"you could not celebrate him without being known yourself" [HOUN]
With mid-March upon us, we thought it was high time to investigate some of the Irish connections in the Sherlock Holmes stories. From the obvious to the subtle, we go from Belfast to Waterford to Skibbereen, across the pond to America, and back again.
Short stories and novels alike, there are glimpses of the Emerald Isle in a number of hiding places in the Canon. Did we miss any? Well, you'll just have to tell us.
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Music creditsPerformers: Uncredited violinist, US Marine Chamber Orchestra
Publisher Info.: Washington, DC: United States Marine Band.
Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
Narrator: [00:00:01] Welcome to Trifles - a weekly podcast about the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Clive Merrison: [00:00:05] It is of course a trifle, but there is nothing so important as trifles.
Narrator: [00:00:10] Yes Boscombe Valley was Mysterious, Shoscombe Place was Old and the Lodge was Wisterical, but there are so many other details to pick apart in the stories.
Jeremy Brett: [00:00:19] Pray be precise as to details.
Narrator: [00:00:22] You know the plots but what about the minutiae? Was Holmes more of a tea drinker or a coffee fancier? And what are all of the alcoholic drinks mentioned in the stories?
Denis Quilley: [00:00:32] You are very inquisitive Mr. Holmes.
Jeremy Brett: [00:00:35] It is my business to know what other people don't know.
Narrator: [00:00:37] Scott Monty and Burt Wolder will have the answers to these questions and more in Trifles.
Clive Merrison: [00:00:44] The game's afoot.
Narrator: [00:00:48] Episode 11: Celebrations.
Scott Monty: [00:00:54] [In an Irish brogue] Well, well, well, welcome to the Sherlock Holmes podcast Trifles where we talk about all the minutiae in the stories. I'm with Scott Monty.
Burt Wolder: [00:01:05] I'm Burt Wolder.
Scott Monty: [00:01:06] And we're going to get rid of this Irish brogue, lest they hit us with a sheleighleigh and take all of our Morton Downey records. Welcome back. This is the St. Patrick's Day celebration for Trifles, of course airing here on March 15th. In just two short days it will be March 17th - the day for the wearing of the green. Reminds me of our old pal Jack Benny, Burt.
Burt Wolder: [00:01:33] Oh really.
Scott Monty: [00:01:33] [AS JACK BENNY] Oh - oh Burt.
Scott Monty: [00:01:37] And this is back when - this in the 1950s there was a show where they talked about they talked about tax day which of course is now April 15th. It used to be on March 15th. And Jack very succinctly recognized that.
Scott Monty: [00:01:54] [AS JACK BENNY] "Why do they call the March 17th - or why do they dedicate March 17th to the wearing of the green when only two days before the government takes it all away from you?
Scott Monty: [00:02:07] [LAUGHTER]
Scott Monty: [00:02:08] Well, we're not here to take away; we're here to give. We're here to give our opinion on -- what are we going to give our opinion on?
Burt Wolder: [00:02:17] Well, on celebrations. But a good place to start is Irish things - ties to St. Patrick's Day, Irish influences in the Canon, and the odd thing, particularly for someone of Irish descent such as Arthur Conan Doyle - that Ireland does not turn up very often or indeed very favorably in the canon - Irish or Ireland. I know that there's obviously references to the country violent in his last bout but Ireland as a word doesn't pop up very often in the canon at all. I mean maybe three or four times - and for example one of these times is in the "Adventure of the Cardboard Box," when we're dealing with the case of Miss Susan Cushing. Who lived in Cross Street in Croydon and she receives a cardboard box, which upon opening she's horrified to find human ears apparently quite freshly severed and in trying to figure this out who could have done this sent this awful thing to a maiden lady of 50 as she has described. It's remembered that "when she resided Penge she let apartments in her house to three young medical students, whom she was obliged to get rid of on account of their noisy and irregular habits." Well now Conan Doyle would have known something about that. And one of these youths perhaps "owed her a grudge"... "some probability is lent to the theories, says Holmes by the fact that one of these students came from the north of Ireland.
Scott Monty: [00:03:59] Those tricky Irish students - because the box was posted from Belfast.
Burt Wolder: [00:04:05] Belfast, yes.
Scott Monty: [00:04:05] Yes. And of course in that same story the other Irish cities of Dublin and Waterford are mentioned as well. But to your point that you know with Conan Doyle's history - and maybe it's worth spending a little bit of time on this- what do we know of Conan Doyle's Irish ancestry?
Burt Wolder: [00:04:28] Well it was considerable. His father and Charles Doyle was from Ireland obviously and was a... he wasn't primarily an illustrator. He'd also had...
Scott Monty: [00:04:45] He was an artist and he did some other...
Burt Wolder: [00:04:50] Draftsman and then engraver, and certain things like that. And of course Conan Doyle's Uncle Dicky Doyle was a famous cartoonist who was very well connected to Punch.
Scott Monty: [00:05:01] And his mother married to Mary Foley Doyle. She was a staunch Irish Catholic. So. So he's...but of course, Conan Doyle himself was born in Edinburgh. So here - this is this is the wonder of the British Empire - you've got a Scotsman of Irish descent who moved to England and writes one of the consummate stories about an English detective.
Burt Wolder: [00:05:33] Yeah. I mean years ago there was a popular one line joke at least among the Irregulars - and the joke was: an Irishman a Scotsman and an Englishman walk into a bar and the bartender says, "Hello, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle."
Scott Monty: [00:05:49] There it is. There it is.
Burt Wolder: [00:05:51] Yes but we see you know there are people of Irish descent who are at least one who was well thought of in the can or at least well identified in "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client" it's Sir Colonel James Damery. And Watson says "it's hardly necessary to describe him. For many will remember that large bluff honest personality that broad, clean shaven face, that pleasant mellow voice. Frankness shone from his great Irish eyes and good humor played round his mobile, smiling lips... the big, masterful aristocrat dominated the little room.
Scott Monty: [00:06:28] When Irish eyes are smiling. I love that. I had never noticed that before - that's a really nice pickup. It's a trifle. Perfectly done. What else do we know of the Irish?. One that sticks out to me is from. I think it was "His Last Bow," where Altamont, who is of course Holmes in disguise. We know of that he was involved with an Irish secret society I think in Buffalo.
Burt Wolder: [00:07:05] Yes. And he goes first to Chicago. It's the way it's his entree. Injury going after two years of work into the network of the evil spy Von Bork. He travels to Chicago, penetrates an Irish secret society travels to Buffalo, travels to Skibbereen in Ireland and then eventually becomes connected to one or.
Scott Monty: [00:07:29] Yeah yeah. "Irish secret society of Buffalo." "Serious trouble to the constabulary at Skibbereen." And was known of course to Von Bork as an Irish American. So even to the Germans those foreigners looked suspect. And of course that secret society - *the* secret society that really figures prominently into one of the stories is the Scowrers - the Molly Maguires.
Burt Wolder: [00:08:06] The Valley of Fear.
Scott Monty: [00:08:09] Yeah. That that played a central role into into mischief, mayhem and like-minded folks sticking up for one another. And of course back in the mid-1980s when the great Irish Potato Famine happened, there was a large wave of immigrants moving from Ireland to the United States. In many cities, the Irish were looked upon with skepticism and were looked down upon. And you know became unwanted members of society - in some cases they really had to fight their way up. So it made great sense then for them to band together in actual real life as well as in the Valley of Fear in this kind of secret society.
Burt Wolder: [00:09:03] Well also because the Irish came from a Western parliamentarian democracy they understood the operations in organizations of government and that's one reason why particularly in Chicago so many became prominent Alderman prominent politicians. In fact, the governor - whose name escapes me - but the governor of Illinois at the time was a very strong Irish descent and I think very supportive of Irish independence.
Scott Monty: [00:09:36] Well and of course moving on St. Patrick's Day here it would not be a a canonical St. Patrick's Day reference if we did not mention Elsie Patrick. And she of course was the wife of Hilton Cubitt. She hailed from Chicago, which of course was a bastion of Irish-Americans in the United States, but she was never mentioned as being of Irish descent specifically. She was called an American. I think we can discern from her maiden name that she probably was of Irish descent. And again you had this instance of there being suspicion and doubt - well, in this case very real - that her family was involved in some sort of organized crime in Chicago, which is not a wild jump of the imagination... I think just about everyone in Chicago was involved in organized crime. Oh wait - did I say that out loud. [LAUGHTER]
Burt Wolder: [00:10:42] Oh no, you didn't.
Scott Monty: [00:10:44] It's just been a thing that's been associated with Chicago for years. So again the suspicious foreigner combined with the Irish seemed like it was too good to pass up for Conan Doyle in that case.
Burt Wolder: [00:11:00] And of course you know we can't ignore other prominent people of Irish descent in the canon such as Professor Moriarty.
Scott Monty: [00:11:09] WHAAAAT?
Burt Wolder: [00:11:11] Well Moriarty's an Irish name. In fact in some of my researches about Irish secret societies and Sherlock Holmes they discovered that there was a prominent family of Moriarty's in Ireland who were deeply connected to armed rebellion.
Scott Monty: [00:11:34] Were they all named James?
Burt Wolder: [00:11:37] I think the one that I had found - and if you if you know if you do this research it's amazing what you can find - something like 20- or 30-page written statements by some of these people compiled in the 1920s. One that I found I think was named Timothy. But I think that was just a pseudonym. [LAUGHTER]
Scott Monty: [00:11:57] See if they were smart that all of them had the pseudonym James and that way they could have escaped detection or escape capture. And you know it's kind of the the "I am Spartacus" approach to organized crime. [LAUGHTER]
Scott Monty: [00:12:10] "I'm Spartacus! I am Spartacus. I'm Spartacus. I'm Spartacus!"[OVERTALK] "I'm Spartacus! I'm Spartacus! I'm Spartacus!"
Clive Merrison: [00:12:23] It is of course a trifle but there is nothing so important as trifles.
Narrator: [00:12:29] Please join us again next week for another installment of Trifles. Show notes are available on Sherlock Holmes podcast dot com. Please subscribe to us on iTunes and be sure to check out our longer show, I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, where we interview notable Sherlockians, share news and go into even more depth on certain topics.
Peter Barkworth: [00:12:51] You take my breath away, Mr. Holmes.
Jeremy Brett: [00:12:55] It's a real pea-souper.