[Capt.] Dermot MacManus

(1892?-1990; Dermot A[rthur Maurice] MacManus; Gl. Diarmuid Mac Maghnuis; alias Dermot Burke); brought up in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo; the second national branch of the Gaelic League was founded by his aunt, C. E. [“Lottie”] MacManus [q.v.], at Killeaden, where she hosted Yeats and Lady Gregory, and where they collected stories of Antoine Raftery [q.v.] who was born on the estate; ed. Westminster and Sandhurst; commissioned in Royal Inniskillen Fusiliers, c.1910; influenced by George [“Æ”] Russell, W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and J. M. Synge; served in India before the war and was seriously wounded at the Gallipoli and invalided out of the Army as Captain in 1919; entered TCD as a mature student, 1919-21; studied astronomy; moving spirit in the Thomas Davis Society [Sinn Féin]; friendly with Douglas Hyde from 1920 to his death;

he wrote to Michael Collins expressing support, and was arrested by British authorities, being incarcerated in Dublin Castle; released and went to work with “Ginger” O’Connell in Cathal Brugha’s office on the quays; placed on Auxiliaries’ murder list; saw IRA service in Tipperary with Michael Brennan and Ernie O’Malley as “Dermot Burke”; accepted the Anglo-Irish Treaty; appt. Director of Training of Guards under Collins, in succession to Gen. Dalton; commanded the Portobello Barracks, where he suppressed a mutiny of irregular officers; involved in the assault on the Four Courts, June-July 1922 - attacking from the South [Phoenix Park] while Patrick O’Connor attacked from the west; ranked as General MacManus, he commanded two small ships on a mission to take Kenmare from the sea, 10 Aug. 1922;

acted as review editor of the Irish Statesman (ed. Russell) in the early 1920-26, and met W. B. Yeats; instrumental in introducing Yeats to General O’Duffy of the Blueshirts; held long-term office as Treasurer of the Arts Club in Fitzwilliam St.; moved to Woodville, Co. Longford, by 1931, and later to Harrogate in England, c.1957 - an ‘exile’ from Ireland in his own words; annual visitor during his lifetime; issued The Middle Kingdom: The Faerie World of Ireland (1959), a compendium of Irish fairy customs and traditions; he delivered a paper on the Irish Literary Revival to the Harrowgate Literary Society, in 1965; interviewed by BBC at home in Harrogate as being last surviving friend of Yeats, summer 1973; d. at Harrogate, circa 1990; survived by his second wife, Millicent [var. Enid].

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  • The Middle Kingdom: The Faerie World of Ireland (London 1959; rep. Colin Smythe 1973), ded. to W. B. Yeats] and Do. [rep.] (Dufour 1979), 191pp., ill. [20.3cm.]
  • Irish Earth Folk (1959) [q. details].

See memoirs by D. A. MacManus ...
1. ‘The Irish Literary Revival - 1890-1935’ (1965) attached
2. ‘Killeaden and Anthony Raftery, 1784-1835’ (1965) attached
3. ‘Answer to a Query from M. J. Kelly’ (photo-copy of typescript; q.d.) attached
Note: The first two of the above papers have been archived by Roy Johnston, son of Joseph Johnston; the third is held by Colin Smythe, publisher of The Middle Kingdom (Bucks., Gerrards Cross 1973).

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See W. J. McCormack, Blood Kindred: W. B. Yeats, the Life, the Death, the Politics (London: Pimlico 2005) - for discussion of Yeats’s and MacManus’s Fascist connections; Calton Younger, Ireland’s Civil War (Muller 1968) [quotes remarks on fellow-soldiers of the period].

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Obituary: Captain Dermot MacManus, in The Irish Times [q.d.; 1990.]

The death has taken place at his home in Harrogate, Yorkshire of Captain Dermott Macmanus, son of the late Dr. L. S. Macmanus of London and May and brother of Emily Macmanus, Matron of Guys Hospital from 1927-46, and Dr. Desmond Macmanus. Captain Macmanus was 83 and had been ill for some time.
 In his early years he lived at the family home in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo and was educated at Westminster School and Sandhurt before being commissioned into the Royal Inniskillen Fusiliers. He first served in India and during the first World War fought in the Dardenells, where he was seriously wounded and later invalided out of the Army.
  During these years he came under the influence of Yeats, Synge, Russel [sic] and Lady Gredory and was associated with the Abbey Theatre, Dublin and with the Irish Literary Revival.
  He read astronomy for a time at Trinity College, Dublin, but then left college in his determination to help Ireland in her fight for freedom. At this time he lived at Woodville, Co. Longford and later moved to England.
  Much of his later life was taken up in writing and in a volumninous correspondence with is many friends. He has the author of many articles on military matters and Irish folklore his best-known book being The Middle Kingdom dedicated to his friend W. B. Yeats.
  A colleague said of him: ‘He was a very brilliant man, a very modest man and certainly hid his light under a bushel.’ He will be greatly missed by his many friends.

“Dermott MacManus: An Appreciation” in The Irish Times [q.d.; 1990]

It is entirely fitting that Dermott MacManus who died in Harrogate, aged 83, should be buried in his beloved Mayo, close by his his ancestral home at Killeaden. Until increasing illness prevented it in 1971, he paid a yearly visit back there. In a letter that autumn he wrote - “Alas, alas, I will not be over in Ireland at all this year. This is the first time such a thing has happened since I left India 57 years ago. It nearly breaks my heart. Think of me in exile; - above all I wish to keep in touch with Ireland for it is my life”.

‘That devotion had once inspired him to play a not insignificant part at a critical stage in the country’s history. Of his role in face of the Black-and-Tan terror, Calton Younger, author of Ireland’s Civil War wrote: “Even Irishmen who had brilliant reocrds in the British Army - now made a disillusioned way into the IRA Dermot MacManus, for example, had had an upbringing which was traditionally British. Born into a well-to-do family in Mayo, he had been educated at Westminster and Sandhurst - a gay young subaltern in the London of 1910. Blown up at Gallipoli, he had been eventually invalided out of the Inniskillen Fusiliers and entered Trinity College.

Disgusted with the new British attitude, he wrote a to Michael Collins. Perhpas a letter was intercepted for suspicion quickly fell on him and he was arrested in his flat and thrown into a most amazing dungeon under the old Tower at the Castle.” On release in the absence of incriminating evidence, he was “introduced into the IRA by his friend Cathal Brugha, working first with Giinger O’Connell on Brugha’s personal staff in the latter’s office on the quays. Soon he had to go on the run, as he was on the Auxiliaries Murder List in Dublin. In Clare and Tipperary he severed under the name of “Diarmuid Burke” with Michael Brennan and Ernie O’Malley.

At the lamentable “split” which followed the Treaty, he sided with the Free Staters, agreeing with Michael Collins’ dictum - “Freedom to Achieve Freedom”. He was appointed director of training in succession to Major General Dalton. To again quote Younger - “August 10th, 1922, General MacManus commanded two small ships from Limerick to take Kenmare from the sea.”

MacManus’s letters of recent years are filled with reminiscences of fellow fighters on both sides of the Irish campaign. Apart from those already mentioned, there stands out that of Sean MacEoin, “the famous blackmith of Ballinlea, one of the most chivalrous fighters I have ever met with.” With the heat of battle over, Dermott became an active member of the Arts Club of which he was honorary treasurer for a number of years in the 1920s. In onf of his letters he stated that he “forst conceived the idea of the nine Arts Ball and helped to bring the first one about.” Again he wrote - “The Arts Clube has great histroy and was a real centre of art and intellect from 1915 to 1930, all through the vital 20s. / Latter he devoted hismelf to the investigation and the writing up of Fairie Folk Lore of Ireland, in which atmosphere he had been nurtured. As a boy on his father’s estate, he had sought out the tenants to hear from them tales of local “happenings”, and now he put the into book-form under the title The Middle Kingdom. This was an outstanding work on the subject given by one “who had not got his tongue in his cheek”., but was a staunch believer in the ancient and continuing spirit life of the country side” [punct. sic.].

At the MacManus home, Killeaden House, near Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo, Lady Gregory and Douglas Hyde, both friends of the family, spent many period during which they collected with the help of Dermott’s aunt, Miss Lottie MacManus, the Irish historical novelist, almost all that is known today of Anthony Raftery. The famous blind Irish bard had been born on the lands of Killeaden, being a tenant of the previous owner, Frank Taafe, who delighted in hearing him sing and tell his stories to a local audience in front of “The Big House” or at the foot of the renowned fair fort - Lis Ard nearby. In Killeaden House, Miss Lottie MacManus founded the second branch in all Ireland of the Gaelic League.

In the summer of 2973, the BBC, when preparing a documentary on Yeats, recognising Dermott MacManus as his last surviving close friend, sent a team to his home in Harrogate to interview him regarding his copious notes, and also to film him. During the ill health which caused his latter-day absence from Ireland, Dermott was devotedly attended on by his wife Millicent. [M.L.]’.

[ The above obituary and appreciation have been kindly supplied by Colin Smythe. ]

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A. N. Jeffares, W. B. Yeats: A New Biography (London: Hutchinson 1988; rev. edn. Continuum 2003) - Chap. 15: “1923-1927”: ‘Yeats began to explore the eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish writers with zest. Captain Dermot MacManus, a well-read man with an excellent library, whom he described as “a revolutionary soldier”, had introduced him to Bishop Berkeley’s works [...]’ (2003 Edn., p.225.)

Kathleen Raine, Yeats the Initiate, Essays on Certain Themes in the Writings of W. B. Yeats (Maryland: Barnes & Noble 1990) [designed by Liam Miller]: ‘Yeats and Mrs. Yeats gve up spirit communication some years before the poet’s death. Yeats’s friend and fellow-Vedantist [28] Captain Dermot MacManus, who told me this, led me to understand that this was a deliberate decision. Had the Frustrators prevailed? Or had Yeats passed beyond this phase of his thought? Captain MacManus believed that Yeats “had cooled off Swedenborg in his later years. It was all quite incompatible with the Swami’s teaching of Hinduism.” Captain MacManus described Yeats’s and his own teacher Shri Purohit Swami as the most impressive person he ever met, Yeats not excepted, and “he certainy had the deepest affection for Yeats”. Rather than renouncing Swedenborg, it is possible that Yeats had simply no more to learn from him or from the spirits.’ (pp.28-29.)

Peter Liebregs and Peter van de Kamp, eds., Tumult of Images: Essays on W. B. Yeats and Politics being Vol. 3 of The Literature of Politics, The Politics of Literature [Proceedings of the Leiden IASIL Conference] (Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi. B.V.; Atlanta, GA. 1995), Introduction: ‘Yeats’s closest ally was Captain Dermot MacManus, “his head full of vague Fascims, probably got from me.” (Letters, 815). MacManus introduced Yeats to O’Duffy, the Irish answer to Mussolini. [...] MacManus claimed that after the interview Yeats had called O’Duffy an “uneducated lunatic” [...]’ (p.13-14.)

John Michell, Bob Rickard & Robert J. M. Rickard, Unexplained Phenomena: A Rough Guide Special: Mysteries of Science, Folklore and Superstition (London: Rough Guides 2000) - Chap.: “The Haunted Planet - Phenomenal highways” [synopsis]: Some incidents connected with fairy paths and warnings against buildiong houses on the traditional routes of fairy processions. ‘Anyone who does so is likely to suffer regular disturbances, poltergeist effects, constant bad luck and, in extreme cases, the destruction of the property.’ Cites case of Michael O’Hagan who built in the direct line of two hill forst and whose children fell ill to the bafflement of doctors, one almost dying, until the building was pulled down on advise of ‘a wise woman, versed in local topography’ Adjacent photograph from The Middle Kingdom shows the ‘cut-off corner of an Irish cottage which had been obstructing a “fairy path”. ‘With the corner’s removal, the disturbances plaguing the cottage dwellers ceased.’ [caption] (Mitchel, et ap., op. cit., p.169; available at Google Books - online.)

Sharynne MacLeod NicMhacha, Queen of the Night: Rediscovering the Celtic Moon Goddess (Boston: Red Wheel 2005) - [Chap.:] “Tenth Lunation” - where MacManus is quoted as asserting that ‘the cure is walking bare-foot and bare-legged in a soft bog in a left-handwise circle (useful for decreasing magic) for fifteen minutes daily for a three-week period.’ (p.259 [n.12; citing The Middle Kingdom, Colin Smythe 1973, pp.188-89; available at Google Books - online.)

Roy H. W. Johnston, Century of Endeavour: A Biographical and Autobiographical View of the 20th Century (Dublin: Academica Press 2003) - synopsis of remarks: Dermot MacManus was an ex-service student in TCD in 1919-21; Joseph Johnston [the author’s father] was in contact with and supported MacManus in the latter’s capacity as prime mover of the Thomas Davis Socirety, effectively a Sinn Fein front; MacManus later commanded the Free State Army in the West of Ireland and afterwards served as Deputy of Mountjoy Prison at a time when the English hangman Pierrepont had ‘clients’ there [as shown by copies of letters in the Johnston archive]; later contact with Johnston’s family who spent Christmas 1931 at MacManus’s house nr. Longford; MacManus was actively involved with Army Comrades Association and its transition to the Blueshirts; he was more in the Standish O’Grady elitist tradition than the Labour-supporting Johnston, and is on record as having attempted to bring in Yeats to the leading Blueshirt group which included O’Duffy; probably that Johnston and MacManus agreed to differ; MacManus later contacted Johnston in the 1960s for support in publishing literary critical work; MacManus approached by Lemass shortly after 1931 and appointed to a Commission to report on the Civil Service. (p.8; pp.56-57; available at Google Books - online.)

Valerie Strong, In Those Days: A Story of Strong Women (USA: XLibris Corp. 2010), recounts a visit to Dermot MacManus at Harrogate, ‘first cousin of my grandfather’ and ‘a family legend’ (p.271), gassed in the war and ‘the last living link to W. B. Yates [sic for Yeats]’, attended by his wife Enid [sic] on the day of the BBC interview; recounts his talk about Killeadan and its ghost, followed by their subsequent visit there - only to find it a ‘the house, a once lovely beautifully proportioned Georgian [sic], now derelict’. Further: ‘Peering through the windows was enough to know that to make it even habitable would cost a fortune. Taking care to walk around the thorn-tree, we found the stable yard which we decided would be more manageable for restoration; the box stalls and grooms’ quarters above, carriage house, tack and feed rooms would easily convert into a charming small hotel. After a miserable meal at the local pub where the only recommenation was a mural of the blind poet Anthony Raftery, the last of the wandering bards, we landed in an equally miserable B&B. / Poor Dermot, nothing could have persuaded us to linger in what seemd a God forsaken patch of Ireland. We took off for the north to visit the Giant’s causeway, a geological wonder [...]’ (p.275.) [Available at Google Books - online.)

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The ‘Shee’: ‘In Ireland the world of the Shee [Sidhe], that is, of the faeries and of all those spirits which are elemental and have never been human, was called the Middle Kingdom, a satisfactory and expressive term. In ancient times, and almost up to this very age, this world of ‘faerie’ has been as much an accepted reality to the country people as has the normal material world around them. But today [ 1959], though belief still remains widespread, the old knowledge of the organisation, of the ordered hierarchy of the classes and castes that compose the spirit world has almost disappeared.’ (The Middle Kingdom [1959] Gerrards Cross, Colin Smythe, 1973, pp.15-16; quoted in Donald E. Morse, et al., A Small Nation’s Contribution to the World, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1993, pp.7-8.)

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Three Geese Catalogue (1999) lists Diarmuid MacManus, Irish Earth Folk (1959), and The Middle Kingdom (also 1959).

Geni [genealogical] website lists:
Maj-Gen Dermot MacManus, Diarmuid Mac Maghnuis (?-1990): educated at Trinity College Dublin; journalist and author; Capt, 10th (Irish) Division (1914-18); Gallipoli (1915); Director of Training, Dublin Guards, IRA and GOC Limerick, NA (1922); Provost Marshall, Southern Command, NA (1922-23); and Asst-Gov of Mountjoy Prison, NA (1923). Like many Home-Rulers Dermot MacManus joined the British Army in 1914. He fought at Gallipoli and rose to the rank of captain. After the war he studied at Trinity College, where he joined Sinn Féin. By 1922 he was Director of Training in the Dublin Guards and with his valuable combat experience he was promoted to commandant-general. When the Four Courts were attacked he opened fire with small arms from Phoenix Park as the shelling began. He took over the attack from the wounded Joe Leonard and stormed the breach to take the area. He disabled the IRA armoured car “The Mutineer” by shooting its tyres off with a Lewis machine-gun, forcing the crew to abandon the vehicle. MacManus was sent to Limerick, repudiated the local truce made with the IRA and secured the city for the National Army. He commanded the ships in Paddy Daly’s Kerry landings on 11th August 1922. He fought in Co. Clare and, after concerns about the mistreatment of IRA prisoners, MacManus was made Provost Marshall of Southern Command, then Deputy-Governor of Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, where the most important IRA prisoners were kept. He was a friend of William Yeats and James Joyce [sic err.], with whom he corresponded during the civil war. He was literary editor of the Irish Statesman and wrote Middle Kingdom: The Faerie World of Ireland and Between Two Worlds: True Irish Ghost Stories. (Available online; accessed 15.02.2015.)
Family: Son of Leonard MacManus and Julia MacManus; Husband of MacManus Margaret Clarkin; Father of Margaret Joseph; Muriel MacManus; and Christopher MacManus; Brother of Emily Elvira Primrose MacManus; Charlotte Sally MacManus and Desmond MacManus. [And another child.]
Available at Geni - online; accessed 15.02.2015.

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Colin Smythe: Obituary notices and a photocopy of a typescript by MacManus detailing the suppression of the Portobello Mutiny in 1922 are held by Colin Smythe, the reprint publisher of MacManus’s Middle Kingdom (1959, 1973).

The Seige 1922 (2013) is a 50-min. history film directed by Andrew Gallimore, with characters including Michael Collins, Ernie O’Malley and Rory O’Connor and Dermot MacManus ... the last-named played by Peter Coonan - as well as the parts of Sean O Muirthile and Simon Donnelly, while Mario Rosenstock plays Collins, Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George. (See Imbd - online.)

Idiot’s Guide: MacManus is also referenced in Carl McColman, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Celtic Wisdom (Indianopolis: Alpha Books 2003) - available online.

Namesake: Dermot MacMahon (1925-84) b. Co. Wicklow, was an a prolifice stage actor, best known for his role in Quatermass II. (See IMBb - online; accessed 02.11.2023.)