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


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Publication of the First Issue of “Sinn Féin”

File source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sinn_F%C3%A9in_Newspaper.jpgThe first issue of Sinn Féin, a weekly Irish nationalist newspaper edited by the Dublin typesetter, journalist and political thinker Arthur Griffith, is published on May 5, 1906. It is published by the Sinn Féin Printing & Publishing Company, Ltd. (SFPP) between 1906 and 1914, and replaces an earlier newspaper called The United Irishman which is liquidated after a libel suit. Initially, Sinn Féin is a large format (slightly larger than a modern broadsheet), 4-page newspaper with 7 columns per page.

Trained as he was in the graphic side of newspaper production, Arthur Griffith has both a professional interest in and a profound understanding of visual culture. He is also very much aware of how visual discourses can be used to defend the Irish nation against cultural Anglicisation. In his newspaper propaganda he continually promotes the use of such discourses to develop a strong brand awareness for the Irish nation.

The most important graphic element of the Sinn Féin newspaper is the Déanta i nÉirinn symbol. This distinctive logo is created by the Irish Industrial Development Association (IIDA). The text in Irish means “Made in Ireland.” From the autumn of 1909, Griffith’s newspapers displays it proudly and very prominently on their front page between the words ‘sinn’ and ‘féin’ in the title-piece. It can also frequently be seen in advertisements and cartoons throughout. Both a trade description and a statement of Sinn Féin‘s industrial politics, this mark plays a fundamental role in the newspaper propaganda published by the SFPP.

For the first few years of its existence the circulation of Sinn Féin is limited. From January 1909 onwards, however, Griffith attempts to attract new readers by publishing a daily newspaper, the Sinn Féin Daily, with sensational articles from overseas, a fashion column aimed at women readers, and a new graphic approach. The daily newspaper is abandoned by the SFPP when it plunges the company into enormous debt.

Thanks to the purchase of two brand new Linotype machines, the newspaper becomes more attractive from a typographical point of view and easier to read. The addition of images give Sinn Féin a far less austere look and at the same time significantly improve its commercial appeal, with sales reaching a peak of 64,000 in September 1909. Foremost among these images are the large political cartoons which regularly appear on the front page. This user-friendly graphic discourse translates the National question into a series of emotionally charged life and death struggles set against familiar mythical and literary backdrops. At the same time, it illustrates Griffith’s instructions to the individual Sinn Féiner, indicating the path to follow and the dangers to avoid.

The man responsible for these cartoons is the Dublin-born designer, illustrator, and stained glass artisan Austin V. Molloy. At the age of twenty-two Molloy is hired by the SFPP to provide cartoons at a rate of 1 shilling and 6 pence per week. His work appears in the newspaper between August 1909 and April 1911. As is the case for many of the contributors to Sinn Féin, Molloy uses the Irish version of his name, Maolmhuidhe, to sign his contributions. His cartoons provide a snapshot of the issues preoccupying Sinn Féin’s propagandists between 1909 and 1911, namely the status of the Irish language, the development of Irish industry and the prevention of emigration.

Through The United Irishman and Sinn Féin Griffith demonstrates the need to arrogate legislature from the hands of the British by transferring Irish Parliament back to Dublin. However, Irish Parliamentary parties quite clearly cannot agree to Griffith’s urgings, as such a move would undermine the foundation of their existence in Westminster. Sinn Féin thus serves as conduit for Griffith’s opposition to the Acts of Union 1800.

The Sinn Féin weekly and the SFPP both come to an end when they are suppressed by the British Government in 1914.


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Death of Oscar Wilde, Poet & Playwright

oscar-wildeOscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, Irish poet and playwright, dies in Paris, France on November 30, 1900. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, the early 1890s see him become one of the most popular playwrights in London. He is best remembered for his epigrams and plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the circumstances of his criminal conviction for “gross indecency,” imprisonment, and early death at age 46.

Wilde is born on October 16, 1854 at 21 Westland Row, Dublin (now home of the Oscar Wilde Centre, Trinity College), the second of three children born to Anglo-Irish Sir William Wilde and Jane Wilde, two years behind his brother William. His parents are successful Anglo-Irish intellectuals in Dublin. He learns to speak fluent French and German. At university, he reads Greats. He demonstrates himself to be an exceptional classicist, first at Trinity College Dublin, then at Magdalen College, Oxford. He becomes associated with the emerging philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin. After university, he moves to London into fashionable cultural and social circles.

As a spokesman for aestheticism, Wilde tries his hand at various literary activities: he publishes a book of poems, lectures in the United States and Canada on the new “English Renaissance in Art” and interior decoration, and then returns to London where he works prolifically as a journalist. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress and glittering conversational skill, he becomes one of the best-known personalities of his day.

At the turn of the 1890s, Wilde refines his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays, and incorporates themes of decadence, duplicity, and beauty into what would be his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The opportunity to construct aesthetic details precisely, and combine them with larger social themes, draw him to write drama. He writes Salome (1891) in French while in Paris but it is refused a licence for England due to an absolute prohibition on the portrayal of Biblical subjects on the English stage. Unperturbed, he produces four society comedies in the early 1890s, which make him one of the most successful playwrights of late-Victorian London.

At the height of his fame and success, while The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) is still being performed in London, Wilde has John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry prosecuted for criminal libel. The Marquess is the father of Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. The libel trial unearths evidence that causes him to drop his charges and leads to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with men. After two more trials he is convicted and sentenced to two years of hard labour, the maximum penalty, and is jailed from 1895 to 1897. During his last year in prison, he writes De Profundis, published posthumously in 1905, a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. On his release, he leaves immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he writes his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life.

By November 25, 1900 Wilde has developed meningitis, then called “cerebral meningitis”. On November 29, he is conditionally baptised into the Catholic Church by Fr. Cuthbert Dunne, a Passionist priest from Dublin. He dies of meningitis on November 30, 1900. Different opinions are given as to the cause of the disease. Richard Ellmann claims it is syphilitic. Merlin Holland, Wilde’s grandson, believes this to be a misconception, noting that Wilde’s meningitis followed a surgical intervention, perhaps a mastoidectomy. Wilde’s physicians, Dr. Paul Cleiss and A’Court Tucker, report that the condition stems from an old suppuration of the right ear treated for several years and makes no allusion to syphilis.

Wilde is initially buried in the Cimetière parisien de Bagneux outside Paris. In 1909 his remains are disinterred and transferred to Père Lachaise Cemetery, inside the city. In 2011, the tomb is cleaned of the many lipstick marks left there by admirers and a glass barrier is installed to prevent further marks or damage.

In 2017, Wilde is among an estimated 50,000 men who are pardoned for homosexual acts that are no longer considered offences under the Policing and Crime Act 2017. The Act is known informally as the Alan Turing law.

In 2014 Wilde is one of the inaugural honorees in the Rainbow Honor Walk, a walk of fame in San Francisco’s Castro District noting LGBTQ people who have “made significant contributions in their fields.”