On Thursday, October 17, the Irish Studies Program was pleased to mark the release of Douglas Hyde: My American Journey, with a visit from the editors of Douglas Hyde's newly published diary and travelogue. Hyde, who would become Ireland’s first president (1938-45), spent eight months traveling across the United States from 1905 to 1906 to raise funds for the Gaelic League. First published in Irish in 1937, the comprehensive new edition and translation of Hyde’s writings sheds light on his work and on the Irish diaspora at the turn of the 20th century.
Brian Ó Conchubhair (Associate Professor of Irish Language and Literature, University of Notre Dame) and Cuan Ó Seireadáin (Curator and Project Director, Douglas Hyde Foundation) gave an engaging presentation, with bilingual readings and humorous anecdotes from Hyde's travels, including a White House dinner with Teddy Roosevelt and a hero's welcome at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco--the largest reception ever recorded for a private individual in the city. Visiting the San Francisco Bay Area was a highlight of the tour. During his stay at UC Berkeley, Hyde--a notable public intellectual--became friendly with the University's president Benjamin Ide Wheeler and delivered four lectures on Irish literature, folklore, and poetry, and on the origins and importance of the Gaelic movement.
With its emphasis on regenerating the Irish culture and language, the editors argue, Hyde's successful U.S. tour laid the foundations for his presidency. The funds he raised contributed to the hiring and training of Irish-language teachers and organizers who supported and promoted the Gaelic League, sustaining a cultural revolution that would ultimately give rise to Irish political sovereignty.