George A. Birmingham


Life

[pseud. of Rev. James Owen Hannay (1865-1950); b. 16 July 1865, Belfast, the son of a Church of Ireland clergyman; ed. Haileybury and TCD, ord. 1889 [var. 1888]; became rector of Holy Trinity Church, Westport, Co. Mayo, 1892-1913 [offic. 1916]; appt. Donnellan Lecturer, TCD, 1901-02; active in Gaelic League, he withdrew from executive in 1906 to avoid a split among amongst the nationalist Catholic membership arising from the animosity of a parish priest from Tuam in response to a supposed caricature in his novel The Seething Pot (1905); issued Is the Gaelic League Political? (1906), in support of the League and its revivalist policy; criticised for Hyacinth (1906), the story of Hyacinth Conneally, who moves from Protestantism to Irish nationalism and finally rejects fanaticism in favour of faith and family - the narrative being identified with a convent-centred industry taken to be the Foxford Woollen Mills;

 

issued The Northern Iron (1907), the story of Neal Ward, son of the Presbyterian minister [Micah] who becomes involved in the 1798 Rebellion and finally escapes to America, being set at Ballintoy, Co. Antrim; published, Benedict Kavanagh (1907), a novel in which the title-character finds his ground between the claims of a nationalist father and the unionist clergyman who raised him and makes a passionate plea for the Gaelic League; Spanish Gold (1908), featuring Rev J. J. Meldon and Major Kent, in an adventure on the Aran Islands ultimately centred on wise Aran islander Thomas O’Flaherty Pat; The Search Party (1909), in which an anarchist moves to Clonmore (Westport) and kidnaps local dignitaries and visiting MPs, and featuring Dr. Lucius O’Grady, Birmingham’s fictional alter ego;

 

wrote Eleanor’s Enterprise, a play produced by Count Markievicz for the Independent Theatre (1911); boycotted in Westport after successful production of play, General John Regan, a novel featuring Dr. O’Grady and Major Kent in a tale about a nationalist monument raised by a returning American to a non-existent Irish hero; a play-version of the same was premiered by Charles Hawtrey in London (1913) and toured in Ireland, causing scenes in Westport during which Birmingham was burned in effigy and ejected from Gaelic League, 1914; called ‘the bigot of Westport’ by D. P. Moran; issed The Red Hand of Ulster (1912), a tale of rebellion in Ulster led by an Irish-American millionaire, resulting in an independent Protestant Ulster; issued Irishmen All (1913), a study of Irish types ill. by Jack Yeats; Adventures of Dr. Whitty (1913), stories [incl. ‘The Deputation’, set in Land Commission days];

 

appt. Canon of St. Patrick’s, 1912-22; protested against expression of attachment to the Union at the Church of Ireland Synod, 1912, on grounds of realism; edited and introduced Recollections of Sir Jonah Barrington (1918), professing that they would ‘shock very severely the cultured sentimentalist who has fallen in love with the dear, dark head of Kathleen Ni Houlihan’; issued A Padre in France (1918); became rector of Kildare Parish, 1918-20 and afterwards chaplain to the Viceroy and later still to the British ambassadorial legation in Budapest, 1922; settled into the Anglican living of Mells, Somerset, 1924-34, in which latter year his wife died; moved to Holy Trinity [Church], Kensington, as vicar, 1934-50;

 

wrote nearly 60 gently satiric novels on Ireland and other words of fiction incl. Lalage’s Lovers (1911), The Grand Duchess (1924) and Millicent’s Corner (1935); also Pleasant Places (1934), an autobiography; as Hannay he published The Spirit of Christian Monasticism (1903), The Wisdom of the Desert (1904), The Connaught to Chicago (1914), A Wayfarer in Hungary (1925), and the biographies Isaiah (1937) and Jeremiah (1939), concerning the prophets; also Appeasement (1939), a political essay; ultimately disappointed in his efforts to resolve the Irish conflict from the standpoint of Christian toleration; awared DLitt TCD, 1946; d. Kensington, London. ODNB NCBE IF DIL DIW DIB DIH KUN FDA DUB OCIL

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Works
Fiction [as George Birmingham]
  • The Seething Pot (London: Edward Arnold 1905; 6th imp. 1906), 300pp.;
  • Hyacinth (London: Edward Arnold 1906), and Do. [another edn.] (London & NY: Hodder & Stoughton [n.d.]), 316pp.;
  • Benedict Kavanagh (London: Edward Arnold 1907; Hodder & Stoughton 1913);
  • The Northern Iron (Dublin: Maunsel 1907; Do. [another edn.] (London: Everett [1912; var. 1913], and Do., [fifth printing of Maunsel edn.] (Dublin: Talbot 1945), 320pp.;
  • The Bad Times (London: Edward Arnold 1908; 3rd ed. Methuen 1913);
  • Spanish Gold (London: Edward Arnold 1908), and Do. [31st edn.] (London: Methuen 1935), rep. (London: Bodley Head 1973, 1990) [introduced by R. B. D. French];
  • The Search Party (London: Edward Arnold 1909, and edns.), and Do., intro. Trevor West [rep. edn.] (Bodley Head 1973 1990);
  • Lalage’s Lovers (London: Methuen 1911, 1915), 216pp.;
  • The Major’s Niece (London: Smith, Elder 1911);
  • The Simpkins Plot (London: Nelson 1911);
  • The Inviolable Sanctuary (London & NY: T Nelson & Sons 1911) [BML n.d.; DIL 1912; UUC c.1912], 369pp. front., map [in US as Priscilla’s Spies];
  • The Red Hand of Ulster (London: Smith, Elder; NY: George H. Doran 1912) [1st edn. London, July; Colonial Edn., July 1912; new impr. Aug., Nov., 1912, March 1913, May 1914, 1/- net; intro. note by Kilmse of Errigal], and Do., rep. with introduction by R. B. D. French (Dublin: IUP 1972), 277pp;
  • General John Regan (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1913), 323pp;
  • The Adventures of Dr. Whitty (London: Methuen 1913);
  • The Lost Tribes (London: Smith, Elder 1914), 331pp.;
  • Gossamer (London: Methuen 1915);
  • Minnie’s Bishop and Other Stories (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1915), 344pp. [another edn.]; Methuen 1949), 205pp. [infra];
  • The Island Mystery (London: Methuen 1918);
  • Our Casualty (London: Skeffington 1919);
  • Up the Rebels! (London: Methuen 1919) [ded. ‘to any friends I have left in Ireland/after the publication of this book’];
  • Inisheeny (London: Methuen 1920);
  • Lady Bountiful (London: Chrisophers 1921);
  • The Lost Lawyer (London: Methuen 1921);
  • The Great-Grandmother (London: Methuen 1922);
  • A Public Scandal (London: Hutchinson 1922);
  • Fed Up (London: Methuen 1923);
  • Found Money (London: Methuen 1923);
  • King Tommy (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1923);
  • Send for Dr Grady (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1923);
  • The Grand Duchess (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1924);
  • Bindon Parva (London: Mills & Boon 1925);
  • The Gun-Runners (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1925);
  • Goodly Pearls (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1926);
  • The Smuggler’s Cave (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1926);
  • Now You Tell One: Stories of Irish Wit & Humour (Dundee; London: Valentine & Sons 1927), 36pp. [mounted frontispiece];
  • Ships and Sealing Wax (London: Methuen 1927);
  • Elizabeth and the Archdeacon (London: Gollancz 1928; Methuen 1952);
  • The Runaways (London: Methuen 1928, cheap ed. 1932), 252pp.;
  • The Major’s Candlesticks (London: Methuen 1929);
  • Murder Most Foul! (London: Chatto & Windus 1929);
  • The Hymn Tune Mystery (London: Methuen 1930);
  • Wild Justice (London: Methuen 1930);
  • The Silver-Gilt Standard (London: Methuen 1932);
  • Angel’s Adventure (London: Methuen 1933);
  • Connaught to Chicago (London: Nisbet 1914 [1st edn.]; London: Methuen 1932) ) [var. 1933: DIL]; Two Fools (London: Methuen 1934);
  • Love or Money (London: Methuen 1935);
  • Millicent’s Corner (London: Methuen 1935);
  • Daphne’s Fishing (London: Methuen 1937);
  • Mrs. Miller’s Aunt (London: Methuen 1937);
  • Magilligan Strand (London: Methuen 1938), 250pp.;
  • Miss Maitland’s Spy (London: Methuen 1940);
  • The Search for Susie (London: Methuen 1941), 250pp.;
  • Over the Border (London: Methuen 1942) [FDA ?1944];
  • Poor Sir Edward (London: Methuen 1943);
  • Lieutenant Commander (London: Methuen 1944);
  • Good Intentions (London: Methuen 1945), 190pp.;
  • The Piccadilly Lady (London: Methuen 1946);
  • Golden Apple (London: Methuen 1947), 249pp;
  • A Sea Battle (London: Methuen 1948);
  • Laura’s Bishop (London: Methuen 1949);
  • Two Scamps (London: Methuen 1950);
  • Good Conduct (London: John Murray [n.d.]).

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Collected Fiction
  • The Birmingham Bus [containing Spanish Gold, The Search Party, Lalage’s Lovers, The Adventures of Dr Whitty] (London: Methuen & Co. 1934) 888pp.
Miscellaneous
  • The Lighter Side of Life (London & Edinburgh: T. N. Foulis 1911; 1914; 4th edn., 1921; fifth edn., 1922), vii, 270pp; 16 col. ill. Henry W. Kerr [FDA3 err. 1912];
  • Intro. to Katherine Frances Purdon, Folks of Furry Farm (1914) [q.v.];
  • Introduction to Recollections of Jonah Barrington [Every Irishman’s Library; Gen. Ed. A. P. Graves, with William Magennis, Douglas Hyde] (Dublin: Talbot Press; London: Fisher Unwin [1918]) [infra];
  • ‘The Church of Ireland’, by J. O. Hannay, in Irish Year Book [Sinn Féin; c.1919], pp.129-132;
  • Irishmen All (London & Edinburgh: T. N. Foulis 1913), 224pp [12 col. ills. from oil paintings by Jack B. Yeats];
  • Golden Sayings from George A. Birmingham (London: L. B. Hill 1915);
  • Spillikins: Essays (London: Methuen 1926);
  • Can You Answer This? A Question Book (London: T. Fisher Unwin 1927), and Do. (London: Ernest Benn 1946), 88pp.;
  • Do you Know Your History? A History Questions Book (London: Gollancz 1928);
  • Appeasement (1938) [var. 1939].
  • with Forbes Patterson, Round Our North Corner, with explanatory notes on Portrush, the White Rocks, Dunluce Castle, &c. (Giant’s Causeway: Mrs Florence E. Glass [1955]), 3-35pp.

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Autobiography
  • A Padre in France (London: Hodder & Stoughton [1918]), 302pp. [var. 1919];
  • An Irishman Looks at His World (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1919), 307pp. [var. 1923];
  • A Wayfarer in Hungary (London: Methuen 1925);
  • Pleasant Places (London: Heinemann 1934), ill.
Drama
  • General John Regan (London: G. Allen & Unwin 1933)
Articles
  • [as James Hannay,] ‘Recent Humorists, Aytoun, Peacock, Prout’, in North British Review 45 ([1896]), pp.75-104;
  • [as George A. Birmingham,] ‘The Literary Movement in Ireland’, in Fortnight Review, LXXXII (Dec. 2 1907), pp.947-57;
  • [as J. O. Hannay,] ‘The Stage Irishman: His Origins and Development’, The Irish Times (8 Feb. 1912), p.7.
Translations
  • L’avoué disparu histoire irlandaise traduite [...] par Louis Labat [The Lost Lawyer] (Paris 1933), 74pp.;
  • Muiris Ó Cathán d’aistrigh [trans.], Iarann an Tuaiscirt (Oifig Díolta Foillseacháin Rialtais 1933), 317pp.;
  • La double escapage traduit par Labat [The Runaways] (Paris: La Petite Illustration 1938);

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Bibliographical details
Minnie’s Bishop and Other Stories(NY: Hodder & Stoughton), 344pp. CONTENTS: Minnie s bishop; Sonny; Onnie Dever; Saints and scholars; For the famine of your houses; Fundamental society; Matty Hynes pig; Bedclothes; The child of our hope; Mad Antony; Civil war; The despatch rider; The highwayman; Turquoise and pearl; The ghosts; The mysterious envelope; The violinist; Passionate kisses; Eleanor's enterprise; The Careys; This lost land; Mrs. Williams; “Well done”; Biddy Canavan; The prodigal; The fate of John Goodenough.

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Criticism
Brian Taylor, The Life and Writings of James Owen Hannay (George Birmingham) 1865-1950 (Edwin Mellen Press 1995), 276pp.

See also Andrew Gailey, ‘An Irishman’s World’, in The Irish Review, 13 (Winter 1992/93), pp.31-39; Eileen Reilly, ‘James Owen Hannay, George A. Birmingham, and the Gaelic League’, in Irish Encounters: Poetry, Politics and Prose, ed. Alan Marshall & Neil Sammells (Bath: Sulis Press 1998) [Chap. 6; qpp.].

‘Lost Fields; An Introduction to the Life and Work of Six Ulster Novelists’ [Supplement, ed. Damian Smyth], in Fortnight Review, 306 (Belfast: May 1992), which incls. Brian Taylor, ‘George A. Birmingham’, pp.16-18 [with port. J. S. Sleator]; Tess Hurston, ‘[The] Lost Tribes and Spanish Gold’, pp.18-19; Also a poem by John Hewitt, ‘Delivered at the Unveiling of a Plaque Commemorating George A. Birmingham, 19 Nov. 1951’.

[Qry: ?Studies (Autumn 1993) covers the controversy concerning the ejection of George Birmingham from the Gaelic League by reason on his Ascendancy connections.]

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Commentary
D. D. Sheehan, Ireland Since Parnell (London 1921), [Chap. VII] “Forces of Regeneration and Their Effect”: ‘“George A. Birmingham” (who in private life is Canon Hannay), in his admirable book, An Irishman Looks at his World, tells us: “The most important educational work in Ireland during the last twenty years has been done independently of universities or schools,” and in this statement I entirely agree with him. And I may add that in this work Canon Hannay himself bore no inconsiderable part. During a political campaign in Mayo in 1910 I had some delightful conversations with Canon Hannay in my hotel at Westport, and his views expressed in the volume from which I quote are only a development of those which he then outlined. Both as to the vexed questions then disturbing North and South Ireland and as to the lines along which national growth ought to take place we had much in common. We agreed that nationality means much more than mere political independence - that it is founded on the character and intellect of the people, that it lives and is expressed in its culture, customs and traditions, in its literature, its songs and its arts. We saw hope for Ireland because she was remaking and remoulding herself from within - the only sure way in which she could work out her eventual salvation, whatever political parties or combinations may come or go.’ (Access full-text version via Sheehan, q.v.)

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Maurice Headlam, Irish Reminiscences (1947), account of fishing in the west of Ireland: ‘At that time we were all full of George Birmingham’s Spanish Gold, and we found his mary Kate and the rest of them whenever we landed on an inhabited island.’ (p.89); later remarks that a colleague of his called his dg. ‘Mary Kate’ after the character in the novel (p.228).

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R. B. D. French, Introduction to George A. Birmingham, The Red Hand of Ulster Dublin: IUP 1972), ‘Under clerical direction he (Birmingham) was attacked for irreligion, sectarian prejudice and social snobbery. Like J.M. Synge, who at the same time was learning the dan,gers of satire and irony in a country not mature enough for self criticism, Hannay was found to be possessed of a virulent hatred for all things Irish. The burning of his effigy had some effect on him. The local clerical attitude towards him caused a major crisis in the Gaelic League, and it was noticeable that he had the support of many of the younger Roman Catholic clergy. Even years later, after he had left Westport, the production there by a touring company of General John Regan provoked a riot in the town.’

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A. N. Jeffares, W. B. Yeats, A New Biography (1988), p.244, remarks on Yeats use of the account of the monks of the Thebiad and their ecstatic fasting, something of which he had read in two books [viz. Christian Monasticism, 1903, and Wisdom of the Desert, 1904] by the Anglo-Irish clergyman the Rev. J. O Hannay (who, as GAB wrote novels now underestimated, both serious and comic) [...; &c.]

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Roy Foster, Paddy and Mr. Punch (London: Lane 1993), introduces Birmingham as ‘that attractive novelist and incomparable observer’, and adds that his conjecture that there had been a greater fluidity before 1880s is well-founded (p.74); quotes: ‘the most striking feature of Irish politics is the stability of parties’ (An Irishman Looks at his World, 1919, pp.1.)

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Harold J McCormack, letter to Times Literary Supplement (12 Nov. 1994), disputes [Gaelic League Pres.] Proinsias Mac Aonghusa’s contention that Hannay [Birmingham] was not ejected from the Gaelic League (TLS, 4 Nov. 1994), and quotes from Hannay’s correspondence: ‘The Roman Catholic priest in Westport, a man with whom I had hitherto been on friendly terms, conceived the idea that I had caricatured him in The Seething Pot. This book was written by me a year or more before he came to Westport, and therefore before I knew him. The priest, in his fury, stirred up the people of Westport against me. They mad things as unpleasant for me as they could on all public occasions. They refused to sit on committees of which I was a member./They succeeded finally in driving me out of the Gaelic League though I was at that time a member of the governing body. Some members of the governing league [sic] even joined in the popular clamour’ (Pleasant Places, 1934, p.162).

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Quotations
The Northern Iron [1907] (Talbot, 5th imp. 1946), 320pp; a tale of 1798; dedicatory letter to Francis Joseph Bigger, Ardrigh, Belfast, describing the book as the fruit of a recent holiday in Antrim, specifically Dunseveric and Ballintoy, [the house of the Presbyterian minister Micah Ward being above the harbour at Ballintoy and still occupied today.] Bigger is thanked for information, corrections, and for helping the author ‘enter into the spirit of the time’. The title is from Jeremiah 15.12, “Shall iron break the Northern iron and steel?” Neal Ward becomes involved in the United Irishmen’s rising, with his uncle, a veteran of the American War of Independence; Maurice Dunseveric, his boyhood friend, rescues him after his capture in the sequel to the Battle of Antrim, and he eventually escapes to America, later returning to be united with Maurice’s sister Una. Villains of the piece are the Orange militia-men who incite the rising, and the British regular soldiers who put it down. Jemmy Hope is a talismanic figure though not a very prominent character in the story. Much of the narrative concentrates on the respectively chivalrous and republican ideas of Irish patriotism expounded by Micah Ward, on the one side, and Lord Dunseveric, on the other, while the American uncle speaks for new democracies across the water. Micah challenges Lord Dunseveric, ‘You are for Ireland, but what do you mean by Ireland? You mean a blood thirsty, supercilious ascendancy, for whom the public exists only as a prey to be destroyed [...] who forge chains for their country, who distrust and belie the people, who scoff at complaints of the poor and needy, and who impudently call themselves Ireland [...] I mean Ireland [...] for the Irish people, for the poor as well as the rich, for the Protestant, the Dissenter, and the Roman Catholic alike.’ [84] Catholics are, however, a rare commodity in the story. Dunseveric speaks out for the ‘necessity of loyalty to the constitution’, and is caustic about republicanism in Ireland, ‘If your best hopes are realised, and you receive the help you hope for from abroad, you will make Ireland the cockpit of a European war. Our commerce and manufactures, reviving under the fostering care of the Irish Parliament, will be destroyed [...] If you fail - and you must fail - you will fling the country into the arms of England. Our gentry will be terrified, our commons will be cowed. Designing Englishmen will make an easy prey of us. They will take from even us the hard-earned measure of independence we already possess. we shall become, and we shall remain, a contemptible province in their Empire instead of a sovereign and independent nation. The English are wise enough to see this, though you cannot see it. Man, they want you to rebel.’ [85]

See D. D. Sheehan, Ireland Since Parnell (1921) - quoting Birmingha (as Hannay): ‘Canon Hannay paints a peculiarly unpleasant picture of the state of Ireland at this time. “Never,” he writes, “in her history was Ireland less inclined to self-reliance. The soul of the country was debauched with doles and charities. An English statesman might quite truthfully have boasted that Ireland would eat out of his hand. The only thing which troubled most of us was that the hand, whether we licked it or snarled at it, was never full enough. The idea of self-help was intensely unpleasant, and as for self-sacrifice!” The note of exclamation sufficiently conveys the writer’s meaning.’ (Chapter XXI: ׏Sinn Fein - Its Original Meaning and Purpose”.) [Note, the period is the closure of Griffith’s United Irishman and the founding of Sinn Féin in 1906.]

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The Northern Iron [1907] (1946) - cont.: ‘Orange and green and the ancient Irish blue’ is the flag of the United Irishmen under McCracken [207] At the close of the narrative, Birmingham manages an apologia for the Church of Ireland. Micah Ward has returned, now old and infirm, from his imprisonment at Fort George [Scotland], and holds a Greek lexicon with an inscription from the men there to whom he ministered religion. Of 20 names, ‘four of them belonged to the men of the Roman Catholic faith, six of them were the names of the Presbyterians, ten were of those who accepted the teaching of that other Church which, trammelled for centuries by connection with the State, hampered with riches secured to her by the bayonets of a foreign power, dragged down very often by officials placed over her by Englishmen, has yet in spite of all won glory. Out of her womb have come the men whose names shine brightest in the melancholy roll of the Irish patriots of the last two centuries. She has not cared to boast of them. She has hidden their [317] names from her children as if they were a shame to her, but they are hers.’ [318] Neal finally speaks of America, ‘there is another land [...] where the sun shines, where neither palaces nor kings, nor haughty churches, not the banners and the cannon smoke of England’s soldiers, nor yet the gallows, casting shadows over the green fields, and over-topping every village, can come between the people and the good light which the Lord God made for them. That’s the land for you and me.’ Old Micah Ward and Jemmy Hope, however, chose to stay behind. In the novel, there are effective scenes of battle, though the skirmishes with the dastardly yeomen are weaker, and the love interest weakest of all, while the femme fatale, Comtesse Estelle - Dunseveric’s sister-in-law driven from France by the revolution - makes a thin attempt to introduce some charm and glamour into the plot through her whimsical character, and her essentially redundant enticement and humiliation of the yeoman Captain Twineley, which precedes Neal’s escape by boat.

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Spanish Gold (1908; 31 edns. to 1935; Methuen), Characters: Joseph John Meldon; Major Kent; Thomas O’Flaherty Pat; Mrs. O’Flaherty; Mary Kate; Higginbotham; Sir Giles Buckley; Chief Sec. Willoughby; A farcical tale of a treasure hunt on an Aran island - Inishgowlan - in which Meldon, the sporting Anglican curate, is pitched against the beastly Sir Giles Buckley, and supported by Major Kent, whose estate stands at risk to Buckley, with bit-parts by a cast of islanders and the government official, an earnest philanthropic Mr. Higginbotham, and a puzzled but sympathetic and admiring Chief Secretary for Ireland (arriving in a boat called Granuaile). Meldon’s eclectic knowledge and verbal wit occupies the foreground at all times. He is rewarded for his audacity by a Church living in a Yorkshire mining town, in the gift of a friend of the Chief Sec. Irish questions – the Land League, mainly – are dealt with comically, but not entirely flippantly; topography, Moy Bay, Ballymoy, ‘rich, like most West of Ireland towns, in public houses and ecclesiastical buildings [...] and nothing else. The Poll-na-Phuca. [TOPICS, Church of Ireland; Land War; Aran Islands; Style; Colony; Law; Dublin Castle; See longer extract in Library,  “Authors”,infra.]

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Recollections of Jonah Barrington (1918), Introduction: ‘The Ireland of Charles Lever [...] Until just the other day this was the only Ireland which Englishmen knew. It is still an Ireland which all Englishmen love, pity, and scorn; which Irish patriots of the sterner sort scorn without pity, but in their inmost hearts must love a little too. It is an Ireland of gay irresponsibility, of heavy drinking and good fellowship, of sport and sympathy with the sporting side of lawlessness, of nimble wit and frivolous love-making, of courage, honour, hard fighting and hard riding, of poverty turned into a jest, Its story is a tragedy in which the actors cut capers and turn somersaults, lest they should be discovered in the high heroic mood or moved to despicable tears. [See longer extract in RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics”, attached.]

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Sundry Remarks
Anglo-Irish
: ‘It is perhaps not altogether vain to look forward to a time when Irish farmers, tired of [the] cant of political publicans, will seek for disinterested leaders from a class which they have no longer any reason to distrust when the Irish gentleman, tired of sulking in his tent, realising again his capacity for public work, will accept the new conditions and be ready to be greatest among us because he is one that serveth, not his own interest only, but those of others.’ (Irishmen All, Chp. 6[Sixth]) ‘There is that about the material fabric, the actual stones and mortar of Trinity College, Dublin, which makes a vivid appeal to the imagination of the common man [...] &c.’ (Hyacinth, Chp. II).

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Class distinction: ‘In Ireland a curious national history has created a class distinction which almost exactly corresponds to the lines of religious and political cleavage. Men of one particular creed and party claim - have indeed been almost forced to claim - a position of social superiority to everyone else in the country. The bitterness born of this claim is more potent in reality than either religious or political differences to keep Irishmen estranged from each other. It is possible to forgive a man for believing or not believing in the infallibility of the Pope. It does not seem possible to think kindly of him when he assumes that he is a gentleman and you are not. Unfortunately, the example set by one class has been imitated by every other.’ (Benedict Kavanagh, 1907; cited in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland, 1994, p.245.)

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Sinn Féiner?: ‘I take the Sinn Féin position to be the natural and inevitable development of the League principles They couldn’t lead to anything else. [...] I do not myself believe that you will be able to straddle the fence for very much longer. You have, in my humble opionion, the chance of becoming a great Irish leader, with the alternative of relapsing into the position of a John Dillon. It will be intensely interesting to see which you choose. Either way, I thnk the movement you started will go on, whether you lead it or take the part of a poor Frankenstein who created a monster he could not control.’ (Unpubl. letter of 15 April 1907 to Hyde in possession of Captain [Tadhg] MacGlinchey; quoted in Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde, 1974, c.p.170; papers; also cited [woth additional bibl. information] in Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, 1995, p.149.)

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Lover & Lever: ‘The fact is that in spite of the protests, in spite of the ignorant caricatures which have well deserved the title of Stage Irishman, this type which Lever popularised is an authentic presentation of what we are. It corresponds to a reality, comes, perhaps, nearer to common Irish life than anything yet given us by the poets, rhetoricians or politicians.’ (Quoted in C.G. Duggan, The Stage Irishman, 1937, p. 293). Birmingham further argues that the Irish types are all given already in Barrington.

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Charles Lever: George Birmingham writes of Mickey Free and other characters in Charles O’Malley: ‘this type which Lever popularised is an authentic presentation of what we are.’ (Intro. to edn. of Recollections of Sir Jonah Barrington, 1918; quoted by N. M. B. Christie, ‘Lever’s Charles O’Malley: A Book to Recommend to a Friend?’, in Patrick Rafroidi [et al.], ed., Études Irlandaises (Lille 1979), pp.33-55).

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References
John Parker, Who’s Who in the Theatre (1930) give Eleanor’s Enterprise as his first play, produced Gaiety Theatre [Dublin], 1911; General John Regan, with Hawtrey, Apollo Jan 1913; Send for Dr. O’Grady, Criterion 1923; and My America, Coliseum, 1917.

Weldon Thornton, Synge and the Western Mind (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979), cites George A Birmingham, ‘The Literary Movement in Ireland’, in Fortnight Review, LXXXII (Dec. 2 1907), pp.947-57. Birmingham found Synge’s Playboy ‘very difficult to understand, as difficult as Ibsen was at first to English audiences’ (Weldon, op. cit., p.135.)

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Brian McKenna, Irish Literature, 1800-1875: A Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale Research Co. 1978), p.258, cites James Hannay, ‘Recent Humorists, Aytoun, Peacock, Prout’, North British Review 45 ([?1896]), 75-104, in which the author remarks that Prout’s humour is thoroughly Irish ‘in its brilliance, its extravagance, and its waywardness of fanciful epigram - a kind of practical joking in literature.’

Diane Tolomeo, in Recent Research, ed. Thomas F. Kilroy (MLA 1983), cited in Cahalan. BIBL., see New Cam. Bibl. Eng. Lit., 4 (1972) 529-30; Also thesis by H. A. O’Donnell, QUB (1958-59). ADD Preface to Katherine Purdon, The Folk of Furry Farm (1914)

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Bernard Share, ed., Far Green Fields, 1500 Years of Irish Travel Writing, ed. (Belfast: Blackstaff 1992) incls. extract from G. A. Birmingham, A Wayfarer in Hungary (London: Methuen 1925).

Kevin Rockett, et al., eds., Cinema & Ireland (1988), Lennox Robinson co-scripted adapt. of Birmingham’s General John Regan (Henry Edwards 1933).

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2, reprints ‘The Adventures of Dr. Whitty’ (1913), a short story set in Land League Days and advocating tolerance and understanding. FDA, Vol. 3, selects ‘The Country Gentleman’ from Irishmen All (1913), being portraits of 20th c. representative types. BIOG. FDA3 557, records he was ord. deacon, 1888; Westport rector, 1889-1913; involved in Gaelic League, and with Hyde and Plunket, and Standish O’Grady; his play General John Regan [1913] caused a riot when performed by a travelling company in Westport, 1914; France, 1916-17; rector of Kildare Parish 1918-20, and chaplain to lord lieutenant; British legation Budapest, 1922; rector of Mells, Somerset, 1924; moved to London on his wife’s death in 1934; died there in 1950.

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Anthony Slide, The Cinema and Ireland (1988): Stoll produced a feature based on George A. Birmingham’s novel, General John Regan, dir. by Harold Shaw and starring Milton Rosmer and Madge Stuart, in 1921. When the film was screened in Dublin at the Metropole, Autumn 1922, Rev. J. F. Flavin protested in the Irish Independent, ‘I availed myself of the earliest opportunity of seeing the production in the cinema and was horrified to think that such a travesty of Irish character and Irish life should be shown in the heart of Ireland. It is, indeed, nauseating for any self-respecting Irishman to see in the city of Dublin a film of Irish life in which the principal characters were pigs, the main scenery dirt, the chief characteristics of the people quarrelling, fighting, ignorance, drunkenness, sloth, and lying intrigue, with the representative of the Catholic Church an acquiescing buffoon. Imagine this film being advertised in a foreign country as being ‘eminently successful in Dublin’ and you can readily realise why we are sometimes slandered as ‘the dirty, ignorant Irish’ (p.17).

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British Museum lists [in addition to fiction as George Birmingham], Introduction to Sir Jonah Barrington, Recollections [&c] [1918]; Intro. to Katherine Frances Purdon, Folks of Furry Farm (1914); [intor. to] Bindon Parva (Mills & Boon 1925); Can You Answer This? A Question Book (T. Fisher Unwin 1927); Do. (Ernest Benn 1946), 88pp.; Do you Know Your History? A History Questions Book (Gollancz 1928); Elizabeth and the Archdeacon (Methuen 1952); L’avoué disparu [The Lost Lawyer] histoire irlandaise traduite [...] par Louis Labat (Paris 1933), 74pp.; also La double escapage [The Runaways], traduit par Labat [La Petite Illustration, roman] (Paris 1938); The Northern Iron (Dublin: Maunsel 1907), another ed. (London: Everett’s Lib. [1913]), and Do., Irish translation as Iarann an Tuaiscirt, Muiris Ó Cathán d’aistrigh (Oifig Díolta Foillseacháin Rialtais 1933), 317pp.; The Lighter Side of Irish Life (Edinburgh: Foulis 1911), 16 ills. by W. Kerr, vii, 270pp; Do., 4th ed., 1921; fifth ed., 1922; The Birmingham Bus [containing Spanish Gold, The Search Party, Lalage’s Lovers, The Adventures of Dr Whitty] (London: Methuen & Co. 1934) 888pp.; Irish Short Stories (Faber 1942) [Whelan Cat. var. 1936]; Now You Tell Me One, Stories of Irish Wit and Humour (Dundee & London: Valentine & Sons 1927), 36pp.; also, with Round Our North Corner, with explanatory notes on Portrush, the White Rocks, Dunluce Castle, &c, by George Birmingham and Forbes Patterson (Giant’s Causeway: Mrs Florence E. Glass [?1955]), 3-35pp.

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De Burca (Cat. 44; 1997) lists Spanish Gold (London: Methuen 1908; London: Bodley Head, 1973, 1990) [ 0 370 01488 X]; The Search Party (London: Methuen 1909; London: Bodley Head 1973, 1990) [0 370 01489 8]; Lalage’s Lovers (London: Methuen 1911); The Red Hand of Ulster (London: Smith Elder 1912; Harrap 1972) [0 71651 800 7]. The Inviolable Sanctuary (Nelson n.d.) [Hibernia 19] contrib. to Lady Cynthia Asquith, ed., The Funny Bone, New Humorous Stories (London: Jarrold 1928), 287pp. Magilligan Strand (London: Methuen 1938), 250pp., smuggling sweepstake tickets into England from Co. Derry; Sea Battle (Methuen 1948, [218pp], semi-sequel to Spanish Gold, set of same Connaught island; Round Our North Corner, with explanatory notes on Portrush, the White Rocks, Dunluce Castle, &c, by George Birmingham and Forbes Patterson (Giant’s Causeway: Mrs Florence E. Glass [1955]), 36pp. [given as 1970 in UUC CAT]. QRY Err. Irishmen All (London & Edinburgh: T. N. Foulis 1914 [sic].)

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Ulster University Library (Morris Collection) holds General John Regan, 3 acts (1913); Irishmen All (1913); The Lighter Side of Irish Life (1911); Round Our North Corner, with explan. notes on Portrush, the White Rocks, Dunluce Castle [...] Giant’s Causeway [?1970]. (Belfast Public Library holds 35+ titles.)

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Notes
Paul Durcan has a poem,“Canon James O. Hannay Pays a Return Visit to the Old Rectory, Westport, County Mayo, 8 October 2000”, in The Art of Poetry (Harvill 2004, pp.30-31.

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Mellon Press, Publisher's notice on Brian Taylor, The Life and Writings of James Owen Hannay (1994), publishers’ notice: first biography, using original sources, family papers, and Hannay archive at TCD to show more complex figure than a novel-writing clergyman; involvement in Irish politics and in particular with Douglas Hyde’s Gaelic League, the contemporary scandals involving his early novels and a production of his successful play General John Regan and his masterly use of comedy to point up the ironies of Irish history are documented; 31 illustrations and complete bibliography of all his fictional, journalistic and theological writings [£49.95]

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