Irish Studies, Literature

Ireland, Migration and Return Migration – In Conversation with Sinéad Moynihan

Drawing on literary, historical and cultural studies perspectives, Sinéad Moynihan’s Ireland, Migration and Return Migration examines the phenomenon of the “Returned Yank” in the cultural imagination. Taking as its point of departure The Quiet Man (1952), it provides a cultural history that charts the ways in which the Returned Yank indexes a set of recurring anxieties in Ireland from 1952 to the present. We spoke to Sinéad Moynihan to find out more about the book.

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Firstly, could you tell us a bit about Ireland, Migration and Return Migration and what drew you to focus your research in this area?

My interest in the “Returned Yank” arises out of both scholarly and personal attachments. My previous book, “Other People’s Diasporas”: Negotiating Race in Contemporary Irish and Irish-American Culture (Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 2013) was interested in how unprecedented in-migration was negotiated in Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years. A notable feature of this moment was the question of how many immigrants to Ireland were themselves Irish (i.e. returnees). Because the returnee is both an immigrant and of Irish descent, s/he came to occupy an interesting position in debates about immigration to Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years. In the book, I discussed the significance of the “Returned Yank” in relation to Des Bishop’s stand-up comedy, the film The Nephew (dir. Eugene Brady, 1998) and Ronan Noone’s play The Blowin of Baile Gall (2002). It was while writing that book that I realised a full-length cultural history of the “Returned Yank” figure had not yet been written.

From a personal point of view, my maternal grandmother was a “Returned Yank.” Unfortunately, I never met her but reading, in particular, Edna O’Brien’s work did make me wonder about the many Irish women migrants who returned to Ireland to marry and have children, and how different their lives might have been had they stayed in the U.S.

This is the first full-length study of the “Returned Yank” figure, and return migration is quite an under-examined aspect of Irish diaspora studies. Why do you think these areas have been somewhat overlooked?

I think there are a couple of answers to that question. First, is that actual return migration to Ireland from the U.S. was low compared with other countries. One historian estimates that, between 1899 and 1924, only 9 percent of Irish emigrants returned from the U.S. to live in their homeland, compared with 14 percent of Germans, 15 percent of Scandinavians, 33 percent of Poles, 45 percent of Italians, 53 percent of Greeks and 87 percent of Russians (Wyman 16). Irish census figures taken since 1922 show that the only periods during which there was demonstrable return migration (from anywhere, not just the U.S.) were the 1970s and the Celtic Tiger years. Nonetheless, there has been scholarly work – mostly from an historical and/or sociological point of view – that studies this phenomenon.

But I was interested in the fact that, despite these low rates of actual return, the “Returned Yank” looms large in the cultural imagination. I would guess that for most Irish people older than maybe 40, the term is still quite a meaningful one, conjuring up a whole set of associations that have been amplified and reinforced by representations of the “Returned Yank” in literature and on film, especially (perhaps) The Quiet Man (dir. John Ford, 1952). Some of those associations? His/her largesse; nostalgia for an Ireland now gone; a vocabulary peppered with Americanisms (panty hose; pocketbooks); or, when framed in more negative terms, what Philip O’Leary sums up as “flashy clothes, conspicuous wealth, ignorance, bombast, and a distressing accent.”

The Quiet Man and Angela’s Ashes are two of the most well-known “Returned Yank” narratives. Besides these two, which of the novels or films you focused on during this research would you highlight as key in studying this figure in the cultural imagination and why?

The answer here has to be Edna O’Brien’s work! Before beginning this research project several years ago, I had read little of O’Brien’s work. Inspired by my colleague, Dr. Ellen McWilliams’s brilliant work on the novel, I began with The Light of Evening (2006) and worked backwards from there. I soon realised that the Irish woman, who returns to Ireland after living for several years in the U.S., marries and bears children, is a recurring character in O’Brien’s work, from Maura Neary Brady in The Country Girls (1960) to Dilly Macready in The Light of Evening. More often than not, return to Ireland in O’Brien’s fiction is, for those women characters, the forerunner to the infinite disappointments, challenges and struggles of married life and motherhood in Ireland. Numerous O’Brien Returned Yank women remember with nostalgia the fashionable clothing they wore in America, the parties they attended and the glamour of their lives. O’Brien’s interest in Returned Yank women is at least partly autobiographical: her mother was a Returned Yank. In the O’Brien papers held at Emory University, I came across an unpublished typescript of A Novel of Lena and Michael (c.1997), which described how Lena worked as a shopgirl in New York when, on what she intended to be a brief return visit to Ireland, she was strongly encouraged by her family to marry a well-heeled local man. (Lena and Michael were O’Brien’s parents’ actual names). The typescript was accompanied by a handwritten note from O’Brien: “A Novel of Lena/Michael (never written) Never will. Dec. 1st 1997.”

Could you tell us the story behind the image by David Creedon Photography which you chose for the cover of Ireland, Migration and Return Migration? What was the reason for this image being chosen?

I first became aware of David Creedon’s work when I heard Dr. Tina O’Toole of the University of Limerick mention his book of photographs, Ghosts of the Faithful Departed (2011) in a paper she delivered at the American Conference for Irish Studies at UCD in 2014. Tina was particularly interested in what the “American dress” signifies and she showed a very evocative image of such a dress from Ghosts of the Faithful Departed. When I bought the book myself, I came across an image called “The Return,” featuring a trunk belonging to Mary Sullivan, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1930 and returned 19 years later. I thought it would be the perfect cover image for the book because the trunk looms large in depictions of the Returned Yank.

I particularly liked that it showed labels and stickers, as these minutiae are often invested with deep significance in Returned Yank narratives. “Lemonade,” for example, is a short story in which a young girl is preparing to move from the U.S. back to Ireland with her parents (much like Lavin did in real life). Prior to their departure, the family has their neighbours around for a few drinks to bid them farewell. One nosy neighbour, Ma Spiddal, is trying to find out whether the family will be sailing in steerage or in first class by “gently, but persuasively, pushing apart the two big steamer trunks” to pore over the labels attached to them. In The Country Boy, Returned Yank Eddie and his wife, Julia, pay a visit to Eddie’s home place in Co. Mayo, bringing with them a large trunk bedecked with a “stateroom” sticker and an expensive camera. By the end of the play, however, it is revealed that the trunk is empty and the camera rented: they felt the need to put on a façade of prosperity and success for their relatives back in Ireland.

What are you going to be working on next?

I’m at the very (very!) early stages of a new project, provisionally entitled: “The View From the Kitchen”: Domestic Workers in American Literature, 1942-1974. Some readers will recognise that the title is taken from a Maeve Brennan short story that appeared in the New Yorker in 1953. With a focus on depictions of African American and white ethnic domestic workers, the project explicitly builds on my expertise in African American and Irish American literatures.

For more information on Ireland, Migration and Return Migration, please visit our website.

 

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Irish Studies, News

Moving Histories author Jennifer Redmond attends International Women’s Day event with the President of Ireland

On Friday 8th March 2019, Moving Histories author Jennifer Redmond was invited to an event with President Higgins to celebrate “Women In The Sciences” for International Women’s Day at Áras an Uachtaráin.

The reception at Áras an Uachtaráin aimed to apply the 2019 theme of  #BalanceforBetter to the realm of academia, highlighting the benefit of diversity in academic work and paying tribute to the work of Ireland’s female researchers. You can watch, listen to, or read President Higgins’ speech from the event on the President of Ireland website, as well as find out some more information about the event.

Below are some photos from Jennifer’s day which the team at Áras an Uachtaráin have kindly shared with us.

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Moving Histories explores the story of Irish female emigrants in Britain, from their working lives to their personal relationships. Using a wide range of sources, including some previously unavailable, this book offers a new appraisal of an important, but often forgotten, group of Irish migrants.

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For more information about Moving Histories, please visit the Liverpool University Press website.

 

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Art, Enlightenment, History, Irish Studies, Jewish Studies, Literature, Modern Languages, News, Poetry

International Women’s Day 2019

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, we’ve curated a list of recent work by our brilliant female authors. Keep reading to find out more about some of the key titles by women from across our disciplines!

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Sarah Schenirer and the Bais Yaakov Movement by Naomi Seidman

Sarah Schenirer and the Bais Yaakov movement she founded represent a revolution in the name of tradition in interwar Poland. The new type of Jewishly educated woman the movement created was a major innovation in a culture hostile to female initiative. Naomi Seidman provides a vivid portrait of Schenirer that dispels many myths.

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Moving Histories by Jennifer Redmond

Moving Histories explores the story of Irish female emigrants in Britain, from their working lives to their personal relationships. Using a wide range of sources, including some previously unavailable, Jennifer Redmond’s book offers a new appraisal of an important, but often forgotten, group of Irish migrants.

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Middlebrow Matters by Diana Holmes

Middlebrow Matters is the first book to study the middlebrow novel in France. It asks what middlebrow means, and applies the term positively to explore the ‘poetics’ of the types of novel that have attracted ‘ordinary’ fiction readers – in their majority female – since the end of the 19th century.

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Chronicle of Constantine Manasses by Linda Yuretich

Linda Yuretich translates the mid-12th-century Synopsis Chronike by Constantine Manasses, covering a history of the peoples of the East, Alexander the Great’s conquests, the Hellenistic empires, the Trojan War and early empire until the reigns of Constantine I in the East, finally focusing on New Rome and its emperors.

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Tyranny and Usurpation by Doyeeta Majumder

Doyeeta Majumder investigates the political, legal, historical circumstances under which the ‘tyrant’ of early Tudor drama becomes conflated with the ‘usurper-tyrant’ of the commercial theatres of London, and how the usurpation plot emerges as one of the central preoccupations of early modern drama.

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The Unfinished Revolution by Karen Salt

In The Unfinished Revolution, Karen Salt examines post-revolutionary (and contemporary) sovereignty in Haiti, noting the many international responses to the arrival of a nation born from blood, fire and revolution. Using blackness as a lens, Salt charts the impact of Haiti’s sovereignty—and its blackness—in the Atlantic world.

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Wolfe Tone by Marianne Elliott

The paperback version of the second edition of Marianne Elliott’s award-winning and highly acclaimed biography of Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-98), the founder of Irish Republican nationalism, published earlier this month. Elliott has updated the work with new scholarship, new historical insights and fresh insights, making it a crucial publication for all scholars and readers of Irish history.

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A Scientific Companion to Robert Frost by Virginia Smith

Virginia Smith’s A Scientific Companion to Robert Frost, represents the first systematic attempt to catalogue and explain all of the references to science and natural history in Frost’s published poetry.

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Les Lumières catholiques et le roman français by Isabelle Tremblay

A pious expedient between philosophy and anti-philosophy can be found in some eighteenth-century novels. The collected essays in this volume edited by Isabelle Tremblay study how French novels of the Catholic Enlightenment contributed to the great debates of the eighteenth century and to the transmission of ideas. They also aim to restore those novels to the literary constellation of the age.

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Pavilion Poetry

Pavilion Poetry is Liverpool University Press’ poetry imprint which so far is made up of entirely female poets. In April, the next set of collections will be publishing – Hand Over Mouth Music by Janette Ayachi, Dear Big Gods by Mona Arshi, and The Following Scan Will Last Five Minutes by Lieke Marsman, translated by Sophie Collins.

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Writers and their Work

To further celebrate female authors, we’ve curated a collection of  books in our Writers and their Work series which are written either by a female author, or have a female as their subject. View the collection on our website.

 

For more information about any of the above books, please visit the Liverpool University Press website.

 

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Irish Studies

Begging, Charity and Religion in Pre-Famine Ireland – In Conversation with Ciarán McCabe

Beggars and begging were ubiquitous features of pre-Famine Irish society, yet have gone largely unexamined by historians. Begging, Charity and Religion in Pre-Famine Ireland explores for the first time the complex cultures of mendicancy, as well as how wider societal perceptions of and responses to begging were framed by social class, gender and religion. The book has recently been unlatched by Knowledge Unlatched, and the ebook can now be accessed for free. We spoke to author Ciarán McCabe about this recent publication.

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Firstly, could you tell us a bit about Begging, Charity and Religion in Pre-Famine Ireland and what compelled you to focus your research in this area?

I have been interested in the history of poverty and welfare for a number of years, and the topics of begging and vagrancy kept coming up in the sources, but there was no substantial study of them. I think I was initially attracted by the language used by contemporaries to describe “study beggars and idle vagrants”! The sheer ubiquity of beggars in the pre-Famine period was fascinating to me: they were everywhere and constant. They were found in large numbers in both urban and rural areas, and they were inevitably commented on by foreign travellers, albeit with some literary gloss sometimes applied to their account!

When researching this topic during my PhD at Maynooth University, I decided to explore how charitable societies, civil parish bodies and the various churches dealt with mendicancy. And this facilitated the approach I have taken in Begging, Charity and Religion in Pre-Famine Ireland, wherein I consider societal perceptions of beggars and begging, and then responses to the problem  – (begging was usually seen as a problem!). I also consider the other side of the giver / receiver exchange, and explore the motivations and experience of alms-givers.

The book explores different ways in which beggars were seen: as spreaders of disease; as work-shy idlers; as conveyors of gossip and political sedition; as a drain on the benevolence and Christian generosity of a mostly impoverished population. But, they could also be seen as engaged in a perfectly legitimate, fundamentally human act: asking assistance of one’s fellow man. When factors such as gender, social class and religious background are considered, it becomes a fascinating, yet complex, topic.

In a nutshell, Chapters 1-3 consider the broad topic of mendicancy: how can we define who was a beggar and what was begging; how and why were many contemporaries so eager to enumerate the numbers of people begging; and the disparate ways in which beggars were perceived.

Chapter 4 explores the short-lived mendicity society movement (there were more than fifty anti-begging societies established throughout Ireland between 1809 and 1845), while Chapter 5 looks at how parish vestries regulated begging through a badging / licencing system.

Chapters 6 and 7 respectively examine Catholic and Protestant approaches to mendicancy and discuss differences and similarities in perceptions and responses.

You highlight the lack of historical study into begging in pre-Famine Irish society. Why do you think this topic has been somewhat overlooked?

I think that the seeming lack of sources – especially sources from the perspective of the soliciting beggar – did not lend itself to considerable attention from scholars. I trawled through archives and libraries throughout Ireland and Britain finding material relating to begging and beggars in Ireland, and in some cases came upon sources which had not been used before, while in other cases, I asked new questions of well-worn sources.

The historian Caitriona Clear has written about beggars and vagrants as having “at best, a walk-on part in Irish history”, which I think is perfectly accurate. In social historians’ studies of the pre-Famine period beggars are usually mentioned, but have been left as ubiquitous, yet not terribly important, figures. My book broadens out the question beyond just the people engaged in begging and considers the practice of begging itself, as well as the significance that begging played in wider social and political reforms, such as the introduction of the Poor Law into Ireland in the late-1830s. But also, it looks at how a study of mendicancy informs changes in other developments within Irish society – the evolving experiences of poverty and welfare; the emergence of statistical and social inquiry in the early- to mid-nineteenth century; societal responses to disease epidemics; the changing function of the parish vestry as a unit of local government.

How does this volume pave the way for future research on the topic?

Among the topics I explore is the changing role of the civil parish vestry as a local government entity and a provider of social services, such as the care of orphans and deserted children, the provision of coffins to poor parishioners and the regulation of begging through a badging system. The parish gradually lost these powers throughout the mid-nineteenth century and this loss, I think, represents a substantial change in community power-brokering and interdenominational relations, especially in urban parishes, which is a much-neglected subject.

My book also makes considerable use of the published reports of the Whately Poor Inquiry, which sat between 1833-36 and examined in considerable detail the condition of the poorer classes in Ireland a decade before the Famine; their final output comprised more than 5,000 pages of reports. While numerous historians have made great use of the Whately Inquiry material, I still found new questions to ask of the sources. I think that the inquiry’s reports are wonderful sources that other scholars can return to as well, bringing new interests and asking new research questions.

The book uses a range of sources including case studies. Are there any sources which particularly stood out to you which you could discuss further with us?

The most enjoyable sources to work with were ones which opened up new perspectives on the history of begging, vagrancy and the relief of the poor. I started my research by considering these topics within the broader history of criminality, but the research evolved away from this angle and towards considering the responses of charities and churches. As such, it became a study of begging and alms-giving within the wider sphere of charity. The sources which facilitated this approach included Presbyterian kirk session minute books, the manuscript records of the Methodist-run Strangers’ Friend Society, the Society of Friends’ monthly meeting minute books and, for a Dublin case study, the papers of Archbishop Daniel Murray, who served as the Catholic archbishop of Dublin between 1823 and 1852.

Most interesting of all, though, were the vestry minute books of parishes from across Ireland. With some exceptions, these were all consulted in the Representative Church Body Library, Dublin. The parish vestry was a gathering of (male) householders in a parish, to consider the levying of local rates (a parish cess) to fund particular items of expenditure for the coming year. The minutes reveal that, from the 17th into the 19th centuries, parishes’ role was not limited to ecclesiastical matters, but extended into social matters – for example, the support of foundlings, orphans, widows and, in some fascinating instances, the operation of a system of licenced begging. Local ‘deserving’ beggars, who were known to the authorities, were issued with copper or tin badges, which served as a licence to solicit alms in a public place. The beggar who did not possess a badge could, therefore, be labelled ‘undeserving’ and duly refused alms. The parish vestry minute books are a much underused body of sources for Irish social history tell us much about the public operation of power and community tensions, as well as attitudes towards poverty and welfare, in this period. I was fortunate in being pointed in the direction of the vestry minute books by the late Dr Caroline Gallagher of Maynooth University.

As valuable as the vestry minute books are, they are best considered alongside contemporary newspaper reports of the annual Easter vestry meetings. These reports, especially for parishes in large urban centres such as Dublin and Cork, reveal much more about these meetings than the administrative records. Journalists’ accounts reveal to us the debates, arguments and (occasional) boisterousness which went unrecorded in the minute books.

What are you going to be working on next?

At the moment I am a postdoctoral research fellow at University College Dublin, funded by the Irish Research Council’s Enterprise Partnership Scheme. My project examines the survival strategies of working-class women in Dublin city between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, and is associated with Dublin City Council and its new museum at 14 Henrietta Street. Among the topics I am exploring are the position of charwomen in Dublin’s unskilled labour force, women’s use of pawnshops, Dublin’s second-hand clothes markets, and the social and cultural relevance of the ubiquitous ‘open front door’ in the city’s tenements.

Visit our website for more information on Begging, Charity and Religion in Pre-Famine Ireland or to read the ebook for free.

 

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Irish Studies, Uncategorized

Women of the Country House in Ireland – Five minutes with Maeve O’Riordan

Ahead of the launch of Women of the Country House in Ireland, 1860-1914, author Maeve O’Riordan discusses the various experiences of women among the Irish Ascendancy, from financial freedom to their own observations of motherhood.

Women of the Country House in Ireland 1860-1914 reveals the lives of the women among the Irish Ascendancy. How did you go about conducting your research for this project?

The book examines the lives of women from twelve landed families in Ireland, all of whom had a house in Munster. It explores their experiences from girlhood to old age, whether they married or not. I wanted to give space to these women’s own voices, so most of my research time was spent with the letters, diaries, scrapbooks, novels, memoirs, sketchbooks and other items written by women who either were born or married into the Irish landed class. Luckily, their descendants have shared their papers with a library – mostly the National Library of Ireland but also the Boole Library in University College Cork and other places.

With literally thousands of pages of letters written by these women preserved in these libraries, it was possible to become totally immersed in the material. The structure of the book evolved over time as the themes emerged from the surviving letters.

I hope that readers will gain a clear insight into the female experience among the class through the book. By examining women’s own voices it is possible to see how they viewed their own roles within the house. The female role was an important one to the success of the family, even though, legally, women had few rights at the time.

‘a youth and a matron suspiciously placed…with his arm encircling the motherly waist.’‘A Floggy Flirtation, 1889 –Lady Castletown’s scrapbook. Image Credit: NLI

 

What was the female experience among the privileged landed classes like in the mid-nineteenth century? Did it vary a lot between families?

The women in this study were all members of some of the wealthiest families in Ireland, however, even within this group, there were differences in wealth between families. For example, the estate of the Earl of Bantry stretched over 60,000 acres while the Ryan family in Tipperary only owned around 1,000 acres. Olive, the daughter of the 3rd Earl of Bantry married Lord Ardilaun – one of the richest men in Ireland or Britain – who owned the Guinness brewing empire. She had every possible comfort and a number of properties to call home, including Ashford Castle in County Mayo and Macroom Castle in County Cork.  The wives of the Ryan landlords had no such comparable wealth.

The most pronounced difference in experience, however, was within families between married and unmarried women, and women at different life stages. For example, Ethel, Lady Inchiquin, brought a dowry of £100,000 to her marriage in 1896. Throughout her married life, she acted with financial and personal freedom while remaining close to her husband. Ethel’s niece by marriage, Maud, was not as independent. After quarrelling with her mother, Ellen, in 1905, the unmarried woman was thrown out of the house and had no option to live with another sister on an allowance of £15 per month. To provide some context; in 1886, Ellen had hired a governess for Maud and her siblings on a salary of £80 per annum. Maud was completely reliant on the goodwill of her family for her financial security.

Ethel Foster, and extremely wealthy English heiress married the heir of Dromoland Castle in 1896. Their wedding was a statement of wealth and power. Read more about them in Women of the Country House in Ireland, 1860-1914 Image credit: NLI

When working on this project did you come across anything that you found particularly surprising?

There are a number of findings which surprise others when I talk about the book, particularly the fact that so many of these women were involved mothers who breastfed their babies and only relied on wet nurses in instances where they were too sick to nurse their own babies. For example, Mabel, who is depicted on the cover of the book with her son Brendan joked that he was turning her into a pagan as she could not attend church as he wanted to be constantly fed. When he was three months old she wrote that Brendan was ‘still practically a two-hours baby’ which meant ‘that the time for doing regular everyday things never seems to come’.

However, what has surprised me the most was the amount of movement across the Irish Sea on marriage. It has long been understood that many Irish landlords found English wives, but it was not known the extent to which women who grew up in Ireland ended up marrying into the English gentry and aristocracy. Of the peers’ daughters in this study, twice as many married English rather than Irish husbands. I want to examine this experience further in my future research.

How do you think Women of the Country House in Ireland 1860-1914 paves the way for further research into the history of women?

There has been a huge increase in the level of interest on women in the country house over the past few years. This book examines the female experience in a number of aspects of their lives. However, this book is only a starting point. Each one of the chapters could be expanded into longer studies of marriage, experiences of unmarried women, girlhood, political involvement, travel, social networks etc. I hope to complete some of this work, but many studies are needed before we can build a complete picture of the class at the time.

Maeve O’Riordan is Lecturer in Women’s and Cultural History at the School of History, University College Cork.

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