THE history of the Skibbereen Eagle – now incorporated into The Southern Star – was recalled on Newstalk this week.
In his column on the media, Jack Murray took a look back at the famous ‘keeping its eye on Russia’ editorial that catapulted the paper into the history books.
The column was broadcast as part of the popular ‘High Noon’ radio show by Cork presenter George Hook.
In it, Murray – who is married to Bantry native, political journalist Alison O’Connor – referred to the paper’s editor and proprietor Fred Potter.
He explained how, in 1898, Skibbereen Eagle editor Potter was under pressure.
The local paper, which he had published for over 40 years, was facing a very difficult challenge. He had to do something to stand out from the crowd.
Murray, who runs the website Allgoodtales.com, explained how, for decades, Potter and his Skibereen Eagle newspaper had the local West Cork market to themselves. That was until 1889 when The Southern Star opened in the town.
In the politically charged time of the late nineteen century, The Southern Star was more strongly nationalist. The rivalry between the two publications was intense.
In order to get ahead, Potter penned that now famous editorial, which included the words: ‘[The Skibbereen Eagle] will still keep its eye on the emperor of Russia and all such despotic enemies of human progression and man’s natural right.’
‘In that moment Fred Potter changed everything,’ said Murray.
‘His words became a clarion call for anyone who wanted to put the oppressive actions of others under scrutiny.’
The episode brought Potter and the Skibbereen Eagle instant fame, and he dined out on it for the rest of his life.
When Potter died in 1906, The Southern Star published a warm and generous tribute to Fred, and his obituary was carried around the world and was even published in The Los Angeles Herald.
The Skibbereen Eagle ceased publication in 1922, and seven years later its old rival, The Southern Star, purchased the title.
‘To this very day the eagle looks out from the masthead keeping its watchful eye on the world,’ noted Murray.