Wednesday, 18 July 2012

BBC RADIO 3, Tristram Hunt on Robert Malthus

Tonight I will be listening to BBC Radio 3 - Tristram Hunt on Robert Malthus...

Below, text from the BBC Radio 3 web site, and link...

'Robert Malthus

Episode 1 of 3, Great British Ideas


In this new series for BBC Radio 3, historian Tristram Hunt rediscovers the stories of three ideas that emerged in Britain - and then traces how their impact has spread far beyond our shores.

In the first programme, Tristram explores how the insight of the great British economist, the Reverend Robert Malthus (1766-1834), wreaked havoc in 19th century India - and yet was later adopted by Indians themselves. Malthus argued that the number of people in the world will always tend to increase faster than the supply of food to feed them. The only way to prevent this was to act to lower the birth rate. Or to wait for famine, war and disease to intervene...'

In a chapter published some time ago I laid some ground rules, giving a wider context to the study of the Irish Famine, mapping out the obvious connections with British India, and exploring the ways in which Malthus' theories were put into practice.

O'Sullivan, P. & Lucking, R.
The Famine world-wide: the Irish Famine and the development of famine policy and famine theory
1997, The Meaning of the Famine, Volume 6 of The Irish World Wide.

I am now in the middle of writing up two research projects on the experiences of Irish Famine victims and refugees.  We will see where Tristram Hunt goes with this.

My thanks to my friend, Kenneth E. Smith, for bringing this radio programme to my attention.

Patrick O'Sullivan

Farewell H-Net

As an example of the ways in which problems can be cumulative, and you can make cumulative problems for yourself...

I had become a member of EIGHT H-Net discussion lists...

'H-Net is an international interdisciplinary organization of scholars and teachers dedicated to developing the enormous educational potential of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Our edited lists and web sites publish peer reviewed essays, multimedia materials, and discussion for colleagues and the interested public...'

The 8 lists were 
H-Net List Names
      H-ALBION H-Net List for British and Irish History
      H-ATLANTIC H-NET List on the History of the Atlantic World, 1500-1800
      H-CARIBBEAN H-Net Network on Caribbean Studies
      H-CATHOLIC H-Net Discussion List on International Catholic History
      H-ETHNIC H-NET List on Ethnic History
      H-FOLK H-Net Discussion List on Folklore and Ethnology
      H-HISTGEOG H-Net Network for Historical Geography
      H-MIGRATION H-Net Network on Migration History

The list could have been even longer.  I think you can see me trying to map the interests and research areas of Irish Diaspora Studies on to the very different maps of the H-Net and the (mostly US) academic communities.  One of the tasks I had given myself was to make appropriate Irish Diaspora Studies interventions into these H-Net discussions, as need and opportunity arose.

(A background problem in the study of the Irish Diaspora is a tendency to claim too much, and offer too little - when we have much to offer...)

I will not here talk about all the wonderful work that H-Net does.  I will just note some of the problems I had created for myself by trying to track, and intervene in, 8 discussion lists.  I had given myself a lot of stuff to wade through.  Most of it was geared to the needs of career academics.  Much of it was repetitive - as the same message was passed around a number of H-Net lists.  

Especially irritating was when some student, beginning a project, would send an email to one H-Net group, asking for help with his bibliography.  And send the same email to another group.  And a third.  And our sweet innocents would helpfully pile in - and I would find that I had read the same request and very similar replies in three different places.

One recent example was a request for information, a vague request, about possible Irish involvement in the Royal Navy mutinies of 1797.  This was my reply...

It is difficult to deal with this sort of query unless we are given some idea of research already undertaken or works read.

The theme of the special role of the Irish in all the Napoleonic era mutinies rumbles along, in sources and cases at the time, and in scholarly comment since.

For opposing views see see N.A.M. Rodger, “Mutiny or Subversion? Spithead and the Nore” in 1798: A Bicentenary Perspective, ed. by Thomas Bartlett, David Dickson, Dáire Keogh and Kevin Whelan (Dublin, 2003), 549-64; and Roger Wells, Insurrection: The British Experience, 1795-1803 (Gloucester, 1983) 79-110.  More recently see Anthony G. Brown, “The Nore Mutiny – Sedition or Ships’ Biscuits? A Reappraisal,” Mariner’s Mirror 92, no. 1 (2006), 60-74.

I have found very helpful the references in Niklas Frykman, The Mutiny on the Hermione: Warfare, Revolution, and Treason in the Royal Navy, Journal of Social History (2010) 44(1): 159-187.

Mutinies are of great interest to all of us who study people hidden from history - especially using the Subaltern Studies approach.  But really, nowadays, instead of trying the patience of good-natured people, we are better off just going to Google Scholar and thinking about search terms.

So, farewell then H-Net.  I will still visit the web site to read a book review.  And read it only once.

Patrick O'Sullivan

Farewell Zetoc

Zetoc - alerts closed

Zetoc is one of the resources I would use to track developments within Irish Diaspora Studies.

Zetoc is simply a journals Table of Contents tracking and alerts system, linked to the British Library database.  The Zetoc service is provided by Mimas at The University of Manchester on behalf of the British Library and JISC.

Note the limitations to access.  Basically, you have to be a member of a UK Higher Education institution.  Independent scholars - nah!

This was my list of journals at Zetoc.  Whenever Zetoc became aware of a new Table of Contents for one of these journals it would send me an email.

ISSN  Title Last Issue
0790-892X   ARCHAEOLOGY IRELAND     24/03/2012  VOL 26; NUMB 1
0376-6039   BOOKS IRELAND     14/12/2010  NUMB 326
1353-0089   CAMBRIAN MEDIEVAL CELTIC STUDIES    27/01/2012  NUMB 62
0013-2683   EIRE IRELAND      20/01/2012  VOL 46; NUMB 3/4
0790-0430   FOOD IRELAND      (No longer in Zetoc)
0332-4893   IRISH ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL HISTORY   25/01/2012  VOL 37
0332-3315   IRISH EDUCATIONAL STUDIES     06/04/2012  VOL 31; NUMBER 1
0075-0778   IRISH GEOGRAPHY   26/05/2012  VOL 44; NUMB 2/3
0021-1214   IRISH HISTORICAL STUDIES      22/03/2012  NUMB 148
0790-7184   IRISH POLITICAL STUDIES 12/01/2012  VOL 26; NUMBER 4
0790-7850   IRISH REVIEW -CORK-     18/08/2011  NUMB 43
0967-0882   IRISH STUDIES REVIEW -BATH-   04/04/2012  VOL 20; NUMBER 1
0021-1427   IRISH UNIVERSITY REVIEW 24/05/2011  VOL 41; NUMB 1
0268-537X   JOURNAL OF IRISH ARCHAEOLOGY  31/07/2010  VOL 17
1460-8944   NATIONAL IDENTITIES     24/02/2012  VOL 13; NUMB 4
0332-1592   PERITIA -GALWAY THEN CORK THEN TURNHOUT-  (No longer in Zetoc)
1350-9942   SOCIAL ATTITUDES IN NORTHERN IRELAND      (No longer in Zetoc)
0039-3495   STUDIES -DUBLIN-  15/05/2012  VOL 101; NUMB 401
0040-1676   TECHNOLOGY IRELAND      21/04/2012  SPR
0082-7347   ULSTER FOLKLIFE   (No longer in Zetoc)

A number of Irish interest journals have disappeared - I have left them in the list, for interest's sake. 

Important North American and Australasian journals are not listed here - remember, this is linked to the British Library database.

And most - not all - of the journals listed here now have their own web sites, and their own systems for generating Table of Contents alerts.  And there is a bit of time lag, as journals generate Tables of Contents, and they percolate through to the Zetoc system.

So, it might be felt, that Zetoc's usefulness is becoming limited. 

And yet, and yet, and yet...

Look at one journal listed there - Patrick Sims-Williams' CAMBRIAN MEDIEVAL CELTIC STUDIES. Doggedly only on paper.

In one Table of Contents, generated by Zetoc, I saw this...

`Messe ocus Pangur Ban': Structure and Cosmology.
Toner, Gregory
pp. 1-22
NUMB 57; 2009
ISSN 1353-0089

The poem 'Pangur Ban' has become one of the foundation texts of Irish Diaspora Studies, not least because so many poets - including me - have produced versions.

With the help of the editor and the author I was able to read this article, a lovely, scholarly piece of work.  Gregory Toner adds new dimensions to Pangur Ban studies, to our understanding of the poem and the manuscript.

Would I have known about Gregory Toner's article were it not for Zetoc?  Perhaps?  Eventually?  I don't know.

Anyway, thank you Zetoc, and farewell.

Patrick O'Sullivan

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Love Death and Whiskey – the Hollywood movie

This is a piece I wrote for Autoharp Notes, the ejournal of the UK Autoharp Association...

Love Death and Whiskey – the Hollywood movie
Patrick O’Sullivan

In 2010, I managed to publish a book of my lyrics – a selection, as they say, from the long back catalogue.  It wasn’t easy.  The rest of this article is based on How to write a Hollywood Screenplay…

Precipitating Action

When I told my cousin the policeman that the police had tried to kill me he was only mildly interested.  How?  he asked.  Guns?  Cars?  Well, in my case, cars.  Driving back from the supermarket I came to the traffic lights at Duckworth Lane.  The lights were green.  As is, I believe, customary, I proceeded to proceed.  A police car shot out from the right, on the wrong side of the road, ignoring a red light, past waiting traffic.  The wonderful thing about modern cars is that you can step unhurt out of a demolished car – the car crumpled around me.

At home, and after the immediate consequences of the police having tried to kill me, I looked round the house.  At all the problems I might bequeath to my grieving family.  The piles of books, files and papers.  And I said to myself, You must finish some projects.  At least, make a book of your song lyrics.  And then I went for a lie-down in a darkened room.

Intervening Obstacles

Now, you would have thought that the next steps would be fairly simple.  Switch on the computer, look in the Song Lyric Folder, and make a selection.  But that forgets years of computer crashes, computer changes, changes in software.  Lotus Wordpro, anyone?  Recent songs, yes.  But the old favourites?

Move on to the paper file.  But, see above, piles of papers.  Where is the paper file?  We finally worked out that a dear, dear friend – a dear, dear friend – had taken the paper file to London to show to some musicians she was working with.  And it had never come back.  So, somewhere in London

I discussed this with another dear friend, the Bristol based musician, Gene Dunford.  It turned out that Gene had been keeping, all along, without my knowing it, a paper file of all my song lyrics that he was aware of.  Thanks to Gene we have been able to start reconstructing my song lyric archives – that job is not yet finished.

I explored publication and printing routes.  But, really, it was not until that year, 2010, that the routes became obvious and easy.  Things like making your work visible on Amazon and Google Books suddenly became easier in 2010.

Cut to the chase

So, time for rough and ready decisions.  Readers of Autoharp Notes will know how thin a song lyric can look on the page.  I think that maybe a song lyric is not meant to be a thing in itself – as I suggest in my Introduction to the book the lyric is waiting for its musician and its performer.  So, was there a tendency to go towards the lyrics that are a bit stronger on the page?  But I love the thin ribbon of text running down the white page.  So, a selection:  different flavours, routes, old favourites, new material.

In what order should we print the lyrics?  Chronological order would unduly privilege the times when I had a band, or was involved with musicians in some project.  Alphabetical order would unduly privilege the letter I.  In the end, in order to make a decision – and guided by certain anthologies of Moorish Spain – I choose LENGTH.  And, daft as it is, I think it works.  The wonder of Word Count means that lyrics become longer, and perhaps more literary, as the book progresses.

But we must think of the early pages, visible on Amazon and Google Books.  We could not begin with something too fragile and tender.  At the beginning of the book we put the song Assignations, a sturdy text from my jazz days.  Followed by a sweet one, Clover the Kitten.  This is a genuine memory of a lovely cat – but it is also a version of the most famous poem in the Irish language, Pangur Ban, about the Scholar and his Cat.  Every Irish writer has to do a version of Pangur Ban – it is now a rule.  And the difficulty of trying to work with a playful cat around has stayed the same over the centuries.  We saved till last the very shortest lyric – but perhaps my most profoundPierre, my summary of Chapter 1 of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness.

I wanted to give some idea of the work that went into making the lyrics, and the approach.  I had some scribbles on paper, more notes in my computer, and thoughts in my head.  We have a little narrowboat, which we keep on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, in the Pennines.  One weekend I was working there by myself, physically very tired, and miserable under the miserable weather.  I woke on the Sunday morning, groggy from deep sleep, and still with a lot to do.   But it was the Sunday morning when the clocks change.  I had an extra hour.  In that extra hour I hammered out the Introduction.  I think that you can still see that it has a rough hewn quality – recalcitrant ideas beaten into almost coherent sentences.

The full text of the Introduction is available in many places on the web, on Amazon Look Inside, Google Books, and on the publisher’s web page.  The free samples on the ebook pages will also pick it up.

Now, the look and feel of the actual paper book…  It had to have a quality, but also fit neatly into a guitar case.  We gave the design work to a book designer in Ireland that I had worked with before.  As to the cover - the first line of thought picked up the three legged stool image from my Introduction.  Which led to the immediate danger that we would get bogged in the search for a suitable piece of line art.  Do not get bogged down.


In another part of my head, I am involved in the rescue of yet another project.  In the 1980s we created IRISH NIGHT, an oral history play about the experiences of Irish people in England.  We still have the taped interviews from that project, and I am moving the interviews from tape to digital.  I had located the production photographs of stage photographer Zuleika Henry, and I had moved her photographs from 35mm negative to digital.  So, I had in my computer actual photographs of actors on a stage performing some of my songs.

The book designer chose the photograph of actor, Joan Harpur, throwing back her pretty head to sing the title song I wrote for that play.  I will pause to savour the irony that what looks like a photograph of a session in a pub is in fact a photograph of actors on a stage set.  And all musicians notice that the book designer has flipped the image for design effect.  Flipped images often have that spooky quality.

I was able to write the song Irish Night when I knew that Joan could sing it, and sell it.  Beautifully set by musician Peadar Long, it has become one of Peadar’s favourite pieces.  A few years ago I went to one of Peadar concerts, in Bradford Cathedral.  He often now works with choirs, and he presented this song, with another lovely female voice taking my words and his tune.

And after the singer had finished I heard people in the row behind me discussing the song.  What was that song – I’d never heard it before – is it traditional?  O yes, said someone, with absolute confidence, traditional, Irish, a very old song.

A compliment.  Of sorts.  I think.

Patrick O’Sullivan

Love Death and Whiskey - 40 Songs - Reviews at Amazon

Reviews are beginning to collect around my song lyric book

Love Death and Whiskey - 40 Songs

on the Amazon page.

One review is evidently by a musician.  Another seems to be by a literary critic.

And another is by a Python.

And see also
Terry Jones on Twitter

I am not sure what Terry means by my songs being 'a great way in for those nervous of poetry...'  Must ask.  A 'way in...'  Is there a suggestion there that my song lyrics are being asked to do something other than be good song lyrics?

But Terry has forced me to return to debates and discussions last visited some decades ago - about the difference, for me, between a song lyric and a poem.  The differences, for me, are clear - and are outlined in the Introduction to Love Death and Whiskey.  The Introduction is visible on Amazon and on Google Books - anywhere where the early pages are available.  When I was a minor poet of the late twentieth century - a horrid business - I found myself at poetry readings.  And, inevitably, found myself writing poetry that could be performed.  If you are going to write for performance you should really write for performers.

I have started collecting some thoughts, notes and references, on the theory and practice of the song lyric, on a new web site...

Nothing very substantial, as yet - but when I come across sensible comment I will post some material there.

I think I am nearly ready to begin a sensible discussion about RHYME.

Patrick O'Sullivan

Friday, 13 July 2012

Keynote Speaker, The Irish diaspora and revolution, Maynooth

I have been asked by Gerard Moran and his colleagues to be a keynote speaker at a conference, on the Irish diaspora and revolution, at Maynooth, at the end of October 2012.

Maynooth is worth visiting - a little Irish market town has been swallowed by a university.  And the significance of the college and university in the history of Irish Catholicism is ostentatiously visible.

The theme of the conference is interesting - especially since we put so much work into separating out the study of the Irish Diaspora from the study of conflict and politics within Ireland.  So, perhaps time for a reintegration.  Looking at my notes, I find myself thinking about the missing Irish working class.

I am going to this conference to listen and learn.

The Call for Papers is pasted in below.

Patrick O'Sullivan

CFP: The Irish diaspora and revolution, 1845-1945

The Department of History at National University of Ireland, Maynooth, invites submissions for a major international academic conference entitled ‘The Irish diaspora and revolution, 1845 – 1945’ to be held at NUI Maynooth, 30 October-1 November 2012.

‘Diaspora’ and ‘revolution’ have been central transformative features of Irish society between 1845 and 1945, penetrating every facet of life on this island over the course of that century. Revolution as experienced by the Irish diaspora during this period, however, transcended Irish geopolitical isolation, situating Irish issues within evolving global contexts and amorphous supranational networks. It is this rich and diverse engagement of the Irish diaspora with revolution which this conference seeks to explore.

Distinguished keynote speakers confirmed for the conference are Professor R.V. Comerford and Patrick O’Sullivan.

We invite submission of abstracts which address the conference title from any relevant historical period, geographical perspective or disciplinary approach. Papers are to be no longer than twenty minutes in duration. Panel proposals are welcome in addition to individual papers. Postgraduates are also encouraged to register an interest in participating. Proposals for papers and panels should include a title, an abstract of no more than 250 words and a brief biographical summary (including institutional affiliation and contact details).

Applications with these particulars attached are to be submitted to any of the conference convenors Dr. Darragh Gannon, Dr. Gerard Moran and Dr. Ciaran Reilly by 15 August at the email addresses below.

Applicants will be notified by email before 1 September. Conference attendance costs will be posted at a later date (there will be no registration cost for conference speakers).

Contact details Dr. Darragh Gannon: Dr. Gerard Moran: Dr. Ciaran Reilly:

Irish Diaspora Studies

At the end of May 2012 I began to close down the formal projects that I still then had in place to support the study of the Irish Diaspora.

I still remain interested in that study, of course, and will continue to make contributions - but most probably only in the form of articles, chapters, the occasional lecture.  Any specific project will have to be time-limited and costed.

The problem was that, in tying myself to formal, ongoing projects I had saddled myself with a myriad tiny tasks, but each task requiring thought and decision.

As I close things down, if there is a general point worth making, I will post a note here on Fiddler's Dog.

The relevant web sites are still, more or less, in place.

The old web site, at the University of Bradford, handcrafted by my son Dan O'Sullivan, when he was 12 years old...

I no longer have access to that web site.

Stephen Sobol, at the University of Leeds, created an alternative web site for us, with a simpler technology, at...

That web site will soon disappear, but I will most probably redirect the domain name.

Both those web sites have been archived by the British Library - so that they are preserved for posterity.

I did start to develop a back-up Irish Diaspora Studies web site at

But, at this stage, I am not really clear how that is going to work.  Is there still a need for a formal web site?  And see above, myriad tiny tasks...

Patrick O'Sullivan

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Bradford Women Singers, New CD, HIGH HOPES

Our friends and neighbours, the Bradford Women Singers,

have issued a new CD, High Hopes.  You can listen to some track samples on their web site, and you can download the song lyrics as a pdf file.

There are tracks from an earlier CD on My Space

Below, the invitation to the launch of the new CD.

Bradford Women Singers
warmly invite you to join us for the launch of our new CD ‘High Hopes’
High Hopes, High Tea
Saturday 21st July, 2012
2 to 4 pm
in the garden
Park Cottage, Randall Place, Bradford, BD9 4AE
hear the songs, live! buy
the CD enjoy
tea and cakes
with guest performers
Bradford Women Singers

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Autoharp Day at The American Museum, Bath, 7 July

To Bath, this coming weekend, for the UK Autoharp Association day at the American Museum...

The autoharpers are to be part of the Americana Festival

July 7
'Courses & Workshops: Autoharp Workshops with Mike Fenton

12noon-5pm Drop-in workshops and performances will be offered throughout the afternoon on this uniquely American instrument. If you've ever wanted to play an autoharp - or even just wondered what one is - then come along and give it a try. No registration required.'

Of course the autoharp is not an 'uniquely American' instrument.  But it has become a sort of folk instrument in the USA, partly because of its association with the Carter family.

Our slow jam organiser Bob Ebdon has created a Carter family songbook for the occasion.

For more on Bob Ebdon see

For more on Mike Fenton see

For more on the UK Autoharp Association see

I seem to have signed myself up for a little display.  I am a bit worried.  I am not a natural soloist.  This damnable shyness of mine...

Might try to do some Woody Guthrie - Americana, surely?

It's the 100th anniversary of his birth - 1912-2012

Here is Wilco's version of The Jolly Banker!/roadcase/the-jolly-banker/