Professor David Fitzpatrick is Professor of Modern History at Trinity College, Dublin. His research has ranged over many aspects of Irish political, economic, social, demographic, and literary history from the late eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century, with particular focus on the Irish revolution (1916-23) and international migration (which has led him to work on relevant aspects of British and Australian history). Students of Irish Migration Studies may be most familiar with his Oceans of Consolation: Personal accounts of Irish migration to Australia (Ithaca: Cornell UP; Cork: Cork UP; Melbourne: Melbourne UP, 1995). He is currently writing a history of the Orange Order in Ireland, and has investigated the concealed effects of a partly Orange background on writers such as Yeats and MacNeice. Most recently he has published a biography of the father of Louis MacNeice: Solitary and Wild: Frederick MacNeice and the salvation of Ireland (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2011).
The poet Louis MacNeice, though born in Belfast, reared in Carrickfergus, and resident in England for most of his life, portrayed himself as an exile from the West of Ireland, nostalgic for a place he had never seen as a child. This connection arose from the fact that his parents were both from Connemara. In the course of constructing a self-image suitable for presentation to intellectual circles in England and beyond, Louis distanced both himself and his father from unionist Ulster. This entailed the claim that his father, an influential minister and bishop in the Church of Ireland, always remained a westerner at heart and an outsider in Ulster, as shown by his courageous opposition to sectarianism and advocacy of Home Rule. In fact, throughout Louis’s childhood, Frederick MacNeice was a strong unionist and an active Orangeman who showed remarkable skill in gaining acceptance from his Ulster parishioners. Protestant Ulster was far less alien to both father and son than Louis’s autobiography and poetry superficially suggest. Furthermore, close inspection of his later writings reveals that Louis became increasingly positive in his attitudes towards Ulster and even Orangeism. Just as his early rejection of Ulster was fired by resentment against Frederick’s puritanism, so his growing acceptance of an Ulster background was eased by reconciliation with his father.
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