Bulmer Hobson

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 2 (Summer 2002), Letters, Volume 10

Sir,—In his informative contribution, ‘Bulmer Hobson, “the mostdangerous man in Ireland”’ (HI 10.1, Spring 2002), Des Gunning mentionsthe peculiar fact that Hobson ‘has failed to attract the attention of aserious biographer’. So diverse was Hobson’s influence that publishedtwentieth-century Irish history is seriously undermined by thisomission.
He certainly doesn’t fit into any of the stereotypes associatedwith the ‘armed struggle’. Born in Belfast, the son of a Gladstonianliberal and a Yorkshirewoman, he was reared and educated a Quaker. Onewonders what went on in this pacifist’s mind when he had become amember of the IRB (1904) and the years of violent action wereapproaching. Resigning from the Society of Friends (1914) will not haveput this man’s mind wholly at ease.
The highlights of his separatist career alone demand serioustreatment. The list includes membership of the supreme council of theIRB, founding the Dungannon Clubs (with Denis McCullough), founding andediting The Republic, and speaking for Sinn Féin in the United States.He was part founder and president of Na Fianna Éireann, editor of IrishFreedom and he organised the Howth arms-landing, Quarter-Master of theIrish Volunteers being one of his offices in that organisation. Then,of course, he was locked up by the IRB from Good Friday until EasterMonday 1916.
Two themes are likely to preoccupy the hoped-for biographer: thepacifist/rebel dilemma, and the profound influence he had on otherswith their own dilemmas—among them Constance Markievicz and RogerCasement.—Yours etc.,
Isle of Wight


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