Category Archives: Constance Markievicz
The first edition of Constance Markievicz’s prison letters was put together by Esther Roper, the partner of Markievicz’s sister Eva Gore-Booth, to whom many of the letters were addressed. The editon was published by Longman Paul in 1934. Roper, with help from Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington, one of the executors of Markievicz’s will and longtime friend and fellow activist, wrote a substantial biographical essay for the book.
Over 50 years later Amanda Sebestyen worked on a new edition and wrote her own introduction. This edition was brought out by the feminist publisher, Virago, in 1987.
Thirty-one years later (last year, 2018) Lindie Naughton, the author of a new recent biography – Markievicz: a most outrageous rebel (Dublin, Merrion Press, 2016) – has put together a new edition. This edition returns the letters to their original form. (Lindie notes, “Consulting the originals in the National Library of Ireland makes it obvious that the published versions of the prison letters skirted around some sensitive issues and blanked out the names of people who quite possibly were still alive at the time of the original publication.”)
The prison letters come from her various stints in jail: May 1916-July 1917 in Mountjoy (Dublin) and Aylesbury (Buckinghamshire); June 1918-March 1919 in Holloway; June-October 1919 in Cork; September 1920-July 1921 in Mountjoy; and November-December 1923 in the North Dublin Union.
Moreover, this edition adds a bunch of letters that haven’t appeared in print before. These include letters to Read the rest of this entry
I must admit that when I saw journalist Lindie Naughton had a book coming out on Markievicz my initial response was one of trepidation. Even if it was a good book, what was there left to put into a Markievicz bio that hadn’t already been covered by Anne Marreco, Jacqueline Van Voris, Diana Norman and Anne Haverty?
To my delight – especially since I bought the book after a few internet chats with Lindie – I can report that Lindie’s biography does bring more stuff to the table and is a really good read. In fact, I found reading the lead-up to the Rising had me quite excited, indeed riveted.
Lindie has made a good deal of use of the Bureau of Military History archives, most particularly the witness statements from the revolutionary period.
She seems to have been through papers of the time pretty methodically, looking for more stuff by and about Markievicz, as well as using the body of Markievicz’s articles that I dug up in the 1980s and put up on this site when I started it.
One result is that, even though I think a know a lot about Markievicz, I have found out more by reading this book. I think it’s also interesting that Lindie has brought a journalist’s research skills to the work – these are far superior to those of a so-called professional historian like Anne Matthews. And, speaking of Matthews, Lindie puts another nail in the coffin of Matthews’ attempt to frame up Markievicz for shooting an unarmed Dublin cop at point-blank range and then gloating over it (Anne Haverty also demolishes this frame-up). I did, however, think Lindie could have said a bit more about the problematic nature of the Geraldene Fitzgerald claim to have witnessed Markievicz killing the Dublin policeman and exulting over it, especially as she had mentioned to me some problems with the Fitzgerald statement. While Anne Haverty utterly demolishes Matthews’ attempt to stitch up Markievicz on that one, Lindie does, however, show it to be highly unlikely that Markievicz did any such thing. Also, Lindie notes that Connolly had specifically ordered ICA members not to shoot unarmed cops and soldiers.
Below is a page from Lindie’s bio. It will give you a taste for the book and, I hope, encourage you to go out and buy it. It deserves to sell well and be well-read. The extract deals with some stuff at Liberty Hall a few weeks before the Rising:
By the time the police returned, Connolly, Constance and Helena Molony, all armed, were Read the rest of this entry
Here’s yet another place where what Matthews dishes up is at best highly questionable and, in fact to put it bluntly, most likely untrue.
For instance, Matthews’ Renegades asserts that Markievicz did very little in Liberty Hall during the lockout other than flounce around making a show of herself.
Well, here is some testimony from Louie Bennett, a leading figure in the Irish labour movement for many years. Bennett was a suffragist wh0 got involved with the radical end of the labour movement at the time of the 1913 lockout and subsequently played a leading role in the militant Irish Women Workers Union. Here she is talking about how she secretly started going to Liberty Hall during the lockout:
“At that time I belonged to the respectable middle class and I did not dare admit to my home circle that I had run with the crowd to hear Jim Larkin, and crept like a culprit into Liberty Hall to see Madame Markievicz in a big overall, with sleeves rolled up, presiding over a cauldron of stew, surrounded by a crowd of gaunt women and children carrying bowls and cans.” (Bennett talked to R.M. Fox about her life and this provided the basis for his 1958 book on her, Louie Bennett: her life and times, p42).
This suggests Markievicz worked hard in the soup kitchen and was not some dilettante who only appeared when photos were being taken, as suggested by O’Casey and picked up by Matthews.
Moreover, Matthews is highly selective about providing context. If she wants to Read the rest of this entry
Anne Haverty’s updated new edition of her bio of Constance Markievicz is well worth a read (and a buy). Among other things, Haverty disproves the notion that Markievicz shot an unarmed cop at the beginning of the takeover of Stephen’s Green and then ran back inside the Green exulting in the killing. Personally, I happen to think members of the Dublin Metropoitan Police were legitimate targets, but the attack on Markievicz is that she shot him at point blank range when he was unarmed and had no chance to surrender. Various professional anti-republicans (the historical revisionist school, for instance and folks like Ann Matthews, whom I simply can’t take seriously as any sort of historian) have peddled this nonsense, using highly questionable ‘evidence’.
Haverty runs through, for instance, the use of a Geraldene Fitzgerald’s account which revisionists typically classify as being from her diary. Haverty points out that it is actually two typed pages that read like a deposition for a prosecution, one the state did not pursue (which itself says something about the fanciful nature of the claim). Haverty shows how Fitzgerald’s testimony is faulty (different time to when the policeman was actually shot; distance from the shooting and yet Fitzgerald claimed to hear words spoken in the Green!!!) and concludes of Fitzgerald’s ‘evidence’: “Only the Read the rest of this entry
The excellent piece below appears in this month’s issue of the journal Irish Political Review. It deals with the extraordinary and malicious assault on the reputation of Countess Markievicz, an assault which has been ratcheted up in recent years by Ann Matthews. Matthews seems to have decided to devote her twilight years to a personal vendetta against the revolutionary countess – indeed, the vendetta seems almost out-of-control now, in terms of what she says about Markievicz, making Matthews look somewhat obsessive and deranged. She suppresses evidence, uses ‘evidence’ which is highly questionable, cherry picks evidence to suit her already decided upon line, claims to have ‘no theory’ as if she is just some impartial fact-finder, and writes books and plays which appeal to a particular type of audience (middle class, anti-republican) who lap up her fanciful ‘history’. In reality, hatchet job as history.
I had been thinking of writing something about Matthews and her methods for a while, when I received the piece below from a friend of mine in Belfast. What is most notable about the critiques of people like Matthews is how strongly evidence-based they are. They show Matthews and her fellow revisionists to be short on facts and long on prejudice and not particularly scrupulous – and certainly not rigorous – when it comes to dealing with evidence.
Sometimes, however, you do just have to laugh. For instance when Matthews refers to Markievicz as “eccentric” and “with a strong sense of her own self-importance”, I think this is what the psychologists call ‘transference’!
In a future short piece I’ll deal with Charles Townsend on Markievicz’s imaginary breakdown and with Fearghal McGarry’s complete misrepresentation of evidence from Barton & Foy’s book on 1916. (Barton & Foy demolish the nonsense that Markievicz broke down at her court-martial and call the claim ‘scurrilous’, whereas McGarry pretends that they say the account of her breakdown was expunged from the official court-martial proceedings!) If I can summon the energy, I’ll also comment on Matthews shoddily-written Renegades, point to the shoddiness of the writing, suppression of evidence and some of her sleights-of-hand and double standards. It’s hard to believe that her ‘work’ is taken seriously, so it’s hard for me to summon up the energy to deal with it. She should have been taken to task for all this by her PhD superviser/s and marker/s.
Perhaps someone in Ireland or Britain doing honours papers could methodically go through Matthews’ ‘work’ and check her ‘references’ as well as her omissions and double standards. It could be a model dissection of how a rather crude anti-republican propagandist goes about presenting their propaganda as merely truth-seeking historiography.
“MURDERESS” MARKIEVICZ OR MALICIOUS MISOGYNY?
by Manus Riordan
From April 20 to May 2 of last year a Show Trial took place in the Headquarters of the Communist Party of Ireland. A year later, during this past month of March, the Show Trial resumed in CPI HQ, with the defendant scheduled to be extradited to Paris for the final day’s Court sitting on April 23. On trial for “murder”, and undoubtedly scheduled for a death sentence, gender considerations nonetheless signaled commutation.
But no, the CPI has not been seeking to emulate any of the Show Trials that characterised Leninist rule in Eastern Europe. Indeed, the CPI has no responsibility at all for Madame de Markievicz on Trial. For understandable commercial reasons, the CPI shares its premises with the New Theatre. But just as I found it incongruous to pass through Connolly Books en route to finding out just how nauseating the theatrical character assassination of Connolly’s comrade-in-arms would turn out to be, I am sure CPI personnel found it even more nauseating to witness, on a daily basis, those audiences en route to lap up that Show Trial authored by one-time CPI-archivist Ann Matthews.
There is little doubt in my mind that Constance Markievicz has been the target of systematic misogyny, irrespective of whether the character assassins be male or female. Professor John A Murphy, University College Cork’s Emeritus Professor of History, had certainly been prepared to play the role of nasty little man in the Irish Times of 22 October 2004 when, under the heading of “Markievicz and the Rising”, he gave vent to the following piece of misogynistic West Brit character assassination:
“The argument in your columns about Countess Markievicz’s activities in Easter Week 1916 recalls W.E. Wylie’s interesting account of her demeanour at the courts martial. Wylie was appointed to act as prosecuting counsel. He was impressed by some of the prisoners, notably Eamon Ceannt and John MacBride, but not by Constance Markievicz. According to him, the court expected she would make a scene and throw things at the judge and counsel. ‘In fact’, said Wylie, ‘I saw the General (Blackadder, court president) getting out his revolver and putting it on the table beside him. But he needn’t have troubled, for she curled up completely. ‘I am only a woman’, she cried, ‘and you cannot shoot a woman. You must not shoot a woman.’ She never stopped moaning, the whole time she was in the courtroom.’ Though she had been ‘full of fight’ in Stephen’s Green, ‘she crumpled up in the courtroom’. ‘I think we all felt slightly disgusted. . . She had been preaching to a lot of silly boys, death and glory, die for your country, etc., and yet she was literally crawling. I won’t say any more, it revolts me still.’ Wylie’s memoir of 1916 was written in 1939 when he was 58. But is there any reason to think he was lying about Markievicz, or that his recall was defective?”
In my then capacity as SIPTU Head of Research in Liberty Hall, I submitted the following reply, which was published that 28 October:
‘In the 1916 Rebellion Handbook, first published in that year by the Weekly Irish Times, there is a self-revealing observation on the Irish Citizen Army from ‘The Steward of Christendom’ himself, Dublin Metropolitan Police Superintendant Thomas Dunne. (This is the title of the play penned in his memory by Dunne’s great-grandson, Sebastian Barry – MO’R). He complains that ‘it is a serious state of affairs to have the city endangered by a gang of roughs with rifles and bayonets, at large at that time of night with a female like the Countess Markievicz in charge’. Constance Markievicz’s reputation has indeed been bedevilled by a combination of misogyny and contempt for her association with the working class that this union set out to organise, and whom Superintendent Dunne chose to christen ‘the disorderly class’. All the more reason, then, to expect professional rigour to be applied when UCC’s Emeritus Professor of History, John A. Murphy, intervenes (October 22nd) in what he calls the ‘argument in your columns’ concerning Markievicz’s role in 1916. Surprisingly, however, he has nothing to say on the actual issue in dispute: that either Markievicz had shot Constable Lahiff at Stephen’s Green, as maintained by Kevin Myers (October 14th), or that she could not possibly have done so, being at that time at the City Hall, as evidenced by Claire McGrath Guerin (October 19th).”
“Prof Murphy has instead chosen to open up a new line of attack, by endorsing, without any qualification, the character assassination of Markievicz offered in his memoirs by the death penalty Read the rest of this entry
Liam O Ruairc, with his usual attention to detail, has produced an interesting and useful discussion on Connolly and Germany from the opening of WW1 to the Rising. Liam has, I think, proven that some of Connolly’s writings during this period present Germany as being more progressive or less reactionary than Britain. At the same time he has shown that Connolly was not, as suggested by Austen Morgan (and others), a Germanophile. Liam has shown that Connolly remained opposed to German imperialism and looked forward to its being brought down by the German working class while rather glossing over Germany’s record in public.
Liam has also challenged the idea that Connolly was a kind of Irish Lenin and that certain writers, mainly (but certainly not exclusively) of the CPGB and CPI variety (eg C. Desmond Greaves), smuggled that connection in as a way of justifying their own two-stage politics in relation to Ireland. Liam suggests that Connolly and Lenin also had different attitudes to the First World War and that, although Connolly was no Pilsudski, he did have a few positions in common with the right-wing Polish social-democrat leader.
I think there are some problems with the Connolly/Lenin and Connolly/Pilsudski connections.
Firstly, I agree with Liam about Greaves and those closely associated with him. Greaves had a view of the struggle in Ireland which was both Read the rest of this entry