In the Spring of 1917, the Bethany College campus played host to Seumas MacManus, a notable Irish poet and author, best known for his modern re-tellings of Irish folklore and considered one of the last great storytellers of the ancient tradition. MacManus was born to a poor farming family in Mountcharles, Ireland and began his career as a teacher. He did not start publishing his writing until the 1890’s.
As a writer of folklore, MacManus was of the firm belief that stories were meant for telling not reading, and to follow suit, his own speeches and readings were full of personality and zeal. The lecture he gave on Bethany’s chapel in 1917 was no exception.
Although poorly times, the audience MacManus’ lecture drew was large, and every seat in the chapel was filled with people ready to hear what the man had to say about the political and social conditions in Ireland in the midst of its revolution against British rule during World War I. His message was simple: Ireland needed complete independence from its oppressor. MacManus’ humor and wit caught the minds of his listeners while the fervor with which he unleashed his indignation and sorrow for his homeland caught their hearts, and what was left was a room full of awestruck students, faculty and community members.
The article on MacManus’ lecture, published in an April 1917 edition of Bethany College’s newspaper “The Messenger,” may be seen in its entirety below.