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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Novelist & Screenwriter Brian Moore

brian-mooreBrian Moore, novelist and screenwriter who is acclaimed for the descriptions in his novels of life in Northern Ireland after World War II, is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on August 25, 1921. He has been described as “one of the few genuine masters of the contemporary novel.”

Moore is born into a large Roman Catholic family. His father, James Bernard Moore, is a prominent surgeon and the first Catholic to sit on the senate of Queen’s University Belfast. His mother, Eileen McFadden Moore, a farmer’s daughter from County Donegal, is a nurse. His uncle is the prominent Irish nationalist, Eoin MacNeill, founder of Conradh na Gaeilge and Professor of Irish at University College Dublin. He is educated at St. Malachy’s College, Belfast. He leaves the college in 1939, having failed his senior exams.

Moore is a volunteer air raid warden during World War II and serves during the Belfast Blitz in April and May 1941. He goes on to serve as a civilian with the British Army in North Africa, Italy and France. After the war ends he works in Eastern Europe for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

In 1948 Moore emigrates to Canada to work as a reporter for the Montreal Gazette, and becomes a Canadian citizen. While eventually making his primary residence in California, he continues to live part of each year in Canada up to his death.

Moore lives in Canada from 1948 to 1958, where he meets his first wife, Jacqueline (“Jackie”) Sirois, a French Canadian and fellow-journalist. They marry in 1952. He moves to New York City in 1959 to take up a Guggenheim Fellowship and remains there until his divorce in October 1967. He then moves to the west coast of the United States, settling in Malibu, California, with his new wife Jean Denney, a former commentator on Canadian TV. There he teaches creative writing at UCLA.

Moore writes his first novels in Canada. His earliest novels are thrillers, published under his own name or using the pseudonyms Bernard Mara or Michael Bryan. His first novel outside the genre, Judith Hearne, remains among his most highly regarded. The book is rejected by ten American publishers before being accepted by a British publisher. It is made into a film, with British actress Maggie Smith playing the lonely spinster who is the book/film’s title character.

Other novels by Moore are adapted for the screen, including Intent to Kill, The Luck of Ginger Coffey, Catholics, Black Robe, Cold Heaven, and The Statement. He co-writes the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock‘s Torn Curtain, and writes the screenplay for The Blood of Others, based on the novel Le Sang des autres by Simone de Beauvoir.

Some of Moore’s novels feature staunchly anti-doctrinaire and anti-clerical themes, and in particular he speaks strongly about the effect of the Church on life in Ireland. A recurring theme in his novels is the concept of the Catholic priesthood. On several occasions he explores the idea of a priest losing his faith. At the same time, several of his novels are deeply sympathetic and affirming portrayals of the struggles of faith and religious commitment, Black Robe most prominently.

Moore dies at his Malibu home, which is celebrated in Seamus Heaney‘s poem Remembering Malibu, on January 11, 1999 from pulmonary fibrosis. His widow, Jean, lives on in the house until it is destroyed in 2018 in the Woolsey Fire.

At the time of his death, Moore is working on a novel about the 19th-century French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud. His last published work before his death is an essay entitled “Going Home.” It is a reflection inspired by a visit he made to the grave in Connemara of his family friend, the Irish nationalist Bulmer Hobson. The essay is commissioned by Granta and published in The New York Times on February 7, 1999.

In 1996, the Brian Moore Short Story Awards is launched by the Creative Writers Network in Northern Ireland and is open to all authors of Irish descent. Previous judges have included Glenn Patterson, Lionel Shriver, Carlo Gébler and Maeve Binchy.

In 1975 Moore arranges for his literary materials, letters and documents to be deposited in the Special Collections Division of the University of Calgary Library, an inventory of which is published by the University of Calgary Press in 1987. His archives, which include unfilmed screenplays, drafts of various novels, working notes, a 42-volume journal (1957–1998), and his correspondence, are housed at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.


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Opening of Assembly’s College, Belfast

assemblys-college-belfastAssembly’s College, Belfast, opens for the training of Presbyterian clergy on December 5, 1853.

The Renaissance Revival style building with its grand Doric porch and Baroque attic is designed by Sir Charles Lanyon, the architect of the main building at Queen’s University Belfast and built with Scrabo stone at a cost of £5,000. Jean-Henri Merle d’Aubigné of Geneva participates in the opening ceremony alongside Henry Cooke, President of the Faculty. The five other professors in the new college are John Edgar, Robert Wilson, William Dool Killen, James G. Murphy and William Gibson.

There is a large influx of students in the wake of the 1859 Ulster revival and the south wing with its dining hall and student accommodations is added in 1869. Princeton Theological Seminary has an important influence in the shaping of the ethos of the College during this period as the Reverend Roberts Watts, who is appointed Professor of Systematic Theology in 1866, hopes to make “Belfast another Princeton.” The north wing with its wood-panelled chapel is designed by John Lanyon, son of original architect, and completed in 1881. The first degrees under the Royal Charter are conferred in 1883. However, the death of Watts in 1895 marks the beginning of the end of the Princetonian influence. A partial union takes place between the faculties in Belfast and Magee in 1922.

The newly formed Parliament of Northern Ireland meets in Assembly’s College from 1921 until 1932 while Stormont is being built with the House of Commons meeting in the Gamble Library and the Senate in the College chapel. During this period the College conducts classes in a house and provides library resources in a house on University Square. In 1926 the College becomes a Recognised College of Queen’s University. During this period the College comes under criticism for its embrace of theological liberalism. This culminates in a charge of heresy being brought against Professor James Ernest Davey in 1926-27. The College officially reopens in October 1932 and the inaugural lecture is delivered by the Scottish Historian Robert Rait.

Between 1941 and 1948 the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the city police, use the College as its own headquarters are bombed in the Belfast Blitz. In 1953, to mark the College’s centenary year, Prof. Davey is elected Moderator of the General Assembly.

In 1976 theological teaching at Magee College in Derry, County Londonderry, ceases and the two colleges amalgamate in 1978. The new college, constituted by an Act of Parliament, is named Union Theological College.

Today Union Theological College offers a full range of courses in Theology. The professors of the College constitute the Presbyterian Theological Faculty Ireland (PTFI) which was granted a Royal Charter in 1881 to confer academic degrees. The PTFI still awards degrees, diplomas and certificates. The majority of students are enrolled for degrees and diplomas, undergraduate and postgraduate, through the Institute of Theology of the Queen’s University of Belfast, in particular the BTh, BD, MTh and PhD.


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German Bombing of North Strand, Dublin

north-strand-bombingFour German bombs are dropped on north Dublin at approximately 2:00 AM on May 31, 1941. One bomb falls in the Ballybough area, demolishing the two houses at 43 and 44 Summerhill Park, injuring many but with no loss of life. A second bomb falls at the Dog Pond pumping works near the zoo in Phoenix Park, again with no casualties but damaging Áras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the Irish President. A third bomb makes a large crater in the North Circular Road near Summerhill, again causing no injuries. A fourth bomb falls in North Strand destroying seventeen houses and severely damaging about fifty others, the worst damage occurring in the area between Seville Place and Newcomen Bridge. The raid claims the lives of 28 people, injures 90, destroys or damages approximately 300 houses, and leaves 400 people homeless.

The first bombing of Dublin during World War II occurs early on the morning of January 2, 1941, when German bombs are dropped on the Terenure area of south Dublin. This is followed, early on the following morning of January 3, 1941, by further German bombing of houses on Donore Terrace in the South Circular Road area of south Dublin. A number of people are injured, but no one is killed in these bombings.

After the war, what becomes West Germany accepts responsibility for the raid, and by 1958 it has paid compensation of £327,000. Over 2,000 claims for compensation are processed by the Irish government, eventually costing £344,000. East Germany and Austria, which are both part of Nazi Germany in 1941, make no contribution. The amounts are fixed after the 1953 London Agreement on German External Debts, allowing maximum compensation.

Several reasons for the raid have been asserted over time. German Radio, operated by the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, broadcasts that “it is impossible that the Germans bombed Dublin intentionally.” Irish airspace has been violated repeatedly, and both Allied and German airmen are being interned at the Curragh Camp. A possible cause is a navigational error or a mistaken target, as one of the pathfinders on the raid later recounts. Numerous large cities in the United Kingdom are targeted for bombing, including Belfast, which like Dublin, is across the Irish Sea from Great Britain. War-time Germany’s acceptance of responsibility and post-war Germany’s payment of compensation are cited as further indications that the causation is error on the part of the Luftwaffe pilots.

Another possible reason is that in April 1941, Germany has launched the Belfast blitz, which results in Belfast being heavily bombed. In response, Ireland sends rescue, fire, and emergency personnel to Belfast to assist the city. Éamon de Valera, the Taoiseach, formally protests the bombing to the German government, as well as making his famous “they are our people” speech. Some contend that the raid serves as a warning to Ireland to keep out of the war. This contention is given added credibility when Colonel Edward Flynn, second cousin of Ireland’s Minister for Coordination of Defensive Measures, recalls that Lord Haw Haw has warned Ireland that Dublin’s Amiens Street Railway Station, where a stream of refugees from Belfast is arriving, will be bombed. The station, now called Connolly Station, stands a few hundred metres from North Strand Road, where the bombing damage is heaviest. Flynn similarly contends that the German bombing of Dundalk on July 4 is also a pre-warning by Lord Haw Haw as a punishment for Dundalk being the point of shipment of Irish cattle sold to the United Kingdom.