Ireland 1845 to 1862
James Harshaw wrote an incredibly detailed account of Irish life during the terrible years of famine. The death or emigration of millions of Irish citizens left the country prostrate. Only sectarian hatred seemed to survive and flourish during the years that followed.
James and his nephew, John Martin, had dreams for Ireland quite different from the majority of their Protestant neighbors. They dreamed of a time when their beloved land would be free. In 1845, this "different dream" was acceptable. But by 1862, Protestants were expected to join into one large anti-Catholic group led by the Orange Order. This group viewed the Union with England as their best protection from their Catholic neighbors.
James was an outstanding representative of his religion within his community, as John Martin was at a national level. As a man justly admired, he served his neighbors as a role model of Christian conduct and courage. Not surprisingly, he became a threat that must be silenced, a threat that came from longtime friends within his own church. Since this intolerance was foreign to his religious beliefs, James resisted efforts to coerce him into actions so obnoxious to him. His defiant resistance provides an exciting climax to his story and contains implications for those who struggle for peace in Northern Ireland today.
In "Different Dreams," I have combined James's journal with other contemporaneous information that would have been familiar to him. These additions serve to add detail to James's entries, and a context for the political changes that ensnare James at the end.
This personal view of Irish history will provide new insights into Irish nationalism for the millions of readers around the world who still care so deeply for Ireland.
Article written by Marjorie Harshaw Robie, May 15, 2000