Two hundred years of Irish political activity

Peter Berresford Ellis reviews The Wearing of the Green: a political history of the Irish in Manchester, by Michael Herbert, IBRG, £12.95pbk (£13.95 outside UK)

THIS IS a book that should be on the bookshelf of all members of the Connolly Association. While it is primarily an excellent and detailed account of the Irish community in Manchester concentrating on their political development, it includes a fascinating short history of the Connolly Association from its very early days as the Connolly Club and its publication Irish Freedom to its development into the Connolly Association and the Irish Democrat.

The book mentions how Hugh Delargy and the Connolly Club had started to sell the club’s paper Irish Freedom in Collet’s bookshop in Manchester at the start of the 1939-45 War. In view of my public disagreement with Lord Tebbitt, which made the front page of the Irish Post in November, 2000, where the noble lord would have everyone believe that the Irish government and Irish people, especially all Irish republicans, were pro Nazi in 1939-45, I was interested at the following quotation from an Irish Freedom policy article:

“What then is the duty of all true Irishmen today? Firstly whether at home or in this country, they must realise that a success for the German fascists would mean the setting back of national aspirations for all the oppressed nations of the world. The fierce hatred of the average Irishman for British imperialists must not be allowed the cloud the fact that Ireland has everything to lose at the hands of a triumphant Hitler.”

There are several pages dealing with the history of the Connolly Association. Fascinating information such as the fact that there were seventeen branches represented at the 1944 Connolly Association conference at which Elsie Timbey of Belfast was chairman — before chairperson displaced the masculine word. She had previously been membership secretary.

Sad to say, I have never come across the name Elsie Timbey before. I’d be interested to learn more. Indeed, the nuggets of information in Michael Herbert’s book are a reminder that perhaps it is time for a detailed history of the Connolly Association. There are certainly enough talented writers and historians within its ranks to undertake the task.

Michael Herbert sketches, albeit briefly, the development of the Connolly Association and its philosophies to date.Yet all this is in addition to coverage of two hundred years of Irish political activity in Manchester. It is an excellent book which I thoroughly recommend.

The author Michael Herbert is an active member of the North West Labour History Group and a trustee of the Working Class Movement Library in Salford which opened its Irish Collection in 1990 providing one of the best Irish history collections in Britain. It was based around the personal collections of T A Jackson and Desmond Greaves, the mainstay of the Connolly Association and editor of the Irish Democrat for nearly forty years.

The Wearing of the Green can be purchased directly from the publishers: IBRG, PO Box 22790, London N22 8AE or from the Four Provinces Bookshop, 244 Gray's Inn Rd, London.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2002-10-02 15:06:15.
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