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14-08-2017, 12:28   #1
bobbyss
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Irish orators:Good ,bad and indifferent

My mother used to tell me that James Dillon was a great public speaker and that got me to thinking about the standard of oratory past and present. O'Connell used to have massive public meetings and by all accounts was a great speaker. No recordings of him however. Parnell, on the other hand, especially at the start of his career was very, very poor.

I had been Youtubing some contributions from the House of Commons and being very impressed with some. Denis Skinner's famous 'that smirk' comment comes to mind. And others too many to mention.

There is an old but short recording of Gladstone speaking and I wondered whether there are any early examples of Irish oratory recorded in or outside parliament? Anything on Michael Collins? I wonder how the golden boy sounded as a public speaker? Griffith? Pearse himself? There is a recording of Yeats with a very strong Irish accent.

Again I remember my mother telling me how great Dev's reply to Churchill was regarding neutrality in WW2. Put Churchill in his place I was told. (Churchill, of all people!) Yet an audio recording of same suggests a man poorly equipped with any speaking skills whatsoever. He never came across in any recording I have heard of him as anything but dull, insipid and pure boring.

I appreciate that the technology might not have been there in the early days isn't it a pity that there are no early audio recordings of the Dail so we could judge for ourselves.
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14-08-2017, 13:47   #2
pedroeibar1
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Yeats reading 'Inishfree' is enough to put anyone off. The Abbey and its school of Pegeen Mike accents is the same. Oratory among Irish politicians is dead, along with courtesy and plain manners. Most have their speeches written for them, some of which are good in content but pi$$-poor in delivery. The early Dail was populated by those whose expertise primarily was the gun and its use; oratory was not a requirement, and accidental, a coincidence. (And I agree with your mother on Dillon, he was good and had great presence.)
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15-08-2017, 04:54   #3
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Oratory was an important political skill in the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, but must less so today. How you come across on television, in interviews, in panel discussions and face-to-face is what matters now. So the age of the great political orator is largely past. The skills which would get you elected to Parliament in 1867 will not be much use in 2017.

Even back in the day, the bulk of politicians were not great orators. We remember those who were; we forget those who were not.

But, nowadays, we don't even remember those who are good speakers, because they so rarely get to display it and, when they do, it doesn't matter greatly anyway. The late John Kelly was the last TD that I remember noting as a really compelling speaker, and a pleasure to hear even if you violently disagreed with what he was saying. (I'm dating myself, I'm sure, by admitting that!) Can anyone think of a more recent example?
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15-08-2017, 08:17   #4
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Not recent, but the name that comes to mind was Carson. AFAIK he was a very effective QC and his skills carried over to his political career.
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15-08-2017, 17:41   #5
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Oratory was an important political skill in the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, but must less so today. How you come across on television, in interviews, in panel discussions and face-to-face is what matters now. So the age of the great political orator is largely past. The skills which would get you elected to Parliament in 1867 will not be much use in 2017.

Even back in the day, the bulk of politicians were not great orators. We remember those who were; we forget those who were not.

But, nowadays, we don't even remember those who are good speakers, because they so rarely get to display it and, when they do, it doesn't matter greatly anyway. The late John Kelly was the last TD that I remember noting as a really compelling speaker, and a pleasure to hear even if you violently disagreed with what he was saying. (I'm dating myself, I'm sure, by admitting that!) Can anyone think of a more recent example?
Maybe the modern sound bite is important but there is still something fantastic about listening to a great speech and a great speaker. I don't think I ever heard Carson on any audio but if he was a great orator I am thinking he might have sounded like Paisely though he was Dublin born I think so I don't know what accent he would have had. Has there ever been a more resounding public speaker than Paisely in fact?

I do remember John Kelly but I have to say I don't do so with an memory of him as a great speaker. He was always on Seven Days and Feach and very competent in both languages. But I do recall just a monotone. I can't remember any Ard Fheis, for example, where he stood out.

As regards what skills were needed to get to parliament in the 19th century, well very little indeed it seems to me. I don't have much grasp of the electoral system in the UK then (or now) but as far as I can tell any politician can or could be elected to any constituency at all as long as you were of the right party. And money. You could have someone living all his life in Portsmouth getting elected to a seat in Aberdeen for example. Gladstobe himself considered (or perhaps even ran for election I'm not sure) for Portlarington or Thurles or somewhere like that. This doesn't happen here by and large.
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16-08-2017, 02:31   #6
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Maybe the modern sound bite is important but there is still something fantastic about listening to a great speech and a great speaker. I don't think I ever heard Carson on any audio but if he was a great orator I am thinking he might have sounded like Paisely though he was Dublin born I think so I don't know what accent he would have had. Has there ever been a more resounding public speaker than Paisely in fact?
I recall reading that Carson had an accent that in England was regarded as very Irish, and in Ireland was regarded as very Anglicised. It's highly possible that he was capable of adapting his speech for either audience, depending on whether he wished to be seen as an insider or an outsider.

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I do remember John Kelly but I have to say I don't do so with an memory of him as a great speaker. He was always on Seven Days and Feach and very competent in both languages. But I do recall just a monotone. I can't remember any Ard Fheis, for example, where he stood out.
You wouldn't see his oratory (or anyone else'e) exemplified on the likes of Feach or Seven Days; you'd have to hear him give a speech to an audience. He certainly wasn't a flashy orator, but my memory of him was that he was pretty compelling, he could "read" an audience and take them where he wanted to go.

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As regards what skills were needed to get to parliament in the 19th century, well very little indeed it seems to me. I don't have much grasp of the electoral system in the UK then (or now) but as far as I can tell any politician can or could be elected to any constituency at all as long as you were of the right party. And money. You could have someone living all his life in Portsmouth getting elected to a seat in Aberdeen for example. Gladstobe himself considered (or perhaps even ran for election I'm not sure) for Portlarington or Thurles or somewhere like that. This doesn't happen here by and large.
Well, of course, things changed a lot over the course of the nineteenth century. At the start of that century the way to get in to Parliament, mostly, was to buy a seat. They were very expensive, and if you didn't have the money to buy a seat, you had to accept it from interested parties, to whom you were then beholden. Or, if you were bright and ambitious and servile and not averse to brown-nosing, you could simply commend yourself to someone who controlled a seat, and get him to put you in, in which case you were of course beholden to him. Whichever way, oratory didn't come into it.

But with the passage of the various Reform Acts, the widening of the franchise, the abolition of rotten boroughs, etc, etc, this changed. Elections became more and more contested, and the ability to control a crowd did matter. It's probably true that more votes were won by buying drinks than by making arguments but, still, parties preferred to nominate candidates who could perform creditably on the hustings. Plus, any ambitions towards a leading role in the party definitely required the ability to front a public campaign (for the repeal of the Corn Laws, or whatever) plus the ability to command the respect of the House of Commons (where oratory was a definite asset).

Basically, if you wanted a public profile, in the absence of radio and television and aptitude for compelling public speaking was a huge asset.
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25-08-2017, 21:34   #7
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I do remember John Kelly but I have to say I don't do so with an memory of him as a great speaker. He was always on Seven Days and Feach and very competent in both languages. But I do recall just a monotone. I can't remember any Ard Fheis, for example, where he stood out.
I always thought John Kelly was a great speaker, both in delivery and content.
However James Dillon had a capacity to think on the hoof, so to speak.

When Dillon was Minister for Agriculture, 1948 - 51, he is reputed to have been challenged at an open air meeting by a political opponent.;
"You are an intelligent man, you are minister for Agriculture, tell me how many toes has a pig got".

To which Dillon replied "why don't you take off your boots and count them".

No doubt the unfotunate stooge went home with his tail between his legs.
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25-08-2017, 23:59   #8
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I always thought John Kelly was a great speaker, both in delivery and content. However James Dillon had a capacity to think on the hoof, so to speak.

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When Dillon was Minister for Agriculture, 1948 - 51, he is reputed to have been challenged at an open air meeting by a political opponent.; "You are an intelligent man, you are minister for Agriculture, tell me how many toes has a pig got".

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To which Dillon replied "why don't you take off your boots and count them".

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No doubt the unfotunate stooge went home with his tail between his legs.

Nice one. Such wit is sorely lacking today.
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25-08-2017, 23:59   #9
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I recall reading that Carson had an accent that in England was regarded as very Irish, and in Ireland was regarded as very Anglicised. It's highly possible that he was capable of adapting his speech for either audience, depending on whether he wished to be seen as an insider or an outsider.
Sir Ed lived in Dalkey (Monte Alverno on Sorrento Rd.) for many years so he possibly also had a DORT accent.
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26-08-2017, 00:02   #10
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Sir Ed lived in Dalkey (Monte Alverno on Sorrento Rd.) for many years so he possibly also had a DORT accent.

Is there any recording of him do you know? I can only imagine a Norn Iron accent. How long was he a Dub?
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26-08-2017, 00:22   #11
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Is there any recording of him do you know? I can only imagine a Norn Iron accent. How long was he a Dub?
Not aware of any recording of him. He was born in Dublin and was educated there - school and TCD, where he was a contempory and friend of Wilde, who was prosecuted by him in the Bosie trial. He practiced at the Bar in Dublin for years before being admitted to the Bar in London. His link with the North was political rather than familial, his mother was from Galway as was his first wife; his second wife, by whom he had one son, was half his age and from Sussex. Her family did not approve of his politics rather than him as a man.
His accent would have been 'West Brit' by today's description.
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26-08-2017, 00:46   #12
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Not aware of any recording of him. He was born in Dublin and was educated there - school and TCD, where he was a contempory and friend of Wilde, who was prosecuted by him in the Bosie trial. He practiced at the Bar in Dublin for years before being admitted to the Bar in London. His link with the North was political rather than familial, his mother was from Galway as was his first wife; his second wife, by whom he had one son, was half his age and from Sussex. Her family did not approve of his politics rather than him as a man. His accent would have been 'West Brit' by today's description.

Yeah he was supposed to have been a formidable barrister at that trial. Wasn't aware of Galway connections. On that note, Blumer Hobson, a contemporary, is buried in a sand graveyard not too far from Letterfrack in Galway also.
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04-09-2017, 13:16   #13
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What about Michael Davitt? I heard that listening to his speeches in the London parliament was a pivotal formative influence on Gandhi.
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04-09-2017, 13:41   #14
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What about Michael Davitt? I heard that listening to his speeches in the London parliament was a pivotal formative influence on Gandhi.
This seems unlikely. Gandhi left London in 1891 and never returned; Davitt did not enter Parliament until 1892.
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13-09-2017, 22:16   #15
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Well theres no recordings of the likes of the likes of O'Connell, Pearse, Carson, Larkin, Connolly etc... So I can only go on what I've heard.

I liked Seamus Costello & Bernadette Devlin of the Irish left.

I liked Ruari O'Bradaigh & Martin Galvin on the Republican side, I never really taught McGuinness or Adams were very good orators, good debaters but not orators. I liked Tommy Mckearney (1980 Hunger Striker).

I loved David Norris's speech in the Senate in 2014 on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Palestine.
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