaan, those tall beautiful children of Dagda Mor. It is said they were the old people of Erin and were afterwards worshipped as gods.
HUGH: But do you believe they were really gods?
MAEVE: Oh, no - only a race whose great beauty still haunts our land, (Tulira Trilogy, 108-9)

Unlike the off-stage Irish peasants dramatised mainly as social threat in The Heather Field, the peasant woman Peg Inerny, a former family servant, encourages Maeve to seek the mythic way back to the ancient beautiful people of Ireland

PEG: Your love is dreaming among the rocks of these mountains, Princess.
MAEVE: Oh, how I have grown to love these stony mountains.
PEG: They are the pleasure haunts of many a beautiful ghost.
MAEVE: The many beautiful buried in that cairn.
PEG: Oh, what a world there is underneath that cairn.
MAEVE: Yes, the great beautiful Queen Maeve who ruled over Connacht hundreds of years ago, (Tulira Trilogy, 111)

Maeve conjures up a mystical lover who holds out the promise to connect the Greek and the Celtic worlds:

MAEVE: I am haunted by a boyish face close hooded with short gold hair and every member of his slender, faultess body goes straight to my heart like a fairy melody. Oh, he has a long journey; - for that land of beauty was never so far away as it is tonight...Oh, the beautiful frosty night!...The greatest beauty like the old Greek sculpture is always cold. My Prince of the hoar-dew. My golden love, let me see you once more in that aureole of crimson sky.' (The Tulira Trilogy, 122-3)

The interchange between Irish ice and Greek sun is imagined as ensuring the absolute freedom from sensuality (associated by Pater and Martyn with the marbles of Pheidas). That freedom characterises the lives of the 'uncloistered monks' of Agathopolis. Maeve might be described as an uncloistered nun', except that one should remember that Maeve chooses to identify strongly with the pre-Christian world of Queen Maeve's Court Procession emerging from the nearby cairn. The Irish gentry in the ancient world are celebrated by a Chorus of Boy Pages or Choristers: 'Their bodies are graceful and majestic,/These sons of queens and kings.' (The Tulira Trilogy, 125)

What renders Martyn's dramatic achievement here so remarkable is the blending of the inner psychology and the outer theatricality, both of which qualities the presentation of Agathopolis, in the lecture by Theophilus, poignantly lacks. Maeve reveals herself as an uncompromising patriot and aesthete, enthralled by the union of Celtic and Greek beauty, in the historical context of an largely unsympathetic nineteenth century Ireland. The procession of boy choristers here sing not to accompany Catholic liturgy but in the solemn, dream-like procession of Queen Maeve with her many ancient Irish attendants. The symbolical closure of the drama occurs when the young Maeve appears at dawn as sitting at an open window - dead. Her death represents the triumph of visionary will-power, even though Maeve's sacrifice of the prospect of an ordinary successful life within the terms of her father's arranged marriage schemes can only seem totally pointless to her neighbours. Her death marks social failure and personal triumph. Martyn dramatises the personal triumph of Maeve with its dimension of heroic self-sacrifice to suggest strongly an Irish political allegory, which appears to have been picked up by the play''s first audiences. After the first performances, Lady Gregory greatly admired Martyn''s play for 'taking one into a beautiful dream worl'd' and noted that the anti-English 'touches' were much applauded. (Seventy Years, 356-9)

However, the symbolism of Maeve cannot be restricted to the conflict between Ireland's preference for the ancient worlds and the seemingly inevitable prospect of the English way of progress. The play, unlike the London sections of Morgante, simply lacks any depth of anti-English feeling. At no point is Hugh presented as the hard-hearted colonialist. Maeve's sister Finola is so well disposed towards him that she will probably marry him out of affection and please her father by restoring the fortunes of the O'Heynes family with the help of English money. Martyn's play seems far removed from contemporary Irish political nationalism, a point which George Moore recognised when he claimed that in Maeve 'human emotion is the whole of the play.' (Preface to 1899 edition, xxvii) The cultural politics implied in the drama is the suggestion that Maeve's vision of the union of the Celtic and the Greek might inspire the Irish nation towards a cultural revival with strong European dimensions and might encourage the collaboration of gentry and peasantry in a joint cultural enterprise. In retrospect, Martyn saw Maeve not as any form of nationalist propaganda but as a display of the dramatic art which 'made a girl pine and die for a lover who had no existence, and gave it a semblance of truth.' (Gwynn, 145) The art of the great Norwegian is well to the fore in the play, especially evident in the dramatisation of the strong-willed Irish aesthete in love with Tir-nan-Ogue and in the symbolism of the triumph of Maeve self-sacrifice. Maeve is the only play in the Tulira Trilogy where the aesthetic and cultural idealism of Agathopolis is relocated in Ireland, ancient and modern. Maeve as fin-de-siecle aesthete and Irish cultural nationalist is the role in which Martyn longed to cast himself.

Maeve's personal predilections link her to the Martyn at Oxford who espoused the love of the white purity of Greek sculpture. The whiteness of Greek sculpture was central to Pater's aesthetics because it represented the colourless image of remoteness and purity of beauty. Maeve's intense longing for her Celtic/Greek Prince is further masked by the fact that the love-object is a ghost. Is Martyn's praise of Maeve's romantic attachment to a young man's sexless beauty merely a clever literary ruse to sidestep all suspicion of sexual desire? The idea of purity as essential to the beauty of the Greek sculptures of youths was Pater's view, perhaps developed out of his awareness of the conflict between desire and guilt experienced by Christians who became enthralled by the supreme beauty of ancient Greek youths. In debates about the links between Victorian Hellenism and male homosexuality, the whiteness of the beauty is often seen as a mask for homoerotic desire. In the case of Martyn's Maeve, there is a chaste displacement of her passion for the Prince: her freely chosen chastity intensifies the longing and her death perpetuates the longing. What happens on the one hand is that Maeve's human longings have been sublimated into the symbol of sublime aesthetic contemplation; but what happens on the other hand is the resurgence of a patriotic Irish Princess. In an article published in the Dublin Daily Express on 28 Jamuary 1899, AE's instinctively detected in the play 'the current of subtle spiritual reverie which is characteristic of the awakening genius of the Gael'. Only when the subtle interweaving of Greek aestheticism and Irish Cultural nationalism by means of Norwegian dramaturgy are focused can this play's considerable power be brought fully to life on the stage.

In the third play of the Tulira Trilogy An Enchanted Sea , there are many links suggested between Ireland and Greece. There are two Irish country houses: Fonthill by the sea where its fifteen-year old owner, Guy Font, lives with his aunt and guardian Rachel Font; and further inland, there is Castle Mask where Lord Mask, some eight years older than Guy, lives alone after an Oxford education and who travels occasionally to Greece, a country which he loves. Mask was yet another Martyn self-portrait:

MASK: I went to Greece from the Greek movement in Oxford, where the luminous pages of Winckelmann opened to us a vision of antique life.
GUY: I think, Mask, you see Greece everywhere in the world.
MASK: She was the beauty of the world. Youths and temples transfigured in plastic sunlight - galleys gliding like swans in the white Piraeus, while their oars break into creamy veins the blue marble of the seas -!
GUY: This is an enchanted sea. (Tulira Trilogy, 159)

Mask is enchanted by the beautiful Guy who becomes his sole guide to a vision of the sea which links the Celtic sea-god Mannannan and the Greek sea-god Poseidon. Mask's enchantment with Guy is absorbed into the young peer's dream-world as he recalls a dream which he had in Constantinople on the site of Ceasar's palace overlooking the sea:

MASK: It changed my life: for a voice spoke to me in that dream. It told me to leave that land and sea because they were dead. It told me to go where their genius had fled and was sleeping.
GUY: Here in this country, Mask -
MASK: Here in the Insula Sacra - the Ogygia of Homer and our Hellenic ancestors - the genius is here and will soon reawaken, and he will revive the arts, and trades and letters in our ancient tongue which all will speak again. Let us be ready to minister.
(Tulira Trilogy, 160).

Amid Mask's budding ideas for the revival of al the arts in Ireland, the Irish-Greek boy seems destined to symbolise Ireland's ancient genius and a modern nation's imagination.. The searching of Mask and Guy for beauty in the enchanted sea-caves is inspired by aesthetic and national dreams and, indeed their quest recalls the way in which Agathopolis begins to live in the hearts of the men who travel to the island for enlightenment: 'Our city has grown up and lives in the hearts...of men in the world, though not of it...drawn to those sunlit shores. (Morgante, 252) Certainly there is an absence of a developed psychology in the dramatisation of the friendship between Mask and Guy - between the much travelled Oxford Hellenist and the elfin-looking boy who is so closely in touch with the mysteries of Ireland, including its language which he has learned from the peasants. This insignificance of private life also characterises the lives of the uncloistered monks on Agathopolis: 'The fact is we live much in the cloudless sunlight, transact our business chiefly in public...Privacy is almost unknown to us.' (Morgante, 279) The public life of Mask and Guy seems destined to promote a certain kind of Irish cultural revival, but their premature deaths ensured that such a revival had to remain still-born. As in Maeve, the quest for beauty ends in death but while there is a sense of imaginative triumph in Maeve's death, the deaths of the two friends suggests only a sense of deep pessimism in the face of the strength of the destructive forces rampaging in Ireland which Martyn symbolised in the plotting of Rachel Font.

The central dramatic focus in the play is Mrs. Font, which is a savage portrait of Martyn's own mother. Mrs. Font is primarily driven by: an overwhelming desire to arrange, for Irish country house advantage, a marriage between Agnes her daughter and Lord Mask; her superstition-ridden opposition to the Irish ways of the local peasantry from which she herself has only recently arisen; and her determination to murder without any compunction the young person who stands in the way of her plans - her nephew Guy Font. In the creation of Mrs. Font as a mother whose savagery stems from displacement, Martyn transforms, with acknowledgements to Ibsen, the misogynistic version of Morgante's mother, Amentia, into a compelling psychological study of the lovingly destructive mother. Mrs. Font's passion to restore Fonthill, through intermarriage with Castle Mask, resembles the materialist ambition of the Prince of Burren in Maeve, but Mrs. Font's plotting is not at the margins but at the very centre of the drama. Her ferocious opposition to any superstitious meddlings with 'an enchanted sea'' is relentless and unalterable. When Guy has been duped into taking his scheming aunt into sea-caves, she drowns him and hopes that the death will be considered an accident; but a few secretly observant hostile peasants eventually denounce her to the police in revenge for her many social injustices. Instead of falling into step after Guy''s disappearance with Mrs. Fon't's designs, Mask searches the caves in the hope of finding Guy alive but 'then suddenly there came a mountain wave that caught and swept him into the deep water...he sank.' (Tulira Trilogy ).

At the climax in An Enchanted Sea, Rachel Font's suicide takes place in her pretentious great hall which had been turned by Guy into a gymnasium with a rope on the staircase for his athletic exercises. The circumstances of her death appear as a scorching parody of the glorious restoration envisaged for the Irish county house of Fonthill, for which she had intrigued so unrestrainedly and so unashamedly. What rescues the ending of An Enchanted Sea from crude melodrama is Martyn's relentless probing of the socially self-defeating drives in Mrs Font and of the strong sense of the cultural threat of her legacy which can lead only to a tragic devastation of Ireland's 'enchanted sea'.

Martyn's burgeoning national hopes surfaced most enthusiastically when he declared himself to be wholeheartedly on the side of the Irish revival immediately after his mother's death in 1898. Henceforth Martyn hoped that the Irish would be prepared to broaden their education as they embarked on the making of a modern Ireland; but his cross-cultural visions had minimal influence on the overall direction of the Irish Revival. The subsequent drama of Martyn himself being consigned to the periphery and to the pillory of the Irish Revival as the talentless outsider has been glossed over in the recent seemingly endless accounts of the Irish Dramatic Movement which have settled too frequently and too conveniently for merely a narrowly focused history of the Abbey Theatre. What this selective approach has never acknowledged is the key evidence of Martyn's Morgante the Lesser and The Tulira Trilogy. So Martyn's achievements amount only to 'the road not taken'; but perhaps the time is now ripe for a review of the reasons why that road was not taken and how it might still be undertaken.

The Heather Field is the tragedy of floundering idealism. Maeve is the tragedy of visionary aestheticism. An Enchanted Sea is the tragedy from the clash between culture and pragmaticism. The Tulira Trilogy is concerned, above all, to dramatise the failure of national dreaming. In An Enchanted Sea, Commander Lyle R.N. says : 'This lonely sea was suited to the visionaries who have passed with their visions away. Women have no strength in such things. You who have awakened to real life, can find no place here.' (Tulira Trilogy, 195-6) The last word in the Tulira Trilogy is spoken by Agnes Font, cousin of the Irish-Greek boy Guy and would-be bride of the Irish-Hellenist Mask. When Commander Lyle offers her the prospect of a safe non-visionary life, the last word of Agnes - 'Perhaps holds out the prospect that the young woman might well decide to take the other road - surely more than a glimmer of hope at the end of the trilogy sequence?

Martyn's Tulira Trilogy of Irish plays awaits rediscovery and experimental production in Ireland, after almost a century of wanton neglect. One can only hope that if the plays are actually read in the context of Martyn's life and times that a 'Perhaps!' will become a 'Yes!' when it comes to the restoration to the Irish cultural agenda of these three most interesting plays

Works Cited: Lady Gregory, Our Irish Theatre (New York: Putnam, 1913)
Denis Gwynn, Edward Martyn and the Irish Revival (London: Cape, 1930)
Edward Martyn, Morgante the Lesser by Sirius (London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1890)
The Heather Field and Maeve (London: Duckworth, 1899)
The Tale of a Town and An Enchanted Sea (London: Fisher Unwin,1902)
The Tulira Trilogy of Edward Martyn, Irish Symbolist Dramatist edited and introduced by Jerry Nolan (Lewiston/Lampeter: The Edwin Mallen Press, 2003) M. Meyer, Ibsen (London: Cardinal, 1992)
George Moore, A Mere Accident (London: Vizetelly, 1887)
Mike Fletcher (London: Ward & Downey, 1889)
Celibates (London: Walter Scott, 1895)
In Single Strictness (London: Heinemann, 1922)
Jerry Nolan, Six Essays on Edward Martyn (Lewiston/Lampeter: The Mellen Press, 2004)
Walter Pater,The Renaissance, Introduction by A. Phillips (Oxford;World Classics, 1986)
W.R.W. Stephens, Saint John Chrysostom (London: Murray, 1883) for commentary on 'De Virginitate'.

(A shorter version of this essay was read as a paper at the IASIL Conference July 2004 which was held at University College Galway.)



  • MARY KENNY: Goodbye to Catholic Ireland (No.11: Summer 1997)
  • GEAROID O'CAIRLEALLIN: The Gaelic League (No.12: Autumn, 1997)
  • MARY HICKMAN: Discrimination and the Irish Community in Britain (No.13: January 1998)
  • MARGARET WARD: Hanna Sheehy Skeffington: A Life (No. 14: April 1998)
  • RICHARD ENGLISH: Ernie O'Malley: IRA Intellectual (No. 15: July 1998)
  • JIM O'HARA: Drawings Conclusions: A Cartoon History of Anglo-Irish Relations 1798-1998 (No. 16: October 1998)
  • DON AKENSON: Let's Stop Talking About Irish Emigration (No. 17: January 1999)
  • BRUCE STEWART: A Critique of Declan Kiberd's Inventing Ireland (No. 18: April 1999)
  • RAY STAGLES: The Blasket Islands: Next Parish America (No.19: July 1999)
  • CHRISTINE KINEALY: A Disunited Kingdom? England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales 1800-1949 (No. 20: October 1999)
  • PETER BERRESFORD ELLIS: Erin's Blood Royal: The Gaelic Noble Dynasties of Ireland (No. 21: January 2000)
  • KEVIN HADDICK FLYNN: Orangeism: The Making of a Tradition (No.22: April 2000)
  • TERENCE BROWN: The Life of W.B. Yeats: A Critical Biography (No.23: July 2000)
  • ROBERT TOBIN: On Researching Hubert Butler (No. 24: October 2000)
  • CELIA DE FREINE: My Creative Work in the Irish Language (No.25: January 2001)
  • MARIE ARNDT: A Critical Study of Sean O'Faolain's Life & Work (No. 26: April 2001)
  • MARY KING: The Drama of J.M. Synge (No. 27: July 2001)
  • GERRY SMTYH: Space and the Irish Cultural Imagination (No. 28: October 2001)
  • LANCE PETTIT: Screening Ireland (No. 29: January 2002)
  • MIKE ASHLEY: Algernon Blackwood's Irish Connections (No.30: April 2002)
  • DAVID MARCUS: Oughtobiography (No. 31: July 2002)
Interviewers: No.3 - Madeleine Casey; No. 13 & No. 31 - Malcolm Ballin; No. 15 - Eibhlin Evans; All other interviews - Jerry Nolan (Editor of BAIS Newletter: 1997-2002)

  • MALCOLM BALLIN: Irish Culture 1930-1960 According to Fallon (No. 19: July 1999)
  • LANCE PETTIT: Irish Studies and Cultural Theory (No. 22: April 2000)
  • KIM WALLACE: Irish Fiction in Transition (No.23: July 2000)
  • SEAN HUTTON: Irish Language Poetry in English Translation (No. 24: October 2000)
  • DAVID FITZPATRICK: How Irish was the Diaspora from Ireland? (No.25: January 2001) + REJOINDER FROM BREDA GRAY: Irish Ethnicities Abroad and At Home (No.26: April 2001)
  • DAVID PIERCE: Anthologies of Irish Writing - Nosegay or Reader? (No.26 April 2001)
  • SIDNEY BROWN: The Irish in U.S Textbooks (No.27: July 2001)
  • ANN CAHILL: Is there an Irish Gothic? (No. 28: October 2001)
  • TIM FOREST: The Irish Border (No.29: January 2002) + REJOINDER FROM BOB BELL: Ireland Unbroken by the Border (No. 30: 2002)
  • ULTAN CROWLEY: What about the Irish Navies in Britain? (No. 30: April 2002)
  • JERRY NOLAN/JAMES HORAN/JACK MOYLETT: Roger Casement 1864-1916 (No.31 July 2002)
  • LAURA IZARRA: The Irish Diaspora in Argentina (No. 32:October 2002)

  • GERARDINE MEANEY: Engendering the Post-Modern Canon in Irish Literatures(No.29: January 2002)
  • SIOBHAN KILFEATHER: A New Curriculum for Irish Studies? (No. 30: July 2002)
  • MARGARET MacCURTAIN: Irish Women Writers and Religion (No.31: October 2002)



British Association for Irish Studies Newletter 20
October 1999

10. Focus Interview: Christine Kinealy

Christine Kinealy is Senior Lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston. Christine's major historical work (so far) is to be found in two studies of the Great Hunger in nineteenth-century Ireland: The Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-52 (Gill & Macmillan, 1994) and A Death-Dealing Famine: The Great Hunger in Ireland (Pluto Press, 1997). Recently she wrote A Disunited Kingdom? England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales 1800-1949 (Cambridge University Press, 1999). This book is part of a series 'Cambridge Perspectives in History', primarily aimed at 'A' Level students of History; but the book's concise, lucid and thought-provoking text explores the historical creation of the United Kingdom in ways which ought to interest all students of Irish and British history, of every age. Christine was kind enough to discuss some of the main issues arising from her study of the United Kingdom, with a special focus on the case study of Ireland as we approach the bicentenary of the Act of Union.

JN: Why do you describe the United Kingdom as plagues by a disastrous disunity in the case of Ireland?

CK: The blanket term 'disastrous' is misleading because the United Kingdom brought many benefits to Wales and Scotland. Wales was first united to England in 1356. By the 19th century, a politically assimilated Wales was subject to most English legislation but a separate Welsh identity survived, helped on by a strong tradition of Welsh culture and language. The case of Scotland is more tangled. In 1603 King James VI of Scotland became King James 1 of England. The kingdoms were united at monarchical level. Yet a Scottish parliamentary tradition flourished with a high level of Scottish autonomy in areas such as poor relief, welfare and education. The political union of 1707 formalised on paper the absorption of Scotland into the British state. The Stuart line, which had been deposed by Cromwell, re-emerged in 1745 when there was a Scottish invasion of England with the intention of placing a Scottish monarch on the English throne. The Scottish defeat at Culloden meant that Scotland lost its role in the English monarchy. Yet during the 18th century Scotland greatly benefited from the economic link with the British Empire. Scottish confidence and prosperity led to the period of cultural activity known as 'the Scottish Enlightenment'. However the English view of the Highlands and Islands remained quite negative and led to the Clearances of people who were regarded, even during the reign of James 1, as having 'Irish manners'. The Irish Act of Union of 1800 has to be understood in the context of the religious conflict of the day. Linda Colley has argued convincingly that it was the shared Protestantism that forged the close links between England, Wales and Scotland under George 111. In 1796 Ireland sought military assistance of Catholic France. The subsequent Act of Union was part of a knee-jerk reaction from the British government – the fact that it was brutally forced through in an atmosphere of fear was not an auspicious beginning for Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. Moreover, the refusal of George 111 to allow Catholic Emancipation which had been part of the Act of Union Agreement meant that there was the King's broken promise at the heart of the Irish Union.

JN: New Labour seems to be suggesting that current devolution plans will lead to a strengthening of the United Kingdom. Is there any historical basis for such optimism?

CK: The United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland was very short-lived. It lasted a mere 120 years as a political entity. The Irish Treaty of 1921, which set up the Irish Free State, was the beginning of the break-up. Tony Blair should study the history of Irish devolution. Ireland's past provides the example of Grattan's devolved Parliament in the late 18th century which was not enough for Irish nationalists. What Tony Blair does not seem to understand is the thrust of nationalism within the United Kingdom. There is a paradox in the phenomenon that alongside economic globalization and European unity, there is a growth of nationalism in the quest for identity. The most positive aspect of the New Labour devolution plans is that all is being done on the democratic basis of consensus. Given the opportunity, both Wales and Scotland have voted significantly for the nationalist parties. It looks increasingly likely that New Labour's devolution plans will continue the unraveling of the United Kingdom, a process which was begun by the Irish in 1921. Without quite realizing the implications, Tony Blair has opened the Pandora's Box of disunities within the United Kingdom.

JN: You argue that the Union with Ireland from 1800 considerably changed the whole British political scene. For what contributions should the 'Mother of Parliaments' feel most grateful to the Irish?

CK: Ireland after the Act of Union constituted about 50% of the population of the United Kingdom. Only after the famine, during the 1840s, did the size of Ireland's population greatly decline. Irish leaders emerged who created a dynamic energy in British politics which was not apparent before the arrival of the Irish. Daniel O'Connell's campaign for Catholic Emancipation during the 182os was a spectacular success. O'Connell's agitation for reform was underpinned by threats of physical violence; but his incredible victories were achieved solely through constitutional means. O'Connell established the most important political point that the power of people working within the political framework can bring about reforms, even when the government of the day is against reform. There is no doubt that O'Connell's strategy became a model for nationalist movements throughout Europe. Remember that a number of Belgians wanted O'Connell to become King of an independent Belgium in 1830-1. In the latter half of the 19th century, the Home Rule Movement had tremendous effects on the Westminster Parliament. The clever use of the balance of power between parties by Parnell showed how minority parties can help to shape government policy. The Irish Home Rule Movement encouraged Home Rule Movements in Wales and Scotland. Nationalist movements in countries like South Africa and India became interested in the ways in which the Irish Home Rulers operated in the British Parliament. Most certainly the Mother of Parliaments should feel grateful to the Irish for showing how a long established institution can be made to respond to the wishes of the people who have elected its members.

JN: You discuss the pan-Celtic movements in the late 19th century. Why did the pan-Celtic movements in Ireland, Wales and Scotland fail to unite and make much of a political impact?

CK: The pan-Celtic movements aspired only to shared forms of cultural nationalism. The countries simply did not share a common ground of political nationalism. It was the success of the economy in the 19th century which made the Union popular in Scotland and Wales. Indeed the growth and commercial success of Glasgow became the justification of Scotland's integration into the British economy. While the Scottish language died out, a popular view of Scotland's past grew out of the Romantic novels of Walter Scott and was subscribed to by no less a person than Queen Victoria who had her house in Balmoral designed in traditional Scots style and decorated in tartan. Welsh protest which centred on the demand for the disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales found its main outlet in the Liberal party whose leader, the Welsh-speaking Lloyd George, managed to combine Welsh national interests with British imperial policies. In Ireland there was a promising affinity for a while between cultural and political nationalism. Then the strident emergence of Ulster Unionism complicated national development, particularly after the Sinn Fein General Election victory in 1918. Political nationalism in Wales and Scotland, often voiced by socialists and communists, has never commanded the widespread support which the political independence movement commanded in Ireland post 1918. Yet the Irish model still remains as something of an inspiration to independence movements in the countries still within the United Kingdom.

JN: How do you explain the conundrum that throughout the 19th century political nationalism became associated with Roman Catholics and unionism became associated with Irish Protestants?

CK: There are tragic ironies in all of this. In 1798 radical Presbyterians and radical Catholics found common ground by putting Ireland first. The Orange Order represented an exclusive approach. At first some Orangemen were opposed to the Act of Union; but it soon became clear that the best guarantee of Irish Protestant ascendancy was their majority status within the United Kingdom. O'Connell's campaign excluded Protestants, largely because the Liberator tended to use the existing structures of the Irish Catholic Church to boost his political campaigning. The key figure in the promotion of a separate and anti-Catholic identity was Henry Cooke, an influential Presbyterian minister in the Calvinist tradition and a political agitator who was strongly pro-Union and anti-Catholic Emancipation. Cooke's theological and political conservatism encouraged sectarian clashes after 1829. While O'Connell made much of taking his religion from Rome and his politics from Ireland, Cooke did much to establish the idea of loyal Protestants and disloyal Catholics. Peel's decision to establish non-denominational and secular university colleges in Belfast, Cork and Galway angered all religious leaders in Ireland. The Catholic bishops denounced the colleges as 'godless'. The Queen's Colleges were supported by the Young Irelanders who believed that if Ireland were ever to achieve political independence, religious differences had to set to one side. John Mitch ell (who, by the way, was married in Drumcree Church) advocated a non-sectarian approach in Irish politics, as did later the Unionist Isaac Butt and the Protestant landlord Parnell. All such attempts from the Protestant side failed to prevent the polarization of Ireland into Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists. Yet in both the Catholic and Protestant Irish memory, there has persisted the glimmerings of a common national ground which has never proved firm enough to accommodate both sides of the tragic division.

JN: You analyse Irish involvement in the British Empire. How influential was that Irish contribution?

CK: Any comprehensive study of the British Empire has to take into account the important part which the Irish played in its establishment. In 1830, some 40% of the British army were Irish Catholic recruits, many of whom were probably fleeing from extreme rural poverty. Many of the imperial administrators were drawn from Irish middle class families. Many Irish missionaries followed in the wake of the soldiers into the colonies. Irishmen were to be found in unexpected places as in the case of Lord Kitchener – veteran of the Boer War, Secretary of State for War in 1914, the military face of the British Empire during the First World War – who was born as a member of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy in County Kerry. The great problem was that successive British governments treated the Irish as colonials who were unready for self-government. In response to that, the Irish grew less convinced by the 'civilising' role of the British Empire and were increasingly attracted to Irish political nationalism. Even before 1916, Irish enlistment had fallen to 4% of the total recruitment for the First World War came from Ireland (90,000 men). After 1916, Irish enlistment fell to 2% of the total. Proportionately more Protestants than Catholics fought in the war. Catholics were forbidden to have their own flags and regiments. The high number of Protestant casualties in the 36th Ulster division in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 was used after the war as the ultimate symbol of Protestant loyalty, in sharp contrast to the Easter Rising, also in 1916, which became the ultimate symbol of Irish republicanism. The unacknowledged Irish contribution to the British Empire for much of the 19th century was totally at odds with the various caricatures of the Irish as sub-human that often appeared in the British Press. One can only conclude that the British need to ridicule the Irish grew as Irish nationalists demanded a greater measure of political independence.

JN: You suggest that a separate English identity has been swamped by the British Imperial role. Is English nationalism doomed to be little more than peripheral activity in the foreseeable future?

CK: Recently there has been more talk about English natioinalism. Waving St. George's flag is more common. A popular form of English nationalism is often associated with the support of English sports teams and the hero-worship of English sports stars. The link between national sports and a form of nationalism has been an important factor in the United Kingdom. In the late 19th century, soccer emerged as Scotland's national sport. By the 1890s, one in four males in Scotland aged between 15 and 30 belonged to a football club. In 1903 Hampden Park, then the largest football stadium in the world, was opened. Yet the overreaching sense of Scottishness being generated by soccer mania did not prevent outbreaks of bitter sectarian rivalry at local club level between Rangers (established in 1872) and Celtic (established in 1887). In the same period in Ireland, soccer was regarded as an English sport and actively discouraged by the Gaelic League. English nationalism as expressed through football too often asserts itself in jingoistic and destructive ways. Norman Tebbit's infamous test of English patriotism as support for the English cricket team was a crude and clumsy way of asserting English identity. English nationalism, along Tebbit lines, is deeply resistant to cultural development and right-wing in its approach to social and political reform. There are possibilities for the development of an English cultural nationalism through the arts of literature, music and art. Such a development would depend very much on the education system fostering a sense of such possibilities in the popular consciousness. Is this actually happening? I doubt it.

JN: You describe the holocaust-like consequences in Ireland of the potato blight during the 1840s. Were such appalling consequences the direct result of the Act of Union?

CK: In the subsistence crisis of 1782-3, the Lord Lieutenant had ensured food for distressed people by closing the ports in the face of merchant opposition. The politics of Lord John Russell's government between 1846 and 1852 utterly failed to prevent what should have been the first duty of the British government – a humanitarian response to the escalating mass mortality among a starving people who should never have been seen as marginal within the much trumpeted United Kingdom. Unemployed factory operatives in England were regarded as deserving of support but the plight of the Irish peasants was ignored. During the famine years in Ireland, relief was always conditional and punitive by being related to employment or to the giving up of land. The British Treasury operated a system of relief based on degrading and punitive qualifying criteria arguing that free enterprise would provide the poor with food. It didn't. Famine problems in Ireland were a low priority to a government at the centre of a large and still expanding empire. The British Government contributed in the region of ten million pounds to relieve Irish distress, mainly in the form of interest-bearing loans which have been estimated as about 0.3% of the annual gross national product of the United Kingdom. The depopulation of Ireland by means of death and exodus mocked the aims of the Act of Union. Yet a complacent British Government declared in 1851 that Ireland had actually benefited from the decrease in population and the changes in agricultural production. Irish folk memory, however, both within Ireland and amongst the Diaspora associated with the Famine not with social improvement, but with massive suffering, appalling mortality, widespread emigration and imperial misrule: so much so that Queen Victoria is still remembered in Ireland as the 'Famine Queen'. A sense of the massive injustice in the British Government's mismanagement of famine relief was one of the most potent factors in the growth of the Irish republican nationalism which took most of Ireland out of the United Kingdom in 1921, thereby becoming the precedent for the dissolution of the United Kingdom itself.


In 2002 Christine Kinealy was promoted to Professor of History at the University of Central Lancashire. Her most recent publications include, The Irish Famine. Impact, ideology and rebellion (Palgrave, 2002), 'Les marches orangistes en Irlande du Nord' in Le Mouvement Social (janvier-mars 2003), A New History of Ireland (2004), and Teaching and Learning History, with Geoff Timmins & Keith Vernon (Sage Pub. 2005). In 2007, Lives of Victorian Figures. Daniel O'Connell will be published by Pickering & Chatto. Professor Kinealy's essay 'At Home with Empire: the example of Ireland', very relevant to the theme of a disunited kingdom in her Focus Interview in 1999, was included in At Home with Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World, edited by Catherine Hall & Sonya O. Rose (Cambridge University Press, 2006). This essay reflects her current interest in seeing Ireland (especially Irish famines) in a wider imperial context: 'There were parallels with other parts of the British Empire, especially with reference to cultural stereotyping, law and order, voting rights, trade, famine and education. In each of these areas, Ireland was treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom'. (p.78)




Peter Berresford Ellis (b. 1943) took his degree in Celtic studies but began a career in journalism. He was reporting from Northern Ireland in the mid-1960s before the rise of the Civil Rights Movement and has continued to produce signed journalism in newspapers ranging from the Independent and Scotsman to An Phoblacht and written a regular column for the past twelve years in the Irish Democrat. He wrote A History of the Irish Working Class in 1972, still available in paperback from Pluto Press and considered a classic in Irish historical writing. Peter's literary career has been amazingly prolific and at times covert – with 33 novels and 3 volumes of short stories under the pseudonym of Peter Tremayne and 8 adventure thrillers under the name of Peter MacAllan. But with the 32 titles under his own name, he has been acknowledged as one of the foremost authorities on the Celts with such titles as Ancient World of the Celts, Celt and Greek, The Druids, Celtic Women & etc. His work has been translated into a score of European languages and into Japanese. He has lectured in Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Canada and the United States of America. Recently Peter published Erin's Blood Royal: The Gaelic Noble Dynasties of Ireland (London: Constable, 1999) which he has agreed to discuss in our ongoing series of Focus Interviews.

JN: What could have drawn a self-acknowledged republican socialist like yourself into telling the story of those twenty families of the old Gaelic aristocracy whose ancestors were kings, princes and nobles before the Tudor conquest of Ireland?

PBE: As soon as I had developed an overview of Irish history, I came to the opinion that the late 16th and 17th century was the pivotal period for the understanding of the rise of modern Ireland. I began to concentrate on a series of studies starting with the Cromwellian period: Hell or Connaught: The Cromwellian Colonisation of Ireland 1652-1660 – still in print from Blackstaff – and The Boyne Water: The Battle of the Boyne 1690, first published in 1976, and later reprinted by Blackstaff in 1989. It was natural, therefore, that I should turn to the formative events which commenced this 'ethnic cleansing' policy which started in 1541 and lasted throughout the 17th century with unabated savagery. The understanding of why the Tudor policy changed from coercion of the Gaelic ruling class in 1541 to ethnic cleansing is central to any subsequent understanding of Irish history.

JN: You claim ambitiously that the history in Erin's Blood Royal can be said to encompass three thousand years of Irish experience and folklore. What were the most significant discoveries resulting from your research?

PBE: English propaganda, sadly accepted by many Irish historians from the 19th century onwards has led us to believe that, before the coming of the Normans and their successors, Ireland was simply a rural chaos of constantly bickering and warring disparate tribes with no sense of cohesion and led by fierce kings. Standish James O'Grady was even assured by a professor of history at Trinity College, Dublin that Brian Boru did not exist. One could say that what is significant for the genuine historian is the emergence of a fascinating system of kingship, with the kings constrained by a sophisticated law system and the people clearly identified in a common nationhood with a shared literary language, mythology, law, social system and set of religious beliefs. There were kings who patronized the arts and learning; and there was a society that was in many ways advanced when compared with its neighbours.

JN: Why do you think that the concept and practice of Gaelic kingship are among the things only vaguely acknowledged and barely understood by the modern historian in Ireland?

PBE: The destruction of Gaelic Ireland and four hundred years of an oppressive regime dedicated to the eradication of the last traces of Gaelic Irish culture including its law, social system and language has almost succeeded in extinguishing any historical knowledge of the historical realities of Irish society as it was under the native kings.

JN: What is the major difference or emphasis in a comprehensive interpretation of Irish history when a well researched understanding of the Gaelic dynasties is taken fully into account?

PBE: The major difference is the understanding of the cultural and philosophical differences between the native Irish and their conquerors which were at the heart of persistent misunderstanding and conflict. One English historian writing about the Gaelic kingship system commented that it was a bloodthirsty business because 'hardly ever did a son succeed his father to the throne.' Yet the ancient Irish law system did not recognize primogeniture. Sons did not necessarily succeed their fathers, only if they were talented enough to do so. Office was filled not only from the bloodline but by election by the derbhfine or electoral college of the family. Of course, those now imbued with primogeniture inheritance can dismiss this as 'no real legal system'. This can lead to a culture clash between Irish and English historians. I regard as immensely important to Irish self-understanding an awareness of the Brehon Law and its principle of election.

JN: You write about the personalities of the individual members of the Irish noble families who were forced to flee abroad. Which of these romantic personalities did you find the most exciting to explore?

PBE: I would say that all the families have fascinating histories. I could not, hand on heart, say one family was more fascinating than others. There are enough research challenges to keep an army of historical biographies in work for centuries with the lives and manifold achievements of Erin's blood royal.

JN: Why has there been an Irish government policy since the 1940s of 'courtesy recognition for some twenty of the Irish noble families?

PBE: Edward McLysaght, who was to become the first Chief Herald, approached de Valera with the idea that those claiming Gaelic titles should be acknowledged by the Irish state. It was not a government policy but rather an arbitrary decision by de Valera to do so. McLysaght was left to implement the idea as a civil service administrative policy. There was no legislation, no guidelines as to how it should be done, and all this was the reason why in recent months, inevitable problems have arisen about 'courtesy recognition'.

JN: Did de Valera really consider installing a descendant of an Irish King as the first President of Ireland? How do you react to the idea of an Irish monarchical President?

PBE: In 1937 de Valera made an approach to the O'Brien of the day who was the direct descendant of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland who defeated the Danes at Clontarf in 1014. The O'Brien, who also held the title of 16th Baron Inchiquin, turned down the idea. As a republican, I would not be in favour of the appointment of a Prince President' per se; such a person would have to be democratically elected on the grounds that they had something more positive to offer than family history.

JN: Would you explain why you regard the importance of the Brehon Law of electoral succession, as distinct from the law of primogeniture, as crucial to the ongoing process of the Irish government's recognition of the ancient Gaelic titles?

PBE: On September 29 1999, following the publication of my book Erin's Blood Royal in which this matter was discussed, Síle de Valera, Minister for the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, announced in the Dail a commission of inquiry which will investigate the whole concept of how state courtesy recognition of those claiming Gaelic titles should be made. My opinion is that if the Irish State is going to continue with their courtesy recognition, then it must be done in accordance with international laws and usages. Gaelic titles arose out of Irish native law until in the conquests during the period we have talked about. Not only did the English Statute and Common Law abolish Gaelic law, it also abolished all Gaelic titles. It is that Statute and Common Law which was inherited by the Irish State following independence in 1921. For the Irish State to give courtesy recognition to those claiming Gaelic titles under the very legal system under which these titles were abolished is nonsensical; it is also contrary to International Law and practices. No successor state can retrospectively alter the successional laws of a predecessor state. Can you imagine the furore that would ensue if the Irish State told the Irish Peers (Lord Inchiquin, the Duke of Leinster, Lord Mount Charles & etc.) that they could henceforth hold their titles, created by the primogeniture system, only under the Brehon electoral system? That is as nonsensical as telling those claiming Gaelic titles that they can hold them only under primogeniture law. Either the Irish State has to amend its recognition to recognizing these people merely as senior members of families descending from the old kings and princes of Ireland, or they have to accept the derbhfine's decision of appointing the head of the family with the appropriate title and acknowledge that person's right to use the title as a social courtesy in accordance with the international usages and laws under which these things are governed in other modern republics. If the Irish State were to invent Irish titles, the whole thing would descend into a laughable Disneyland fantasy.

JN: How do surviving members of Gaelic noble families who have lived permanently abroad for generations view their stake in modern Ireland?

PBE: Members of the most famous families, like the O'Donels and O'Neills, have been active in promoting Irish history and culture. The O'Neill of Clanboy in the early 20th century donated money to help set up Irish language medium schools and also helped to supply and arm the Irish Volunteers from Portugal. The current Duke of Tetuan in Spain, Leopoldo O'Donel, born in 1915, has been recognised as heir to O'Donel, Prince of Tirconnel and was awarded in 1954 an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland in the presence of de Valera as Chancellor of the university. So some families still see themselves as intrinsically Irish, and most would wish to hold Irish citizenship but are precluded because they were driven out by the conquests and have remained in exile ever since.

JN: How successful have been recent attempts by the Irish government in encouraging the survivors of the ancient Gaelic noble families to play a useful role in developing modern Irish society?

PBE: There has been an ongoing problem in recent years over what the Irish State thought it should do concerning those to whom it gave courtesy recognition and what those claiming Gaelic titles wanted to do themselves. The main problem has been the legal status of the titles. Were they genuine holders of titles of nobility? Were they state appointees? Did the State create them? One Chief Herald believed that he was creating their titles and not merely recognising existing titles. This has led to many problems. I believe that the Irish State wanted to create 'Chiefs' who were seen as heads of clans to promote tourism in Ireland. Bord Fáilte created Clans of Ireland Ltd. And encouraged clans to 'elect' Chiefs who would be seen as heads of clans, and were dismayed when existing Gaelic title holders took exception to having titles so demeaned. Most of the descendants of the Irish kings and princes see themselves as holders of genuine aristocratic titles who want to promote genuine Irish arts and culture and reawaken a full awareness of Irish history. The Standing Council of Irish Chiefs and Chieftains, to which these representatives belong, have put up an annual prize fir essays in the Irish language and so on. The year 2000 is now going to be a 'make or break' year because the sitting Government Inquiry will decide their attitude to those claiming to hold ancient Gaelic titles.

JN: What are the implications of the Chief Herald of Ireland's withdrawal of the courtesy title of the MacCarthy Mór from the very person who wrote the Foreward to your book Erin's Blood Royal?

PBE: Unfortunately, my book has been caught up in the incredible MacCarthy Mór affair. Terence McCarthy, a graduate of Queen's University Belfast, had been recognised as MacCarthy Mór, Prince of Desmond, not only by the Irish State but by the Castile & Leon King of Arms of Spain and by the Italian Courts as well as numerous other dignitaries and bodies. He had been given civic receptions by the Irish President Mary Robinson and other civic dignitaries in Ireland, and awarded other honours by European royalty and states. He was considered a leafing authority in genealogy and published extensively – nearly a dozen books, in all – on Gaelic Munster. That was why I asked him to contribute the Foreward to my book. Just as my book recently went on sale, the Chief Herald withdrew courtesy recognition from him. It took about a month for the facts about his family background to emerge that McCarthy was entirely bogus. Now it emerges that another holder of a Gaelic title might also have a questionable pedigree. Needless to say, further editions of my book have been stopped until such time as I can rewrite that part pertaining to this matter. A new edition should be out by Autumn 2000. The Irish Government has now had to make an announcement in the Dáil concerning the commission of inquiry to consider the entire question of the courtesy titles. Obviously the Irish State must understand and accept the faults in its procedures. If it is going to extend a courtesy recognition to those claiming Gaelic titles, then it must begin to act in accordance with the international law and usages which govern such matters. The problems, as I see it, arose in 1943, due to the ways in which the Irish State began to recognise courtesy titles, and no one for almost sixty years made any attempt to correct anything until the affair of Terence McCarthy.

JN: Then what would you like to see happen to the courtesy titles which at least one person has claimed under false pretences and about whom there have been sensational stories in the newspapers?

PBE: As a historian, I think it would be appropriate for these old Gaelic families, descendants of the ancient Irish kings and princes, and heads of these families, whether they claim the old titles or not, to have some input into helping to promote and balance the study of Irish history. As a socialist and republican, I would not be in favour of any political participation in the Irish State unless the heads of the families were democratically elected. Having said that, there is, of course, the little known fact that the Taoiseach is allowed to nominate several members of the Irish Senate. That is a practice I do not favour but while it lasts, perhaps some the talented Gaelic title holders who have something valuable to contribute in promoting Irish culture could be appointed to show some initiative in the Irish Senate. On one matter my opinion remains unchanged by recent events – a full understanding of Irish history cannot be made without acknowledging the important role of the ancestors of many of those claiming ancient Gaelic titles.


The first edition of Erin's Blood Royal, published by Constable in 1999, was supposed to be withdrawn as soon as the news about McCarthy's exposure had been made, and there appeared explanations of this in various publications such as The Irish Democrat, October 1999, A new revised and corrected edition of the book, including a chapter entitled 'The MacCarthy Mór Affair' (pp.317-335) which details the author's own investigation into the an incredible Irish genealogical fraud, was published in March 2002 by Palgrave, New York. The promised commission of inquiry announced in the Dail never happened and was forgotten about, probably because the matter was too embarrassing for the Irish government whose officers had recognised and promoted Terence McCarthy's claims. Claims to Gaelic titles are no longer given validity by the Chief Herald of Ireland. On p.355 of the 2002 edition of Erin's Blood Royal, PBE concludes his history of the attempted destruction of Ireland's venerable civilization and culture: 'The current conflicts of the Chiefly Houses over the manner of their recognition by the modern Irish state may, sadly perhaps, be seen as the last dying kicks of a cultural incompatibility; the final destruction of what was once one of the most vibrant, artistic and philosophical of European cultures, the final twilight of three thousand years of cultural continuum. Or is it, one might wonder, the initial pangs of a rebirth?'


British Association for Irish Studies Newsletter 32
October 2002


Peoples in diasporas can be seen to be involved in a kind of dialectical process. According to Abdelmalek Sayad, diasporic subjects live with the mixed feelings of a temporary condition that is willingly and indefinitely postponed and that even when stability in the adopted land is achieved, it is still with a sense of a provisional state. The aim of this article is to analyse, as a case study of diasporic dialectic, William Bulfin's states of mind as native of Ireland and migrant in Argentina.

Bulfin – born during the early 1860s at Derrinlough near Birr County Offaly and educated at the Presentation School at Birr, the Royal Charter School in Banagher and the Galway Grammar School – emigrated to Argentina with his older brother Peter in 1884 when he went to work on the estancia of John Dowling from Longford in San Antonio de Areco in the Province of Buenos Aires. At that time, Irish migrants were received in Buenos Aires by friends or Irish immigrants who introduced them to their community and hosted them in Irish homes and boarding houses till they found a job on various estancias and sheep-farms in the pampas which were owned by the Irish who had come in the early 1840s. Though the new arrivals faced many difficulties in the foreign land, with its unknown language and very different culture, the Irish were still attracted by the propaganda of their own people living in the foreign land who relied much on the leadership of Father Anthony Fahy from 1844 onwards. The legendary missionary was the social articulator and the mentor of Irish destinies in Argentina: arranging marriages within their community, lending money and administrating the immigrants' earnings so that they could buy land and have their own farms. These activities and the immense extension of the pampas impressed Bulfin profoundly and became the source of his stories and sketches published in newspapers like The Irish Argentine, later in The Southern Cross (a newspaper edited for the Irish community) and in the New York Daily News. A collection of his Argentine stories – Tales of the Pampas – was afterwards published in London by Fisher & Unwin in 1900.

Although he lived in Argentina for nearly twenty-two years and became the editor and owner of The Southern Cross in 1898, Bulfin never lost his special attachment to the 'motherland'. His strong nationalist beliefs made him a prominent figure and defender of the Irish cause on the other side of the Atlantic and stimulated him to awaken Irish dreams of achieving independence by the revival of the Irish language. In an unpublished essay entitled 'The Cultural Nationalism of William Bulfin' Maureen Murphy refers to Bulfin's national life enterprise supporting the Buenos Aires branch of the Gaelic League to aid the language movement in Ireland. He raised funds and did all the printing for the Gaelic League activities, free of charge, at the press of The Southern Cross. Murphy says 'that the pages of An Claidheamh Soluis between 1899 and 1902 record the sustained giving of the Buenos Aires branch and the gratitude of the League.'

Bulfin's driving force of practical support of the Gaelic League followed his previous responses of his compatriots in Argentina who generously supported patriotic and charitable causes at home and in their adopted land. In History of the Irish in Argentina (1919), Thomas Murray reported the political connections which Irish exiles had with Ireland at the time. He explained how Michael Mulhall, owner of the newspaper The Standard, led to a campaign to raise money for a monument in the memory of Daniel O'Connell in 1863. Murray also wrote that in 1865 the Fenian Prisoners Fund which in some towns was called Fund for the Poor in Ireland, received many donations. In 1867 the first Irish National Society of Buenos Aires was founded with Fenian purposes; and in 1880 there was a meeting of the branch of the Land League of Ireland in Salto, which in 1881, led by William Murphy, opened a Fund for the Defence in the Parnell case. In all these cases, Murray published the list of donors and invited other compatriots of 'generous heart' to join them. Fund raising had also local aims like either building churches for the Irish communities in various towns, the Irish hospital and the house of the Sisters of Mercy, or the Fund for the treatment of yellow fever and cholera which often afflicted Irish immigrants.

The recent use of the word Diaspora often evokes the paradoxical imagery of traumas of separation and of geographical and psychological dislocations, as well as the promise of a new land for maintaining long-term community formations and building collective homes away from home. When Bulfin arrived in Argentina, which was a non-English speaking diaspora space, he was received and 'protected' by his own community and became part of it for seventeen years. However, his nationalist ideology persisted in keeping alive the imagined ties with his motherland and the recurring desire of returning home rather than of feeling permanently attached to the new land. That feeling of not being anchored in the place of settlement suggested the multi-placedness of 'home' among diasporic people like Bulfin. According to Avtar Brah in Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities (1998), 'home' has a paradoxical significance in the diasporic imagination: it is also the lived experience of a locality (the sounds and smells, its long winters and summer evenings, etc.) where everyday social relations are experienced. Bulfin's own diasporic narratives reveal the influential tension between 'belonging' and 'becoming', between 'roots' (homeland) and 'routes' (dispersion), so often experienced by Irish migrants.

In Tales of the Pampas and in 'Sketches of Buenos Aires' – short writings published in The Southern Cross with the pseudonym of 'Che Buono' – Bulfin is more of an observer than an agent in the process of 'becoming' a 'foreign native', he is a foreigner completely adapted to the indigenous culture yet in some respects still feeling like a foreigner. Instead of creating diasporic cultural forms with a sense of patriotism towards the adopted land, his narratives show how encounters of cultures encode practices of both accommodation and resistance to host countries.

The principles of The Southern Cross were established by its founder Msgr. Patrick Dillon when he wrote about the Irish in Argentina: 'We are, in the first place, Catholics then Irish, and lovers and admirers of our adopted country. We are liberal in politics, conservative in religion, respectful of the opinions of others and well-disposed toward all.' Clearly, the relationship of the first generation with the place of migration, mediated by memories and experiences of disruption, is different from that of subsequent generations, who try to re-orientate themselves to form new social networks, and learn to negotiate new economic, political and cultural realities. Nevertheless, the new social relations in South America took time to avoid the direct superimposition of patriarchal forms deriving from the country of emigration.

Bulfin's stories reaffirm the triumph of the Irish over the indigenous: the exiles are 'Irish in thought, in sympathy, and in character' in a different society. In 'The Course of True Love' the narrator describes how exile has modified some of the Irish idiosyncrasies and accentuated others in a process of paradoxical transformations. Practices of resistance, reproaches from assimilation and a need for self-definition were also represented by the people of the community. In 'Campeando' the narrator recalls when he was reprimanded by his friend Mike for being 'always stuck with the natives behind the galpón instead of attendin' to his good name, and that is why he'll be sent with them, and he'll get into their ways.' Yet paradoxically, in the translated terrain of his narratives on the pampas, sketches of Buenos Aires and rambles in his motherland, Bulfin suggests the possibilities of a historic transformation within his own community: he creates a new locality, a 'new home' describing aesthetically the Irish in the new land and its native people; simultaneously he struggles to re-construct the locality of his motherland for the Irish diasporic subject in Rambles in Eirinn (1907). In his introduction 'To the Reader' he affirms that it was written 'after seventeen crowded years of exile' and 'with the sole object of sharing the writer's thoughts and feelings with certain Irish exiles on the other side of the world.'

According to James Clifford in Routes: Travel and Translation in the late Twentieth Century (1997), 'homecomings are, by definition, the negation of diaspora.' It is also true that peoples whose sense of identity is defined by collective histories of displacement and violent loss cannot easily merge into a new national community and so, they feed diasporic visions of return to an original place – a land commonly articulated in mythical 'visions of nature, divinity, mother earth and the ancestors.' In Rambles in Eirinn, Bulfin explicitly tries to keep alive the collective memories of Ireland reconstructing 'home' locality from real contact with it. In the first two pages of his travel account he shows the mixed feelings of a returned exile and registers a sublimation of his motherland compared with the paradoxical negative and positive experiences of the diasporic locality. He contrasts the 'perfect weather' of the last days of June with the 'seventeen sweltering years of the sunny South' and the 'cloudless dog days of the Pampas', adding 'I laid my seven blessings on the Irish sunshine which never blisters, and on the perfumed winds of the Irish summer which are never laden with flame.' He also describes romantically the returning exiles who were up long before sunrise 'watching from the spar-deck of the steamer for the first glimpse of Ireland.' He recalls that he yearned for a cycling tour through Ireland while he was in the Pampas and he knew that if ever his hopes were realised, it would be like a 'visit to fairy-land'.

But it is while reading Rambles from a detached perspective of the emotional impact of returning home, that one can sharply focus on Bulfin's nationalist longings for nostalgic visions of his motherland. Maureen Murphy argues that the title of the book described 'not only Bulfin's roaming around the country but also his free-wheeling observations and his excursions into Irish history, literature, geography, economics and politics' as well as education. The diasporic writer says that places become alive through its history, even when he knows that historical narratives are only uncertain constructions of the past. For example, the first view of the Hill of Tara from the railroad bridge at Kilmessan moved him to the contemplation of the heroic past 'crudely reconstructed from the limited materials of an incomplete historical knowledge and an imperfect historical sense, yet, in some faint, wild, mysterious way, realized and felt.' Standing beside the Lia Fáil (the Stone of Destiny), he became aware of the Irish past of the Tuatha Dé Danaan as a 'wondrous moment, crowded with conflicting emotions, crowded with intense sorrow, with passionate love and passionate hatred, with shame and pride, with hope and exaltation.'

Historical recollections include victories and defeats in internal wars as well as a nationalist stance against English imperialist policy and cruelty. He criticises the English rule that allowed a band of capitalists to let the Irish railway die; he complains against the Irish tolerance of the evil of depopulation of the most fertile lands without a struggle or having shed torrents of blood over it. He angrily denounces that landlords 'have occasionally fallen under the vengeance of their victims, and the English Press has shrieked in pharisaical horror, calling the Irish peasantry cut-throats and barbarians.' According to him they should have left the moralists and historians 'the task of weighing and fixing responsibility' in order not to regret later when contemplating the tragedy of their history. He gets very upset at observing the various classes in perspective, at the banks of the Shannon when a crowd was watching a regatta. The sight of his people saddened him because they do not look Irish: 'in dress and accent and social conventions and amenities they had fashioned themselves by English models…Not one of them sounded a single Irish note.' In an ironic way he translates the point of view of the people who wondered what was his 'errand in this vale of tears' seeing side by side 'Footprints of Patrick! Footprints of the English! Ruins of the Golden age! Monument to Wellington from the gentry of Meath!' and the viewpoint of the Department of agriculture looking at all Irish rural problems only from an English standpoint.

The reader may ask whether all this shrewd criticism of his own people was a direct consequence of Bulfin's obsessive nationalism or whether having been distant from his country for many years and in intimate contact with another culture during that time endowed him with an objective perception of his own people's idiosyncrasy. He criticises Dublin and Belfast, the latter branded as a materialist country that repelled him; he affirms that their talk is 'un-Irish' and their materialism is strictly linked to the English, to Unionism: 'Money, money, money,/Trade, trade, trade,/Business, business.' According to Bulfin, Unionism means 'the majority kept under in the interests of the minority' which is the ascendancy and its parasites.

He also thinks of poor Ireland on the 'Might-Have-Been', and complains at the Anglicisation of the Irish mind with the 'misnamed national education system' promoting the denationalizing of schools. According to Bulfin, Ireland is 'a captive nation, and that her captors robbed her of trade as well as of everything else but her faith and honour.' Monuments like the one on Sarsfield Bridge to a hussar officer of the English army, the one to Dutch William that stands before the Old Parliament House in Dublin, are all condemned as part of the scheme to Anglicise the Irish mind 'to glorify things English in Ireland, to make English heroes the heroes of the Irish people, to accustom the Irish patriot to the constant presence in his native land of the rule and might and meanness of the Saxon.' For Bulfin, Irish nationalism has to do with race and a religion which has to be mainly Catholicism because that religion 'is broad to the extent of being as much cosmopolitan as national.'

Emigration as a bad habit is another theme that Bulfin writes about. Every time he refers to it, in spite of the fact that he is an emigrant, he does so with great lament and anger against the policies that allowed it to happen: 'there is ample room on the Connacht ranches for all the emigrants that ever left Ireland for the great stock runs of the South', and he adds later that 'some of the decline in the general health of the population' is not only due to the excessive humidity provoked by the rains that have washed away the grass of the fertile sheep-runs in Connacht, but also 'to the drain of emigration which took away the strongest of the youths and the maidens.' He feels that emigration is a 'mania' in the labouring class of Ireland and that it will take some time to cure. Ideally the movement of Irish people to industrial centres in America should be brought home. According to him, only a good system of primary education, 'national in the true sense', would 'foster a strong, self-contained, practical national spirit' which would discourage the emigration as well as the English superior position in Ireland. Two years later, Bulfin will write an article in An Claidheamh Soluis in May 1909 echoing the voice of the exiles when he supports the teaching of Irish language in the University of Ireland: 'I know positively what the Argentine Irish feel, and their feeling about the National University of Ireland is decidedly that it should be Irish through and through.'

Bulfin's championship of the need for widespread reform in Ireland after many generations of complacency makes him write that 'it was only a very poor consolation to the downtrodeden people to know that Irish valour was winning victories for other peoples, and that Irish genius was adorning the statesmanship of the other nations.' This was a direct reference to the Irish in the Southern hemisphere who adopted the political cause of the natives and became part of the Liberation Army of General San Martín like John T. O'Brien, and some of the Irish became leaders in the fights for the independence of South American countries like Admiral Brown, the founder of the Argentine navy, Joe Campbell, Colonel French, John Oughan, and General O'Higgins. Paradoxically, he manages to rejoice and complain at the same time: 'Glory to the Irelands beyond the seas! Glory of the Irish in exile! Glory of the Irish race! Glory of the racial ideal! Of what good is it all to Ireland? The battle for Ireland must be fought in Ireland, by the people of Ireland. Every strong arm and every true heart that leaves Ireland is more or less a loss to Ireland, and that was as true after Limerick as it is to day.'

Not all diasporas combine a homing instinct with drastic plans to return to reform the country of origin. Certainly Bulfin lived in South America for seventeen years and was committed to the long-term Irish community in Ireland. Eventually he succeeded in going back to his homeland, settled his family there and spent some more years crisscrossing from Ireland a triangular route across the Atlantic: staying more time in Argentina than the United States of America and then bringing to life these crossings in stories. He returned to Argentina as friend and stranger. He tended to see Ireland from Argentina as a romantic place for homecoming. Back in Ireland, he saw his motherland through the eyes of a nationalist determined to reform his country and change the course of Irish history. A tour of the USA in 1909 in the company of the O'Rahilly proved to be an unsuccessful attempt to persuade wealthy Irish-Americans to fund a Sinn Fein daily newspaper. By now a papal knight of St. Gregory for his work on behalf of the Irish Catholic community in Argentina, Bulfin died , aged only 46, at home in Derrinlough on January 30 1910.

One wonders to what extent Bulfin's version of the Irish diasporic dialectic between the homeland and the land of exile continues to happen among Irish migrants nowadays. If it still happens, another question follows - to what extent have the currents and undercurrents of sentiments and intentions among Irish exiles changed since Bulfin's day? Then two further questions arise for future investigation: is there evidence that a similar dialectic is active in other peoples who leave home in the 21st century for resettlement across the globe; and what might be the political, economic and cultural long term consequences of such a world mushrooming of diasporas?

Laura P. Zuntini de Izarra, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil


In 2006 Laura Izarra completed a postdoctoral thesis for Professorship: 'Narrativas diaspóricas: identitadades em formaçao. Os irlandeses sob a Cruz del Sur' (Diasporic Narratives: identities in formation. The Irish under the Southern Cross) which will soon be published in Argentina by Corregidor in a Spanish translation. The thesis contains the fruit of extensive research into the literary representations of the Irish diasporic communities in Argentina and Brazil with important conclusions about a literary diasporic aesthetics distinctive of South America. Maureen Murphy's essay referred to has been published in John Quinn. Selected Irish Writers from His Library edited by Janis & Richard Londraville. Professor Izarra's work-in-progress includes an anthology of William Bulfin's writings and an intellectual biography of Bulfin.