Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
During the course of a historical examination of any given time period, persons and events are remembered in some texts and forgotten in others. The historical process of selection and rejection of materials is, in itself, the subject of much study. This study unearths a forgotten turn of the century Irish patriot named Alice L. Milligan, a Protestant nationalist writer from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.
She is worthy of study in that she breaks traditional sectarian lines still drawn in Ireland today, where the stereotype prevails that only Catholics desire a reunited Ireland, with Protestants desiring inclusion with Great Britain. Political lines, like borders, are subject to change.
Collection of data continued over a two year period, as very little has been written about the author. I made several summer research trips to Dublin and inspected the archives of the National Library. Milligan's books have been out of print since the 1920s, but antiquarian bookshops supplied some copies of her texts. Letters were placed in northern newspapers advertising the project and requesting information from persons who remembered her. Several responses were received, and a meeting, with four individuals who knew biographical information about Milligan, was held in Omagh, County Tyrone, in November of 1990. The meeting was recorded on tape.
After examining a large sample of Irish historical texts it became clear that Alice Milligan was mentioned predominantly in texts where radical involvement or the Irish literary revival were discussed in detail. She was omitted from texts that dealt with the broader scope of Irish history. Equally clear was the fact that her omission was a result of the heavy political content in her poems, plays, novels and literary publication. Over the past twenty-five years, Irish history has undergone a revisionist writing of the events that lead up to the fated 1916 Rising.
Milligan ceased to publish shortly after this event because the market for nationalism had dried up. The current political struggle in the north gives modern historians cause to downplay the events of the turn of the century, which in turn makes it easier to live within the continuing confines of the British occupation in the North. Persons advocating a nationalist attitude as fervently as Milligan did now face the real risk of being labeled "pro-terrorist."
O'Hehir, Kathryn J., "Alice L. Milligan: The Celtic Twilight's Forgotten Star" (1991). Theses and Dissertations. 558.