"The Protestants are not the worst landlords. The hardest men, the most unyielding men the tenants have to meet are the Roman Catholic landlords, the new men."
Here is some food for thought. These few words, properly considered, cover much ground. The Doctor is a Home Ruler, an ardent lover of his country, one of the best of the many high-minded men I have met in Ireland. Were such as he in the forefront of the battle, John Bull might hand the Irish a blank cheque. The consciousness of trust is of all things most binding on men of integrity. But for Mr. Gladstone to hand the honour of England to Horsewhipped Healy and Breeches O'Brien, showing his confidence in them by permitting it to be taken round the corner—that is a different thing. I forgot to mention a remarkable feature in the history of Limerick City, a parallel of which is found in the apocryphal castle in England for which the unique distinction is claimed that Queen Elizabeth never slept there. And so far as I can learn, Tim Healy has not yet been horsewhipped in Limerick.
Bodyke (Co. Clare), May 2nd.
No. 18.—HARD FACTS FOR ENGLISH READERS.
Cort is a quiet wayside country town about forty miles from Limerick, a little oasis of trees and flowers, with a clear winding trout-stream running all about it. The streets are wide, the houses well-built, the pavements kerbed and in good condition. Trees are bigger and more numerous than usual, and the place has a generally bowery appearance such as is uncommon in Ireland, which is not famous for its timber. Trees are in many parts the grand desideratum, the one thing needful to perfect the beauty of the scenery, but Ireland as compared with England, France, Holland, Belgium, or Germany may almost be called a treeless country. Strange to say, the Home Rule Bill, which affects everything, threatens to deprive the country of its few remaining trees. A Scotsman resident thirteen years in Ireland said to me:—
"The timber you see lying there is not American, but Irish. The people who have timber are in many cases cutting it down, because they foresee a state of general insecurity and depression, and they need all the cash they can command. But there is another reason for the deforesting of the country, which is—that if Home Rule becomes law, the landowners are disposed to believe that no allowance will be made for the timber which may be on the land when the land is sold to the tenant under some unknown Act to be passed at some future day." This fits into the point raised by a tenant farmer living just outside the town, an extraordinary character said to rise at seven o'clock in the morning. He said:—
"They say the farmer is to get the land—but what then? Somebody must own the land, and whoever has it will be reckoned a bloody tyrant. Won't the owner be a landlord? No, say they, no more landlords at all, at all. But isn't that nonsense, says I? If ye split up the land into patches as big as yer hand and give every man a patch, wouldn't some men have twenty or a hundred, or maybe a thousand patches in five years? An' thin, thim that was lazy an' wasteful an' got out o' their land would be for shootin' the savin', sthrivin' man that worked his way up by buying out the drones. For wouldn't he be a landlord the moment he stopped workin' all the land himself. An' that would be sure to happen at wanst. Lord Gough is landlord here, an' ye'll not better him in Ireland. Look at the town there—all built of stone an' paved, wid a fine public well in the square, an' a weigh-house, an' the groves of lilac an' laburnums all out in flower an' dippin' in the wather; where ye may catch mighty fine trout out iv yer bedroom window, bedad ye may, or out of yer kitchin, an' draw them out iv the wather an' dhrop thim in' the fryin' pan off the hook with the bait in their mouths, an' their tails waggin', finishing their brakefasts thimselves while they get yours ready! Throth ye can. None iv us that has any sinse belaves in Home Rule. 'Tis only the ignorant that'll belave anything. No, we're quiet hereabouts, never shot anybody, an' not likely to. Yes, the Protestant Church is iligant enough, but there's very few Protestants hereabouts. It's the gentry an' most respectable folks that's Protestants. Protestants gets on because they kape their shops cleaner, an' has more taste, an' we'd sooner belave thim an' thrust thim that they'd kape their word an' not chate ye, than our own people. Yes, 'tis indeed quare, but it's thrue. The very priests won't deny it. An' another thing they wouldn't deny. The murtherin', sweatin' landlords that'll grind the very soul out of ye—who are they? Tell me now. Just the small men that have got up out of the muck. 'Tisn't the gintry at all. The gintry will wait a year, three years, five years, seven years for rint. The man that bought his farm or two wid borrowed money won't wait a day. 'Out ye go, an' bloody end to ye,' says he. Ye don't hear of thim evictions. The man that sint it to the paper would get bate—or worse.
"An' some of the little houldhers says, 'Pat,' says they, 'what'll we do wid the money whin we've no taxes to pay?' 'Tis what they're tould, the crathurs. God help them, but they're mighty ignorant."
Those who ridicule the assertions of Protestants and Catholic Unionists with reference to the lack of liberty may explain away what was told me by Mr. J.B. Barrington, brother of Sir Charles Barrington, a name of might in Mid-Ireland. He said, "Someone in our neighbourhood went about getting signatures to a petition against the Home Rule Bill. Among others who signed it was Captain Croker's carpenter, who since then has been waylaid and severely beaten. Another case occurring in the same district was even harder. A poor fellow has undergone a very severe thrashing with sticks for having signed the bill when, as a matter of fact, he had refused to sign it! Wasn't that hard lines? Both these men know their assailants, but they will not tell. They think it better to bear those ills they have than fly to others that they know not of. They are quite right, for, as it is, they know the end of the matter. Punish the beaters, and the relations of the convicted men would take up the cause, and if they could not come on the principal, if he had removed, or was awkward to get at, they would pass it on to his relations. So that a man's rebelling against the village ruffians may involve his dearest friends in trouble, may subject them to ill-usage or boycotting. A man might fight it out if he only had himself to consider; but you see where the shoe pinches."
A decent man in Ennis thus expressed himself anent the Bodyke affair. (My friend is a Catholic Nationalist.) "The Bodyke men are not all out so badly off as they seem. But their acts are bad, for they can pay, and they will not. No, I do not call the Colonel a bad landlord. We know all about it in Ennis; everybody agrees, too. The farmers meet in this town and elsewhere. Two or three of the best talkers lead the meeting, and everything is done their way. The more decent, sensible men are not always the best talkers. Look at Gladstone, have ye anybody to come up to him? An' look at his character—one way to-day an' another way to-morrow, an' the divil himself wouldn't say what the day afther that. But often the most decent, sensible men among these farmers can't express themselves, an they get put down. An' all are bound by the resolutions passed. None must pay rent till they get leave from all. What would happen a man who would pay rent on the Bodyke estate? He might order his coffin an' the crape for his berryin, an' dig his own grave to save his widow the expense. Perhaps ye have Gladstonian life-assurance offices in England? What praymium would they want for the life of a Bodyke man that paid his rint to the Colonel?"
The "praymium" would doubtless be "steep." Boycotting is hard to bear, as testified by Mr. Dawson, a certain Clerk of Petty Sessions. He said:—"The Darcy family took a small farm from which a man had been evicted after having paid no rent for seven years. The land lay waste for five years, absolutely derelict, before the Darcys took it in hand. They were boycotted. Their own relations dare not speak to them lest they, too, should be included in the curse. A member of the Darcy family died.
"Then came severe inconveniences. Friends had secretly conveyed provisions to the Darcys, and, at considerable risk to themselves, had afforded some slight countenance and assistance. But a dead body, that was a terrible affair. No coffin could be had in the whole district, and someone went thirty miles and got one at the county town by means of artful stratagem. Then came the funeral. It was to take place at twelve one day, but we found there would be a demonstration, and nobody knew what might happen. The corpse, that of a woman, might have been dragged from the coffin and thrown naked on the street. In the dead of night a young fellow went round the friends, and we buried the poor lady at four in the morning."
The laziness of the Irish people was here exploited with advantage. A great French chief of police, who had made elaborate dispositions to meet a popular uprising, once said, "Send the police home and the military to their barracks. There will be no Revolution this evening on account of the rain." A very slight shower keeps an Irishman from work, and you need not rise very early to get over him. A police officer at Gort said to me, "The people are quiet hereabouts, but I couldn't make you understand their ignorance. They do just what the priest tells them in every mortal thing. They believe that unless they obey they will go to Hell and endure endless torture for ever. They believe that unless they vote as they are told they will be damned to all eternity. But oh! if you could see their laziness. They lie abed half the day, and spend most of the rest in minding other people's business. Before you had been in the town half-an-hour every soul in the place was discussing you. They thought you had a very suspicious appearance, like an agent or a detective or something. Laziness and ignorance, laziness and ignorance, that's what's the matter with Ireland."
The farmers of this truly rural district distinctly state that they do not want Home Rule. They only want the land, and nearly all are furnished with Tim Healy's statement that "The farmer who bought his own land to-day would, when a Home Rule Parliament was won, be very sorry that he was in such a hurry." Just as the men of Bodyke are getting the rifles for which Mr. Davitt wished in order to chastise the Royal Irish Constabulary, by way of showing these "ruffians, the armed mercenaries of England, that the people of Ireland had not lost the spirit of their ancestors." Well may a timid Protestant of Gort say, "These men are deceiving England. They only want to get power, and then they will come out in their true colours. All is quiet here now, but the strength of the undercurrent is something tremendous. The English Home Rulers may pooh-pooh our fears, but they know nothing about it. And, besides, they are quite safe. That makes all the difference. The change will not drive them from all they hold dear. I do not agree with the nonsense about cutting our throats in our beds. That speech is an English invention to cast ridicule on us. But we shall have to clear out of this. Life will be unendurable with an Irish Parliament returned by priests. For it will be returned by priests. Surely the Gladstonian English admit that? To speak of loyalty to England in connection with an Irish Parliament is too absurd. Did not the Clan-na-Gael circular say that while its objects lay far beyond anything that might openly be named, the National Parliament must be first attained by whatever means? Then it went on to say that Ireland would be able to command the working plant of an armed revolution. Do you not know that the Irish Army of Independence is already being organised? What do you suppose the men who join it think it means? Did not Arthur O'Connor say that when England was involved in war, that would be the time? Did he not say that 100,000 men were already prepared, and that at three days' notice Ireland could possess double that number, all willing to fight England for love, and without any pay? If the English Home Rulers lived in Galway they would remember these things as I do. You think the Bill can never become law. If you could assure me of that, I would be a happy man this night. I would go to my pillow more contented than I have been for years. I and my family would go on our knees and thank God from our hearts."
Mr. Wakely, of Mount Shannon Daly, said:—"I live in one of the wildest parts of Galway, but all went on well with us until this Home Rule Bill upset the country. Now I am completely unsettled. Whether to plant the land or let it lie waste, I cannot tell. I might not be able to reap the harvest. Whether to buy stock to raise and fatten, or whether to keep what cash we have with a view to a sudden pack-up and exit, we do not know. And I think we are not the only timid folks, for the other day I took a horse twenty-four miles to a fair where I made sure of selling him easily. I had to take him back the twenty-four miles, having wasted my trouble and best part of two days. The franchise is too low, that is what ruined the country."
Another desponding Galwegian found fault with the Liberal party of 1884. He said, "They were actuated by so much philanthropy. Their motto was "Trust the people." We know what was their object well enough, They let in the flood of Irish democracy. The Radicals got forty, but the Nationalists gained sixty, and then part of the Radicals—the steady, sensible party among them—ran out a breakwater to prevent both countries being swamped. A break-water is a good thing, but there was no necessity for the flood. They cannot altogether repair the damage they have done. Look at the Irish members of twenty years ago, and look at them now. Formerly they were gentlemen. What are they to-day? A pack of blackguards. Their own supporters shrink from entrusting them with the smallest shred of power. Mr. Gladstone must be as mad as a March hare. The idea of a Dublin Parliament engineered by men whom their own supporters look upon as rowdies would be amusing but for the seriousness of the consequences. Have you been in Ennis? Did you see the great memorial to the Manchester murderers—'Martyrs' they call them? Their lives were taken away for love of their country, and their last breath was God save Ireland! That's the inscription, and what does it mean? Loyalty to England? Would such a thing be permitted on the Continent? Why, any sensible Government would stamp out such an innuendo as open rebellion. It teaches the children hatred of England, and they are fed with lies from their very cradle. Every misfortune—the dirt, the rags, the poverty of the country, are all to be attributed to English rule. Take away that and the people believe they will live in laziness combined with luxury."
The lying of the Home Rulers is indeed unscrupulous. An Irish newspaper of to-day's date, speaking of the opening of the Chicago Exposition, says that "it is fitting to remember that our countrymen have in the United States found an asylum and an opportunity which they have never found at home, that there they have been allowed untrammelled to worship God as they thought right," clearly implying that in Ireland or in England they have no such liberty. A car driver of Limerick, one Hynes, a total abstainer, and a person of some intelligence, firmly believed that England prevented Ireland from mining for coal, which disability, with the resulting poverty, would disappear with the granting of Home Rule. Everywhere this patent obliqueness and absurd unreason. A fiery Nationalist in white heat of debate shook his fist at an Ulsterman, and said, "When we get the bill, you'll not be allowed to have all the manufactories to yourselves," an extraordinary outburst which requires no comment. This burning patriot looked around and said, with the air of a man who is posing his adversary, "Why should they have all the big works in one corner of the island?" In opposition to the melancholy carman was the dictum of Mr. Gallagher, the great high-priest of Kennedy's tobaccos. He said—
"The poverty of Ireland is due to the fact that she has no coal. Geologists say that tens of thousands of years ago a great ice-drift carried away all the coal-depositing strata."
"Another injustice to Ireland," interrupted a sacrilegious Unionist.
"And doubtless due to the baleful machinations of the Base and Bloody Balfour," said another.
It is easy to bear other people's troubles. He jests at scars who never felt a wound. That the Irish nation has untold wrongs to bear is evidenced by a Southern Irish paper, which excitedly narrates the injuries heaped on the holy head of Hibernia by the scoffing Yankee, the wrongful possessor of the American soil. A meeting of distinguished Irish emigrants, who have from time to time favoured the States with their notice, was recently convened in New York, not on this exceptional occasion to metaphorically devour the succulent Saxon, nor to send his enemies a dollar for bread, and ten dollars for lead, nor yet to urge the Gotham nurses and scullerymaids to further contributions in favour of patriot Parliamentarians, but to protest with all the fervour of the conveners' souls, with all the eloquence of their powerful intellects, with all the solemnity of a sacred deed, against the irreverent naming of the animals in the Central Park Zoological Gardens after Irish ladies, Irish gentlemen, Irish saints. Misther Daniel O'Shea, of County Kerry, stated that the great hippotamus had actually been named Miss Murphy! A hijeous baste from a dissolute counthry inhabited wid black nagurs, to be named after an Oirish gyurl! Mr. O'Shea uncorked the vials of his wrath, and poured out his anger with a bubble, the meeting palpitating with hair-raising horror. Some other animal was called Miss Bridget. And Bridget was the name iv an Oirish saint! This must be shtopped. Mr. O'Shea declared he would rather die than allow it to continue. No further particulars are given, but it is understood that the viper had been christened "Tim Healy," the rattlesnake "O'Brien," the laughing hyaena John Dillon, and so on. The Chairman wanted to know why the Yankees did not call the ugly brutes after Lord Salisbury and Colonel Saunderson? Nobody seemed to know, so eight remonstrants were appointed a committee of inquiry.
Mr. O'Shea also denounced the American people as unlawfully holding a country which properly belonged to the Irish, an Irish saint, St. Brengan, having discovered the New World in the sixteenth century!
Enough of Ireland's wrongs; there is no end to them. As one of her poets sings, "The cup of her bitterness long has overflowed, And still it is not full."
The great bulk of the intelligent people of Ireland regard Home Rule with dread, and this feeling grows ever deeper and stronger. The country is at present exploited by adventurers, paid by the enemies of England, themselves animated by racial and religious prejudices, willing to serve their paymasters and deserve their pay rather by damaging England than by benefiting Ireland, for whose interests they care not one straw. Ignorance manipulated by charlatanism and bigotry is, in these latter days, the determining factor in the destinies of the British Empire. Intelligence is dominated by terrorism, by threats of death, of ill-usage, of boycotting—the latter I am told an outcome of an old engine of the Roman Catholic Church, improved and brought up to date. Humphreys, of Tipperary, may know if this is true. It was from one of the "Father's" feculent family, in the heart of his own putrescent parish, that I heard of the local chemist who dare not supply medicine urgently needed by a boycotted person, who was suspected of entertaining what the learned Humphreys would spell as "Brittish" sympathies.
Gort (Co. Galway), May 6th.
No. 19.—INDOLENCE AND IMPROVIDENCE.
Mr. James Dunne, of Athenry, is an acute observer and a shrewd political controversialist. He said: "The people about here, the poor folks such as the small farmers and labourers, have really no opinion at all. They know nothing of Home Rule, one way or the other. If they say anything, it is to the effect that they will obtain some advantage in connection with the land. Beyond that they care nothing for the matter. Not one has any sentiment to be gratified. They only want to live, if possible, a bit more easily. If they can get the land for nothing or even more cheaply, then Home Rule is good. They can see no further than their noses, and they cannot be expected to follow a long chain of argument. They believe just what they are told. Yes, they go to the priest for advice under all circumstances. They ask him to name the man for whom they are to vote, or rather they would ask him if he waited long enough. They vote as they are told; and as the Catholic priest believes that the Catholic religion is the most important thing in the world, which from his point of view is quite proper and right, he naturally influences his people in the direction which is most likely to propagate the true faith, and give to it the predominance which he believes to be its rightful due.
"The people round here are harmless, and will continue so, unless the agitators get hold of them. They are ignorant, and easily led, and an influential speaker who knew their simplicity could make them do anything, no matter what. No, I couldn't say that they are industrious. They do not work hard. They just go along, go along, like. They have no enterprise at all, and you couldn't get them out of the ways of their fathers. They'd think it a positive sin.
"Look at the present fine weather. This is a very early season. No living man has seen such a spring-time in Ireland. Two months of fine warm weather, the ground in fine working condition, everything six weeks before last year. Not a man that started to dig a day earlier. No, the old time will be adhered to just as if it was cold and wet and freezing. You could not stir them with an electric battery. They moon, moon, moon along, in the old, old, old way, waiting for somebody to come and do something for them.
"If they had the land for nothing they would be no better off. They would just do that much less work. They live from hand to mouth. They have no ambition. The same thing that did for their fathers will do for them, the same dirtiness, the same inconvenience. If their father went three miles round a stone wall to get in at a gate they'll do it too. Never would they think of making another gate. They turn round angrily and say, 'Wasn't it good enough for my father, an' wasn't he a betther man than ayther me or you?' If you lived here, you would at first begin to show them things, but when you saw how much better they like their own way you'd stop it. You'd very soon get your heart broke. You couldn't stir them an inch in a thousand years. What will Home Rule do for them? Nobody knows but Gladstone and the Divil."
A bystander said: "Down at Galway there was a man wid a donkey goin' about sellin' fish, which was carried in two panniers. Whin he had only enough to fill one pannier, he put a load o' stones into the other pannier to balance the fish an' make the panniers stick on, an' ride aisier.
"Well, one day an Englishman that had been watchin' Barney for some time comes up to him an' he says, says he—
"'Whin ye have only fish for one pannier why do ye fill up the other wid stones off the beach?' says he.
"'Sure, 'tis to balance it,' says Barney, mighty surprised an' laffin widin himself at the Englishman's ignorance. 'Sure,' says Barney, 'ye wouldn't have a cock-eyed load on the baste, all swingin' on one side, like a pig wid one ear, would ye?' says he.
"But this Englishman was one of thim stiff sort that doesn't know whin he's bate, an' he went on arguin'. Says he—
"'But couldn't you put the half of the fish in one pannier, and the other half in the other pannier, instead of putting all the fish in one, and filling up the other with stones?' says he. 'Wouldn't that balance the load?' says he. 'And wouldn't that be only half the load for the poor baste?' says he. An' Barney sthruggled a bit till he got a fair grip iv it, d'ye see, but by the sivin pipers that played before Moses, he couldn't see the way to answer this big word of the Englishman; so he says, says he, 'Musha, 'twas me father's way, rest his sowl,' says he. 'An' would I be settin' meself up to be bettherin' his larnin'?' says he. 'Not one o' me would show him sich impidence and disrespect,' says he. 'An' I'll carry the rocks till I die, glory be to God,' says he.
"Now what could ye do with the like iv him?"
Mr. Armour, who lived five years near Sligo, said:—"The Connaught folks have no idea of preparing for to-morrow. They are almost entirely destitute of self-reliance. So long as they can carry on from one day to another they are quite content. The bit of ground they live on is not half cultivated. In the summer time you may see two or even three crops growing up together. If they had potatoes on last, they got them up in the most slovenly way, leaving half the crop in the ground. They just hoak out with a stick or a bit of board what they require for that day's food, picking the large ones and leaving the small ones in the ground. Oats or something else will be seen half-choked with weeds and the growth from the potatoes so left. The slovenliness of these people is most exasperating. Of course they are all Home Rulers in effect, though not in theory. By that I mean that they have no politics, except to produce politicians by their votes. They know no more of Home Rule than they know of Heidsieck's champagne, or Christmas strawberries, or soap and water, or any other unknown commodity. They are precisely where their ancestors were, except for the crop of potatoes, which enables them to exist in greater luxury and with less trouble. Their way is to plant the potatoes, dig them as required, and live on them either with the aid of a cow or with the butter-milk of a neighbour who has a cow. No provision for the future is attempted, because the relatives are sure to provide for the worn-out and sickly. That shows their goodheartedness, but it does away with self-dependence. There are some things so deeply ingrained in the Irish character that nothing and nobody can touch them. The very priests themselves cannot move them. Although these people believe that the priests could set them on fire from head to heel, or strike them paralytic, or refuse them entrance into heaven, yet the force of habit is so great, and the dread of public opinion is so powerful, that the people, so long as they remain in Ireland, will never depart a hair's-breadth from the old ways."
A woman who washed and tidied her children would be a mark for every bitter tongue in the parish. A striking case came under my own observation. A woman of the place was speaking most bitterly of another, and she finished up with,—
"She's the lady all out, niver fear. Shure, she washes and dhresses the childer ivery mornin', and turns out the girls wid hats on their heads an' shoes on their feet. Divil a less would sarve her turn! She has a brick flure to her house, an' she washes it—divil a lie I tell ye—she washes it—wid wather—an' wid soap an' wather, ivery Sattherday in the week! The saints betune us an' harm, but all she wants now is to turn Protestant altogether!"
Four miles away is the village of Carnaun, and there I met Philip Fahy, with his son Michael, and another young fellow, all three returning from field work, wearily toiling along the rocky road which runs through the estate of Major Lobdell. The party stopped and sat down to smoke with me. The senior took the lead, not with a brogue but with an accent, translating from the Irish vernacular as he went on. "Long ye may live! We're glad we met ye, thanks be to God. Yer honner's glory is the foinest, splindidist man I seen this twinty year. May God protect ye! 'Tis weary work we does. That foine, big boy ye see foreninst ye, has eighteenpence a day, nine shillin' a week. 'Tis not enough to support him properly. I have a son in England, the cliverist lad ye seen this many a day. Sich a scholar, 'twould be no discredit to have the Queen for his aunt, no it wouldn't. No, he's only just gone, an' I didn't hear from him yet. I didn't tell ye where he'd be, for I wouldn't know meself. But me other boys is goin', for they tell me things will be afther getting worse. God help us, an' stand betune us an harm! Did ye hear of the Home Rule Bill? What does it mane at all, at all? Not one of us knows, more than that lump of stone ye sit on. Will it give us the land for nothin'? for that's all we hear. We'd be obliged av ye could axplain it a thrifle, for sorra a one but's bad off, an' Father O'Baithershin says, Howld yer whist, says he, till ye see what'll happen, says he. Will we get the bit o' ground without rint, yer honner's glory?"
Philip was dressed for agricultural work in the following style, which is clearly considered the correct thing in Galway. One tall "top-hat," with a long fur like that of a mangy rabbit, waving to the jocund zephyrs of Carnaun; one cut-away coat of very thick homespun cloth, having five brass buttons on each breast; breeches and leggings and stout boots completed the outfit, which fitted like a sentry-box, and bore a curiously caricatured resemblance to the Court suit of a Cabinet Minister in full war-paint. The spades with which the labourers till the ground are strange to the English eye, and seem calculated to get through the smallest amount of work with the greatest amount of labour. That they were spades at all was more than I could make out. "What are those implements?" I asked, to which the answer came, "Have ye no shpades in England thin!"
The business end is about two feet long and not more than three inches broad, with a sort of shoulder for the foot. The handles are about six feet long and end like a mop-stick, without any crossbar. A slight alteration would turn these tools into pikes, a much more likely operation than the beating of swords into plough-shares and spears into pruning-hooks. Meanwhile the length of the handle keeps the worker from too dangerous proximity to his work. There is a broader pattern of blade, but the handle is always of the same sanitary length. The children of the soil turn it over at a wholesome distance. They keep six feet of pole between the earth and their nobility. Small blame to them for that same! Shure the wuruld will be afther thim. Shure there's no sinse at all, at all, in workin' life out to kape life in.
"Ah, no," said Misther Fahy. "That tobacky has no strinth in it. We get no satisfaction out iv it. We shmoked a pipe iv it to make frinds, but we'd not shmoke another. 'Tis like chopped hay or tay-leaves, it is. Will we walk back wid yer honner's glory? 'Tis only four miles, it is. No, we bur-rn no powdher here. But on the other side, above Athenry, 'tis there ye'll see the foin shootin'. Thims the boys for powdher an' shot! 'Tis more than nine they shot, aye, and more than tin it was. An' sarve thim right, if they must turn the people out, an' have their own way. May the Lord protect ye! May angels make yer bed this night! Long may ye live, an' yer sowl to glory!"
I had written so far, when glancing through the window, I saw a familiar form, a rosy, healthy, florid gentleman parading on the lawn which fronts the Railway Hotel, puffing a cigarette, briskly turning and returning with something of the motion of a captive lion. I knew that pinky cheek, I knew that bright blue eye; yet here, in the wilds of Galway who could it be? He plays with two sportive spaniels, and cries "Down, Sir, down." Thy voice bewrayeth thee, member for North Galway! The Parnellitic Colonel Nolan, thou, in propria persona. What makes he here? When the great Bill impends, why flee the festive scene? I'll speak a little with this learned Theban. I board him, as the French say. For a moment he regards me with suspicion—with a kind of vade-in-retro-Satanas air—but presently he goes ahead. A fair at Tuam, which he never misses. Has paired with somebody, Pierpoint he thinks is the name. His vote will therefore not be lost to his side. "Nothing will now be done before Whitsuntide. Both parties will be on their best behaviour. The Conservatives and obstruction, the Liberals and closure. Strategy to obtain some show of advantage at the recess is now the little game. Knows not what will happen re Home Rule. The English Liberals not now so confident as they were. The Government may be ruined by liquor. 'Tis the fate of Liberal Governments to be ruined by drink. The Government of 1874 and the next Liberal Cabinet went to the dogs on liquor. And if the English people are called upon to give a verdict on a local option bill, the result is rather uncertain. Chances perhaps against Mr. Gladstone. The Home Rule question is now quite worked up. The English people are now satisfied to have Home Rule, but some intervening question might delay its final settlement. No, the agitation of the past four or five months had not changed the position one bit. No amount of agitation would now make any difference at all."
From the probable wrecking of the Gladstonian Cabinet on "liquor" to the question of Customs, or, as Colonel Nolan preferred to call it, of Excise, was but an easy step. By a simple adagio movement I modulated into the Customs question, mentioning the opinion given to me by Mr. John Jameson himself. The Colonel did not deny, nor admit, that the Irish people were excellent smugglers, but thought the fears of the Unionists exaggerated. He was well aware that smuggling might be carried on—say, on the coast of Connemara and elsewhere, where were roads and bays and natural harbours galore, with a wild and lonely shore far from the centres of Government. Probably at first some money might be lost that way; some little chinks would doubtless be found; there would be some little leakage. But suppose an initial loss of L100,000 or L200,000, it was not likely that such a state of things would be allowed to continue. As to the argument that the rural police would not then assist the 1,300 coastguards, who with the police have been sufficient, there was little or no solidity in this assumption. The Irish Parliament would order the police to assist, and if they did not execute their orders, or if they allowed themselves to be bribed, and the Irish Parliament did not prosecute them for accepting bribes, then the English Government would step in and put matters right. This is just a typical Home Rule argument, the confidence trick all over. The Colonel thought that after a certain amount of shaking down, everything would work sweetly enough. He said nothing about the Union of Hearts, nor have I yet heard the phrase from an Irishman.
A keen observer resident at the Athenry Hotel says:—"Of those who come here the proportion against Home Rule is not less than twenty to one. Now mark my figures, because they are based on careful notes extending over the last six months. When you have all the money in the country, and all the best brains in the country, against the bill, what good could the bill do if it became law? And while I can see, and all these people can see, no end of risk, disturbance, upset, loss, ruin, and everything that is bad, we cannot see anything at all to compensate for the risk. Nobody can put his finger on anything and say, 'There, that's the advantage we'll get from the bill.' 'Tis all fancy, pure fancy. Ireland a nation, and a Roman Catholic nation, is the cry. We may get that, but we'll be bankrupt next day. 'Tis like putting a poor man in a grand house without food, furniture, or money, and without credit to raise anything on the building. There now, ye might say, ye have a splendid place that's all your own. But wouldn't the poor man have to leave it, or die of starvation? Of course I wish to respect my clergy, but I think they should not interfere with politics."
Colonel Nolan said to me: "The priests wield an immense, an incalculable power. All are on the same path, all hammer away at the one point. It is the persistency, the organisation, that tells. In some cases they have been known to preach for a year and a half at a stretch on political subjects. What is going to stand against that?"
With these golden words I close my letter. The priest holds the sceptre of the British Empire. Circumstances have placed in his hands an astonishing opportunity. Nearly every priest in Ireland is using his supernatural credit with one solitary aim. We know their disloyalty, we know they are no friends of England—we know their influence, their organisation, their perseverance, their unscrupulousness, their absolute supremacy in Ireland—and it is high time that England asked herself, in the words of Colonel Nolan—
"What is going to stand against that?"
Athenry (Co. Galway), May 6th.
No. 20.—RELIGION AT THE BOTTOM OF THE IRISH QUESTION.
Tuam has two cathedrals but no barber. You may be shriven but you cannot be shaved. You may be whitewashed but you cannot be lathered. "One shaves another; we're neighbourly here," said a railway porter. They cut each other's hair by the light of nature, in the open street, with a chorus of bystanders. The Tuamites live in a country of antiquities, but they have no photographer. Nor could I find a photograph for sale. The people are sweetly unsophisticated. A bare-footed old lady sat on the step of the Victoria Hotel, sucking a black dhudeen, sending out smoke like a factory chimney, the picture of innocent enjoyment. The streets were full of pigs from the rural parts, and great was the bargaining and chaffering in Irish, a language which seemed to be composed of rolling r's and booming gutturals. A sustained conversation sounds like the jolting of a country cart over a rocky road, a sudden exclamation like the whirr of a covey of partridges, an oath like the downfall of a truck-load of bricks. I arrived in time for the great pig fair, and Tuam was very busy. It is a poor town, of which the staple trade is religion. The country around is green and beautiful, with brilliant patches of gorse in full bloom, every bush a solid mass of brightest yellow, dazzling you in the sunshine. Many of the streets are wretchedly built, and the Galway Road shows how easily the Catholic poor are satisfied. Not only are the cabins in this district aboriginal in build, but they are also indescribably filthy, and the condition of the inmates, like that of the people inhabiting the poorer parts of Limerick, is no whit higher than that obtaining in the wigwams of the native Americans. The hooded women, black-haired and bare-footed, bronzed and tanned by constant exposure, are wonderfully like the squaws brought from the Far West by Buffalo Bill. The men look more civilised, and the pig-jobbers, with their tall hats, dress coats, and knotty shillelaghs, were the pink of propriety. Now and then a burst of wild excitement would attract the stranger, who would hurry up to see the coming homicide, but there was no manslaughter that I could see. A scene of frantic gesticulation near the Town Hall promised well, but contrary to expectation, there was no murder done. Two wild-eyed men, apparently breathing slaughter, suddenly desisted, reining in their fury and walking off amicably together. An Irish-speaking policeman explained that one having sold the other a pig the buyer was asking for twopence off, and that they now departed to drink the amount between them. People who had done their business went away in queer carts made to carry turf—little things with sides like garden palings four or five feet high. Three or four men would squat on one, closely packed, looking through the bars like fowls in a hen-coop. The donkeys who drew these chariots had all their work cut out, and most of their backs cut up. The drivers laid on with stout ash-plants, sparing no exertion to create the donkey's enthusiasm. Prices ruled low. "'Tis not afther sellin' thim I am," said a peasant who had got rid of his pigs, "'tis bestowin' thim I was, the craythurs. The counthry is ruinated intirely, an' so it is. By the holy poker of Methesulum, the prices we got this day for lowness bangs Banagher, an' Banagher bangs the divil."
The Tuamites spare a little time for politics and boycotting. The public spirit and contempt for British law are all that could be desired by Irish patriotism. Mr. Strachan has recently bought some land. The previous owner, Mr. Dominick Leonard, brother of Dr. Leonard of Athenry, and of Judge Leonard of London, had raised money on the property, and failed to pay interest or principal. An English insurance company determined to realize, and the affair went into the Land Court, Mr. Strachan buying part of the estate for L2,765. It was easy enough to buy, and even to pay, but to get possession was quite another thing. Precise information is difficult to get, for while some decline to say a word, others are mutually contradictory, and a State Commission would hardly sift truth from the confusing mass of details, denials, assertions, and counter-assertions. This much is clear enough. A tenant named Ruane was required to leave a house, with ground, which he had held on the estate bought by Mr. Strachan. He had paid no rent for a long time. Of course he refused to leave, and, a decree having been obtained, he was duly evicted. But, as Lady de Burgho said, evictions do no good. When the officers of the law went home to tea, Mr. Ruane went home also, breaking the locks, forcing the doors, reinstating himself and his furniture, planting his Lares and Penates in their old situations, hanging up his caubeen on the ancestral nail, and crossing his patriotic shin-bones on the familiar hearth. Pulled up for trespass, he declared that if sent to prison fifty times he would still return to the darling spot, and defied the British army and navy—horse, foot, and artillery—ironclads, marines, and 100-ton guns, to keep him out. For three acts of trespass he got three weeks imprisonment. The moment he was released Mr. Ruane walked back home, and took possession once again. There he is now, laughing at the Empire on which the sun never sets. When a certain bishop read "Paradise Lost" to a sporting lord, the impatient auditor's attention was arrested by some bold speech of Satan, whereupon he exclaimed "Dang me, if I don't back that chap. I like his pluck, and I hope he'll win." Something like this might be said of Ruane.
And Ruane will stick to his land. A public meeting held on Sunday week determined to support him, and to show forth its mind by planting the ground for him. Mr. Strachan seems to have seen the futility of looking to the law, on the security of which he invested his money. Too late he finds that his savings are not safe, and he endeavours to make friends with the mammon of unrighteousness. He has offered Ruane five acres of land and a house, and Ruane would have accepted with thanks had he been allowed. But he went to a meeting in some outlying village, and received his orders from the Land League. For, be it observed, that the people of these parts speak of the Land League as existing in full force. Ruane declined the handsome offer of the kind-hearted Strachan. Ruane will hold the house and land from which he has been evicted, because he had been evicted, and that the people may see that they have the mastery. Ruane would prefer the proffered land, but private interests must give way to the public weal. England must be smashed, treated with contumely; her laws, her officers, her edicts treated with contempt, laughed at by every naked gutter-snipe, rendered null and void. That this can be done with perfect impunity is the teaching of priests, Fenians, Nationalists, Federationists—call them what you will—all alike flagrantly disloyal to the English Crown. Not worth while to differentiate them. As the sailor said of crocodiles and alligators, "There's no difference at all. They're all tarnation varmint together."
Mr. Strachan is boycotted, and goes about with a guard of three policemen. What will happen from one day to another nobody can tell. Since I last mentioned Mr. Blood, of Ennis, that most estimable gentleman has been again fired on, this time at a range of 400 yards, and when guarded by the four policemen who accompany him everywhere. Three shots were fired, and the police found an empty rifle cartridge at the firing point. A Protestant in Tuam said to me:—
"Home Rule would mean that every Protestant would have to fly the country. Why should there not be a return to the persecutions of years ago? When first I came to the place the Protestants were hooted as they went to church, and I can remember seeing this very Strachan going to worship on Sunday morning, his black go-to-meeting coat so covered with the spittle of the mob that you would not know him. His wife would come down with a Bible, and the children would run along shouting 'Here comes mother Strachan, with the devil in her fist.' Why, the young men got cows' horns and fixed them up with strings, so that they could tie them on their foreheads. Then with these horns on they would walk before and behind the Protestants as they went to church or left it, to show that the devil was accompanying them. They always figure the devil as being horned. One of the little barefooted boys who ran after these Protestants is now a holy priest in Tuam. And what the people were then, so they will be now, once they get the upper hand. The educated Catholics are excellent people, none better anywhere, none more tolerant. Nothing to fear from them. But how many are there? Look at the masses of ignorant people around us. The density of their ignorance is something that the people of England cannot understand. They have no examples of it. The most stupid and uninformed English you can find have some ray of enlightenment. These people are steeped in ignorance and superstition. Their religion is nothing but fetichism. Their politics? well, they are blind tools of the priests: what else can be said? And the priests have but one object. In all times, in all countries, the Roman Catholic Church has aimed at absolute dominion. The religious question is at the bottom of it all."
No matter where an educated Irishman begins, that is where he always ends. Catholics and Protestants alike come round to the same point at last, though with evident reluctance. The Protestant Unionists especially avoid all mention of religion as long as possible. They know the credal argument excites suspicion. They attack Home Rule from every other point of view, and sometimes you think you have encountered a person of different opinion. Wait till he knows you a little better, has more confidence in your fairness, stands in less fear of a possible snub. Sooner or later, sure as the night follows the day, he is bound to say—
"The religious question is at the bottom of it all."
The people of Ireland do not want an Irish Parliament, and the failure of the bill would not trouble them in the least. They do not care a brass farthing for the bill one way or the other. The great heart of the people is untouched. The masses know nothing of it, and will not feel its loss. They are in the hands of priests and agitators, these poor unlettered peasants, and their blind voting, their inarticulate voice, translated into menace and mock patriotism. Everybody admits that the people would be happy and content if only left alone. Half-a-dozen ruffians with rifles can boss a whole country side, and the people must do as they are told. They do not believe in the secrecy of the ballot. They believe that the priests by their supernatural powers are able to know how everybody voted, and I am assured on highly respectable authority that the secrecy of the ballot in Ireland is, in some parts, a questionable point. At the same time, there is everywhere a strong opinion that another election will give very different results in Ireland. And everywhere there is a growing feeling that the Bill will not become law. This explains the slight rise in the value of Irish securities.
Just outside Tuam I came upon a neatly built, deep-thatched villa, with a flower garden in front, a carefully cultivated kitchen garden running along the road, trim hedges, smart white palings, an orchard of fine young trees, a general air of neatness, industry, prosperity, which, under the circumstances, was positively staggering. I had passed along a mile of cabins in every stage of ruin, from the solitary chimney still standing to the more recent ruin with two gables, from the inhabited pig-sty to the hut whereon grew crops of long grass. I had noted the old lady clad in sackcloth and ashes, who, having invested the combined riches of the neighbourhood in six oranges and a bottle of pop, was sitting on the ground, alternately contemplating the three-legged stool which held the locked-up capital and her own sooty toes, immersed in melancholy reflections anent the present depression in commercial circles. The Paradisaic cottage was startling after this. I stopped a bare-legged boy, and found that the place belonged to a Black Protestant, and, what was worse, a Presbyterian, and, what was superlatively bad, a Scots Presbyterian. Presently I met a tweed-clad form, red-faced and huge of shoulder, full of strange accents and bearded like the pard. Berwickshire gave him birth, but he has "done time" in Ireland.
"I'm transported this forty-three years. I thought I'd end my days here, but if this bill passes we'll go back to Scotland. We'll have Catholic governors, and they'll do what they like with us. Ye'll have a tangled web to weave, over the Channel there. Ye'll have the whole island in rebellion in five-and-twenty minutes after ye give them power. Anybody that thinks otherwise is either very ignorant of the state of things or else he's a born fule. No, I wouldn't say the folks are all out that lazy, not in this part of Galway. They will work weel enough for a Scots steward, or for an Englishman. But no Irish steward can manage them. Anybody will tell you that. No-one in any part of the country will say any different. Now, that's a queer thing. An Irish steward has no control over them. They don't care for him. And he runs more risk of shooting than an English or Scots steward.
"There was an Irish bailiff where I was steward, and he saw how I managed the men, and thought he'd do it the same way. So once when he and a lot of diggers went in for the praties and buttermilk, the praties were not ready, and he gives the fellow who was responsible a bit of a kick behind with the side of his foot, like.
"The very next night he got six slugs in his head and face and one of his front teeth knocked out. That taught him to leave kicking to foreigners. Once two men were speaking of me. I overheard one say, 'Ah, now, Micky, an' isn't it a pity that Palmer's a Black Protestant, an' that his sowl will blaze in hell for ever, like a tur-rf soddock ye'd pick up in the bog?'"
"Settle the land question and you settle Home Rule. The bad times made Parnell's success. He was backed by the low prices of produce, and the general depression of agricultural interests. The rent has been reduced, but not enough to compensate the drop in the prices of produce. Why, cattle have been fetching one-half what they fetched a short time ago. Potatoes are twopence-halfpenny a stone! Did you ever hear of such a thing? Yes, it enables the people to live very cheaply, but how about the growers? If every man grew his own potatoes and lived on them, well and good, but he must have no rent to pay. That price would not pay for labour and manure. Oats are worth sixpence to ninepence a stone,—a ridiculous price; and we have not yet touched the bottom.
"The land question should be settled. No, it is not satisfactory. People have to wait seven years for a settlement, and meanwhile they could be kicked out of their holdings at one day's notice. The people who bought under Ashbourne's Act are happy, prosperous, and contented. The people who are beside them are the contrary. Home Rulers, bosh! Farmers know as much about Home Rule as a pig knows about the Sabbath Day. The land, the land, the land! Let the Tories take this up and dish the Liberals. Easiest thing alive. How? Compulsory sale, compulsory purchase. Leave nothing to either party. Then you'll hear no more of Home Rule. Let the Unionists hold their ground a bit, till it dies out, or until the rival factious destroy each other. Loyalty? Why those Nationalist members have themselves told you over and over again that they are rebels. Don't you believe them? Some few may be inspired with the idea that the thing is impracticable, but they will all preach separation when the right time comes. 'Pay no taxes to England,' they'll cry. The people can follow that. Tell them that any course of action means non-payment of anything, and they're on it like a shot. Why, the Paying of Tribute to England is already discussed in every whiskey shop in Galway, and every man is prepared to line the ditches with guns and pikes rather than pay one copper. When you can't give Strachan the farm for which he paid last February, when you can't keep a small farmer who won't pay rent from occupying his farm and getting his crops as usual, for he will do so, how are you going to raise the famous Tribute Money?"
Near the Town Hall was a great crowd of people listening to a couple of minstrels who chanted alternate lines of a modernised version of the Shan van vocht. "Let me make the songs of a people, and I care not who makes its laws." Mr. Gladstone is appreciated now. The heart of the Connaughtman throbs responsive to his pet appellation. This is part of the song—
Oi'm goin' across the say, says the Grand Old Man, Oi'll be back some other day, says the Grand Old Man; When Oireland gets fair play We'll make Balfour rue the day,— Remimber what I say, says the Grand Old Man. Whin will ye come back? says the Grand Old Man, Whin will ye come back? says the Grand Old Man, Whin Balfour gets the sack Wid Salisbury on his back, Or unto hell does pack, says the Grand Old Man. Will ye deny the Lague? says the Grand Old Man, No, we'll continue to the Lague, says the Grand Old Man. John Dillon says at every station, 'Twill be his conversation Till Oireland is a nation, says the Grand Old Man.
There are three more verses of this immortal strain. The Shan van vocht was the great song of the '98 rebellion, and possibly the G.O.M.'s happy adaptability to the music may put the finishing touch to his world-wide renown. Other songs referred to the arrest of Father Keller, of Youghal. "They gathered in their thousands their grief for to revale, An' mourn for their holy praste all in Kilmainham Jail." These ballads are anonymous, but the talented author of "Dirty little England" stands revealed by internal evidence. The voices which chanted these melodies were discordant, but the people around listened with reverential awe, from time to time making excited comments in Irish. Altogether Tuam is a depressing kind of place, and but for the enterprise of a few Protestants, the place would be a phantasmagoria of pigs, priests, peasants, poverty, and "peelers." Perhaps Galway would have more civilization, if less piety. You cannot move about an Irish country town after nightfall without barking your shins on a Roman Catholic Cathedral. This in time becomes somewhat monotonous.
Tuam (Co. Galway), May 9th.
No. 21.—MR. BALFOUR'S FISHERIES.
A clean, well-built town, with a big river, the Corrib, running through the middle of it, splashing romantically down from the salmon weir, not far from the Protestant Church of Saint Nicholas, a magnificent cathedral-like structure over six hundred years old. There is a big square with trees and handsome buildings, several good hotels, a tramway, and, mirabile dictu! a veritable barber's shop. The Connaught folks, as a whole, seem to have fully realised the old saying that shaving by a barber is a barbarous custom, but there is no rule without an exception, and accordingly Mr. McCoy, of Eyre Square, razors and scissors her Majesty's lieges, whether gentle or simple, rebel or loyal, Unionist or Separatist, Catholic or Protestant. The good Figaro himself is an out-and-out Separatist. He swallows complete Independence, and makes no bones about it. He believes in Ireland a Nation, insists on perfect autonomy, and, unlike the bulk of his fellow Nationalists, has the courage of his opinions. His objection to English interference with Irish affairs is openly expressed, and with an emphasis which leaves no doubt of his sincerity. According to Mr. McCoy, the woes of Ireland are each and all directly attributable to English rule. The depopulation of the country, the lack of enterprise, of industry, of the common necessaries of life, of everything to be desired by the sons of men—all these disagreeables are due to the selfishness, the greed, the brutality of Englishmen, who are not only devoid of the higher virtues, but also entirely destitute of common fairness, common honesty, common humanity. Mr. McCoy holds that England exploits Ireland for her own purposes, is a merciless sucker of Hibernia's life-blood, a sweater, a slave-driver, a more than Egyptian taskmaster. Remove the hated English garrison, abolish English influence, let Ireland guide her own destinies, and all will at once be well—trade will revive, poverty will disappear, emigration will be checked, a teeming population will inhabit the land, and the Emerald Isle will once more become great, glorious, and free, Furst flower o' the airth, Furst gem o' the say. No longer will the gallant men of Connaught bow their meek heads to American shears, no longer present their well-developed jaws to Yankee razors; but, instead of this, flocking in their thousands on saints' days and market days to their respective county towns, and especially to Galway, will form en queue at the door of Mr. McCoy, to save the country by fostering native industries. No longer will it avail the Chinaman of whom he told me to sail from New York to Ireland, because the latter is the only country wherein Irishmen do not monopolise all the good things, do not boss the show—have, in fact, no voice at all in its management. "But," said my friend, "we'll get no Home Rule, we'll get no Parlimint, we'll get nothin' at all at all till Irishmen rise up in every part o' the wuruld an thrash it out o' ye. What business have the English here at all domineering over us? Didn't one o' their great spakers get up in Parlimint an' say we must be kept paupers? Didn't he say that 'the small loaf was the finest recruiting sergeant in the wuruld?' There ye have the spirit o' the English. We want the counthry to ourselves, an' to manage it our way, not yours. An' that thievin' owld Gladstone's the biggest scut o' thim all. No, I'm not grateful to Gladstone, not a bit iv it. Divil a ha'porth we have to thank him for. Sure, he was rakin Parnell out iv his grave, the mane-spirited scut, that cringed and grinned whin Parnell was alive. Sure, 'twas Gladstone broke up the party wid his morality. 'Ah,' says he, 'I couldn't associate wid such a person, alanna!' An' he wouldn't let it be a Parlimint at all—it must be a leg-is-la-ture, by the hokey, it must, no less. Let him go choke wid his leg-is-la-ture, the durty, mane-spirited owld scut."
Mr. McCoy declines to regard Mr. Gladstone as a benefactor of Ireland, but in this he is not alone. His sentiments are shared by every Irishman I have met, no matter what his politics. The Unionist party are the more merciful, sparing expletives, calling no ill names. They admire his ability, his wonderful vitality, versatility, ingenuity of trickery. They sincerely believe that he is only crazy, and think it a great pity. They speak of the wreck of his rich intellect, and say in effect corruptio optimi pessima est. There is another monkish proverb which may strike them as they watch him in debate, particularly when he seems to be cornered; it runs, Non habet anguillam, Per caudam qui tenet illam, which may be extemporaneously rendered, He has not surely caught the eel, Who only holds him by the tail.
Every Nationalist I have met entertains similar opinions, but few express them so unguardedly. Mr. McCoy must be honoured for his candour and superior honesty. If his brethren were all as frankly outspoken as he England would be saved much trouble, much waste of precious time. The secret aspirations of the Irish Nationalist leaders, if openly avowed, would dispose of the Home Rule agitation at once and for ever. No risk of loss, no possible disadvantage, daunted Mr. McCoy. He accepted the statement of a rabid Separatist, quoted in a previous letter, that the Irish would prefer to go to hell their own way. That was his feeling exactly. Not that there was any danger. Great was his confidence, implicit, sublime, ineffably Irish. His was the faith that removes mountains. Not like a grain of mustard seed, but like the rock of Cashel. Floreat McCoy!
Mr. Athy, of Kinvarra, has very little to say. He thinks the bill would make Ireland a hell upon earth for all Protestants living in Catholic communities, and that a settlement of the land question would settle the hash of the agitators. Mr. Kendal, of Tallyho, an Englishman twenty-five years resident in Ireland, agrees in the latter opinion. I forgot to question him re toleration. He thinks the Home Rule Bill simply insane, absurd, not worth serious discussion by sensible men. "No intelligent man who knows the country would dream of such madness. The simplicity of the English people must be incredible. Pity they cannot come over and examine for themselves."
Mr. Beddoes, traffic manager of the Limerick and Waterford Railway, came to Ireland an enthusiastic Gladstonian. He had worked with might and main to send Mr. Price to Parliament, and was largely instrumental in returning him. He is now a staunch Unionist, admits the error of his ways, and rejoices that a personal acquaintance with the subject at once led him into the true fold. I had this confession of faith from Mr. Beddoes himself, a keen, successful man of eminently Conservative appearance, a scholar, a traveller, and a great favourite with his men.
"How long were you in Ireland before you changed your mind?" I asked.
"Well," said Mr. Beddoes, "to tell the truth, I began to have my doubts during the first week."
A prosperous Presbyterian of Galway said:—"To say that the Irish people, the masses, want an Irish Parliament is the height of absurdity; and to argue that their aspirations are expressed by their votes is a gross perversion of the truth. The ignorance of the people explains everything. They voted as the priests told them to vote, without the smallest conception of what they were voting for, without the smallest idea of what Home Rule really means. They are quite incapable of understanding a complicated measure of any kind, and they naturally accept the guidance of their spiritual advisers, whom they are accustomed to regard as men of immense erudition, besides being gifted with power to bind and loose, and having the keys of heaven at command. You know how they canvass their penitents in the confessional, and how from the altar they have taught the people to lie, telling them to vote for one man and to shout down the streets for another. The Irish priests are wonderfully moral men in other respects, and cases of immorality in its ordinary sense are so rare as to be practically unknown. I could forgive their politics, and even their confessional influence, if they were not such awful liars. Their want of truthfulness reacts on the people, and if you send a man to do a job, he will return and get his money when he has only half done it. 'Oh, yes,' he'll say, as natural as possible, 'I've done it well, very well.' And they are not ashamed when they are proved to be liars. They think nothing of it. And the way they cheat each other! A few days ago I met a man who pulled out a bundle of one-pound notes, and said, 'I'm afther selling thirteen cows, an' I'm afther buying thirteen more. I sowld me cows to Barney So-and-So, afther givin' him six noggins of poteen, an' I got out of him twenty per cint. more than the price that was goin', thanks be to God!' They are so pious—in words."
"What they want is emancipation from the priests and from the superstitions of the dark ages. They believe in the fairies still, and attribute all kinds of powers to them. Look at the Tuam News of yesterday evening. Perhaps the English people would hesitate before conferring self-government on the poor folks who read that paper, if they could only see the rag for a week or two."
I secured the Tuam News for Friday, May 12, 1893, and found the sheet instructive, suggestive, original. There is a big advertisement in Irish, an ancient Irish poem with translation, and a letter from Mr. Henry Smyth, of Harborne, Birmingham, addressed to the National Literary Society of Loughrea, under whose auspices Miss Gonne the other day delivered the rebel lecture quoted in the Killaloe letter. Our fellow-citizen speaks of "the spirit of revival that is abroad amongst you, of your new society rising phoenix-like from the ashes of the old, not uninspired, we may suppose, by the project of your being in the near future masters in your own house, the arbiters of your own destiny, for you will be governed by the men of your own choice." Side by side with this heart-felt utterance let us print another letter appearing in the same issue of the same hebdomadal illuminator:—
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TUAM NEWS.
Sir,—Permit me a little space in the next issue of the Tuam News, relative to my father being killed by the fairies which appeared in the Tuam News of the 8th of April last. I beg to say that he was not killed by the fairies, but I say he was killed by some person or persons unknown as yet. Hoping very soon that the perpetrators of this dastardly outrage will be soon brought to light, I am, Mr. Editor, yours obediently,
DAVID REDINGTON. Kilcreevanty, May 8th, '93.
What would be thought of an English constituency which required such a contradiction? The people who believe in the fairies form the bulk of the Irish electorate. Their votes have sent the Nationalist members to Parliament; their voice it is which directs the action of Gladstone, Morley, and Tail; their influence ordains the course of legislation; in their hands are the destinies of England and Englishmen. The people themselves are innocent enough. If they hate England it is because they have been so taught by priests and agitators for their own ends. The only remedy is enlightenment, but the process must be slow. The accursed influences are ever at work, on the platform, in the press, at the altar, and I see no countervailing agency. The people are 'cute enough, and would be clever, if once their bonds were broken. They are not fettered by English rule. They are bound down by Ignorance, rank Ignorance, in an Egyptian darkness that may be felt. They are poor in this world's goods, although seemingly healthier and stronger than the English average. Much of their poverty is their own fault. Much more is due to the teachings of agitators. The Land League has mined whole communities. Poverty and Ignorance made the Irish masses an easy prey. Their ancient prejudices are kept alive, their ancient grievances industriously disinterred, their imagination pleased with an illimitable vista of prosperity artfully unrolled before their untutored gaze. We have the result before us. The Gladstonian party in England are responding to the dictates of a handful of hirelings and sacerdotalists, and not to the aspirations of a people. Credulity is the offspring of Ignorance, and accordingly we see that the Irish people believe in Tim Healy and the priests, the Grand Old Man and the fairies. They must be saved from themselves.
The harbour of Galway is very picturesque. A massive ivy-covered arch marks the boundary line of the ancient walls, some of which are still extant. The raggedness and filthiness of the fisher-wives and children must be seen to be understood. A few sturdy fishermen sat gloomily beside two great piles of fish, thrown out of the boats in heaps. Large fish, like cod, and yet not cod; bigger than hake, but not unlike the Cornish fish. To ask a question at a country station or in the street is in Connaught rather embarrassing, as all the people within earshot immediately crowd around to hear what is going on. Not impudent, but sweetly unsophisticated are the Galway folks, openly regarding the stranger with inquiring eye, not unfriendly, but merely curious. Having no business of their own, they take the deepest interest in that of other people. And they make a fuss. They are too polite. They load you with attentions. No trouble is too great. Give them the smallest chance and they put themselves about until you wish you had not spoken. However, I wanted to know about the fish, so I strolled up to two men who were lying at full length on the quay, and said—
"What do you call those fish?"
Both men sprang hastily to their feet, and said—
"Black pollock, Sorr."
"Where do you catch them?"
At this juncture two or three dozen urchins galloped up, most of them, save for a thick skin of dirt, clad in what artists call the nude. They surrounded us, and listened with avidity.
"Outside the Aran Islands."
Here several women joined the group, and more were seen hastening to the scene of excitement from every point of the compass.
"How far away is that?"
"Thirty miles, Sorr."
"What are they worth?"
"A shilling a dozen."
"That is, a penny a pound?"
"No, but a shilling for a dozen fish, and there's thirteen to the dozen."
"And how heavy is the average fish?"
He picked up one by the jaws, and weighing him on his hand, said—
"That chap would be nigh-hand fourteen pounds. Some's more, some's less."
It was even so. The agent of the Congested Districts Board, Mr. Michael Walsh, of Dock Street, confirmed this startling statement. Thirteen huge codlike fish for a shilling! More than a hundredweight and a half of fish for twelve pence sterling! And, as Father Mahony remarks, still the Irish peasant mourns, still groans beneath the cruel English yoke, still turns his back on the teeming treasures of the deep. The brutal Balfour supplied twenty-five boats to the poor peasants of the western seaboard, and these, all working in conjunction under direction, have proved both a boon and a blessing. "Yesterday I sent sixty boxes of mackerel to Messrs. Smith, of Birmingham, and to-day I think I shall send them a hundred," said Mr. Walsh. "These Balfour boats have been a wonderful success. You'll hear the very ignorant still cursing him, but not the better-informed, nor the people he has benefited. I think him a great man, a very great man, indeed. I am no politician. I only look at the effect he produced and the blessing he was to the people. On Wednesday last the Duras steamer brought in 400 boxes of fish, which had been caught in one day. We thought that pretty good, but Thursday's consignment was simply astonishing, 1,100 boxes coming in. We sent them all to England. Mackerel have fetched grand prices this year. Early in the season we sold them to Birmingham at tenpence apiece wholesale, with carriage and other expenses on the top of that. Better price than the pollock? Well, that fish is not very good just now. Sometimes it fetches six shillings a dozen fish, nearly sixpence each. No, not much for twelve or fourteen pounds of good fish. Half-a-crown a dozen is more usual. There's no demand. Yes, they're cheap to-day. A dozen pounds of fish for a penny would be reckoned 'a cheap loaf' in Birmingham."
A shopkeeper near the harbour complained of the unbusiness-like ways of the Galway townsmen:—"They have no notion of business management. Take the Galway Board of Guardians. They resolved that any contractor furnishing milk below a certain standard should have his contract broken if he were caught swindling the authorities three times in six months. What would they think of such a resolution in England? Well, one fellow was caught three times or more. His milk was found to contain forty-four per cent. of water. Instead of kicking him out at once there was a great debate on the subject. It was not denied that the facts were as I have stated them. His friends simply said, 'Ah, now, let the Boy go on wid the conthract; shure, isn't he the dacent Boy altogether? An' what for would ye break the conthract whin he put in a dhrop of clane wather, that wouldn't hurt anybody. Shure, 'tis very wholesome it is intirely.' As Curran said, 'we are ruined with to-day saying we'll do some thing, and then turning round and saying to-morrow that we won't do it.' Another Guardian named Connor stuck up for the right thing, and another named Davoren gave the contractor's friends a good tongue-thrashing. The milkman was sacked by fifteen votes to nine. The right thing was done, but my point is that a lot of time was wasted in trying to bolster up such a case, and nine men actually voted for the defaulter, whose action was so grossly fraudulent, and who had been caught at least three times in six months.
"The bag factory has just been closed. The Home Rule Bill is at the bottom of this mischief. It was the only factory we had in Galway, and what the people here are to do now God only knows. It gave employment to the working classes of the town, who will now have to go further afield. Some are off to America, some to England, some to Scotland. Curious thing I've noticed. A Scotsman lands here with twopence, next day has fourpence, in five years a house and farm of his own, in twenty-five years an estate, in thirty years is being shot at as a landowner, in forty years has an agent to be deputy cock-shot for him. But Irishmen who go to Scotland nearly always return next year swearing that the country is poor as the Divil. Now, how is that?
"The bag works was just short of money and management. Irishmen are not financiers. They are always getting into holes, and waiting for somebody to get them out. They have no self-reliance. You may hold them up by the scruff of the neck for years and years, and the moment you drop them they hate you like poison. Many shooting cases would show this if impartially looked into. Pity the English do not come over here more than they do. The people get along famously with individual Englishmen, and sometimes they wonder where all the murdering villains are of whom they hear from their spiritual and political advisers. A priest said in my hearing, 'Only the best men come over here. They are picked out to impose on you.' And the poor folks believed him. We want to know each other better. The English are just as ignorant as the Irish, in a way. They know no more of the Irish than the Irish know of them. The poor folks of Connaught firmly believe that they would be well off and able to save money but for the English that ruin the country. And here this Jute Bag Company is bursted up because it had not capital to carry on with. Belfast men or Englishmen would have made it a big success. It stopped because it could not raise enough money to buy a ship-load of jute, and was obliged to buy from hand to mouth from retailers.
"Take the wool trade. Everywhere over Ireland you will see Wool, Wool in big letters on placards for the farmers—notices of one sort or another. We are the centre of a wool district. Not a single wool factory, although the town is in every way fitted for excelling in the woollen trade. We have a grand river, and the people understand wool. They card and spin, and make home-made shawls and coat-pieces at their own homes, just for themselves, and there they stop. They are waiting for Home Rule, they say. Pass the bill, and factories will jump out of the ground like mushrooms. Instead of taking advantage of the means at their disposal, they are looking forward to a speculative something which they cannot define. The English are the cause of any trouble they may have, and an Irish Parliament will totally change the aspect of things. Everybody is going to be well off, and with little or no work. The farmers are going to get the land for nothing, or next to nothing, and all heretics will be sent out of the country, or kept down and in their proper place."
Thus spake a well-to-do Protestant, born in Galway some sixty years ago, a half-breed Irish and Scotchman. I have now heard so many exasperating variations of this same tune, that I should be disposed, had I the power, to take a deep and desperate revenge by granting the grumblers Home Rule on the spot. It would doubtless serve them right, but England has also herself to consider.
Galway Town, May 13th.
No. 22.—THE LAND LEAGUE'S REIGN AT LOUGHREA.
This is the most depressing town I have seen as yet. Except on market and fair days, literally nothing is done. The streets are nearly deserted, the houses are tumbling down, gable-ends without side-walls or roofs are seen everywhere, nettles are growing in the old chimney corners, and the splendid ruins of the ancient abbey are the most cheerful feature of the place. A few melancholy men stand about, the picture of despondent wretchedness, a few sad-eyed girls wander about with the everlasting hood, hiding their heads and faces, a few miserable old women beg from all and sundry, and the usual swarm of barefooted children are, of course, to the fore. The shopkeepers display their wares, waiting wearily for market day, and dismally hoping against hope for better times. Everybody is in the doleful dumps, everybody says the place is going down, everybody says that things grow worse, that the trade of the place grows smaller by degrees and gradually less, that enterprise is totally extinguished, that there is no employment for the people, and no prospect of any. Those whose heads are just above water are puzzled to know how those worse off than themselves contrive to exist at all, and look towards the future with gloomiest foreboding. Like the man who quoted Christmas strawberries at twelve dollars a pound, they ask how the poor are going to live. The young men of the place seem to have quite lost heart, and no longer muster spirit enough to murder anybody. Loughrea is disloyal as the sea is salt. The man in the street is full of grievances. His poverty and ignorance make him the mark of lying agitators, who arouse in his simple soul implacable resentment for imaginary wrongs. A decent civil working-man named Hanan thus expressed himself:—
"The town was a fine business place until a few years ago, whin the Land League ruined it. Ah, thim was terrible times. We had murthers in the town an' all round the town. Perhaps the people that got shot desarved it, they say here that they did; but, all the same, the place was ruined by the goin's on. It's no joke to kill nine or ten people in and about a quiet little place like this. An' ever since thin the place is goin' down, down, down, an' no one knows what will be the ind iv it. 'Tis all the fault of the English Governmint. The counthry is full of gowld mines, an' silver mines, an' copper mines, an' we're not allowed to work thim. Divil a lie I spake. The Government wouldn't allow us to bore for coal. Sure, we're towld by thim that knows all about it, men that's grate scholars an' can spake out iligant. Why wouldn't we be allowed to sink a coal mine in our own counthry? Why wouldn't we be allowed to get the gowld that's all through the mountains? 'Tis the English that wants iverything for thimsilves, an' makes us all starvin' paupers intirely."
This serves to indicate the kind of falsehoods palmed off upon these poor people in order to make them agitators or criminals. Hanan went on—
"Look at the Galway Bag Factory. I'm towld that's shutting up now. What'll the people do at all, at all, that was employed in it? An' the English Parlimint ordhers it to be closed because it turns out bags chaper than they can make thim in England, an' betther, and the English maker couldn't compate. Ye know betther? I wouldn't conthradict yer honour's glory, ye mane well; but I have it from them that knows. Look at the Galway marble quarries. There's two sorts o' marble in one quarry, an' tis grand stone it is, an' the quarries would give no ind iv imploymint to the poor men that's willin' to work. God help thim, but they're not allowed to cut a lump of stone in their own counthry. What stops them? Sure 'tis the English Government, an' what would it be else? A gintleman isn't allowed to cut a stone on his own land. All must come from England. Ye make us buy it off ye, an' us wid millions of pounds' worth of stone. Ah, now, don't tell me 'tis all rubbish. Sure, I have it sthraight from mimbers of Parlimint. Didn't the English Governmint send out soldiers an' policemen, wid guns an' swords, an' stop the men that wint to cut the stone in the marble quarries I was afther mintionin' to yer honour? Yes, 'twas the Land League that ruined this place, but 'twas the Governmint that made the Land League by dhriving the people into it. No, I wouldn't trust Gladstone or any other Englishman. They'll take care of thimselves, the English. We'll get no more than they can help. What we got out o' Gladstone we bate out o' him. We get nothing but what we conquered. Small thanks we owe, an' small thanks we'll give."
A small farmer said, "The rints isn't low enough. The judicial rints is twice too much, an' the price of stock what it is. We must have a sliding scale, an' pay rint according to the price of produce. We must have the land for half what we pay now. I wouldn't say anythin' agin' the English. I have two brothers there an' they come over here sometimes, an' from what they tell me I believe the English manes well. An' the English law isn't bad at all. 'Tis the administhration of the law that's bad. We have the law, but 'tis no use to us because the landlords administhers it. Divil a bit o' compinsation can we get. An' if we want a pump, or a fence, or a bit o' repairs, we may wait for seven years, till our hearts break wid worryin' afther it. Thin we've our business to mind, an' we've not the time nor the money to go to law, even whin the law is with us an we have a clear case. The landlord has his agint, that has nothin' else to do but to circumvint us, so that the land laws don't do us the good that ye think over in England. Ye have grand laws, says you, an' 'tis thrue for you; but who works the laws? says I. That's where the trouble comes in. Who works the laws? says I.
"Thin ye say, ye can buy your farms all out, says you. But the landlords won't sell, says I. Look at the Monivea disthrict. French is a good landlord enough, but he won't sell. The tinants want to buy, but if ye go to Monivea Castle ye'll have your labour for your pains. The agint is the landlord's brother, an' a dacent, good man he is. I have a relative over there, an' sorra a word agin aither o' thim will he spake. But when he wint to buy his farm, not an inch would he get."
This statement was so diametrically opposed to that of Mr. John Cook, of Londonderry, who said that the farmers had ceased to buy, owing to their belief that the land would shortly become their own on much better terms than they could at present obtain, that I tramped to Monivea, a distance of six miles from Athenry, for the purpose of ascertaining, if possible, how far my Loughrea friend's assertion was borne out by facts. Monivea is a charming village, built round a great green patch of turf, whereon the children play in regiments. Imagine an oblong field three hundred yards long by one hundred wide, bounded at one end by high trees, at the other by a great manor house in ruins, the sides closed in by neat white cottages and a pretty Protestant Church, and you have Monivea, the sweetest village I have seen in Ireland. Here I interviewed four men, one of whom had just returned by the Campania from America, to visit his friends after an absence of many years. This gentleman was a strong Unionist, and ridiculed the idea of Home Rule as the most absurd and useless measure ever brought forward with the object of benefiting his countrymen. "What will ye do wid it when ye've got it?" he said; "sure it can never do ye any good at all. How will it put a penny in yer pockets, an' what would ye get by it that ye can't get widout it?" Two farmers thought they would get the land for a much lower rent. They said that although the landowner, Mr. French, was an excellent, kind, and liberal man, and that no fault at all could be found with his brother, the agent, yet still the land was far too dear, and that a large portion of it was worth nothing at all. "I pay eight and sixpence an acre for land that grows nothing but furze, that a few sheep can nibble round, an', begorra, 'tis not worth half-a-crown. Most iv it is worth just nothin' at all, an' yet I have to scrape together eight and sixpence an acre," said he. "'Tis not possible to get a livin' out iv it."
"Thin why don't ye lave it?" said the man from Missouri.
"Why thin, how could I lave the bit o' ground me father had? Av ye offered me a hundhred acres o' land for nothin' elsewhere, I vow to God I would rather stay on the bit o' rock that grows heath and gorse, if I could only get a crust out iv it, far sooner," said the grumbler.
"An' d'ye think Home Rule will enable ye to do betther? Ye'll believe anythin' in Monivea. Ye are the same as iver ye wor. It's no use raisonin' wid yez at all. Sure, the counthry won't be able to do widout loans, an' who'll lind ye money wid an Irish Parlimint?"
"Why would we want money whin there's gowld to be had for the diggin', av we got lave to dig it?" said the man of Monivea.
The villagers believe that England prevents their mining for coal, gold, silver, copper; that the British Government tyrannically puts down all enterprise; that Home Rule will open mines, build railways, factories, institute great public works; that their friends will flock back from America; that all the money now spent out of the country will be disbursed in Ireland for Irish manufactures; that the land must and will become their own for nothing, or next to nothing; and in short, that simultaneously with the first sitting of an Irish Parliament an era of unprecedented prosperity will immediately set in. The two farmers confirmed what I have been told of the reluctance of the landlords to part with an acre of the land, and said that men had returned from America with money to buy farms, and after having wandered in vain over Ireland were fain to go back to the States, being unable to purchase even at a fancy price. They have been told this by persons in whom they had implicit trust, and I am sure they believed it. A fairly educated man, who had travelled, and from whom I expected better things, has since assured me that the stories about compulsory closing of mines and quarries had been dinned into him from infancy, and that he was of opinion that these assertions were well founded, and that they could not be successfully contradicted. Everywhere the same story of English selfishness and oppression. He cited a case in point. "Twenty years ago there was a silver mine in Kinvarra. It gave a lot of employment to the people of those parts, and was a grand thing for the country at large. The Government stepped in and closed it. I'm towld by them I can believe that 'twas done to keep us poor, so that they could manage us, because we'd not be able to resist oppression and tyranny, we'd be that pauperised. England does everything to keep us down. They have the police and the soldiers everywhere to watch us that we'd get no money at all. So when they see us starting a factory, or a fishery, or opening a mine or a quarry, the word comes down to stop it, and if we'd say No, this is our own country, and we'll do what we like in it, they'd shoot us down, and we couldn't help ourselves. I'm not sayin' that I want Home Rule or anything fanciful just for mere sentiment. We only want our own, and Home Rule will give us our own."