The Ancient Order of Hibernians : an Irish political-religious pressure group 1884-1975

  • Michael Thomas Foy

Student thesis: Masters ThesisMaster of Philosophy


Writing a thesis on the history of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Ireland has presented certain difficulties. None of the secondary works on the Order is entirely satisfactory. History of the Ancient Order of Hibernians by T. McGrath (Cleveland 1898) and History of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Ladies Auxiliaries by J. O'Dea 4 Vols. (Philadelphia 192J) are accounts of the Order in America which deal with the Order in Ireland only when its business intruded on that of the former. The Unknown Power behind the Irish Nationalist Party by Baron Ashtown (London 190?) is a work by a prominent Unionist which portrays the A.O.H. in Ireland in the most sinister possible light. Though not entirely useless it should be read as part of the propaganda war over Home Rule in the period before 1914. History of the Ancient Order of Hibernians by J. J. Bergin (Dublin 1910) is the official history of the A.O.H. in Ireland. It is a brief work which skates over and confuses many important issues. I therefore had to rely mainly on original material - and here there are important gaps. The records of the A.O.H. in Ireland prior to 1922 were destroyed in the Troubles of that year and I was refused access to those kept since that date. The papers of the most famous Hibernian, Joseph Devlin, who was National President from 1905 to 1934, were destroyed, on his instructions, by his sister after his death in 1934.

However, there was still much material to be utilized. One major source, without which in fact the thesis could not have been written, was the police records for the crucial quarter century before 1914. Owing to its secret character the activities of the A.O.H. were closely watched by the police and the files of, for instance, Crime Branch Special, contain information which almost certainly is no longer available elsewhere.

The loss of Devlin's papers is mitigated to some extent by the existence of letters from him to his contemporaries, especially to John Redmond and John Dillon. Newspapers were another invaluable source. From 1903 onwards papers such as the Irish News and the Northern Star began to carry reports of lodge meetings (submitted by the lodges themselves). These reports were often quite revealing, containing the views of members on issues affecting the A.O.H. and resolutions passed by lodges. In addition the papers carried letters from members of the A.O.H. and its opponents; there were editorials on the A.O.H. and there were reports on A.O.H. demonstrations and clashes between Hibernians and their opponents.
Date of Award1976
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorCornelius O'Leary (Supervisor)

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