Captain Jack White: Ulster Prophet of Dissent

Patrick Quigley


This article deals with the life and philosophy of Captain Jack White (1879 – 1946). He was from a family of Ulster Presbyterians, a son of a Field Marshal and member of the upper echelons of British society. He abandoned his privileged background to become a founder of the socialist militia, the Irish Citizen Army, military advisor to the nationalist Irish Volunteers, comrade to the revolutionary Countess Markievicz, an anarchist and participant in the Spanish Civil War. His career transcended the political, social and religious divisions that shaped Irish and British politics in the 20th Century.

His remarkable life included military honours in the Boer War, a mystical experience on the Rock of Gibraltar, correspondence with Leo Tolstoy and participation in a commune in Edwardian England. He was at home in Bohemian artistic circles and once punched DH Lawrence (fictionalised in Lawrence’s novel Aaron’s Rod) in an argument over love. Towards the end of his life he corresponded with the writer and philosopher, John Cowper Powys.

In Ireland his questing spirit alienated many former allies and he became a marginal political figure. After his death his political legacy was relegated to a footnote until recent times when he has emerged as a striking figure in Irish history, a distinguished inheritor of the Ulster tradition of scepticism and dissent. The article will trace the relevance of his libertarian life and outlook to the current Irish political situation in the shadow of Brexit.

Słowa kluczowe: Ulster, Irish Volunteers, dissent, Home Rule, nationalism

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