Liberalism Under The Union

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Three Generations of an Irish Liberal Family

"The bicentenary in 2001 of the union between Great Britain and Ireland, which came into effect when the Act of Union was introduced in 1801, provides an appropriate occasion for recalling the role of an Irish family whose prominence in public life over three generations as avowed and dedicated liberals coincided almost exactly with 119 years that the union lasted.

The Porters were not adherents of one of Ireland's leading socio-political faiths. In the heart of Dublin there is a pub called "The Flowing Tide". The name has nothing to do with any product it dispenses; it was adopted in the latter half of the nineteenth century by the then owner from a speech Gladstone made in which he claimed the the flowing tide of liberal opinion would make home rule a certainty.

But liberalism was never a flowing tide in Ireland; what Gladstone discerned in the early 1880s was rather a temporary spate in a placid stream which was soon to dry up almost entirely."

This article looks at three generations of the Porter family, whose loyalty to liberalism reveals much about the nature and role of the movement in Ireland.

J. L. McCracken

Prof. J. L. McCraken (1914-2008) specialised in eighteenth century Ireland, and nineteenth century South Africa.

Prof J. L. McCraken was born in Co. Down Ireland in 1914. After graduating in History from Queen's University in 1936, he then went on to teach History in Wallace High School as well as serving as their vice principle until 1945.  He then moved to Witswatersrand University to become a lecturer  in History. While at Witswatersrand he completed his PhD from Queens university.

Prof. J.L. McCracken worked as a researcher in Dublin and took a senior lectureship at Magee University  for many years before becoming a Professor at University of Ulster and retired to South Africa  in 1979. In 1993 he published New Light At The Cape Of Good Hope: William Porter, The Father Of Cape Liberalism.

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