The nation soul of Erin
Nigh dead from rack and wrong,
Has been revived an hundred times
By just a little song!
Joseph McGarrity, “To Eleanor Rogers Cox,” Celtic Moods and Memories.
Those interested in the history of modern Ireland will know Joseph McGarrity (1874-1940) as the Ulster-born American immigrant who carried with him from his homeland a passionate and uncompromising commitment to Irish independence, who from his adopted home of Philadelphia rose to lead the Clan-na-Gael (the leading Irish republican organization in the United States), and who emerged as a prominent and influential figure in Irish revolutionary circles during the first half of the twentieth century.
Joseph McGarrity the committed revolutionary, romantic Irish nationalist and steadfast physical-force republican is undoubtedly an influential, fascinating and controversial historical figure; he was, however, also a published poet, an avid collector of books, a newspaper publisher, and he even dabbled in sketching. Among his personal papers held by Villanova University can be found his unfinished memoirs, an unpublished travel narrative, and a self-published musical score for a song set to one of his poems.
Though at best a minor poet, McGarrity worked diligently and seriously at his verse. Taken in context, his literary efforts offer a valuable supplement to the biographical and historical record surrounding him. This exhibition aims to explore this lesser known but quite telling side of Joseph McGarrity as a man of letters.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff at Villanova library for their many considerations and kindnesses. I would particularly like to thank Michael Foight for his generosity with his valuable time and professional knowledge; Laura Bang for her seemingly inexhaustible patience and good humor; and Joanne Quinn for her enthusiasm and creativity.
Curated by Brian J. McDonald, PhD (2012 Digital Library Intern), with graphics by Joanne Quinn.