Captain Jack White: Imperialism, Anarchism and the Irish Citizen Army


Leo Keohane

September 2014

This is a long overdue biography of the founder of the Irish Citizen Army,  Captain Jack White, a Boer War hero and renowned anarchist. White associated with key Irish activists and literati of the early twentieth century including HG Wells, DH Lawrence, Tolstoy, GB Shaw, Conan Doyle, Sean O’Casey & Countess Markievicz. This accessible and original biography by Leo Keohane is based on the White family papers and never before seen archival research.


Captain Jack White DSO (1879–1946) is a fascinating yet neglected figure in Irish history. Son of Field Marshal Sir George White V.C., he became a Boer war hero, and crucially was the first Commandant of the Irish Citizen Army. One of the few notable figures in Ireland to declare himself an anarchist, he led a remarkable life of action, and was a most unsystematic thinker. This is a long overdue assessment of his life and times.

Leo Keohane vividly brings to life the contradictory worlds and glamour of this mercurial figure, who knew Lord Kitchener, was a dinner companion of King Edward and the Kaiser, who corresponded with H.G. Wells, D.H. Lawrence and Tolstoy, and shared a platform with G.B. Shaw, Conan Doyle, Roger Casement and Alice Stopford Green.

The founder of the Irish Citizen Army, along with James Connolly, White marched, and argued, with James Larkin during the 1913 Lockout, work with Sean O’Casey, liaised with Constance Markievicz and socialised with most of the Irish activists and literati of the early twentieth century. A man who lived many lives, White was the ultimate outsider beset by divided loyalties with an alternative philosophy and an inability to conform.

Table of Contents

1. Beginnings
2. Training for Imperialism
3. Awakenings
4. Wanderings and Home
5. Unionism and Nationalism
6. Dublin: The Cast
7. The Search for a Role
8. James Connolly
9. The Irish Citizen Army
10. Adventures in the Army
11. Departure and Arrival: The National Volunteers
12. Plan for Ireland
13. 1916 Arrest and Imprisonment
14. War of Independence
15. Reality, Theory and Jail
16. Spain, War and The End

About the Author

Leo Keohane is a Lecturer in Critical Theory at the Centre for Irish Studies, NUI Galway, Ireland.