avid Patrick Moran,
the son of a builder, was born in Waterford in 1871. He was educated in
Mount Sion schools and later in St. Vincent’s College, Castleknock. On
leaving school he went to London where he gained his first journalistic
appointment at the ‘Star’ newspaper, founded by
T.P.O’Connor. Moran was attracted to the Irish language movement and,
through it, to Irish nationalism, during his thirteen years in London.
In 1898 he returned to Dublin and joined the Gaelic League. He married
Teresa O'Toole, the daughter of Captain O'Toole, an intimate of Parnell
and Mayor of Waterford on three occasions in the 1890's. Moran was
brother of E. P. Moran, a prominent lawyer in the U.S.A. and Ireland who
was specially briefed with a number of American colleagues to defend
O'Donnell, after O'Donnell was charged with the murder of Carey, the
informer of the Phoenix Park assassins.
1900 he founded the Leader, an outspoken weekly publication that
played a very important part in the development of the cultural and
national aspects of the Irish character. The Leader was an
immediate success. A special horse and cart was engaged to supply
newsagents, so great was the demand. He was a gifted and vigorous writer
with a keen intellect that was tinged with a deep sarcasm. He had a gift
for name-calling and abuse and he used his paper to excoriate and decry
the faults and failings of other nationalists.
The Leader attracted
a lot of Irish advertising and Moran saw the publicising of Irish goods
as one of its main roles. He advocated "buy Irish" campaigns
but sensibly warned that the Irish people would buy Irish goods only if
they were "as good and as cheap" as imports.
Moran supported the
industrial development authorities set up in some Irish towns from 1903
onwards. Small and middle-sized businesses were represented in these,
unlike the bigger and older enterprises that dominated the chambers of
commerce. Moran attacked the latter as "chambers of
importers", run by Protestants and a few "west-British"
Catholics such as William Martin Murphy. The Leader took regular swipes
at Murphy, and especially at his "ha'penny dreadful", the
Irish Independent. He ridiculed the English culture of cheap papers and
music-hall entertainment, associating The Irish Times with this
subculture by dubbing it "Alf Fox" (the pen-name of the
paper's horse-race tipster) or, less subtly, "The Bigot's
Dustbin". He knew Ireland must provide its own cheap popular
culture and he thought that this could be done by the Gaelic League with
its concerts and ceilithe.
Moran put forward his view of Irishness in the Leader and in his
1905 book The Philosophy of Irish Ireland. In Moran's view
Ireland and England were at war in what he called 'the battle of two
civilisations.' For Moran the two civilisations consisted of Catholic
nationalists and Protestant unionists. The nationalist weapons in this
war were the Irish language and the Catholic religion. He believed that
the vast majority of Protestants could not be truly Irish though he was
ready to admit that there were some individual Protestants who
contributed to the welfare of the country.
He was a
'Mitchelite' in that he believed that Ireland's only crime was 'her
proximity to Britain.' He rejected all links between Ireland and
Britain. He portrayed Irish Protestants as an alien garrison that
dominated the the true Irish people through their control of the
political, judicial and economic levers of power, exercised through
secret organisations such as the Freemasons. He did not, however, call
for the expulsion of these Protestants but hoped, one day, that they
would be assimilated into the mainstream Catholic population. Moran's
weapon was mockery and the invention of crude, but funny, appellations
for those he criticised.
Moran lived on the edge of the then independent township of Rathmines,
which had a large Protestant middle-class population. On his way home on
a tram, shortly after Queen Victoria's death, he gazed at the long faces
of many of the commuters, ostentatiously mourning the dead monarch, and
coined his most famous nickname: "Sourface". He repeatedly
denied it was a synonym for Protestant, claiming instead that it
connoted an affectation of superiority. He reserved his most bitter
invective for those middle-class Catholics - 'West Britons' and 'Castle
Catholics' he called them - who, to his mind had 'sold-out' their
heritage. These were the rising, pushy group of Catholics who made their
money through trade or in the professions and who were now adopting the
sports, accents and even the politics of the Protestant class who ruled
condemned the Irish Parliamentary Party which, he said,was corrupted and
seduced by it's activities in the Westminster parliament. He admired
Redmond and Tim Healy as writers and statesmen but he disliked John
Dillon and William O'Brien. In his novel, Tom O'Reilly, he
portrayed O'Brien as 'John Francis Xavier High Faluter O'Brien.' He
despised those nationalist politicians who flattered their uneducated
listeners into supporting them by their sentimental speeches full of 'ráiméis'
and he was very condemnatory of the link between the Home Rule leaders
and publicans - 'Mr. Bung' - because he believed that alcoholic drink
undermined the health of the nation and was the cause of so many of
Irelands social ills. He had the support of a number of Catholic
movements that emerged about that time. These included the 'Temperance
Crusade' which campaigned against excessive drinking and the 'Literature
Crusade' which attacked British newspapers on the grounds that they were
corrupting Irish morals.
Moran was equally as hard on Arthur Griffith's Sinn Féin and he
described its members as 'tin-pikers.' When Griffith put forward his
dual-monarchy proposal based on the Austro-Hungarian model, Moran called
them "The Green Hungarian Band".
attacked the co-operative movement because some if its leaders were
Protestant and he disliked, intensely, the Irish Literary Revival and
its leaders. He believed that Irish literature in English was a
contradiction and an absurdity and that the Irish language was the only
logical medium for Irish literature. He felt that Yeats was a
second-rate poet and a 'crypto-Protestant con-man' and he called George
Russell (AE) the 'Hairy-Fairy' (referring to his huge beard and his
interest in the occult)and described him as a 'half-baked Orangeman.'
welcomed the new Dáil and was delighted that the first meeting was
conducted entirely in Irish. After the Treaty, which he supported, he
urged both sides to settle down as government and opposition. He was
appalled at the Civil War: he believed that since the Irish people had
voted for the Treaty it should have been accepted by the politicians.
Moran died suddenly on January 31,1936. He was survived by two sons and
one daughter, Nuala, who took over as editor of the Leader. She
changed the paper's emphasis and under her editorship the paper covered
more social and cultural items. The paper ceased publication in 1971.
Patrick Maume has argued that Moran was a bigot, but because of his
sense of humour, self-awareness and interest in the exchange of ideas,
he never sank to the level of the "hate-filled diatribes"
produced by J.J. O'Kelly in the Catholic Bulletin. Brian Maye wrote of
him in the Irish Times, "Moran was a brilliant journalist, a
talented businessman and an important spokesman for the rising Catholic
entrepreneurial class. He greatly influenced his own generation and the
Leader provided an important forum for debate in the crucial period
between the fall of Parnell and the Easter Rising."