Sunday, 6 June 2021

Walsh, Rachael. 2021. Property Rights and Social Justice

This is a version of a note that I have placed on discussion groups.  It is not a review - it is simply a worried note, worried that I might easily have missed this important book...

Walsh, Rachael. 2021. Property Rights and Social Justice

Yes, it is a bit squalid to talk about an expensive academic book on social media.  I will find a sequence of important open access books and articles, to try to make amends...

My excuses...

I came across Rachael Walsh's new book as I move away from work in another part of my life - around the discourse of 'decolonisation' - which made me aware of the ways in which activists and theorists of decolonisation talk about 'land' and the redistribution of land.  But, often, 'land' in an abstract way, and with little connection with countries and communities where land redistribution has actually taken place.

If that work had not been in the background I might have missed Rachael Walsh's book.  For the book has been given a strange title by Cambridge University Press, a strangely prosaic title - I guess to slot into the series, Cambridge Studies in Constitutional Law - with no indication that this book is an important contribution to Irish constitutional history, and the history of twentieth century Ireland.  And - since the book is about 'land' - potentially an important contribution to Irish Diaspora Studies...

Walsh, Rachael. 2021. Property Rights and Social Justice: Progressive Property in Action. Cambridge Studies in Constitutional Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The starting point of the book is the fact that the 1937 Irish Constitution has 2 provisions that protect individual property rights.  Article 40 3 2 protects those rights and other rights against unjust attack.  Article 43 explicitly protects property rights, but adds that they can be regulated by the principles of social justice.  And can be limited by the exigencies of the common good.

This combination, the protection of property rights but with the requirement that they be regulated to secure social justice, is described as unique in the English-speaking, common law world.  The book is very good at placing itself within the debates on constitutions and their workings throughout the world - and of course those debates tend to be led by US constitutional theorists. 

In my reading of the book I concentrated, first, on its exploration of the ways in which theories of property entered the 1937 Constitution - obviously, through Catholic theology and other European developments.  But Ireland's history - the Penal Laws, the Famine, the Land Wars, the Land Acts - and the work of the Land Commission, these are there too.  Remembering that Dooley, The Land for the People, says that the impact of the Land Commission on Irish society was surpassed only by that of the Catholic Church...  But I am now reading the further chapters, on the ways in which Irish judges and politicians have negotiated these constitutional requirements.  'Land' is not an abstraction...

I do hope that this fine book gets the specialist attention that it deserves.  I look forward to the reviews...





Tuesday, 18 May 2021

The Writers' Guild... and the BBC...

I have distributed this note, below, to the BBC History group...

Wed 12/05/2021 

I have, at last, got hold of and I have read...

Yapp, Nick. 2009. The Write Stuff: A History of the Writers' Guild of Great

Britain 1959-2009. [London]: The Writers' Guild of Great Britain.


I have the pdf in front of me now.  Nick Yapp's history was published by the

Writers' Guild in 2009.  In a pattern that is familiar to us from our other

lives, when small organisations publish a book, in 2009 the book rapidly

disappeared from sight, and has not had the attention, and the use, it

deserves.  You will see variant bibliographic entries for the book - I have

followed what the text says.  I think that I give the correct bibliographic


The book is of special interest to the historians of the BBC - the book has

199 references to the BBC in its 239 pages.  From its origins in the 1950s,

as the British Screen and Television Writers' Association (BSTWA), the

Writers' Guild has constantly been in negotiation with the BBC, sometimes

friendly negotiation.  The BBC was initially a monopoly supplier of radio

and television, and is always a major employer of writers and publisher of

their works.  There was also, and is still - as my readers here will be

aware - a constant churn of well-known names, from management within the BBC

and round the culture industries.  This needs constant name-checking by the

author, Nick Yapp - he is very good on this, very dogged.


Yapp follows the parts major characters played in various Writers' Guild

encounters with the BBC.  Like, the case of Frisby v BBC, 1967 - about the

censorship of one line in a tv play, p 40 onwards, and the Court's

interpretation of the writers contracts, negotiated by BSTWA and the Guild,

with the BBC.  Or, Chapter 18, on censorship, p 172 onwards.  Then, page 42

onwards, the tendency of BBC commissioners to commission themselves to write

scripts - amongst the significant contributions to the long debate was a

1969 article by Allan Prior (Z Cars, Softy, Softly) called Writers Who Sell

Their Scripts to Themselves, p 44.  Or p147, the time that BBC Radio Drama

decided that it was not subject to copyright laws.  Ceaseless vigilance,


Note too that the BBC is a major publisher of books, and often displays a

tendency to forget the original writer of a project when a book appears with

a celebrity name on the title page - witness, p 69, the 1975 book based on

the tv series, The Explorers.  A recurring problem - again of interest to

historians of the BBC - is the way that the names of writers tend to be left

off the documents that will become historians' sources.  Note, p 83, p141,

p147, the disappearance of writers' credits from the pages of the Radio

Times - the Radio Times that has become the source document for the BBC

database, which we all use...


For a working writer the most extraordinary saga is on page 190, when in

2001, the BBC and the trade body of writers' agents came to a secret

agreement to bypass the Guild - a saga that is notably for the way in which

the Guild's representative, Bernie Corbett, held his nerve.  

Working writers, like me, also remember the weirdness of the BBC 'virtual internal

market', 1992 onwards, p 148, when it was cheaper for my colleagues within

the BBC to phone me with a query, rather than ask the BBC Library.  Paddy,

How long did the Thirty Years War last?


From the history, it seems to me, two things give the Writers' Guild clout -

the involvement of the screenwriters, and the fact that it is a trade union

associated with the TUC.  (Though that association was tested by the

Industrial Relations Bill 1970).  Nick Yapp pauses, a number of times, to

meditate on the Guild's relationship with the BBC - see 46 ' the BBC

itself has come under pressure from unfriendly governments and aggressive

media rivals, the Guild has constantly worked to maintain good relations with 

Auntie, and to be sympathetic to her problems.  At the same time, however, the

Guild has always fought tooth and nail to protect the interests of writers.'


I am an active member of the Writers' Guild, and serve on the Books

Committee of the Guild - where one of our tasks is to bring Nick Yapp's

History up to date.  We, in the Guild, and the other creative industries

trade unions, are the experts on the 'gig economy'.  As Nick Yapp says, p

190, on new media... 'The new millennium was no place for the unprotected...

...The work of writers could now be exploited in more ways than ever before.

The attempt was made, time and again, to argue that old rules and old

contracts and old rights could not apply to new marketing fields or new



Patrick O'Sullivan

May 2021

Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, London Metropolitan University

Patrick O'Sullivan's Whole Life Blog


Archives of the Irish Diaspora List, 1997-2017


Personal Fax 0044 (0) 709 236 9050

Saturday, 27 February 2021

O'Sullivan, The Irish Famine, 1845 to 1852: source, silence, historiography


Patrick O’Sullivan

The Irish Famine, 1845 to 1852:  source, silence, historiography

February 2021


I was asked, and I said Yes.

There is a strange silver lining to the virus crisis...  So much stuff, meetings and presentations, has had to move to the online systems.  I have been able to take part in many 'events' that I would otherwise just have noted and regretted - and, many years later, chased up the paperwork.  Now, I sit in and take notes.

My trade union, the Writers' Guild, has created some great online, writerly meetings - mostly, when writers come together, they come together to whine.  But these meetings have been very craft-oriented and positive.  Other organisations I am part of, or am connected to, have created excellent online events - I have played autoharps in San Francisco, and I have sung ballads in Glasgow.

In my academic life I have 'attended' events organised - for example - by the Rocky Mountain Irish Roots Collective (about the Irish in Leadville, Colorado), and by the Irish Embassy, Washington, USA (about C19th black abolitionists in Ireland), and quite a number of work meetings.  And I am part of an online group exploring the discourse of 'decolonization'. 

I have been on 3 different platforms, Microsoft Teams, Blackboard and Zoom.  Of those 3, Zoom seems to work best.

I first connected with the meetings of the Rocky Mountain Irish Roots Collective - despite the extreme time difference - because I was so interested in the work of James Walsh, and his very human and very scholarly response to the unmarked graves of Leadville...

A web search will find links - but see

Irish Diaspora Studies always has a special interest in unmarked graves...

So, when the Rocky Mountain Irish Roots Collective asked me to give a presentation, about Irish Famine historiography, I said Yes.

I have put on my Dropbox the illustrative material that I will make available to the group this evening...

Patrick O’Sullivan

The Irish Famine, 1845 to 1852:  source, silence, historiography

Rocky Mountain Irish Roots Collective

February 2021

My starting point is fairly simple:  in order to understand Irish Famine historiography you need to have read four books, two book published in the mid nineteenth century and two books published in the mid twentieth century.

Will I put forward the strong version of this argument, that in order to understand Irish Famine historiography you need to have read ONLY four books?  Well, Irish Famine historiography has certainly organised itself around those four books, and we do need to understand how and why.

So, today, February 27 2021, in the middle of my Yorkshire night, which is the Colorado day time, I will make my presentation to the Rocky Mountain Irish Roots Collective.  I wonder how I will get on.

Patrick O'Sullivan

February 2021


Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Potatoes 2021 - Heritage Research


We now have a patch of garden, which we are rescuing from oblivion.

Usually we buy our seed potatoes from a gathering of the West Yorkshire Organic Gardening Association (WYOGA) - there will be no gathering this year.  So, looking further afield...

In 2020 our potato harvest was not good - a very wet growing season, and it looks like there were soil problems in the bit of garden assigned to potatoes...

Thinking about a seed potato that can tolerate wet conditions and poor soil...  

Potatoes 2021 has become Heritage Research..

I bought lumpers...

The lumper is a heritage variety, famous, or infamous, for its part in the Irish Famine, 1845-1852.

There has been a lot of discussion of the resurrected lumper...  This is Cormac Ó Gráda, The Lumper Potato and the Famine, on History Ireland...

See also...

'...The ‘Lumper’ was pretty much forgotten about until Michael McKillop of Glens of Antrim Potatoes in Northern Ireland found it among other varieties of heritage potatoes in 2009. He grew the plant, produced more and now sells the spuds as a St. Patrick’s Day novelty at Marks and Spencer stores throughout Ireland. It’s also being grown in Canada at the University of Guelph’s Elora Research Station in Ontario, Canada and at Canadian Potato Genetic Resources in Fredericton, New Brunswick...'

'...the Lumpers I sampled had a decent flavour and a texture that tended towards the waxy end of the scale, while the mere fact of their availability is a story that has piqued people’s curiosity no end. With coverage including a front page article in the Irish Times last week, as well as a piece on RTE’s Six One news, this, undoubtedly, is the best press the Lumper has ever had...'

'...Schools across Ireland are being encouraged to sow Lumper potatoes this spring as a way of commemorating those who died during the Famine of the 1840s...'

I did not only buy lumpers, of course... 

I also bought a number of Sarpo varieties...  

Blight resistant.

We are waiting for the seed potatoes to arrive.  And then we wait for warmer weather.

Patrick O'Sullivan

January 2021

Saturday, 14 November 2020



He's a man who owns several houses,

despite the ideals he espouses.

In one house he cooks,

in another, reads books,

and in one special house he carouses.

© Patrick O'Sullivan 2020

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Hladowski sings O'Sullivan - a collaboration made in Yorkshire...

An update...

The Hladowski sings O'Sullivan project is done - and the album has been released...

I have made this web page as a starting point...

It is a useful link.  It is easy to share.  It works well on phones and mobile devices...

People can follow the links to the obvious places...  Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon, Deezer...

And the album is also visible everywhere else...  Here it is, collecting on YouTube...

In the present crisis, I am not sure how much more can be done...

But there you are...  We did it...

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Archives of the Irish Diaspora List, 1997-2017

Patrick O’Sullivan

Research Note:

Archives of the Irish Diaspora List, 1997-2017

This is the link to the freely available and searchable Archives of the Irish Diaspora List, 1997-2017…

The Archives of the Irish Diaspora List, 1997-2017 can be downloaded here…

Note that downloads are available in three formats…

I have put versions of the note you are reading now here, in the ABOUT section, of that web site.

There is also a version on my blog, at Fiddler’s Dog,

and brief versions in other places, notably Facebook and LinkedIn…

Enough time has now passed, and I think I can now bring to your attention the availability of the Archives of the Irish Diaspora List, 1997-2017 as an online resource.  The Archives are free for anyone to use for scholarly and research purposes. 

Note that we have distorted all email addresses within the archives, so that they cannot be misused.  Most email addresses within the Archive will, in any case, be out of date.  Note that web links, URLs, within the Archive will be old, out of date and unlikely to work.

The Archives of the Irish Diaspora List, 1997-2017, make available some twenty years of Irish Diaspora Studies reference and discussion, over an important period in the development of our field.

The Irish Diaspora List project never received any funding of any kind from any source – it was brought together and maintained as a spare time activity, for twenty years, by volunteers, as a service to the scholarly community.  I thank all those volunteers, and all the members of the Irish Diaspora List, for their support and friendship over twenty years.

I thank especially my friend and neighbour, Stephen Sobol, formerly of the University of Leeds, who was my guide and support through all the technological changes described below.

I thank Bill Mulligan, Murray State University, Kentucky, who has long been a support and a friend - and Anthony McNicholas, University of Westminster, who stepped in at a crucial time,

Yet again, I thank Russell Murray, formerly of the University of Bradford, who can never be thanked enough.


Some day, in the right circumstances, I might do a Secret Lecture, on 'The Secret History of the Irish Diaspora List...'

In the meantime...

The Irish Diaspora List, 1997-2017, was the email discussion forum for Irish Diaspora scholars throughout the world.

The Irish Diaspora List arose out of the networks I put in place to bring together, edit, and publish the series, Patrick O’Sullivan, Editor, The Irish World Wide, 6 Volumes, 1992-1997.

That series was created in the era of paper letters (in envelopes), phone calls, faxes – and personal contacts, hunted down, one by one.  My 65 contributors were spread over 4 continents.  And some day I might do the Secret Lecture on 'The Secret History of The Irish World Wide.'  Subtitle:  'What I got wrong.'

In bringing together The Irish World Wide, 6 Volumes, it was clear that, as we opened up and mapped out our research territory, those personal contacts were valued - research conversations developed.  Further and future conversations were mapped in my Introductions to The Irish World Wide volumes.


In the 1990s the use of computers and computerised systems began to take off – the web, databases, catalogues, bibliographies and email.  Of course, the universities were early developers and users of email. 

One development of email was the email 'list', whereby a piece of software has its own email address, and keeps a veritable list of email addresses of members of a group.  An email sent to the software’s address is automatically distributed to every email address, and person, on the list.

I founded the Irish Diaspora List in 1997 - when I had a notional base at the University of Bradford.  The University of Bradford then used the Majordomo software to run its email lists. 

I will leave it to someone else to write the history of Majordomo – it was a sturdy piece of software.  Though – in a pattern that we are all now familiar with – you had to work with the software in order to find out how the software worked.  At one point, I wrote a Guide to Majordomo, so that not everyone had to go through that strange process.

There was one specific problem with the Majordomo software - and, again, it is a problem we have by now all encountered in other areas.  There was no built-in route to the creation of an archive.  But it was obvious from the beginning what the route had to be – there had to be, somewhere, a database with its own email address.  This we created.  Throughout the 20-year history of the Irish Diaspora List there has been, in effect, an extra member, an email address, which collected every message sent to the List and stored it in my back-up database.

I was thus able to preserve the Archives of the Irish Diaspora List.  Through many vicissitudes, which included changes of policy within large organisations, and major computer crashes within large organisations. 


In 2004 I moved the Irish Diaspora list to Jiscmail, the UK’s academic Listserv.  In Jiscmail parlance, I became the 'owner' of the Irish Diaspora.  Which I thought was funny then, and still think is funny now.

In 2011, we were able – with the help of the technicians at Jiscmail – to integrate the various incarnations of the Irish Diaspora List, including the rescued material from Majordomo, in to one database, within Jiscmail.  So, from 2011 onwards, the entire archive, from that 1997 beginning, was preserved within Jiscmail, in the familiar Listserv format.  And, of course, messages continued to accumulate, within Jiscmail, and in my back-ups, as Irish Diaspora Studies discussion continued.

In May 2012 I withdrew from the day to day management of the Irish Diaspora List – I simply had to find a better work/life balance.  Bill Mulligan, in Kentucky, and Anthony McNicholas, in Westminster, wanted to keep the Irish Diaspora list going. They became 'co-owners' of the Irish Diaspora List at Jiscmail.  But I remained interested, of course, and involved, in the background.

In 2013 we made copies of the Archive of the Irish Diaspora List, as it was at that point.  We made that material available to the various web archiving projects that were then active.  Copies of the Archives of the Irish Diaspora List were put on discs, with other research material, and copies of those discs were lodged with the Archives of the Irish in Britain, London Metropolitan University, the Glucksman Ireland House, New York University, and the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, Omagh.

By 2017 Bill Mulligan and Anthony McNicholas felt that the Irish Diaspora List had become moribund, and it should be wound up.  I stepped in to negotiate with Jiscmail – specifically to make sure that an up to date version of the Archives would be preserved.

Without going into a lot of detail, the Archive, as presented to us by Jiscmail, needed a bit more rescuing.  And it is that rescue, incorporating all the incarnations of the Irish Diaspora List that is preserved at…

It is proposed to place up to date versions on disc with the Archives of the Irish in Britain, London Metropolitan University, the Glucksman Ireland House, New York University, and the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, Omagh.

The end of the Irish Diaspora List was sad, in many ways.  The study of Diaspora has entered an interesting phase.  But the email 'list' is certainly in decline.  That being said, none of the replacements really work - they do not promote organised discussion.  And there is that recurring problem of the archive.

At its height, the Irish Diaspora List had, at most, a few hundred members.  At its end it had just 212 members – one of those members was, of course, my back-up database with its own email address.  Further discussion of the membership, and the use made of the Irish Diaspora List, I can leave to the Secret Lecture.  But I think it is possible to argue that those few hundred members represented a significant proportion of the number of people in the world with a genuine, scholarly, interest in the study of the Irish Diaspora.



The Archive of the Irish Diaspora List is self-referencing and self-historicising.  Every time there was a development – such as all the changes outlined above – a message would be sent to the List, and that message is archived.  So, if more detail is needed about the history of the Irish Diaspora List that detail is preserved in the Archive.

But here are a few thoughts on the management of the list.

In the background I had a number of standard emails, text ready to send, designed to deal with recurring issues, attacks or critiques – and the detail of all that can be left to the Secret Lecture.  This, from 1997, was the standard email sent to all new members of the Irish Diaspora list…


The Irish-Diaspora list

The Irish-Diaspora list is an email discussion forum, dedicated to the

scholarly study of the Irish Diaspora, and its social, economic,

linguistic, cultural and political causes and consequences.


The Irish-Diaspora list is hosted, as a service to world-wide Irish

Diaspora scholarly community, by the Irish Diaspora Research Unit,

Department of Interdisciplinary Human Studies, University of Bradford, England.

The Irish-Diaspora list is run by a small team of volunteers, led by

Patrick O'Sullivan, Head of the Irish Diaspora Research Unit


The list is a moderated list.  The ethos of the list is scholarly.  We

think we need to stress this - at the risk of sounding prim and

ivory-tower-ish - because we feel there are already places on the Web

and the Internet to support, for example, Irish family and social

networks or discussions of current political debates and crises.  And we

ourselves follow those discussions with concern and interest.


But what is missing is a forum which hosts scholarly discussion of the

Irish Diaspora, and is able to support theoretical, methodological and

comparative perspectives - this forum is provided by the Irish-Diaspora



Irish-Diaspora list members can post recent book reviews they

have written, fragments of work in progress, brief discussion papers,

and reports on conference papers - thus we envisage something that would

be of special help to the more isolated Irish Diaspora scholar.

Occasionally material is taken from the Irish-Diaspora list and given

wider circulation by being placed on the Irish Diaspora Studies Web site…


Membership of the Irish-Diaspora list tends to expand through

introduction and invitation.  In the first instance contact Patrick O'Sullivan…


As can be seen that standard introductory email offered some hopes and dreams - and dealt with a number of predictable issues, issues that will be familiar to all scholars of the Irish Diaspora.  And that standard email would, again and again, be quoted – often behind the scenes – as the Irish Diaspora List lived through all the political developments and crises of those twenty years, 1997 to 2017.

As can be seen, the List was a ‘moderated list’ – every message to the List was inspected and approved by one of our team of moderators, before that message was distributed.  We are now all too familiar with consequences in discussion forums where that does not happen.  Our guide to global culture’s current strange mix of orality and literacy remains as it always was, Walter Ong, and the versions of Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word, from 1982 onwards.  It was Walter Ong who gave us the mantra, ‘the inherent contumaciousness of texts’.  All I can say now is that some of the cleverest people I know had to be, secretly, saved from themselves.  Often.

So, in the background, in running a forum like the Irish Diaspora List there are two rules…

1.  Bad conversation drives out good.  Self-evidently.

2.  The beast must be fed.  Enough new material must enter the discussion forum to keep the members interested.  Interested, but not overwhelmed.

For me, this was easy.  I had alerts in place.  I had put alerts in place, using the technological developments outlined above, to bring together the series, Patrick O’Sullivan, Editor, The Irish World Wide, 6 Volumes, 1992-1997.  I added further alerts.  I continued to map, catalogue, and seize hold of developments in the study of the Irish Diaspora – and part of the fun of the Irish Diaspora List for me was that it was easy enough to share observations, references and texts with members of the List.  And it was really wonderful to watch our field develop – and to see filled, by much good work, those aching gaps in The Irish World Wide series.

Of course, all my alerts are still in place, and I am still mapping developments in the study of the Irish Diaspora.

The study of the Irish Diaspora is now in a decent enough state.  It could be in a better state – which is something I had hoped to explore further in my new role as Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, London Metropolitan University.  We shall see.


Patrick O'Sullivan

August 16 2020

Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, London Metropolitan University

Patrick O'Sullivan's Whole Life Blog


Personal Fax 0044 (0) 709 236 9050