Reidy, James (1873–1953), nationalist and newspaper editor, was born 23 January 1873 in Knockfierna, near Ballingarry, Co. Limerick, son of Michael Reidy, farmer, and Honora Reidy (née Quaid). Educated locally, he was reputedly a member of the IRB, before leaving in May 1896 for New York, where he secured work as a journalist for the New Era. By 1902 he was an active member of Clan na Gael and had befriended John Devoy (qv), whose protégé he was to become. On the formation of Devoy's Gaelic American in early 1903, Reidy was appointed its assistant editor, a position he held for many years. In August 1907 he was delegated by Devoy to go to Ireland to confer with the IRB leadership, many of whom he had met previously in the Gaelic American offices. During 1910 he inherited his family's farm in Limerick but chose to sell the property and remain in New York. Thereafter he took a more prominent role in managing the Gaelic American and also performed much of Devoy's clerical work as secretary of the Clan owing to the latter's growing deafness and blindness. Consequently he became a close associate of Joseph McGarrity (qv) and other Clan leaders, despite holding no official position on the Clan executive, and Irish revolutionary leaders, including Thomas Clarke (qv), Sean Mac Diarmada (qv), and Patrick Pearse (qv), regularly visited his home at 173 Webster Avenue, Brooklyn, which since 1908 had also served as Devoy's home. Reidy was privy to and supported the plans for the 1916 rising, and deciphered for Devoy the secret IRB supreme council document sent to him in February 1916, announcing that a rising had been decided on. Shortly after the execution of the rebel leaders, Reidy wrote an article on the history of the IRB for an American publication designed to raise funds for the rebels’ families. In the disputes between the IRB and the Clan following both the mission by Éamon de Valera (qv) to the USA in 1919 and the signing of the Anglo–Irish treaty in December 1921, Reidy stood by Devoy when he made highly personal attacks on de Valera, and consequently he became estranged from McGarrity and most Clan leaders. When the Clan executive permanently severed its relations with the IRB and officially affiliated itself with the anti-treaty IRA after the outbreak of the Irish civil war in the summer of 1922, Reidy played a key role in organising a pro-treaty wing of the Clan that remained in existence for many years. It did not take part in secret or revolutionary politics after the disbandment of the IRB in 1924 but instead, under his guidance, became a more open and primarily social organisation. From 1928 until the late 1930s he was the editor of the Gaelic American and maintained an adamantly republican, yet anti-Fianna Fáil, editorial stance. During the same period he helped to organise many annual republican commemorative events in America under Clan auspices as a means of protest against partition, and also operated the IRB Veterans Association, a primarily social organisation for elderly ex-IRB men in the USA that Devoy and others had founded many years previously. A well known figure in the New York Irish community, during the 1920s he was the chairman of the United Irish-American Societies of New York and an active member of the American-Irish Historical Society, to which he gave a lengthy address on Devoy following his friend's death (September 1928). He was also one of the chief mourners at the large state funeral held for Devoy in Glasnevin cemetery in June 1929. Shortly after his wife, Nora (née Mahony), a native of Loughead, Co. Tipperary, died on 9 December 1936, he withdrew from Irish-American nationalist politics and ultimately he died after a short illness on 15 May 1953 in a Brooklyn hospital. His son, John, a photographer, and his two daughters, Nora and Ethna, survived him. Some of his correspondence can be found in the Joseph McGarrity papers (MS 17636) and John Devoy papers (MS 18011) in the NLI.
NAI, British in Ireland microfilm, DMP précis, memo 6 Nov. 1907, 6 Aug. 1910; Maurice Joy (ed.), The Irish rebellion of 1916 and its martyrs (1916); James Reidy, ‘John Devoy’, American-Irish Historical Society, xxvii (1928), 413–25; John Devoy, Recollections (1929), 458; Gaelic American, 12, 19 Dec. 1936; New York Times, 16 May 1953; William O'Brien and Desmond Ryan (ed.), Devoy's post bag, ii (1953), 359, 364, 374, 376, 509; F. M. Carroll, American opinion and the Irish question 1910–23 (1978), 32, 248; Terry Golway, Irish rebel (1998), 190; Terence Dooley, The greatest of the Fenians: John Devoy and Ireland (2003), 151