Bachelor Trouble, Troubled Bachelors: The Cultural Figure of the Bachelor in Ballybunion and Mullingar
This chapter focuses on two historical moments which crystallise the cultural transformation of the concept of the bachelor: the founding of the Gay Bachelor Festival in Ballybunion in 1970, and the premiere of A. J. Stanley’s play Troubled Bachelors in Mullingar in 1940. Stanley’s play responded to the threatened eviction of bachelors from council cottages by the Westmeath Board of Health in 1938, unless they agreed to get married. This chapter attempts to develop a preliminary genealogy of the term ‘bachelor,’ recovering the ideological richness and cultural complexity of Irish bachelordom by analysing local practices of gender and masculinity. In the context of dancehall culture and the international gay rights movement, this chapter reads the Irish bachelor as resistant and potentially counter-hegemonic figure of masculinity.
I would like to thank the Irish American Cultural Institute and the Centre for Irish Studies at the National University of Ireland in Galway, which awarded me a fellowship and residency that made possible the research for this paper. I would also like to thank the respondents at the 2013 ‘Irish Masculinities in the Longue Durée’ conference and the VIA 2012 Irish Drama/Drámaíocht na hÉireann conference at the University of Notre Dame, for their helpful feedback and suggestions on this essay. I am also deeply grateful to the staff at the Westmeath County Library, especially Mary Farrell and Paula O’Dornan; to Méabh Ní Fhuartháin, for her many invaluable insights and suggestions; and to the editors of this volume.