P. D. (“Pat”) Kenny


1862-1944 [Patrick Dermot [or Dermott] Kenny; pseud. “Pat”], social critic, born Aughamore, Co. Mayo, son of a small farmer; emigrated to Lancashire 1882 as a labourer; obtained an education and studied political economy at Manchester University; worked as journalist in Glasgow early 1890s, edited Newcastle Daily News, 1896-97, then worked as West End journalist and theatre critic; issued How To Stop Strikes (1896); returned to Ireland on his father’s death to take over the family holding, a ‘wretched farm in the west of Ireland’, 1901; lived in a tent for 2 years while writing Economics For Irishmen (1906), first serialised in Irish Rosary, shorn of a chapter criticising the economic influence of the clergy; issued Connaught Ranging: I. How We Drink; II. How We Think (1903), a temperance pamph.; occas. contrib. to The Leader, ed. D. P. Moran, 1902-05; co-ed. weekly Nationist (1905), with T. M. Kettle and Francis Sheehy-Skeffington,; associated with Michael Davitt, 1905-06;  

ed. Irish Peasant, 1904-05; dismissed for anti-clericalism but continued to write regular column “Patriana” under W. P. Ryan; present at Playboy riot (Abbey Th.), 1907; contrib. apro-Playboy article in Irish Times and chaired Abbey debate on the play; self-proclaimed Unionist from mid-1907; contrib. articles incl. “The Sorrows of Ireland” (1907) in Saturday Review and wrote for the Morning Post (London); collab. with Walter Long on an article on Ireland in Saturday Review (“Handbook for Unionist Candidates”, 1909); reg. contrib. to London Outlook, 1911-14; wrote extensively on self-help and agricultural techniques; issued My Little Farm (1915) - ‘the Irish people are the only civilised race driven off the land by their own cattle’
lived reclusively on his farm during World War I; remained pro-Union; issued Five Years Of Irish “Freedom” (1926); contrib. to English Review, 1927-31; attempted to found new Land League (1929-31); non-practising Catholic for most of later life, on bad terms with priests and neighbours; last known article in Ireland To-Day (March 1937), attributing the decline of the Abbey Th. to ‘neo-druidic despotism'; d. 21 July, of heart attack; given Catholic funeral by eccentric curate despite local objections; called ‘an Irish Luther who came too soon’ by Joseph Hone (Irish Bookman, Sept. 1946; funerary monument erected 1994; annual Pat Kenny/Bill Naughton autumn gathering, Aghermore.

In brief: Patrick D[ermot] Kenny, “Pat”; sometime journalist and farmer - ‘lived the life of London, died the death of Ireland and come to life again’ - and author of works on Irish economics and politics such Economics for Irishmen (1906); Five Years of Irish Freedom (1927); also the Sorrows of Ireland (1907), much about the power of the Catholic Church and similiarly the Gaelic League and Sinn Féin.

Pseud. explained: ‘Bringing up our children for export only, why should we not give them names to disguise their nationality, as so many of them find it reasonably wise to do when they go abroad? I think I am myself the only Irishman left now who is quite content to call himself “Pat,” and there are great patriots who would give much to see “Pat” dropped, if only in the grave; but I am inclined rather to make the good old name live even longer than myself, [...]’ (My Little Farm, 1915, p.56.)

  • Official Philosophy: A Criticism of Co-operation in Ireland (Navan: Irish Peasant Office [1905], 16pp.
  • Economics for Irishmen (Dublin: Maunsel 1906), viii, 164pp. [by the author of Economics for Irishmen], and Do. [4th edn.] (Maunsel 1907).
  • The Sorrows of Ireland (Dublin: Maunsel 1907), 104pp.; Do. [another edn.] London: West Strand Publishing 1907), 104pp., and Do. [facs. edns. by General Books 2013; Palala Press 2016; Creative Media Partners 2022; Fb&c Classic Reprint 2018; see extracts from 1907 edn. - infra].
  • My Little Farm (Dublin & London: Maunsel & Co. 1915), xvi, 212pp. [see details and extracts].
  • Five Years of Irish Freedom (London: H. J. Drane [1927], 61pp.

Bibliographical details
My Little Farm (Dublin & London: Maunsel & Co. 1915), xvi, 212pp.; Do. [facs. edns. Wentworth and Legare Street Press 2022; Fb&c Limited 2018 - 256 pages]. 1915 Edn. is available in page format at Internet Archive [online] or download here as in .doc - as attached.]

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  • Adrian Kenny, ‘The Life and Works of P. D. Kenny’ in Pat Kenny/Bill Naughton Lectures 1993, ed. Joe Byrne (Aghamore 1994).
  • Patrick Maume, ‘Between Fleet Street and Mayo: P. D. Kenny and the Culture Wars of Edwardian Ireland’, in Bullán : A Journal of Irish Studies, VI, 2 (q.d.), pp.21-41.
  • Lionel Pilkington ‘The Most Unpopular Man in Ireland: P. D. Kenny, J.M. Synge and Irish Cultural History', in Irish Review, 29 (2002) pp.51-57

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See verdicts from F. J. Biggar (‘Pat has priests on the brain’) and Stephen Gwynn (‘a journalistic renegade engaged in the profitable task of fouling his own nest’).

Publisher’s notice (My Little Farm, Maunsel 1915): ‘An Irish farmer who is also an established man of letters, but it is not less valuable as a revelation of peasant life and character, necessarily more authentic than fiction, but not less intimate and not less readable "Pat's" Economics for Irishmen and The Sorrows of Ireland will be guarantee for the literary workmanship, and there are not many men alive who have much to teach "Pat" about either farm profit or peasant psychology. In addition, and incidentally, we have here the life and character of the author himself, a man who varies his observation between Society in the West End of London and Agriculture in the West End of Ireland ; who can plough, waltz, address learned societies in our leading Universities, and breed dairy bulls with apparently equal ease. The unique feature of “Pat’s” writing always is his curious capacity to make actual life, and even abstruse though, as interesting as a story, and more vital than almost any story. That is what makes a book my him a national event, and probably his most finished piece of work so far is “My Little Farm”. (Publisher’s notice bound into 1915 Maunsel edn. of the said work; also cites reviews - viz., ‘man of education and a farmer; poetic sincerity to make use of his peculiar position’ (Irish Times); ‘throughout a rural as well as an Irish flavour … cannot fail to please readers who cherish Celtic sympathies.’ (The Scotsman).] [Price:] 3/6 net.

Maunsel & Co.: notice on Economics for Irishmen, by “PAT”: ‘This is an inquiry into the peculiarities of the productive process in Ireland, especially the hindrances; in other words, it attempts to show why Ireland is poor and decaying, and special attention has been given to customs and characteristics of the people as causes of their own poverty. It is quite independent as to party standpoints, and confined strictly to lines of economic and sociological investigation. It has been written in the field and in the workshop rather than in the library, with living facts as its main data; but the author has also a university qualification in economics, not to mention a good deal of economic writing already to his credit, both in Dublin and in London, or the further fact that he puts his doctrines into practice as an Irish agriculturist.
 ‘There is a tradition among reviewers that only big books deserve careful reviews ; but anyone who will take the trouble to read “Pat”s Economics for Iishmen will be forced to the conclusion that the book is a serious con-tribution to the discussion of many Irish questions, although it is issued in paper covers. It is the work of a man who has a clear insight into the root-principles of sound economics, and who possesses a happy knack of expressing those principles in racy phrases that are far more effective than the ponderous elaborations of the academic professor.” (Spectator.) [Price:] Cloth, 21/- net. Paper cover, 1/- net.

Maunsel & Co. - cites press notices on The Sorrows of Ireland, by “PAT”: “No more moving book than this has been written on Ireland for a century past” (Publisher and Bookseller). “No student of the Irish question can afford to pass this little volume over.” (The Crown). “The brilliant Irishman who writes as ‘PAT’ has certainly given us much to ponder, as well as much delightfully racy reading in The Sorrows of Ireland’ (The Tribune). “Interesting and in many places distinctly entertaining, for "PAT" is a pointed and witty writer.” (The Aberdeen Press). “The indictment of clerical control is the more severe because it is obviously not written in foolish rage” (Pall Mall Gazette). In Maunsel Catalogue appended to My Little Farm - together with listing of titles by other writers published by that firm incl. Stephen Gwynn, St. John Ervine, Katherine Tynan, Violet Russell, Jack Yeats, Diarmid Coffey, and the Works of J. M. Synge, et al.]

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The Sorrows of Ireland (1907) must wait on the course of the latest fallacy. Since the organisation takes the place of ideas, the accessories of Life tend to take the place of Life itself, and the social organism emigrates to (... p.53); ...organisation the end instead of the means, and menacing slaves into unhealthy mobs for the aggrandisement of dictators and the degradation of life. The study of language is quite in this direction (... p.63.); Sinn Fein sneers at him now for having "abandoned the ideals of his youth." Sinn Fein started for constructive thought but (... p.57.) How can people have the use of their faculties, for government or for anything else, where the exercise of their minds in their own affairs can only bring them ... (p.77); ... with a whole Constitution at his command in these conditions, he is obviously provided with an enormously increased power to get the citizens destroyed. He works at that destruction now before the eyes of all of us, often with the British ... (p.78.) so long and terribly enslaved, our priest abuses power in his freedom; so long and terribly impoverished, he grabs for money in his comfort. ... (p.97); it follows that our priests come out of an absolute world to regulate a comparative one (... p.100). [Searchable at Google Books - online; accessed 24.09.2023.]

My Little Farm (Maunsel 1915) - Preface: ‘THIS is less a handbook in scientific agriculture than a headbook in profitable farming, but it is for both, and for the cultivation of character as essential to cropping. The profit is no longer possible without the science, but the science must either show the profit or remain under suspicion. The expert, working at the Government's expense, can do anything with a plot of half a rood, so long as he is not asked to balance the product against the cost, but the practical farmer wants to see the net profit on a working scale, and he is right, because the final measure of science in all industrial application is the economic value. No other standard can be safely admitted into industrial practice. / I have passed severe examinations, written successful books, edited too successful newspapers, lived the life of London, died the death of Ireland and come to life again, on the first day ; but I have done no work, lived no life, and filled no place demanding of me so much breadth of knowledge, elasticity of judgment and variety of action as the conduct of a once wretched little farm in the West of Ireland. One must insist on the experience of the retrospect, because it is so commonly assumed that the farm may best be entrusted to the fool of the [vii] family, while the brilliant brothers go off in ornamental occupations which require less than half the capacity of the capable farmer. It is clear that our first step landward is the industrial discipline of the agrarian mind, not merely for the farm, but also because of the character which could be developed by better farming to the advantage of all other pursuits and to the credit of the nation as a whole. The significance of this will be the plainer when we note that about three-fourths of the Irish population is always directly or indirectly agrarian. [...]’ (Available at Internet Archive - online, or download .doc vopy as attached. See also quotation on T. W. Russell - infra.)

Research: Information in the Life section [supra] largely supplied by Patrick Maume, QUB (July 2004) and the whole augmented by online searches in Sept. 2023.

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