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Ribbon Societies in Nineteenth-Century Ireland and its DiasporaThe Persistence of Tradition$
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Kyle Hughes and Donald MacRaild

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781786941350

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786941350.001.0001

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date: 25 June 2022

Ribbonmen in their Urban Communities during the 1850s

Ribbonmen in their Urban Communities during the 1850s

(p.193) 6 Ribbonmen in their Urban Communities during the 1850s
Ribbon Societies in Nineteenth-Century Ireland and its Diaspora

Kyle Hughes

Donald M. MacRaild


This chapter explores the evolution of Ribbonism from at first fairly primitive friendly societies in towns and cities in Ireland and Britain into more sophisticated Hibernian mutual aid societies which provided for injury, sickness, and death: the inevitable by-products of industrial work. It also, however, demonstrates the limits of this evolution for Ribbonmen were unable or unwilling fully to jettison their illicit activities. Proof of secret signs, oaths, and passwords was enough for a court to convict a Ribbonman, but as successive prosecution attorneys made clear such precautions would only have been necessary if there was some illegal activity to hide. As this chapter shows, concealing illegal activity under a cloak of respectable mutualism was a common Ribbon tactic, and one later borrowed by others.

Keywords:   Hibernians, Respectability, Thrashers, Belfast, Urban Ribbonsim, Mutualism

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