MacDonald's Irish Directory and Gazetteer

Pdf MacDonald's Irish Directory and Gazetteer, Edinburgh: William MacDonald & Company Ltd, 1938
Size: 406.7M bytesModified: 10 November 2011, 13:01
Pdf MacDonald's Irish Directory and Gazetteer, Edinburgh: William MacDonald & Company Ltd, 1939
Size: 429.1M bytesModified: 10 November 2011, 12:10

The annual edition of MacDonald's Irish Directory and Gazetteer was first published in 1887 and depended upon subscriptions and patronage. It was initially an all-Ireland directory but after the political partition of Ireland in 1922 it was divided into two sections: Eire ( Ireland ) and Northern Ireland. Information provided in the gazetteer include the details of elected parliamentary members, the judiciary and other national and local public officials, markets and early closing days, population statistics from official censuses, the banking industry, railways and town/city maps. Also included is information about merchants, traders, manufacturers and other business trading between Ireland, England and Scotland.

Of historical interest are the business lists, addresses and contact details for every county in Ireland including the cities of Dublin, Belfast, Limerick, Londonderry and Cork as well as the larger towns arranged in alphabetical order. These demonstrate the plethora of local firms, usually family owned businesses, manufacturers, traders, suppliers and many other commercial operations throughout the island of Ireland. Publications such as MacDonald's Irish Directory and Gazetteer were vital for Irish business people who faced unprecedented challenges in the early years of Irish independence. 

The 1930s were a fraught time in Ireland socially, political and economically. Just over a decade after Irish independence in 1922, the twenty-six county Irish Free State was experiencing the brunt of the worldwide Great Depression which followed the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Southern Ireland was very much an agricultural society based on large and small family farms unlike the heavily industrialised north east. The six counties of Northern Ireland, best known for their shipbuilding and linen industries, particularly in the city of Belfast, were also hard hit. The problems of mass unemployment and poverty threatened political stability while mass emigration was a fact of life.

Between 1932 and 1938, the Irish Free State or Eire was involved in the 'Economic War' with the United Kingdom. Under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty 1921 which brought the Irish  War of Independence 1919-1921 to an end, the Irish government was obliged to continue to pay 'land annuities'. These were derived from financial loans made available to Irish tenant farmers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to enable the purchase of their land under the Land Acts. The refusal of the Fianna Fáil government led by Eamon De Valera to pay these annuities led to unilateral trade restrictions that had a detrimental effect on the Irish economy.

In 1938, the Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement resolved the issue of land annuities with a one off payment of £10million by the Irish government. Ports retained by the British since 1922 were handed over to the Irish state allowing the country to remain neutral during the Second World War 1939-1945. This period known in Ireland as 'The Emergency' was a period of severe economic hardship and international isolation which required greater Irish government intervention in the economy. In Northern Ireland, Belfast's shipbuilding and aerospace industry began to prosper however the city was bombed by the German Luftwaffe. While the Irish Free State was spared the death and destruction experienced across Europe, it did not benefit from the American post-war Marshall Plan which brought about rapid economic recovery in Western Europe.

Eire was declared a republic in 1949 but the Irish pound retained its link to British sterling for many years. The 1950s saw continued economic problems as protectionist tariffs on foreign trade designed to safeguard Irish business merely served to stifle development and maintain levels of mass emigration. During the 1960s the advice of the influential Irish economist T.K. Whitaker (b. 1916) led to the reversal of these harmful policies leading to economy growth during this period. For the first time since the Great Famine of 1845 the population of Ireland had begun to grow rather than shrink. By 1973 the Republic of Ireland had joined the European Economic Community (EEC) the forerunner of the European Union (EU). Ireland benefited hugely from entry into the Common Market but would continue to struggle with a series of economic booms and busts into the early 21st century.

Many of the businesses listed in MacDonald's Irish Directory and Gazetteer in the 1930s had been in existence since the late 19th century as a prosperous and increasingly diverse Irish Catholic middle class emerged following the end of the hated landlord system. Generations of Irish families struggled to maintain their small businesses in the decades following 1922. At the beginning of the 21st century many of these local businesses still remained in existence despite a radically altered economic, social and political environment.

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