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Irish Home Rule political cartoons acquired by the Great Hunger Institute (PHOTOS)

The Great Hunger Institute of Ireland at Quinnipiac University has acquired a collection of 29 Irish political cartoons from the 1885-1914 “Home Rule” period, when Irish nationalists fought for independence from Great Britain.

Gerard Morgan, from County Mayo, donated the cartoons. He has written several books on 19th century Irish history, including “Sending out Ireland’s Poor” and “Mayo: A County History”.

“For historians [the cartoons] are a great resource, but also for students of visual culture because they are beautiful and very powerful images ”, founding director Christine Kinealy said in a press release.

The Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac is a scientific resource for the study of Great Hunger, promoting research and fostering understanding of Ireland’s greatest tragedy through lectures, lectures, artifacts and courses.

“These paintings are a unique resource that can be used to better understand this period in Ireland,” said Kinealy.

“The cartoons seem particularly relevant this week in the run-up to the Scottish referendum, and some of the old arguments against Irish independence play out in the context of Scotland.”

The images originally appeared in St. Stephen’s Review, a weekly political magazine published in London that opposed Irish independence (depicted in the cartoons).

The cartoons opposed to Home Rule are the work of English cartoonist and satirist William Mencham, who used the pseudonym “Tom Merry”.

The cartoons sympathetic to Home Rule, which appeared in the Freeman Weekly, are by Walter Charles Mills, born in County Tipperary in 1853. He often built his images around the characters of Erin, the beautiful woman symbol of Ireland , and Pat, the decent and reliable Irish farmer.

“The Ugly Boy and His New Clothes” – November 26, 1887.

The painting depicts William O’Brien, a nationalist journalist who represented Ireland in the British Parliament, as a naughty child. When he was arrested and jailed in 1887 for organizing a “rent strike” in County Cork, which was part of a larger agitation for land reforms, he refused to wear a prisoner’s uniform. His supporters smuggled a Blarney tweed suit into prison – a suit O’Brien later liked to wear in the British House of Commons.

‘The Modern Perseus’ – March 16, 1889.

The painting borrows from Greek mythology, Perseus being a dashing hero who saves Andromeda from a sea monster. In the context of the Home Rule debate, the beautiful woman personifies Ireland, while the “unacceptable” side of Ireland is portrayed as a monster that can only be controlled through the use of “coercion”. These unattractive stereotypes of Irish nationalists were rife.

‘Through the Green Glass’ – July 13, 1889.

The painting depicts William Gladstone reading a newspaper article titled “The Irish Question”. Gladstone literally reads the newspaper through green glasses – symbolizing his sympathy for Ireland. At this point, Gladstone was almost 80 years old, but still politically active. In 1892 he became British Prime Minister for the fourth time, and one of his electoral promises was that he would give Home Rule to Ireland. When Gladstone died in 1898, Irish Home Rule was more elusive than ever.

“The duty of the hour” – March 4, 1911.

This painting was donated with the “Weekly Freeman”, who supported Irish Self-Government (Home Rule). The beautiful female figure ‘Erin’ is used to personify Ireland and its struggles for independence. The National Fund referred to was founded to support the parliamentary campaign to win Home Rule and to counter “the powerful and unnatural combination of factionalism and unionism that is opposed to us”. The building in the background symbolizes the old Houses of Parliament in Dublin, which had been sold to the Bank of Ireland in 1800 when the Irish Parliament was abolished. The caption says, ERIN – “Everything is going well in Westminster, and your job, Pat, is to make the party there even better. That is why the War Chest is the duty of the moment.

“Wait a little Ulster” – March 2, 1912.

This cartoon was distributed with the “Weekly Freeman”, a Dublin-based newspaper which supported Irish independence. The cartoon provides an unsympathetic take on the people of Ulster’s opposition to Irish independence. The man in the middle, Augustine Birrell, was an English-born politician based in Dublin Castle. He is portrayed as a man of reason, who tries to reassure the people of Ulster that Home Rule will not threaten their civil and religious freedoms. Pat – the voice of nationalist Ireland – remains skeptical of the motivations of those who opposed Home Rule.

Quinnipiac University is a private, coeducational, non-sectarian institution located 90 minutes northeast of New York City and two hours from Boston. The political cartoons are on display in the Lender Family Special Collections Room at the Arnold Bernhard Library.

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Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera