Puzzling racial humour from the 1890s

visit ireland cover

The Irish Tourist Development guidebook Visit Ireland, compiled in 1892 by F. X. Crossley and available in scanned form from the British Library Labs, contains a variety of useful information for the traveller of the 1890s, including timetables for railway, trams and steamer sailings, seasonal dates for game, estimates for how much you might expect to pay to hire a jaunting car, what local newspapers are likely to be available at your chosen hotel – and the political orientations of said newspapers.

visit ireland - dublin newspapers
Modern readers of the Evening Herald might be surprised to learn of its original Home Rule leanings, and Irish Times readers might be even more surprised.  (Page 114)

Like many a modern guidebook, Visit Ireland seems to have relied on advertising revenue to cover some of its costs, and the back pages contain a number of ads for goods and businesses (including some familiar names such as Arnotts, Brown Thomas and the Lucan Spa Hotel).

These pages also have an unusual feature, in which the printers have made use of some free space at the bottom of each page by filling them with what’s described in the Contents as “Irish Comicalities”.  The jokes are a bit on the quaint side to be considered offensive, but they do seem an odd choice of back matter for a  book encouraging its (presumably mostly British) audience to come visit the delights of Ireland, being mostly based on the differences between the Irish and the English.  As you might imagine, the Irish generally come off worst.

The Irishman of our comicalities is illiterate, credulous, a bit short on reasoning and partial to a drink:

visit ireland - comicalities - near-sighted lady

visit ireland - comicalities red herringsvisit ireland - comicalities - boots

visit ireland - comicalities barber

He’s also very likely to be named Patrick, or some variation on same.  However, he’s not always the butt of the joke, sometimes turning the tables on a would-be prankster:

visit ireland - comicalities - yard of porkI’m pretty sure this one here is still doing the rounds:

visit ireland - comicalities - whiskey

I confess I can’t say exactly what’s going on in this next joke (perhaps I’m a century too late to get the reference), but it sounds like the Pat in question is doing well, at least in terms of wordplay:

visit ireland - comicalities - broth of a boy

And then there’s THIS riposte to the Paddy-Irishman jokes:

visit ireland - comicalities - honour and money
He’s going to need some glycerine and cucumber for that burn

Finally, I’m afraid this final joke (if that’s what it is?) is totally beyond me.  Any readers from the Lancashire region who’d care to elucidate?

visit ireland - comicalities lancashire

Irish stereotypes and other types of ethnic humour are by no means lacking in the 19th century books from the British Library corpus, but it’s intriguing to see their deployment in a tourist development text!

visit ireland powerscourt
These gentleman tourists are too busy enjoying the delights of the Wicklow landscape to be concerned.

The images from ‘Irish Tourist Development. “Visit Ireland:” a concise, descriptive, and illustrated guide to Ireland’ can be found here.


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