Saturday, 8 January 2022

No Irish, no blacks, no dogs - lace curtains and iconography

No Irish, no blacks, no dogs.

This is a note for Bill Mulligan's Irish Diaspora Studies Facebook group - there has recently been (yet more) newspaper comment on that iconographic sign.  And I want to make some images available to the Facebook group.

I might return to this note at a later date, if I find it needs tidying...

Tony Murray, who is quoted in the recent Irish Post article about the sign, tells me that the image displayed with that article - and in the 2015 Guardian article - is NOT the image stored within the Archives of the Irish in Britain at London Metropolitan University.

London Metropolitan University would charge a fee for the use of the image.  Tony Murray thinks that someone constructed a version of the image to avoid paying a fee.  It is this doctored image that is now widespread.

Nowadays it is possible to search the web for images...  I have found 4 versions...

1 IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS Window and Lace

Now very hard to find.  This is the original Archives of the Irish in Britain version - I have checked this with Tony Murray.  Note the fuller view of the window, the IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS sign, and above that the little Bed & Breakfast sign.

IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS a mixture of upper case and lower case lettering - note the lower case g in DOgS.

Note the version of the plus sign used as an ampersand in Bed & Breakfast.

Note especially the lace curtain - an important part of the iconography.

2 IRISH, BLACK, DOGS, Window no Lace

This version I discovered through the search.  I have not seen this before.  It must put Image 1 into a new context.

Again, a fuller view of a window - a window set into a pebbledash wall.  Similar but not identical IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS sign.  All upper case lettering, I think.  Different layout Bed & Breakfast sign - but similar ampersand.

No lace curtain.


3 IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS Lace no Window

This is the widespread version, believed to be a doctored version of Image 1. 

No wider image of the window, no Bed & Breakfast sign.

The same PATTERN lace curtain as in Number 1.  But there is distortion and modification.  Note the three half stars to the left of the sign - there is nothing like that in Image 1.

A different IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS sign - all upper case lettering.  Note the extra white space underneath NO DOGS.


4 IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS Industrial

This turned up in the searches.  I believe it to be a recent do-it-yourself version to illustrate an online article.  Easy enough to do.  I am digging.

There are lots of questions you can ask of these images...

Versions 1 and 2 look so similar, and so posed.  Was a photographer given an assignment? 

Is that paper size A4?  Look at the bricks to the left of the window.  It has been pointed out to me that the piece of paper is the same height as two and a half London house bricks.  So maybe height 182 mm, much smaller that A4 paper, 297 mm.

Black marker pens?

All that being said, people whose word I trust tell me that they saw such signs in real life, as young people in London...

Now, my own comments...

Comment 1 - Search

We needed somewhere where we could display the images in sequence, and make comparisons.  This blog entry is the best I can find - and it works...

I have not given any specific source for each image.  There is a convention, that we give a web address and the date a web site was accessed.  But that is unhelpful here.

What you can do now, because I have brought the images together, is do your own web search, see context and make comparisons.

It will depend on how you have your own computer set up, and on what your system allows.  But, in Google Chrome, if you RIGHT CLICK on an image, there is usually a way to search the Web for that image.  You can test that now, here on this blog - RIGHT CLICK on the 4 photos that I have collected, above.

If you have Google Lens in place you can click through to search in Google Images.  These are the hits through Google Images...

Searching again, January 11 2022, I found

Image 1 (the original)

4 hits

Image 2 (the discovery)

3 hits

Image 3 (the image that we know is doctored)

309 hits

Image 4 (the recent do-it-yourself)

1 hit

But Google Images also tries to link Image 4 with Image 3.

That is searching through Google Images - other search systems create different patterns, and I am experimenting.  But the overall pattern is clear.

Reaching Images 1 and 2 sometimes needs a bit if digging into old blogs, which will test your ingenuity.

So the known phoney, Image 3, dominates.  As we have seen - now that we have a context - it is obviously a doctored image. 

Amongst those 300 and more sightings of Image 3 you will see many established newspapers and journals - it is very odd, to put it mildly, that this image has been circulated and reproduced so widely without anyone ever stopping to examine it.

Examine it and search for a context.  It is not hard.  You have just done it.

Comment 2 - 'posed'

Dealing with the images in reverse order...

4 IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS Industrial

This, I deduce, is a very recent do-it-yourself effort, created to illustrate a legal article.  There is no attempt to set the scene, no B & B sign - it looks like someone's office or factory.

I must include this image because it will turn up in the search.  It does show the image search working well.  And it shows how much the IRISH BLACKS DOGS sign has indeed become an icon.

3 IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS Lace no Window

This is the widespread doctored version.  I think that it is obviously a mock-up - I think that there are clear signs of Cut & Paste.

2 IRISH, BLACK, DOGS, Window no Lace

This one is very interesting because - as I say - I had not seen it before.  Its existence was revealed to me by the search.

It has all the elements of Image 1, the two signs, the framing window.  Note that it is a casement window, in a pebble-dashed house - and you can just see some stained glass in the lower part of the window above.

Trees are reflected in the window.

1 IRISH, BLACKS, DOGS Window and Lace

The important image, the image that is stored in the Archives of the Irish in Britain at LMU.  I was first shown this image many decades ago - and when I was first shown it I said that it looked posed.

Why do I think that Image 1 looks 'posed'?

It is too perfect.  It tells the story too perfectly.

I had worked for Time Out magazine in the 1970s - this is just the sort of thing a photographer sent out to bring back an illustration would come back with.

It displays all the elements of the narrative.  It reads down within the framing window frame.

First the Bed & Breakfast sign.  The eye takes in the lace curtain background.  Then the No Irish sign

This is a B & B, this is a respectable B & B - we don't want Irish, blacks or dogs.

What I have listed as Image 2, the new discovery, is so similar - I think a good working assumption must be that the same photographer was responsible for both Image 1 and Image 2.  But, if I were a picture editor choosing between 1 and 2, the lace curtain would sell Image 1 to me.

The same reasoning, I guess, guided whoever doctored Version 3.  The lace curtain sells it.

Note that this is a sash window, in a London brick house.  We feel we already know that window - we have walked past it many times, a North London terrace.

The trees are clearly reflected in Image 2.  Can we see something white reflected in the window in Image 1?  Some people think they can make out the white signage of a London bus.

Images 1 and 2...  Two very similar photographs, telling the same story in the same way, possibly by the same photographer.  Are there more out there, is there a portfolio?  Can we identify the photographer?


I think that I have taken this discussion as far as is appropriate in a blog entry.  Obviously the discussion could go in many different directions.  One direction would be to explore the gaps and distortions in the research record of the Irish in Britain, and of the Irish Diaspora more widely.  This we are doing.

Previous discussion of these images has spiralled in strange directions.  Doubts about a Robert Capa photograph do not lead to the suggestion that no one died in the Spanish Civil War.  Doubts about an Alexander Gardner or a Matthew Brady photograph do not lead to the suggestion that no one died in the American Civil War.  In the age of mechanical reproduction we really should not be sucked in to defending the authenticity of any particular image.

In the 1970s and 1980s I worked with the creative photographers of that period.  My home, in Bradford, Yorkshire, is not far from the National Science and Media Museum - we spend a lot of time looking at photographs,

As I have said, the discovery of Image 2 must change the discussion.  Images 1 and 2 are very interesting.  As photographs they are efficient.  Perhaps someone did wander the streets of London, camera at the ready.

Or perhaps someone, with appropriate prayers, made an icon.

Patrick O'Sullivan

January 2022



Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Autoharp + Stephen Foster + Hard Times

When the UK Autoharp Association announced its 2021 Advent Calendar project, I was determined to offer a contribution...

Partly because, after a struggle, I had finally got my health into a better place, and I wanted a project that was visible and achievable.

And...  I am a loyal member of the Autoharp Association.

So, the UK Autoharps Advent Calendar - 24 songs and tunes played and sung by Autoharp Association Members, one song a day in the count-up to Christmas.

And my contribution appeared on Day 6, December 6.

Hard Times by Stephen Foster, performed by Patrick O'Sullivan  - here we are on YouTube....

This note on my blog addresses some questions that I have been asked, and addresses, very briefly, some background  issues...

1.  Stephen Foster - background and comment...  Fairly easy to pick up on the web nowadays...

Library of Congress

Stephen Collins Foster, 1826-1864

'...Although penniless when he died on 10 January 1864, Foster bestowed on America a rich legacy of memorable songs...'

He was 37 years old when he died.

This is the NY Times Review of

Ken Emerson, DOO-DAH!  Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture

 But lots out there...  You can see a number of themes...  Stephen Foster's part in the creation of 'Americana', including blackface minstrelsy, and his place in the record of slavery...

2.  Research and thinking about Stephen Foster is now aided by the online Stephen Foster Collection at the University of Pittsburgh...

We can certainly pick up there everything we need about our song, Hard Times Come Again No More. 

This is the first sketch, June 26, 1851, in Fosters note book...

This, by the way, puts aside the suggestion that Foster's title and the song were inspired by Hard Times, the novel by Charles Dickens, first instalment published 1854.

But the 'Hard Times' idea is certainly around.  From 1854 onwards the song is in print...

Christy Minstrels Sheet Music...

Arranged for guitar...

3.  Discussion on the web...

Paul Campbell

Old music: Stephen Foster – Hard Times (Come Again No More)

'A song written nearly 160 years ago still resonated down American history. And you don't need to be American to be blown away...

The helpful Mainly Norfolk web site -

But note that both those web sites are wrong - we now know that the song was not 'written' in 1854.  For we have seen the note book...

The song has special resonances for the McGarrigle/Wainwright family...

And became a 2020 lockdown project for Rufus Wainwright...

4.  The autoharp communities have a special relationship with the work of Stephen Foster.  There is a relationship with 'Americana', and its history - it was in the United States that the autoharp became a 'folk' instrument.

There is a relationship with 'country music' - a complex relationship.  See, for example...

Jackson, M. A. (2018) The Honky Tonk on the Left: Progressive Thought in Country Music. Edited by M. A. Jackson. University of Massachusetts Press.

And the autoharp communities have a special relationship with this song, Hard Times.

See from 2012...

Hard Times Come Again No More - The Cyberpluckerpotluck

An international, online collaboration

Organised and edited by Catherine Britell

You can just hear me, in 2012 - guided by Stephanie Hladowski - determined, as ever, to make a contribution.

I have dedicated my 2021 version to Cathy Britell.

See also...

Bryan Bowers and Friends perform Hard Times

California Autoharp Gathering 2019

Music starts at 3.20...

The melody sits comfortably on the standard autoharp.  I sing it in F - we have chorded it very simply, F C Bb.

5.  Is it a Christmas song?  Paul Campbell, in that Guardian article, tells us that Foster would sing this song often, in his last days - before his death in January 1864.  It is certainly a song to be sung at Christmas.  In any case the Autoharp Association guidelines for the 2021 Advent Calendar project did say that the chosen song does not have to be a Christmas song.

Is it an Irish Famine song?  The text has resonances - the troubled wave, and the wail along the shore, puts Foster's song alongside Irish Famine narratives, like Thoreau's account of the wreck of the brig St. John, bound for Boston, from Galway, full of emigrants - wrecked in Cohasset Bay, October 1849.  Thoreau's 'The Shipwreck' was published in 1855 - it is in...

King, J. (2019) The History of the Irish Famine, Volume II The Irish Famine Migration Narratives: Eye-Witness Testimonies. London: Routledge.

See also

Morgan, J. (2004) ‘Thoreau’s “The Shipwreck” (1855): Famine Narratives and the Female Embodiment of Catastrophe’, New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua. University of St. Thomas (Center for Irish Studies), 8(3), pp. 47–57.

6.  Resonances with my academic work - I am currently Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, London Metropolitan University...

I have mentioned Stephen Foster's part in the development of 'Americana', blackface minstrelsy and the record of slavery...  There is a complex knot of issues around Irish and Irish-American involvement in the creation of and the performance of the blackface minstrel stereotype, the exploitation of that stereotype for humour - to be put alongside, perhaps, the comic exploitation of stereotypes of the Irish.

The first substantial meditation on this is Peter Quinn's sombre novel...

Quinn, P. (1995) Banished children of Eve. New York: Penguin.

Robert Nowatzki 's articles are a good starting point...

Nowatzki, R. (2007) ‘“Blackin’’ up is us Doin’ White Folks Doin’ Us”: Blackface Minstrelsy and Racial Performance in Contemporary American Fiction and Film”’, Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory, 18(2), pp. 115–136.

Nowatzki, R. (2006) ‘Paddy jumps Jim Crow: Irish-Americans and Blackface minstrelsy’, Éire-Ireland. Irish-American Cultural Institute, 41(3), pp. 162–184.

Greaves, M. (2012) ‘Slave Ships and Coffin Ships: Transatlantic Exchanges in Irish-American Blackface Minstrelsy.’, Comparative American Studies, 10(1), pp. 78–94.

Hughes, R. L. (2006) ‘Minstrel Music: The Sounds and Images of Race in Antebellum America’, The History Teacher. Society for History Education, 40(1), pp. 27–43.

And lastly...

7.  The credits

UK Autoharp Association, Advent Calendar, December 2021


Stephen Foster

Hard Times, Come Again No More

First draft 1851

Published 1854


Patrick O'Sullivan


Patrick O'Sullivan

Oscar Schmidt 21 Chord Model B Autoharp, 1975-77


Danny Yates

Audio & Video Production

Danny Yates

City Sound Studios 

As I say, I was determined, determined, to make a contribution.

In a funding bid recently I spoke of our new ability to exploit the recording studio, and recording studio technology, as a working tool - rather than a rite of passage.

We took recording studio, first draft, short cuts.  First we built a spine.  We chose a key, comfortable for me and the autoharp.  A simple guitar structure for Verse 1.  There are 5 Verses.  Copy and paste 4 times.

That is the structure to support my singing.  And that is why the guitar part is so simple - we might return and work on that again.

Autoharp.  It is an Autoharp Association project.   The autoharp follows the guitar structure for Verse 1.  Chords F C Bb.  There are 5 Verses.  Copy and paste 4 times.

Add another layer of autoharp.  Add a bit of colour and autoharp variation.  We should return and work on that again.

The inevitable technical glitch - one video card failed.  Redo some video, and blend it in as best we can.  No one will ever notice.

(Of course you did notice.  But we got our submission in, in time...)

Patrick O'Sullivan

December 7 2021


Sunday, 18 July 2021

Hladowski Sings O'Sullivan: 3 Godfathers

 Hladowski Sings O'Sullivan:  3 Godfathers...

3 Godfathers

It is more than a year now since we launched the 'album', Hladowski Sings O'Sullivan...  The songs are visible, and selling, throughout the world...

And I can do a little presentation...

Working Title:  An album in a time of crisis.

Sub-title:  How a lyricist accidentally became a record producer, when the virus lockdown intervened.

Alternative Title:  Learn from my mistakes.


The presentation allows me to acknowledge the 3 Godfathers of the project...

They rescued the baby...

Danny Yates, City Sound Studios, Clayton...

Peter Smith - Pete Dublab (Inspirational Sound), Shipley

Gene Dunford, Ravenswood Sounds, Bristol

Without Danny, Peter and Gene...  there would have been nothing to rescue...

Gene has already been thanked a number of times on this blog...

See for example...



If you are looking for a starting point, I have made this web site...

It is a service called Hearnow, linked to CD Baby, the distributor...

From there you can see our songs, and our distinctive cover designs, visible on the major platforms...

This is Spotify...

This is Apple...

On Apple - scrowl down - you can see more clearly the coming together of the 'incremental album'...

Visibility varies from platform to platform.

There are oddities.  For example, if you click on the Pandora link, and you are outside the USA, Pandora will not let you through.  But we did negotiate access to Pandora - a curated service - and do quite well there...

There are many, many other platforms - and CD Baby puts us on all of them...

We have just had out first sale on Tidal...

...which shows, I think, that the work we put into delivering our good quality audio files to CD Baby paid off.

So, thanks again to the 3 Godfathers...


The 'Learn from my mistakes' bit?  So many, so many...

For example CD Baby sends out marketing emails encouraging the creation of an 'incremental album' - build to an album by releasing singles one by one.  Hladowski Sings O'Sullivan is a model.  It is an expensive way of doing things - but this was a rescue in a time of crisis.

As I carefully placed our files within the CD Baby platform, and let our team see the tracks accumulate and spread...  It just never occurred to me that I would not be able to go click click click inside the CD Baby platform, transfer the tracks across, and create the album there.  Nah.  The explanation from CD Baby amounted to the usual gookspeak meaning:  No one thought of that when we were designing the software... 

But that is software now...  You have to work with the software to find out how the software works.  And it has worked.

In another part of my life, in my work for my trade union, the Writers' Guld of Great Britain, we have been looking again at the self-publishing of books - there are obvious connections with the self-publishing of music.  Oddly, the self-publishing of text took off before the self-publishing of audio - when the technology of audio ought to make it easier.  We would have to explore further the nature of the industries...  Which is what CD Baby - bless them - have been doing...

Patrick O'Sullivan

July 2021

Sunday, 20 June 2021

Chicago, Theory, and the Discourse of the Irish Emigrant Letter

Patrick O'Sullivan
Chicago, Theory, and the Discourse of the Irish Emigrant Letter

...a paper I gave at... 

Chicago: an Irish-American Metropolis?  Politics, Ethnicity, and Culture from 1830s to the Present Time”

An International and Multidisciplinary Conference

June 21-23, 2021

Below, I have pasted in the illustrations and references to accompany the paper...

1.  This international and multidisciplinary conference was a partnership between the universities of Chicago, Caen Normandie and Paris.

The conference was brought to our attention by our friends in Caen.  The conference was to have taken place in Paris, but in the end had to move to Zoom...

A good conference, a good survey of the present state of Irish Diaspora Studies - as seen from Chicago and Paris...

2.  As ever, I moved forward with these things, cautiously, step by step - I want to get back into the habit of giving papers, and I wanted to give a coherent paper.

And spend no time quarrelling with technology.

So, I put the illustrations and references here on my blog...  With a Tinyurl ready to put into Chat in Zoom.  It worked.

This has revealed that many of the references in my database are a bit untidy - but I knew that.  I tend to catalogue a resource quickly, get it done - and then tidy the reference in the database as it is called up.

So, here you see me halfway through that task...

3.  The three paintings accompany some brief sections in my paper, as presented at this conference - where I look at the wider research literature on 'the letter', how letters appear, in theatre, literature and art - and life - and the place of the 'Emigrant Letter' in that research literature.  Which, you will appreciate, is a big subject on its own...

These are my three favourite paintings of the 'Emigrant Letter' in action - in England, Ireland and Spain.  Why are these three my favourites?  You will see that in all three paintings the task of reading and writing is given to the child.  Very telling, about the ways in which our people embrace and harness the technologies of the word.

4.  Note that two of the important books I reference are Open Access - I am trying as much as possible to reference Open Access research material...

Briody, M. (2007) The Irish Folklore Commission 1935-1970: History, Ideology, Methodology. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society.

Vaughan, L. (2018) Mapping Society: The Spatial Dimensions of Social Cartography. London: UCL Press

Two fine books...  And entry points as Irish Diaspora Studies thinks about 'the peasant' and 'the city'...

5.  My thanks to the organisers of the Conference - and to the friends, rediscovered and new, who appeared on my screen, here in my attic in Yorkshire.  Special thanks to Thierry Dubost and Alexandra Slaby, Caen Normandie.


James Collinson, Answering the Emigrant's Letter, 1850

James Brennan, Letter from America, 1875

Maximino Peña Muñoz, La carta del hijo ausente, 1887 - Letter from an absent son...


Akenson, D. H. (1993) The Irish diaspora. Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University of Belfast.

Akenson, D. H. (1997) If the Irish ran the world, Montserrat, 1630-1730. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Booth, C. (1891) Life and Labour of the People in London: East, Central and South London. Macmillan and Company (Life and Labour of the People in London). Available at:

Briody, M. (2007) The Irish Folklore Commission 1935-1970: History, Ideology, Methodology. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society.

Daybell, J. (2012) The Material Letter in Early Modern England: Manuscript Letters and the Culture and Practices of Letter-Writing, 1512-1635. Palgrave Macmillan.

Fitzpatrick, D. (1994) Oceans of Consolation: Personal Accounts of Irish Migration to Australia. Cork: Cork University Press.

Fitzpatrick, D. (2006) ‘Exporting Brotherhood: Orangeism in South Australia’, Folk Life. Routledge, 45(1), pp. 77–102. doi: 10.1179/flk.2006.45.1.77.

Goldring, M. (2018) ‘Shadow theater in French Basque country’, Hérodote. Paris: La Découverte, 170(3), pp. 147–152. Available at:

Grabowska, I. and Buler, M. (2019) ‘The Centenary of the Polish Peasant in Europe and America through the Contemporary Concept of Social Remittances’, Polish Sociological Review. Polskie Towarzystwo Socjologiczne (Polish Sociological Association), (205), pp. 85–102.

Gray, P. (1999) Famine, Land and Politics: British Government and Irish Society, 1843-50. Irish Academic Press.

Hall, D. and Malcolm, E. (2019) A New History of the Irish in Australia. Cork University Press. 

Kenny, K. (2009) ‘Twenty Years of Irish American Historiography’, Journal of American Ethnic History. University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Immigration & Ethnic History Society, 28(4), pp. 67–75. Available at:

Laing, R. D. (1967) The Politics of Experience. Penguin Books. Available at:

Link, B. G. et al. (1999) ‘Real in Their Consequences: A Sociological Approach to Understanding the Association between Psychotic Symptoms and Violence’, American Sociological Review. [American Sociological Association, Sage Publications, Inc.], 64(2), pp. 316–332. doi: 10.2307/2657535.

Lopata, H. Z. (1996) ‘Polonia and “The Polish Peasant in Europe and America”’, Journal of American Ethnic History. University of Illinois Press, 16(1), pp. 37–46. Available at:

Magnusson, L. (1999) Shakespeare and Social Dialogue: Dramatic Language and Elizabethan Letters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McCann, M., Ó Síocháin, S. and Ruane, J. (1994) Irish Travellers: Culture and Ethnicity. Belfast: Queen’s University Belfast.

Miller, K. A. (1985) Emigrants and exiles. New York: Oxford University Press.

Morgan, A. (1992) ‘The Lipman Seminar on Ireland, 1978-92’, British Association for Irish Studies Newsletter, Winter(2), pp. 4–5.

Mostwin, D. (1993) ‘Thomas and Znaniecki’s “The Polish Peasant in Europe and America”: Survival of the Book’, Polish American Studies. University of Illinois Press, 50(1), pp. 75–84. Available at:

O’Farrell, P. (1986) The Irish in Australia.

O’Sullivan, P. (2003) ‘Developing Irish Diaspora Studies: A Personal View’, New Hibernia Review, 7(1), pp. 130–148. doi: 10.1353/nhr.2003.0031.

Schrier, A. (1997) Ireland and the American Emigration, 1850-1900. Dufour Editions.

Stewart, A. (2008) Shakespeare’s letters. Oxford University Press.

Thomas, W. I. and Thomas, D. S. (1928) The Child In America Behavior Problems And Programs. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Trevelyan, C. E. (1848) The Irish crisis. London: Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans.

Vaughan, L. (2018) Mapping Society: The Spatial Dimensions of Social Cartography. UCL Press (-). Available at:


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


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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