Principles and Curses: The Honourable Ruaraidh Erskine of Mar and Some Irish Connections

Gerard Cairns



This essay looks at how Ruaraidh Erskine of Mar interacted with some contemporaneous aspects of Irish politics and culture, discussing these points of contact and their impact on Erskine’s overall political outlook. I look at some important, if little known and perhaps quirky, interactions: Erskine’s relationship with the Irish poet and revolutionary, Patrick Pearse; Erskine’s critique of the “Anglo-Irish school” in the form of the Abbey Theatre and, finally, his engagement with obscure ideas to restore the High King of Ireland. There is no specific link between the three points of engagement other than Erskine’s political and cultural engagement with Ireland. An important part of my argument is that Erskine’s underpinning principles, that is his overarching belief in the twin causes of the Gaelic League and Arthur Griffith’s early incarnation of Sinn Féin, became an orthodoxy for him: an orthodoxy that fuelled progressive engagement with Irish language and political activists, and that also blinkered him from opportunities to new cultural initiatives in his own country. I seek to shed some light on a neglected Scottish historical figure through his engagement with a neighbouring country that was very close to his heart.


Ruaraidh Erskine of Mar, Scotland, Ireland, Patrick Pearse, Gaelic League, Sinn Féin, Home Rule




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