Century of Endeavour

A Father and Son Overview of the 20th Century

Dr Roy H W Johnston

This book was piloted in the US, with a limited edition, in November 2003 by Academica/Maunsel.

A revised edition with an extended index has been published in Ireland in April 2006. For orders in Ireland, in the UK and in continental Europe of the new Irish edition, see Tyndall Publications, or Lilliput Press, e-mail info@lilliputpress.ie

Enquiries re orders in the US: should go by fax to Robert Redfern-West at +1-202-296-7490, or e-mail him at Academicapress@aol.com.

As reviews become available in the printed media we will reproduce them here; we have Saothar the Irish Labour History annual, subsequent to Books Ireland, the Irish News, Fortnight, the Irish Democrat, and Studies.

There have also been reviews in the electronic media, mostly from left and republican sources; these tend sometimes to be critical, and I have interspersed responses where appropriate. We have a (projected; so far we have 2 parts, RJ 16/07/2008) 3-part critique in the Irish Political Review (this also appears in print, but its sits more naturally in this group), the Communist Party of Ireland newsletter Socialist Voice, and the Blanket (one friendly, one hostile).

Papers based on the book are beginning to emerge; I contributed one to a conference of the British Sociological Association at Birkbeck in July 2008; there may be more, and I hope to reference them here.

What my father and I did, or tried to do, in Ireland.

My father Joe Johnston (1890-1972) ('JJ') was a radical intellectual from a small-farmer schoolteacher Presbyterian family in Tyrone, who went from Dungannon Royal School to Trinity College Dublin and then to Oxford, where he heard Carson address the Union, and recognised the threat to Home Rule of the Tories' Blenheim call to arms.

After becoming a Fellow of TCD in 1913, JJ published his Civil War in Ulster in an attempt to mobilise Protestant Liberal Home Rule support against the process that led to the Larne gun-running of April 1914, which was the introduction of the gun into Irish politics in the 20th century by the Tory-Orange conspiracy; the 1916 Rising was partly a response to this, and to the World War. Subsequently JJ worked for an all-Ireland constitutional settlement on the Canadian model, via the 1917 Convention, exposing the dangers of Partition.

JJ was supportive of the Free State as it emerged, while being critical of its economics, especially as it subsequently developed under de Valera. He worked to keep alive north-south links, and used his position from 1938 in the Senate to advocate constructive all-Ireland agricultural policies in response to the war emergency.

Post-war he worked critically in the development economics domain, identifying Bishop Berkeley as the classical source of wisdom in this field. Latterly he was critical of the Common Agricultural Policy of the EEC, predicting its crisis which is now acutely upon us.

In his latter decades JJ interacted with the present writer RJ, his son, who in the 1940s, while a science undergraduate in TCD, helped develop a student Left, and in the 1950s, after a time in France, attempted to radicalise the Labour movement with continental Marxist ideas.

In the 1960s RJ was more successful in helping to politicise the republican movement, steering it towards the non-violent campaign for civil rights in Northern Ireland, and towards democratising the economic system via the co-operative movement. This attempt was frustrated by armed Orange pogroms, stimulating the reversion of the movement to arms, under the influence of the 'Provisional' process led by Sean Mac Stiofain. In this context the present writer resigned.

The 70s, 80s and 90s were spent by the present writer in various development projects having a science and technology orientation, while contributing to politics as and when possible from the sidelines.

The importance of this as a historical record.

The foregoing history is important because it demonstrates that it was possible for radical-minded Protestants to survive and influence the course of events (despite the hostile right-wing political and Catholic cultural environment of the Free State) with the aid of the cultural traditions of the Enlightenment and the United Irishmen. The role of the Wolfe Tone bicentenary in 1963 was crucial in enabling a political left-republican approach to be adumbrated by Cathal Goulding and others, enlisting the aid of the present writer. This process came close to achieving in 1968 political reforms in Northern Ireland which would have rendered the subsequent 30 years of mayhem unnecessary. It failed because the movement was unable politically to handle a response to the armed Orange pogroms of 1969.

Relevance to Irish studies

The Irish Studies community needs to extend its scope from literature, history and politics to include economics, innovation, science, technology and cultural diversity, with particular reference to the Protestant contribution to Irish identity, and to the importance of the practical arts in the culture. It is impossible to convey the complexity of the interaction between these factors in a brief outline. The author can be contacted at rjtechne@iol.ie and will be pleased to convey by e-mail an extended outline to a prospective reviewer or purchaser.


We give below a version of the title page, which in the hypertext support system itself is hotlinked into the chapters and appendices. These are in turn hotlinked into a substantial amount of source material. In the version below the hotlinks are mostly dud, but we have indicated one live one with an *, which links to the Introductory Overview, and in this Overview we indicate with other *s which hotlinked notes enable some sample source material to be accessed. The hypertext may eventually be purchased from the author, possibly in CD-ROM mode, by a procedure and at a price which has yet to be agreed, but in the meantime the author is prepared to respond to enquiries from purchasers of the book, and is considering also various modes of restricted access to the hypertext on the Internet.

Century of Endeavour

A Father and Son Overview of the 20th Century

Dr Roy H W Johnston

(comments to rjtechne at iol dot ie)


Introduction: an *Overview* of the Century

Decade by Decade:

  • Chapter 1: 1900s: Joe Johnston's early background
  • Chapter 2: 1910s: Oxford, TCD, 1916 etc
  • Chapter 3: 1920s: Co-operative crusading, family pressures...
  • Chapter 4: 1930s: slump, economic war....
  • Chapter 5:
  • Chapter 6: 1950s: economic critiques; politics at two levels...
  • Chapter 7:
  • Chapter 8: 1970s: Last Days of JJ; RJ as science critic...
  • Chapter 9: 1980s: the innovation process...
  • Chapter 10: 1990s: politics and the Internet...

Conclusion: Reflections on the Century

Theme Threads (each spanning several decades):



Published and unpublished JJ sources and RJ sources; there is also an overview index of the RJ log books which cover the period from January 1968 to June 2003.

Source material relating to the *republican politicising attempt* which commenced in the 1960s and was aborted subsequent to the 1969 crisis.

We give also an index of the hypertext files which are accessed from the Notes and References; these are mostly intermediate between the sources and text of the book, but some are actual sources.

Although Anthony Coughlan has contributed material and advice to this site, it remains primarily my own personal record. I am indebted to him for access to the Greaves and Wolfe Tone Society archives; my abstracts from these sources however are incomplete and episodic; they relate primarily to my own narrative, and it should not be assumed that the judgements I make with regard to them are necessarily shared by him. Anyone interested in exploring further any episodes where Anthony Coughlan is mentioned should contact him at 24 Crawford Avenue, Dublin 9 (Tel: 00-353-1-8305792) as well as the author.

I am also indebted to Anthony Coughlan for some post-publication material, including his 2004 note on the 1970 Blatherwick Memorandum (which relates to 1960s politics), and his 1991 Obituary Essay on C Desmond Greaves.

[To Techne Home Page]

Some navigational notes:

The foregoing gives an initial listing of the works covered in this hypertext work. In any of the modules, a highlighted word on its own brings up a related piece of text. If the word is accompanied by a number, it brings up a footnote or a reference in a related reference-page. In most browsers, if you click on the 'Back' button, it will bring to to the point of departure in the document from which you came.

Copyright (c)Dr Roy Johnston 2003