Celtic Junction Arts Review

Issue 18, Imbolc 2022

Archiving and Articulating Celtic Heritage
A quarterly publication of CJAC's Education Program

Brigadier General James Shields. Image provided by Library of Congress, Washington, DC

“I didn’t want the damned fellow to kill me, which I think he would have done if we selected pistols,” remembered Lincoln. What if the young Abraham Lincoln had been killed in a duel brought against him by James Shields, an aggrieved Irish emigrant from County Tyrone? Lincoln’s authorship of a defamatory article had propelled the challenge in 1842. 

The two had to cross the border from Illinois to the ominously titled Bloody Island in Missouri where such dueling was legal. Lincoln, much taller than Shields at six foot four inches, was allowed to choose the weapons. Having much longer arms, he had wittily chosen cavalry broadswords instead of pistols. Shields saw the dry humor in the choice. The two called the duel off.

Jane Kennedy, a regular Arts Review contributor and our Irish-American historian at the Irish College of Minnesota, tells the incredible life story of Shields (1806-1879) who was elected a senator in three different states. Tellingly, he was appointed Brigadier General in the Civil War by Lincoln himself – who regretted very much the circumstances that had led to the duel.

Two indefatigable Irish College of Minnesota musicology instructors and researchers, David and Suzanne Rhees, play “tune detective” to trace the amazing transmission of what they term an “alpha tune,” the “Fisher’s Hornpipe” which was likely born on a London stage in 1778 and migrated across to the U.S. and Canada on a journey as far as Fort Yukon. It is one example of how Anglo-Celtic tunes are “disproportionally influential” in the core canon of traditional music from the 18th century to today. They crystallized their research journey with their “Ten Tunes to Rule Them All” class with us in an earlier quarter.

Clive Geraghty, a retired Abbey Theatre actor and compelling memoirist, takes us on a journey down memory lane. He played Malvolio in a production of 12th Night in 1975 in Dublin at Ireland’s National Theatre’s Peacock theatre directed by a very young Joe Dowling and designed by Bronwyn Casson. The opening night,” Clive remembers warmly, “was a fantastic delight for actors and audience alike.” Something of a Prospero himself at this point in his illustrious career as a master of the magic of theatre and the moving spirit behind the three-theatre reinvention of the Guthrie at its new location in 2006, Dowling has returned to Minneapolis to helm Shakespeare’s romance The Tempest. His current exuberant production seems to be channeling the ebullient ghost of comedian Jimmy O’Dea, Dublin star of the Gaiety pantomimes in the 1950s when Dowling as a child was first enthralled by theatre.

The unfolding imagined saga of The Map-Maker’s Tales continues in this edition. Our intrepid protagonist from Minnesota learns a lost piece of Dublin lore from an uncanny sword held in the treasure storehouse of artifacts of Old Dublin by her gruff mentor, the Great Professor.

This edition celebrates the international and transatlantic connections of memory, history, and imaginative lore.

Patrick O’Donnell â€“ Editor, contributing writer, and founder of the Celtic Junction Arts Review;  founder and co-director of the annual Irish Arts Week; and, Director of Education and founder of CJAC’s Irish College of Minnesota.