Denis Ireland

1894-1974; b. Belfast; son of linen-manufacturer; ed. Belfast Acad. Inst., and QUB; Royal Irish Fusiliers in France and Macedonia [Greece] in First world War; invalided with rank of captain; travelled for family linen firm in Britain, Canada, and USA; freelance writer and broadcaster; first resident of Northern Ireland to become member of Irish Senate, 1948-51; Irish delegation to Council of Europe; fndr. Ulster Union Club; An Irish Protestant Looks at His World (1930); Patriot Adventurer (1936), biography of Wolfe Tone; From the Irish Shore (1936), autobiographical [check date]; Statues Round the City Hall (1939); contrib. ‘A Road to the Isles’ to Robert Greacen, ed., Northern Harvest: Anthology of Ulster Writing (1944); Six Counties in Search of a Nation (1947); contrib. to The Envoy (1950); From the Jungle of Belfast (1973); reprints pieces from two earlier vols. of autobiography and new material; held that partition had created a wall cutting across a common Irish culture; the Public Records Office (NI) holds papers of and relating to Denis Ireland incl. correspondence regarding his books, 1938-74 (D.3137). IF2 DIW DUB

[ top ]

  • Geda and George C. Marroo (Belfast: Vortex [1935]), 103pp.
  • An Ulster Protestant Looks At His World: A Critical Commentary on Contemporary Irish Politics (Belfast: Dorman & Co. 1930), 86pp. [infra];
  • Portraits and Sketches (Belfast: Vortex Press [1935]); Theobald Wolfe Tone: Patriot Adventurer, extracts from the memoirs and journals of Wolfe Tone, comprising his early life in Dublin, his exile in America, her negotiations with the French Govt. in Paris, his adventures in Holland and Germany, and the attempted invasion of Ireland by the French, 1763-98; selected, arranged, with connected narrative by Denis Ireland (London: Rich & Cowan 1936) (London: Rich & Cowan 1936), 144pp.;
  • From the Irish Shore (London Rich & Cowan 1936) [infra]; Statues Round the City Hall (London: Cresset 1939) [infra];
  • Portraits and Sketches (Belfast: Vortex Press 1935), 103pp.; Statutes Round the City Hall (London: Cresset Press 1939), 298pp. [var. early edn., Belfast: Mullan 1935];
  • Eamon de Valera Doesn’t See it Through: A Study of Irish Politics in the Machine Age (Cork: Forum Press 1941), 62pp.;
  • The Age of Unreason: A Short History of Democracy in Our Times [Abbey Publ.] (Dublin: Corrigan & Wilson 1944), 34pp.;
  • Six Counties in Search of a Nation, Essays and Letters on Partition 1942-1946 (Belfast: Irish News 1947), vi, 108pp.;
  • From the Jungle of Belfast: Footnotes to History 1904-1972 (Belfast: Blackstaff 1973) [infra].
  • Red Brick and Its Dramatist: A Note on St. John Ervine’, in Envoy, 1 (March 1950), pp.59-67.

[ top ]

Bibliographical details
Statues Round The City Hall
(London: Cresset 1939) [dedicated to my wife for her part in it / especially for spotting the fox at Louis MacNeice’s grave], signed copy in Belfast Central Public Library; memoir, mostly conversations and impressions in Ireland, London, and America. CONTENTS: Family Portrait; A Free Woman; The Oracle; The emigrant; Conversations in a London Restaurant; A visit to the Fleet; Portrait of a Gunman; The Business Man; The Weaver; A Women; A Day in NY; The First in the Red Picture Hat; Conversation in a [?] Hotel; Flowers for the Unworthy; [?Hoan]; In the West; Light from Europe; Exeunt theVictorians; Rolling Stream; An Fermanagh and Donegal; The Black Mountains; The Poteen maker; The Island of [?Ste]; A Fair Day; The Politician; The Antiquary; Channel Crossing; Statues Round the City Hall; Immortality; In the Glens; Manoeuvres; Up the Republic; The Windy Road [266pp.]. TEXT, ‘the Falls Road, that was a place full of foreigners and Catholics, from whence there sometimes came the sound of shots [3]. Ireland develops an extremely romantic view of Ireland, tracing the native race from Oriental stock; notice of Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Ernest, at Gate (pp.77-78), incls. the remark, ‘Lady Bracknell never got near Belgravia than Butt Bridge ... Algernon terrific’ [names of actors added in marginal hand in copy at Belfast Central Public Library].

From The Jungle: Footnotes to History 1904-1972 (Belfast: Blackstaff 1973), 176pp. CONTENTS: A Belfast Protestant Mantelpiece [3 pts.] A Glare of Burning Tankers; [Towards a] United States; Europe Revisited [inc. conversation with Jan Maseryk]; Island of 18th century Ghosts; Requiem for Louis MacNeice (pp.142-44), incls. pastiche ‘fragments after reading Ulysses’; also ‘A Good booze up at Jammet’s’; ‘James Joyce at the Belfast Opera house’ (pp.63-67), and many other shorter pieces.

[ top ]

Robert Greacen, Even Without Irene (1969; Lagan rep. 1995), soldierly, full-figured and genial-faced Denis Ireland, the essayist and wit, whom some people still call Captain Ireland because of his service in the First World War ... Denis knows his USA ... With some care he avoids politics, though we all know him to be something of a white blackbird, that is, an Ulster Protestant - Presbyterian in fact - with strong nationalist sympathies, a sort of throwback to the radical Presbyterians of the late 18th c. who supported the demands of their Catholic fellow-countrymen for reform. [146].

[ top ]


‘The Celtic Twilight had its origins not in mysticism but in starvation’ (Eamon de Valera Doesn’t See It Through, Cork: Forum Press 1941), p.28; quoted in Kevin Whelan, ‘The Memories of “The Dead”’, inĀ The Yale Journal of Criticism (2002), pp.59-97 [available online; accessed 26.05.2021].

From the Irish Shore (1936) quotes from Forrest Reid’s Apostate; extensive and enthusiastic account of Dan Breen, My Fight for Irish Freedom; quotes from de Latocnaye. TEXT: The Irish Treaty in the air ... The real struggle is not between England and Ireland but between two ways of looking at life, and what secretly enrages the Englishman is that he knows in his heart that our philosophy will prove indestructible, for the excellent reason that it takes little account of externals. (p.42.) Pieces from Bois, Grenier, Ypres, Salonika; ‘The Road to Byzantium’; travelled in Balkans; wounded; convalesces in Bariky, Glengarriff Eccles Hotel, run by A. B. Here[?]; our ‘feminine national soul’ and jealousy. (p.32.) ‘P. W. Joyce’s Irish Place Names hidden away in a dark corner of a bookshelf, a pathway into a world full of clear magical light which for some reason reminds me of homer and the Greek Isles (p.32.) Donegal, London, and USA; Paul Jones Mausoleum at Annopolis; meets Gen. O’Duffy (p.105); represents the old historical Ulster, now dismembered, what is called in Dublin the Black North; besides Gen. O’Duffy is going to be a danger to any politician who is foolish enough to employ him. Beside de Valera this man is only a schoolboy. De Valera will have the sense to leave the North alone; O’Duffy seems to have some idea at the back of his mind, though he will not bring it out into daylight, of action against it. (p.104.) So much for O’Duffy as a ‘unifier’ (p.105.) [Cont.]

From the Irish Shore (1936) - cont.: Quotes Latocnaye in 1796-97 (p.113-18), ending with his conclusion, ‘A happy experience will prove to England that the prosperity of this beautiful kingdom, far from being hurtful to her, will [?nurse] her own, and then in destroying the ridiculous prejudices which have been for ages exists against the most beautiful and richest part ofher possession, and in reality makes Ireland share the advantages of the beneficent laws which she is herself governed, she would acquire the love of 4 million of subjects whom her armies have conquered but whom justice alon will bring into submission.’ (p.188.) Writes of his own powerful visual memory for print. Extended comment on the play Ascendancy, by Lord Longford, first act set in Castle [?Clonare] just before Catholic Emancipation, drags a little, but the second, in the library during a ball, is a perfect exhibition of stage setting and movement; here as in The Cherry Orchard, one can examine as in a test tube the sots whom history uses as the unconscious agents of revolution. This aristocratic harradans, the horsey young women and their claret swilling beaux are the very stuff out of which revolution is made. (p.142.)

From the Irish Shore (1936) - cont.: Meets Frank O’Connor and converses in Café Belge [prop. Zeno Geldof]. Tone was an incomparably vivid writer when his eye was on the object solely for the amusement of his wife; O’Connor holds that if Tone’s autobiography had been written by anyone but an Irishman it would have been hailed as one of the world’s outstanding historical documents. (p.144.) Gives long account with quotations from Dan Breen’s My Fight for Irish Freedom; called the narrative ‘something Homerica in the full sense of that overworked epithet’ (p.146.) His ‘escape from the house in Drumcondra one of the most extraordinary incidents of the Black and Tan War in Ireland (p.152.) Calls Forrest Reid a writer of prose as transparent of Goldsmith’s; quotes Reid’s view of Wilde in Belfast, ‘my first celebrity’ (in Apostate); Ireland finds Wilde’s philosophy nearly despicable; his little house in the parish of St James (p.156.) Talks with lady author of biography of McCracken; ‘find it extremely difficult to make a solemn declaration to her, a graduate of TCD, that it is easier from the proverb, [for a] camel to pass through the eyes of a needle, than for a son of an Ulster Protestant industrialist [157] ascendancy to orientate himself in relation to his country’s history’. Quotes Petrie on Irish clouds, ‘our very clouds have, to a great extent, a distinctive character’ (p.158.) Sees Robert O’Flaherty’s film Man of Aran (p.164-69.) [Cont.]

From the Irish Shore (1936) - cont.: Visits Clongowes with parent of boy being delivered there, ‘this instinct for the whole, this refusal to accept the law and the prophets is something that must be fought for by the individual alone and unaided, even to the extent of shattering the little crystal globe that contains the education his parents and his relations, and so we deliver over our young friend to the school door to the mercies of the educational system.’ (p.198.) ‘James Joyce the brain-carrier of the European tradition carried the rebellion of the Irish Catholic as far as it could go, in fact to its logical limits, since [201] there can be no travelling in the same direction as Ulysses except into incoherence’; forewarned that James Joyce was ‘not a suitable subject for conversation at Clongowes’ (p.230.)

From the Irish Shore (1936) - cont.Identifies Denis Johnson’s The Moon and the Yellow River with ‘the usual Anglo-Irish half truths about Ireland’ - ‘it fulfills the first law of Anglo-Irish literature; it makes the native Irish appear a race of congenital idiots; our Anglo-Irish writers are not prepared for either hard thinking or humility in relation to Ireland’ (p.209.) Calls Daniel Corkery a ‘profound critic’ (p.210); affectedly profoundly by his two book (p.219.) ‘Anglo-Irish clarity has gone now, and there are no caricatures, instead there is something much more dangerous to knowledge - the technically efficient, a fact, the flitteringly effective, reproduction of surface truth - consequently the picture lacks depth’ compares the play adversely with the Cherry Orchard; ‘in the main nothing is right and just; everything is just plumb crazy, crazy with a craziness tht is much more depressing than the craziness of everyday life.’ ‘How well Irish and English working class would agree if only there so called aristocrats could be cured of the lust for domination (p.222.) Patrick Kavanagh [here implied] believes that the Irish Catholic writer has always received his illumination direct from Europe; Ireland agrees (p.240.)

[ top ]

An Ulster Protestant Looks At His World (1930): epigraphs quoted from Imperial Standard Dictionary, FW Robertson, and exchange in Stormont between Chair Healy and Craigavon; uses Ulster for N. Ireland ‘for convenience’; cites own pamphlets, ‘Ulster Politics as I See Them’, and articles in Irish Statesman, Irish News, and Northern Whig; CONTENTS incl. ‘The Degeneration of the Ulster Hugenot’; Ulster and the New Industrial Revolution; Limitantions of the N. Pale; Ulster and the South; Pt. II, Irish Politics; A Neglected Irish Statesman [John Mitchel]; History [and] Justice; The Evolution of the Irish Govt.; A Distinguished Republican; Irish v. English Ideas of Political Sovereignty; Imperialism and the workings of the English Mind; English Instinct v. Though; nationalism; Exit the Stage Irishman; The Philosophy of Conservative Nationalism; Ireland, England and America; Dualism of the Irish National Outlook; An Irish Front Door to Europe; Ireland and the British Commonwealth of nations; The New Radicalism, An American View; The Philsophy of History, A German View of the Dirstributive Macninery of the Irish Linen Trade [84]; APPENDIX, Comparative Tables [of population and representation in the Commonwealth and Ireland].

An Ulster Protestant Looks At His World (1930) - The text: War mentality more firmly in the saddle than ever [9]; Unionism in NI between devil and deep blue sea; Prot. reaction in Ulster may take direction of radicalism, a radicalism which is historically of the soil, and utterly opposed to the current conception of radicalism in England [11]; quotes Shaw, ‘The Great Protestant Irishmen have been all the more powerful because they loved Ireland better, not only than Rome, but than England [13]; Protestants once hard-headed, clear thinking and intelectually fearless, he is grown obscurantist and reactioNary, a creature of blind moods [14]; opposed govt. by businessmen in Ireland not of it [17]; criticises Ulster laissez faire in post coal age’ suppostrs co-operative model of Horace Plunkett; representation of Labour in 6 counties at vanishing point; varies Goldsmith, ‘Ill fares the land where banks accumulate and trades decay’; cites Gwynn’s hard words about N. Presbyterians: ‘When they turned their backs on the principles of the United Irishmen, they needed to find a spiritual reason for what [they had surrendered]; They found the justification in a vehement indictment of Roman Catholic religion ... in a tenacious assertion that Catholic Irishmen were unfitted to be trusted with liberty (Famous Cities) [36]; Modern politic Ulsterman has fallen below the standards of his forefathers; divida et impera [37]; fundamental immaturity of Irish Unionism in selling its birth-right, in denying the soul from which it drew its sustenane ... Mr Shaw must have foreseen that one of the jaws of the trap would be a semi-socialist England [41-2; cont.].

An Ulster Protestant Looks At His World (1930) - cont.: ‘A NEGLECTED IRISH STATESMAN’ [on John Mitchel], quotes, ‘It seemed as though the soul of the land was dying ...[&c.] , and that the the faintness had crept into all things ... [&c.]’; calls this an etching as terrible as anything of Swift’ [49]; ‘What this gentleman euphemistically terms the Celtic Twilight had its origin not a mysicism, but in starvation, and was in reality a darkening of the Gaelic brain caused by prolonged alien (that is, English) compression of the Gaelic carotid arteries - not uqite such an agreeable matter for discussion in Chelsea drawing rooms [49]; Michael ‘prose master’ [52]; quotes, ‘In the light of that mock throne on the hull over the Liffey there vibrate now all the dizened atomies of happy Ireland. Glittering Captains, silvered Lieutenants, epauletted puppyismin every grade and phase of fashion, wigged debasement fresh from a public hanging and gowned simony flock around delighted at the ‘flourishing condition’ of the state. No whisper of death, no shadow of desolation, breaks over the crowd ... and so begins the third years of uninterrupted famine.’ [Cont.]

An Ulster Protestant Looks At His World (1930) - cont. Refers at length to LENNOX ROBINSON, The Big House, ‘a play which turns upon the life of a magnificently vital girl of the Protestant landed class. when the big house is burned down by republicans, the loyalist does not fly to London to play the part of the maryred emigrée, to whine in London drawing rooms about the ‘dreadful Irish’; she holds her ground and sets her heart and mind to the fuller understanding of why those things have happened, adopts as her own motto [...] ‘Neither to mock, not to hate, but to understand’ (Spinoza). She faces the central gloomy truth of her class, the eternal justice of the fact that they have reaped the whirlwind and could reap nothing else merely because they have not sown. She will rebuilt the Big House, she declares, with her own hands if she must, and with corrigated rion if she can find nothing better - because ‘Ireland is not theirs more than ours’. She has a share, and a valid share, in it because she means to work for it.//On this magnificent note of protestant agggression (in the true sense of the word), the play ends. It has not a half of the genius of the Cherry Orcahard, nevertheless it is Ireland’s equivalent to the Russian masterpiece [65] ON SYNGE, The broken greenhouses and moth-eaten libraries, that were designed and collected by men who voted for Grattan are perhaps as mournful in the end as the four mud walls that are so often left in Wicklow as the only remnants of a farmhouse.’ [66]. MICHAEL DAVITT: Quotes Sheehy Skeffington accrediting Davitt with defeating the Anglo-American Alliance [67].

[ top ]

Spins of the fathers: ‘A writer not only sees with the eyes of, but feels with the hearts of his forefathers. The writer in other words is fed by, and dependent on, a kind of subterranean stream of thought and feeling. If that subterranean stream has been blocked at some point; if his [fore]fathers felt one thing about their native land, and his immediate fathers something diameticallly opposed to it; then the job of word-artist has become more difficult.’ (The Bell, Vol. 4, No. 5, Aug. 1942, p.318.),

A Belfast riot: “A green-uniformed inspect of constabulary snores exhausted in an arm-chair; another, too strung-up to sleep, drinks a whiskey-and soda with the rapid jerky motion of a marionette. They have the job of cleaning up something that began before they were born, the impact of forces released by politicians long dead [...]”. (From the Irish Shore, 1936; quoted in Cal McCrystal, review of Patricia Craig, ed., The Belfast Anthology, in The Independent on Sunday, 7 Nov. 1999, p.11.)

W. B. Yeats: ‘What this gentleman euphemistically terms the Celtic Twilight had its origin not a mysicism, but in starvation, and was in reality a darkening of the Gaelic brain caused by prolonged alien (that is, English) compression of the Gaelic carotid arteries - not quite such an agreeable matter for discussion in Chelsea drawing rooms.’ (An Ulster Protestant looks At his World, 1930, p.49.) Further, ‘As for Willie Yeats, factory chimneys and fairies were assumed to cancel one another out; if you had one, you couldn’t have the other, and we had the factory chimneys.’ (From the Jungle of Belfast, 1973, p.18; quoted in F. L. S Lyons, ‘Yeats and Victorian Ireland’, in A. Norman Jeffares, ed., Yeats, Sligo and Ireland, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980).

[ top ]

Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction, Pt II (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985); cites Patriot Adventurer, or A short life of Wolfe Tone; Portraits and Sketches, and From the Irish Shore, her called ‘his autobiography’; also lists Statues around the City Hall (London: Cresset Press 1939), 298pp., stories and sketches based on personal experience, giving pictures of Belfast, Derry, Donegal, Fermanagh, and Mourne Mountains, as well as Galway and Midlands; much reflection and comment, and mild criticisms [of things Irish]. Note, The British Library holds no titles in for the periods 1956-65 and 1966-70.

Frank Ormsby, ed., Northern Windows: An Anthology of Ulster Autobiography (Belfast: Blackstaff 1987), selects extract from Statues Round the City Hall (1939), here p.564f.

Sophia Hillan King & Seán MacMahon, eds., Hope and History: Eyewitness Accounts of life in Twentieth-Century Ulster (Belfast: Friar’s Bush Press 1996), incls. ‘A Skating Party in Edwardian Belfast’ [non-title excerpt from From the Jungle of Belfast] (pp.2-4).

Kate Newmann, Dictionary of Ulster Biography (Belfast: QUB/IIS 1993), cites Red Brick City; Patriot Adventurer; Life of Wolfe Tone; The Age of Unreason; Six Counties in Search of a Nation; and From the Irish Shore, autobiography [all n.dd.]

[ top ]

Herbert Bell Library (Belfast), holds Cpt. Denis Ireland, An Ulster Protestant Looks At His World [n.d.]; From the Irish Shore (London 1936); Statues Round The City Hall (London 1939); From the Jungle of Belfast (Belfast 1973); Six Counties in Search of a Nation (Belfast 1947).

Books in Print (1994), An Ulster Protestant Looks At His World (Belfast: Dorman 1931); From the Irish Shore (London Rich & Cowan 1936); Statues Round The City Hall (London: Cresset 1939); From the Jungle of Belfast, Footnotes to History 1904-1972 (Belfast: Blackstaff 1973) [0 85640 020 3]; Portraits and Sketches (Belfast: Vortex Press 1935), 103pp.

University of Ulster (Central Library), holds Eamon de Valera Doesn’t See it Through: A Study of Irish Politics in the Machine Age (Cork: Forum Press 1941), 62pp.; From the Jungle of Belfast: Footnotes to History 1904-1972 (Belfast: Blackstaff 1973), 175pp.; Portraits and Sketches (Belfast: Vortex Press [1935]); Six Counties in Search of a Nation: Essays and Letters on Partition 1942-1946 (Belfast: Irish News 1947), vi, 108pp.; An Ulster Protestant Looks At His World: A Critical Commentary on Contemporary Irish Politics (Belfast: Dorman & Co. 1930), 86pp.; The Age of Unreason: A Short History of Democracy in Our Times [Abbey Publ.] (Dublin: Corrigan & Wilson 1944), 34pp.; From the Irish Shore: Notes on My Life and Times (London: Rich & Cowan 1936), 244pp.

[ top ]