Maybe speeches worked better before microphones
June 07, 2011
How did speakers make themselves heard to big crowds before electric megaphones and microphones?
One last dip into Thomas Kettle’s 1915 introduction of Irish Orators and Oratory suggests a possibility that stirs the imagination. Kettle says this story was related to him by a friend:
Many times I have heard debated the “possibility of Dan O’Connell making himself audible and understood by the vast multitudes he drew to Mullaghmast and Tara. In the closing of the eighties, falling in with an old man who said he had been in Tara the day of the “big meetin’,” I asked how it happened and what it was like. “I was going there and and all the world was going to Tara Hill to hear the Liberator. I went too, and on the road I met an ould ancient man, who was bending towards the same direction. When we got to the hill, it was black with people and we could not get near.” Then I said, “did you not hear the speech?” “Oh, begorra we did—every word. It was this way. The people said there was half a million of men, not counting women. It was a mighty gathering. Everybody heard Dan. For Dan raised his hand and told all about the platform to repeat his words. He said, ‘Silence’ and silence came out to us as the wind upon the barley. Then each man spoke after Dan, and every other man said the words, and out to us all on the edge of the crowd came the speech of Dan O’Connell.”