Category Archives: Memory

“The disparity in years between you”: A random letter about marriage from nineteenth century Philadelphia

In 15 years, she will be in the prime of life – and you will, most probably, be a feeble old man.

While combing through collections in archives I often come across random letters and documents that may be interesting independent of their relevance to the project at hand. One such letter was in the Malcolm Hay Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. I came across it during a fellowship with the Library Company and decided to transcribe the letter and present it here in its entirety for those who might be interested in questions related to marriage, reputation and social etiquette in nineteenth century Pennsylvania.

The letter in question was sent by Peter Hay in July 1858 to his son Henry Hay. The collection is named after Henry’s brother, Malcolm. A prominent family of lawyers, the Hays were influential Democratic Party members at both a local and state level. Elegantly written, the letter is essentially a warning to Henry from his father to break-off a whirlwind romance with a much younger girl, aged seventeen. Peter warns his son that this blossoming romance and the imminent wedding might be a “mistake”, a possible “false step”, and that the disgrace of such a marriage would not only reflect upon the couple, but also upon Henry’s children and “indeed on all your relatives”.

His father’s reflection on the union grows ever more pessimistic as the letter continues and he dwells further on the age gap between the pair. He notes that his son, aged forty-two, was a full twenty-five years older than his seventeen-year-old fiancée. Despite the girl’s mother having given her approval of the marriage Peter appeals the their greater life experiences stating that both he and his future mother-in-law should understand the differences in ages means there will be difficulty on the physical side of their relationship, if not immediately then in the near future. He cleverly explains this in a story about another colleague who married a woman twenty years younger, and, when asked if she is happy she reportedly replied she was as happy as could be expected “considering the difference in our ages” (emphasis in original), a fairly overt, if polite, reference to their sex lives.

Peter saves his most devastating argument for last noting that “Mrs. R” will be his children’s mother as well as his wife and questions how she is expected to fulfil this duty when his own children are as old as her. How can a young and inexperienced girl act as “their moral instructor and the guide and director in household matters”? He continues and writes that:

…the willingness of a girl of that age after a few weeks acquaintance with a gentleman nearly old enough to be her grandfather, to assume such a fearful responsibility, would of itself satisfy me, that she has no adequate conception of the position she decrees to occupy…

Upon first reading the letter might seem overly harsh, and though the message was delivered in a blunt manner, it was also couched in affectionate and diplomatic language. The letter opens with the father acknowledging that he cannot dictate his son’s actions simply advise him as “a father and a friend”. The final paragraph is quite touching and he tells his son the letter is not designed to “wound your feelings” and if there was anything in the letter that caused offence, “I trust you will forgive me”. It is hard to imagine that his son was not hurt by the letter, but still, Peter simply seems to be telling him what everyone else in society was thinking, trying to make him aware about the reality of their situation.

Further research reveals some interesting background to the letter and Henry’s decision on the engagement. Henry Hay’s first wife, Mary Ann Hay was only three years younger than himself. She died in her early thirties from an unknown and drawn out illness, probably tuberculosis. They had an Irish domestic servant in the US census of 1850 with the unlikely name Biddy Kline. There are two possible explanations, the first is that the census taker misheard her surname. Possibly he heard an Irish surname like Kane and wrote a name he was more familiar with, Kline. The second, and less likely explanation, is that the domestic servant is pretending to be Irish in order to gain employment in the household. Irish women, although caricatured for their tendency to work as domestic servants, were generally sought after because they spoke English, and thus held a significant advantage over other female continental European immigrants to the United States. The second explanation would also explain the weird appearance of the letter P on its own just before Ireland in the birthplace column for Biddy, and might indicate he was about to write Poland. A more likely cause is that the census taker was about to write Pennsylvania as he did for the previous six entries before he was corrected that Biddy was born in Ireland.

The next census in 1860, taken two years after the letter was sent reveals that the marriage went ahead despite Peter’s objections and the couple were living in Bristol Township in Pennsylvania. The census also reveals that certain details in the letter are accurate. Peter was not exaggerating when he said that the children would be older than their mother-to-be. Their ages in the census reveal that Henry’s eldest son, Henry Junior, was nineteen at the time of the letter, a full two years older than his fiancée. Emma, the first name of “Mrs R.”. She was actually pregnant at the time of the census and would give birth to another Emma (they weren’t very creative when it came to children’s names) in December of that year. This child grew up, married and eventually died in the same area, passing away at home with her husband, Otis Vroom, caring for her in a house a few short miles from where she was born. The cause of death was Uremia, and the date of her passing, aged 54, was almost one hundred years ago, on 14 June 1915. It would be nice to think that centenaries might allow us to contemplate equally on the lives of the vast bulk of humanity as well as the massacre of hundreds of thousands in a futile conflict. This letter, a random letter I came across by chance, would have meant the world to Emma Hay Vroom, whose existence hinged on the decision of her father and mother to fly in the face of familial reputation and social convention in the year 1858.

The letter in its entirety follows.

Philadelphia July 7th 1858

I felt it my duty, a few days ago, frankly to express my regret at your contemplated marriage, and have some of the reasons upon what that sentiment was founded. I have since concluded, in order to avoid misapprehension, to present them in a more condensed & desirable form, for your serious consideration. I assume no right to dictate to you on that or any other subject. I only claim the privileges of a father and a friend to offer my best advice. It is for you to accept or reject it. You are my first born son, and are the only surviving offspring of the wife of my youth. I have almost reached the ordinary limit of human life, and in the course of events, I expect soon to be called hence. I have looked to you as the friend and counsellor of my children after my death; and feel that any false step made or any disgrace incurred by you would cast its reflection on them- and indeed on all your relatives.

I repeat, what I said to you the other day that in my judgment your own happiness and that of your children required that you should be married – and the sooner the better; but that the utmost caution should be used in selecting a suitable person to occupy the position of wife and mother. A mistake on this point will be fatal. Your happiness and the present and future destiny of your children are involved in the issue. Do the conditions that are absolutely required for an able and satisfactory discharge of their duties, meet in Mrs. R.? I think, not. Look at the disparity in years between you. By the record you are nearly 42 years old; in constitutional vigor, not less than 50. Mrs. R. I have reason to believe, is under 17. In 15 years, she will be in the prime of life – and you will, most probably, be a feeble old man. This is a grave consideration for both parties.

Will she be willing to be tied for years to a man as good as dead? Are you willing, for the sake of a temporary gratification, to expose a young woman to the temptation, and your own honor to the risk of such a state of things? Consider the matter well. I have been told, in substance, that her mother has expressed it as her daughters sentiment, that if she loved a man she did not care about his age – even if he were 70! In the young lady this may be ignorance or romance, and a few short years, or even months would forever dissipate the illusion; but her mother and you know better…

A distinguished gentleman of this city, with whom you are personally acquainted, at the age of 46 or 48, married a beautiful and accomplished young lady of about 20, now deceased – A short time after her marriage, a lady acquaintance of mine called on her, and after the usual compliments, inquired how she liked married life? She relied that her husband was as kind, affectionate and attentive as possible, and that she was as happy as could be expected, “considering the difference in our ages.” The feelings, tastes and habits of early youth and mature age are different. Nature intended them to be so; and we cannot violate her laws with impunity. This lady was a faithful wife; has her children now nearly grown up; but I doubt whether she was ever happy. Her husband is, even now, a hale, vigorous old man.

You have a family of seven children – one of whom is little more than an infant, and three of them will require the constant and vigilant supervision of a discreet, intelligent and experienced woman, during the next few years, the most critical period of their lives, within which their character, for good or evil, is to be found.

The long continued illness of their mother and your inability from absence to devote the necessary time and attention to their education (I mean education in the largest sense) have greatly increased the difficulty of the task that will devolve on the lady to whose care they may be committed – a task, which I repeat without the fear of contradiction, no girl of 16 or 17, unless possessed of very extraordinary mental and educational endowments is at all competent to fulfil; [sic] and the willingness of a girl of that age after a few weeks acquaintance with a gentleman nearly old enough to be her grandfather, to assume such a fearful responsibility, would of itself satisfy me, that she has no adequate conception of the position she decrees to occupy, and is so anxious to be secure and comfortable home as to risk every thing else, regardless of consequences. I presume that Supt. R. Is a respectable, industrious, and attractive in appearance; but still she is a mere girl, who instead of being places at the head of a large family of children, some as old as herself, ought to be at school- a girl not a whit superior if indeed she is equal in intellect and experience to several of your children, of whom you are thinking of selecting her as their moral instructor and the guide and director in household matters. I should suppose, that by the time you were so far awake to the sober realities of life, as to be in no danger, in view of all of your responsibilities of being fascinated by the smiles or the pretty face of a mere girl- so far at least as to be driven to abandon all the proprieties of life. Am I mistaken?

So far as I can learn, all your relatives by blood or affinity, without exception, regard the step you propose taking, with the deepest regret and mortification. They view it as in every way unsuitable, and fraught with disaster to yourself and your children; and in this sentiment, it appears to me that every right minded man or woman, not blinded by prejudice or passion, will concur.

I have written to you thus, my dear son, with a sad heart- not to wound your feelings, or to inflict or injury on any human being; but under a solemn conviction, that it is my duty to warn you of what I verily believe is an impending danger, and to implore you not to do an act which, I feel opposed, will be a continual source of the deepest regret and remorse as long as you live. This is the first time in your life that I have ever appealed to you on any subject. You know that it is not my course to do so, and that I am not easily moved. If I have said any thing that you may think harsh of unkind, I trust you will forgive me. I have no motive in addressing you but to guard you against a threatened evil and to promote your best interest and that of your family, with which my own [cross] and that of these I love are closely identified. Your affectionate father, Pete Hay To Henry Hay esq.

Sources

Malcolm Hay Papers #1788 Box 104 Folder 3. 1850 U.S. Census, Middletown Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, p. 307. 1860 U.S. Census, Bristol Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, p. 33. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, File No. 13762.

This research was facilitated by the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Library Company of Philadelphia.

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Reading History: Tom Hunt’s Sport and Society in Victorian Ireland

Moving on from my last ‘reading history’ post, I’ve decided to speed forward a little in time to a book I read in my first year as an undergraduate in University College, Cork. This book has had a profound influence not alone on me, but on my field of specialist research since it was first published in 2007. Continue reading

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Reading History: The Young Oxford History of Britain and Ireland

In a now famous injunction, E.H. Carr in his classic text What Is History? suggests that if you want to know the historian, then you should know their history. While Carr meant this in terms of the politics that will have informed the historian, I’m using it in this post, as a jumping off point for an extension of Carr’s injunction. More than just knowing the historian’s history, it might be worth knowing their reading history. And so, here’s a short look at one of the history books that I can both recall reading in a vivid way, but which has also survived in a way that many other books I was given over the years has not. Continue reading

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Jewish Waterford, 1893-1940

Cormac Ó’Gráda’s book Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce, was a ground-breaking work for looking at religious and ethnic minorities in Ireland historically. I recently heard Ó’Gráda speaking as part of the UCC Historical Society’s History Week. Ó’Gráda spoke about the potential of the 1901 and 1911 census, especially in relation to the study of minorities in Irish life from that period. With that in mind, and following on from some tentative work which I had done for my PhD thesis, I’ve decided to sketch a portrait of Waterford’s Jewish community from the end of nineteenth century up to the beginning of the Second World War.

The Beginnings of the Jewish Community in Waterford

According to Louis Hyman, in his history of Irish Jewry up to 1910, ‘At the close of the seventeenth century, the Council of the Waterford Corporation encouraged the settlement of foreign merchants.’ One man who applied to trade freely in the city was Jacob Nunes who was given the freedom of the city to conduct trade in 1701.[1] Thus Nunes has a fair claim to being Waterford’s first Jewish settler. Again, Hyman notes that ‘individual Jews resided in Waterford in the eighteenth century, and some were there in 1805, one of them, surely Josias Jacob, registered with the Dublin Goldsmith’s Company in 1809. About the middle of the nineteenth century, the grandparents of the late Professor James Desmond Bernal settled in the town.’[2] According to the census of 1871, there was still only a solitary Jew in Waterford, however that was all about to change. With the introduction of what are popularly known as the May Laws, many Jews in Tsarist Russia made their way to Britain and Ireland. As Hyman notes, this movement of Jews from what was sometimes called Russian Poland, and Lithuania, had the effect ultimately of strengthening the communities of Jewish settlers in places other than in Dublin and Belfast.[3]

One of the earliest mentions of the new Jewish community in Waterford comes from 1893 with the death of Joseph Diamond at the age of 68, who lived on 8 Manor Street in the city centre, a street in Waterford that would in time form a central part of the Jewish community in the city.[4] Many of the Jews then settled in Waterford were Welsh, and were part of the Jewish community in Britain that were middle-class emigrants from Central Europe, what were known in Ireland as “English Jews”. The lives of these Jewish people were in stark contrast to those who would come to make up the bulk of Britain, Ireland, and Waterford’s Jewish communities in time, those fleeing pogroms and persecution in Russia.

Shortly after the death notice of Joseph Diamond, the Jewish Chronicle noted that a congregation had been established in the city, with Mr R Smullian as president, and so prayers were held for the  Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, for probably the first time in Waterford’s history.[5] A year later, the Jewish Chronicle again mentioned the new congregation noting that:

Mr and Mrs Goldring presented a Scroll of the Law to the newly-established congregation. In the evening they gave a party to which every Jewish resident of Waterford was invited. Mr M. Simon presided  and great satisfaction was expressed by the Chairman, Mr Hanasan[sic], President of the congregation, Mr R. Smullian, Mr Levy, Mr Diamond and others at the formation of the congregation.[6]

With the congregation up and running in Waterford city, the Jewish community there could do perform rites of their faith in their new home, rather than travelling to other cities in Ireland with synagogues. The development of the congregation breathed life into the city’s Jewish community and it wasn’t long before the city saw its first Jewish wedding, something which attracted a great deal of interest from Waterford people generally:

On Wednesday 14th inst the first Jewish wedding that has been solemnised in Waterford took place in the synagogue 88 the Manor. The couple were Miss Fanny Diamond and Mr Jack Lappin. The ceremony was performed by Rev J. E. Myers of Cork assisted by the local minister Rev Simon Aarons. The wedding created a great deal of interest  in Waterford and the synagogue was filled with Christians. Rev J. E. Myers  preached on Sabbath morning and also at a special service on Sunday evening, the latter attended by several Christians. Mr Goldring, President, and his wife have made handsome presents to the synagogue. Mr Robinson is Treasurer and Mr J. Levy is Hon Sec.[7]

The development of the community was of interest in particular to JE Myers, who ministered to the Cork congregation, and who visited Waterford on a number of occasions.[8] The community was growing in strength and in no time, there was a plan to open a Hebrew School in the city.[9] As the Jewish community grew and developed, children were born into families in Waterford, like the Sherowitz family. The progress of the community in Waterford was followed closely by the Jewish Chronicle, and many notices, no matter how small, relating to the city’s community, appeared throughout its pages. And so we know that some of the members of Waterford’s Jewish community got involved in politics, like Harris Sherowitz who sent a letter to John Redmond MP on the Aliens Act in 1905, signed by many, in the hopes that he would seek amendments to it. There was a significant difference between the size of the community in 1901 and by 1911. The interwar period was the peak of the Jewish community in Waterford, built as it was by the community that had developed and was captured in the census of 1911. Waterford’s Jewish community was at its most numerous in the city then: there were around 62 Jewish people in Waterford at that date. It was never bigger, before or since. While these numbers obviously pale in their significance when placed next to the Jewish communities of Dublin, Cork or Limerick, nevertheless the Jewish community in Waterford left their mark on the city. These maps show where Waterford’s Jewish community settled in the city (click images to enlarge them):

Fig. 1: Jewish Settlement in Waterford, 1901

Fig. 1: Jewish Settlement in Waterford, 1901

As you can see from Fig. 1 above, the very small community that existed in 1901, was centred in the main around John Street and Manor Street. This concentration would remain in 1911, as you can see from Fig.2, below:

Fig. 2: Jewish Settlement in Waterford, 1911

Fig. 2: Jewish Settlement in Waterford, 1911

To get the full effect, Fig.3 below shows both the 1901 and 1911 settlements overlaid on each other:

Fig.3: 1901 and 1911 Jewish Settlement in Waterford, overlaid on each other.

Fig.3: 1901 and 1911 Jewish Settlement in Waterford, overlaid on each other.

These few streets then, encompassed Waterford’s Jewish community until the beginning of the Second World War.

The Figure of the ‘Jewman’ in Popular Imagination and Memory in Waterford

Once the community strengthened, and became a more visible presence in the city, centred as it was around John Street and Manor Street, the figure of the ‘Jewman’, in that peculiar Irish turn of phrase, was a figure of curiosity and later, folk memory. In Waterford a song was sung called ‘The Jewman’, and according to Dermot Power was popular at one time with workers in Denny’s Bacon curing factory back in the late 1920s and 1930s, when the community was at its height. If as Hyman’s history of the Jews in Ireland has it ‘they knew no trade but peddling’, a fact contested in Ó’Gráda’s work, then this aspect of Irish Jewry is well summed up in the opening verses of ‘The Jewman’:

 At the top of town, Anne Street, a lady does dwell,

Her name I won’t mention, I dare not tell,

One cold winter’s morning the Jewman did call,

And unslung his bag outside of the hall.

He knocked at the door with his usual grin,

Saying good morning, missus, is your husband within

Says she no he’s not I want nothing today,

Ah take something said the Jewman don’t send me away.[10]

In the song, the woman takes some blankets on the promise of payment the following week, and duly the following week no payment is forthcoming, so the Jewman makes a grab for his goods, is hit over the head with a can by the woman before both are brought before a court, the song finishing with the testimony of ‘a big red nosed Bobby’ and a suitably amdmonished Jewman:

Said the Jew oh your Worship my poor head is sore,

And I’ll never go look for me wool anymore.[11]

As Cormac Ó’Gráda notes of such songs, and this particular one seems to have existed in a variety of versions Dublin as well, were indicative of views among Irish people that were ‘more xenophobic than strictly Anti-Semitic.’ Indeed, he contends that ‘the outlook of most Irish people of all persuasions was blinkered, parochial, and prejudiced by today’s standards.’[12] Such was the power over the local imagination of this figure, the ‘Jewman’, that one of Waterford’s lanes, Kneeff’s Lane, was popularly known as ‘Jewman’s Lane’. Indeed, the popular folk memory of the ‘Jewman’ and ‘Jewman’s Lane’ were revisited in a recent documentary about the Barrack Street area in the heart of Waterford city (the relevant segment is from 36:00 to 38:45):

As we’ve seen, the first Jewish marriages and other occasions were of deep interest to many locals, and something of this interest first present in the 1890s remained in the 1930s, as when the Munster Express carried a small notice relating to the Jewish Day of Atonement in September 1931.[13] Members of Waterford’s Jewish community found themselves in court on occasion, and in a rare display of anti-Semitism, a local District Court judge told a member of the family that he should count himself lucky, given what was happening to his people in Hitler’s Germany, though many rushed to defend the judge saying his comments were not meant in such a way.[14] There was also this joke which appeared in the pages of the Munster Express:

Munster Express, June 26 1936

Munster Express, June 26 1936

Still, whether this properly reflects the relationship between the Jewish community and their hosts is difficult to ascertain for certain, perhaps like the figure of the ‘Jewman’ this was more parochial than anti-Semitic. One of the more unusual stories involving Ireland’s Jewish community and Waterford comes from the late 1930s as well. Frank Edwards, a member of the Communist Party of Ireland and rugby player with Waterford City RFC and teacher in Mount Sion, took a leave of absence from his teaching duties in the school to join the International Brigade  to fight fascism during the Spanish Civil War. Upon returning, Edwards was refused his old job and barred from teaching in any Catholic school. Rev. Herzog, the Chief Rabbi in Ireland, gave Edwards a job teaching in Zion Schools, recently established on Bloomfield Avenue in Dublin, where Edwards would work for the next thirty years.[15]

The legacy of Waterford’s Jewish Community

Ray Rivlin’s Jewish Ireland: A Social History, contains a chapter on sport and entertainment.[16] The chapter opens with the story of Maurice Woolfson, a Jewish Waterford man who led local club Evergreen, when they achieved great victory on the field in the 1930s. The Woolfson name is an important one in the early history of Waterford soccer. Isaac Woolfson, was in the 1930s, chairman of the Waterford and District Association Football League and a key figure in establishing the first Employer’s League in 1931, forerunner to the factory leagues. Like many of the figures explored in Anthony Clavane’s Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here?, men like Isaac, Maurice and later ‘Duffy’ Woolfson, emigrant Jews from the poor edges of Russia, who were not of the middle-class “English Jew” origins of earlier Jews in Waterford, used sport, and soccer in particular as a means of integration and acceptance. Cormac Ó’Gráda, discussing the wide variety of sporting and other bodies established by Ireland’s Jewish community noted that success in the sporting arena ‘fostered communal pride’ but he also noted that it wasn’t long before many Irish Jews, and the membership of their sports clubs, moved beyond the community itself. [17]In 1938, with Maurice Woolfson as chairman, Evergreen won the FAI Minor Cup, beating Sligo United 2-1 in a game held at Kilcohan Park in the city. On his leaving for Dublin 1940, the loss was lamented by all involved in the club.

The Woolfson family dispersed from Waterford but returned in 1971 for the inauguration of the Maurice Woolfson Perpetual Challenge Trophy for the local Schoolboy League at half time during a League of Ireland game between Waterford and Finn Harps. However, as was noted by a journalist at the time, the contribution of the Woolfson family to Waterford soccer amounted to a lot more than just a silver trophy, ‘no matter how magnificent’.[18] The same might be said of the entire Jewish community, who breathed life into the streets on which they lived in Waterford, leaving a long lasting impression on the city and its people.


[1] Hyman, Louis, The Jews of Ireland: From Earliest Times to the year 1910, Shannon: Irish University Press 1972, p.22

[2] Hyman, The Jews of Ireland, p.79

[3] Hyman, The Jews of Ireland, p156 and 161

[4] Jewish Chronicle, 1 September 1893

[5] Jewish Chronicle, 22 September 1893

[6] Jewish Chronicle, 20 October 1894

[7] Jewish Chronicle, 23 November 1894

[8] Jewish Chronicle, 27 March; 17 July 1896

[9] Jewish Chronicle, 6 November 1896

[10] Power, Dermot, The Ballads and Songs of Waterford from 1487, Waterford: Munster Express 1992, pp.10-11

[11] Power, Ballads and Songs of Waterford, p.11

[12] Ó’Gráda, Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce: A Socio-economic history, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2006, p.180

[13] Munster Express, September 25 1931

[14] Munster Express, Septembr 27 1935

[15] Rivlin, Ray, Ireland: A Social History, Dublin: The History Press Ireland, 2011, p.110

[16] Rivlin, Ray, Jewish Ireland, pp.209-210

[17] Ó’Gráda, Jewish Ireland, pp.186-187

[18] Munster Express, April 23 1971

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First World War Commemoration in Waterford, 1918-1930

This coming weekend, a memorial to those who died during the First World War will be officially unveiled in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. In recent years there has been a greater engagement by academic historians and the general public with the role of Irish men and women and their experience of the First World War. Publications like the Royal Irish Academy’s Our War and A Great Sacrifice have helped to bring the history of Irish involvement in the conflict to the fore of public consciousness.[1] In part this is driven by a revision of that period of Irish history, a desire to place the history of Ireland into a broader framework of the rest of what then constituted the United Kingdom, but to also bring Irish history into closer contact with the narratives of wider European history.

First World War Memorial, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford to be unveiled this weekend. Source: Waterford County Museum facebook page

First World War Memorial, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford to be unveiled this weekend. Source: Waterford County Museum facebook page

Waterford had a proportionately quite high number of men join up to fight in the First World War. Unsurprisingly then, the tradition of marking Armistice Day took on important significance in Waterford, in both city and the county. This memorialising began almost immediately, with Armistice Day being marked in the city and county immediately. Given the domestic upheavals of the period the act of remembering was often complicated. In Dungarvan in 1920 for instance, there was some concern about whether or not shops would close as a mark of respect during the procession in the town and it appears that the local British forces stationed in the town ensured that businesses did indeed close by marching, fixed bayonets in hand, through the main street just after 11 o’clock in the morning, which prompted most businesses to shut their doors. In Dan Fraher’s store, two of his shop assistants were compelled to leave the shop and marched to remove a Sinn Féin (that’s to say the Irish tricolour) flag from a position on the castle in the town and were both then brought to the barracks followed by a group of waggish young lads who whistled Wrap the Green Flag Around Me. The tricolour was replaced with a Union Jack, and although a lorryload of Black and Tans apparently arrived on the scene, the tense incident ended without any physical harm coming to anyone.[2]

Meanwhile in 1922, Waterford saw its biggest such gathering yet. The memorials which had been taking place each November in Waterford city were organised by the local Legion of Ex-Service Men’s Club. On this, the fourth such marking of Armistice Day, the crowds attending was said to be very large, and indeed the largest yet seen for the occasion.[3] The procession headed by the Legion Clubs banner, included both the Barrack Street Brass and Reed Band and the Erin’s Hope Band. Although the Barrack Street Band led the procession, and Erin’s Hope Band were the back marker, interspersed between the various Legion members, including the Portlaw branch, widows and other family members were also the Thomas Francis Meagher Band and the Legion’s own band. When the procession along the Barrack Street and the Mayor’s Walk ended at Ballybricken all four bands played the “Dead March” from Saul, each in turn.[4] The role of music, and the juxtaposition of musical strains with the two-minutes silence that accompanied the marking of the Armistice was a crucial part of memorialising the First World War generally and the impact of it in Waterford is palpable from the newspaper reports.[5]

Capt. Willie Redmond gave a rousing speech to the people assembled on Ballybricken saying that he hoped that in time to come that Irish ex-servicemen would also see the benefits that were sure to accrue to Ireland in the future. He finished his speech by saying he hoped that the Legion would “in each succeeding year, as has been the case in the past… will find a still greater manifestation of devotion and reverence for the memories of our comrades of the days gone by.”[6]

The following years the numbers attending the memorial in Waterford apparently increased again. This fifth anniversary also mentions that the sale of the Flanders poppy was on sale and “worn by many” throughout the day.[7] The report also made note that the memorial services were held across religious denominations, but the one in Christ Church was noted especially for the tolling of its bells in memory of the dead. The assembly of the marchers began at 2.30, with the procession again headed by the Legion Club’s banner and the Barrack Street Band beginning at 3pm. The report in the Munster Express noted that one of the most splendid banners was that of the Waterford branch of the Sailors and Firemen’s Union. The circuit of the procession, which began in Ballybricken went from  Morgan Street, through Thomas Street, , The Quay, The Mall, Parnell Street, Johnstown, Ballytruckle and back to Ballybricken via Bunker’s Hill, Barrack Street and the Mayor’s Walk. The solemnity of the occasion at the end of the march is remarkable, the banner of the Legion and the Unions were placed in the centre of a circle when four lone buglers played the Last Post, led by Trumpeter Fox, bringing the procession to an end.[8]

The Route taken by those who marked Armistice Day in Waterford, 1923.

The Route taken by those who marked Armistice Day in Waterford, 1923.

The same procession took place the following year, with the circle being formed and all banners and placards with the names of the dead being placed in the centre as music was played. It was estimated that some 11,000 turned out in 1924 for the Armistice celebration in 1924 in Waterford.[9] Again we see the important role of music had to play in the proceedings, with all four of the city bands taking part each year. The 1926 procession saw special notice being given to 80 plus Waterford men who perished with SS Formby and SS Coningbeg, two ships owned by the Clyde Shipping Company, with a specific memorialisation for those men taking place at 11.40am that day on the Waterford Bridge. That year as well their being the usual four city bands, they were also joined by a band from New Ross, Co. Wexford and the Welsh Miner’s Band from Maesteg, a part of Wales with deep Irish connections.[10] The favour was returned by the Waterford Legion band the following year, with a large crowd travelling for Remembrance Sunday celebrations by train to New Ross.[11]

On the tenth anniversary of the Armistice, we are told that crowds were not what they had been though apparently inclement weather had militated against the celebrations somewhat on that occasion. The procession was much the same as in previous years, and there were commemorations in both Waterford and Tramore separately.[12] The eleventh anniversary was well-marked again but after this, there seems to be a drop off in the scale and coverage of the Armistice Day memorials happening in Waterford. The reports of 1930 in the local press recognise as much though notice again the sale and wearing of poppies in the city on the Saturday and Sunday around the Armistice, which the Munster Express claimed reckoned £91 the previous year, raising an almost identical sum of £90 in 1930.[13] With the unveiling of the new memorial in Dungarvan, a more permanent memorial to those from the city and county who died can stand in the stead of the hundreds and thousands of those who throughout the 1920s stood on Ballybricken green, Legion and Union banners fluttering as the Last Post emanated from the trumpets and bugles of locals.


[1] Dooley, Thomas P., Irishmen or English Soldiers? the times and world of a southern Catholic Irish man (1876-1916) enlisting in the British army during the First World War, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1995 for a good history of Waterford enlistment

[2] Munster Express, 20 November 1920

[3] Munster Express, 18 November 1922

[4] Ibid.

[5] See Dyer, Geoff, The Missing of the Somme, Edinburgh: Cannongate, 2012 edn.

[6] Munster Express, 18 November 1922

[7] Munster Express, 17 November 1923

[8] Ibid.

[9] Munster Express, 16 November 1924

[10] Munster Express, 19 November 1926

[11] Munster Express, 25 November 1927

[12] Munster Express, 16 November 1928

[13] Munster Express, 14 November 1930

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‘Viva Chile!’ Remembering 11 September 1973

Allende addresses a crowd

Salvador Allende addresses a crowd

History cannot be stopped by either repression or crime.

Salvador Allende, 11 September 1973

On 11 September 1973 troops moved into position in the major cities of Chile, occupying telecommunications, water and electricity plants, securing road and rail junctions and surrounding the presidential palace in Santiago, La Moneda, trapping inside the nation’s president, Salvador Allende.

Allende had been voted into the office of president in September 1970, his left-wing coalition Popular Unity (UP) having secured 36.6 per cent in the popular ballot. The UP was composed and dominated by the Socialist Party and the Communist Party, along with smaller left-wing organisations and the centrist Radical Party. It was elected on a broad progressive programme that advocated widespread agrarian reform, increased provision to health and education for the poor in the cities and the countryside, and the nationalisation of the key sector of the economy, the copper industry, controlled by US companies. These reforms would be accompanied by the gradual introduction of worker and community representatives in the decision-making process in the workplace and in state institutions. This top-down ‘revolution’ was dubbed the Chilean road to socialism. Despite the seemingly narrow victory for Allende himself, this programme was very similar to the one advocated by the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), although not carried out in practice while it was in government. Embarking on the election campaign with similar policies, the PDC candidate received 27.8 per cent of the vote.  These suggested reforms then, had a far wider base in society than the vote for Allende at first suggests. The bill to nationalise the copper industry, advocated by Allende for the past thirty years, had become such a widely accepted idea that it was passed unanimously in Congress and signed into law on 22 November 1970. Not everything would go so smoothly.

Allende’s reforms threatened the vested interests not only of the Chilean elite, but also of the United States. The US had since the early nineteenth century pursued a policy of domination in what it called ‘its own backyard’, i.e. Latin America, as advocated in the Monroe Doctrine, exploiting the continent’s resources for its own benefit through clientelist relations with often corrupt governments. The Cold War exacerbated these tendencies, prompting major investment in finance for right-wing media and political parties, and overt and covert military training to stop the spread of what it called ‘communism’ in Latin America. Any mildly reformist government in the region posed a threat to the US domination of the continent’s resources, and so could be tarred with the communist brush and overthrown as with Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954. The success of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 inspired thousands of Latin Americans, and intensified US concern with the region. Thus the CIA spent between $800,000 and $1,000,000 trying to stop the election of the UP in 1970. When this alone failed to have the desired effect, a new strategy was required.

President Nixon famously instructed his people to ‘make the economy scream’, and ordered the CIA to begin preparing for what was called ‘Track II’ – a military coup. Right-wing terrorist groups funded by the CIA carried out bomb attacks, kidnappings and assassinations, assigning blame to left-wing paramilitary groups in order to create a climate of fear. Despite this, the UP increased its vote in the municipal elections of April 1971 to over 50 per cent. Violence intensified between left groups and the fascistic ‘Land and Liberty’ group, and street demonstrations involving the wealthy became common. In October 1972, a national transport strike organised and supported by business, the PDC and largely funded by the CIA inflicted large damage on the economy. Allende rallied hundreds of thousands of people to voluntarily transport goods, consolidating his own base, but the failure of the strike also  intensified the calls for a coup among the right. In many ways Allende was too wedded to the idea of freedom of speech, and naive regarding the role of the military. In March 1972, documents were released demonstrating efforts by US multinational ITT to undermine the UP government, supported by the CIA and right-wing groups in Chile. Throughout that year, sections of the media openly called for a coup, but Allende failed to sanction them. Furthermore, Allende had an unwavering belief in the constitutionalism of the Chilean military, and failed to significantly reform it during his time in office. During the transport strike, he even appointed three military men to cabinet. Despite an unsuccessful coup attempt by the 2nd Armoured Regiment on 29 July 1973, defeated by officers loyal to the government, Allende failed to act. This lack of action would in the end undermine him.

In the weeks following, more and more officers loyal to the government were replaced in their positions by supporters of a coup. On 11 September 1973, upon the orders of General Pinochet, they struck.

allende moneda

Allende defends La Moneda

At 6 a.m. naval forces took the port city of Valparaiso, and cut communications with Santiago. At 8 a.m. the military moved in the capital. The coup was relatively quick and bloody. Allende, however, holed up in La Moneda with a group of defenders, refused to surrender. At 9.15 a.m., Allende gave his last speech to the nation:

This will surely be my last opportunity to address you. The Air Force has bombed the towers of Radio Portales and Radio Corporación. My words contain not bitterness, just disappointment. They should stand as a moral castigation of those who have been traitors to their oaths: Chilean soldiers, titular commanders-in-chief, Admiral Merino, who has designated himself commander of the Navy, and even more señor Mendoza, the cringing general who only yesterday manifested his fidelity and loyalty to the Government, and who also has named himself Director General of the Carabineros. In the face of these deeds it only falls to me to say to the workers: I shall not resign!

Standing at a historic point, I will repay with my life the loyalty of the people. And I say to you that I am certain that the seed we have planted in the worthy conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans, cannot be reaped at one stroke. They have the power, they can make us their vassals, but they cannot stop the social processes, neither by crime nor by force. History is ours, and it is made by the people.

Workers of my country: I want to thank you for the loyalty you have always had, the confidence you placed in a man who was only the interpreter of great yearnings for justice, who pledged his word to respect the Constitution and the law, and who did so. In this final moment, the last in which I will be able to address myself to you, I want you to take advantage of the lesson: foreign capital and imperialism, united with reaction, created the climate for the Armed Forces to break their tradition, which they were taught by general Schneider and which was reaffirmed by commander Araya, victims of the same social sector that today will be be expecting, with an alien hand, to reconquer the power to continue defending their profits and their privileges.

I address myself to you, above all to the modest woman of our land, to the campesina who believed in us, the mother who knew of our concern for the children. I address myself to the professionals of the nation, to the patriotic professionals who continued working against the sedition overseen by their professional academies, classist academies that also defended the advantages of a capitalist society.

I address myself to the youth, to those who sang and who brought their happiness and their spirit to the fight. I address myself to the man of Chile, to the worker, to the campesino, to the intellectual, to those who will be persecuted, because in our country fascism has now been present for several hours; in the terrorist assassinations, blowing up the bridges, cutting the railways, destroying the oil and gas pipelines, in the face of the silence of those who had the obligation to behave.

They too were committed. History will judge them.

Radio Magallanes will surely be silenced and the calm metal of my voice will no longer reach you. That is not important. You will continue to hear me. I will always be with you. At least my memory will be that of a man of dignity who was loyal to the nation.

The people should defend themselves, but not sacrifice themselves. The people should not allow themselves be subdued or persecuted, but neither should they humble themselves.

Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will go beyond this grey and bitter moment when treason tries to impose itself upon us. Continue to know that, much sooner than later, we will reopen the great promenades down which free men pass, to construct a better society.

Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!

These are my last words and I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain, I am certain that, at the least, I will be a moral lesson to castigate felony, cowardice, and treason.

Following his speech, Allende released anyone not in state service. Meanwhile, he and a few others, remained to defend the building. As fighter jets bombed La Moneda, and helicopters fired tear gas through the flames, Allende and his  cohort fired from the windows at the attackers. When the ammunition was spent, he ordered the surrender of the remaining defenders to spare their lives while he closed the door behind him, and refusing to surrender, committed suicide.

Allende's glasses, discovered in the ruins of La Moneda. Author's photo.

Allende’s glasses, discovered in the ruins of La Moneda. Author’s photo.

In the massacre that followed, thousands were rounded up, tortured and executed, most famously in the National Stadium in Santiago, as graphically depicted in the 1982 film Missing. Amongst these was the popular Chilean folk singer Victor Jara. Thousands more simply ‘disappeared’, a practice to become common in Latin America over the next two decades. Hundreds of thousands more were forced into exile, including the playwright Ariel Dorfman and the film-maker Patricio Guzman, director of The Battle of Chile which documents the three years of the UP government and the Pinochet coup, and the 2004 documentary Salvador Allende.

Pinochet’s junta, with the assistance of US advisors including the ‘Chicago Boys’, would become an experimental ground for what would be termed ‘neo-liberalism’. Privatisations of areas including health and education would become the norm, lauded by Reagan and Thatcher. Despite the transition to democracy in 1990, the effect of the coup and dictatorship is still strongly felt in Chile.

Statue of Allende keeps watch over La Moneda. Author's photo.

Statue of Allende keeps watch over La Moneda. Author’s photo.

Forty years on, Allende and the UP continue to inspire. A statue of Allende now keeps watch over La Moneda, and the efforts of the UP have been emulated to an extent by a new wave of left-leaning governments throughout the continent. Forty years on, it is important that we remember not only the coup, but the  efforts of millions in Chile and throughout Latin America to change society for the benefit of the majority, and that we learn from their experiences. In this way, the disappeared will not have vanished.

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Bloody Sunday: November 21 1920 – Representation and Legacy

As we wend our way through the next decade of commemorations great and small, sometimes with a sure footing, sometimes without, Fintan O’Toole has written that ‘the decade that is being marked is not only about violence and conflict but it is undeniably steeped in bloodshed, animosity and disastrous division. History should not wallow in these swamps, but it cannot stay clear of them either.’[1] Violence and sport are age-old bed-fellows – whether on the pitch or in the stands – violence, and the threat of it, forms part of the frisson of sporting endeavour. However, some forms of violence enacted in sporting contexts are utterly unexpected. Violence doesn’t tend to form as strong a part of Irish people’s conception of their sporting history as it does say in England, where violence at football in particular has been absorbed into its narrative particularly in the last forty years. Largely this is because the same phenomenon, hooliganism, hasn’t received quite as much attention in an Irish context – except by a sensationalist press – and because it happened on a much smaller scale. There is an exception to this: one violent act does loom large in Ireland’s sporting history.

Representation

One of the stand-out sequences in Neil Jordan’s biopic Michael Collins are those depicting the events of November 21 1920, more commonly known as Bloody Sunday. One of the most arresting aspects of Jordan’s portrayal is the Gaelic football match between Tipperary and Dublin in Croke Park. As with much of the film, Jordan took some liberties in portraying this retaliatory event, though having read some contemporary reports, there seems little need since the reality strikes me as being sufficiently shocking. Two of Jordan’s key changes, partially for the purposes of narrative drive but also for visual impact, was firstly to have the shooting done by Auxiliary Forces rather than the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), and secondly to have an armoured tank come on the pitch to do the shooting, but this did not happen, rather the tank was outside the ground firing into the air. Sean Crosson, discussing the scene in an article on representations of the GAA on film says this scene was one of the most controversial on the films release in Ireland, in November 1996. According to Crosson ‘Jordan has defended his use of armoured cars as he wanted this “scene to last more than 30 seconds”‘.[2]

“A Thrilling Game Expected!”: A Challenge Match

Due to the disruptions to normal life caused by the war of independence, there were serious knock-on effects for sport too. Matches were less frequent and competition difficult to compete. It was in this context that a challenge match was arranged between Tipperary and Dublin to be played in November 1920. An ad in the Irish Independent the day beforehand let us know a thrilling game was expected between the challengers and the Leinster champions.[3] Somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000 people turned out to witness the game. What few of the spectators would have known was that morning, some 14 British intelligence officers were shot around various parts of Dublin (according to Ferriter several were not in fact intelligence agents at all and one was a cousin of Michael Davitt).[4] FSL Lyons wrote that ‘this multiple shooting spread a wave of horror through both England and Ireland’ but, he continues on ‘the horror was redoubled by the revenge of the Black and Tans’, where in Lyons’ words they ‘fired indiscriminately on the players and the crowd.’[5] Not long into the match, shots rang out as according to some armoured vehicles were parked at each corner of the ground. Amid the confusion, 13 civilians – some of them children – were killed and one player, Tipperary captain that day Michael Hogan, was shot in the mouth as he scrambled to duck from the firing.  Mike Cronin, Paul Rouse and Mark Duncan’s The GAA: A People’s History wrote of it that ‘of all the bloody days of the War of Independence, this was the bloodiest of them all – at least in terms of its impact on the public psyche.’[6]

Press Reporting

In the days and even weeks following this event, the newspapers were full of reports of the events as more and more of what happened slowly came to light. The thrilling match that had been advertised turned out to be something rather different. Rather than a tale of sporting exploits, the headline in the Irish Independent that Monday read starkly:

Irish Independent, Monday 22 November 1920

Irish Independent, Monday 22 November 1920

The newspaper reported ‘terrifying scenes’ when the RIC, military and auxiliaries made their appearance. They reported too that there were ‘most painful scenes’ as the dead and injured were picked up and brought to hospital for treatment.[7] The Freeman’s Journal wrote about a priest who ministered the last rites to the injured and dying.[8] The same issue of the newspaper carried an official statement from Dublin Castle to say that the RIC and other personnel had gone to the grounds on information of finding some particular suspects.[9] The Freeman’s Journal a few days later reported that Sir Hamar Greenwood in response to a query in Parliament about the matter that ‘the firing by the Crown forces was fully justified in the exceptional circumstances of the situation Sunday last.’[10] The Irish Times reports were the only ones to acknowledge that there was some ambiguity to the exact sequence of events, and conflicting reports. Given the papers political stance, the front page next Saturday led with the murder of the famous ‘Cairo Gang’ but their front page also had this as a follow on from that story:

Irish Times, Saturday 27 November 1920

Irish Times, Saturday 27 November 1920

Legacy

In the aftermath of the event, Hogan was buried in his Tipperary jersey, his coffin draped in the Irish tricolour. In their people’s history of the GAA Mike Cronin, Paul Rouse and Mark Duncan write of Bloody Sunday 1920 being ‘for the GAA… an entirely new aspect to the place of Croke Park in the story of the Association. This was now more than merely a playing field: it was martyred ground’. It was, they write ‘the place where people had been shot because they attended a Gaelic football match.’[11] Echoing this, John Sugden and Alan Bairner described the event as one ‘etched in the consciousness of Gaels’ and argue that ‘events like [Bloody Sunday] rapidly accelerated the alienation felt between the authorities and the Irish people’, thus ‘undermining the basis for continued British rule in Ireland.’[12]

The  naming of a stand after the Tipperary player who died, Michael Hogan, four years later attests to this – it is indeed hard to sit in a seat in the Hogan Stand and not, even briefly, cast your mind back to the event and so to the surrounding events. This stand was built in time for the 1924 Aonach Tailteann, a project for promoting the newly independent state to the world via the medium of sport.[13] Brian Hanley informs us the events of Bloody Sunday were being used in the mid-1960s in an United Irishman newspaper article on the ban on foreign games where the journalist insisted that on that day in 1920 the Black and Tans “knew where to find the Fíor Gael” and that was at Croke Park and not at Lansdowne Road or Dalymount.[14]

A ticket from the Bloody Sunday match, recently sold at auction. Image Source: www.thurles.info

A ticket from the Bloody Sunday match, recently sold at auction. Image Source: www.thurles.info

Former President of the GAA Peter Quinn (1991-1994), reflected that when the GAA was during his tenure considering the redevelopment or building of a new state-of-the-art stadium that the management committee decided that ‘tradition, history, the symbolism of Hill 16, the memory of Bloody Sunday and a myriad of other factors’ dictated against a new ground and instead the redevelopment of Croke Park as it then existed.[15] According to an Irish Examiner report, a ticket from that match (pictured above) was sold at auction in Co. Clare in 2012 for over €5,000. The same article notes that another ticket from the match had a few years previously, in 2007, sold for around the €7,500 mark. The Irish Examiner article places this March 2007 sale in the context of the opening of Croke Park to foreign games.[16] The event was a central part of the Queen’s visit to Croke Park as part of her visit to Ireland in the summer of 2011, where according to a report on TheScore.ie then President of the GAA, Christy Cooney, while making reference to the tragic events of Bloody Sunday 1920 said that

We also know that in our shared history there have been many tragic events which have inflicted hurt on us all.

While acknowledging the significance of the past and honouring all those that have lost their lives, including those that died in this place, the Gaelic Athletic Association has consistently supported and helped advance the peace process in Northern Ireland.

This use of the event stands in stark contrast to that which Brian Hanley noted in the 1960s in the pages of the United Irishman. This particular articulation of the event, as being part of a shared history, is in keeping with the more conciliatory role the GAA has been seen to play since the 1990s, and noted by both Bairner and Sugden in their work on sport and sectarianism in Ireland. Of all the legacies, tributes, and modes of commemoration, one stands out most. The most poignant tribute made to Hogan was the one when Tipperary would play Dublin for the title of 1920 All-Ireland champions in 1922, and upon winning, the Tipperary players gathered at the spot where Hogan was shot to hear the music struck up by the CJ Kickham band.[17]


[1] Fintan O’Toole, “Beyond Amnesia and Piety” in Horne, John and Madigan, Edward, Towards Commemoration: Ireland in War and Revolution, 1912-923, Dublin: Royal Irish Academy 2013, p.158

[2] Seán Crosson, “Gaelic Games and ‘the Movies’”, in Cronin, Murphy, Rouse (eds.) The Gaelic Athletic Association, 1884-2009, Dublin: Irish Academic Press 2009, p.119

[3] Irish Independent, 20 November 1920

[4] Diarmaid Ferriter, The Transformation of Ireland, 1900-2000, London: Profile Books 2005, p.235

[5] FSL Lyons, Ireland Since the Great Famine, London: Fontana Press 1985 edition, p.419

[6] Cronin, Duncan, Rouse, The GAA: A People’s History, Cork: The Collins Press 2009, p.154

[7] Irish Independent, 22 November 1920

[8] Freemans Journal, 22 November 1920

[9] Ibid.

[10] Freemans Journal, 27 November 1920

[11] Cronin, Duncan, Rouse, The GAA: A People’s History, p.154

[12] Sugden, John and Bairner, Alan, Sport and Sectarianism in a Divided Ireland, London: Leicester University Press 1993, p.33

[13] Cronin, Mike and Higgins, Roisín, Places We Play: Ireland’s Sporting Heritage, Cork: The Collins Press 2011, p.96; See also Mike Cronin, “The Irish Free State and Aonach Tailteann”, in Bairner, Alan (ed.) Sport and the Irish: Histories, Identities, Issues, Dublin: UCD Press 2005, pp.53-69

[14] Brian Hanley, “Irish Republican Attitudes to sport since 1921”, in McAnallen, Hassan and Hegarty (eds.), The Evolution of the GAA: Ulaidh, Éire agus Eile, Dublin: The GAA 2009, p.179; Interestingly though, one of the Tipperary players that day – James McNamara, had less than ten years previously won trophies playing soccer with Cahir Park Football Club, see Paul Buckley, Cameos of a Century, Cahir: Cahir Park 2010, p.9

[15] Peter Quinn, “From Tigh Mór to Croke Park”, in McAnallen, Hassan and Hegarty (eds.), The Evolution of the GAA, p.48

[16] Irish Examiner, 15 February 2012

[17] Cronin, Duncan, Rouse, The GAA: County by County, Cork: The Collins Press, pp.362-3

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