A staunch Conservative, though not a land-owner, said:—"We want amendment of the Parliamentary voting regulations. No clergyman should be allowed to sit in the Revision Court. Scandals without end could be cited to show the necessity of this. I would, of course, exclude all sects, though no Protestant preacher ever takes part directly or indirectly in any of our political meetings. When a man has to make oath as to the validity of his claim to the suffrage he will often look at the priest who sits watching him. He gets a nod, and he goes on with his swearing. The perjury of the Irish Revision Courts is something fearful, and no one pays any attention to it. The Papists swear just anything. They get absolved, but a Protestant has not this great advantage and that holds him back. That is the Papist explanation. In my presence the Home Rule inspector of this district—we call the people who watch and work the registers the inspectors—swore that James Kelly, of Cross Roads, Killygordon, was the present tenant, the holder of the license, and the freeholder of a public-house at the spot mentioned. Besides this he swore that the name James Kelly was on the signboard. He therefore proposed to poll a James Kelly. Now the person in question went to America in 1888, and never returned. His name was not on the signboard, and the license was for another person. The Judge declined to hear any further evidence from Inspector Francis McLaughlin. That was the only penalty enforced. Such things happen every day in Irish Revision Courts.
"A man named James Burns put in a claim for a vote on behalf of land held at Stroangebbah. He had none there. What he had was at Aughkeely, and this was not sufficient to entitle him to vote. Yes, his name should be spelt Byrnes, but the Irish often prefer the Protestant form of the name. Well, nobody believed that he was the tenant of Stroangebbah; he was said to be a lodger only. The Judge asked him for proof. He presented a paper purporting to be a receipt for rent for Stroangebbah, but in reality the receipt was for the ground at Aughkeely, which did not qualify. He curled up the paper so as to show that his name was on it, and the Judge instantly passed his claim, and placed him on the roll. A young fellow named Robert Ewing at once exposed the trick, but the Judge declared that having placed Burns on the roll, he must remain there until next revision. Judge Keogh was his name. Yes, you would think an Irishman and a good Catholic would have seen through such a trumpery trick.
"When an illiterate declares for whom he will vote, we sometimes have from twenty to thirty outsiders in the polling-booth. In England the Court is cleared, and even the policeman has to go outside. But in this favoured country any blackguard who likes to fill up a declaration of secrecy, and go before a magistrate, can be present at the whole of the proceedings. There is no secrecy for the illiterates. Any corner-boy, any ruffian, any blackguard in the district can come in and hear for whom men vote. These corner boys all get declarations in their fists, and they march in gangs from one booth to another. It's intimidation, no less. Get some M.P. to mention this as having taken place at Stranorlar. The people of whom I complain were not even voters. Anybody could be present. Ridiculous to talk of the ballot-box in Ireland.
"The Morley magistrates are in many cases a disgrace to the country. We used to have an idea in these parts that a small publican could not legally sit on the Bench. James McGlinchy, J.P., is a small publican of Brockagh. Barring his trade, he's not so bad, as he can read and write. But if you saw the lists, and if you knew the men recommended——! Englishmen have no idea what low scoundrels have been placed on the Bench in this country. Imperfect education we do not so much mind when conjoined with character. O'Donnell is not a bad sort, but he couldn't write 'adjourned.' Two magistrates were needed, and nobody else arrived. Therefore the difficult word was necessary, and O'Donnell felt it was beyond him. He called up a policeman, and ordered him to do it. Whereat the county makes merry. There should be an education test. Can all the English magistrates spell 'adjourned'? You think so? That's very good. Not right that a man who can't spell 'adjourned' should give another man a spell of imprisonment."
A Roman Catholic gentleman thus summed up the character of his particular neighbourhood:—"The upper classes of both sects are in every way equal. Among the lower classes I observe that the Protestants do as much work as they can, while the Papists do as little as they can. This accounts for the difference in their appearance and position. Then the Protestants are far better educated, and have arrived at the knowledge that everything that is good must be gained by exertion, and that there is for them at least no substitute. The others talk as if after the establishment of an Irish Parliament money would be found growing on the bushes. No one need try to change their opinion. When the time comes to vote they will vote as their priest tells them. Someone has said that the British Government might subsidise the Church, and so buy her off. It could not be done. The bishops want power. I do not agree with them, and I do not support or admit their claim to direct their flocks in political matters."
The Marquess of Conyngham, whom I met at Strabane, said:—"The people of Donegal are pleasant, kind, and civil. Taking them all round, they are much more energetic than the Southerners, and we were making fair progress until these Home Rule Bills were brought in. The country was being opened up, and things were beginning to improve, when the bill came and blighted everything. Now the people are growing idle and discontented. They are all right when left alone. Everybody likes the Donegal peasants, and they deserve to be liked. Only leave them alone; that's what they want; and not Home Rule nor any other quackery."
Strange things continue to happen in Ireland. This does not refer to the continuous cutting-off of cows' tails, the slitting of horses' tongues, and other similar expressions of impatience for the good time coming, but to some strange things that have happened in connection with agricultural affairs. Sir Samuel Hayes decided to abandon a farm which would not pay, although he had no rent to meet. He was his own landlord, but he did not work the farm. That was done by a bailiff, who, curiously enough, was the highest bidder for the land. He of all men should have known that if the farm would not pay expenses when there was no rent, it would not reward the man who had rent to pay. This reasoning proved fallacious. The farm which without rent proved a loss, in the same hands turned out when rent was charged a perfect gold-mine. In another case, a bailiff on leaving his employ expended on land the accumulated savings of his thrifty years, and—strange to say—his savings amounted to about three times the sum of his wages during his life's service. A man who, having a pound a week, can save three pounds, would in England be regarded as a prodigy. In Ireland such things happen every day. Particulars as to the cases hereinbefore-mentioned can be obtained from anybody in Killygordon, which is altogether a remarkable place—to say nothing of its name, which for obvious reasons has the misfortune to be unpleasant to the Grand Old Man. Nomen, Omen?
An octogenarian J.P. said:—"They talk of gold and silver mines, and lead and copper mines, and iron and quicksilver mines, but mining in Ireland cannot, as a rule, be made to pay. Everything exists in Ireland, but in such small quantities. The seams and veins are so small. Mr. Ritchie, of Belfast, spent several fortunes in mining for coal, iron, and other things. There was iron at Ballyshannon, but what was the good? It cost less to bring iron to England from Algiers. We had no railway to Donegal, fifteen miles away, and cartage was too expensive. So far from Home Rule doing us any good, it would be a cruel blow to the country, and especially to the poor. Employment would become very scarce, as everybody who had money invested in Ireland would be in haste to realise and get it away. There would be no new enterprises, although the poor folk say, "We'll get employment in big factories and mines." Where's the money to come from? From the Irish Parliament, they say. And where will they get it from? Oh, a Parliament always has money. All the money comes from Parliament, which, in fact, actually makes money. The English Parliament makes all the goold sovereigns, and when the Irish Parliament commences to manufacture goold sovereigns at Dublin, then Ireland must be rich. Did not Mr. Gladstone say there would be too much money? Did not he say that in Parliament? That's what the poorest and most ignorant people of Donegal say. The English Home Rulers, by their support of the movement are inflicting injury on the Irish poor. We want the country opening up with railways. The tourist district is unequalled in Europe. Good hotels now, but you reach them mostly by cars. Balfour was giving us rails. That one man in five years did more good to Ireland than all other agencies operating for the previous forty years. I have thought the thing out, and I can speak for that period with certainty. Why could not they let him alone? The blackguards of these parts still shout 'Hell to Balfour.'
"Home Rule means to England a weakening, a loss of prestige, a new and a terrible danger. The Independent says, 'When Ireland next fights England she will not fight alone?' Very true. There is a strong anti-English feeling among the lower American classes, who are largely Irish, who have votes, and by their votes can influence American policy. Let me point out the opinion of Lieutenant-Colonel Butler as recorded in 'The Great Lone Land.' Here it is:—
"You will be told that the hostility of the inhabitants of the United States is confined to one class, and that class, though numerically large, is politically insignificant. Do not believe it for one instant; the hostility to England is universal, it is more deep-rooted than any other feeling, it is an instinct and not a reason, and consequently possesses the dogged strength of unreasoning antipathy. I tell you, Mr. Bull, that were you pitted to-morrow against a race that had not one idea in kindred with your own, were you fighting a deadly struggle against a despotism the most galling on earth, were you engaged with an enemy whose grip was around your neck and whose foot was on your chest, that English-speaking cousin of yours over the Atlantic, whose language is your language, whose literature is your literature, whose civil code is begotten from your digests of law, would stir no hand, no foot, to save you, would gloat over your agony, would keep the ring while you were being knocked out of all semblance of motion and power, and would not be very far distant when the moment came to hold a feast of eagles over your vast, disjointed limbs. Make no mistake about it, and be not blinded by ties of kindred or belief." And, further, "You will find them the firm friend of the Russian, because that Russian is likely to become your enemy in Herat, in Cabul, in Kashgar, in Constantinople. Nay, even should any woman-killing Sepoy put you to sore strait by indiscriminate and ruthless slaughter, he will be your cousin's friend for the simple reason that he is your enemy." Without accepting the gallant Colonel's dictum, it is as well to bear it in mind.
A pensive youth in Ballybofey was deeply engaged with a scrap of ballad literature, not by any means without literary merit. For and in consideration of a Saxon sixpence I became the proprietor of the lay, which is being circulated by thousands throughout Ireland. Those who uphold the reputation of their Irish allies for loyalty to the Queen, and friendship to the English nation, will, doubtless, find their convictions deepened and strengthened by the following sample verses addressed to intending recruits:—
Ye whose spirits will not bow In peace to parish tyrants longer, Ye who wear the villain brow, And ye who pine in hopeless hunger, Fools, without the brave man's faith, All slaves and starvelings who are willing To sell yourselves to shame and death, Accept the fatal Saxon shilling. Ere you from your mountains go To feel the scourge of foreign fever, Swear to serve the faithless foe Who lures you from your land for ever, Swear henceforth its tools to be To slaughter trained by ceaseless drilling, Honour, home, and liberty Abandoned for a Saxon shilling. Go—to find 'mid crime and toil The doom to which such guilt is hurried, Go—to leave on Indian soil Your bones to bleach, accursed, unburied, Go—to crush the just and brave Whose wrongs with wrath the world are filling, Go—to slay each brother slave, Or spurn the blood-stained Saxon Shilling. Irish hearts! why should you bleed, To swell the tide of English glory? Aiding despots in their need, Who've changed our green so oft to gory? None save those who wish to see The noblest killed, the meanest killing, And true hearts severed from the free, Will take again the Saxon Shilling.
The British soldier is the meanest killing the noblest. The poet's name is Buggy. All this is very surprising. Painted by Paddy Mr. John Bull, J.P., will hardly recognise himself. Throughout the Nationalist literature he is represented as a liar, a coward, a bully, a hypocrite, a tyrant, and a robber. If he now consented to be made the instrument of persons whose ascertained opinions exactly harmonise with those enunciated above, the epithets of Fool and Idiot will doubtless be added to the list. And in this instance the evil speakers would be quite right. Quod demonstrandum est.
Killygordon, July 29th.
No. 55.—A TRULY PATRIOTIC PRIEST.
The rhythmical rocking of the little engine of the West Donegal line running across from Killygordon seemed to say ceaselessly—
Here's a health to ye, Father O'Flynn, Slainthe (health), and slainthe, and slainthe agin— Powerfullest pracher, an' tinderest tacher, An' kindliest crature in ould Donegal!
Father O'Flynn must have been like a priest I met on Sunday, a Loyalist and a Conservative. Priests of the old school are becoming scarcer and scarcer every year, but one or two still exist. They do not "get on." It is understood that their political attitude forbids promotion. A priest who confesses to a respect for the Queen is not likely to be acceptable to the multitude. A priest who believes that the British laws are just and equitable, and that things would be better remaining as they are, is looked upon as a lusus naturae. He said:—"I am a South of Ireland man, and was educated at Douai. I have no sympathy with the great bulk of the Maynooth men, who are mostly peasants and the sons of peasants. I do not think that the Maynooth course is sufficient in one generation to lift the sons to any great intellectual height above the besotted ignorance of the parents. I believe in heredity, and I say that most of my colleagues are only shaved labourers, stall-fed for three years. The low-bred men are now the dominant power. Instead of tranquillising the people, which I hold to be the duty of the clergy, they have done all they could to awaken and keep alive their most dangerous passions. And to rouse the Irish, especially the Southern Irish, is a matter of the greatest facility. I hold that the clergy by degenerating into mere political agents are strangely short-sighted. Their spiritual influence will in time be dangerously undermined, and in the long run they will take nothing by their motion. The Parnellite party will grow stronger and stronger, and the extreme party, the party of Revolution, which now lacks a leader, would on the passing of a Home Rule bill become the dominant power. That is a great and salient factor of which up to the present English politicians have taken no account. The party of Revolution is the party which under an Irish Parliament would be master of the situation. Leaders will not be lacking. But at present the party must from the necessity of the case be amorphous, and therefore, politically and as a power, practically non-existent. Pass the bill, and then you will see something. A new party, the party of Independence, or, as they will call it, of Freedom, will take shape and formidably influence events. The temptation to take the lead will be great. Independence and Separation will be a most popular cry. The present men must either join the swim or be denounced as traitors, and as Healy cannot now visit Dundalk without two hundred policemen to protect him, while William O'Brien was nearly torn to pieces at Cork—would, in fact, have been murdered but for the police—you may conceive what would be the state of things when we have a Revolutionary party and when the police were no longer under the fair and judicial control of the British Government. Pass the bill and look out for the Revolutionary party. They will have an immense backing in point of numbers. And numbers rule in Ireland, not intelligence. The bill will, of course, give nothing that the peasants expect. The fault will assuredly lie with John Bull. The expectations of the ignorant, that is, the great mass of the people, will be woefully disappointed. Who is to blame? they will ask. Numbers of politicians are waiting to tell them. Who but the brutal, greedy, selfish, perfidious Saxon? An agitation will succeed, compared with which the worst times of the Land League were preferable. I shudder to think of the chaos, the seething and weltering confusion of the time to come. The Irish people, the poor ignorants, will suffer most. And yet they are innocent in this matter. They have, indeed, been blamed with the excesses of a few of their number, but they are, if left to themselves, a most kindly and law-abiding people. The Donegal peasants are the best in the country. You will see poverty, but the degradation of filthiness and laziness is not nearly so marked as in the South and West, where the climate is warm, moist, enervating.
"What, then, are my opinions, expressed in a concise form? I will tell you. They are what you would call sound. They are the opinions of Balfour, of Lord Salisbury. I hold Mr. Balfour in profound esteem as a wise and sagacious administrator, a terror to evil-doers, and an encourager of those who do well. I have a real affection for Mr. Balfour, as for a great benefactor of my beloved country. For I love my country so well that I feel the keenest personal interest in her welfare. Perhaps I have a deeper affection for Ireland than even Tim Healy or Sexton or Harcourt or O'Brien. What do I think of Gladstone? I think him a scourge of Ireland, a curse, a destroyer far worse than Oliver Cromwell. A heaven-born statesman? Do his followers call him that? Well, I can only say that I hope and trust that heaven will not be blessed with any further family."
A military officer resident in this region, an Irishman bred and born, said, "It's all a matter of religion. I was the other day reading Maxwell's account of the Irish rebellion of 1798, and I observed that although the Northern rebellion, which was the most dangerous, as being the best organised, was mainly led by Protestants, yet in other parts of Ireland, when a suspected person was captured by the rebels, the first question was, not are you in favour of the Irish Republic, but what is your religion? And the Protestants generally had their throats cut. The same thing would occur again, under similar circumstances. Religion would be the test. If a general state of lawlessness should at any time arise, the Protestants in lonely districts would not be safe from murder. Yes, I do say it, and I stick to it. A very large number of outrages have been committed which would not have taken place but for the religion of the offending party. It is a virtue to lie to a heretic, to cheat him, to damage him, to keep him out of heaven if possible. Anybody who knows Catholic Ireland would agree with this most heartily. They believe that whosoever killeth heretics doeth God service.
"Irish folks are better than the people of other nations, and also much worse. When they are good they are very good, and when they are bad they are very bad. They run to extremes in a way which cool-headed Britons do not understand. They are impulsive, and they jump to conclusions. Their great disadvantage is a crushing clerical influence. What's the use of thinking about anything when Father Pat does it for them? What's the use of listening to argument when you must in the end vote as Father Pat orders?
"Englishmen have no idea what a splendid fellow the Irish peasant really is when his mind is not poisoned and his unfortunate ignorance exploited. I could give you instances of fidelity, affectionate self-sacrifice and devotion which would astonish you. Not isolated or sporadic cases, but arising from the average level of the Irish character. After considerable travel, and a painstaking study of the characteristics of various nations, I have come to the conclusion that, taking one consideration with another, I prefer Paddy, ignorant as he is. For after all his ignorance is not his own fault. He sees no newspapers except an occasional local sheet, which is almost certain to be a wretched, lying, priest-inspired rag. If he were seen looking at any other it would be bad for him. But newspapers are practically unknown in the agricultural districts. And men do not meet in crowds as in England. They have not the attrition which wears away the angularities. They live solitary among the mountains, or away in the fields, and they never hear lectures, have no Institutes, get no chance of improvement. The priest is their Clan Chieftain, their spiritual adviser, their temporal adviser, their newspaper, their only channel of superior information." At this point a tall, red-bearded man who was passing touched his hat to the Colonel, who said, "My gamekeeper. A fine, rough-coated Scotsman. Came over here a mad Gladstonian. Pinned his faith to the G.O.M. Followed him blindly, and owned he was content to do it. Get into conversation with him. Observe the change, the decided change in his opinions."
Soon I had Velveteens in full cry. His opinions were indeed decided. Having admitted that they had boxed the compass during a six months' residence in this down-trodden country, he went on to say, "The only way ye could cure the discontent is to make no attempt at it. Then the agitation would stop. The people are the biggest fules I ever saw. Instead of returning a sound, advanced Radical like Emerson T. Herdman, a man who pays them thirty or forty thousand a year, and who spends all his money in their midst, the fules go and vote for a thing like Arthur O'Connor, who never was here but once, and who never did them the compliment of issuing an address. When Mr. Herdman came to Stranorlar the people stoned him and his friends. And yet nobody ever said, or could say, a word against the Herdmans, who are among the most popular people in Ireland, and who deserve the best that can be said of them. O'Connor costs these poor folks two hundred pounds a year. They raise it in the constituency. Mr. Herdman would have cost them nothing, and might have spent even more than he does at present. He has opened up the greatest industry in the North-west of Ireland, keeps a whole country-side going, and is an out-and-out Liberal. The greatest exertions were made to secure his return, and the Catholics promised to vote for him. He stumped the country, and left no stone unturned. The Nationalist candidate never came here till the last moment, and, as I said, issued no address. The people knew nothing of him, and had never heard of him. But they voted as the priests told them, and they would have voted for a stick. Ought such people to have the franchise?
"What would I do to settle the Irish question? I've heard that somebody proposed sinking the country for twenty-four hours. That might do. Or you could withdraw the police and military, and in every market town open a depot for the gratuitous distribution of arms and ammunition. In ten days there would only be a very small population, and you could then plant the country with people who would make the best of it, and mind their work, instead of spending their time standing about waiting for Home Rule to make them rich without work. Or you could make a law which required every priest in the country to clear out in twenty-four hours, on penalty of death. That is as impossible as sinking the island, but it would be quite as sure a cure. Those are my opinions, and those must be the opinions of every man who has lived here and looked about him for a reasonable length of time. The Scots Gladstonians are very decent folk. They mean well, and they are friendly to Ireland. Their only fault lies in following their hero, and in thinking that he cannot do wrong. If they knew what I know, they would be of my mind. For I was as great a Gladstonian as any of them."
A Presbyterian farmer said:—"On this estate the whole of the tenants are Presbyterians. The agent told me that early in June the whole of the rents up to May were paid, and that he would think that there was not such another case in Ireland. How is that? Well, if the tenants had been Romanists they would have so many things to pay. The priests live like fighting cocks. Father McFadden, of Gweedore, makes from a thousand to fifteen hundred a year. That is the man on whose door-step Inspector Martin was murdered. The crowd beat out his brains with palings, and when he tried to get into the priest's house, the door was shut in his face. The clergy live well, and drink like troopers. The easiest job in Ireland, and—if your conscience would allow it—the best in every way. You are treated with great respect, you have great influence, you have nothing to do, and you are extremely well paid for it. Sometimes I think that humbug pays better than hard work. The priests do not look after the poor. They do not work among the destitute and ignorant after the fashion of the English clergy. They are always extracting, extracting, extracting. The poor are ground down by their exactions till they can't pay their rent. And that is why the agent said that probably no other estate in Ireland could show such a record as ours.
"Home Rule will not satisfy the people. An Irish Parliament will do them no good, no, nor fifty Irish Parliaments. They are unfriendly to England because she is Protestant. People of the only true faith cannot bear to be governed by a heretic nation. The laws are all right, and they know it, but their animosity is excited by stories of wrong-doing in their forefathers' days, and while on the one hand they feel that they might easily be better off, on the other they are told that the brutal Saxon keeps them poor. All this is done by the priests. They actually admit that the English laws are excellent, but then they fall back on the allegation that their administration is corrupt. In vain you point to the Roman Catholic judges. In vain you go over England's successive attempts to pacify Ireland by conciliatory measures. The priest ruins all, for while your friend seems to agree with you—they are so easily led—yet the priest will secure his vote to a certainty. So long as a heretic power is at the head, so long Ireland will be discontented. If the country were under the rule of a Roman Catholic power, the people of Ireland would be satisfied with any laws whatever. They would not grumble at anything. The only alternative is the spread of education, and that goes on very slowly in Ireland. We are very, very backward in Donegal, but not nearly so bad as in the south and west. We have a bad name for poverty and ignorance, but we do not deserve it in the same degree as the Munster and Connaught folks. We dislike the Connaught people just as much as you do in England. We hate dirt, and lawlessness and disorder, and therefore we claim to be superior to the rest of the poor counties. This is, of course, the civilised part of Donegal. But wherever you go, you see nothing like the dirt of counties Galway and Mayo.
"We want railways to open up the country. Balfour was building them for us, and his institution of the Congested Districts Board did wonderful things for us. Why, if he had done nothing but improve the breed of fowls he would still have been worthy of remembrance as a benefactor of this country. Before the Congested Board Committee introduced superior breeds of fowls, the chickens were like blackbirds. You could sit down and eat half-a-dozen of them. They were no bigger than your thumb. But now we can get fowls equal to anything you have in England. The same may be said of the horses, the pigs, the cows, and all kinds of domestic animals and poultry. The fishing industry has saved whole districts from starvation, and has done good all round. When we get an Irish Parliament the grants for all these purposes will be discontinued, and the tide of progress will be checked. The poor folks are quite unable to see that by sticking to England we have a wealthy neighbour to borrow from, and that this is an inestimable advantage to a poor country like Ireland. Not long ago I mentioned this to a priest, but he said, 'When we have a Parliament of our own we'll not need to borrow money, for we'll have more than we know what to do with. Did not Mr. Gladstone say we should have a chronic plethora of money? John Bull certainly sends some money over here, but he had it from here to begin with. He stole it from Ireland, and he is only like a thief whose conscience urges him to restore a portion, a very small portion, of the stolen goods. When we get Independence—he used the word Independence—we shall be in a position to lend money instead of needing to borrow!' The person who said all this is the most influential politician of this district. His word to his flock is law. Not one of them dare for his life vote otherwise than as he tells them. They do not think this a hardship. They have no political convictions, and would just as soon vote any one way as any other."
A Donegal Home Ruler said that the poor folks were quite right in following the priests, and wanted to know if they would be right in following the Tories. He said:—"They are no more ignorant than the British working men, and not less independent. Don't the working classes follow their leaders, voting in heaps, just as they are told, without any notion of the Empire's greatness, and entirely with a view to their own interests? Could anybody be more stupid, more totally incapable of giving a valid reason for his action than your vaunted British workman? Why, if the specimens we get over here are any guide, if the samples are anything like the bulk, you might as well poll a flock of sheep as a crowd of British working men. I say the Irish peasantry are superior in intellect, conduct, and chayracther, and that in following the priest they are acting as reasonable as your British working-man, who follows his strike leaders and trade agitators, and is perpetually cutting off his nose to spite his face. No, we shall not get Home Rule now, but we must have it later on. Then we shall demand more. Every time we have to ask we shall want more and more. We shall wring it from England, and we shall make her pay for the trouble she gives. She must be charged a sort of war indemnity."
The Dundalk press is on my track. I heard of this in Newry, but the Dundalk papers do not reach the next town to Dundalk, and not a sheet could be had for love or money. A friend having told me that the Gazette was reviled, great efforts were made to obtain the reviling print, but in vain. At last I saw the Dundalk Democrat, which in a two-column comment on its colleague's maledictions of your humble commissioner cleared me of the charges brought by the original thunderer, which I have not yet been able to see. One of the said charges is based on the statement that I asked to be allowed to be present at the meeting, which permission was readily accorded. The meeting was public and was placarded from one end of Dundalk to the other. The public were invited to assemble in their thousands, and to join in the onward march to freedom. Not more than twenty people answered to the call, and the meeting was therefore a dead failure. The idea of asking leave to be present at a public meeting is absurd. The vituperative print says that I was not asked to deliver an address, but was told that I could "do so if I liked." The truth is manifest by the admitted fact that I declined, as being no speaker. Such is the minute hair-splitting of Irish argumentation. The quips and cranks of Tipperary Humphreys will be remembered, the paltry quibbles by which he sought to establish a case, and his final retreat under cover of the statement that he could not have believed that "such a state of things was possible." The Dundalk marchers to freedom (to the number of twenty) were not precisely the pick of the local respectability, and my escape must be regarded as providential. As to their outpourings of abuse, my philosophy resembles that of the old whipper-in of the Meynell-Ingram Hounds:—"I bain't a cruel chap, I bain't. But when I puts the lash among the hounds I dew like to hear 'em yowl; I dew like to see 'em skip, and writhe, and look mad. For if ye don't make 'em feel, and if ye can't hear 'em yowl, there's railly no pleasure in thrashin' of 'em."
Donegal, August 1st.
No. 56.—DO-NOTHING DONEGAL.
Donegal improves on acquaintance. At first dull, dreary, and disappointing, a more extended examination reveals much that is interesting. The river Eske runs through the town, rippling over a rocky bed of limestone like the Dee at Llangollen. Mountains arise on every hand, some in the foreground, green and pleasant, backed by sterile ranges having serrated summits, dark and frowning. The harbour has an old-world look, with its quaint fishing boats and groves of trees running down to the water's edge. The land is decidedly humpy, and the sea meanders among the meadows in long fillets like trout brooks, sometimes tapering off to narrow ditches over which you can easily step at highest tide. The land is fertile, mostly grazing, and the cattle are of large and superior breed. The country is well wooded, and the hedgerows are tall and well-kept. The ancient abbey, like Mr. Gladstone's reputation, is in ruins. There is a ruined castle on the river bank, and on the other side, exactly opposite, a Methodist church, bearing the legend, ALL ARE WELCOME. The principal "square" is triangular, and has some good shops, which do most of their business on market-days. An enormous anchor, half embedded in the mud of the harbour, was left there by the French fleet during "the throubles of the ruction." It is rather in the way, but three generations of Irishmen have not found time to remove it. "Like ourselves and our counthry it will stick in the mud until the end of time," said a native. There is much lounging at corners by men who are probably waiting for the Home Rule Bill, but the people compare favourably with those of the South and West. They have more grit, more industry, more perseverance. They are simple, civil, and obliging. They are also cleaner and more tidy than the Southerners, though decidedly poorer. "They get no price for their produce, no reasonable wages for their industry. Their patience and contentment are surprising, considering their circumstances. You can get work done for twopence a day. The Southerners get thrice the money for their farm produce. We have no ready means of getting things on the market. I have thirty tons of hay to sell, and nobody in the district would give me a pound for it." Thus spake one of the leading citizens, a Roman Catholic, dead against Home Rule. "The resident gentry are all we have to depend upon. Once plant a Parliament in Dublin, and there will be a general exodus of the moneyed classes. Then the poor folks will have nobody to look to, and they must follow them to England—which will certainly be overrun with destitute Irish. Things have grown worse and worse during the last ten years. Under a steady Government the country would gradually improve until the comfort of the people would give the agitators nothing to work upon. But with change upon change, with one final settlement upon another final settlement, we don't know where we are, nor what is going to happen next. How can we settle down to work? How can we launch out into industrial enterprises? Every man who has anything holds his hand for fear of loss. An Irish Parliament would be a Parliament of confiscation, and nobody knows where they would draw the line. Mr. Gladstone's land legislation has been a succession of swindles. The principle of judicial rents is an atrocious violation of the principles of business, one of which lays down the dictum that a thing is worth as much as it will fetch. Surely the landlord ought to be allowed to accept the offer of the highest bidder. And if you take from him that right, and say to him you shall only accept such a price, then you should at least guarantee the payment. But no, Mr. Gladstone says you shall only have a certain price, and you must recover the money as best you can. The judicial rent law, so much vaunted, is not so good as it looks. It is often a premium on indolence and a punishment of industry, and therefore grossly unjust. Let me tell you how it works in Donegal.
"Thirty years ago two men took contiguous farms of exactly the same extent, at the same rent. There was not a pin to choose in the land, either. One of them worked continuously, improving the farm until he almost wrought himself to pieces. He and his children were at it night and day, and their industry did wonders, as it always does. The other was a lazy fellow, who lay in bed till mid-day and spent half his waking hours at fairs and dances. The land in his occupation deteriorated until it seemed to want reclaiming. The rent of both farms was ten pounds a year. The Land Commission had both cases before them, and, of course, based their estimate on the present value of the land, without reference to any other considerations. Now mark what happened—
"The industrious man, who should have received a premium as a benefactor of his country, had his rent raised from ten pounds to eighteen.
"The lazy man, who should have been kicked out of the country as worthless, and an enemy to progress, had his rent reduced from ten pounds to two pounds fifteen shillings.
"The judicial reductions have hardly ever been of real benefit. The average Irish peasant is so constituted that when he has less to pay he simply makes less effort, or spends the difference, and more than the difference, in extra whiskey.
"The Donegal peasantry derive much benefit from the Irish practice of con-acre. Con-acre means that the land is rented for one crop. It pays the landowner well, and he always gets his money. The man who has no land hires a piece for his potatoes, or for his oats, takes possession when he puts in his seed, and delivers up possession when he gets his crop off the ground. They pay, I think, because they have not the land long enough to long for it altogether."
I climbed the hill behind the Arran Hotel in company with the proprietor, Mr. Timony, who also runs several large shops in Donegal. The view is magnificent, extending in one direction to Carnowee and the Blue Stack mountains, in another far over the wood-fringed bay, and southward to the Benbulben range, terminated by a steep descent like the end of a house. Mr. Timony is a Romanist, but is strongly opposed to Home Rule, which in his opinion would lead to endless trouble and confusion, and would, bring distress on the district, and not prosperity. The hill was covered with mushrooms, which were rotting unregarded. Mine host confessed that he did not know the edible from the poisonous fungi, and said that the peasants of Donegal were in the same case. "There are tons of these things on the mountains, but no one gathers them. They would be afraid to go near them for fear they would drop down dead on the spot." He showed me a large stock of hand-woven cloth made by the peasantry, who, to their credit, have mastered the process from beginning to end, and with their rude appliances produce a good-looking article, of which the only fault is that it can never be worn out. Irishmen will not buy it, but England is an excellent customer, and the trade, already large, is rapidly increasing. Good tweed, twenty-seven inches wide, may be bought in Donegal for a shilling a yard, and stout twills for one-and-sixpence. The people shear the wool, card it, spin it, dye the yarn made from herbs growing on the sea-shore, on the rocks, in the meadows, and weave it into cloth, which is much in vogue for shooting suits and ladies' dresses. The pieces run from twenty to seventy yards long, and whole families are engaged on the work, which commands a ready sale at the wholesale depots, the price being regulated by the fineness, evenness of texture, and equality of tint throughout. The Nationalist advice to burn everything English except English coals, is as hollow as other patriotic utterances. But for England the Donegal peasantry would have no market for their goods. "It isn't fine enough for Irishmen," said Mr. Timony. "They prefer English shoddy. They like the smooth-looking cloth such as I have seen made in Yorkshire, manufactured out of rags. There's not ten pounds of wool in a thousand yards of it. It looks more eyeable, but there is no length nor toughness in the thread, which is made out of old worn-out cloth. Our folks couldn't spin it. They must use good new yarn, or they couldn't work at all. The Yorkshire folks have machinery, and you can do anything with machinery."
A good old Methodist said:—"The English people ought now to realise the pass their Grand Old Gagger has brought them to. The finest assembly of gentlemen in the world are bandying evil names and punching each other's heads. Just what you might expect when the Prime Minister has allied himself with blackguards and law-breakers. I used to be one of his staunchest supporters, but I draw the line at lunacy. When I saw him truckling to low-bred adventurers who are not worth sixpence beyond what they can wring from their dupes, I thought it time to change my course. When I saw the class of men with whom he acts and under whose orders he works, I changed my opinion of the man. For evil communications corrupt good manners, and a man is known by the company he keeps. The whole session has been a degradation of the British Parliament. Things have been going from bad to worse until we have reached the climax. If Mr. Gladstone remains in power we must change the qualifications of our members, and send the best fighting men and the hardest hitters. We must heckle candidates as to their 'science,' and ascertain if their wind is good, and whether they are active on their pins. And in course of time, if the G.O.M. still presides, we shall have the Speaker acting as referee, and calling out 'Time, gentlemen, Time!' Some Gladstonian or other will doubtless accept the post, and in that case we may expect him to sport a long churchwarden and a glass of beer. That is what Mr. Gladstone is bringing on the House, and the tendency has been visible for a long time. When you hear of people continually shouting 'Judas, Judas,' without a word of protest from the Prime Minister, you must admit that the dignity of the House is a thing of the past. When you see the general trend, you can judge what will be the result. When you see in which direction a man is going, you can judge where he will arrive at last.
"For my part, and I can speak for all my friends, we have the greatest confidence in the English people's commonsense, and in the long run we know it will not fail. The Scotsmen, who are honest politicians and keen, are throwing over Mr. Gladstone and all his works, although he was for so long their greatest pride. And we are sure that the few Englishmen who at the last election followed in his wake will see their error, and that they will joyfully seize the first opportunity of repairing their mistake. What would happen if the bill became law? Nothing but evil. The Methodists would leave these parts in a body. We could not remain with a Catholic Parliament in Dublin. We should not be safe but for the English shield that covers us. The people, as a whole, are quiet enough—when left alone. But they are very excitable. Kind and civil as they may seem, they turn round in a moment. They will believe anything they are told, their credulity is wonderful, and their clergy have them entirely in their hands. The people might be tolerant, but the clergy never. And Irish priests are very bitter and very prejudiced. They say that we have bartered eternity for time, and that, although we all thrive and do well, we have sold our souls for earthly prosperity. My mind is made up. Once that bill becomes law you must find room for me in England. We shall be able to live in peace on the other side of the Channel."
Another Methodist believed that the poverty of the people was somehow due to their religion. He knew not precisely why this was the case, but his observations left him no other conclusion. He instanced Strabane, the Scots settlement over the border, and although in Tyrone, yet only divided from Donegal by the river Mourne. "They have at Strabane an annual agricultural and horticultural exhibition, which does a great amount of good in educating the people. Last week they distributed eight hundred pounds in prizes, and there were two thousand two hundred entries. We have talked about a similar show in Donegal, but we never do more than talk. We shall never have a show until we get a sufficient number of Scotsmen to organise it and work it up. The necessary energy for such a big affair seems to be the private property of people holding the Protestant faith, for when we see an energetic Romanist we look upon it as something so remarkable as to merit investigation, and in nearly every case we find the person in question is, although Catholic, either Saxon or half-breed. Nearly all the Papists are Kelts. Is their want of energy due to breed, to religion, or to both? We hardly know. But I know a man's religion a mile off, so to speak. Only let me see him at work in a field. His religion comes out in his action. A Papist never works hard. He seems to be always doing as little as ever he can. Then he's very much surprised to find himself so poor, when the hard-working Protestant is getting on. Presently the Black-mouth gets a farm, while the other remains a labourer. Then the agitator comes round and says, 'Look how heretic England favours Protestants. You are the children of the soil, but who has the farms?' 'Begorra,' says Michael, 'an' that's thrue, bedad it is now,' and thenceforward he cherishes a secret animosity against the successful man, instead of blaming his own want of industry. That's human nature. So he votes for Home Rule, for anything that promises the land to himself, as the son of the soil. He looks on the other man as an interloper, and his priest encourages that view. That is their feeling, as they themselves express it every day, and are we to believe against the evidence of our senses that when they have the power to injure us, to drive us out of the country, by making it too hot to hold us—are we to believe that they will not exert their power, but on the contrary, will treat us considerably better than before? That is what English Home Rulers ask us to believe. That is what Irish Nationalist speakers say in England: they would be laughed at here. Do not trust these men. They are what the Scripture calls 'movers of sedition'—and nothing better."
After some search I found a fine young Parnellite, who roundly denounced the clergy of his own faith as enemies of their country. He said:—"I was a Home Ruler, but although I hold the same opinion in theory, I would not at this juncture put it into practice. I am convinced that it would be bad for us. We are not ripe for self-government. We want years of training before we could govern ourselves with advantage. The South Meath election petition finally convinced me. When I saw how ignorance was used by the clergy for the furtherance of their own ends, I decided that we were not yet sufficiently educated to be entrusted with power; and if Home Rule were now offered to us, and the Home Rule that we ourselves have advocated, I for one would dread to accept it. We must serve an apprenticeship to the art of self-government. We must have a Local Government Bill, and see how we get on. Then it can from time to time be made larger and more liberal, entrusting us as we grow stronger with heavier tasks. Give us Home Rule at this moment and you ruin us. We should have several factions, more intent on getting power and in damaging each other, than on solving all or any of the very complicated and difficult questions which would come before them. There would be no spirit of mutual accommodation such as prevails in English assemblies. And our troubles would be your troubles. Keep it back for a few years, and lead us up to Home Rule by easy gradations.
"My anti-Parnellite friends say they will not return the members now representing them. I believe they will. And if not, then they will send others of no better social standing, and with no Parliamentary training at all. They will send worse men, extreme men, men who have not pledged themselves to the British Government. The pledges of Dillon and Davitt—what are they worth? Surely nobody is so foolish as to rely on such 'safeguards' as these.
"I am sure that three-fourths of the educated Catholics of Ireland are at this moment opposed to Home Rule in any shape or form, but—they dare not say so. Ireland is a land of tyranny, clerical tyranny. Ireland will not be free until the clergy withdraw their influence from politics. If they continue in their present course, there will be a reaction as education advances, and their last state will be worse than the first. I know that some of them would gladly drop politics, but they have to look to their bishops."
A Nationalist tradesman said:—"The Protestants are favoured in every way. Statistics recently given in the Freeman show that the money annually paid to the favoured few, who hold appointments which ought to be open to all, amount to five pounds a head for every Protestant man, woman, and child in the country. The same favouritism runs through everything. If a Catholic bids for a field of grass a Protestant bid is taken, even if lower. I saw it done yesterday."
My friend lost his temper when I asked him to say why the heretic farmers were thriving while those of the true faith were starving, why the heretics were clean while the others were dirty. He at last said that the British Government subsidised all Soupers out of the secret service money, and making a contemptuous grimace, to express his opinion of such miscreants, curled up his hand and passed it behind his back, thus dramatically indicating the underhand way in which the money is conveyed to the favoured recipients.
These people will believe anything. But who tells them this? And why do not the clergy undeceive them?
A final Black-mouth must be quoted. He said that the seller of the standing grass preferred the heretical bid, although lower, "because he felt more sure of the money," and pointing across the triangular square, yclept the Diamond, said:—"All those corner-men are Home Rulers. You never see a Unionist idling the day away at street-corners. We have no Protestant corner-boys in Donegal, nor anywhere else, so far as I know." The townsfolk are fairly industrious, that is, when compared with the people of Southern Irish towns, but there is a residuum—a Home Rule residuum. It sometimes happens that jaded men, worn out with overwork, are recommended to go to some quiet place and to do absolutely nothing. They can't do nothing, they don't know how to begin. They should go to Donegal. The place is silent as the tomb, and if they would learn to do nothing they will there find many eminent professors of the science, who, having devoted to it the study of a lifetime, have attained a virtuoso proficiency.
Donegal, August 3rd.
No. 57.—BAREFOOTED AND DILATORY.
"The Ballyshannon foundered on the coast of Cariboo, And down in fathoms many went the captain and his crew. Down went the owners, greedy men whom hope of gain allured. O, dry the starting tear, for they were heavily insured."
And thereby hangs a tale.
Professor Crawford, of Trinity College, Dublin, says that when walking down Regent Street, London, with William Allingham, then editor of Fraser's Magazine, and a native of this Donegal town, the pair met Charles Dickens, who advanced with beaming countenance, and taking both Allingham's hands in his own, said in a hearty voice:
"Well done, Ballyshannon!"
This was in allusion to a recent article written by the Fraser editor, who among his intimate friends and brother litterateurs was playfully named after his birthplace. W.S. Gilbert was especially fond of the sonorous appellation, and in the above-quoted Bab Ballad, his gem of gems, named the ship Ballyshannon in remembrance of Allingham.
The Ballyshannon folks are "going to" erect a memorial to Allingham, of whose poems they have often heard. They are "going to" advertise their town, and make its beauties known to the world—some day. They are "going to" charter a steam dredger, and so improve the harbour, which is dangerous. They are "going to" utilise the enormous water-power of the River Erne, which runs to waste from Lough Erne to the sea. They are "going to" run a few tweed and blanket factories when they see their way quite clearly. They are "going to" start a fishery fleet and a number of fish-curing sheds, to give employment to the poor folks of the district. They need almost everything that man can need, and they have especial facilities for supplying needs, but as yet they have lacked time and opportunity. The town is only a thousand years old, and its inhabitants have not yet had time to look about them. A number of English anglers stroll about with long salmon rods, or float their little barks on the broad bosom of the Erne, the population looking dreamily on from the long bridge over the river, which, like the Shannon at Athlone, flows through the heart of the town. Nobody seems to be doing anything, except a few old beggar woman squalid and frowsy as the mendicant hordes of Tuam, Tipperary, Limerick, and Galway. The beggars are pertinacious enough for anything, but theirs is the only enterprise the stranger sees. Compared with that of Donegal the salmon-fishing seems expensive. The landlord of the Arran Hotel in that town offers the Eske at half-a-crown a day, but in Ballyshannon you must pay four pounds a week and give up all the take except two. Salmon are scarce all over Ireland this year. Three English fishers on the Erne shared the universal bad luck, for in three days they had only captured one five-pounder. The unusual drought has made the water low. The weather of the past five months has been finer and dryer than any season for sixty years. Ballyshannon looks dirty and dingy in any weather. It lacks the smartness, the cleanliness, the width of thoroughfare, which mark the heretic towns. It lacks the factories, the large shops, the shipping which would infallibly be to the fore if its inhabitants were mainly of Teuton origin. On the other hand, the Ballyshannon folks are religious. They go to mass regularly, and confess themselves at frequent intervals. The confessional box is their only place to spend a happy day, and the act of confession, with the following penance, their pleasantest mode of passing away the time. They are mostly Home Rulers, and are deferring special effort to better themselves until the Irish Parliament does away with the necessity. That blessed institution once fairly settled at College Green will spare them the pains of enterprise, and will show how large industries can be created and sustained without capital, without business knowledge, without technical skill, and for the sole purpose of affording the shiftless population of Ballyshannon regular wages at the week's end. The gentlemen who lean over the quaint bridge, with its twelve arches and sharply-pointed buttresses, are merely waiting for the factories, which are to spring from the earth fully-equipped at a wave of the enchanter's hand, to be a blessing to the whole world while fulfilling their chief mission of finding employment for the people of Ireland. Meantime the Ballyshannoners are bitterly wroth with England because she has not hurried up with the desired factories long ages ago. They smoke thick twist and expectorate into the river, talking moodily of the selfish Saxon, who instead of looking after them looks after himself, and praising Tim Healy, whose spare cash is invested in a factory in Scotland. Tim knows his countrymen; but, although his cleverness is by them much admired, they do not know how really clever he is. If they could realise the fact that Tim declines to invest in Ireland they might admire him still more. The great drawback to Irish enterprise lies in the fact that Irishmen who have brains enough to make money have brains enough to invest it out of Ireland. They will not trust Irishmen, nor will they rely on Irish industry. Ballyshannon is waiting for the impersonal Somebody or the shadowy Something that is to come forward and put everything right. Galway is so waiting, Limerick is so waiting, Cork is so waiting, Westport, Newport, Donegal are so waiting. It never occurs to them to do something for themselves. When the suggestion is made they become irate, and excitedly ask, What could we do? How are we to begin? Where are we to find the money? Who is to take the first step? They fail to see that the settlement towns have long since answered these queries, and that the capacity to do so marks the difference in the breeds. These hopeless, helpless, Keltic Irishmen are unfit for self-government. They require the india-rubber tube and the feeding-bottle. They want to be spoon-fed and patted on the back when they choke. To instance the Scots settlements is to madden them. These thriving communities are a standing reproach, and cannot be explained away. Saxon Strabane flourishes, while Keltic Donegal declines, the latter having all the advantages of the former with the addition of a harbour and good fishing grounds. "Look at the condition of the country," say the Home Rulers. "Behold the poverty of the peasantry," they continually do cry. The visible nakedness of the land is their chief and most effective argument. The Unionist answer is conclusive, and of itself should be enough to demolish the Nationalists. See the Protestant communities of Ireland,—all, without exception, advancing in prosperity. They have no advantages which are denied to the Nationalists. On the contrary, they live in the comparatively bleak and unfertile North, which by their unceasing industry they have developed to its fullest extent. They have tilled the ground until it resembles a garden, they have deepened the rivers, built harbours, created industries, been in every way successful. And all under precisely the same laws, the same government. The richest spots of Ireland, if inhabited by Keltic Irish, are steeped in poverty. The poorest spots, if inhabited by men of Saxon blood, become fat and well-liking. The fate of men lies mostly in themselves. This comes out forcibly in Ireland. Race, breed, heredity, call it what you will, in Ireland thrusts its influence on you, whether you will or no. Neighbouring towns, neighbouring farms, neighbouring cottages, present a series of striking contrasts, ever in favour of the Saxon, ever against the Kelt. The latter has not yet discovered that the secret word, the open sesame of the difficulty, the charm which only can give permanent comfort, is—Work. Nor has his race the spirit of mechanical invention or industrial enterprise, without which College Green Parliaments may sit in vain. The pure-blooded Kelt is easily discouraged, and no man sooner knows when he is beaten. More than this, he always expects to be beaten, so that he is beaten before he begins. As a talker he is unequalled, and in this long-eared age, when the glibbest gabbler is reckoned the greatest man, his agitators have floated to the front. The Ballyshannon people can talk with the volubility of a Hebrew cheap Jack, but their jaw-power, like their water-power, mostly runs to waste. They have the silly suspicion and the childish credulity of the Donegal rural districts. A fluent politician said, "Why are all the Protestants Unionists? Perfectly simple, that. Because they are all well off. There you are. And being well off, they want no change. That's their selfishness. Now we, who are not Protestants (thank God), are for the most part poor. Our living is precarious. We don't know where to look, nor what to do, to improve our worldly position. We think it likely that an Irish Parliament would do something for us. In what way? Why, in the direction of public works and in the building of factories. Also in the protection of Irish industries. Where would the money come from? Why, from England, to be sure. And if England wouldn't lend it, plenty of other nations would; America, for instance. We shall have heaps of money. Mr. Gladstone has said it, and he is famous as a financier. There you have the reason why we want Home Rule, while the Protestants don't. They are well enough off already.
"Why are they well off, you ask? Also easy to answer. They have been the spoiled children of fortune. They have been petted and pampered by England for more than two hundred years. And although you will not of course admit it, yet we know, everybody here knows, that they have been secretly subsidised by every Tory Government. If they pay their rents, where do they get the money? From the Tory party. And Tory landlords give the best farms to Protestants, who having the pick of the land, ought to be well off. Wherever you go you will find the Protestants living on good land."
I submitted that authentic records show that Ulster was formerly the most sterile, barren, unpromising part of Ireland, and that the change was entirely due to the two centuries of unremitting labour which the Scots settlers and their descendants had bestowed on the land; but, waiving this point, I asked him why the Unionist, that is, the Protestant, party were so much better educated, and why the heretics were so much cleaner. He had stated that the Black-mouths were subsidised by the Tory Party. Did the British Government also supply them with soap?
At this point my friend's explanations became unintelligible, but his general drift seemed to indicate that the people were too downtrodden, too much oppressed, were groaning too painfully under the cruel British yoke, to have the spirit to look after the duties of the toilet. In other words, the Irish people will wash themselves when they get Home Rule. At the next election Mr. Gladstone will doubtless bring forward this aspect of the case as a sop to the soap-making interest.
Another Ballyshannoner was of a diametrically opposite opinion. "We are poor because we have no notion of making money by modern methods. We have always lived on the land, selling our superfluity to pay the rent, and now that our arrangements are disturbed, we don't know which way to turn. The blame rests with America, whose competition has so lowered the price of produce that the farmer's superfluity, that is, what he does not consume himself, will no longer suffice to pay the rent. That is a general statement only. Landlords are generally reasonable, and meet their tenants fairly enough when the tenants are well-disposed and honest. The tenant-farmers of Ireland have no more to complain of than the tenant-farmers of England—much less in fact—but they have an army of agitators, an ignorant English press, and the G.O.M. on their side. That makes all the difference. We have occasional cases of unfair landlordism, but they are so rare as to be the talk of a county or two.
"A Mrs. Hazlitt holds, with her farm, about twenty or thirty acres of slobland reclaimed from the Atlantic. Slobland is land reclaimed from the sea. This piece is on Donegal Bay. It was protected by a great dyke after the Dutch style. But the Atlantic is sometimes angry, and then he becomes unmanageable. He was ill-tempered one night (being troubled with wind), and he just washed down the dyke and inundated the reclaimed meadows, upon, which I have seen the most beautiful crops. The landlord, the Reverend James Hamilton, a Protestant rector, insists on rent being paid for this washed-away land. He does not rebuild the dyke, and the land lies waste—the widow paying rent for acres of useless salt marsh. That is pointed to by all the malcontents in Donegal as a specimen of landlordism, and Protestant landlordism, and more especially reverend Protestant landlordism. Nobody but a parson would exact the rent. These isolated examples are cited to bring discredit on Protestant landlords in general.
"This town is asleep, and it will not awake till the last Judgment. In 1885 we had a manufacturer from Belfast looking about for the best place for a big cloth mill on the river. The town was in a ferment of excitement, and everybody began to wonder what he would do with his additional income. The shop-keepers expected that their customers would have twice the money to spend in future, and the working folks began to be cocky with their employers, saying that they would get much better wages at the great factory. Then Mr. Gladstone brought out his '86 bill, and the Belfast man drew in his horns. He told me that he would not risk a farthing in any speculative venture while the threat of Home Rule was held over us. He was quite right. The Ballyshannon men were relieved from the trouble of deciding how they would spend their surplus money, and they ranged themselves on the bridge or at their usual corners, where you may now see them, propping up the old houses with their lazy backs, and discussing the wrongs of Ireland. What they would do without their supposed, wrongs nobody knows. In English hands this would be a money-making place. We have enormous advantages of situation, and the water power is almost unequalled in Ireland. Yet from here to Belleek, a distance of four miles, there is nothing whatever being done with it.
"The backwardness of the Irish and their poverty are, in my opinion, due to their inferiority as a race of men. Wherever there is a factory, you will find all the foremen Protestants—that is, Saxons. And Irishmen expect it. They will not work under Irish foremen, if they can help it. The Catholic labourer will work for the Protestant farmer, for choice, every time. The Catholic housekeeper goes to the Protestant shop, by preference. Where their own personal and earthly interests are concerned, the Papist population always prefer the guidance of the cursed heretic. And yet they express for the Black-mouths the greatest contempt and aversion, and would willingly put them out of the country to-morrow. That is because they wish to possess our goods. They vote for Home Rule in the belief that they are paving the way for a dismissal of Protestants, and the division of their property. They do not know the name of the man who represents them, the title of the Parliamentary division for which he sits, or even, in many cases, the name of the county in which they themselves reside. To talk reason to such people would be absurd. Trained from their infancy to regard England as an enemy, they would not listen to anyone speaking on her behalf. They declare that they are barefoot because England wears their shoes, that they are starving that England may be over-fed. The how, the why, the wherefore are not within their ken, but they are sure of the facts. They had them from Father Dick, Tom, or Harry, and the holy man would not tell a lie. Stupid people over the Channel, listening to this iterated complaint, are acting as though it were true. Gladstone took it up, and his followers followed. No doubt it was all that most of them could do. Result,—tumult, disturbance, confusion worse confounded. Home Rule means that the country will be deluged with blood, that civilisation will receive a shock which will send back the island for a century. The causes of Ireland's poverty are laziness and lack of enterprise, the latter accentuated by everlasting disturbance. Before the Nationalists we had the Fenians, the Whiteboys, the Ribbon-men, the United Irishmen, the Defenders, the goodness-knows-what, running back in continuous line up to the dawn of history. No wonder we are poor. Cannot Gladstonians read the records? If they did so, and if they were acquainted with the character of the Irish when in their native land, they would agree with my cook, herself a Kelt of Kelts, who says that Irishmen are leather, good leather, but fit only for the sole, and not for the uppers.
"I used to regard Mr. Gladstone as an honest man. Now I think otherwise. As for the ruck that follow him—well, if they were intelligent when honest, or honest when intelligent, nobody could understand their deviation from the path of reason and rectitude. But the rogues will of course do anything they think will suit them best, no matter what befalls their country; and as for the rest, why of course no reasonable man would blame people for not thinking, when Providence has not provided them with the requisite machinery."
Ballyshannon, August 5th.
No. 58.—THE TRUTH ABOUT BUNDORAN.
There is no railway between Donegal and Ballyshannon, fifteen miles away. The largest town in the county is not connected with the principal port. But you can steam from Ballyshannon to Bundoran, the favourite watering-place of Donegal, quaint and romantic, with a deep bay and grassy cliffs. The bathing-grounds have a smooth floor of limestone, and the Atlantic rolls in majestically, sending aloft columns of white spray as its waters strike the outlying islands of rock, each with a green crown of vegetation. The bare-headed and bare-legged natives walk side by side with the fashionably-dressed citizens of Dublin, Belfast, and Londonderry. The poorest folks are tolerably clean, and, unlike the Southerners, occasionally wash their feet. The town is small, but there is plenty of good accommodation for holiday makers. Bundoran is Catholic and intolerant. Although depending on their Protestant countrymen for nine-tenths of their livelihood, the people of Bundoran object to Protestantism, and the intensity of their antipathy to the Black-mouths has impelled them to quarrel with their bread-and-butter. Of late the question of tolerance has been much discussed. Sapient persons whose assumption is equal to their ignorance of the subject, affect to despise the fears of the scattered Protestant population whose alarm is based on the experience of a lifetime. English Home Rulers who wish to create effect unblushingly affirm that the Protestants are the only intolerants, and that the Papists are as distinguished for affectionate toleration as for industry and honesty. In direct opposition to daily experience and the evidence of history, they assert that the Papists are the persecuted party, and that they only practise their religion with fear and trembling. Notwithstanding the well-known doctrine of the Roman Church, which preserves heaven exclusively for those within its own pale, these eccentric politicians aver that under a Roman Catholic Parliament, elected by the clergy alone, the isolated Protestants of Catholic Ireland, known in the Papist vernacular as Black-faces, Black-mouths, Heretics, Soupers, and Jumpers, would be treated with perfect consideration, would enjoy the fullest freedom, the most indulgent toleration, would, in short, be placed in a position of equality with the predestined inhabitants of Paradise, or, to quote Catechism, the inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. The persons most nearly concerned know better. The shrewd farmers of Ulster, like the Puritan brethren of Leinster, Munster, and Connaught, are entirely devoid of faith in the promised Papist toleration. Protestant equality under a Home Rule Parliament! You might as well tell them to plant potatoes and expect therefrom a crop of oats. Men do not gather grapes off thorns nor figs off thistles.
The Bundoran Protestants have evidence to offer. The date is recent. Not two hundred years ago, but in the year of grace eighteen-hundred-and-ninety-three. Seeing that the little seaside resort was full of holiday-makers from the Protestant counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone, two young Protestant clergymen determined to hold Gospel services in a tent which was pitched in a field the property of Mr. James A. Hamilton, J.P. For about a week beforehand handbills announcing the services for July 21 had been distributed in the town and suburbs, but no controversial topic was mentioned, nor was it intended that the services should be other than strictly evangelical. The tent was erected solely to accommodate the great influx of visitors, after the manner so familiar in England. Here was a test of Papal toleration. The tent was on private ground, and if Papists did not like it they could easily keep away, making a wry face and spitting out the abomination as they passed, after their liberal custom. This, however, was not enough. No sooner had the handbills been issued, than a most scurrilous placard appeared, calculated to inflame the passions of the ignorant, and to make them act after their kind. The Gospellers were accused of an attempt to poach on the Papal preserves, and it was mockingly stated that they had at last come to Christianise the benighted Papists. The effect of this placard was soon evident. It became known that the Roman Catholics of the district had determined that they would allow no Gospel services in Bundoran. The police authorities, who know all about Papist "tolerance," increased the small village force to twenty-five men, but, as the result proved, these were absolutely useless. A mob of more than a thousand pious ruffians gathered early in the evening, and attacked in a brutal and merciless manner every person they suspected of being on the way to the meeting. The two Evangelists went to the tent under the escort of the twenty-five policemen, but before they could commence the service the apostles of toleration made a desperate rush on the congregation, most of whom were struck with bludgeons and stones, knocked down, kicked, and otherwise maltreated. The constabulary with great determination, but with much difficulty, protected the two young clergymen, upon whom a most venomous attack was made. The Protestants defended themselves with umbrellas, walking-sticks, and the like, but being strongly charged these proved of little avail against the wild onslaught of the party of toleration. Well may the local paper say that "a regular panic pervades the resident and visiting Protestant families."
Mr. Morley, replying to a question in the House, said the reports were exaggerated. The hapless Irish Secretary, unable to meet this and similar charges with denial, always relies on the plea of "exaggeration." The statement given above is derived from eye-witnesses of both creeds, and from an official source. One word as to the plea of exaggeration.
When I had investigated the fifteen moonlighting atrocities of four weeks in County Limerick, the County Inspector, who had just returned from a conference with Mr. Morley, said to me:—
"Everything is ve-ry quiet. We're going on very nicely now." But the Gazette gave particulars of the shooting in the legs of the four members of the Quirke family, and Mr. Morley was obliged to admit the fifteen outrages which constituted County Inspector Moriarty's idea of "quiet." Subordinates will say there is peace when there is no peace, if the master requires it. The Bundoran outrage is not susceptible of exaggeration. Call another witness.
The Sligo Independent, which being published on the spot can speak with authority, says that "the intolerant and bigoted Roman Catholics of Bundoran and surrounding districts look upon Protestantism as a kind of leprosy which ought at all hazards to be stamped out," and further states that "even the ladies did not escape their fanatical hatred and fury. Several people were severely injured, and a clergyman who was coming to the meeting with his Bible in his hand, was thrown down and badly beaten, the Book being torn from him and destroyed. What may Protestants expect should the Home Rule Bill ever become law, when such disgraceful outbursts of religious bigotry are quite common under the existing regime? The natural conclusion is that all such Gospel meetings would be put down with a strong hand, and Protestant religious liberty trampled under foot by their unscrupulous Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen. And yet Loyalists are told to trust in them and all will be well!" Thus the Sligo journal; and its editor may perhaps, under the circumstances, be pardoned for suggesting that "it were better for Loyalists not to put themselves in the power of men who have proved themselves unfit even to associate with civilised beings. Bundoran will feel the evil effects of these insane attacks upon defenceless people next season when tourists and pleasure-seekers will avoid this seat of stupid bigotry, and visit some other summer resort where they will at least be allowed to worship their Maker according to their own desires." Exactly. Many visitors left at once, and will never return. During my six hours' stay I heard complaints of the falling-off of business. If the place be empty next summer the people will attribute the loss to the British Government, and especially to the machinations of the Tory party. An old fisherman said the fish had left the bay. I assured him they would return under a Dublin Parliament. He refused to be comforted, because they were not.
There is no railway from Bundoran to Sligo, that is, no direct railway. The great lines mostly run from east to west, but the west lacks connecting links. Look at the map of Ireland. Cast your eye on the west coast. If you would go by rail from Westport to Sligo, you must first go east to Mullingar. If you would go by rail from Sligo to Bundoran, you must first go east to Enniskillen. If from Bundoran to Donegal, less than twenty miles, you must again go to Enniskillen, thence to Strabane, where you arrive after the best part of a day's journey, ten miles further away than when you started, thence to Stranorlar, changing there to the narrow-gauge railway for your final trip. Travelling on the west coast is tedious and expensive, whether you go round by rail or drive direct. Many of the most attractive tourist districts are almost inaccessible. To open them up is to enrich the neighbourhood. Few Englishmen know what the Balfour railways really mean. The following statement gives particulars respecting the Light Railways authorised by the Salisbury Government, and constructed either wholly or in part by the nation. These railways introduce tourists to those parts of Ireland which are best worth visiting, and the economy of time, money, and muscular tissue effected by them would be hard to overestimate. But this is not all, nor was this their primary purpose. They gave and still give employment to the people of the district, and besides bringing the money of the tourists into the country, enable the natives to send their produce out of it, to place it on the market, to turn it into gold. There is no railway from Dugort, in Achil, to any market. Fish caught in Blacksod Bay are therefore worth nothing except as food for the fisherman's family. Large crabs were offered to me for one halfpenny each. Does this fact impress the usefulness of Balfour's railways? Here they are complete:—
Length in Balfour's Name. miles. contribution. Donegal and Killybegs 17-3/4 L115,000 Stranorlar and Glenties 24-1/2 116,000
On this line you run for twelve miles from Stranorlar without seeing a single cottage. There are none within sight on either side.
Downpatrick and Ardglass 7-1/4 L30,000 Galway and Clifden 50 264,000
This will run in connection with the splendid system of the Midland and Western Railway, opening up the grand scenery of Connemara, which to the average Britisher is like a new world. No end of fishing here among virgin shoals of trout and salmon, and nearly always for nothing. It was along the first sixteen miles of this line, still unopened, that I ran on the engine to Oughterard.
Westport to Mulranney 18-1/4 L131,400 To which is added the Achil Island extension 8-1/4 65,000
This will enable travellers to steam from Dublin to Achil Island via Midland and Western, instead of the ten hours on an open car, which on their arrival at Westport now awaits visitors to Dugort. It was on this line that I had the startling adventures on a fiery untamed bogey engine, lent to the Gazette by Mr. Robert Worthington, of Dublin. But I must condense.
Claremorris and Collooney 47 L150,000 Ballina and Killala 6-1/2 44,000 Bantry extension 2 15,000 Baltimore extension 8 56,700 West Kerry and Valentia 27 85,000 Headford and Kenmare 20 50,000 Milltown, Malbay, Kilkee, and Kilrush 26 2% on 120,000 Tuam and Claremorris 17 2 " 97,000 Ballinrobe and Claremorris 12 2 " 71,664
Besides these, similar lines have been constructed, and are now working between Tralee, Dingle, and Castlegregory; Skibbereen and Skull; Ballinscarty, Timoleague, and Courtmacsherry. The Cork and Muskerry Railway, which runs through the groves of Blarney, owes its completion and success to Mr. Balfour's administration.
Driving from Bray to the Dargle, my jarvey pointed to the ruins of a light railway undertaken without the aid of the British intellect. "'Tis a nice mess they made iv it, the quarrelin' pack o' consated eejits! They must run a chape little thing to the Dargle, about two miles away, along the roadside, just as Balfour showed them the way. What have they done? Desthroyed the road. Lost all the money they could raise. Got the maker to take back the rails (for they bought thim afore they wanted thim), an' the only thing they now have in the shape of shareholders' property is a lawsuit wid the Wicklow folks about desthroyin' the road. Faix, an iligant dividend is that same. An' them's the chaps that's to rule the counthry. That's the sort of thim, I mane. Many's the time I seen the Irish mimbers. Sorra a thing can they do, barrin' dhrink an' talk. I wouldn't thrust one of thim to rub down a horse, nor wid a bottle of poteen. Divil a one of thim but would dhrink as much whiskey as would wash down a car, an' if they could run as fast as they can talk, begorra, ye might hunt hares wid thim. Rule the counthry, would ye. Whe-w-w-w!" He whistled with a "dying fall," like the strain in Twelfth Night.