A BOOK chronicling the early life of Irish patriot and prominent Australian politician, Hugh Mahon, was launched in New Ross recently by Minister Paul Kehoe.
The book, which is a detailed and authoritative history of the Land League and land wars in Wexford, was researched and written by Dr. Jeff Kildea.
The launch was facilitated by the New Ross Historical Society and took place in the local Boat Club.
The book outlines the period between 1857 to 1901 and is part one of a two-part series being written by Dr. Kildea.
The large crowd in attendance heard how farmers, over burdened with rack rents, banded together to form the Land League and successfully resisted intimidation and extortion to win the right to ownership of their land in the early 20th Century.
Dr. Kildea outlined the significant contribution Hugh Mahon made to Irish history not just through his work here with the Land League but also through is ongoing campaigning in Australia for the rights of Irish independence.
He outlined some of the details covered in the book with regard to Mahon’s early life, from when he was born in County Offaly in 1857, to when he and his family initially emigrated to America in 1869 only to return in 1880.
As detailed in the book Hugh Mahon became synonymous with the Land League movement in County Wexford and was imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol with Parnell in 1881.
Shortly after that he fled to Australia to resume a career in journalism and became a reporter, editor and ultimately, newspaper owner.
As editor of the Kalgoorlie Sun he exposed corruption in Western Australia and successfully defended five libel actions.
Dr. Kildea highlighted that having been elected to the Commonwealth parliament in 1901 Mr. Mahon was an early advocate of Aboriginal rights. He was also a minister in four Labor governments and was Minister for External Affairs during World War I.
“One of Australia’s most controversial politicians he had the distinction of being the only member to be expelled from the Australian federal government – as a result of his passionate campaigning for Irish self-determination,” Dr. Kildea told those in attendance at the launch.
Successful in business he spent the later part of his working life as Managing Director of the Catholic Church Property Insurance Company.
Dr. Kildea’s book looks at Mahon’s formative years in America in addition to his journalism and political activism in Wexford. It also touches on his tentative steps into politics in Australia on the way to being elected to the first Commonwealth parliament in 1901.
Perhaps, Mahon’s outlook on life was best summed up by Australia’s, Sub-Inspector Wilson, who, in 1882, said: “Mahon is by occupation a reporter and by inclination a rebel.’.
At the book launch Min. Kehoe explained how the Land League reshaped the future of farming in Ireland and that the current process of land ownership and management can be traced back to that period in history.
He also extended an invitation to Dr. Kildea, who is an adjunct Professor in Irish Studies at the University of New South Wales, to return to New Ross when Volume 2 is published.