A. T. Q. Stewart (1929-2010)


Life
[Anthony Terence Quincey Stewart; fam. Tony]; b. 8 July 1929; son of a baker and descendant of bakers; ed. without charge at RBAI; grad. in History at QUB; briefly taught at Belfast Royal Academy; appt. lect. at Stranmillis College of Education [TTC], Belfast, 1961; won scholarship to spend a year at Peterhouse, Cambridge; appt. lect. in Irish Political History at QUB, 1968; appt. Reader in 1975; regarded as an urbane apologist for Unionism;
 
issued The Narrow Ground: Aspects of Ulster 1909-1969 (London: Faber 1977), joint winner of the Ewart Biggs Mem. Prize and a best-seller, showing some sympathy for the United Irishmen but ironically praised by Ian Paisley from the pulpit; he wrote short lives of Edward Carson, The Duke of Ormonde [James Butler], and others, and spoke of the sectarian communities of Ulster as being ‘interlocked’;
 
retired in 1990; issued A Deeper Silence: The Hidden Origins of the United Irishmen (1993), advancing the theory that the Masonic Order lay behind the non-sectarianism of the eighteenth-century Irish Volunteers; consultant for BBC History of Ireland, and Thames TV The Troubles; presented The Divided Kingdom for Channel 4; The Summer Soldiers: The 1798 Rebellion in Antrim and Down (1995), shortlisted for the Ewart Biggs and Irish Times non-fiction prizes;
 
also The Shape of Irish History (2001); worked History of Ireland series (BBC), The Troubles (Thames TV), and Divided Kingdom (C4); became a by-word for a ‘deeply depressing’ view of Irish political anatagonisms but also admired for his writing style which Dudley Edwards once compared to Scott Fitzgerald for its spareness and subtlety; From the United Irishmen to twentieth-century Unionism, a festschrift, was edited by Sabine Wichert in 2003; Stewart d. 17 Dec. 2010, at home, after protracted illness; survived by his wife Anna and sons Christopher and Peter; cremated at Roselawn; obituaries appeared in the Belfast Telegraph (24 Dec. 2010) and The Irish Times (4 Jan. 2011).

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Works
  • The Ulster Crisis: Resistance to Home Rule 1912-14 (London: Faber 1967, rep. edns. 1969, 1993, 1997);
  • The Narrow Ground: Aspects of Ulster 1909-1969 (London: Faber & Faber 1977); Do. [rev. edn.], as The Narrow Ground: The Roots of Conflict in Ulster (Aldershot: Gregg Revivals 1993), 208pp., ill. [maps]; and Do. [rep.edn.], as The Narrow Ground: Aspects of Ulster 1909-1969 (Belfast: Blackstaff 1997);
  • Edward Carson [Gill's Irish Lives] (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1981);
  • Belfast Royal Academy: The First Century 1785-1885 (RBAI 1985);
  • A Deeper Silence: The Hidden Roots of the United Irishmen (London: Faber & Faber 1993);
  • The Summer Soldiers: The 1798 Rebellion in Antrim and Down (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1995), 295pp.
  • ed., Michael Collins: The Secret File (Belfast: Blackstaff, 1997);
  • The Shape of Irish History (Belfast: Blackstaff 2001

Articles incl. ‘The Harp new strung: nationalism, culture and the United Irishmen’, in Ireland and Irish-Australia, ed. Oliver MacDonagh & W. F. Mandle (London: Croom Helm 1986) [q.p.].

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Bibliographical details
The Ulster Crisis (London: Faber & Faber 1967), 284pp. CONTENTS: Prelude; The Orange Card; Dramatis Personae; Storm Warning; The Covenant; An Army with Baners; The Old Town Hall; The Gun-Runners; Councils of War; New Year Resolutions; Lord Milner Intervenes; Enter Conspirators; Plot and Counterplot; Daybreak and Langeland; The Cruise of the “Fanny”; Operation Lion; Darkness and Shadows; “The Kaiser’s Ulster Friends”; The Way Through the Wood. [map with route of Fanny and Clydevalley].

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Criticism
Sabine Wichert, ed., From the United Irishmen to Twentieth-century Unionism; A Festschrift for A. T. Q. Stewart (Dublin: Four Courts 2004), 224pp.; see also [q.a.,] interview, History Ireland (Summer 1993) [see details]; Bryan Fanning & Tom Garvin, ‘A.T.Q. Stewart, The Narrow Ground (1977)’, in Books That Define Ireland (Sallins: Merrion 2014), Chap. 24.

From the United Irishmen to Twentieth-century Unionism; A Festschrift for A. T. Q. Stewart (Dublin: Four Courts 2004), 224pp. CONTENTS [chaps.]: Arthur Aughey [UU], ‘A.T.Q. Stewart on history’; Tom Bartlett [UCD], ‘The mental world of the Irish Loyalists in the 1790s’; Paul Bew [QUB], ‘Ideas, convictions and deceptions: the Ulster crisis revisited’; Allan Blackstock [UU], ‘The rector and the rebel’; George Boyce [Swansea], ‘England's case against Home Rule: a British unionist speaks’; Owen Dudley Edwards [Edinburgh], ‘Edward Carson as lawyer’; Marianne Elliott [Liverpool], ‘The Kent treason trials of 1798: a window on the United Irishmen’; Richard English [QUB], ‘Unionist intellectuals and the politics of Northern Ireland’; Alvin Jackson [QUB]; ‘Militant opposition to Home Rule: the after-life Peter Jupp [QUB], ‘Dr. Duigenan reconsidered’; Marc Mulholland [Oxford], ‘Discrimination and civil rights in the Stormont era, 1920-72’; Mary O'Dowd [QUB], ‘Women, uniforms and volunteers’; Nini Rodgers [QUB]., ‘The patriots, the nationalists, the unionists and Belfast's projected slave trade company’; Diane Urquhart [Liverpool], ‘The politics of Theresa, 6th marchioness of Londonderry’.

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Commentary
Terence Brown, Ireland’s Literature, Selected Essays (Dublin: Lilliput 1988), ‘[t]he re-emergence in modern times of an antique struggle rooted, as Stewart seems to hint, in an almost Jungian collective unconscious which drives Ulstermen and women to deeds of desperation in generation after generation, 1641 is 1886 is 1912 is 1969, implies the structural organisation of this deeply depressing book.’ (p.245.)

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David Lloyd, Ireland After History (1999), remarks [quoting as infra]: ‘Striking in Stewart’s assertion of transhistorical regularity is the evident contradiction between that assertion of formal continuity and the representation of discontinuity in the form of the “fading” of the guerrilla. This historiography grasps as discontinuous and gapped the recurrence of social and cultural forms which cannot be fully represented within its perspectives. What escapes it is the logic of the subaltern insurgent's reation to a continuity to which s/he returns and whose reproduction occurs through narrative forms that are as incommensurable with the official historian's as the forms of community are to the state.’ (Ibid., p.56). Further, Lloyd comments upon Stewart’s view of atavism: ‘[…] He falls back here on the recurrent obverse of the progressive ideology of modernity, an obverse required in order that the state project remain necessary: human nature never changes and civility is constantly arrested by atavism.’ (Idem.) A ftn. compares Stewart's figure to the Phillipino banditti described by Ileto.

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Padraig Ó’Snodaigh, review of The Summer Soldiers [1995] and other books on 1798, in Books Ireland (April 2001), writes: ‘A. T. Q. Stewart’s reluctance to acccept an overall Republiscan aim lies athwart the other contributions.’ (p.101.)

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Patricia Craig, review of A. T. Q. Stewart, The Shape of Irish History, Belfast: Blackstaff 2001, in Times Literary Supplement [Irish issue], 29 June 2001, p.22, quotes from “The 10.14 from Clontarf” [chap. subheading]: ‘that the history of Ireland is … a railway line … unlike its sister engine, stationary at the Boyne Water.’; further adverts to ‘astonishing facts’ such as the one that that no one in Ireland claimed to be Celt before 1800’, and quotes: ‘for over a century now, Britain’s problem has not been how to get into Ireland, but how to get out of it.’

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Joe [J.] Lee, A ‘On Mature Reflection’, review of The Shape of Irish History, in Sunday Tribune (22 July 2001): ‘Building on the basis of The Narrow Ground, Stewart comes close to attributing conflict in Ireland to the tyranny of geography. The confrontation since 1968, we are told. “al” has to do with this geography of religion”. “But this can be debated. The question has to be asked, how do Catholics and Protestants live cheek by jowl in harmony in several other countries? […] The geography of religion only matters where the religions already embody a disposition to conflict. Because geographical determinism describes rather than explains conflict, it is them tempting to fall back on stereotype for explanation. The result, simultaneously enlightening and disturbing, is that Stewart’s account can shift suddenly between different levels, blending sharp insights and deft perceptions with familiar but highly debatable stereotypes, silently rejecting much recent research.’

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William Crawley, review [article], of Norman Porter, The Elusive Quest: Reconciliation in Northern Ireland (2003), in Fortnight Magazine (April 2003): ‘In making the case for strong reconciliation, Porter finds himself at loggerheads with much of the unionists political family to which he belongs. He rejects the cynicism of paleo-unionists such as A. T. Q. Stewart, who has dismissed reconciliation as “hot air”, claiming that “each side wastes its breath trying to persuade the other to adopt its view of the situation.”’ (p.24.)

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Quotations
United Irish: ‘Contrary to popular belief, the United Irish Movement did not at once spread like wildfire throughout the country. In fact it never at any time affected more than a small part of Ireland ...’ (p.162); ‘Once the fact of Masonic involvement in the Volunteer movement is realised, its sxtent becomes staggering ... It explains what has always been seem as something of a mystery about Irish politics in the 1780s, why the old aaperities between Protestant and Catholics seemed suddenly to melt, and both persuasions, especially in the North of Ireland, seemed eager to create a new Irish nationality, one more liberal than the Protestant nation or a hypthetical theocracy dominated by the Catholic Church.’ (A Deeper Silence, 1993, cited in Philip McGuinness, ‘Toleraint Sectarian: The peculiar contradictions of John Toland, Times Literary Supplement, Irish Literature issue 27 Sept. 1996, p.14-15; p.15; also in McGuinness, ‘John Toland and Eighteenth-Century Irish Republicanism’, in Irish Studies Review, No. 19, Summer 1997, pp.15-21; p.17).

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Religious map: ‘The Ulsterman carries the map of [...] religious geography in his mind almost from birth [...]. To understand the full significance of any episode of sectarian conflict you need to know the precise relationship of the locality in which it occured to the rest of the mosaic of settlement. But the chequeboard on which the game is played has a third dimension. What happens in each square derives a part of its significance, and perhaps all of it, from what happened there at some time in the past. Locality and history are welded together.’ (Quoted in Edna Longley, ‘The Aesthetic and the Territorial’ in Elmer Andrews, ed., Contemporary Irish Poetry: A Collection of Critical Essays, Macmillan 1996, p.63.)

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The Narrow Ground: The Roots of Conflict in Ulster (rev. edn. Faber 1989), write prefatorily that ‘[v]iolence would appear to be endemic in Irish society … as far back as history is recorded.’ (p.9.)

Some further extracts
‘Much less attention has been paid to the regularity of the forms in which Irish violence is expressed […]. The primary pattern which emerges from the background of Irish violence is that of the secret army, the shadowy banditti “on its keeping” in the mountains and the bogs, whose lineage is traceable from the wood-kernes of the sixteenth century to the provisional I.R.A. […] Time and time again, in describing the woodkerne. English observers remarked on the difficulty of coming to grips with them. After a raid on a planter’s dwellings they simply melted away into the wood, or were metamorphosed into contented peasantry till the land or herding cattle.’ (Ibid., p.115.)
 
‘The official coding for this transmission of recalcitrant matter is atavism, an atavism that significantly emerges in Stewart’s haunted understanding as being remarkably at home in the domestic and civil institutions that look like those through which, normatively, the state would seek to interpellate and reproduced citizens. (The Narrow Ground, 1977, rep. 1997, p.16; quoted in Lloyd, Ireland After History, 1999, p.57).
 
‘At an early stage of the Ulster troubles, it became apparent that attitudes, words and actions which were familiar and recognisable to any student of Irish history, but which seemed hardly relevant to politics in the twentieth century, were coming back into fashion. This was not to be explained by the deliberate imitation of the past; it could be accounted for only by some mysterious form of transmission from generation to generation. In many ways it was a frightening revelation, a nightmarish illustration of the folk-memory of Jungian psychology. Men and women who had grown to maturity in a Northern Ireland at peace now saw for the first time the monsters which inhabited the depths of the community's unconscious mind.’ (Ibid.; Lloyd, op. cit., p.58).

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Notes
Conor Cruise O’Brien cites The Narrow Ground to exemplify the association of religious and political allegiance, ‘partially similar and nearly symmetrical’, to be found in Irish Catholicism and Republicanism (Ancestral Voices, Religion and Nationalism in Ireland, Poolbeg 1994, ftn. p.17).

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