John J. Horgan (1881-1967)

[John Joseph Horgan; commonly J. J. Horgan]; b. Cork, son of solicitor and coroner who nominated Parnell for Cork seat under curious circumstances in 1880, and subsequently acted as his agent; m. of English extraction (rel. to Sir John Bowring); ed. Clongowes Wood; solicitor, 1902; Gaelic League and IPP supporter under John Redmond;
published Great Catholic Laymen (1908); Home Rule, a Critical consideration (1911); acted as coroner at the inquest into sinking of Lusitania; issued The Complete Grammar of Anarchy (1918), an attack on Lloyd George which was confiscated by the Government [i.e., censored];
issued Parnell to Pearse: Recollections and Reflections (1948), an autobiographical work in which he declares of 1916: ‘It is hard to conceive a procedure more cynical or undemocratic, or, from a Catholic point of view, more wicked’ [p.286]; wrote an obituary of W. B. Yeats; unpubl. papers held in National Library of Ireland; John Horgan (DCU Journalism) is a grandson. DIB DIW FDA

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Parnell to Pearse: Some Recollections and Reflections, introduced by John Horgan (Dublin: Browne & Nolan 1948), and Do. [rep. edn.] (UCD Press 2009), 400pp. [see extracts]; Great Catholic Laymen [2dn edn.] (CTS [1908]) [see details]. Reprint,

Bibliographical details
Great Catholic Laymen, by John J. Horgan [2nd edn.] (Dublin: CTS [1908]), xiv, 305pp., index [v]; epigraph, ‘Is example nothing? It is everything. Example is the school of mankind and they will learn no other.’ Chaps. on Andreas Hope; Gabriel Garcia Moreno; Frederick Oconam; Montalembert; Frederick Lucas; Windhorst; Louis Pasteur; Daniel O’Connell (pp.335-88).

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D. George Boyce, Nationalism in Ireland (Routledge 1982; 1991 Edn.), p.385: ‘[A] learned academic in 1973 declared that the “main function of the National University of Ireland … has been and will be to build the Irish nation. A large part of the task is rebuilding: the recovery of the almost obliterated spirit and traditions in which our country lived and developed up to the disasters of the seventeenth century.”’ (J. J. Horgan, in Foreword to Martin and Byrne, The Scholar Revolutionary: Eoin MacNeill ... [&c.], 1973, [q.p.].) Boyce remarks, ‘if learned, gifted and privileged men thought like this, there was little chance that the less favoured members of the “race” would think otherwise.’ (idem.)

R. F. Foster, Paddy and Mr. Punch (London: John Lane 1993): In 1946 Horgan he called for definitive biography as centenary tribute to Parnell (NLI unpublished paper; cited in Foster, p.41.) Note that his ‘reasoned’ obituary of Yeats is cited by Roy Foster in ‘When the Newspapers have forgotten me ...’, in Warwick Gould & Edna Longley, eds., Yeats Annual 12 (1996).

Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland (London: Jonathan Cape 1995), notes: ‘J. J. Horgan, lawyer, declared that the Rising was a sin and Pearse a heretic.’ (p.211; citing Horgan, From [sic] Parnell to Pearse, 1948, p.285.)

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Parnell to Pearse (1948) Letter to Irish Times (1957)

Parnell to Pearse (1948) - Foreword: ‘My story ends with the collapse of Constitutional movement in 1918 when there began a new and blood-stained era of which Pearse was the fore-runner. But the bitter harvest since reaped was sown in the preceding quarter century. That period of germination - one of the most critical in our history - with which my book deals - provides the key to all that has happened and, indeed, is yet to happen, in Ireland.’ (vii.)

From Parnell to Pearse (1948) - summary remarks: The book takes its epigram from Bunyan (‘Some said, John, print it; others said, Not so: ... I’ll print it, and so the case decide.’) In his Foreword Horgan acknowledges an indebtedness to Denis Gwynn and Donal O’Sullivan, a personal friend; also to J. L. Hammond, Gladstone and the Irish Nation. Among family forebears whom he cites are Fr. Horgan, a contemp. of Fr. Prout, who wrote poems in Irish incl. “Gortroe”, a caoine[adh] on the massacre of 16 men by British military forces in a [Tithe War] episode nr. Rathcormac, Co. Cork, 18 Dec. 1834; pub. anon. 1835; translated Horace and Moore into Irish [cf. Fr. Prout/F. S. Mahony, q.v.]; designed churches, and built at Whitechurch, nr. Blarney, round towers to prove their Christian origin [3]. Horgan lays claim to English family through his mother, Bowring, incl. Sir John Bowring, FRS (1792-1872), a linguist and Gov. of Hong Kong who was subject of attack in George Borrow’s Romany Rye.

In an appendix, Horgan draws on papers of his father, a Coroner for Cork by election. Horgan identifies John Ronayne as the man who transmitted the lesson of obstructionism practised by George Henry Moore to Biggar and hence to Parnell. He describes Biggar as ‘an uncouth little Ulster tradesman’. [16] Horgan narrates the unwitting nomination of Parnell for Cork on money put up by the Tory candidate to raise a nationalist extremist in order to split the Whig vote. [19]

Further gives account of Parnell’s shy, aloof, but kindly character and his close relationship with his father [Horgan the coroner], for whom he acted as best man at his wedding. [20-21] He calls The Royal Divorce - of Joycean renown - a ‘hoary romantic melodrama’. The book includes a letter from D. P. Moran to Horgan calling himself a ‘reasonable extremist’ in the matter of Carson not being coerced.

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Parnell to Pearse (1948) - cont.: ‘I am in fact of Irish-English descent, a very different thing from Anglo-Irish in the ordinary meaning of the term. The Anglo-Irish are colonists, the English settlers and planters long established in Ireland, the Irish-English are the result of modern intermarriage between the two races. The influence of English blood in Ireland is a subject that would well repay detailed investigation. The Anglo-Irish furnished most of the leaders in the struggle for Irish colonial and constitutional freedom, such men as Grattan, Flood, and Burke during the struggle for colonial liberty, Parnell and Redmond in more recent times. Irish nationalism, in the modern sense, was in fact an English idea, quite beyond the conception of the old Irish aristocracy or their peasant successors. The Native Irish were always more concerned with such fundamental objectives as the recovery of the land, Catholic Emancipation, and the restoration of the old Irish way of life with all this implies - in short the abolition of [8] the ascendancy imposed upon them after the Treaty of Limerick in 1691.’ [Cont.]

Parnell to Pearse (1948) - cont.: ‘But the Irish-English have been an even more disturbing factor; they were the spearhead of the final revolt against English rule. Wolfe Tone, Emmet, Davis, and Mitchel, the forerunners of modern Irish Republicanism, were all men of Irish-English blood. In more recent times, Patrick Pearse, Terence MacSwiney, and Erskine Childers, to name three of the most prominent leaders of the modern revolt against England, were all children of Irish and English parents. The sturdy and inherent love of liberty, so characteristic of the English, seems to germinate with remarkable speed and strength in Irish soil. So, by a strange paradox, the Irish-English have been a major factor in destroying English rule in Ireland. Their English blood, without hesitation, denied and challenged the validity of the English conquest. But, like most cross-bred peoples, the Irish-English, as I have personally experienced, suffer from the results of different inherited racial characteristics and the demands of a divided allegiance which, whilst they add to the interest of life, do not always conduce to peace of mind. [Here quotes ‘Northern poet’ Richard Rowley: ‘The words I speak, my written line, / These are not uniquely mine, / For in my heart, and in my will / Old ancestors are warring still.’ [Cont.]

Parnell to Pearse (1948) - cont.: ‘Such an origin does, however, enable one to bring a charitable and comprehending mind to the consideration of Anglo-Irish differences and problems. To see the view-point of both sides enables one to understand and to pardon much that might otherwise be incomprehensible and unpardonable. [... &c.]’

Parnell to Pearse (1948) - cont. [on the Famine:] ‘[...] there can be no doubt that a native govt. would have stopped its [food] export when famine became imminent. But even if this had been done the problem would not have been solved. The great majority of the people could not afford to buy corn, much less meat. If they did not sell their produce they could not pay their rents. The British govt. could therefore intervene to prevent famine only by a general interference with the rights of property They [11] might indeed have safeguarded those rights by compensating the landlords, but this could not have been done without violating what were regarded as the sacrosanct laws of political economy, that policy of laissez faire which forbade the state to interfere with the free play of economic forces. The workhouse thus became the only remedy for famine. ... It seemed clear that the British government did not really wish to retain the Irish people in Ireland.’ (Parnell to Pearse, 1948, p.12.)

Parnell to Pearse (1948) - cont. [on Yeats’s Cathleen Ni Houlihan]: ‘No more potent lines were ever spoken on the Irish stage. All our hopes were in that answer [viz., “she had the walk of a queen”], it had an echo in every heart. It symbolised and rekindled that flame of romantic revolutionoary nationalism which was to consume so many of its devotees and which has not even yet been quenched by the healing waters of freedom and experience. Poets have much to answer for.’ (Ibid., p.94); quoted in Terence Brown, The Life of W. B. Yeats: A Critical Biography, Gill & Macmillan 1999, p.136.)

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John J. Horgan, “Partition - A Realistic Approach: To the Editor of The Irish Times”

[Source: Irish Times cutting found among the papers of Albert le Brocquy, Hon. Secretary of Cumann Gaodhalach Cómdhála na Naisiún / The League of Nations Society of Ireland in possession of the Ricorso editor, Bruce Stewart. Note: The cutting is undated other than by the date subscribed to Horgan’s letter, which falls on p.5 of the paper.]

Sir, - Mr. de Valera’s speech at the Ard Fheis of his party indicates that he at all events knows that a more realistic approach is necessary to the question of partition. Stripped of the verbiage and oblique reference which the common form in such political pronouncements, Mr. de Valera specifically admitted that there was at present no hope of ending Partition by political action, but that if agreement was arrived at between the two parts of Ireland, Great Britain could not prevent its completion, and that that the only way to end partition was for “us to have as close relations as possible with the people of Northern Ireland and get them to combine with us in matters of common concern.” He emphasised that force was no remedy and that, even if feasible, it would only leave an abiding sore that would ruin our national life for generations.

Remembering, no doubt, the tripartite Border Agreement of 1925, he told the Ard Fheis that he would be very chary of referring the question to U.N.O for decision. His speech was, in effect, a frank and statesmanlike admission that our demand for political unity with Northern Ireland cannot now be satisfied, and that, to order to terminate the existing deadlock between us, we must find a modus vivendi. This, of course, can only be an agreement to disagree, to live and let live, coupled with a frank recognition of the fact that unity is not merely a question of establishing certain political machinery, but of mental agreement. Unity in this context is a spiritual, and not a material, concept.

* * *

We must recognise that the fundamental difference between the people of Northern Ireland and ourselves is that, while for us the word “unity” only means the political and economic unity, of Ireland, for them it means that of the British Isles. Bertrand de Jouvenel has the matter very clearly in his recent brilliant treatise on Sovereignty. “There is,” he writes, “no political mechanism capable of conserving social coherence in the face of excessice ethical incoherence. A society stretches just as far as a certain moral language is spoken and understood.”

We do not speak the same moral or political language as Northern Ireland. Between us there is a definite ethical incoherence arising from historical, religious and political differences which we have aggravated rather than alleviated since the Treaty. The armed attack on the North, has only made clear the coherence, stability, and self-control of Northern Ireland. Dynamite is not only destructive, but dangerous, for it is apt to recoil on those who use it.

* * *

Lord Brookeborough’s reply to Mr. de Valera’s olive-branch shows that he at least is prepared to go more than half-way to meet the latter’s suggestion that the future relations between the Republic and Northern Ireland should be those of Christian co-operation rather than fratricidal strife At the same time, he made it quite clear that Northern Ireland could not, and would not, sacrifice its position as an integral part of the United Kingdom. It, therefore seems that the political leaders of the Republic and Northern Ireland are in agreement as to the necessity for a positive policy of reconciliation, a policy which offers the only hope of peace and progress for our common country. Such, an agreement between out two Governments would not only be the death-knell of violence, but a gateway to real unity. It should obviously provide that each Government recognises the other as the legitimate and democratically elected authority in the portion of Ireland now, under its control, renounces the use of forces as an instrument of policy against the other, and and will not permit its territory to be used for such a such a purpose, untertakes to respect the rights and protect the liberties of religious minorities, and agrees to co-operate with the other in all matters where their common interests are involved.

* * *

This last objective, could best be served by the appointment of trade commissioners by each Government in Belfast and Dublin, respectively. Apparently no such liaison at present exists. No doubt, there are extremist minorities in both camps who have a vested interest in maintaining the present impasse, but Mr. de Valera and Lord Brookeborough are big enough to ignore them. Something Something more, however, than long-range debate is now required; and an agreement on the above lines, formally concluded and ratified, would not only advance the interests of our country but give a sorely-needed example of co-operation to a riven and distracted world. Mr. de Valera, unlike those who favour violent courses to attain the same end, clearly clearly realises that only on the basis of such an agreement to disagree can we take the first stop towards ending partition - an end which in this fast-changing world may be attained sooner than now seems possible.

John. J. Horgan
  Lacaduv, Cork,
December 12th, 1957.
[ To see this letter in a separate window, click here.]

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James E. Doherty & D. J. Hickey, A Chronology of Irish History since 1500 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1989): That Horgan is identified as one of the supporters of the Blueshirts in DIH.

Bookseller’s Catalogues
Carty Books (No. 357) lists The Complete Grammar of Anarchy, by Members of the War Cabinet and their Friends (1918); see ditto in Hyland Cat. (Oct.1995). Library of Herbert Bell, Belfast holds John J. Horgan, Parnell to Pearse (Dublin 1948).

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