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William Bulfin

William Bulfin (1864 - 1910) was the fourth son in a family of nine boys and one girl, the children of William Bulfin, of Derrinlough, Birr, County Offaly, Ireland, and Ellen Grogan of Croghan, County Offaly.

He attended the Classical Academy and the Presentation Schools in Birr, and the Royal Charter School at Banagher when it was under head-mastership of Dr. King Joyce.

His maternal uncle, Father Vincent Grogan, was Provincial for the Passionist Fathers of a province that included a monastery in Buenos Aires, Argentina. William Bulfin, the younger, emigrated to Argentina in 1884, with his elder brother, Peter. But they turned their backs on the city, and moved on out to the pampas.

Hundreds of Irish emigrants from Counties Longford and Westmeath had already settled the Argentine. They had with them letters of introduction to the Passionist Fathers in Buenos Aires. The Bulfins went to the ranch (estancia) of one of these, Juan Dowling, a native of County Longford. There he met the woman whom he would eventually marry, Anne ORourke (originally from Ballacurra, Ballymore, Westmeath.

Out on the pampas his preference was for the company of either the gauchos or the Irish, and observing both his own fellow-countrymen and the hard-riding Spanish-Indian cowboys he began to write homely sketches and stories about their lives for The Southern Cross, a weekly paper in Buenos Aires, owned and edited by Michael Dineen from Cork.

Years later, he wrote in The Southern Cross about the vanishing gaucho in a way that showed how closely he had observed and been attracted by the vivid pattern of life on the Argentinian grasslands. He had his ranch, and his horses and his work at trooping or marking or herding sheep, and he drank his anis or cana, and took his mate under his own fig tree, and gambled with bone or cards or on horseracing at the pulperias of all the camps from the Arroyo Luna to the Medano Blanco, and along the frontier from Gainza to Melincue.

In 1902, relocated to the city he had initially rejected, Buenos Aires, he wrote: It was a train brought me back to Buenos Aires from the camp. I mean it was the train which gave me the call ... [I]t happened that I had not seen a train for four years ... I went to a certain railway station one afternoon to send a telegram to Buenos Aires, and while I was there the train came in. I do not know whether it was the engine, or a look at the passengers, or the roar and rattle of the wheels, or all of these things together, that set the wheels of memory revolving. The city life of student days came back, the city began to call. As I galloped home it struck me that the camp was not meant for me, after all. It was telling me to clear out. You are not good enough for me, it seemed to be saying. Go away, go back to your cities, and fair weather after you; dont be afraid that III miss you or a thousand like you. And what the city said was this Come back. For four and twenty years at home and abroad you have been keeping away from me. But its no use. You cannot help yourself. You were born in the open country....but you are mine. You must come. I am the hag that men call the spirit of city life-ugly, selfish, corrupt, insincere, but I call you and you must come.

A year after his arrival in the city he was sub-editing on The Southern Cross, and shortly afterwards he was both proprietor and editor of that paper. The sketches he wrote began in The Southern Cross also, due to his friendship with Arthur Griffith, in The United Irishman and Sinn Fein. Eventually they reached the New York Daily News. They were published in book form in 1907 by Gill Publishing.

He died in 1910; his children were Eamon Bulfin, an Irish republican and political activist following the Irish Civil War, and Catalina Bulfin who would marry Sean MacBride, the son of Irish nationalist icons Major John MacBride and Maud Gonne.


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