Public Drunkenness in Waterford, 1877-1912, Part II

In my last post, I noted that all of the data provided by the reports in the British Parliamentary Papers on public drunkenness in Ireland would take a long time to unpack. Now that I have arranged most of the summary data for Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Dublin and Belfast and Waterford county, I will make some tentative first steps into providing more context for the figures.

I will give an overview of some of my findings in the statistics for each period – roughly divided between the decades, along with where I have been able to find them, some newspaper material from the Munster Express which helps to add broader context for the view of public drunkenness in Ireland, and Waterford specifically, in each period.

1877-1880:

The statistics began in 1877, and that November the Munster Express carried a report in which the Bill that started these statistics being collected was discussed in Waterford. The bill, which by its shortened name was The Sale of Liquors on Sunday (Ireland) Act, came into effect in October of 1877. The Munster Express report was the evidence given in relation to Waterford at the Select Committee hearing on the Bill in April of 1877. Among the interesting things that are mentioned in the course of the evidence given is this from a Mr Marten who notes that, when compared with a similar sized port town like Dover, the figures for drunkenness there were 88.

As to whether this would be a guide to the figures to be expected in Waterford Marten responds that “If I had the charge of the constabulary I could either double these figures or halve them. The inspector general of [sic] constabulary, by giving directions over Ireland, can either double those returns for drunkenness or halve them. If he orders the police to take up every man that shows any sign of drink on him, he would double them. If, on the other hand, he ordered the police only to take up persons incapable of taking care of themselves, or were annoying their neighbours, who, I think, are the only class who should be arrested, he would not [have] half so many returns.” This shows that some at least were alive to the potential subjectivity of these arrest figures.

Not alone that but Marten was also of the view that total closing on Sundays would have a negative impact, with people being forced to bring their drink home, or worse still, having to abstain altogether! Since it was only the public houses which were open, and there were no reading rooms or other places of recreation open on Sunday, people were in the habit of socialising in pubs on a Sunday. This is an interesting and important point when we consider the role that sport would soon come to play (and indeed had already been playing) in terms of drinking in Ireland. While for some sport would be a mode of encouraging greater temperance, sport and drink would prove in Ireland, as they did in Britain, cosy bedfellows. Indeed, Paul Rouse in Sport and Ireland has written that “In the 1880s leading GAA figures repeatedly sought to praise GAA players and specators for the manner in which they abstained from drink. There was more than a hint of wishful thinking to this.” As Rouse goes on to point out, “In reality, the GAA was awash drink.” The proof of this was in the “regularity of the rules passed at local and national level by the GAA calling for drunkenness at matches to be quashed.”

So in those early days of the Act, and its enforcement, how did things fair out? in the first year, 1877, there was some 114 people arrested under the terms of the Act. Nearly all of the arrests, 80, were made between the hours of 7pm and midnight on a Sunday. The two single biggest days were 2nd December 1877 when some 6 people were arrested – one between 2pm and 7pm, and 5 between 7pm and midnight and the 5th of January 1878 when some 7 people were arrested. On this Sunday these arrests took place as follows: one between 8am and 2pm, five between 2pm and 7pm, and one between 7pm and midnight. There is every chance that in both cases where there were five people. this was a group rather than five separate individuals.

Out in County Waterford in the same period, that first year saw some 84 people being arrested for being drunk in public on a Sunday under the provisions of the new Act. This was not a great deal lower than the city. However, one suspects that in its first year enforcement was rather stronger than the two following, as the figures in county Waterford drop to just 22 the following year in 1878-79 and go up marginally to 39 in 1879-1880. There is a similar drop in Waterford 34 in 1878-79 and it rises once more in 1879-1880 to 84, a figure not unlike that quoted for Dover, so perhaps this was something more like the real or accurate figure.

1880-1890:

The 1880s proved to be a much drunker decade, if we take this statistics at face value. From the middle of 1880 to the middle of 189o there was a total 1.013 people arrested under the provisions of the Act. From 1883-1886 and from 1888-1890 were the two worst periods. From 1883-1886 there was some 312 arrests, averaging out at just over 100 a year. From 1888-1900 meanwhile there 291 arrests, 150 in 1888-89, and 141 in 1889-90. Some dates in particular stand out from 1888. Take the 24th June, for instance. On that date, some 7 people were arrested between 7pm and midnight alone. During the same five hour period a few weeks later, on the 15th July, 8 people were arrested. Similarly, the 11th November and 23rd December, two days before Christmas, saw 6 and 4 people being arrested, respectively.

Not surprisingly this points to the fact that people were (and still are) more likely to drink excessively around holidays and summertime.  One man, who was one of two arrested on Sunday 8th July, had it noted by his counsel that that particular Sunday was a “Pathron Day”, a pattern or fair day, by way of defence. The judge was unmoved and fined the defendant 10 shillings.

The situation in county Waterford wasn’t a great deal better. In the 1883-1886 period, there were some 282 arrests made, almost matching the figure in the city. And in the final two years of the decade, some 161 arrests were made. While this was well short of the city figure, it was still quite high. The total figure for the county in this decade was 747 arrests for Sunday drunkenness.

1890-1900:

If the end of the 1880s seemed bad, then they were apparently merely a precursor to a particularly sozzled decade in Waterford city. For the whole decade, the numbers arrested for being drunk in public on a Sunday under the 1877 Act was 1,457. Taking the county figures into consideration, 958, the total for the period came to 2,415. Only in year was the figure for arrests under one-hundred, for the period 1891-1892. Even then, the arrest total was 98. The worst year in the city was 1892-1893, when some 186 arrests were made. 1895-1896 represented the worst period in the county, when some 237 people were arrested. This figure in fact represents the single biggest figure in the city or the county not just for the 1890s, but the entire period 1877-1912. Figuring out what was going in Waterford in this decade will be vital to understanding public drunkenness.

Looking more closely at the breakdown of figures for 1892-83, what becomes apparent especially about the summer of 1892 is that the arrests were consistent each weekend, rather than any mass occasion. In the most statistically significant timeslot, 7pm to midnight on Sunday, we see figures of 3,4,5,6 or 7 being arrested. The figure of 7 being arrested comes from Sunday 17th July, which as you’ll recall was also a significant date back in 1888. This suggests that there is every chance that the highest figures will emerge consistently across the 3rd weekend of July, something I hope to eventually put to the test. Sunday 27th November saw the biggest single haul in 1892, when some 8 people were arrested in the 7pm-midnight timeslot from a total of 10 that day.

A quick look at just one Dungarvan petty sessions report helps to give some indication of the extent of the drunkenness, in the eyes of the law, in Waterford in the decade. In the sessions reported in the Munster Express on May 24th 1892, some eight men were fined variously for being drunk in the street (not all on a Sunday) while there was also heard at the same session a breach of the Licensing Act in a pub on a Sunday.

There was a big raid on a pub in Knockboy, Co. Waterford on 14th April 1895, where a publican was found to be serving some 63 people, most of whom gave false names, and only 11 of whom could prove they were bona fide travellers who lived more than three miles away. Of those identifiable out of the 63, there was just 29 who stood to be prosecuted. As it was reported in the newspaper, the judge chose to view the case as a test case, as much about the distance from the pub to Waterford, as to whether or not any breach of the law had occurred. For his part, the publican, claimed that the various men that the RIC constables had seen at the premises at different times of the day were different men each time, it was in his words, a shop where was “drink and go”. Thus he claimed that some 121 individuals passed through the doors of the pub during the RIC constables two visits. One especially interesting aspect of the court proceedings was the class element and whether those in the pub were “respectable” or otherwise:

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Munster Express, 25 May 1895.

This was not just a test case for the judge, but is a kind of test case for understanding the various strands of drunkenness and its policing in general in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Ireland. The extent to which the loopholes that existed in the law were being used by publicans, by those in search of a drink, and the clear class bias displayed by the police and the courts towards those drinking on a Sunday are all apparent in this raid.

1900-1910:

As the 1890s gave way to the first decade of the new century, there was precious little let up in the drinking in Waterford city, although the county did see a significant drop in arrests for public drunkenness on a Sunday in this period. The statistics for this decade differ greatly from the previous twenty-plus years as they begin to include from 1905 onwards figures from 9pm on a Saturday night, and the old time fram is broken down into further constituent pieces. So it is that the 7pm-midnight time slot is broken down into 7pm to 9pm and 9pm to midnight on a Sunday.

While it is dangerous still at this early stage to speculate overly about what these changes might be related to, it is possible that there was an observable shift in people’s habits of drinking so that the majority was being done on a Saturday rather than a Sunday night. Similarly, the reasoning for breaking down the 7pm-midnight slot into two smaller time slots is not, to me at least, readily apparent. However, there is surely some rationale which lies behind the desire for more detailed statistics.

Not counting the Saturday figures (which are recorded only from 1905 onwards) , the first half of the decade is the worst in terms of Sunday drinking with 181 arrests being made between 1902-03. But from the time Saturday drunkenness begins being recorded, there is a noticeable drop-off in the arrests made on Sunday so that by 1910, there are just 43 arrests made for public drunkenness on Sundays that year. The figure that year is also low for Saturday night arrests, with the combined total just 85. The first year when Saturday arrests were included saw the figure for the whole year shoot from just 136 for Sunday drunkenness to a combined figure of 369 arrests that year running from 9pm on Saturday night to 8am on Monday morning.

In the county, there is a steady decrease from the end of the 1890s that is observable after the high point of 1895-1896, which suggests a strong crack-down on the exploitation of loopholes in the law like the bona fide traveller rule, as we saw in the Knockboy case. Even including Saturday night figures, by 1910, the total number of arrests for being drunk in public in county Waterford came to just 69.

1910-1912:

This fall off continues into the last two years of the reports I am looking at, with figures in city and county at similarly low levels. This suggests that there was probably a complete shift away from Sunday drinking, a relaxation of the prosecution of Sunday drinking, or most likely some combination of both forces working together. In the city, for 1911, the total arrests for drunkenness on Saturday and Sunday was 100, 57 of those coming on a Saturday night. In 1912, the total figure was 144, with 102 of those arrests coming on a Saturday night. Likewise the great bulk of the arrests in the county for both years came on Saturday nights, 40 and 68 for 1911 and 1912, respectively. This might perhaps be the most readily discernible pattern over the 35 year span of these reports, the decline of Sunday drinking following its peak in the 1890s, when people attempted to exploit loopholes in the law so that they could drink more easily in the countryside than in the city.

These are just some initial observations on Waterford, but I still am unlikely to have done much more than scratched the surface of what these statistical reports can tell us, or indeed what we can glean from the newspapers or other sources.

 

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Public Drunkenness in Waterford, 1877-1912, Part I

I’ve started compiling some data on public drunkenness in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Ireland. The data is taken from annual reports presented to the House of Commons detailing arrests made by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Metropolitan Police around Ireland. Those being arrested were accused of appearing drunk in public on  a Sunday.

These reports offer a fascinating insight into how drunkenness was policed at the weekends in Ireland’s major cities and towns. The reports mostly focus on drunkenness in Belfast, Cork, Dublin, Limerick and Waterford. These cities have the most detailed statistics while the rest of the country is covered just with summary information of arrests made for Public drunkenness on a Sunday.

The reports cover the period from May 1st of one year until April 30th of the next. As well as detailing the numbers of arrests, the time at which the arrests were made is also given. So it is possible for us to know for example what time on a Sunday the majority of people in a given a year, in a given city were arrested for being drunk in public. Generally, the time frames are broken down as follows: 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon: 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. on Sunday afternoon; 7 p.m.- midnight Sunday night. Over time the time frames get more specific. So for example after 1903 the 7 p.m. – midnight category is replaced by two more detailed ones: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. and 9 p.m. – midnight.

And from 1905 onward, we are given the figures for arrests made for drunkenness from 9 p.m. – midnight on Saturday night along with the arrests made going from midnight Saturday until 8 a.m. Sunday morning.

It will take me some time to unpack all of this data – especially for each city, and to be able to give the data some context. But first I wanted to give you a flavour of what’s to come. So from the raw figures for Waterford I learned the following:

  • For the entire period I have data for, 1877-1912, some 4, 649 people in Waterford were arrested for public drunkenness on a Saturday or a Sunday.
  • The vast majority of these arrests (1,791) happened between the hours of 7 p.m. and midnight on Sunday.
  • The single worst year for people being drunk in public on a Sunday in Waterford during this period was 1892-1893. Some 186 people were arrested in that period. Of these, 121 were arrested between the hours of 7 p.m. and midnight.
  • For the years that include Saturday night arrests (1905-1912) the worst year was 1905-06, when some 369 people were arrested for being drunk in public. Of those 369 people, some 233 were arrested between 9 p.m. on Saturday night and 8 a.m. on Sunday morning over the course of the period.
  • The period with the lowest number of arrests for being drunk in public on a Sunday was 1878-1879, when just 36 such arrests were made.
  • For the three decades in which we have complete data, there is also an interesting trend. In the 1880s, the total arrest were 1,013. In the 1890s, the figure was 1,457. And, in the 1900s, the figure (including Saturday night arrests) was 1,701. Without the Saturday arrests, the figure for the 1900s was much lower, just 734.
Drunkenness_1892_1893
The report giving details on arrests made for drunkenness in Ireland, 1892-1893. This year was the worst for Waterford statistically.

So just how bad was Waterford city for public drunkenness? Taking the worst period, 1892-93, when 186 were arrested, we can do a quick comparison with Ireland’s other major cities. In the same period, there were 307 such arrests in Cork; 249 in Limerick; 188 in Belfast, and a staggering 873 in Dublin.Although these were bigger cities generally, the Waterford figure was not disproportionately large. Even with the addition of the figure for Waterford county, 94, bringing the city and county total to 280, it was not excessively high.

What does all of this tell us, then? Will we be able to distinguish any major patterns about the nature of drinking and being drunk in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Ireland? Will there be a discernible divide between drunkenness in urban and rural areas? Why was public drunkenness on a Sunday of more importance than drunkenness on a Saturday night? Why did they police decide to break their data down from 7 p.m. – midnight into two smaller divisions? What caused so much public drunkenness on Sundays in Ireland? Was it sport, or something else? As with all such rich data, unpacking its meaning will require much more work, which I hope to post about in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned!

Early forms of football in Munster: 1865-1885

Football – today, it means many things to many people. It is played with oval balls and round balls. Fifteen-a-side, eleven-a-side, five-a-side and six-a-side. Under floodlights. On Friday night, or Saturday or Sunday mornings, afternoons and evenings. It is a summer game. It is a winter game. It can mean rugby union, rugby league; it can mean soccer, Gaelic football, Australian rules, American football, Canadian football and other points in between.

Much ink has been spilled on the emergence of various forms of football in the late middle and late nineteenth century in Britain. There were folk games with long histories, going back into the mists of time there was versions of football played in Britain’s elite public schools. There was great local variation in sizes of teams, lengths of time that games lasted, what constituted a score and so on. When you see football notices in the newspapers around Munster in the period 1860-1880, things were no different. In the period before the GAA, the IRFU or the IFA, football was a highly localised affair with many variations. Historians, myself included, have traced the move from these various disparate forms of football into their respective codes. The work of Conor Curran, Liam O’Callaghan, Neal Garnham and Paul Rouse, among others, has done much to aid our understanding this process in the Irish context. In this blog post though I wanted to take a look at some of the early reports of various football matches – where rules were unspecified and highly localised – to give you a flavour of what football in Munster was like before the rules were firmly established.

The highly localised nature of the game, and the fact that various kinds of football were all reported under the heading “Football” make it difficult to say just what these games might have looked like. Very often though they were two teams of anywhere between ten and thirty men playing from one end of a field to another with the aim of scoring a goal – getting the ball across the goal-line of the other team. The games were often messy affairs, with no clear winner emerging frequently.

There is evidence that football matches were used a means to cover up Fenian meetings as well in the 1860s. Take for instance these descriptions from the Cork Examiner:

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Cork Examiner, August 21 1865.
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From a case examining Fenians in Midleton. Cork Examiner, May 11 1866.

As well being used as a cover for Fenian organisation and drill, football was sometimes a cover, or an excuse for faction fighting, as this report of the police attending a game of football in Coachford suggests:

CE_Mar_26_1877
Cork Examiner, March 26 1877.

As the 1860s gave way to the 1870s and rules were set for rugby and the association code, rugby began to make an appearance more and more in Cork and Limerick, and by the early 1880s in Waterford as well. In Cork, the Cork Football Club were the main driving force behind the emergence of the rugby code in the 1870s. They make their first appearance in the pages of the Cork Examiner in late 1868.

Cork_FC_CE_Nov_14_1868
Cork Examiner, November 14 1868.

Rugby would take a firm hold in Cork in this period, with teams including the Cork FC, Knickerbockers, Montenotte, Queen’s College Cork and Rushbrooke  all making regular appeareances. Indeed, a first inter-provincial game between Munster and Leinster would be played in late 1878.

Football in Waterford was similar to Cork in that there was local variation in the 1870s. Consider this game of football which took place in 1876 in Riverstown in Tramore, which was twenty-a-side and contested between married and umarried men:

Riverstown football
Munster Express, January 29 1876.

In 1878, this game which took place near Kill, was like the game in Coachford, put on the radar of the authorities:

Kilmacthomas_match_ME_1878
Munster Express, March 1878.

Previously, I had put the earliest reported game of rugby in Waterford as one between the Waterford Boat Club and the Waterford Bicycle Club in 1884. However, with the expansion of the Munster Express archive online at the Irish Newspapers Archive, I have been able to find new evidence of rugby being played in Waterford, centred chiefly around a city team and a team from Tramore in 1882.

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Munster Express, January 7 1882.

The Waterford team also took on the  Carrick Athletic, Cricket and Football Club. This club had been established in August of 1879 and had among its members future co-founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association, Maurice Davin. This club organised their first athletics day in November, which saw an estimated 3,600 people turn out to watch, according to the Munster Express. Among the prizes for the various races were a claret jug, a butter dish, silver lockets, a champagne knife, a breakfast cruet, a silver pin, an asparagus helper and a silver ring. When they played the Waterford FC, it was noted that while it was the Carrick men’s first time having a go at the rugby game, the Waterford players, despite their “juvenile appearance” next to the Carrick men, when it came to rugby they “had few superiors in the south of Ireland.”

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Munster Express, March 25 1882.

By the middle of the 1880s, while most games are still being reported under the general heading of “Football”, the distinctions between the games being played is a good deal clearer, as this notice of the Carrick-On-Suir Athletic, Cricket & Football Club annual sports day shows in 1883, even before the founding of the GAA. There is a distinction between the “Irish game” and the “rugby union” code.

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Munster Express, March 17 1883.

And then we have this game in between Callan and Ballyneal which explicitly states itself as being held under GAA rules in 1885.

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Munster Express, May 9 1885.

And so it was that in Munster by the middle of the 1880s, a much clearer picture of the various codes of football that would be played emerged. Within twenty years football in this part of Ireland, as in the rest of the country, had changed from an amorphous, highly localised affair into various organised sports with distinct rules and organisations to help them develop.

 

New Look, New Name

Regular visitors to the blog might have noticed a few changes. I’ve changed the theme of Sidelines in order to tidy up and make the blog a bit easier to navigate.

The main menu along the top now contains links out to several of my publications and my recent work for Pog Mo Goal. In time I hope to add some more external links to the top menu but this is enough for now.

Along the sidebar I’ve added my Twitter feed and a link to my book’s Facebook page.

Quite some time ago I changed the name of this blog to Sidelines.  The name was chosen to reflect my interest in sport : standing on the sidelines is part of the joy of being a spectator – it is a great vantage point from which to see the action unfold. You are almost a part of it you are so close to it.

It is also an accurate reflection of the feeling one sometimes has a historian – that of standing on the sidelines watching the action unfold, watching, remembering events, and recording them. My interest in history is those who were in some way on the sidelines of their own times too. Not the great and the good, the wealthy and powerful,  but ordinary people caught up in their own extraordinary times.

A sideline is also something done “on the side”, in addition to what you normally do. I take my blog, and blogging, seriously but it is a sideline. It allows me a space to explore ideas for the first time in a raw, unprocessed way. It also frees me from constraints to write about whatever I want.

So as well as giving the blog a new look,  I have also changed the domain of the blog to thesidelinesofhistory.wordpress.com.

Whether you are new or a returning reader I hope you find the sidelines of history as fascinating a place as I do.

Call For Papers: The Precariat & The Professor

This is an important project and the more that is done to highlight and tackle this growing issue the better for early career researchers, adjuncts and those currently in the process of getting their PhDs and entering academia. It’s only through exploring our experiences and developing means to resist that we can begin to change the deplorable situations in our universities. While this might seem like it disproportionately affects those in the arts and humanities, all sectors of higher education institutions will be the poorer if the casualisation of academic work continues the way it has been.

The Precariat & The Professor

In the past 25 years, higher education has seen some major transformations. The percentage of college students who are Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, and Native American has increased steadily while the percentage of white students declines. Unfortunately, increased enrollment and newfound visibility does not necessarily translate into a seat at the table. University administration and faculty do not reflect the demographic shifts seen in student populations. In 2013, 84 percent of full-time professors were white, and 53% white male. At the same time, tuitions continue to rise, but rarely do those funds trickle down to the classroom. More money is being funneled into administrative positions and away from tenure-line hires. Most teaching positions are now part-time and low-paid adjunct positions. According to a 2012 report from the American Association of University Professors, contingent faculty make up over 75% of all instructional staffing. In 1975 only 25% were in these positions.

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“Under the Association rules”: Lismore v Mallow, 1877

Mallow V Lismore Small
Cork Constitution, December 4 1877.

This notice appeared in the pages of Cork’s premier Unionist newspaper on December 4th 1877. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the earliest recorded report of a game of football, played “under the association rules” in Cork, and possibly Munster, that was not a game played by military sides.

This notice forms the basis for the beginning of my book, Soccer in Munster: A Social History, 1877-1937. In the course of doing some online promotion of my book, I noticed that the excellent Cork City Libraries website, Cork Past And Present, make mention of my find. The find was made in the upstairs room of the Cork City Library on the Grand Parade, during the course of researching and writing my book, so this is particularly nice.

I am doubly delighted that my small find is now a part of the soccer story in Cork, and indeed the wider soccer story of Ireland. As Paul Rouse has noted in his recent book, Sport & Ireland: A History, that while there is substantiation for the claim of soccer being a ‘garrison game’ in the 1880s and 1890s, it was “emphatically not just a ‘garrison game'”. Indeed, as Rouse notes, “sometimes it was spread by virtue of exhibition matches and the distribution of rule books; on other occasions, schools, army regiments, and businesses took on the game…”

This game which took place in Mallow in 1877 is a perfect example of this spread of the game by means other than the garrison. There are a few curious notes to be made about the game as reported in the Cork Constitution. First, you will notice that while it was undoubtedly a soccer game, it was played by “two Fifteens”, rather than the eleven players we are used to. It is likely too that whoever wrote the report, most likely the schoolmaster visiting, had a particular affinity for the Association game from their own youth in either an English or Irish public school. This we can discern from their passing remark that “it is pleasant to find, at a time when the fascination of Rugby rules enlists the sympathies of most of our young friends, that the beautiful game of foot-ball proper possesses such able  exponents as met in this match.”

Given the game ended in a draw, and was played with “the most un-broken good humour and hilarity prevailed throughout the whole contest”, it was clearly a first attempt by both schools to try this version of football. No report, that I could find, appeared of the return leg in Lismore. But, little did these thirty odd young boys know then that their game, played late in November of 1877, would form the backdrop to a much wider story – the story of how soccer came to be one of the most popular sports on the island of Ireland, and eventually, throughout the world.

Writing Elsewhere: An update

A while ago, I alerted you to some of the places you could find my writing other than this blog. I’ve continued writing for Póg Mo Goal and you can read the most recent efforts at the links below:

The Rite of Spring

Kde Domov Můj – Where is My Home?

Death to Sparta: Prague Derby at the Ďolíček

Witches and Kings
I also recently contributed a piece to The Allrounder, which you can read here:

Football and Belonging

Thanks as ever for reading this blog, and I hope you enjoy my output elsewhere online as well!

Eventually, I will try to collate all of my various online presences here to make it easier to peruse.

 

Soccer in Munster

A new review of my book Soccer In Munster: A Social History, 1877-1937 whuch will appear soon in the Labour History Review. Here it is on the reviewer’s blog.

Before opening the pages of this new study of sporting activity in Ireland’s southernmost province, the reader is drawn into its world. The cover image, perfectly chosen, places you amidst the crowd…

Source: Soccer in Munster

I preferred the early stuff: Ahistorical perspectives on success in football

No sooner have Leicester City FC won the top division in English football, the global behemoth that is the Premiership, than people have begun to suggest that this fairytale is not some story of a minnow overcoming great odds to beat off more illustrious rivals. In particular, the club’s extraordinary achievement in breaking the near monopoly of a handful of English clubs since the beginning of the Premiership, is cast as no fairytale next to the success of Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest team of the late 1970s. The Telegraph article written by Gary Birtles, who played for Forest between 1976-80, while claiming not to be sour grapes and reiterating that Leicester deserve it, also writes that “We didn’t have billionaire owners and let’s be brutally honest, the Premier League has been very ordinary this season. This was the best chance Arsenal and Manchester City have had for years and it’s quite damning for them that Leicester have won it because those teams are the ruling elite.” The claim is that this isn’t griping, but it is. The article vacilates between saying Leicester are a breath of fresh air, but aren’t anything so unusual because they have money behind them.

This is also indicative of a wider malais in football and how we understand its recent history. Increasingly, there is football before-the-Premier-League (BPL)  and football after-the-Premier-League (APL). Certainly the Premier League has represented a not insignificant shift in the history of the game, for a variety of reasons. And while Sky Sports seems to have taken to heart the idea that there is no history of clubs in the BPL era as such, and many rightly balk at this obvious attempt to recast football BPL for the globalised tv audience as somehow less important, the scorning of Leicester’s achievement displays another issue that many in football have: an ahistorical and sentimentalised view of the BPL era.

This sentimentalisation is driven in part at least by the huge success and rehabilitation of Clough thanks to first the book, and then the wildly popular movie adaptation, The Damned United, followed closely by another recent screen depiction of Clough. But perhaps the best of all works to consider Clough – truly warts and all – has been Jonathan Wilson’s biography, Nobody Ever Says Thank You. It largely avoids looking at the 1970s era of English football (and earlier to Clough’s playing days, as some halcyon period when all was right with the world, and Warburton’s white goodness). I can’t imagine that David Peace, author of The Damned United, for that matter, ever intended for his work to be used to glorify a kind of lost-era of a time when English football was somehow better, more magical, etc.

This is manifested in a number of ways including, especially, the valorisation of the loyal one-club-man, a person who is, statistically speaking, essentially an anamoly in the history of English (and indeed Scottish, Welsh, and Irish professional footballing history). One-club-men were often this because of the retain-and-transfer, a near fuedal conception of club’s owning a player’s labour. While the money paid to players is today astronomical, and puts them out of touch with the “common man”, it is surely better than the days when players were the effective property of Football League clubs. This sentimentality is also manifested in the insistence that modern sporting achievements are somehow tainted by money, as though professional football clubs that have existed for a hundred years and more have only existed on air, and not on continuous financial investment.

Yet, the comparing and contrasting of Clough’s Nottingham Forest sides and Ranieri’s Leicester City show an abject failure to understand that, since the Football League was founded in 1888, it was a money driven business. Matt Taylor’s book The Leaguers which covers the history of the professional game up until the beginning of the Second World War, along with his later synthesis work, The Association Game, provides a valuable antidote to the romanticised view that prevails today about how the money-men have ruined the people’s game. They have, but then, they always have been.

So yes, Leicester didn’t win it this League without a penny to their name, or without some financial backing, of course they didn’t. But the truth is that in the current, APL era, theirs is an extraordinary achievement, to go from bottom of the League mid-way through one season to seeing off all comers the next to win at literal odds of 5000-1 with a manager who was once derisively called by the English press the tinker man. Their victory is a resounding vindication of Ranieri, a man it is difficult not to like. It is also an important reminder that football, as long as it has been professional – 130 years almost – has been a money game. So let’s all sing together: If you know your history…

Why Ireland Needs its Arts Graduates

A new book is to be published in Britain soon which is called The Myth of Meritocracy. It examines the reasons why it is that, despite the long-standing lipservice paid to the idea of meritocracy in Britain (and plenty of other places too), by and large the children of working-class parents end up in working-class jobs still. As the blurb on the publisher’s website has it “In a grossly unequal society, the privileges of the parents unfailingly become the privileges of the children.”

This is no situation unique to Britain, although in some ways the problems of the meritocracy – and its supposed “fairness” – have at least best been unpicked. Following the recent death of Barnsley-born author Barry Hines, a Guardian article written by Paul Mason noted that “educational reforms alone will barely scratch the surface. We have to find a form of economics that – without nostalgia or racism – allows the working population to define, once again, its own values, its own aspirations, its own story.” In Ireland, we are still in thrall to the belief that the Leaving Certificate and the CAO system means that Irish education is a true meritocracy. That, by blindly operating on the basis of your results, anyone is capable of a good Leaving Certificate, something which in the eyes of many is still the key to success in Ireland. But of course, long before the student sits in the exam hall in summer for paper one of the English test in the Leaving Certificate, all kinds of factors will have impacted their ability to succeed in this supposed meritocracy.

These things came to mind as I read an article today from the Irish Times, headlined “Computer science graduates in demand, but arts earn least.” The article tells us nothing that most in Ireland don’t already know. The article is based largely on the findings of a new report from Ireland’s Higher Education Authority, entitled WHAT DO GRADUATES DO? The Class of 2014, An Analysis of the First Destination of University and College of Education GraduatesAmong other things the report highlights the poor earning of arts graduates in their first job, often around €13,000 – a paltry sum when compared to their peers in subjects like computer science or finance. (What Do Graduates Do?, 44). Another interesting fact which came back from the report, based on responses from 18, 500 (69%) of people who graduated in the 2014 cohort of under- and post-graduate students in Irish third level institutions was this: some 24% of Art and Humanities students felt that their degree  was irrelevant/most irrelevant to their employment. (What Do Graduates Do?, 35).

The majority of arts and humanities graduates (19.6%) not working in education in Ireland in 2014 were working in Distribution. Outside of the Republic, most of them work in non-market services (44.4%). Of these, fully one quarter (25%) work in the category “Other Education, including language schools”. (What Do Graduates Do?, 64– 65)

The report is largely a positive one from the point of view of the HEA, since the overall numbers of graduates remaining on in Ireland is on the up, even though this is only marginal. But what does this report say to us more broadly about the place of the arts and humanities in Ireland?

I read that report and see one glaring thing: the job opportunities for Irish Arts graduates are financially unsustainable. But this does not mean that those with Arts degrees should be feel ashamed or embarrassed by their choice. Rather, it is time for Irish society, and our state, to value Arts students. And I don’t just mean financially, although this is important. Consider for instance the amount of funding awarded to the Irish Arts Council from 2007-2016:

2007: €83m
2008: €81.6m
2009: €73.4m
2010: €68.7m
2011: €65.2m
2012: €63.2m
2013: €59.9m
2014: €56.7m
2015: €56.9m
2016: €59.1m (Source: Journal of MusicOctober 2015)

While I am not going to focus overly on the ins and outs of Arts Council funding – who gets it and who doesn’t – it strikes me that in a country where so many of our graduates are Arts graduates, where our government and many more are willing to wheel out our world-famous artists as proof of the creativity of the Irish people, the amount of funding given to the arts is in reality quite small. And the paltry pay our Arts graduates receive in their first employment is indicative not just of a sense that an education in the arts isn’t valuable, isn’t lucrative, but isn’t even *valued*. By that I mean that arts graduates, despite often being sold what seems like a sop about transferable skills (shudder), are rarely considered to be ideal for the business environment.

Their ability to critically analyse, think laterally, write well, communicate clearly, are too often considered less valuable than they should be by those in the private sector. The image of the lazy, unimaginative and ultimately unmotivated Arts graduate persists in Ireland. But it’s simply untrue, and there is a small cottage industry of online articles which provide plenty of anecdotal evidence to the contrary. That view of the Arts graduate is a hangover of the late 1990s in Ireland, and it is time to move beyond it.

But the issue is bigger than the overemphasis in many job markets on having the “right” qualification before you can get in the door. Or on making sure we find a place in the dominant fields of computer tech and finance in Ireland for our adaptable and intelligent Arts graduates. The truth is that the problems for Arts graduates is that there is an expectation in many fields not just to work for free on a cycle of never-ending internships, for the inedible – and unedifying – promise of exposure, but to be happy with your lot. They are supposed to be delighted to be earning anything at all, and to have diminished expectations for what their lives can be materially, on the basis of their desire to study something other than the kind of subject that’ll get you a “good job.”

As for working-class Irish kids who might have an interest in the Arts, the mountain is even more treacherous. As grants and aid are cut back, and will likely continue to be, the brief flowering of the Irish version of the scholarship boy/girl of the 1960s in Ireland is already largely ended. While people will sing the praises of the writing of the likes of Sean O’Casey during the decade of centenaries, few will hear his message that a world of working-class Irish life deserves better expression than the hoary old class snobbery of tv shows like Damo and Ivor. (see Michael Pierce’s chapter in David Convery’s Locked Out: A Century of Irish Working-Class life for more on this)

As another HEA report, published at the beginning of 2016, the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2019has it: “Participation of those from the semi-skilled and unskilled socio-economic groups is at 26%, while there is practically
full participation by those from the higher professional socio-economic group.” Add to this the difficulties that come with disabilities and other factors that disproportionately those already less well-off in Ireland, and the increased number of Special Needs Assistants is to be welcomed, with the number standing at 7,020 nationwide, according to a recent report in TheJournal.ie. Yet, even still it is difficult to imagine selling the real values of an Arts degree to a young student from a working-class area of Ireland when the first money being earned by those graduating is in the region of €13,000. More pay is important, but so too is more respect for the values that the Arts and Humanities teaches students.

In my view, it is time to start valuing our Arts graduates. Taking a chance on an Arts graduate in a job where their degree doesn’t match exactly with the job description might be a worthwhile risk. Arts graduates deserve to earn decent wages, and they deserve to be treated as valuable and valued members of our society.