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As Gaeilge: Dubhghlas de hÍde's epic trip to America to woo the US President

Conradh na Gaeilge’s Cuan Ó Seireadáin writes an introduction about Douglas Hyde’s 1905-06 tour of the United States.

A postcard with de hÍde's handwritten notes -
A postcard with de hÍde's handwritten notes - "Nach deas an capall é seo!"
Image: Westmeath Co Library (Aidan Heavy Collection)

Le ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar Seachtain na Gaeilge le Energia, tá sliocht ó dhialann Dubhghlas de hÍde foilsithe againn, tógtha ón leabhair nua-fhoilsithe ‘My American Journey’. 

Scríobhann comh-údar Cuan Ó Seireadáin réamhrá faoin turas eipiciúil timpeall ar na Stáit Aontaithe sna blianta 1905 agus 1906.

To celebrate Seachtain na Gaeilge le Energia, which ended on St Patrick’s Day, we have published an extract from Douglas Hyde’s diary, taken from the newly published book ‘My American Journey’. 

Here, co-author Cuan Ó Seireadáin writes an introduction about the epic 1905/06 tour of the United States. 

Bhí de hÍde mar Uachtarán ar Chonradh na Gaeilge idir 1893 agus 1915, agus chuaigh sé go Meiriceá chun airgead a bhailiú le haghaidh obair na Gaeilge agus chun aird a tharraingt ar thogra na hAthbheochana. 

Acting in his capacity as President of Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League) between 1893 and 1925, Hyde’s main mission in travelling to America was to raise awareness and funds for the revival of the Irish language. 

Ba é Seán Ó Coinn, an dlíodóir Meiriceánach a bhí lonnaithe i Nua-Eabhrac, príomh-eagraí an turais. Bhí cumas eagrúcháin Uí Choinn chomh heisceachtúil sin gur éirigh leis dhá lón phríobháideacha a shocrú do de hÍde le hUachtarán na Stáit Aontaithe, Theodore Roosevelt, agus oíche óráidíochta an Chraoibhín i Carnegie Hall a dhíol amach!

The main organiser of the tour was the New York-based Irish-American lawyer John Quinn. Quinn’s organisational talent was so prodigious that he arranged not one but two private lunches for Hyde with the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, and sold out Carnegie Hall!

Le linn an turais, chuir de hÍde os cionn 19,000 míle de, thug sé cuairt ar breis is 60 cathair, agus labhair sé le os cionn 100,000 duine. D’imir an t-airgead a bhailigh sé i Meiriceá tionchar cinniúnach ar chúis na Gaeilge.

The funds raided during the tour, during which Hyde travelled over 19,000 miles, visited over 60 cities, and spoke to combined audiences of 100,000 people, made a decisive contribution to the survival of the Irish language.

57 dhpc at090 Washington DC Source: Westmeath Co Library (Aidan Heavy Collection)

Rinne de hÍde taifead i nGaeilge ar a heachtraí thall, agus foilsíodh a chuimhní don chéad uair i 1937 sa leabhar ‘Mo Thurus go hAmeirice’. Anois, tá aistriúchán Béarla den leabhar curtha ar fáil, cnuasaithe le bailiúchán d’ábhar cartlainne nua-aimsithe agus réamhrá ó Uachtarán na hÉireann, Micheál D Ó hUigínn.
Sa leabhar tá léiriú iontach ar atmasféar na Stáit Aontaithe ag tús an 20ú hAois, ar na pobail Ghaeil-Mheiriceánacha mar a bhí ann, agus ar nirt na bpobal Gaeilge mar ar bhí ag an am sin.
Nochtaíonn ‘Mo Thuras go Meiriceá’ duine cumasach ar bharr a réime dúinn, duine de mhúnlaitheoirí Éire an lae inniu, agus duine a chothaigh teagmhálacha cumasacha láidre i ngach áit a raibh sé. 
Bhí fís chuimsitheach nua-aimseartha ag de hÍde, fís d’Éirinn féin-mhuiníneach, tír a bhí bródúil as a cultúr dúchais, agus chuir sé an fhís sin chun cinn agus é thar sáile. 

Hyde kept a journal in Irish to record his experiences, and his recollections were first published in 1937 as ‘Mo Thurus go hAmerice’. Now, for the first time, an authorised English translation has been produced complete with a wealth of newly discovered archival material, which evokes the atmosphere of early 20th Century America, early 20th century Irish-America, and the strength of the Irish-speaking community at that time.

Complete with a foreword by President Michael D Higgins, My American Journey reveals the founding father of modern Ireland at the height of his powers, promoting a modern, confident vision of Ireland, and building alliances with influential figures as he travels.

Bhí neart rioscaí ag baint leis an turas, bonneagair iarnród sobhriste, carranna nach bhféadfaí brath orthu, fíor-dhroch bhóithre, a bhain geit as an gCraoibhín cúpla uair! 

Hyde’s journey is not without its risks, with the delicate railway infrastructure, underpowered automobiles, and poor roads leading to some close shaves.

Chruthaigh iriseoirí dúshláin freisin le tuairiscí mí-chruinne, agus b’éigin tarraingt ar scileanna taidhleoireachta de hÍde cúpla uair le hiad a shárú! 

Journalists, too, cause challenges with inaccurate reporting, and Hyde’s diplomatic skills are drafted in to save the day on more that one occasion!

Seo sliocht ó dhialann de hÍde, foilsithe sa leabhar ‘My American Journey’:

km_c454e-20190725100716 Source: Westmeath Co. Library (Aidan Heavy Collection)

An t-aonú lá fichead de Bhealtaine. Tá na pianta go dona fós, agus is ar éigean a bhí sé ar mo chumas siúl suas go dtí an Teach Bán le lón a chaitheamh leis an Uachtarán Roosevelt.

The twenty-first day of May. The pain is still intense. I was barely able to walk up to the White House for lunch with President Roosevelt. 

Tháinig Mac Uí Dhoinn, Ollamh na Gaeilge san Ollscoil Chaitliceach in éineacht liom, agus an Dochtúir Mac Aogáin, fear beag dathúil a raibh féasóg mhogallach gearr air, cara don Uachtarán. 

Dunn, the Irish-language professor at the Catholic University, and Dr Egan, a small handsome man with a large beard and a friend of the president, accompanied me.  

“In ainm Dé, “ arsa an tAogánach liom, agus sinne ag dul suas le chéile, “ná sceith orm.” Is é rud a chiallaigh sé leis sin, is dóigh, ná lig ort nach Gaeilgeoir mé. Don’t let me down, ar seisean i mBéarla. 

“In God’s name,” said Egan, as we approached, “don’t give me away”. What he meant by that, I think, was not to reveal that he was not an Irish-speaker. “Don’t let me down,” he said in English.

“Ná bíodh faitíos ort, arsa mise, agus fuair mé ócáid in imeacht an lóin a rá leis an Uachtarán, “Baineann mo chara anseo le ceann de bhunaidh mhóra scolártha Iarthar na hEorpa, Mic Aogáin ó Bhaile Mhic Aogáin i gContae Thiobraid Árainn,” agus ar ndóigh is é a bhí sásta.

“Have no fear,” I said, and found an opportunity during lunch to say to the president, “my friend here is associated with one of the finest European scholarly families, the Egans from Ballymacegan in County Tipperary,” and that satisfied him immensely. 

Bhí lón simplí againn. Bhí Admiral Cole, a phós deirfiúr an Uachtaráin, agus deirfiúr a mhná féin agus bean eile ag an lón linn. Bhí an tUachtarán tar éis aiste a scríobh ag déanamh comórtas idir an seanscéal Gaeilge agus an sága Lochlannach.

P 04 White House 1 Source: Westmeath Co. Library (Aidan Heavy Collection).

We had a simple lunch. Admiral Cole, who married the president’s sister, his own wife’s sister and another woman joined us for lunch. The president had written an essay comparing an old-Irish story and a Scandinavian saga.

Dúirt sé nuair a scríobh sé a litir scaitheamh beag roimhe sin faoi na rátaí ar na bóithre iarainn go raibh a fhios aige go bhfaigheadh sé masla mar gheall uirthi ar fud na tíre, agus chun a intinn a chur ó smaoineamh air sin a scríobh sé aiste ar fhilíocht na nGael. 
Bhí sé an-lách an chúirtéiseach, agus dá n-abróinn é, muinteartha linn.

He said that when he wrote his letter shortly before that about the rates on the railways he knew that he would be denigrated about it throughout the country and, to take his mind off it, would write an essay on Irish poetry.

 He was very kind and generous, and if I say so, very friendly in a familial sense.

Tar éis an lóin d’fhill mé le Mac Mhic Aogáin go dtí an Cosmos Club, agus d’ól mé Mint Julep leis. Deoch choitianta san áit seo í sin, ach ní fhacas í in aon áit eile. 
Is cosúil é le High Ball agus é líonta amach i ngloine mhór ard, agus béal na gloine dúnta le pósae de mhiontas, agus tarraingíonn sé isteach blas agus cumhracht na luibhe.

After lunch, I returned with Egan to the Cosmos Club and had a Mint Julep. This is a common drink in these parts but not one I encountered anywhere else.

Similar to a High Ball, it is poured in a large tall glass and garnished with mint leaves. To drink it, one places their nose and mouth in the mint, and inhales the herb’s taste and scent.  

Bhí mé go dona leis na pianta nuair a d’ól mé an chéad deoch agus shíl mé gur tháinig biseach orm dá bharr. Ar chuma ar bith níor fhág mé an club agus níor lig Mac Mhic Aogáin uaidh mé go raibh ceithre cinn ólta againn beirt. 
Cé gur ar éigeann a d’éirigh liom mé féin a tharraingt go dtí an Teach Bán, bhí ar mo chumas siúl ar ais go dtí an teach ósta go réasúnta maith.

I was in a bad way with the pain when I took the initial drink but thought the pain lessened afterwards. Either way, I did not leave the club nor did Egan abandon me until we had had four each.

Although I barely managed to make it to the White House, I was able to walk back home to the hotel reasonably well.

‘My American Journey’ is available from UCD Press and from all good bookshops.

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Cuan Ó Seireadáin

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