Celtic Junction Arts Review

Issue 22, Beltane 2023

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

James Joyce, 6 years, 1888. PD-US.

“History is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake,” observed Stephen Dedalus in Joyce’s novel Ulysses (1922) where Homeric mythic parallels elevate the memory of one ordinary chaotic day on June 16, 1904. Similarly, this issue is animated by quests to transcend the convulsions of the modern world while still preserving memory, myth, and tradition.

This issue’s four intertwined articles begin with a portrait of clashing geniuses in Switzerland, move to an eyewitness celebration of a robust County Donegal Irish song festival, present a well-balanced historical assessment of a contentious and almost surreal short-lived 1930s Irish proto-fascist movement, and finish with a celebration of the deep culture yet changing times of Irish Travellers. We are astonished as usual by the endless vibrancy and fascinating juxtapositions in Ireland’s cultural history and international connections.

“. . they were yung and easily freudened,” wrote James Joyce, slyly poking fun at Jung and Freud and their psychiatric postulations in his brilliant multi-layered dream novel, Finnegans Wake (1939), itself a parody of the whirlwinds contained in the dreaming unconscious. The insights harvested from the class on “Carl Jung and the Irish Writer,” that Mary McCormick and I taught in the Education Program’s 2023 Winter quarter are gathered here in what will be the first of a series. Future articles will articulate the connections between the brilliant Swiss thinker and A.E. Russell, W.B. Yeats, and Samuel Beckett.

Joyce (1882-1941) and Jung (1875-1961) were certainly clashing geniuses. It is fascinating to track their three vexed encounters across 1919, 1931, and 1934. Both were innovators coping with the dislocations to the psyche caused by the modern world. Both were in the process of becoming giants of world culture. Both sought to find in myth sufficient resources of memory and tradition to counter the chaos of the modern age. Their last encounter fortunately involved something of a mutually sympathetic rapprochement around the treatment of Joyce’s tragically schizophrenic daughter Lucia.

Providing a living vital bridge between Minnesota and Ireland, we’re delighted to add an excellent new voice to our roster of writers. Adrienne O’Shea gives a candid and heartfelt account of a new milestone on her journey into Irish song which is, of course, a repository for the Irish psyche’s most profound memories. Her autobiographical essay reflects on the very welcoming but somewhat nerve-wracking Inishowen Singers Weekend she attended on a bursary from the University of Limerick and the Inishowen Singers’ Circle in County Donegal in March where she performed the songs “Maid on the Shore” and “Barbara Allen.” “As someone who grew up in America [she writes] immersed in traditional singing, I was incredibly excited to have the opportunity to attend one of the longest-running and most well-known traditional song festivals in the world.” She was joined there by fellow Minnesotan singer and musician, Brian Miller, our Library Director and archivist.

Ned Cronin, Eoin O’Duffy, and Ernest Blythe, c. 1934

This issue’s unfolding theme of attempts to cope with the modern world’s chaos finds a bizarre form in the story of Eoin O’Duffy (1892-1944) and the Blueshirts. Matt Wright, another new author for the Arts Review and an active teacher in our Education Program, exposes dangerous ideologies so that we don’t see such authoritarian positions as legitimate. Almost a tragi-comic figure, the Monaghan-born O’Duffy was a very successful leader in the Irish War of Independence and a protégé of Michael Collins, becoming the commissioner of the Irish police force in 1922. Viewed with suspicion by Eamon de Valera who assumed power with his Fianna Fáil party in 1932, O’Duffy was removed from his post and threw himself into politics. He molded the Army Comrades Association, mainly composed of pro-Treaty Free State veterans from the Irish Civil War (1922-1923), into the National Guard and they became known as the Blueshirts because of their fascist-like salute and uniform. Their gatherings were quickly prohibited by de Valera’s government. A volatile and unpredictable character, O’Duffy, following being elected the first president of Fine Gael, refused to comply with their commitment to the constitutional order and was ousted. His last gasp involved creating a short-lived Irish Brigade in 1936-1937 to fight on behalf of Franco in the Spanish Civil War. It had an inglorious brevity and most of its volunteers had returned to Ireland by 1937. The always reliable repository of the Irish psyche that is Irish song contains the most damning assessment of O’Duffy in Christy Moore’s “Viva la Quinte Brigada.”

1950s horse fair in Ireland. Courtesy of George Gmelch, Ben Kroup from their book “To Shorten the Road.”

Jane Kennedy, one of our most prolific contributing writers, gleans insights from her recent class on Irish Travellers to unfold the theme of the challenges the modern world presents to them and to portray their rich storytelling and musical culture. She writes insightfully: “Modernization since the 1960s has brought a sea change to the Irish ethnic group that has existed for centuries.” She enriches her article with conversations and email exchanges with Armagh-based Traditional Arts Partnership’s Fergal O’Brien, a community officer and social worker in Northern Ireland who attended our 2023 Irish Arts Week and is well-versed in the cultural discrimination faced by this ethnic minority.

As we continue our sixth year of publication, we are astonished at the breadth and range of new writing depicting Irish history and culture.

Patrick O’Donnell – 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 of CJAC’s education program. He is the 2023 Co-Chair of the Annual A.E. Russell Festival of History, Literature and Art in Lurgan and Armagh.

Carillon RoseMeadows – Digital Curator and contributing writer of the Celtic Junction Arts Review, and architect of the Celtic Junction Arts Center’s web presence.