Review - Los Irlandeses

From website: Los Irlandeses

In his autobiographical entry in The Dictionary of Falklands Biography, Dublin-born governor Haskard says that he and his family ‘found the Falklands a place much to their liking. The austere beauty of the Islands had much in common with the exposed coast of south-west Ireland [...]’ (p. 275). Others mentioned in this new biographical dictionary also found similarities between the landscapes in Ireland and in the Falkland/Malvinas Islands (see pp. 105 and 306). It is interesting that these two places also coincide in a story of conflict and of British dominion.

David Tatham, former governor of the Falklands/Malvinas (1992-1995), who read history at Wadham College before entering the Diplomatic Service, has successfully undertaken an ambitious task: to collect into one volume the stories of hundreds of men and women whose lives are closely united, in one way or another, with the history of the Islands. Explorers and missionaries, businessmen and scientists, military men and politicians, appear together with many ‘normal’ inhabitants: teachers, doctors, shopkeepers and housewives. And it is precisely this characteristic that makes these stories - ‘Lilliputian’ though they may seem - go ‘beyond the story of a British colony’ (p. 6).

When presenting this book, the result of a work of six years, Tatham warns us that he made ‘a deliberate decision to stop the volume before the Conflict of 1982. Not only did this war introduce literally thousands of new ‘players’ into the Falklands scene, but it would have transformed a study devoted to the history of the Falklands and South Georgia into one dominated by conflict and international relations’ (p. 7). Another limitation admitted by the editor is that it is more detailed about the British period (p. 8).

The over four hundred entries allow us to take a look at the lives of people who were born there, lived in the Islands for some time, or at least are closely related to Falklands/Malvinas history at a distance. Also, the detailed references to parents, spouses and children, as well as to their education and work in other places, are very useful in providing a more complete view of the lives of these people and their world. In some cases families have played an important part: there are articles on complete families, like the Pitalugas, or separate entries for father and son. There are also some collective articles, like the ones on the Condor Group ii or on the first discoverers; and there is even a column devoted to St. Malo: one paragraph on the saint, and the rest on the city and the origin of the name ‘Malvinas’. 

The quality of this work is also reflected in the 368 images that accompany and enrich the text, although perhaps some captions are somewhat informal: ‘Bill’ (as George Thomas Dean was called, p. 191), ‘Prudent?’ (Governor William Grey-Wilson, p. 252), ‘“such a fuddler...”’ (Governor Thomas Kerr, p. 315), or ‘Getting the message: Chalfont in Stanley’ (p. 147, where some Islanders can be seen receiving Minister Chalfont with a sign which reads ‘Keep the Falklands British’).

The five annexes provide very useful information for all readers –general or specialised–, particularly the list of ‘Officeholders administering the Falkland Islands’ (Annex B), the Glossary (Annex D) and ‘Publications produced in the Falkland Islands’ (Annex E).

Although they are not in the majority, many authors in the ‘List of Contributors’ have no academic background, or are just the sons and daughters of the biographee. This does not necessarily mean that all these articles are of an inferior quality (on the contrary), but might give cause to doubt their historiographical value. The autobiographical entries should also be mentioned; they present, at the same time, the risk of a certain lack of objectivity and the advantage of helping the reader to learn the opinion of those persons about themselves and their actions.

From the point of view of methodology, perhaps the absence of bibliographic or documentary references is more important: ‘The need to keep the book as short as possible meant there was no space for contributors to include their references’ (p. 8). Although it was inevitable, it is a pity that they have been omitted. Apart from being customary in history books, perhaps a few lines about the sources might help further studies on the Falklands/Malvinas and the people related to them, both by specialists and by people simply interested in the Islands’ history. Just to give two examples, and only in the field of Irish-Latin American studies, the books by Coghlan (Los irlandeses en la Argentina) and Hanon (Diccionario de británicos en Buenos Aires) show the importance of sources and the relatively little space they take. iii

Through the pages of the Dictionary we get to know people born in the Falklands/Malvinas, as well as in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Also, as another proof that ‘globalisation’ is not completely new, there are many who come from other American and European countries (among the latter, especially from Norway and Spain), as well as from British colonies all over the world. These men and women carried out the most varied jobs, from that of governor to that of a simple peasant. Although in an indirect way, this also contributes to the further understanding of the internal dynamics of the British colonial empire.

The Dictionary carries entries for some twenty-three native Irish, from all occupations and social classes. There are governors, like Jeremiah Callaghan, William Robinson and Cosmo Haskard. Anglican clergymen appear, like Lowther Brandon, and Catholic priests, like Lawrence Kirwan or James Foran. iv Some lived just for a short time in the Falklands/Malvinas, like Frances Howe-Hennis, who worked as governess for four years, and after moving back to Ireland and England became a botanical artist and wrote a book about her stay in the Islands. Others visited the Falkland/Malvinas Islands during their voyages, like Ernest Shackleton (‘Anglo-Irish explorer’, p. 484). And there are several whose roles, though less ‘famous’, helped the inhabitants of the Islands in essential aspects: teachers, like Donal Raphael Cronin; or dentists, like William Russell Mahood. Some Irishmen stood out in other areas and under different aspects, like William Henry Moore, stipendiary magistrate, a heavy drinker and ‘a caricature provincial lawyer’ (p. 390); or Samuel Hamilton, a surgeon (in Governor Goldsworthy’s words, ‘Dr Hamilton is an Irishman, characteristically excitable, not also weighing what he has said in the heat of the argument, but withal an honest man’: p. 265). Finally, there are seventeen who are listed as Irish among the thirty Military Pensioners (or Chelsea Pensioners), who were sent in 1849 with their families as settlers who could help in the defence of the Islands.

The Irish had disparate opinions about the Falklands/Malvinas. In Port William, W. H. Hynes was ‘much reminded of the Shannon estuary’ (p. 306). Others liked the Islands less, like Edward O’Brien, who went there on two occasions, once during his circumnavigation, and again to deliver the Ilen, a service vessel he had designed for the Falkland Islands Company: ‘There is no soil, no warmth in the sun, no trees will grow’ (p. 398).

Among the people related to the Islands, representatives of the Irish Diaspora are also present with some eighteen entries. Some were born in the United Kingdom: Prime Minister Callaghan; Governor James O’Grady; and naturalists Robert O. Cunningham, Robert McCormick, David Moore and Robert Murphy. Others came into the world in Australia, like Governor Herbert Henniker Heaton, and still others in the United States, like artist Duffy Sheridan and explorer Edmund Fanning. And others were from unusual places, like Alfredo Ryan (an ‘Argentine entrepreneur’, p. 473), born in Gibraltar.

And, of course, some came from Argentina, a country with a well-known Irish community: Sister Mary Jane Ussher and pilot Miguel L. Fitzgerald. v It would have been interesting to know the full list of the ‘Tabaris Highlanders’, a group of thirty-three ‘volunteers from the Anglo-Argentine community’ (p. 528) who went to help in the defence of the Islands at the beginning of the First World War: it is likely that more than one of them was of Irish descent.

The presence of Irish-Argentines is an example among many of the great connection there has been between South America and the Falklands/Malvinas. vi In the biographies, there are several references, for example, to maritime communication with Uruguay. Connections with Chile were not infrequent: Ernest Hobbs worked in his uncle’s farm in the Falklands/Malvinas and then moved to Punta Arenas; from this same city came the Italian Roman Catholic sister Rosa Veneroni; some members of the Pitaluga family worked in Chile too. Others lived in Patagonia: camp manager Charles Robertson did a two year cadetship in a farm in Rio Gallegos; sheep farmer and landholder John Hamilton owned properties in Patagonia (he also married a Scotswoman who had been working in Buenos Aires; one of his daughters married an Argentine, and the other a Scotsman living in Chile). Others had commercial relations with Argentina, like farmer Thomas Gilruth, who visited that country, Uruguay and Chile to buy sheep. Also, some Islanders were born in Argentina: Ernesto Rowe, general manager of Estate Louis Williams property; sea captain and farmer Cecil Bertrand; and farm manager William W. Blake. Spiritual care was frequently dependent on Buenos Aires, as in the case of Cyril Tucker, ‘bishop in Argentina and Eastern South America (...), the last local bishop to have jurisdiction over the Falkland Islands’ (p. 535). On the other hand, the use in the Islands of the word ‘camp’ also coincides with its usage by the English-speaking population in Argentina. vii Were it not for the specification that the place is the Falklands/Malvinas, the watercolours by William Dale (p. 181) might well represent life in the Pampas.

This tradition of links is also reflected by the inclusion of a few articles written by Argentine and Chilean authors, like Arnoldo Canclini, Edmundo Murray and Mateo Martinić. viii Perhaps many others rejected an invitation to contribute to this useful work; but in any case it is a pity that there are no more articles by Argentine authors. On the one hand, this would have avoided more-or-less serious mistakes, like calling Juan Manuel de Rosas ‘president’ (pp. 390 and 456), or speaking of the Churrua indigenous people (pp. 409 and 491) instead of Charrúa (p. 544), but mainly to show that history written from positions that are perhaps opposite can generate a respectful debate and a contribution to overcome hatred, confrontation and mistrust. ix That is why the frequent repetitions of the lack of grounds for Argentine claims of sovereignty and of the Islander’s desire to be British are surprising. Leaving aside any ‘historical truth’ and without attempting to initiate a debate on which position about the Falklands/Malvinas is the right one, it might be possible that there has been an underlying editorial line, highlighted even by the use of adjectives that are not common in history books: ‘It is to be hoped that they [the people of the Islands] will be allowed to determine their own future unhindered by the distinctly dubious historical claims of a predatory neighbour’ (‘Introduction’, p. 8; my italics).

In the introduction something is mentioned that, if it could be materialised, would certainly be very positive: ‘A website will be worth considering to update material and make available lists of references and suggestions for further reading, together with space for additional material’ (p. 8). 

This work, in helping us to learn more about the human wealth related to these Islands, is very welcome.

Mariano Galazzi i 


- Briley, Harold, ‘The Dictionary of Falklands Biography’ in Buenos Aires Herald, 23 November 2008, ‘On Sunday’ Supplement, p. 14.

- Murray, Edmundo. ‘Falkland/Malvinas Islands’ in James P. Byrne, Philip Coleman and Jason King (eds.), Ireland and the Americas: culture, politics and history (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2008), pp. 317-320. Also available online (, last accessed 12 April 2009.

- Tatham, David, dfb Dictionary of Falklands Biography 1592-1981 website (, last accessed 12 April 2009.


i. Mariano Galazzi is a historian and translator. He is currently working on the translation and notes of Marion Mulhall’s texts.

ii. Article written by Edmundo Murray of SILAS.

iii. Coghlan, Eduardo A. Los irlandeses en la Argentina. Su actuación y descendencia (Buenos Aires: author’s edition, 1987). Hanon, Maxine, Diccionario de británicos en Buenos Aires: primera época (Buenos Aires: author’s edition, 2005).

iv. These two articles were written by Edward Walsh of SILAS.

v. Article written by Edmundo Murray.

vi. Also, several explorers called at Malvinas on their way to Antarctica.

vii. Irish immigrants in Argentina (as well as in Australia and New Zealand), used the term camp instead of other terms indicating countryside and rural holding. In the Argentinean case, it is a loanword from the Spanish ‘campo,’ and it is widely recorded by many Irish-Argentine writers and newspapers (translator’s [Edmundo Murray’s] note in Hilda Sabato and Juan Carlos Korol, The Camps: Irish Immigrants in Argentina, available online []).

viii. Also, Jeremy Howat could be mentioned; born in Argentina, he lived there as a missionary for several years.

ix. A comparison might be drawn between P. J. Pepper’s critical comment on the book Les Isles Malouines in his entry on its author, Paul Groussac (p. 254), and the highly favourable reference by Arnoldo Canclini to this same work when speaking about the translation published by Alfredo Palacios (p. 413).