Forgotten Protest is the extraordinary saga of how events in South Africa helped revitalise politics in the heady days of Parnell and especially during the great Anglo-Boer war. During the Boer War (1899-1902) 'Pro-Boer fever' swept nationalist Ireland: riots in central Dublin created a no-go area for British troops; posters applauding Generals De Wet and Botha were plastered on walls and lamp-posts and the flag of the Transvaal Republic flew defiantly in many Irish villages.
The great intellectuals of the day - Yeats, O'Casey, Moore, Lady Gregory - as well as socialist James Connolly and socialite Maud Gonne espoused the boer cause, as did Arthur Griffith, recently returned from working in the Transvaal gold mines; all, however, were oblivious to the plight of the black population in South Africa. On the battlefield the Dublin Fusiliers found themselves pitted against two hard-fighting Irish commandos. And behind the scenes the Boers poured thousands of pounds into Irish republican coffers, stirring up the most violent of the European pro-Boer movements. Dwarfed by 1916 and the Irish War of Independence, the Irish support for another colonially beleaguered people was to become a forgotten protest, remembered only in folk ballads and in fireside stories.
Its thrilling tale is resurrected here to mark the centenary of this extraordinary struggle. Donal McCracken is professor of History and dean of Humanities at the University of Durban-Westville in South Africa.