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Green Voices of the Past: Linking the Irish American Club to the Clan-na-Gael

Posted for: Emily Poteat.

The Irish American Club was an organization dedicated to organizing and advocating for issues pertinent to the Irish republican cause. Throughout the Minute Book of the Board of Officers for the Irish American Club, one can see the devotion to the Irish republicanism and Irish independence laden throughout its pages. However, also newly emerging from the Irish American Club’s minute book is new evidence that there were deep links between the Irish American Club and the Clan-na-Gael.

The Clan-na-Gael Journal, v. 33, Philadelphia, February 8, 1908

The Clan-na-Gael formed in 1867 in New York as the successor of the Fenian Brotherhood, and was a secret Irish Republican society. As the American sister organization to the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Clan-na-Gael was dedicated to supporting the formation of an independent and democratic republic in Ireland through the use of force. With Irish republican beliefs deeply embedded into the organization, the Clan-na-Gael was active in assisting the Irish Republican Brotherhood in achieving an independent Ireland. Because of this deep support of Irish independence, the Clan-na-Gael was the single largest financial support of the Easter rising, as well as the Irish War of Independence.

With similar ideological frameworks comprising their organizations, one would guess that the Irish American Club and the Clan-na-Gael engaged with one another to work towards Irish independence; however, the deep ties between the two organizations have been illuminated throughout the text of the Minute Book of the Board of Officers for the Irish American Club. First, early on in the minute book the link between the two organizations is vague, with the recording secretary mentioning that the Irish American Club would hold excursions or entertainments “under the auspices of the Clan-na-Gael.” However, with reading deeper into the minute book a deeper links between the two organizations emerges. First, the Irish American Club directly paid some bills for the Clan-na-Gael. For instance, on page 109 of the minute book it is stated “bill for $3.75 for printing Clan-na-Gael ball account ordered paid.” This is interesting because this marks a direct financial line between both organizations. Further, deepening the tie between the two organizations was a communication received by the Irish American Club in the meeting held on November 20, 1898, located on page 129 in the minute book. In this communication, it is recorded by the recording secretary of the Irish American Club that the organization received a communication “from the Academy of Music inquiring if the Clan-na-Gael would want that hall for the 3d of March 1899.” By sending a letter to the Irish American Club, seeking their authority in making arrangements for the Clan-na-Gael, for an event the question of how interconnected the two organizations were becomes apparent. It would seem at the very least, the Irish American Club, like the Friends of Irish Freedom were affiliates of the Clan-na-Gael.

p. 73, Minute Book of the Board of Officers for the Irish American Club

However, with the direct reference to the Irish American Club as the Clan-na-Gael it is worth considering if the tie was deeper than an affiliation. In the meeting of the Irish American Club on page 129, the Irish American Club also received another communication, and this communication once again directly equated the Irish American Club to the Clan-na-Gael. For, the recording secretary in the minute book wrote, “the second communication was a letter from Mr. M. P. Moroney asking for the appointment of a new committee from the Clan-na-Gael to meet a committee from the Nationalists to consider the question of a joint celebration of Emmets [sic] birth.” Here, the Irish American Club is directly referred to as the Clan-na-Gael, and an individual is seeking the Irish American Club, under the name of the Clan-na-Gael to meet to arrange a celebration for the Irish republican martyr Robert Emmet. This is not the only reference of the Irish American Club as the Clan-na-Gael in the minute book. On page 138, Brother Dillon, a member of the Irish American Club sought the authority of the Irish American Club’s District Officer to form a company of the Clan-na-Gael Guards. With this statement the militant nature of the movement is evident, but also the link deepened, as a senior member of the Irish American Club was consulted in forming a branch of the Clan-na-Gael’s military operations. Moreover, deeper links between the two organizations are present on page 319 of the manuscript with the Irish American Club recording themselves as the Clan-na-Gael in their minute book in discussion of a lawsuit they were involved in. It is written on page 319, “regularily [sic] moved + sec the Clan na Gael Organization appeal the case of Sherin to the higher courts and fight the case to a finish in the highest courts.”

From the evidence in the Minute Book of the Board of Officers for the Irish American Club, compelling evidence is emerging for looking at the Irish American Club as directly tied to the Clan-na-Gael. While further research is warranted for determining if the Irish American Club was actually a part of the Clan-na-Gael, the minute book of the Irish American Club’s Board of Directors offers insight into the ties between Irish-American organizations seeking to work towards Irish independence in the early twentieth century.

Emily Poteat is a graduate assistant in Irish Studies and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Department, and a graduate student in the History Department.

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Last Modified: October 20, 2021

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