seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

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)


Leave a comment

Birth of Katherine Zappone, American-Irish Independent Politician

Katherine Zappone, American-Irish independent politician who serves as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs from May 2016 to June 2020, is born in Seattle, Washington, on November 25, 1953. She is a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South-West constituency from 2016 to 2020. She previously served as a Senator from 2011 to 2016, after being nominated by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.

Zappone is educated at Boston College (PhD), the Catholic University of America (MA) and University College Dublin (MBA). She becomes an Irish citizen in 1995. She and her wife, Ann Louise Gilligan, found An Cosán which supports individuals and communities to actively engage in the process of social change through transformative education. In Zappone and Gilligan v. Revenue Commissioners (2006), they unsuccessfully seek recognition in the High Court, for their Canadian marriage in Ireland. Zappone is a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission, chief executive of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, and a lecturer in the fields of ethics, theology, and education at Trinity College, Dublin. Though they are already married in Canada, she proposes to Gilligan on air as the positive result in the same-sex marriage referendum becomes known. Gilligan dies in June 2017.

Zappone is nominated by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the 24th Seanad in 2011, having been recommended by Eamon Gilmore, the then leader of Fine Gael‘s coalition partners, the Labour Party. With her Seanad nomination, she becomes the first openly lesbian member of the Oireachtas and the first member in a recognised same-sex relationship.

Zappone is elected to the Dáil for the Dublin South-West constituency at the 2016 Irish general election, becoming the first openly lesbian TD and, by her own reckoning, the world’s 32nd lesbian to be elected to a national parliament. In May 2016, after a delay in government formation, due to prolonged talks, she becomes Ireland’s first openly lesbian government Minister and the first Minister to have been openly gay at the time of appointment to cabinet, when Taoiseach Enda Kenny appoints her as the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. She loses her seat at the February 2020 Irish general election and continues to serve as a minister until June 2020 on the election of a new government.

Following the loss of her seat at the 2020 Irish general election, Zappone moves back to Seattle to work as a full-time volunteer for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in the 2020 United States presidential election, then to New York.

In July 2021, it is announced that Zappone is to be appointed to the newly created position of Special Envoy to the UN for Freedom of Opinion and Expression. It subsequently emerges that the proposed appointment had not been flagged in advance of the Cabinet meeting where it was proposed by Minister Simon Coveney, raising the concerns of the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin. However, he does not block the appointment, attracting criticism from within government, the opposition and the public, with Sinn Féin describing the appointment as “cronyism.”

In the following days it is reported that Zappone had lobbied for the creation of and appointment to the part-time position, which was not openly advertised or subject to a competition. Further controversy arises when it is reported that shortly prior to the announcement of her appointment, she had hosted a party for 50 guests, including politicians such as Leo Varadkar, at the Merrion Hotel, while the COVID-19 pandemic in the Republic of Ireland was ongoing. Comparisons are made between the party and the Oireachtas Golf Society scandal from earlier in the pandemic. On August 4, 2021, she announces that she will not take up the envoy role, saying “While I am honoured to have been appointed by the Government to be the Special Envoy on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, it is clear that criticism of the appointment process has impacted the legitimacy of the role itself. It is my conviction that a Special Envoy role can only be of real value to Ireland and to the global community if the appointment is acceptable to all parties.”

In September 2021, Zappone is invited to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, but chooses not to attend. As a U.S. citizen and resident, the committee has no power to compel her attendance.


Leave a comment

Birth of David Whyte, Anglo-Irish Poet

David Whyte, Anglo-Irish poet, is born in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, England on November 2, 1955. He has said that all of his poetry and philosophy are based on “the conversational nature of reality.” His book The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America (1994) topped the best-seller charts in the United States.

Whyte’s mother is from Waterford, County Waterford, and his father is a Yorkshireman. He attributes his poetic interest to both the songs and the poetry of his mother’s Irish heritage and to the landscape of West Yorkshire. He grows up in West Yorkshire and comments that he had “a Wordsworthian childhood,” in the fields and woods and on the moors. He has a degree in marine zoology from Bangor University, a public university in Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales.

During his twenties, Whyte works as a naturalist and lives in the Galápagos Islands, where he experiences a near drowning on the southern shore of Hood Island. He leads anthropological and natural history expeditions in the Andes, the Amazon and the Himalayas.

Whyte moves to the United States in 1981 and begins a career as a poet and speaker in 1986. From 1987, he begins taking his poetry and philosophy to larger audiences, including consulting and lecturing on organisational leadership models in the United States and UK exploring the role of creativity in business. He has worked with companies such as Boeing, AT&T, NASA, Toyota, the Royal Air Force and the Arthur Andersen accountancy group.

Work and vocation, and “Conversational Leadership” are the subjects of several of Whyte’s prose books, including Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as Pilgrimage of Identity, The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship, and The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of The Soul in Corporate America which tops the business best seller lists, selling 155,000 copies.

Whyte has written ten volumes of poetry and four books of prose. Pilgrim, published in May 2012, is based on the human need to travel, “From here to there.” The House of Belonging looks at the same human need for home. He describes his collection Everything Is Waiting For You (2003) as arising from the grief at the loss of his mother. His latest book is Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, an attempt to ‘rehabilitate’ many everyday words we often use only in pejorative or unimaginative ways. He has also written for newspapers, including The Huffington Post and The Observer. He leads group poetry and walking journeys regularly in Ireland, England and Italy.

Whyte has an honorary degree from Neumann College, Pennsylvania, and from Royal Roads University, British Columbia, and is Associate Fellow of both Templeton College, Oxford, and the Saïd Business School, Oxford.

Whyte has spent a portion of every year for the last twenty five years in County Clare. Over the years and over a number of volumes of poetry he has built a cycle of poems that evoke many of the ancient pilgrimage sites of The Burren mountains of North Clare and of Connemara.

Whyte runs the “Many Rivers” organisation and “Invitas: The Institute for Conversational Leadership,” which he founds in 2014. He has lived in Seattle and on Whidbey Island and currently lives in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. He holds U.S., British and Irish citizenship. He is married to Gayle Karen Young, former Chief Talent and Culture Officer of the Wikimedia Foundation. He has a son, Brendan, from his first marriage to Autumn Preble and a daughter, Charlotte, from his second marriage to Leslie Cotter. He has practised Zen and was a regular rock climber. He is a close friend of the late Irish poet John O’Donohue.


Leave a comment

Death of Thin Lizzy Guitarist Gary Moore

Robert William Gary Moore, Northern Irish musician, most widely recognised as a singer, songwriter, and virtuoso rock and blues guitarist, dies of a heart attack on February 6, 2011 in Estepona, Spain.

In a career dating back to the 1960s, Moore plays with musicians including Phil Lynott and Brian Downey during his teenage years, leading him to memberships of the Irish bands Skid Row and Thin Lizzy, and British band Colosseum II. Moore shares the stage with such blues and rock musicians as B. B. King, Albert King, Jack Bruce, Albert Collins, George Harrison, and Greg Lake, as well as having a successful solo career. He guests on a number of albums recorded by high-profile musicians.

Moore is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on April 4, 1952. He starts performing at a young age, having picked up a battered acoustic guitar at the age of eight. He gets his first quality guitar at the age of 14, learning to play the right-handed instrument in the standard way despite being left-handed.

At the age of 16, aiming to become a musician, he moves to Dublin. Moore’s greatest influence in the early days is guitarist Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac who is a mentor to Moore when performing in Dublin. Other early musical influences are artists such as Albert King, Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, The Shadows, and The Beatles. Later, having seen Jimi Hendrix and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in his hometown of Belfast, his own style develops into a blues-rock sound that becomes the dominant form of his career in music.

In Dublin, Moore joins the group Skid Row with Noel Bridgeman and Brendan “Brush” Shiels. It is with this group that he earns a reputation in the music industry, and his association with Phil Lynott begins.

Moore moves to England in 1970 and in 1973, under the name “The Gary Moore Band,” he releases his first solo album, Grinding Stone. Grinding Stone receives “Album of the Year” accolades on KTAC-FM/SeattleTacoma, Washington, in 1974.

In 1974 he joins Thin Lizzy after the departure of founding member Eric Bell. From 1975 to August 1978, he is a member of Colosseum II. In 1977, Moore rejoins Thin Lizzy, first as a temporary replacement for Brian Robertson, and on a permanent basis a year later.

In July 1979, he leaves the band permanently to focus on his solo career, again with help from Phil Lynott. After a series of rock records, Moore returns to blues music with Still Got the Blues (1990), with contributions from Albert King, Albert Collins, and George Harrison. Other collaborations during his solo years include a broad range of artists including Trilok Gurtu, Dr. Strangely Strange, Jimmy Nail, Mo Foster, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Jim Capaldi, B.B. King, Vicki Brown, Cozy Powell, Rod Argent, The Beach Boys, Paul Rodgers, Keith Emerson, Roger Daltrey, and Otis Taylor.

Gary Moore dies of a heart attack in his sleep at the age of 58 during the early hours of February 6, 2011. At the time, he is on holiday with a girlfriend at the Kempinski Hotel in Estepona, Spain. Moore is laid to rest in St. Margaret’s Churchyard, Rottingdean, East Sussex, England, in a private ceremony with only family and close friends in attendance.


Leave a comment

Death of Joe Heaney, Traditional Irish Singer

joe-heaneyJoe Heaney, traditional Irish singer also known as Joe Éinniú or Seosamh Ó hÉanaí, dies in Seattle, Washington on May 1, 1984. He spends most of his adult life abroad, living in England, Scotland and New York City, in the course of which he records hundreds of songs.

Heaney is born Carna, a remote village in the Irish-speaking district of Connemara, County Galway, along the west coast of Ireland on October 15, 1919. He starts singing at the age of five, but his shyness keeps him from singing in public until he is 20. He learns English at school in Carna. When he is 16 years old, he wins a scholarship to attend school in Dublin. While there he wins first and second prizes at a national singing competition. Most of his repertoire, estimated to exceed 500 songs, is learned while growing up in Carna.

In 1949, Heaney goes to London where he works on building sites and becomes involved in the folk-music scene. He records for the  Topic Records and Gael Linn Records labels. He is married for six years until his wife dies of tuberculosis.

Heaney is recorded by Pádraic Ó Raghallaigh for Raidió Teilifís Éireann, and by Peter Kennedy for the BBC in 1959. The BBC recordings are assembled on a BBC LP, not commercially issued, as BBC LP 22570.

Heaney comes to the United States in 1965 at the invitation of the Newport Folk Festival. After singing at Newport, he decides to move to America and settles in New York City. From 1982 until 1984, Heaney is an artist-in-residence at the University of Washington in Seattle after previously having taught at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

Joe Heaney dies of emphysema in Seattle on May 1, 1984. The Joe Heaney Collection of the University of Washington Ethnomusicology Archives is established after his death. The Féile Chomórtha Joe Éinniú (Joe Heaney Commemorative Festival) is held every year in Carna. An Irish-language biography of him has been written by Liam Mac Con Iomaire, and a biography that discusses his work in the larger context of Ireland and the United States was published in 2011 by Sean Williams and Lillis Ó Laoire.