‘War, the Eagle, and … linotype’: The Skibbereen Eagle, the Southern Star and the South African War, 1899-1900

John O’Donovan
University College Cork

I will examine the coverage by two regional weekly newspapers in
county Cork of events within and outside the Empire at the close of
the nineteenth century. It will also explore the rivalry between them,
as the long-serving (and infamous) ‘Skibbereen Eagle’ was challenged
by the newcomer, the ‘Southern Star’, after 1892. Both papers served
constituencies that were ever-changing as the twentieth century
dawned. As the 1890s wore on, a distinct class theme can be discerned:
the ‘Eagle’ sticking solidly to its middle-class unionist base; the
‘Star’ reaching out to the lower classes of the nationalist population
of western county Cork. Together with their divergent political
leanings, both papers’ attitude to social issues reflected the
outlooks of their proprietors, editors and readers. Nowhere was this
more clearly shown than in the last two years of the decade, when the
labour agitator DD Sheehan was appointed editor of the ‘Star’. Both
papers also reflected imperial events through differing prisms, as
befitted their ownership and ethos. This divergence of opinion was
best demonstrated in the coverage by both papers of events in South
Africa during the Boer War (1899-1902), an event that was just as
crucial in the histories of Irish nationalism and unionism as it was
in the histories of South Africa and the Empire at large.

Newspapers and Periodicals in Britain and Ireland from 1800 to 1900