The Home Rule party, the Nationalist patriots who know full well the falsity of these and such-like beliefs, are responsible for this invincible ignorance. Hatred and distrust of England are the staple of their teachings, which the credulous peasantry imbibe like mother's milk. The peripatetic patriots who invade the rural communities seem to be easy, extemporaneous liars, having a natural gift for tergiversation, an undeniable gift for mendacity, an inexhaustible fertility of invention. Such liars, like poets, are born, not made, though doubtless their natural gifts have been improved and developed by constant practice. Like Parolles, they "lie with such volubility that you would think Truth were a fool." The seed has been industriously sown, and John Bull is reaping the harvest. Is there no means of enlightenment available? Is there no antidote to this poison? I am disposed to believe that if the country were stumped by men of known position and integrity much good would be done. Leaflets bearing good names would have considerable effect. The result might not be seen at once, but the thing would work, and the people have less and less confidence in their leaders. The most unlettered peasant is a keen judge of character, and, given time, would modify his views. The truth about the mines, given in clear and simple language, would have a great effect. Education is fighting for the Union. Time is all the Loyalists require. The National Schools must, in the long run, be fatal to political priestcraft and traitorous agitation.
To return to Loughrea. I walked a short distance out of the town to see the place where Mr. Blake, Lord Clanricarde's agent, was so foully murdered. A little way past the great Carmelite Convent I encountered an old man, who showed me the fatal spot. A pleasant country road with fair green meadows on each side, a house or two not far away, the fields all fenced with the stone walls characteristic of the County Galway. "'Twas here, Sorr, that the guns came over the wall. Misther Blake was dhrivin' to church, at about eleven o'clock o' a foin summer's mornin'. His wife was wid him, an' Timothy Ruane was runnin' the horse—a dacent boy was Tim, would do a hand's turn for anybody. The childer all swore by Tim, be raison he was the boy to give them half-pince for sweets and the like o' that. So they dhrove along, and whin they came tin yards from this, says Tim, sittin' in front wid the reins, says he, 'Misther Blake, I see some men at the back iv the ditch,' says he. 'Drive on, Tim,' says Misther Blake, 'sure that's nothin' to do with aither you or me.' An' the next instant both of thim wor in Eternity! Blake and poor Tim wor kilt outright on the spot, an' nayther of them spoke a word nor made a move, but jist dhropped stone dead, God rest their sowls. An' the wife, that's Misthress Blake, a good, kind-hearted lady she was, was shot in the hip, an' crippled, but she wasn't kilt, d'ye see. Blake was a hard man, they said, an' must have the rint. An' poor Tim was kilt the way he wouldn't tell o' the boys that did it. 'Twas slugs they used, an' not bullets, but they fired at two or three yards, an' so close that the shot hasn't time to spread, an' 'tis as good as a cannon ball. Who were they? All boys belongin' to the place. Mrs. Blake dhropped, an' they thought she was dead, I believe. Some thinks she was shot by accident, an' that they did not mane to kill a wake woman at all. But whin they shot Tim, to kape his mouth shut, why wouldn't they shoot the woman?"
Seven men were arrested, and everybody in the place was believed to know the murderers. The police had no doubt at all that they had the right men. All were acquitted. No evidence was offered. No witness cared to meet the fate of Blake. Silence, in this case, was golden, and no mistake about it.
Walking from the railway station along the main street, in the very heart of the town, you see on your left the modest steeple of the Protestant church, some fifty yards down Church Street. The town is built on two parallel streets, and Church Street is the principal connecting artery, about a hundred yards long. Exactly opposite the church the houses on the right recede some five or six feet from the rank; and here poor Sergeant Linton met his death. He was an Antrim man, a Black Presbyterian, and a total abstainer. His integrity was so well known that he was exempted from attendance at the police roll-call. He was death on secret societies, and was thought to know too much. In the soft twilight of a summer's eve he left the main street and sauntered down Church Street. When he reached the indentation above-mentioned a man shot him with a revolver, and fled into the main street. The unfortunate officer gave chase, pursuing the assassin along the principal thoroughfare, his life-blood ebbing fast, until, on reaching the front of Nevin's Hotel, he fell dead. Arrests were made, and, as before, the criminal was undoubtedly secured. Again no evidence. The murderer was liberated, but he wisely left the country, and will hardly return. A policeman said: "There was no doubt about the case. The criminal was there. Everybody spotted the man, even those who did not see him shoot. But nobody spoke, and if they had spoken he would have got off just the same. The people of this happy country have brought the art of defeating the law to its highest perfection. The most ignorant peasants know all its weak spots, and they work them well, very well indeed, from their own point of view. Suppose ten of Linton's comrades had seen the shot fired, and that they had immediately caught the assassin, with the revolver in his hands. The jury would not have convicted him. Yes, I know that the judge in certain cases can set aside the verdict of the jury. If you did that in Ireland it would cost some lives. Wouldn't there be a shindy! And then there's strong judges and weak judges. Judges don't like being shot more than other people. And Irish judges are made of flesh and blood. Look at O'Halloran's case. I was in the Court when it was tried. A moonlighting case. The police caught a man on the spot, with a rifle having a double load. The thing was clear as the sun at noonday. Acquitted. The jury said, 'Not guilty'; and the man went quietly home. The administration of justice with a weak judge, or with a strong judge who feels a weak Government behind him, is a farce in Ireland.
"What will happen if we do not get the Bill? I think there will be some disturbance—the ruffians are always with us—although the people do not want Home Rule. I mean, they don't care about it. The bulk of the people would not give sixpence for Home Rule. They have been told it will pay them well, and they go in for that. Not one of them would have Home Rule if it cost him a penny, unless he believed he'd get twopence for his outlay. It's the land, and nothing else. The party that puts the land question on a comfortable footing will rule Ireland for ever. That's the opinion of every man in the force, in Loughrea or elsewhere. We have a curiosity here—a priest who goes against Home Rule. A very great man he was, head of a college or something, not one of the common ruck, and he's dead against it, and says so openly. The Tuam News used to pitch into him, but he didn't care, so they got tired of it. No good rowing people up when they laugh at you."
An old woman of the type too common in Ireland came up as the officer left me, and said:—
"Musha, now, but 'tis the foin, handsome man ye are, an' ye've a gintleman's face on ye, bedad ye have, an,'" here she showed a halfpenny in her withered claw, "this is all I got since I kem out, and me that's twistin' wid the rummatacks like the divil on a hot griddle; the holy Mother o' God knows its thrue, an' me ould man, that's seventy or eighty or more—the divil a one o' him knows his own age—he's that sick an' bad, an' that wake intirely, that he couldn't lift a herrin' wid a pair o' hot tongs; 'tis an ulster he has, that does be ruinin' him, the docthor says; bad luck to it for an ulster wid a powltice, an' he's growlin' that he has no tobacky, God help him. (Here I gave her something.) Almighty God open ye the gates in heaven, the Holy Mother o' God pour blessin's upon ye. 'Tis Englishmen I like, bedad it is; the grandest, foinest, greatest counthry in the wuruld, begorra it is—an' why not?"
This outburst somehow reminded me of a certain gentleman I met at the Railway Hotel, Athenry. He said, "I'm a Home Ruler out and out. The counthry's widin a stone's throw o' Hell, an' we may as well be in it althegither."
"Now, Mr. Kelly," said the charming Miss O'Reilly, "you are most inconsistent; you sometimes say you are a Conservative——"
"Aye, aye," assented Mr. Kelly, "but that's only when I'm sober!"
The Loughreans are quiet now, but the secret societies which dealt so lightly with human life are still at work, and the best-informed people believe that the murderous emissaries of the Land League, whose terrorism ruined the town, are only kept down by a powerful and vigilant police. I have only described three of the murders which took place in the town and neighbourhood during a comparatively short period. Add Mr. Burke and driver Wallace; both shot dead near Craughwell. J. Connor, of Carrickeele, who had accepted a situation as bog-ranger, vice Keogh, discharged. Shot. Three men arrested. No evidence. Patrick Dempsey, who had taken a small farm from which Martin Birmingham had been evicted. Shot dead in the presence of his two small children, with whom he was walking to church. No evidence. No convictions, but many more crimes, both great and small. So many murders that outrages do not count for much.
It is to the men who are directly responsible for all these horrors that Mr. Gladstone proposes to entrust the government of Ireland.
Loughrea, May 16th.
No. 23.—THE REIGN OF INDOLENCE.
I have just returned from Innishmore, the largest of the Aran islands, the population of which have been lifted from a condition of chronic starvation and enabled to earn their own livelihood by the splendid organisation of Mr. Balfour for the relief of the congested districts. Postal and other exigences having compelled a hasty return to the mainland, I defer a full account of this most interesting visit until my next letter, when I shall also be in possession of fuller and more accurate information than is attainable on the island itself.
Meanwhile, let us examine the state of Irish feeling by the sad sea waves of Galway Bay. Salthill is a plucky little bathing place; that is, plucky for Ireland. It is easily accessible from Galway town, and looks over the bay, but it is more like a long natural harbour without ships. There is a mile or so of promenade with stone seats at intervals, a shingle dotted with big rocks, a modicum of slate-coloured sand, like that of Schevening, in Holland, and blue hills opposite, like those of Carlingford Lough. The promenade is kerbed by a massive sea wall of limestone, and here and there flights of stone steps lead to the water's edge. Facing the sea are handsome villas, with flower gardens, tidy gravelled walks, shrubberies, snowy window blinds and other appurtenances of a desperately Protestant appearance. No large hotels, no villas with "Apartments" on a card in the fanlight, no boatmen plying for hire, no boats even, either ashore or afloat; no bathing-machines no anything the brutal Saxon mostly needs, except fresh air and blazing sunshine. The Galway end of this fashionable resort has a few shady houses, aggressively Anglicised with names like Wave View House and Elm Tree View, the first looking at a whitewashed wall, the second at a telegraph post. But although some of these houses announce "Furnished Lodgings," no English tourists would "take them on." If you want to bathe you walk into the sea as you stand, or hand your toga virilis to the bystanders, if any. The Connaught folks have no false modesty.
A white-haired gentleman descends from a wagonette and promenades for a while. Then he sits down beside me. The conversation turns on Home Rule. My friend is impatient, has been spending a few days in Belfast. The ignorance of the poor people is astonishing. A Roman Catholic of the Northern city told him that the first act of the Irish Parliament would be to level Cave Hill, and on the site thereof to build cottages for the poor. The hill was full of diamonds, which Queen Victoria would not allow the poor Irish folks to get. The country would be full of money. Didn't Mr. Gladstone say we'd have too much?—a clear allusion to the "chronic plethora." The people would have the upper hand, as they ought to have, and the first thing would be to evict the evictors. The only question was, would they clear out peaceably, or would it be necessary to call in the aid of the Irish Army of Independence?
"This poor man evidently believed that every respectable person, everybody possessing means and property, was an enemy to the commonwealth. An ardent Home Ruler asked me if the majority had a right to rule. He thought that was a triumphant, an unanswerable question. I replied that during a long and busy life I had always observed how, in successful enterprises, the majority did not rule. The intelligent minority, the persons who had shown their wisdom, their industry, their sagacity, their integrity, that they were competent and reliable, those, I said, were the people who were entrusted with the management of great affairs, and not the many-headed mob. The management of Irish affairs promises to be a task of tremendous difficulty, and those to whom you propose to entrust this huge and complicated machinery stand convicted of inability to manage with even tolerable success such comparatively simple affairs as the party journal, or the rent collection of new Tipperary. Both these enterprises turned out dead failures owing to the total incapacity of the Irish Parliamentary party. And we are asked to entrust the future of the country to these men, whose only qualifications are a faculty for glib talk and an unreasonable hatred of everything English.
"Mr. Gladstone has shown to demonstration that statesmen are no longer to direct the course of legislation; are no longer to lead the people onward in the paths of progressive improvement. The unthinking, uneducated masses are in future to signify their will, and statesmen are to be the automata to carry out their behests, whatever they may be. The unwashed, unshorn incapables who have nothing, because they lack the brains and industry to acquire property, are nowadays told that they, and they alone, shall decide the fate of empires, shall decide the ownership of property, shall manipulate the fortunes of those who have raised themselves from the dirt by ability, self-denial, and unremitting hard work. Look at the comparative returns of the illiterate electorate. In Scotland 1 in 160, in England 1 in 170, in Ireland 1 in 5. In one quarter of Donegal, a Catholic one, more illiterates than in all Scotland. Not that there is so much difference as these figures would seem to show. But if men who can write declare themselves illiterate, so that the priests and village ruffians may be satisfied as to how they individually voted, is not this still more deplorable? The conduct of the English Gladstonians passes my comprehension. They do not examine for themselves. They say Mr. Gladstone says so-and-so, and for them this is sufficient. Do they say their prayers to the Grand Old Man?"
Another Salthill malcontent said:—"An English visitor sneeringly asked me how it was that the Irish could not trust one another. I said, 'We cannot trust these men, and we can give you what ought to be a satisfactory reason for our distrust. They have been condemned as criminals by a competent tribunal, presided over by three English judges, one of them a Roman Catholic. They have been found guilty of criminal conspiracy, of sympathy with crime, and of having furnished the means for its committal, and that after the fairest trial ever held in the world. By a law passed in 1787 by Grattan's Parliament they would have suffered the punishment of death for this same criminal conspiracy. And, apart from Home Rule, leaving the present agitation altogether out of the question, the respectable classes of Ireland entirely object to be represented by such men, either at Westminster or College Green. Their conduct has done more to ruin Ireland than any other calamity which the country has endured for long ages. They have displayed an ingenuity of torture, and a refinement of cruelty, worthy of the Inquisition. Look at the case of District-inspector Murphy, of Woodford, in this county. Not by any means the worst of the tens of thousands of cases all over the country, but impressive to me because it came under my own observation. At the trial of Wilfrid Blunt, Mr. Murphy deposed upon oath that so severely was he boycotted for the mere performance of his duty, that his children were crying for bread, and that he was unable to give them any. Policemen had to bring milk from miles away. In other cases the pupils of these patriots, the preachers of the Land League, poured human filth into the water supply of their victims, who were in many cases ladies of gentle birth and children of tender years. Go up to Cong, and walk out to the place where Lord Mountmorres was murdered, near Clonbur. His whole income was L150 or L200, a poor allowance for a peer, one of the noble house of De Montmorency. He was shot in broad daylight, a dozen houses within call, and an open uncovered country, save for low stone walls, all around. The people danced in derision on the spot where he fell, and threw soil stained with his life blood in the air. He wanted his due, and, goodness knows, he was poor enough to satisfy oven an Irish agitator. His name was down for the next vacancy among the resident magistrates. The people who were guilty of inciting to those outrages are the most prominent of the Nationalist party. Is this the class of men you wish to set over us as governors?"
An artist named Hamilton, a Guernsey man, said, "The English people do not understand what stonethrowing means in Ireland. They read of rows, and so long as no shooting is done, they do not think it serious. The men of Connaught are wonderful shots with big stones, and you would be surprised at the force and precision with which they hurl great lumps of rock weighing three or four pounds. Poor Corbett, a man in Lord Ardilaun's employ, was killed outright by one of these missiles, and only the other day I was reading of the Connaught Rangers in Egypt, the old 88th, how they were short of ammunition at the battle of Aboukir, and how they tore down a wall and actually stopped the French, who were advancing with the bayonet."
A Galway merchant said:—"Balfour is the man for Ireland. A Nationalist member told me he was the cleverest man in the House. He said, 'Chamberlain goes in for hard hitting, and he is very effective, but nobody ever answered the Irish members so readily and smartly as Balfour. We thought twice before we framed our questions, and although we of course disapprove of him, we are bound to admire him immensely.' And as a business man I think Balfour was fully up to the mark. He it was who subsidised the Midland and Western Railway to build the light line now being made between Galway and Clifden. No company would have undertaken such a concern. As a mere business transaction it could not pay. But look at the good that is being done. The people were starving for want of employment, and no unskilled labour is imported to the district, so that the Connemara folks get the benefit of the work, and also a permanent advantage by the opening up of the Galway fisheries, which are practically inexhaustible. We have the Atlantic to go at. And the fish out of the deep, strong, running water are twice as big as those just off the coast, on herring-banks and shoals. The fishermen know this, and they call these places the mackerel hospitals and infirmaries. These fishermen always knew it, but they had no boats to go out to the deep seas, no nets, no tackle. They have them now, and they got them from Balfour. They get nothing but Home Rule from Morley and Gladstone, and they find it keeps them free from indigestion, although it puts their livers out of order. Amusing chaps, these fishermen. I was in a little country place on the coast, where the judicial and magisterial proceedings are of a very primitive character, and where most of the people speak Irish as their vernacular. One old chap declined to give evidence in English, and asked for an interpreter. The magistrate, who knew the old wag, said, 'Michael Cahill, you speak English very well,' to which the old man replied, ''Tis not for the likes o' me to conthradict yer honner, but divil resave the word iv it I ondhersthand at all, at all.' There was a great roar from the Court, and the interpreter was trotted forward. Another witness was said to have been drunk, but he claimed to be a temperance man. 'What do you drink,' said the magistrate. 'Wather, yer honner,' said the total abstainer. 'Jist pure wather from the spring there beyant,' and then he looked round the Court, and slyly added, 'Wid jist as much whiskey as will take off the earthy taste, yer honner.' He was like the temperance lecturer who preached round Galway, and was afterwards seen crushing sugar in a stiff glass of the crathur at Oughterard. When he was caught redhanded, as it were, he said, 'To be sure I'm a timprance man, but, bedad, ye can't say that I'm a bigoted one'!
"We want Morley to give us a light railway from Clifden to Westport, and then we'd have the whole coast supplied. But he's a tight-fisted one as regards practical work. We've no chance with him, except in matters of sentiment. He wants to give Home Rule, but we can't eat that. And my impression is that we are fast drifting into the position of the man who has nothing, and from whom shall be taken the little that he hath. As to arguments against Home Rule, I do not think it a case for argument. That the thing is bad is self-evident; and self-evident propositions, whether in Euclid or elsewhere, are always the most difficult to prove. Ask me to prove that two added to two make four, ask me how many beans make five, and I gracefully retire. Ask me to show that Home Rule will be bad for Ireland, and I will make but a slight departure from this formula. I say, on the supporters of Home Rule rests the onus probandi; they are the people who should show cause, let them prove their case in its favour. Here I am, quite satisfied with the laws as they now are. Show me, say I, how I shall benefit by the proposed change. That knocks them speechless. In England they may make a pretence of proving their case, but in this country they are dumb in the presence of Unionists. They cannot argue with enlightened people. They have not a leg to stand upon, and they know it.
"Consider the fulminations of Archbishop Walsh with regard to that Dublin Freemason Bazaar in aid of orphan children. As you must have heard, the Sacraments were refused to any Catholic attending this purely charitable movement. The Church said in effect—Any one who aids the orphans of freemasons by going to this bazaar, or by patronising the function, whether directly or indirectly, will be damned everlastingly. And the Catholics kept away, frightened by this threat. What would you expect of a people who believe such rubbish? Do you think that a people powerfully influenced, supremely influenced, by the word of a priest are fit to govern themselves? Can you depend on the loyalty of the Catholic priesthood? You surely know better than that. Suppose you gave Ireland Home Rule, and the Church turned rusty? With matters in the hands of an Irish Parliament, who would have the pull in weight of influence, John Bull or the priests? You are walking into a snare with your eyes open. Soon you will be punching your own head and calling yourself a fool. And you will be quite right. England is giving herself away at the bidding of a crowd of fellows who in Ireland are not received into decent society, and few of whom could get 'tick' for a week's board or a week's washing. Not that the latter would be much hardship. Clean linen is a novelty to the bulk of them. And seventy-one out of eighty of these upstarts must do the bidding of the priests.
"Poor old Bull! The fine fellow he was. Respected by everybody. Strong but good-humoured, never hurting a soul. Slapping his breeches pocket now and then, and looking round the world with an eye that seemed to say, 'I could buy and sell the lot of ye; look what a fine fellow I am!' And he was. And he knew it, too. His only fault. Ready to lend a deserving friend a trifle, and apt to poke his nose into what didn't concern him, especially when a small country was being put upon. Then John would come up and say, 'Let him alone, will yer.' A laughing-stock in his old age. But yesterday he might have stood before the world: now none so poor to do him reverence,—Shakespeare! That's what's coming. Poor old Bull! In his dotage making a rod to whip himself. Well, well."
There are Presbyterians at Salthill. Wherever they are they always wear good coats, have good houses, well-clad children. To be comfortably off seems part of their creed. One of them said, "There never was a more faithful worshipper of the Grand Old Man than myself,—up to a certain time, I mean. I dropped him before he went over to Parnell. I gave him up on account of his inconsistency. What staggered me was a trick he tried to play the Queen's College arrangements in Ireland. It was a supplemental charter really changing the whole constitution of the thing, and he tried to carry his point by a dodge. I did not care much about the matter one way or the other, but I thought his underhanded trickery unworthy a statesman, or any other man. I tried not to believe it; that is, I would rather not have believed it. I had a sort of feeling that it couldn't be. But it was so. Then his pamphlet about Vaticanism, in which he said no Roman Catholic could be loyal, after which he appointed the Marquess of Ripon, a Catholic convert, or pervert, to the Governor-Generalship of India, the most important office in the gift of the Crown. Again, I had no objection to the action in itself, but I considered it from Mr. Gladstone's point of view, and then it dawned on me that he would say anything. You never know what he'll do next. What he says is no guide at all nowadays to what he'll do. He was my hero, but a change has come over him, and now he cannot be trusted. He ought to be looked after in some public institution where the keepers wouldn't contradict him. He was a great man before his mind gave way."
A bustling Belfaster of fatiguing vitality told me this little story which my friends the Catholic clergy may disprove if they can. He said:—"Mr. McMaster, of the firm of Dunbar, McMaster and Co., of Gilford, County Down, conceived the idea of aiding his fellow-countrymen and women who were starving in the congested districts. This was some time ago, but it is a good illustration of the difficulty you have in helping people who will not help themselves. He drew up a scheme, well thought-out and workable, such as a thorough business man might be expected to concoct, and sent down his agent to the districts of Gweedore in Donegal and Maam in Galway, with instructions to engage as many families as possible to work in the mills of the firm, noted all over the world for thread, yarn, and linen-weaving. An enormous affair, employing a whole township. The agent was provided with a document emanating from the priest of the district into which they were invited to migrate, setting forth that no proselytism was intended, and that the migrants would be under the care of Catholic clergy. As they had neither money nor furniture worth moving, it was agreed to pay the cost of transit, and to provide clean, sweet cottages, ready furnished, and with every reasonable convenience. The furniture was to be paid for by instalments, but the cost of removal was to be a gift from Mr. McMaster, who was desirous of aiding the people without pauperising them. They were to work the ordinary factory hours, as enacted by statute, and to be paid the ordinary wages. But they were required to work regularly. No saints' days, no lounging about on the "pattherns" (patron saints' days), no in-and-out running, but steady, regular attendance. People who knew the Keltic Irish laughed at Mr. McMaster, but he had seen their poverty, their filth, their mud cabins, their semi-starvation, and he thought he knew. He offered them work, and everything they seemed to want, out of pure humanity.
"How many people moved to Gilford out of the two counties?"
"Peradventure there might be a hundred found, peradventure there might be fifty, thirty, twenty, ten."
"Guess again. Give it up? Not a single solitary soul accepted Mr. McMaster's offer. These are the people who are waiting for Home Rule. Much good may it do them."
A little Galway man became irate. "'Tis our birthright to hate England. That's why we want Home Rule that we may tache thim their place. I'd fight England, an' I'd do more." Here he looked sternly at the Ulsterman. "I'd do more, I say, I'd fight thim that'd shtand up for her. D'ye see me now?"
The Belfast man proved an awkward customer. He said, "You're too busy to fight anybody just now, you Nationalists. Wait till you've settled your differences, wait till you've cut each other's throats, wait till you've fought over the plunder, like the Kilkenny cats, till there's nothing left of you but the tail. Then we'll send down an army of owld women with besoms to sweep ye into the Atlantic. 'Twill be the first bath your Army of Independence ever got. 'Twill cool their courage and clean their hides at the same time."
The small Separatist was about to make an angry reply, when I interposed with an inquiry as to his estimate of Mr. Gladstone.
"Ah," said the little man, with a pucker of his little nose, and a grand gesture of contempt, "sure he's not worth as much powdher as would blow him to hell."
His sentiment lacks novelty, but I quote him for the picturesqueness of his style.
Salthill, May 18th.
No. 24.—THE ARAN ISLANDS.
The Aran Islanders seem to have passed most of their time in a state of chronic starvation. The land seems to grow little but rock, and the burning of seaweed, the kelp trade, does not seem to have helped them much. True, the Atlantic was all before them, where to choose, but what Father Mahony would call the teeming treasures of the deep were practically left untouched. If we accept the plain meaning of the good priest's speech, we must believe that the Aran Islanders and Irish fishermen generally preferred to starve rather than to catch fish, unless an Irish Parliament were fixed on College Green. They had no objection to accept charitable aid, no matter from what quarter it came, and the Araners required assistance every other year. They were not unwilling to catch fish, but they had nothing to catch them with; and, strange as it may seem, these islanders, who could scarcely move five yards in any direction without falling into the sea, these amphibious Irishmen, did not know the art of catching fish! They tinkered and slopped around the shoals in the vicinity of the island, but they were never able to catch enough fish to keep themselves from starvation, much less to supply the Dublin and London markets. Their boats were the most primitive affairs imaginable, and showed the Irish spirit of conservatism to perfection. These coraghs are practically the same boat as the Welsh coracle, but much larger. Those I examined were from ten to fifteen feet long and three feet wide. Oak ribs, over which are nailed laths of white deal, two inches wide and half an inch thick. Cover this slight skeleton with tarred canvas, and the ship is nearly complete. It only needs two pairs of wooden thole-pins, and two pairs of oars, long, light, and thin, coming nearly to a point at the water-end, having a perforated block which works on the thole-pins before-mentioned. You want no keel, no helm, no mast. Stay! You need a board or two for seats for the oarsmen. With these frail cockleshells the Araners adventure themselves twelve miles on the Atlantic, and mostly come home again. These makeshift canoes are almost useless for catching fish. Having no helm, it is hard to keep them straight; having no keel, it is needful to sit still, or at any rate to maintain a perfect balance, or over you go. A gust of wind spins the canoe round like a top. These primeval boats are made on the island, thrown together out of fifteen-pennyworth of wood, a few yards of canvas, and a pitch-pot. They have some virtues. They are cheap, and they will not sink. The coraghs always come back, even if bottom up. And when they reach the shore the two occupants (if any) invert the ship, stick a head in the stem and another in the stern, and carry her home to tea. This process is apt to puzzle the uninformed visitor, who sees a strange and fearful animal, like a huge black-beetle, crawling up the cliffs. He begins to think of "antres huge and deserts vast, and anthropophagi, and men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders." He hesitates about landing, but if he be on the Duras, Captain Neal Delargy, who equally scoffs at big beetles and Home Rule, will explain, and will accompany him to the tavern on the cliff side, where they charge ordinary prices for beer and give you bread-and-cheese for nothing. And yet the Araners profess to be civilised.
In pursuance of his policy of helping the people to help themselves, Mr. Balfour determined to educate the Araners, and to give them sufficient help in the matter of boats and tackle to make their education of some avail. It was useless to give them boats and nets, for they knew not how to use them, and it is certain that any boat club on the Birmingham Reservoir, or any tripper who has gone mackerel fishing in Douglas Bay, could have given these fishermen much valuable information and instruction. Having once determined to attempt on a tolerably large scale the establishment of a fresh mackerel and fresh herring trade with England, Mr. Balfour set about the gigantic and discouraging task of endeavouring nothing less than the creation of the local industry. But how were the people to be taught the management of large boats, and the kind of nets that were used? After much inquiry, it was decided to subsidise trained crews from other parts of Ireland to show the local fishermen what earnings might be theirs, and at the same time to impart needful instruction to the Connemara and Aran people. It was also arranged to make loans for the purchase of boats and tackle to such persons as might prove likely to benefit by them. Accordingly arrangements were made with the crews of seven Arklow boats to proceed to the Aran Islands, and in order to indemnify them for the risk of working on an untried fishing ground, each crew received a bounty of L40 from the Congested Districts Board. But there was no use in catching fish unless it could be quickly put on the market, and again the necessary plant proved a matter involving considerable expenditure. A derelict Norwegian ship, which two or three years ago had been discovered at sea and towed into Queenstown Harbour, was purchased from the salvors, and anchored in Killeany Bay, outside the harbour of Kilronane, the capital city of the biggest Aran, as an ice-hulk. The Board then entered into an agreement with Mr. W.W. Harvey, of Cork, to market the mackerel at a fixed rate of commission, it being also arranged that he should pay the fishermen the English market price less by a deduction of 7s. a box to cover the cost of ice-packing, carriage, and English salesman's commission. The ice-hulk and boxes were provided by the Board, but Mr. Harvey was to purchase the ice and defray all the cost of labour except the salary of a manager.
In addition to the seven Arklow crews two boats were fitted out by Miss Mansfield for training crews from the parish of Carna, in Connemara; and Miss Skerritt also placed two English-built boats at the Board's disposal for the training of crews from the pretty watering place of Clifden, also in Connemara. An Aran hooker, belonging to Innishmore, joined the little fishing fleet, bringing up the number to exactly a dozen boats. The Rev. W.S. Green, a Protestant parson, who is said to have first discovered these fishing grounds, and who threw himself into the work with wonderful enthusiasm, superintended the experiment in the steamer Fingal, which was specially chartered for the purpose. Mr. Green as a skilled Fisheries Inspector, knew what he was about, and he was empowered to lend nets, where advisable, to the Aran beginners. Away they went to sea, to start with a fortnight's heart-breaking luck. The water in those regions was cold, and the fish were amusing themselves elsewhere. The ice-hulk with its two hundred tons of Norwegian ice was waiting, and its staff of packers might cool their ardour in the hold. The mackerel would not come to be packed, and the dozen boats, with their master and apprentice crews, cruised up and down on the deep blue sea, with the blue sky overhead, and hope, like Bob Acres' valour, gradually oozing out of their finger-ends. The Arklow men began to talk of going home again. Altogether it was a blue look-out.
At last the luck turned. On April 6th, 1892, six thousand mackerel were despatched to the English market. The weather during much of the season was stormy and unfavourable, but on May 18th, seventy-three thousand three hundred and fifty mackerel were sent to Galway, thirty miles away by sea, and were forwarded thence by two special trains. The Midland and Western Railway, under the management of Mr. Joseph Tatlow, has been prompt, plucky, and obliging, and runs the fish to Dublin as fast as they arrive in Galway. During the season of ten weeks the experienced Arklow crews made on an average L316 per boat, and the greenhorns who were learning the business earned about L70 per boat, although they could not fish at all at the beginning of the season. The total number of mackerel packed on the ice-hulk amounted to the respectable total of two hundred and ninety-nine thousand four hundred and eighty. The "teeming treasures of the deep" were not left untouched on this occasion, though, doubtless, "still the Irish peasant mourns, still groans beneath the cruel English yoke."
Mr. Balfour's benefactions have not been confined to the Aran Islands. Every available fishing place from top to bottom of the whole west coast has been similarly aided, and the value of their produce has increased from next to nothing to something like fifty thousand pounds per month. This on the authority of Father P.J. McPhilpin, parish priest of Kilronane, Innishmore, who said:—
"We never had a Chief Secretary who so quickly grasped the position, who so rapidly saw what was the right thing to do, and who did it so thoroughly and so promptly. Strange to say the Liberals are always the most illiberal. When we get anything for Ireland it somehow always seems to come from the Tories."
Having been carried from Galway to the ice-hulk in Killeany Bay, and having been duly put ashore in a boat, one of the first persons I saw was Father Thomas Flatley, coadjutor of Father McPhilpin, an earnest Home Ruler, like his superior, and like him a great admirer of Mr. Balfour. Father Flatley wore a yachting cap, or I might have sheered off under all sail—the biretta inspires me with affright—but his nautical rig reassured me, and yawing a little from my course, I put up my helm and boarded him. Too late I saw the black flag—I mean the white choker—but there was nothing of the pirate about Father Tom. He was kindly, courteous, earnest, humorous, hospitable, and full of Latin quotations. Before our acquaintance was two minutes old he invited me to dinner. Then I ran aground on an Arklow boatman, James Doyle by name, a smart tweed-suited sailor, bright and gay. The Post Office was near, and the letters were being given out. Three deliveries a week, weather permitting. The parish priest was there, grave, refined, slightly ascetic, with the azure blue eyes so common in Connaught, never seen in England, although frequently met with in Norway and North Germany. The waiting-women were barefoot, but all the men were shod. The Araners have a speciality in shoes—pampooties, to wit. These are made of raw hide, hair outwards, the toe-piece drawn in, and the whole tied on with string or sinew. The cottages are better built than many on the mainland. Otherwise the winter gales would blow them into the Atlantic main. The thatch is pegged down firmly, and then tied on with a close network of ropes. The people are clean, smart, and good-looking. Miss Margaret Flanagan, who escorted me in my search after pampooties, would pass for a pretty girl anywhere, and the Aran Irish flowed from her lips like a rivulet of cream. She spoke English too. An accomplished young lady, Miss Margaret Kilmartin, aged nineteen, said her father had been wrongfully imprisoned for two and a half years for shooting a bailiff. The national sports are therefore not altogether unknown in the Arans. Miss Kilmartin was en route for America, per Teutonic, first to New York, and then a thousand miles by rail, alone, and without a bonnet. She had never been off the island. This little run would be her first flutter from the paternal nest.
The Araners know little of politics, save that the Balfour Government lifted them out of the horrible pit and the miry clay, and set their feet upon a rock and established their goings. The Balfour boats are there, the Balfour nets are full of fish, the Balfour boys are learning a useful occupation, and earning money meanwhile. If there is anything in the Aran cupboards, the Araners know who enabled them to put it there. If the young ladies have new shoes, new shawls, new brooches; if the Aran belles make money by mending nets; if the men sometimes see beef; if they compass the thick twist; if they manage without the everlasting hat going round, they have Mr. Balfour to thank, and they know it. They own it, not grudgingly or of necessity, but cheerfully. One battered old wreck raised his hat at every mention of the name. I saw no Morley boats. I saw no Gladstone nets. I saw no Home Rule fish. The Araners do not care for the Grand Old Mendacium. Perhaps they lack patriotism. It may be that they do not share what Mr. Gladstone calls the Aspirations of a people. So far as I could judge, their principal aspiration is to get something to eat. A pampootied native who has often visited the main-land, and is evidently looked upon as a mountain of sagacity and superior wisdom, said to me—
"Not a bit they care but to look afther the wife and childher an' pray to God for good takes o' fish. An' small blame to thim. Before Balfour the people were starvin', an' ivery other year Father Davis that's dead this six months would go round beggin' an' prayin' for a thrifle to kape life in thim. The hardships and the misery the poor folks had, God alone knows. An' would ye say to thim, 'tis Home Rule ye want?
"There was a young fellow fishin' here from Dublin. He went out in the hookers an' injoyed himself all to pieces, a dacent sthrip of a boy, but wid no more brains than a scalpeen (pickled mackerel). He got me to be interpreter to an owld man that would spake wid him over on Innishmair, an' the owld chap wos tellin' his throubles. So afther a bit, the young fellow says, says he,
"''Tis Home Rule ye want,' says he.
"'No,' says the owld chap, shakin' his head, 'tis my dinner I want,' says he.
"An' that young fellow was mad whin I thranslated it. But 'twas thrue, ivery word iv it. 'Ah! the ignorance, the ignorance,' says he. But then he was spakin' on a full stomach, an' 'tis ill arguin' betwixt a full man and a fastin'.
"I wouldn't say but they'd take more notice afther a while. But they're not used to bein' prosperous, an' they don't know themselves at all. Ye can't cultivate politics on low feed. 'Tis the high livin' that makes the Parliamint men that can talk for twenty-four hours at a sthretch. An' these chaps is gettin' their backs up. In twelve months' time they'll be gettin' consated. 'Tis Balfour that's feedin' thim into condition. Vote against him? Av coorse they will, ivery man o' thim. Sure they'll be towld to vote for a man, an' they'll do it. How would they ondhersthand at all? Av 'twas Misther Balfour himself that wanted their vote he'd get it fast enough. But 'tisn't. An' they'll vote agin' him without knowin' what they're doin'."
Father McPhilpin said, "It is very hard to get them to move. The Irish people are the most conservative in the world. They will not stir for telling, and they will not stir when you take them by the collar and haul them along. They are wedded to the customs of their ancestors; and yet, when once they see the advantage to be obtained by any given change, no people are so quick to follow it up. The difficulty is to start them. The Araners had actually less knowledge of the sea, of boats, nets, and fishing, than people coming here from an inland place. Surprising, but quite true."
Speaking on the general question of Home Rule, I asked Father McPhilpin if the people of Ireland would be loyal.
"Loyal to what?" said the Father, replying quickly.
"Loyal to England, to the Crown, to Queen Victoria."
"The Irish people have always been loyal—much more loyal than the English people. You have only to look at English history. How far shall I go back, Father Tom?" said my genial host to the coadjutor, who just then entered the room. "Shall we go back to Henry II.? Where shall we begin, Father Tom?"
"Well," said Father Tom, "I'd not be for going back quite so far. I think if we began with Charles I.——"
"Very good. Now, were not the Irish loyal when the English people disloyally favoured their Oliver Cromwell and their William the Third?"
I proceeded with the imbibition of Father McPhilpin's excellent tea. The answer was obvious, but Father Tom clearly believed that his senior had me on the hip, and good-naturedly came in with a Latin quotation or two. Both clerics were deeply interested in the condition of the poor in their charge, and indeed all over Ireland, and their profound belief that a Home Rule Bill would benefit the poorer classes, by changing the conditions affecting the tenure or ownership of land, was apparently their chief reason for advocating a College Green Parliament. Father McPhilpin holds some honorary official position in connection with the Aran fisheries, and from him I derived most of my information. Another authority assured me that the Araners were not grateful to England nor to Mr. Balfour, and spoke of the viper that somebody warmed in his bosom with disagreeable results. But, as Father Tom would say, Omnis comparatio claudicat, and all my experience points to a proper appreciation of the great ex-Secretary's desire to do the country good. The people know how thoroughly he examined the subject; how he spent weeks in the Congested Districts; how he saw the parish priests, the head men of the districts, the cotters themselves. Every Irishman, whatever his politics, will readily agree that Mr. Balfour knows more about Ireland than any Englishman living, and most of them credit him with more knowledge of the subject than any Irishman. My thorough-going friend, Mr. McCoy, of Galway, hater of England, avowed Separatist, longing to wallow in the brutal Saxon's gore, thinks Mr. Balfour the best friend that Ireland ever had. "I'd agree with you there," said Mr. McCoy. "I don't agree with charity, but I agree with putting people in a way to do things for themselves, which is what Mr. Balfour has done."
Back on the ice-hulk by favour of Thomas Joyce, of Kilronane, skipper and owner of a fishing smack. Mr. William Fitzgerald showed the factory, the great hold with the ice, the windmill which pumps the hulk, the mountains of boxes for fish, the mackerel in process of packing, sixty in a box, most of them very large fish. An unhappy halibut, which had come to an untimely end, stood on his tail in a narrow basket, his mouth wide open, looking like a Home Rule orator descanting on the woes of Ireland. He was slapped into a box and instantly nailed down, which summary process suggested an obvious wish.
Mr. Fitzgerald said: "The fisheries have been a great success, and have done much good. The spring fishery paid well on account of the great price we got for the mackerel. It is not customary to catch fish so early, but when you can do it it pays splendidly. Just now the price is not up to the mark, but we hope for better times. The Arklow men are not subsidised this year. They didn't need it. The ground proved productive, and they were glad to come on their own hook. If they had required a second subsidy they would not have got it."
"I'm no politician," said Mr. Fitzgerald. "The Araners are so strong and hardy that they would surprise you. They will stand all day on the ice, with nothing on but those pampooties, and you would think they'd need iron soles, instead of a bit of skin. They work hard, and come regularly and give no trouble. No, I could not find any fault with them. They mostly speak Irish among themselves. It's Greek to me, but I can make out that they think a great deal of Mr. Balfour."
A week on the hulk would be refreshing, for on one side there is no land nearer than America. However, I have to go, for the Duras is getting uneasy, so I leave the hulk, the mackerel, the big sea trout which are caught with the mackerel, and steam back to Galway. A splendid fellow in the cabin discloses his views. "We must have complete independence. We shall start with 120,000 men for the Army of Independence. That will be only a nucleus. We shall attract all the brave, chivalrous, adventurous spirits of America. England has India to draw from. Trot your niggers over, we'll make short work of them. We draw from America, Australia, every part of the world. We draw from 24,000,000 of Irishmen all willing to fight for nothing, and even to pay money to be allowed to fight against England. An Irish Republic, under the protection of America. That's the idea. It's the natural thing. Work the two countries together and England may slide. We'll have an Independent Irish Republic in four years; perhaps in three years. Rubbish about pledges of loyalty. The people must be loyal to themselves, not to England. Our members will do what the people want, or they will be replaced by men who will. We have the sentiments of the people, backed by the influence of religion, all tending to complete independence. Who's going to prevent it? We'll have a Declaration of Independence on Saint Patrick's Day, 1897, at latest. Who'll stop it? Mr. Gladstone? Why long before that time we'll convert him, and ten to one he'll draw up the document. What'll you bet that he doesn't come over to Dublin and read it in THE HOUSE?"
Galway, May 20th.
No. 25.—THE PRIESTS AND OUTRAGE. THEY NEVER CONDEMNED IT.
The people of Moycullen with whom I have spent a day are hardly patriotic. So far as I can gather, they have always paid their rents and worked hard for their living. They know nothing of Home Rule, and they do not murder their friends and neighbours. They send forth a strong contingent of men to work on Mr. Balfour's railway between Galway and Clifden, and find the weekly wages there earned very convenient. They vote as they are told, and do not trouble themselves with matters which are too high for them. If a candidate proposes to make the land much cheaper, or even to spare the necessity of paying any rent at all, the Moyculleners give him their voice. Like every Catholic villager in Ireland they look to Father Pat, Tom, Dick, or Harry for advice, and the good priest gives them the right tip. He points out that Micky O'Codlin promises to support such legislation as shall place the land in the hands of the tillers of the soil, while the Protestant Short declares that the thing is not honest, and cannot be done. The result is precisely what might be expected. The Nationalist members are returned, and Mr. Gladstone, with his most grandiose manner, and with the abject magnanimity he always shows when thoroughly beaten, comes forward and declares he can no longer resist the aspirations of a people. The Separatist sheep tumble over each other in their nervous anxiety to keep close on the heels of the bell-wether, and the Empire is threatened with disintegration to suit the convenience of a party of priests. An eminent Roman Catholic lawyer of Dublin, a Home Ruler, said to me:—
"I vote for Home Rule because the sooner the thing is settled the better, and it will never be settled until we get Home Rule in some form or other. The country is weary of the agitation of the last twenty years, and I am of opinion that Home Rule would do much to restore the freedom of Ireland. For Ireland is in a state of slavery—not to England, but to the priesthood. I believe in the fundamental doctrines of the faith, but I don't believe everything the priests choose to tell me. I am ready to admit that they have more spiritual gifts and graces than anybody else, but I will not believe that they know more about politics, and I will not submit to their dictation. They control the course of affairs both sacred and secular. At the present moment they are running the British Empire. You cannot get away from the fact that they return the Irish majority, and you will admit that the Irish majority is now the ruling power. Let me illustrate my point.
"You in England think we have the franchise in Ireland. Nothing of the kind. There may be a hundred thousand in the North who vote as they think proper, but an overwhelming majority of the South are absolutely in the hands of the clergy, who in many cases lead or drive them in hundreds to the poll."
Here an English civil engineer said:—"When I was engaged on a line at Mayo I actually saw the priest walking in front of some hundreds of voters brought into the town from the rural districts. I was driving along in a car, and my driver shouted 'Parnell for ever!' He was struck on the head and face, his cheek cut open, and himself knocked off the car. How the priestly party do hate the Parnellites! I wonder what would happen if the Nationalists got into power."
"They would exterminate each other, if possible," said the Dublin man. "We should have an awful ferment, a chaos, an immediate bankruptcy. But let us have it. Let us make the experiment, and thus for ever settle the question. To return to the priests. The people of Ireland have not the franchise, which is monopolised by a few thousand priests and bishops. The Nationalist members, the dauntless seventy-one, are as much the nominees of the Catholic clergy as the old pocket-borough members were nominees of the local landlords. And the same thing will hold good in future. People tell you it will not be so, but that's all humbug. It may be different in five-and-twenty years, when the people are educated, when the National Schools have done their work, but half that time is enough to ruin England. Thanks to agitators, Ireland cannot be any worse off than she is."
Some time ago there was a Convention in Dublin, a Home Rule Convention. There were five hundred delegates, sent up by the votes of the people. Four hundred and nine were priests, who had returned themselves. Can the English Gladstonians get away from the suggestiveness of this fact? Is it sufficiently symptomatic? Can they not diagnose the progress of the disease?
One of the Galway Town Commissioners, also a Roman Catholic, declared that the Irish people, once the kindliest, most honest, most conscientious amongst the nations of the earth, had for years been taught a doctrine of malevolence. "They were naturally benevolent, but their nature has been changed, and I regret to say that in a large measure the priests are responsible for the change. Where once mutual help and perfect honesty reigned, you now find selfishness and mutual distrust. The priests have made the altar a hustings, and even worse than electioneering has been done on that sacred spot. From the altar have been denounced old friends and neighbours who had dared to have an opinion of their own, had dared to show an independent spirit, and to hold on what they thought the true course in spite of the blackguard population of the district. Take the case of O'Mara, of Parsonstown. He was the principal merchant of the place, a very kindly man, of decided politics, a Catholic Conservative, like myself. He sold provisions to what the local priest called the 'helmeted minions of our Saxon taskmasters.' In other words, he sold bread to the constabulary at a time when outrage and murder were being put down with a strong hand. The priest threatened him with boycotting, his friends urged him to give way, and let the police get their 'prog' from a distance, but O'Mara, who was an easy-going man, and who had never obtruded his politics on anyone, showed an unexpected obstinacy, and said he would do as he chose, spite of all the priests on earth. They denounced him from the altar, but, although they tried hard, they failed to ruin him. In other cases, clerical influence has dragged men from positions of competency and caused them to end their days in the workhouse. Then, again, the priests never denounced outrage. They might have stopped the fiendish deeds of the murderous blackguards whose evil propensities were fostered and utilised by the Land League, but they said no word of disapproval. On the contrary they tacitly favoured, or seemed to favour, the most awful assassinations. When the Phoenix Park murders took place, a Galway priest whom I will not name said that he had been requested to ask for the prayers of the faithful in favour of Mr. Burke, one of the murdered men, who belonged to an old Galway family. And what was the remark made by that follower of Jesus Christ? He said, 'I have mentioned the request. You can pray for his soul—if you like.' What he meant was plain enough."
"Let me tell you of something even worse," said the Dublin lawyer. "In a certain Catholic church which I regularly attend, and on a Sunday when were present two or three eminent Judges, with a considerable number of the Dublin aristocracy, a certain dignitary, whom I also will not name before our Sassenach friend, actually coupled the names of honest people who had died in their beds with the names of Curley and the other assassins who were hanged for the Phoenix Park murders. We were invited to pray for their souls en bloc! And this, mind you, not at the time of the execution, but a year afterwards, on the anniversary of the day, and when the thing might well have been allowed to drop. Did you ever hear of anything more outrageous than the conduct of this priest, who took upon himself to mention these brutal murderers in the same breath with the blessed departed, whose friends and relations were kneeling around? The fact that this cleric could so act shows the immunity of the Irish priesthood, and their confidence in their influence over the people. Don't forget that this was in the capital of Ireland, and that the congregation was aristocratic. How great must be priestly influence over the unlettered peasantry. You see my point? What would the English say to such an exhibition? What would the relatives of decent people in England do if they had been submitted to such an insult by a Protestant parson?"
I disclaimed any right to speak for the brutal Saxon with any degree of authority, but ventured to say that to the best of my knowledge and belief the supposititious reverend gentleman, when next he took his walks abroad, might possibly become acquainted with a novel but vigorous method of propulsion, or even might undergo the process so familiar to Tim Healy, not altogether unconnected with a horsewhip.
The Galway Town Commissioner said:—"We respectable Catholics are in a very awkward position. We have to live among our countrymen who are of a different way of thinking, and unhappily we cannot express our honest opinions without embarassing consequences. In England, where people of opposite politics meet on terms of most sincere friendship, you do not understand our difficulties. We are denounced as unpatriotic, as enemies to our native land, and as aiders and abettors of the hated English rule. Now we know very well—my friend from Dublin, who understands law, will bear me out—we know very well that the English laws are good, excellent, liberal. We know that the English people are anxious to do what is fair and right, and that they have long been doing their best to make us comfortable. But we must keep this knowledge to ourselves, for such of us who are in business would run great risk of loss, besides social ostracism, if we ventured to boldly express our views. Moreover, we do not care to put ourselves in open conflict with the clergy, upon whom we have been taught to look from earliest childhood with reverence and awe. It is almost, if not quite, a matter of heredity. I declare that, in spite of what I might call my intellectual convictions, I am to some extent overawed by any illiterate farmer's son, who has been ordained a priest. I feel it in my blood. I must have imbibed it with my mother's milk. No use for Conservative Catholics to kick against it. We are too few, and we are bound hand and foot."
So did the Galway man deliver himself. I was reminded of Mr. O'Ryan, of Larne, a devoted Catholic, who said, "I protest from my innermost heart against Home Rule. I protest not only for myself, but also on behalf of my co-religionists that dare not speak, because if they did speak their lives might not be worth an hour's purchase, not being situated, as I am, in the midst of a loyal, and law-abiding population. I believe that all that Ireland requires is a just settlement of the land question, and a fair, reasonable measure of local self-government. For several generations past England has been doing all the good she could for Ireland, and none have more reason than the Roman Catholics of Ireland to be thankful for that good. The loyal Roman Catholics of Ireland are convinced that Home Rule would be the ruin of Ireland in particular and of the British Empire in general, which would find itself deprived in a few hours of a Constitution the workmanship of centuries, and the admiration of the whole nineteenth-century civilisation."
This is tolerably outspoken for an Irish Roman Catholic, but Mr. O'Ryan lives in Ulster, where people do not shoot their neighbours for difference of political opinion. He said more: "We loyal Catholics could never submit to Mr. Gladstone's ticket-of-leave men placed in power over us in this country, and rather than submit to them we are prepared for the worst, and ready, if need be, to die with the words, 'No surrender,' on our lips."
Archbishop Walsh cursed the Dublin Bazaar for the Irish Masonic Orphanage until he was black in the face, but neither he nor any other Catholic Bishop denounced the perpetrators of outrage, of mutilation, of foul assassinations. When Inspector Martin was butchered on the steps of the presbytery at Gweedore; when Joseph Huddy and John Huddy were murdered and their bodies put in sacks and thrown into Lough Mask; when Mrs. Croughan, of Mullingar, was murdered because she had been seen speaking to the police, four shots being fired into her body; when Luke Dillon, a poor peasant, was shot dead as he walked home from work; when Patrick Halloran, a poor herdsman, was shot dead at his own fireside; when Michael Moloney was murdered for paying his rent; when John Lennane, an old man who had accepted work from a boycotted farmer, was shot dead in the midst of his family; when Thomas Abram met precisely the same fate under similar circumstances; when Constable Kavanagh was murdered; when John Dillon had his brains beaten out and his ears torn away; when Patrick Freely was murdered for paying his rent; when John Curtin was shot dead by moonlighters, to whom he refused to give up his guns; when John Forhan, a feeble old man of nearly seventy years, was murdered for having induced labourers to work on a boycotted farm; when James Ruane, a labourer who worked for a boycotted farmer, was murdered by three shots; when James Quinn was wounded by a bullet, and while disabled, killed by having his throat cut; when Peter McCarthy was murdered because it was thought he meant to pay rent; when James Fitzmaurice, aged seventy, was shot dead in the presence of his daughter Norah, because he had taken a farm which his brother had left, the latter declining to pay rent, although the landlord offered a reduction of 66 per cent.; when Margaret Macmahon, widow, and her little children were three times fired at because the poor woman had earned a few pence by supplying turf to the police; when Patrick Quirke, aged seventy-five, was murdered for taking a farm which somebody else wanted; when the wife of John Collins was indecently assaulted while her husband was being brutally beaten for caretaking; when John Curtin (another John Curtin), a school-master, was shot, and his wife received forty-two slugs in her face, neck, and breast for something they had not done, the school also being fired into, and all children attending it boycotted; when John Connor's wife was shot in the head by moonlighters who wished to vex the husband; when Cornelius Murphy was shot dead while sitting at his "ain fireside" chatting with his wife and children; when Daniel O'Brien, aged seventy-five, talking with his wife, aged seventy, was murdered by a shot; when Patrick Quigley had the roof of his skull blown away for taking some grazing; when David Barry was shot in the main street of Castleisland; when Patrick Taugney was murdered in the presence of his wife and daughters; when Edmund Allen was shot dead because of a right-of-way dispute—he was a Protestant; when young Cashman, aged twenty, was beaten to death for speaking to a policeman; when poor Spillane was murdered for acting as a caretaker; when Patrick Curtin, John Rahen, and a farmer named Tonery were murdered; when James Spence, aged sixty-five, was beaten to death; when Blake, Ruane, Linton, Burke, Wallace, Dempsey, Timothy Sullivan, John Moylan, James Sheridan, and Constable Cox were shot dead; when James Miller, Michael Ball, Peter Greany, and Bridget McCullagh were murdered—the last a poor widow, who was beaten to death with a spade; when Ryan Foley was brutally murdered; when Michael Baylan was murdered; when Viscount Mountmorres was murdered, and the dead body left on the road, the neighbouring farmers being afraid to give the poor corpse the shelter of a barn; when a car-driver named John Downey was killed by a bullet intended for Mr. Hutchins, J.P.; when young Wheeler, of Oolagh, whence I dated a letter, was shot dead, to punish his father, who was an agent—when all these murders took place, every one of them, and as many more, the work of the Land League, which also was responsible for more outrages, filthy indecencies, and gross brutalities than the entire Gazette would hold, and which would in many cases be unfit for publication—then were the clergy SILENT. No denunciations from the altar; no influence exerted in the parish. In many cases a direct encouragement to persevere in the good path. When John Curtin's daughters attended church after their father's murder they were attacked by a hostile crowd. The police were compelled to charge the infuriated mob. Otherwise the pious Papists would in all probability have consummated the good work by murdering the remainder of the family, after having, in the presence of daughters who nobly fought the murderers, assassinated the father.
What did the good priest, Father O'Connor, say to all this; how express his deep sense of this abject cowardice, this atrocious savagery, this unheard-of-sacrilege?
He "took no notice of the occurrence"—good, easy man. But I am forgetting something. Mr. Curtin was killed by a gang of moonlighters, who knocked him up, and, presenting loaded rifles at the children, asked for the father's arms. Before the terrified boys and girls could comply the father appeared and shot a moonlighter dead in his tracks. The rest fled precipitately, but unhappily Curtin gave chase and was killed. Good Father O'Connor attended the funeral of the moonlighter, who did not belong to his parish, and refused to attend that of Mr. Curtin, who did!
The Catholic Bishops of Ireland stood by and looked on all this without a word of censure. Silence gives consent. Had they fulminated against outrage and secret wholesale murder of poor working men, for nearly all those I have cited were of this class; had they used their immense influence to stem the murderous instincts of ruffians who in many cases took advantage of the prevailing disregard for human life to wreak their private revenge on their neighbours, satisfied that no man dare testify, and that the clergy would aid them to frustrate the law—had the Bishops done this, even the dull and sluggish brain of the brutal Saxon could have understood their action. They uttered no single word of condemnation. An eminent Catholic, a clever professional man, who reveres the faith in which he was bred, but holds its priesthood in lowest contempt, said to me:—"You cannot find a word of condemnation uttered by any Bishop during the whole period when brutal murders were of daily occurrence. I give you your best. I would stake anything on my statement. I have challenged people over and over again, but nobody has ever been able to produce a syllable of censure, of warning, of reprobation. The Bishops were strangely unanimous in their silence."
But when the Irish Masons try to provide for the orphans of their brethren the Archbishop's back is up at once; for Masons have secrets which they may not tell even to priests; and therefore Dr. Walsh declares that whosoever gives sixpence to this cause of charity, or associates with its promoters, shall be cast into hell, there to abide in torture everlastingly—unless previously whitewashed by himself in person. And as I have clearly shown, the influence of Archbishop Walsh and his kind is at this moment supremely powerful in matters affecting the prestige and integrity of England and her people. Wherefore I do not wonder at the saying of an earnest Irishman of famous name, a baronet of long descent, whom I saw yesterday—
"When I see how the thing is being worked, and when, as a Catholic, I recognise the progress and character of the Church policy, and when I see England walking so stupidly into the trap, I don't know what to do—whether to swear, or to go out and be sick."
Moycullen (Connemara), May 23rd.
No. 26.—THE CONNEMARA RAILWAY.
Mr. Balfour's railway from Galway to Clifden will be exactly fifty miles long, and will run through Crooniffe, Moycullen, Ross, Oughterard, and the wildest and most desolate parts of Connemara. The line has been in contemplation for thirty years at least, but the strong suit of its Irish projectors was talking, not doing, and the project might have remained under discussion until the crack of doom but for Mr. Balfour's energy and administrative power. The Irish patriots had no money, or they would not invest any. The Galway authorities would not authorise a county rate. Anybody who chose might make the line, but the local "powers that be" refused to spend a single penny on an enterprise which would for years provide employment for the starving people of Connemara, and would afterwards prove of incalculable benefit to the whole West of Ireland by opening up an attractive, an immense, an almost inaccessible tourist district, besides affording facilities of transit for agricultural stock and general market produce, and powerfully aiding the rapidly-developing fish trade of the western sea-board. Not a bit of it. The Western Irish are always standing about waiting for something. They talked about the line for a generation or two, but they cut no sod of turf. They harangued meetings convened to hear the prospective blessings of the line, but they declined to put any money on their opinions. The starving peasants of Connemara might have turned cannibals and eaten each other before Irishmen had commenced the railway. The people of the congested districts were unable to live on the sympathy of their fellow-countrymen, and nothing else was offered to them. The Connemarans have an occasional weakness for food. They like a square feed now and again. Their instincts are somewhat material. They think that Pity without Relief is like Mustard without Beef. They like Sentiment—with something substantial at the back of it. Their patriot-brethren, those warm-hearted, dashing, off-hand, devil-may-care heroes of whom we read in Charles Lever, sometimes visited the district, to rouse the people against the brutal Saxon, but they did no more than this. Sometimes, I say, not often, did the patriots patrol Connemara. There were two reasons for this. First, the Irish patriots do not speak their native language; and the Connemarans are not at home with English. Secondly, and principally, the Connemarans had nothing to give away. They cannot pay for first-class patriotism like that of Davitt, Dillon, O'Brien, and Tim Healy, who latterly have never performed out of London.
And so the Galway folks went on with their railway discussions, and the poor Connemarans went on with their starving. Suddenly Mr. Balfour took the thing up, and the turf began to fly. The Midland and Western Railway Company, in consideration of a grant of L264,000, agreed to make the line, and to afterwards run it, whether it paid or not. The contractors were not allowed to import unskilled labour. The Connemarans were to make the line whether they knew the work or not. They had never seen navvy labour. They knew nothing outside the management of small farms. They had never done regular work. Their usual form is to plant their bit of ground and then to sit down till the crops come up, on which they live till next season. A failure of crops means starvation. This was their normal condition. They enjoyed what Mr. Gladstone would call a "chronic plethora" of hunger. The liverish tourist who adventured himself into these barbarous regions in hopeless quest of appetite for his breakfast, would see the Connemarans in hopeless quest of breakfast for their appetites. The region is healthy enough. As Justice Shallow would say, "Beggars all, beggars all. Marry, good air."
The first thing you see is a twenty-thousand-pound bridge across the Corrib, not very far from the salmon weir, where are more fish than you can count splashing up the salmon stairs, which are arranged to save the salmon the effort of a long jump. Then the line running along the Corrib Valley on a high embankment, past the ruins of what was first a convent, then a whiskey distillery, now a timekeeper's office. An entire field is being dug up and carted away, the soil being excavated to a depth of eight or ten feet, over an area of several acres required for sidings and railway buildings. A strolling Galway man of Home Rule tendencies imparts information. He is eminently discontented, and thinks the way in which the work is conducted another injustice to Ireland. "The people are working and getting wages, but what wages! Thirteen and sixpence a week! Would English navvies work for that? You are getting the labour at starvation prices, and even then you bully the men. They work in gangs, each with a ganger swearing at them in the most offensive and outrageous way. See that gang over there. You can hear the ganger shouting and swearing even at this distance. The poor men are treated like dogs, and even then they can hardly keep body and soul together. They have to come miles and miles to the work, and some live so far away that they can only return home once a week. So they have to camp out in hovels. You are going down the line? Then you will be shocked at the slave-driving you'll see. It reminds me of Legree in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' I am surprised that the men do not drop dead over the work. Not a moment's rest or relaxation. Work, work, work from morning to night, for next to nothing. It ought not to be allowed in a civilised country. And on the top of all this slavery we are expected to be very much obliged for the opportunity of working at all. You chuck us a crust just as you would chuck a bone to a dog, and then you want us to go down on our knees and pour blessings on Balfour's head. We're tired of such stuff; but, thank God, we shall soon have things in our own hands. All these men are small farmers, or small farmers' sons. They can't get a living out of the land, and they are obliged to come to this. Bullied and driven from week's end to week's end, they are the very picture of starvation. A shame and disgrace to the English Government."
I may as well say at once that all this proved to be untrue. No doubt the Galway Home Rulers invent and circulate these falsehoods to discount the effect of the good work of a Conservative Government, and it is, therefore, well that the facts should be placed on record. I pushed on to a cutting where fifty men were busily engaged in loading earth into trucks, having first dug it from a great bank of gravelly soil. An Irish ganger walked to and fro along the top, keeping his eye on the men, and occasionally shouting in an excited tone. But he was not swearing at, or otherwise abusing, the men, who were as fine a company of peasants as you could see anywhere, well-built, well-grown, and muscular. Not a trace of starvation, but, on the contrary, a well-fed, well-nourished look. The ganger, Sullivan, seemed good-tempered enough, only shouting to let off his superfluous vitality. He used no bad language. "Cheer up, my lads," he cried. "In wid the dirt. Look alive, look alive, look alive. Whirroo! Shove it up, my lads, shove it up. Away ye go. Look out for that fall of earth. There she goes. Whirroo!" English navvies would have preferred silence, would have requested him to hold his condemned jaw, would have spent some breath in applying an explosive mining term to his eyes, but these Irish labourers seemed to understand their superior officer, and to cheerfully accept the situation. Mr. Sullivan was civil and good-humoured. "These are a picked lot. Splendid set of fellows, and good workers. No, they do not walk for miles before they reach their work. The engine runs along the line to pick them up in the morning, and to drop them again in the evening. They have half-an-hour for dinner, and half-an-hour for tea. They get about fifteen shillings a week. Boys get less, but thirteen shillings and sixpence is the very bottom. Rubbish about low wages. Nine bob a week is the regular farmer's wage, and these men would have been glad to work for six bob. All have some land, every man of them. They have just come back from planting it. We have been very short of men. They went away at the beginning of April, and they were away for a fortnight or three weeks. Small blame to them. Half or three-quarters of them went to look after their bits of ground. But, barrin' that, they turn up very regularly. They get fifteen shillings a week, where they got nothing. And every man knows the convenience the line will be to him to get his bit of stuff to Galway market, and also that it will bring money into a country where there was none. They are as contented as can be, and we never hear a word of complaint. We have not heard a grumble since the line was started a year or two ago. These Home Rulers will say anything but their prayers, and them they whistle. Since the work came from the Tories it must be bad. There must be a curse on it. Now, my lads, shove it up, shove it up! (Excuse me, Sir.) Whirroo, my boys. Look out! In wid it, thin! Whirroo!"
A big tank for engine water was being filled by an old man in shirt and trousers, his naked chest shining a hundred yards away. Luke Whelan was his name; a vigorous pumper, he. "'Tis hard work it is, ye may say it. I have another tank or two to fill, an' keep filled, but I have long rests, and time for a grain o' baccy, glory be to God! Thirteen-an'-sixpence it is, but I lost my place at Palmer's flour mills, the work gave out, an' but for this I'd have nothin' at all. Was in the Fifth Fusiliers, but lost me sight (partly) in Injee. Was in the army long enough to get a pension of ninepence a day. Me rint is two pounds a year, and I've only the owld woman to kape. Ah, but Balfour was a blessin' to us altogether! They talk about Home Rule, but what good will that do us? Can we ate it, can we dhrink it, can we shmoke it? The small farmers thinks they'll have the land for nothin', but what about the labourers? Everything that's done is done for the farmers, an' the workin' men gets nothin' at all. In England 'tis the workin' men gets all the consideration; but in this counthry 'tis the farmers, an' the workin' men that have no land may hang themselves. When the big farms is all done away who'll employ the labourers? The gintry that spint money an' made things a bit better is all driven out of the counthry by the Land League. Ye see all around ye the chimneys of places that once was bits of manufactories. All tumblin' down, all tumblin' down. Nobody dares invest money for fear he'd be robbed of his property, the same as the landlords was robbed, an' will be robbed, till the end of the chapther. 'Tis nothin' but robbery ye hear of, an' gettin' other people's property for nothin'. The Home Rule Bill would dhrive all the workin' men out of the counthry to England and America. They must have employment, an' they must go where it is to be had. Engineers have been threatenin' this line for forty years, first one route an' then another, but divil a spade was put in it. England found us the money to build the line, an' the labourers get work. Where will we get work whin nobody would lend us money to build lines? An Irish Parlimint wouldn't build a line in a thousand years. For nobody would thrust thim wid the cash. Yes, wid ninepence a day and thirteen shillings and sixpence a week, I'm comfortable enough. But begorra, the pump leaks, an' I have to pump a quarther more than I should. Av the pump worked right 'tis little grumblin' ye'd hear from Luke Whelan."
Mr. George William Wood, contractors' agent, said:—"The men work as well as they can, but they do not get over the ground like English navvies. They are very regular, very quiet, very sober, and never give the least trouble. Of course, they had to be taught, and they did not like the big navvy shovels. They were used to the six-foot spades with no cross-bar. Yes, you might think it harder work with such tools, but then the Irish labourer dislikes to bend his back. The long handle lets him keep his back straight, there's the difference. However, we insist on the big, short shovels, and they have taken to them all right. These men are not so strong as they seem, and they are not worth nearly so much as English navvies. They may be willing, but they have not the same stamina. The English navvy eats about two pounds of beef for his dinner and washes it down with about two quarts of ale. These men never see meat from one year's end to another. They live on potatoes, and bits of dry bread and water. At three in the afternoon they are not worth much, clean pumped out—might almost as well go home. No, they don't live in hovels. Those who go home but once a week are housed in good wooden sheds, or corrugated iron buildings, with good beds and bedclothes. There are about forty of them in a hut, with a hut-keeper to look after them and to keep order. For this excellent lodging they are charged sixpence a week, and all their prog is supplied at wholesale prices. We buy largely in Dublin, bring it down, of course, carriage free, and both the men and their wives and families are supplied to any amount. They effect a saving of at least twenty per cent., but probably much more, as village stores are terribly dear. The whole district has found out this advantage, and they flock to the hut-store from all parts. So Balfour is a boon to the country at large."