An inadvertent victim of Irish censorship during war
June 26th, 1957DOROTHY MACARDLE was the author of The Irish Republic, the classic account of the struggle for independence and the Civil War from the anti-Treaty viewpoint, and a strong supporter of Eamon de Valera. She was also a journalist, as well as a novelist and dramatist, and found herself the inadvertent victim of Irish censorship during the second World War over an issue of the ground-breaking British Picture Postphoto journalism magazine. In this column in today’s newspaper in 1957 – the month before the then ailing Picture Postclosed and a year before her death – she explained how it had come about.‘PICTURE POST’S’ BANNED IRISH ISSUE
Among old magazines I have found my single, treasured copy of the issue of Picture Post dated July 27th, 1940. Who else in Ireland possesses one? Nobody, I suppose, although “The Story of Ireland” is the cover-title for that week, and “The Faith of Éire” is the caption under the charming cover-photograph .
I was in London, at work among war-refugees, when I received a telephone call that surprised me, because I knew no one connected with this paper that I read and liked. It was from Tom Hopkinson, assistant editor from the journal’s foundation.
He told me that they were putting out an issue almost entirely concerned with Ireland, and asked me to come along and stand by as well as writing an article.
In those days, the worst of the war for England, Irish neutrality was not always calmly and reasonably regarded there. I asked questions and then, reassured as to editorial sympathies, I agreed. My article, as uncompromising a piece as ever I wrote, was accepted, unaltered and uncut. For a few days, in Shoe land and in Watford, I was the guest, more or less of the staff – a team of enthusiasts, vigorous, friendly, quick-witted, with whom it was a tonic to work.
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A splendid array of photographs was laid out and the selection was carefully made – landscapes and sea; turf-cutters; factory-workers; dwellers in cottages; members of parliament, ministers and nuns. There were 30 portraits of “leading figures in Ireland’s turbulent history,” and a fine series of photographs of events between 1912 and 1923, illustrating my article. An article by Tania Long brought the tale up to date. I was responsible for ensuring that captions were correct and that no historical errors appeared. We were all pretty pleased with ourselves when the type was set up. I hoped very much that this gesture of goodwill at a critical time would elicit in Ireland the appreciation I thought it deserved. I was proud to have been given a share in brave and generous enterprises.
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Anxiously, I awaited news of returns, At last came a telephone call from Show lane: Tom Hopkinson’s voice, but altered: cool and controlled. “I suppose you have heard what has happened?” he said. “The entire issue is banned in Éire: all imported copies have been seized. We have no explanation.”
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I sent an urgent telegram to Dublin and received a reply. Tania Long had mentioned the capture by the guards on the coast of a fishing smack bringing two Germans and an Indian. Publication of the news in Ireland had been forbidden, so no journal carrying that story might come in.
An “alarm and despondency” measure, no doubt. Two Germans, no less, and one whole Indian! I had not been asked to check the American article; nevertheless, it was a long time before I called upon Tom Hopkinson again.