seamus dubhghaill

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


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Éamon de Valera Visits Butte, Montana During His American Tour

President Éamon de Valera visits Butte, Montana, on July 25, 1919, during his American Tour of 1919-20. Montana Lieutenant Governor W. W. McDowell meets his train and rides with de Valera through the streets to where de Valera then addresses over 10,000 people who have come out to hear him. The next day, de Valera addresses a joint session of the Montana State Legislature.

De Valera’s eventful 1919 begins in Lincoln Jail and ends in New York City’s Waldorf Astoria, the largest and most luxurious hotel in the world. Smuggled aboard the SS Lapland in Liverpool in June, he sails for the United States during the closing stages of the Paris Peace Conference. As London’s Sunday Express complains in August 1919, “there is more Irish blood in America than in Ireland,” making the United States the obvious destination for a sustained propaganda and fundraising mission.

After his highly-publicised American debut at New York’s Waldorf Astoria, the self-styled “President of the Irish Republic” embarks on the first leg of what is to be an eighteen month tour of the United States. The purpose of his mission is twofold: to gain formal recognition of the Irish Republic and to raise funds via a bond issue to support the independence movement and the newly established Dáil Éireann.

Between July and August 1919, de Valera and his entourage travel over 6,000 miles from New York to San Francisco, addressing enormous crowds at dozens of venues. He fills Madison Square Garden to capacity and receives a thirty-minute standing ovation from 25,000 people in Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Twice as many people fill Boston’s Fenway Park on June 29, cheering the arrival of the “Irish Lincoln.” The Sinn Féin envoys also visit less obvious Irish communities of the period, such as Scranton, Savannah, New Orleans and Kansas City. For de Valera’s personal secretary, Seán Nunan, the public meeting in Butte, Montana is like “an election meeting at home – there were so many first-generation Irishmen working on the mines – mainly from around Allihies in West Cork.” In San Francisco de Valera dedicates a statue of Robert Emmet by Irish-born sculptor Jerome Connor in Golden Gate Park, a replica of which stands sentinel in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin. This is one of many symbolic gestures linking the American and Irish struggles for independence played out before the flashing bulbs of the ubiquitous press photographers. On August 15 The Cork Examiner notes that the enthusiastic American exchanges “indicate that few public missionaries from other lands – possibly only Mr. Parnell – have ever had such receptions as were accorded to the Sinn Féin leader.”

De Valera’s team deserves credit for the incredible logistical triumph that is the U.S. tour. As chief organiser, Liam Mellows travels ahead to each city, ensuring a suitable reception is prepared and a venue secured for a mass meeting. Seán Nunan is de Valera’s fastidious personal secretary and Harry Boland, Sinn Féin TD for South Roscommon and Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) envoy, is at his side troubleshooting, speechmaking and shaking hands. As the tour progresses, de Valera’s supporting cast expands to include, Kerry-born Kathleen O’Connell who becomes de Valera’s full-time personal secretary from 1919.

The next stage of de Valera’s American odyssey begins on October 1, 1919 in Philadelphia, a city with a rich Irish heritage and rife with symbolism of America’s struggle for independence. Over the next three weeks, de Valera and his team travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific seaboard and back again, delivering seventeen major public speeches and a host of smaller ones to aggregate crowds of over half a million.

The pace is relentless as the Irish team makes its way through middle America. De Valera is received as a visiting dignitary at multiple state legislatures and presented with honorary degrees from six American universities. In line with his secondary objective to foster the interest of “wealthy men of the race in the industrial development of Ireland,” he addresses the Chambers of Commerce in a number of cities and arranges a personal meeting with Henry Ford, the son of an Irish emigrant, during his visit to Detroit in October. In the same month in Wisconsin, he is made a Chief of the Chippewa Nation, an honour he later says meant more to him than all the freedoms of all the cites he was ever given. It is not surprising that by the time they reach Denver on October 30, The Irish World reports that “the President looked tired.” Still, he musters the energy to make high profile visits to Portland, Los Angeles and San Diego before beginning the return journey to New York at the end of November.

After a short break for Christmas, the Irish team prepares for the launch of the Bond Certificate Drive. A week-long frenzy of publicity kicks off on January 17 at New York City Hall where Mayor John F. Hylan presents de Valera with the Freedom of the City. During the spring of 1920, de Valera addresses the Maryland General Assembly at Annapolis before making the swing through the southern states of America.

It is not all plain sailing for the Sinn Féin representatives in America. The tour of the west coast in late 1919 sees increasing tensions with American patriotic bodies who are critical of de Valera’s perceived pro-German stance during World War I. He is heckled during a speech in Seattle and a tricolour is ripped from his car in Portland by members of the American Legion. The trip through the southern states in the spring of 1920 coincides with rising American anti-immigration and anti-Catholic nativism. A small number of counter demonstrations are organised by right-wing Americans. Most notably, members of the Ku Klux Klan make unwelcome appearances at several rallies in the American south, making clear their opposition to de Valera’s presence.

The Irish envoys also contend with antagonism from the leaders of Friends of Irish Freedom (FOIF), the broad-based popular front of Clan na Gael headed by veteran Fenian John Devoy and Judge Daniel Cohalan. The FOIF uses its significant resources to finance de Valera’s tour and facilitate the Bond Certificate Drive, but behind the scenes there are significant personality clashes and tensions over tactics.

The increasingly public dispute comes to a head in a row over strategies at the Republican National Convention in Chicago in June 1920. Drawing on his influential political contacts, Cohalan persuades the Republican Party to include Irish self-determination in their election platform. However, much to Cohalan’s fury, de Valera leads a separate delegation to the Convention and insists on a resolution calling for recognition of the Irish Republic. The result is that two resolutions are submitted to the Platform Committee, which indicates dissension in the Irish ranks and gives the Committee the excuse to include neither in the final platform. After de Valera also fails to secure the endorsement of the Democratic convention in San Francisco in June, it is clear that the Irish question will not be a significant factor in the ensuing presidential election. Relations between the FOIF and de Valera reach a new low. In November 1920, de Valera makes the final break with the FOIF and sets up a new organisation, the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic.

De Valera is in Washington, D.C. on October 25 when Terence MacSwiney dies after 74 days on hunger strike. Six days later, at the last great meeting of the American tour, 40,000 people fill New York’s Polo Grounds to commemorate MacSwiney’s death. By late November, de Valera knows that it is time to return to Ireland. Smuggled aboard SS Celtic in New York harbour on December 10, he prepares for the nine-day journey home. He had failed to obtain the recognition of the United States Government for the Republic, but his cross-continental tour and associated press coverage raised international awareness and over $5 million for the Irish cause.

(From: An article by Helene O’Keeffe that was first published in the Irish Examiner on March 24, 2020 | Photo: Eamon de Valera, center, president of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic, in Butte, Montana, in 1919 to encourage support for Ireland’s fight for independence. Courtesy of Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives)


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Birth of Ronan Tynan, Singer & Former Paralympic Athlete

Ronan Tynan, Irish tenor singer and former Paralympic athlete, is born in Dublin on May 14, 1960. He is a member of The Irish Tenors re-joining in 2011 while continuing to pursue his solo career since May 2004. In the United States, audiences know him for his involvement with that vocal group and for his renditions of “God Bless America.” He is also known for participating in the 1984 and 1988 Summer Paralympics.

Although born in Dublin, Tynan’s family home is in Johnstown, County Kilkenny. He is born with phocomelia, causing both of his lower legs to be underdeveloped. Although now 6’4″ tall, his legs are unusually short, his feet are splayed outward, and he has three toes on each foot.  He is one of a set of twins, his twin brother Edmond dying at 11 months old. At age 20, he has his legs amputated below the knee following a back injury in a car accident. The injury to his back makes it impossible for him to continue using prosthetic legs without the amputation.  Within weeks of the accident, he is climbing stairs at his college dormitory on artificial legs. Within a year, he is winning in international competitions in track and field athletics. He represents Ireland in the 1984 and 1988 Summer Paralympics, winning four golds, two silvers, and one bronze medal. Between 1981 and 1984, he wins 18 gold medals from various competitions and sets 14 world records.

In the following years, Tynan becomes the first person with a disability to be admitted to the National College of Physical Education in Limerick. He works for about two years in the prosthetics industry, then goes to Trinity College, Dublin, becomes a physician specialising in Orthopedic Sports Injuries, and graduates in 1993. Encouraged to also study voice by his father Edmund, Tynan wins a series of voice competition awards and joins The Irish Tenors.

A devout Roman Catholic, Tynan has appeared on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). At the invitation of the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, he sings at the Archbishop’s installation Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on April 15, 2009.

Tynan performs in several events attended by President George W. Bush, including Ronald Reagan’s state funeral, George H. W. Bush‘s 80th birthday, the prayer service marking George W. Bush’s second inauguration, the St. Patrick’s Day reception with Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the 2008 President’s Dinner, and George H. W. Bush’s state funeral.

Tynan sings “God Bless America” at sporting event venues, such as Yankee Stadium and on several occasions prior to games involving the National Hockey League‘s Buffalo Sabres including a performance before 71,217 fans at the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic along with Sabres anthem singer Doug Allen, who performs the Canadian national anthem, on January 1, 2008, when the Sabres play the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has not performed for the Sabres since Terry Pegula purchased the team in 2011. Most recently, he sings “On Eagle’s Wings” at the 2017 Memorial Day Concert.

In 2004 Tynan sings the “Theme from New York, New York” at the Belmont Stakes where Smarty Jones fails in his attempt to win the Triple Crown. Less than a week later he is at the Washington National Cathedral for former United States President Ronald Reagan’s state funeral, where he sings “Amazing Grace” and Franz Schubert‘s “Ave Maria.”

Tynan sings for George H. W. Bush at Bush’s Houston home on the day of the president’s death on November 30, 2018. The first song is “Silent Night,” while the second is a Gaelic song. Bush’s friend and former aide James Baker says that while Tynan is singing “Silent Night,” “believe it or not, the president was mouthing the words.”

While a real estate agent and prospective buyer Dr. Gabrielle Gold-von Simson are looking at an apartment in Tynan’s building on Manhattan‘s East Side, Tynan makes what is construed to be an anti-semitic remark. Shortly after this, the New York Yankees cancel Tynan’s performance of “God Bless America” for Game 1 of the 2009 American League Championship Series on October 16, 2009 because of the incident.

According to Tynan’s version of the event, two Jewish women came to view an apartment in his building. Some time afterwards, another real estate agent shows up with a potential client. The agent jokes to Tynan “at least they’re not (Boston) Red Sox fans.” Tynan replies, “As long as they’re not Jewish,” referring to the exacting women he had met earlier. The prospective client, Jewish pediatrician Dr. Gabrielle Gold-Von Simson, takes umbrage and says, “Why would you say that?” Tynan replies, “That would be scary,” and laughs, referring to the previous incident. He subsequently apologises for his remark. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) accepts his apology. He performs at an ADL event in Manhattan soon thereafter.

Only July 4, 2010 Tynan performs “God Bless America” for the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park with the support of some in the local Jewish community.