A Man of the People: Jemmy Hope
Organisation: Scéim na gCeardchumann
Author:Sean Cronin
Contributor: Info
George Gilmore
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document
Subjects: Jemmy Hope

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

7th June 2021

This is a document of considerable interest, a twenty-eight page pamphlet, written by Sean Cronin and published by Sceim na gCeardchumann. This latter was ‘an independent educational, social and cultural association which promotes a knowledge of the language and history of Ireland among trade unionists. Established in the late 1950s the organisation was very active in the 1960s but effectively became defunct in the early 1970s (for more on this John P. Swift’s biography of Brendan Scott has some detail).

The pamphlet notes that it was decided to:

…mark the bi-centenary of James Hope’s birth (25th of August, 1764) by commissioning and publishing this study of the great United Irish organiser’s life, times and ideas.


The Templepatrick-born weaver commanded the famous Spartan Band under Henry Joy McCracken at the Battle of Antrim in June, 1798, and organised the workers of Dublin behind Robert Emmet in 1803. But it is as a social thinker that the name of this Ulster Presbyterian Republican and early trade unionist deserves to be remember in Dublin, Belfast and indeed all parts of Ireland.

And the document notes that Cronin is ‘a Dublin journalist, writes on Irish social and political questions. He published a short study of Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen in 1963. He has written a number of pamphlets on partition and its effect on the economic and political life of the nation’.

The Introduction, written by George Gilmore is worth reproducing in full:

When the Volunteers of 1782 won for Henry Grattan the measure of legislative independence that he valued he lauded them as “The armed property of the nation”. Later, when they removed the crown from their uniform buttons and supported Tone’s cam­paign for “The Rights of Man in Ireland-the greatest happiness of the greatest numbers in this island”, he denounced them as “The armed beggary of the nation”.

The play of social forces so sharply stated by Grattan was understood better, perhaps, by Jemmy Hope than by any of his con­temporaries who have left their views on record. His vision was clear, and from his viewpoint on life he had no escape.

Even before the rising Jemmy Hope had forebodings. When, on its eve, the merchant-class leadership of the Northern United Irishmen collapsed, he understood-as Fintan Lalor understood the failure in 1848, and as Connolly would have understood the failure of our own day if he had survived it.

We are inclined to speak too glibly of “Betrayals”. Different viewpoints make for different real objectives, and fine phrases are subject ‘to reinterpretation. In our own day we have seen the rulers of the Twenty-six County state (under any name) evolve what a disappointed Indian ambassador called “A kind of nationalism that is not anti-imperialist”. It is good to see a renewed interest in the play of forces that went to the making and the breaking of so many efforts for – national independence. It is high time that something of the clear vision of the leader of McCracken’s “Spartan Band” should be brought to bear on the “Green Paint” politics of to-day.


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  • By: benmadigan Mon, 07 Jun 2021 18:17:26

    here are a few extracts from Hope’s autobiography, to which I gave “modern issue” paragraph headings to underline how relevant his thinking is to today’s world.

    Hope wrote:”there is music in the sound of moral force which will be heard like the sound of the cuckoo, The bird lays its eggs, and leaves them for a time; but it will come again and hatch them in due course, and the song will return with the season”

    Let’s hope he is right in our post-pandemic world!


    Reply on the CLR

  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 07 Jun 2021 18:51:57

    In reply to benmadigan.


    Reply on the CLR