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  • Cover Note

"So, being satisfied that I had the axe laid to the roots of the right tree I delivered blow on blow."

Illustration by Ailbhe Ó Monacháin

The cover illustration is taken from The Wolfe Tone Annual, 1947 (1947), 81. It depicts the republican newspaperman John Mitchel (1815–75) felling the British Empire. The image was suggested by a passage in a letter Mitchel addressed to the "Protestants of Ulster" from his cell in Newgate Prison, Dublin, in 1848. Mitchel had been arrested under the Treason Felony Act for advocating armed insurrection in his newspaper The United Irishman; he was convicted and sentenced to fourteen years' transportation. In this letter—directed at people he describes as having been "warned against me"—Mitchel attributed his arrest to his having argued "that the life of one labouring man is exactly the equal of the life of one nobleman. Neither more nor less! That the property of a farmer is as sacred as that of a gentleman! That men born in Ireland have a right to live on the produce of Ireland! That no good thing for Ireland could ever come from the English Parliament or the English Government! That all men ought to possess arms and know how to use them!" He continued that the outcry against his newspaper convinced him that

being satisfied that I had the axe laid to the roots of the right tree, I delivered blow on blow, not with any great strength or woodman craft, but with right good will. Into the British civilisation and commerce, into Britain's Crown and Law, into Landlord Thugs, and all [End Page 362] enlightened theories of consolidated farming I made horrid gashes until, as I thought, the leafy top trembled, and the trunk groaned, and it became evident that if so vehement an attack continued the tree would fall, and obscure birds would no longer have shelter beneath its branches.

Edited by Brian Ó hUiginn (1882–1963), The Wolfe Tone Annual (1932–62) carried essays and verse on Irish nationalist history from a republican perspective. Although it was essentially a historical journal, Frank Aiken, the Minister for the Coordination of Defensive Measures, controversially suppressed the 1944 issue for breaching the Emergency Powers Order (1939). Ó hUiginn, who supplied much of the original material in the Annual, also published verse and prose—some of it "patriotic," some of it devotional, and most of it sentimental—in Irish and English, under his own name and as Brian na Banba[n].

The graphics in the Annual were usually poor. However, some more accomplished illustrations—including our cover image—by Ailbhe Ó Monacháin appeared in several editions in the late 1940s. Belfast-born Ó Monacháin was the translator, author, and illustrator of a number of children's books.



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