The Westport folks may not deserve the strictures of their friend of twenty years, but two things are plainly visible. They are dirty, and they have no enterprise. The island-dotted Clew Bay and the sublime panorama of mountain scenery, the sylvan demesne of the Earl of Sligo, and the forest-bordered inlets of Westport Bay, form a scene of surpassing loveliness and magnificence such as England and Wales together cannot show. The town is well laid out, the streets are broad and straight, and Lord Sligo's splendid range of lake and woodland, free to all, adjoins the very centre. And yet the shops are small and mean, the houses are dirty and uninviting, and dunghills front the cottages first seen by the visitor. A breezy street leads upward to the heights, and all along it are dustheaps, with cocks and hens galore, scratching for buried treasure. At the top a stone railway bridge, the interstices facing the sea full of parsley fern, wild maidenhair, hart's-tongue, and a beautiful species unknown to me. The bracing air of the Atlantic sweeps the town, which is sheltered withal by miles of well-grown woods. The houses are dazzling white, and like the Rhine villages look well from a distance. Beware the interiors, or at least look before you leap. Then you will probably leap like the stricken hart, and in the opposite direction. You will be surprised at your own agility. Flee from the "Lodgings and Entertainment" announced in the windows. Your "Entertainment" is likely to be livelier than you expected, and you will wish that your Lodgings were on the cold, cold ground. The Westporters are too pious to wash themselves or their houses. "They wash the middle of their faces once a month," said a Black Methodist. For there are Methodists here, likewise Presbyterians and Plymouth Brethren—besides the Church of Ireland folks, who only are called Protestants. All these must be exempted from the charge of dirtiness. Cleanliness, neatness, prosperity, and Protestantism seem to go together. Father Humphreys himself would not deny this dictum.
For the other clause of the indictment—lack of enterprise—the Westporters are no worse and no better than their neighbours. The Corkers make nothing of their harbour, spending most of their time in talking politics and cursing England. Commercial men speak of the difficulty of doing business at Cork, which does not keep its appointments, is slippery, and requires much spirituous lubrication. Cork ruins more young commercial men than any city in Britain, and owing to the unreliability of its citizens, is more difficult to work. Galway has scores of ruined warehouses and factories, and has been discussing the advisability of building a Town Hall for forty years at least. Limerick has a noble river, with an elaborate system of quays, on which no business is done. The estuary of the Shannon, some ten miles wide, lies just below, opening on the Atlantic; and a little enterprise would make the city the Irish head-quarters for grain. The quays are peopled by loafers, barefooted gossiping women, and dirty, ragged children playing at marbles. Great buildings erected to hold the stores that never come, or to manufacture Irish productions which nobody makes, are falling into ruin. I saw the wild birds of the air flying through them, while the people were emigrating or complaining, and nothing seemed to flourish but religious services and fowl-stealing. It was during my sojourn in Limerick that somebody complained to the Town Council of poultry depredations, which complaint drew from that august body a counter-complaint to the effect that the same complainant had complained before, and that he always did it during a Retreat, that is, when the town was full of people engaged in special religious services—so that the heretic observer, and especially the representative of the Gazette, referred to by name, might couple the salvation of souls with the perdition of hens, to the great discredit of the faith. But this is a digression.
Westport should brush itself up, cleanse its streets, tidy up its shops, sanitate its surroundings, and offer decent accommodation to tourists. The latter does exist, but is scarce and hard to find. The people of Cork, Limerick, and Galway blame England and English rule for the poverty which is their own fault alone. They hate the Northerners as idle unsuccessful men hate successful industrious men. Belfast is a standing reproach. The people of Leinster, Munster, and Connaught have had the same government under which Ulster has flourished, with incomparably greater advantages of soil and climate than Ulster, with better harbours and a better trading position. But instead of working they stand with folded hands complaining. Instead of putting their own shoulders to the wheel they wait for somebody to lift them out of the rut. Instead of modern methods of agriculture, fishing, or what not, they cling to the ancient ways, and resent advice. The women will not take service; the men will not dig, chop, hammer. They are essentially bone-idle—laziness is in their blood. They will not exert themselves. As Father McPhilpin says, "They will not move. You cannot stir them if you take them by the shoulders and haul at them." What will Home Rule do for such people? Will it serve them instead of work? Will it content the grumblers? Will it silence the agitators? Will it convert the people to industry? Will it imbue them with enterprise? Will it make them dig, chop, fish, hammer? Will it make the factory hands regular day by day? Will it cause the women to wash themselves and cleanse their houses? Will it change their ingrained sluttishness to tidiness and neatness and decency? Father Mahony, of Cork, said that the Irish fisherman turned his back on the teeming treasures of the deep, because he groaned beneath the cruel English yoke. Since then I have seen him fishing, but I did not hear him groan. He wanted boats, nets, and to be taught their use. Mr. Balfour supplied him with plant and instructions. Father Mahony and his tribe of wind-bags feed the people on empty air. The starving poor ask for bread, and they get a speech. They are told to go on grumbling, and things will come all right. Nobody ever tells them to work. Murder and robbery, outrage and spoliation, landlord-shooting and moonlighting, are easier ways of getting what they want. The Plan of Campaign, the No Rent combination, the Land League brotherhood when rightly considered, were just so many substitutes for honest work. Ireland will be happy when Ireland is industrious, and not a moment before.
No need to say that the Westporters are Home Rulers. The clean and tidy folks, the Protestant minority, are heart and soul against the bill, but the respectable voters are swamped all over Ireland, by devotees of the priests. "We think the franchise much too low," said a Presbyterian. "We think illiterate Ireland, with its abject servility to the Catholic clergy, quite unfit to exercise the privilege of sending men to Parliament. We think the intelligent minority should rule, and that the principles which obtain in other matters might well be applied to Parliamentary elections. These ignorant people are no more fit to elect M.P.'s than to elect the President of the Royal Society or the President of the Royal Academy. And yet if mere numbers must decide, if the counting of heads is to make things right or wrong, why not let the people decide these distinctions? The West of Ireland folks know quite as much of art or science as of Home Rule, or any other political question. They have returned, and will in future return, the nominees of the priests."
One of the highest legal authorities in Ireland, himself a Roman Catholic, said to me:—
"You saw the elections voided by reason of undue priestly influence. That was because, in the cases so examined, money was available to pay the costs of appeal. If there had been money enough to contest every case where a Nationalist was returned, you would have seen every such election proved equally illegal, and every one would have been adjudicated void."
The Westport folks are looking for great things from the great Parliament in College Green. A Sligo man who has lived in Dublin was yesterday holding forth on these prospective benefits, his only auditor being one Michael, an ancient waiter of the finest Irish brand. Michael is both pious and excitable, and must have an abnormal bump of wonder. He is a small man with a big head, and is very demonstrative with his hands. He abounds with pious (and other) ejaculations, and belongs to that popular class which is profuse in expressions of surprise and admiration. The most commonplace observation evokes a "D'ye see that, now?" a "D'ye tell me so, thin?" or a "Whillaloo! but that bates all!" As will be seen, Michael artistically suits his exclamations to the tone and matter of the principal narrator, mixing up Christianity and Paganism in a quaintly composite style, but always keeping in harmony with the subject. The Sligo man said:—
"I seen the mails go on the boat at Kingstown, an' there was hundhreds of bags, no less."
"Heavenly Fa-a-ther!" said Michael, throwing up eyes and hands.
"Divil a lie in it. 'Twas six hundhred, I believe."
"Holy Moses preserve us!"
"An' the rivinue is millions an' millions o' pounds."
"The saints in glory!"
"An' wid Home Rule we'd have all that for Oireland."
"Julius Saysar an' Nibuchadnizzar!"
"Forty millions o' goolden sovereigns, divil a less."
"Thunder an' ouns, but ye startle me!"
"An' we're losin' all that"—
"Save an' deliver us!"
"Becase the English takes it"—
"Holy Virgin undefiled!"
"To pay peelers an' sojers"—
"Bloody end to thim!"
"To murther and evict us"—
"Lord help us!"
"An' collect taxes an' rint."
Ten minutes after this conversation under my window Michael adroitly introduced the subject of postal profits in Ireland. I told him there was an ascertained loss of L50,000 a year, which the new Legislature would have to make up somehow. Michael bore the change with fortitude. The loss of forty millions plus fifty thousand would have upset many a man, but Michael only threw up his eyes and said very softly—
Westport, June 6th.
No. 32.—HOME RULE AND IRISH IMMIGRATION.
A bright country town with a big green square called The Mall, bordered by rows of great elm trees and brilliantly whitewashed houses. The town is about a mile from the station, and the way is pleasant enough. Plenty of trees and pleasant pastures with thriving cattle, mansions with umbrageous carriage-drives, and the immense mass of Croagh Patrick fifteen miles away towering over all. The famous mountain when seen from Castlebar, is as exactly triangular as an Egyptian pyramid, or the famous mound of Waterloo. Few British heights have the striking outline of Croagh Patrick, which may be called the Matterhorn of Ireland. Castlebar is always dotted with soldiers, The Buffs are now marching through the town, on their way to the exercise ground, but the sight is so familiar that the street urchins hardly turn their heads. The Protestant Church, square-towered, fills a corner of The Mall, and there stands a statue of General O'Malley, with a drawn sword of white marble. Lord Lucan, of the Balaklava Charge, hailed from Castlebar. The town and its precincts belong to the Lucans. There is a convent with a big statue of the Virgin Mary, and the usual high wall. The shops are better than those of Westport, and the streets are far above the Irish average in order and cleanliness. The country around is rich in antiquities. Burrishoole Abbey and Aughnagower Tower, with the splendid Round Tower of Turlough, are within easy distance, the last a brisk hour's walk from Castlebar. There in the graveyard I met a Catholic priest of more than average breadth and culture, who discussed Home Rule with apparent sincerity, and with a keener insight than is possessed by most of his profession. He said:—
"When the last explosion took place at Dublin, the first to apprise me of the affair was the Bishop of my diocese, whose comment was summed up in the two words 'Castle job!' Now that riled me. I am tired of that kind of criticism."
Here I may interpolate the critique of Colonel Nolan, who was the first to apprise me of the occurrence.—"I do not say that the Irish Government officials are responsible for the explosion. That would not be fair, as there is no evidence against them. But I do say that if they did arrange the blow-up they could not have selected a better time, and if some mistaken Irish Nationalist be the guilty person he could not have selected a worse time from a patriotic point of view." Thus spake the Colonel, who has an excellent reputation in his own district. The stoutest Conservatives of Tuam speak well of him. "All the Nolans are good," said a staunch Unionist; and another said, "The Nolans are a good breed. The Colonel is good, and Sebastian Nolan is just as good. Nobody can find fault with the Nolans apart from politics." The Colonel is one of the nine Parnellites accursed of the priests. Perhaps he was present at the Parnellite meeting at Athenry, regarding which Canon Canton, parish priest of Athenry, declared from the altar that every person attending it would be guilty of mortal sin. English readers will note that the Parnellites resent priestly dictation.
Another interpolation anent "the Castle job." I thought to corner a great Athlone politician by questions re the recent moonlighting, incendiarism, and attempted murders in Limerick and Clare. He said—
"All these things are concocted and paid for by the Tories of England. The reason Balfour seemed to be so successful was simple enough when you know the explanation. Balfour and his friends kept the moonlighters and such like people going. They paid regular gangs of marauders to disturb the country while the Liberals were in power. When the Tories get in, these same gangs are paid to be quiet. Then the Tories go about saying, 'Look at the order we can keep.' Every shot fired in County Clare is paid for by the English Tories. Sure, I have it from them that knows. Ye might talk for a month an' ye'd never change my opinion. There's betther heads than mine to undershtand these things, men that has the larnin', an' is the thrue frinds of Ireland. When I hear them spake from the altar 'tis enough for me. I lave it to them. Ye couldn't turn me in politics or religion, an' I wouldn't listen to anybody but my insthructors since I was twelve inches high." Well might Colonel Winter, who knows the speaker above-mentioned, say to me, "He has read a good deal, but his reading seems to have done him no good."
It is time I went back to Turlough's Tower and my phoenix priest who was riled to hear his Bishop speak of the Dublin explosion as a "Castle job." He claimed that "the clergy are unwilling instruments in the hands of the Irish people, who are unconquerable even after seven hundred years of English rule. The Irish priesthood is so powerful an element of Irish life, not because it leads, but because it follows. Powerful popular movements coerce the clergy, who are bound to join the stream, or be for ever left behind. No doubt at all that, being once in, they endeavour to direct the current of opinion in the course most favourable to the Catholic religion. To do otherwise would be to deny their profession, to be traitors to the Church. They did not commence the agitation. The Church instinctively sticks to what is established, and opposes violent revolutionary action. History will bear me out. The clergy stamped out the Smith-O'Brien insurrection. The Catholic clergy of the present day, mostly the sons of farmers, are perhaps more ardently political than the clergy of a former day, a little less broad in view, a little more hot-headed; yet in the main are subject to the invariable law I laid down at first—that is, they only follow and direct, they do not lead, or at any rate they only place themselves in the front when the safety of the Church demands it. The bulk of the clergy believe that the time to lead has now come. My own opinion, in which I am supported by a very few,—but I am happy to say a very distinguished few,—is this: The Roman Catholic Church is making immense progress in England; a closer and closer connection with England will ultimately do far more for the Church than can be hoped from revolutionary and republican Ireland. We should by a Home Rule Bill gain much ground at first, but we should as rapidly lose it, while our hold on England would be altogether gone. Many of the so-called Catholic Nationalists are atheists at heart, and the tendency of modern education is decidedly materialistic. So that instead of progressive conquest the Church would experience progressive decline, which would be all the more striking after the great but momentary accession of prestige conferred by the Home Rule Bill. My theory is—Let well alone. The popular idea is to achieve commanding and lasting success at a blow."
The Castlebar folks have diverse opinions, the decent minority, the intelligence of the place, being Unionist, as in every other Irish town. A steady, well-clad yeoman said:—"I've looked at the thing in a hundred ways, and although I confess that I voted for Home Rule, yet when we have time to consider it, and to watch the debate on every point, we may be excused if we become doubtful as to the good it will do. The people round here are so ignorant, that talking sense to them is waste of time. They will put their trust in coal mines and the like of that. Now, I have gone into the subject of Irish mines. I have read the subject up from beginning to end. Wicklow gold would cost us a pound for ten shillings' worth. The silver mines wouldn't pay, and the lead mines are a fraud; while the copper mines would ruin anybody who put their money into them. I know something about Irish coal. Lord Ranfurly did his best for Irish coal at Dungannon. Mines were sunk and coal was found, but it was worthless. Well, it fetched half a crown a ton, and people on the spot went on paying a guinea a ton for Newcastle coal because it was cheaper in the end. We may have iron, but what's the good when we have no coal to smelt it? The Irish forests which formerly were used for this purpose are all gone. Then the people put their trust in wool and cotton manufactures. They may do something with the wool, because England is waking up to the superior quality of Irish woollen productions; but in the cotton England is here, there and everywhere before us. 'Oh,' say some who should know better, 'put a duty on English goods, and make the Irish buy their own productions.' What rubbish! when England buys almost every yard of Irish woollen stuff, and could choke us off in a moment by counter-tariffs. Without English custom the Irish tweed mills would not run a single day.
"As an Irishman, I should like to have a Parliament of my own. I suppose that is a respectable ambition. At the same time, I cannot see where it would do us any substantial good. No, I do not think the present Nationalist members loyal to the English Crown. Nor are they traitors. A priest explained that very well. There's a distinction. 'A man may not be loyal and yet not be a traitor, for how can a man be a traitor to a foreign government?' said he. That sounded like the truth. I thought that a reasonable statement. For, after all, we are under foreign rule, and we have a perfect right to revolt against it and throw off the English yoke if we could do it, and if it suited us to do it. How to do it has been the talk since my childhood, and many a year before. It is the leading idea of all secret societies, and hardly any young man in Kerry and Clare but belongs to one or other of them. The idea is to get rid of the landlords who hold the country for England. There it is, now. We'll never be a contented conquered province like Scotland. We'd be all right if we could only make ourselves content. But the Divil is in us. That's what ye'll say. The Divil himself is in Irishmen."
The Mayo folks are great temporary migrants. From the County Mayo and its neighbour Roscommon come the bands of Irish harvesters which annually invade England. Latterly they are going more than ever, and the women also are joining in large numbers. The unsettled state of the country and the threat of a College Green Parliament have made work scarcer and scarcer, and the prevailing belief among the better classes that the bill is too absurd to become law, is not sufficient to counteract the chronic want of confidence inspired by the presence of Mr. Gladstone at the helm of state. Five hundred workers went from Westport Quay to Glasgow the other evening. More than two-thirds were women from Achil Island, sturdy and sun-burnt, quaintly dressed in short red kirtle, brilliant striped shawl, and enormous lace-up boots, of fearful crushing power. Though not forbidding, the women were very plain, ethnologically of low type, with small turn-up noses, small eyes, large jaws, and large flat cheekbones. The men were ugly as sin and coarse as young bulls, of which their movements were remindful. A piper struck up a jig and couples of men danced wildly about, the women looking on. Five shillings only for forty hours' sea-sickness, with permission to stand about the deck all the time. Berths were, of course, out of the question, and the boat moved slowly into the Atlantic with hundreds of bareheaded women leaning over the sides. Another boat-load will land at Liverpool, to return in September and October. The best-informed people of these parts think that under the proposed change the young female population of Mayo would be compelled to stay in England altogether, and that their competition in the English labour market would materially lower the rate of factory wage. "They live hard and work like slaves when away from Ireland," said an experienced sergeant of the Royal Irish Constabulary. "And yet they are lazy, for on their return they will live somehow on the money they bring back until the time comes to go again, and during the interval they will hardly wash themselves. They will not work in their own districts, nor for their friends, the small farmers. Partly pride, partly laziness; you cannot understand them. The man who attempts to explain the inconsistencies of the Irish character will have all his work before him. Make the country a peasant-proprietary to suit the small farmers, and the labouring class will go to England and Scotland to live. The abolition of the big farmers will cut the ground from under their feet. You will have Ireland bossing your elections, as in America, and cutting the legs from under your artisans. For let me tell you that once Paddy learns mechanical work he is a heap smarter than any Englishman."
If Home Rule should become law, and if England should be over-run by the charming people of Connaught, the brutal Saxon will be interested to observe some of the ancient customs to which they cling with a touching tenacity. Marriage with the Connaught folks is entirely a matter of pecuniary bargain. The young folks have no act or part in the arrangements. The seniors meet and form a committee of ways and means. How much money has your son? How much has your daughter? The details once understood, the parties agree or disagree, or leave the matter pending while they respectively look about for a better bargain. And even if the bargain be ostensibly agreed to, either party is at liberty to at once break the match, on hearing of something better. The prospective bride and bridegroom have nothing to say in the negotiations, and may never have seen each other in their lives. Previous acquaintance is not considered necessary, and the high contracting parties are frequently married without having met before they meet at the altar. This was hard to believe, but careful inquiry established the fact. Never was a case of rebellion recorded. The lady takes the goods the gods provide her, and the gentleman believes that the custom yields all prizes and no blanks. Marriage is indeed a lottery in Connaught. The system works well, for unfaithfulness is said to be unknown. The Connaught funerals are impressive. One of these I have seen, and one contents me well. The coffin arrived on a country cart, the wife and family of the deceased sitting on the body, after the fashion attributed to English juries. To sit elsewhere than on the coffin would in Connaught be considered a mark of disrespect. The children sit on the head and feet, the wife jumps on the chest of the dear departed, and away goes the donkey. The party dismount at the churchyard gates, and as the coffin enters they raise the Irish cry, a blood-curdling wail that makes your muscles creep, while a cold chill runs down your spine, and you sternly make for home. You may as well see it out, for you can hear the "Keen" two miles away against the wind. The mourners clasp their hands and move them quickly up and down, recounting the deceased's good deeds, and exclaiming, in Irish and English, "Why did ye die? Ah, thin, why did ye die?" To which very reasonable query no satisfactory answer is obtainable. The widow is expected to tear her hair, if any, and to be perfectly inconsolable until the churchyard wall is cleared on leaving. Then, and not before, she may address herself to mundane things. Good "Keeners" are in much request, and a really efficient howler is sure of regular employment. The Connaught folks are somewhat rough-and-ready with their dead. Colonel Winter, of the Buffs, told me that he came across a donkey-cart in charge of two men, who were waiting at a cross-road. A coffin had been removed from the cart, and stood on its end hard by. "I thought it was an empty coffin," said the Colonel, "but it wasn't. The men were waiting, by appointment, for the mourners, and meanwhile the old lady in the coffin was standing on her head. Wonderful country is Ireland.
"An old woman died in the workhouse of typhus fever, or some other contagious disorder. The corpse was placed in a parish coffin, and was about to be buried, when a relative came forward and offered to take charge of the funeral, declining to accept the workhouse coffin. The authorities consented, on condition that the proposed coffin should be large enough to enclose the first one, explaining that the body was dangerously contagious. The relative, a stout farmer, duly arrived at the workhouse with the new coffin, which was found to be too small to include the first one, and the authorities thereupon refused to have the coffins changed. So the mourner knocked down two men, and, making his way into the dead-room, burst open the receptacle containing his revered grandmother, whipped her out of the parochial box, planked her into the family coffin, and triumphantly walked her off on his shoulder. There was filial piety for you! They arrested that man, locked him up, and, for aught I know, left the old lady to bury herself, which must have been a great hardship. What Englishman would have done as much for his grandmother? And yet they say that Connaught men have no enterprise!"
A Protestant of Castlebar said:—"If the English people fail to correctly estimate the supreme importance of the present crisis it is all over with us, and, I think, with England. If the Unionist party persevere they must ultimately win. The facts are all with them. Enlightenment is spreading, and if time to spread the truth can be gained Home Rule will be as dead as a door-nail. If, on the other hand, the English people fail to see the true meaning of Home Rule, which is revolution and disintegration, England, from the moment an Irish Parliament is established, must be classed with those countries from which power has dwindled away; her glory will have commenced to wane, her enemies will rejoice, and she will present to the world the aspect of a nation in its decadence. The Irish leaders and the Irish people alike, who support Home Rule, are ninety-nine hundredths disloyal. Already the leaders are cursing England more deeply than before, this time for deceiving them about the Home Rule Bill. Their most respectable paper is already preparing the ground for further agitation. The Irish Independent says that the Irish people are being marched from one prison to another, and told that is their liberty. Such is the latest criticism of the Home Rule Bill, as pronounced by the Nationalist party. The same paper ordered the Lord Mayor of Dublin and the City Council to refuse an address of congratulation on the marriage of the Duke of York and Princess May, and they refused by more than four to one. They refused when it was the Duke of Clarence. We could understand that, but why refuse now, when Home Rule is adopted as the principal measure of the Government whose only aim is the Union of Hearts? The English people must indeed be fools if they cannot gauge the feeling that dictated a vote so mean as this. Surely the English will at the eleventh hour draw back and save us and our country, and themselves and their country from unknown disaster. If they allow this ruinous measure to become law I shall almost doubt the Bible where it says, 'Surely the net is set in vain in the sight of any bird.'"
I met a very savage Separatist in Castlebar. They are numerous in Mayo and Galway. The more uncivilised the district, the more ignorant the people, the more decided the leaning to Home Rule. My friend was not of the peasant class, but rather of the small commercial traveller breed, such as, with the clerks and counterskippers of the country stores, make up the membership of the Gaelic clubs by which the expulsion of the Saxon is confidently expected. He said, "I am for complete Independence, and I do not believe in what is called constitutional agitation. Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow. Every country that has its freedom has fought for it. I would not waste a word with England, which has always deceived us and is about to deceive us once again. England has always wronged us, always robbed us. England has used her vast resources to ruin our trade that her own might flourish. The weakest must go to the wall—that is the doctrine of England—which thrives by our beggary and lives by our death. You have heaps of speakers in England who admit this. Gladstone knows it is true. The Irish people have let the English eat their bread for generations. The Irish people have seen the English spending their money for centuries. This must be stopped as soon as possible, and Ireland grows stronger every day. Every concession we have obtained has been the result of compulsion, and I am for armed combination. Every Irishman should be armed, and know the use of arms. The day will come when we shall dictate to England, and when we may, if we choose, retaliate on her. We shall have an army and navy of our own; all that will come with time. We must creep before we walk, and walk before we run. The clubs already know their comrades; each man knows his right and left shoulder man, and the man whose orders he is to obey. Merely a question of athletic sports, at present. But when we get Home Rule the enthusiasm of the people will be whetted to such an extent that we shall soon enroll the whole of the able-bodied population, and after then, when we get the WORD, you will see what will happen. Where would be your isolated handfuls of soldiery and police, with roads torn up, bridges destroyed, and an entire population rising against them? Yes, you might put us down, but we'd first have some fun. In a week we'd not leave a red coat in the island."
The gratitude, the warm generosity of the Irish people is very beautiful. The Union of Hearts, however, as a paying investment seems to have fallen considerably below par.
Castlebar, June 8th.
No. 33.—TUAM'S INDIGNATION MEETING.
Here I am, after two hours' journey by the Midland and Great Western Railway, which leads to most of the good things in Ireland, and is uncommonly well managed, and with much enterprise. By the Midland and Great Western Railway you may cover the best tourist districts in quick time and with great comfort. By it you may tackle Connemara either from Galway or Westport, and the company, subsidised by Mr. Balfour, will shortly open fifty miles of line between Galway and Clifden. Then we want a thirty-mile continuation from Clifden by Letterfrack and Leenane to Westport, and the circle will be complete. For that, Paddy must wait until the Tories are again in office. As he will tell you, the Liberals spend their strength in sympathetic talk. Mr. Hastings, of Westport, said:—"I care not who hears me say that the Tories have instituted the public works which have so much benefited the country. The Liberals have always been illiberal in this respect. Mr. Balfour did Ireland more good than any Liberal Irish Secretary." Mr. Hastings is as good a Catholic Home Ruler as Father McPhilpin, who said substantially the same thing. Ballina is on the Moy—every self-respecting town in Ireland has a salmon river—and the Midland and Great Western Railway gives fishing tickets to tourists, who anywhere on this line should find themselves in Paradise. From the three lakes of Mullingar to the Shannon at Athlone, from the Moy at Ballina to the Corrib at Galway, the waters swarm with fish. The salmon weir at Galway is worth a long journey to see. The fish literally jostle each other in the water. They positively elbow each other about. Sometimes you may stand against the salmon ladder in the middle of the town, and although the water is clear as crystal you cannot see the bottom for fish—great, silvery salmon, upon whose backs you think you might walk across the river. The Moy at Ballina is perhaps fifty yards wide, and the town boasts two fine bridges, one of which is flanked by a big Catholic church. The streets are not handsome, nor yet mean. Whiskey shops abound, though they are not quite so numerous as in some parts of Ennis, where, in Mill Street, about three-fourths of the shops sell liquor. Castleisland in Kerry would also beat Ballina. Mr. Reid, of Aldershot, said:—"The population of Castleisland is only one thousand two hundred, but I counted forty-eight whiskey-shops on one side of the street." Of a row of eleven houses near the main bridge of Ballina I counted seven whiskey-shops, and one of the remaining four was void. There were several drink-shops opposite, so that the people are adequately supplied with the means of festivity. The place has no striking features, and seems to vegetate in the way common to Irish country towns. It probably lives on the markets, waking up once a week, and immediately going to sleep again. The Post Office counter had two bottles of ink and no pen, and the young man in charge was whistling "The Minstrel Boy." The shop-keepers were mostly standing at their doors, congratulating each other on the fine weather. A long, long street leading uphill promised a view of the surrounding country, but the result was not worth the trouble. It led in the direction of Ardnaree, which my Irish scholarship translates "King's Hill," but I stopped short at the ruins of the old workhouse, and after a glance over the domain of Captain Jones went back through the double row of fairly good cottages, and the numerous clans of cocks and hens which scratched for a precarious living on the King's highway. The people turned out en masse to look at me, and to discuss my country, race, business, appearance, and probable income. The Connaught folks have so little change, are so wedded to one dull round, that when I observe the interest my passage evokes I feel like a public benefactor. A bell rings at the Catholic church. Three strokes and a pause. Then three more and another pause. A lounger on the bridge reverently raises his hat, and seeing himself observed starts like a guilty wretch upon a fearful summons. I ask him what the ringing means, and with a deprecatory wag of his head he says:—
"Deed an' deed thin, I couldn't tell ye."
The Town Crier unconsciously launched me into business, and soon I was floating on a high tide of political declamation. What the crier cried I could not at all make out, for the accent of the Ballina folks is exceedingly full-flavoured. When he stopped I turned to a well-dressed young man near me and said, "He does not finish, as in England, with God save the Queen."
"No," said my friend with a laugh, "he has too much regard for his skin."
"What would happen if he expressed his loyalty?"
"He would be instantly rolled in the gutter. The people would be on him in a moment. He'd be like a daisy in a bull's mouth. He might say "God save Ireland," just to round the thing off, but "God save the Queen"!
My friend was a Home Ruler, and yet unlike the rest. He said: "I am a Home Ruler because I think Home Rule inevitable now the English people have given way so far. Give Paddy an inch and you may trust him to take an ell. We must have something like Home Rule to put an end to the agitation which is destroying the country. It is now our only chance, and in my opinion a very poor chance, but we are reduced so low that we think the bottom is touched. The various political agencies which have frightened away capital and entirely abolished enterprise will continue their work until some measure of Home Rule is given to the country, and then things will come to a head at once. It is barely possible that good might ultimately result, but young men would be gray-headed before things would work smoothly. The posture of the poorer classes is simply absurd. They will have a dreadful awakening, and that will also do good. They are doing nothing now except waiting for the wonderful things they have been told will take place when Irishmen get into power. You must have heard the extraordinary things they say about the mines and factories that will be everywhere opened. Some of their popular orators tell them of the prosperity of Ireland before the Union. That is true enough, but the conditions are totally changed. We did something in the way of manufacturing, but we could not do it now. We had no Germany, no America to compete against. Those who tell us to revive that period of prosperity by the same means might just as well tell us to revive the system of tribal lands or the chieftainship of Brian Boru.
"The people need some tremendous shock to bring them to their senses. They used to work much better, to stand, as it were, on their own feet. Now they make little or no exertion. They know they will never be allowed to starve. They know that at the cry of their distress England and America will rush to their succour. And they have tasted the delights of not paying. First it was the rent, the impossible rent. In this they had a world-wide sympathy, and a very large number of undeserving persons well able to pay chummed in with the deserving people who were really unable to meet their engagements. And at the meetings of farmers to decide on united action, the men who could pay but would not were always the most resolute in their opposition to the landlord. This was natural enough, for they had most to gain by withholding payment. The landlords always knew which was which, and would issue ejectment processes against those able to pay, but what could be done against a whole county of No-rent folks? And never have these people been without aid and sympathy from English politicians. We have had them in Ireland by the dozen, going round the farmers and encouraging them to persevere.
"The great advantage of Home Rule in the eyes of the farmers is this and this only—that an Irish House would settle the land question for ever. The people would take a good bill from the House of Commons at Westminster if they could get it, but they can't. They believe that their only hope is with an Irish Parliament. The most intelligent are now somewhat doubtful as to the substantial benefits to come. They fear heavy taxation. They say that everything must come out of the land, and they wonder whether the change would pay them after all. On the whole, they will risk it, and under the advice of the clergy, who have their own little ideas, they will continue to vote for Home Rule. Throw out this bill, let Mr. Balfour settle the land question, and the agitators will not have a leg left to stand on."
All this I steadfastly believe. No farmer wants Home Rule for anything beyond his personal interests. Mr. Patrick Gibbons, of Carnalurgan, is one of the smartest small farmers I have met, and he confirms the statements of his fellows. "Give the farmers the land for a reasonable rent," said he, "and they would not care two straws for Home Rule." The small traders admit that they would like it, as a mere matter of fancy, and because they have been from time to time assured that the English Parliament is the sole cause of Ireland's decadence. They are assured that an Irish Parliament by instituting immense public works would prevent emigration, and that the people staying at home and earning money would bring custom to their shops. Nearly everybody insists on an exclusive system of protective tariffs. England, they say, competes too strongly. Ireland cannot stand up to her. She must be kept out at any cost.
According to a Ballina Nationalist this is where the "shock" will come in. He said:—
"The bill is being whittled down to nothing. Gladstone is betraying us. It is doubtful if he ever was in earnest. 'Twould be no Home Rule Bill at all, if even it was passed. An' what d'ye mane by refusing us the right to put on whatever harbour dues we choose? An' what d'ye mane by sayin' we're not to impose protective tariffs to help Irish industries? Ye wish to say, 'Here's yer Parlimint. Ye're responsible for the government of the counthry, for the advancement of the counthry, for the prosperity of the counthry; but ye mustn't do what ye think best to bring about all this. When we have a Parlimint we'll do as we choose, an' not as you choose, Ye have no right to dictate what we shall do, nor what we shan't do. We'll do what we think proper, an' England must make the best of it. England has always considered herself: now we'll consider ourselves. If we're not to govern the counthry in every way that we think best, why on earth would we want a Parlimint at all? Tell me that, now. If Ireland is to be governed from England, if we are to have any interference, what betther off will we be? An' Protection is the very first cry we shall raise."
The good folks at Tuam have held an indignation meeting to protest against the statements contained in my Tuam letter, which they characterise as "vile slanders" which they wish to "hurl back in my teeth" (if any). The meeting took place in the Town Hall on Sunday, which day is usually selected by the Tuamites to protest against the brutal Saxon, and to hold meetings of the National League, a colourable successor to the Land League. All these meetings are convened by priests, addressed by priests, governed by priests. The Tuamites are among the most priest-ridden people in Ireland, and, after having seen Galway and Limerick, this is saying a good deal. The meeting was from beginning to end a screaming farce, wherein language was used fit only for an Irish House of Commons. The vocabulary of Irish Town Commissioners and Irish Poor Law Guardians was laid under heavy contribution. The speakers hurled at the Gazette the pet terms they usually and properly reserve for each other. The too flattering terms which in a moment of weakness I applied to Tuam and its people are described as "lying, hellish, mendacious misrepresentations." Misther MacCormack said the English people would know there was "not a wurrud of thruth in these miserable lies." The report of the Tuam Herald reads like a faction fight in a whiskey-shop. You can hear the trailing of coats, the crack of shillelaghs on thick Irish skulls, the yells of hurroosh, whirroo, and O'Donnell aboo! Towards the end your high-wrought imagination can almost smell the sticking plaister, so vivid is the picture. "The bare-faced slanders of this hireling scribe from the slums of Birmingham" were hotly denounced, but nobody said what they were. The clergy and their serfs were equally silent on this point. I steadfastly adhere to every syllable of my Tuam letter. I challenge the clergy and laity combined to put their fingers on a single assertion which is untrue, or even overstated. Let them point out a single inaccuracy, if they can. To make sweeping statements, to say that this "gutter-snipe," this "hireling calumniator," this "blackguard Birmingham man" has made a series of "reckless calumnies," "devoid of one particle of truth," is not sufficiently precise. I stand by every word I have uttered; I am prepared to hold my ground on every single point. Most of my information was obtained from Catholics who are heart-weary of priestly tyranny and priestly intimidation; who are sufficiently enlightened to see that priestly power is based on the ignorance of priestly dupes, that priestly influence is the real slavery of Ireland, the abject condition of the poor is its unmistakable result, and that where there are priests in Ireland there are ignorance and dirt in exact proportion. They have compared the clean cottages of the North with the filthy hovels of the South, and they have drawn their own conclusions. But to descend to detail. What do the Tuamites deny? "Not a particle of truth in the whole letter!" Father Humphreys said my Tipperary letter was "a pure invention," without a syllable of truth. Since then Father Humphreys has been compelled to admit, in writing, that all I said was true, and that he "could not have believed it possible." That was his apology.
Turning to the Tuam letter, I find these words—
"The educated Catholics are excellent people—none better anywhere, none more tolerant." This is construed into "a gross insult on our holy priests, and particularly on our Archbishop," who, by the way, was not mentioned or made the subject of any allusion, however remote. Do the Tuamites deny that "many of the streets are wretchedly built," and "the Galway road shows how easily the Catholic poor are satisfied?" Do they deny that the cabins in this district are "aboriginal in build, and also indescribably filthy," and that "the condition of the inmates is not one whit higher than that obtaining in the wigwams of the native Americans?" Do they deny that "the hooded women, barefooted, bronzed, and tanned by constant exposure, are wonderfully like the squaws brought from the Far West by Buffalo Bill?"
All this I reiterate and firmly maintain, with the addition of the statement that the squaws were in a condition of compulsory cleanliness the like of which seems never to be attained by the ladies of the Galway Road, Tuam. The meeting is called a "monster" meeting. How many people does the Tuam Town Hall hold? The fact is that the Town Hall of Tuam, with the entire population of Tuam thrown in, could be put into the Town Hall of Birmingham. Do the Tuamites deny that Mr. Strachan, one of their most worthy citizens, is unable to walk the streets of the town wherein live the people he has benefited, without a guard of policemen to protect him from the cut-throat emissaries of the Land League? So it was when I visited Tuam, Mr. Strachan's crimes being the purchase of a farm in the Land Court and his Protestant creed. Do they deny the scenes of persecution I described as having taken place in former days? All this I had from a source more reliable than the whole Papist hierarchy. The Tuamites can deny nothing of what I have written. The tumbledown town is there, the filthy cabins and degraded squaws of the Galway Road are still festering in their own putridity, and probably the police are still preserving Strachan from the fate of the poor fellow so brutally murdered near Tuam a few weeks ago. The priests called a town meeting to protest against insult to the Church. Great is Diana of the Ephesians! When the tenants refused to pay their lawful dues the priests called no meeting. When the country from end to end echoed with the lamentations of widows and the wailing of helpless children whose natural protectors had been murdered by the Land League, the Tuamites suppressed their indignation, the Tuam priests made no protest. When scores of men were butchered at their own firesides, shot in their beds, battered to pieces at their own thresholds, these virtuous sacerdotalists never said a word, called no town's meeting, used no bad language, spoke not of "hirelings," "calumniators," "blackguards," and "liars." Two of the speakers threatened personal injury should I again visit the town. That is their usual form,—kicking, bludgeoning, outraging, or shooting from behind a wall. When they do not shoot they come on in herds, like wild buffaloes, to trample on and mutilate their victim. From the strong or armed they run like hares. Their fleetness of foot is astonishing. The Tuam News, owned and edited by the brother of a priest, exhibits the intellectual status of the Tuam people. Let us quote it once again:—
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.
After this I need add nothing to what I have said except a pronouncement of Father Curran, who said that "Tuam could boast as fine schools as Birmingham, and that he would then and there throw out a challenge that they boast more intelligence in Tuam than Birmingham could afford." Poor Father Curran! Poor Tuam! Poor Tuamites with their rags, pigs, filth, priests, fairies, and Intelligence! I shall visit them once more. A few photographs from the Galway Road would settle the dispute, and render null and void all future Town's meetings. They have sworn to slay me, but in visiting their town I fear nothing but vermin and typhoid fever. Their threats affect me not. As one of their own townsmen remarked,—
"You cannot believe a word they say. They never speak the truth except when they call each other liars. And when they are in fear, although too lazy to work, they are never too lazy to run. They have no independence of thought or action. Their religion crushes all manhood out of them. They are the obedient servants of the priests, and no man dare say his soul's his own. Any one who did not attend that meeting would be a marked man, but if it had been limited to people who know the use of soap it would necessarily have been small, even for the Tuam Town Hall."
Everywhere in Connaught I hear the people saying, "When you want to roast an Irishman you can always find another Irishman to turn the spit."
Thrue for ye, ma bouchal!
Ballina, June 10th.
No. 34.—WHY IRELAND DOES NOT PROSPER.
A community of small farmers with a sprinkling of resident gentry. All sorts of land within a small compass, rock, bog, tillage, and excellent grazing. The churchyard is a striking feature. A ruined oratory covered with ivy is surrounded by tombstones and other mortuary memorials strange to the Saxon eye. The graves are dug east and west on a rugged mound hardly deserving to be called a hill, although here and there steep enough. Huge masses of sterile mountain form the background, and from the ruin the Atlantic is seen, gleaming in the sun. Patches of bog with diggers of turf, are close by the untouched portions covered with white bog-bean blooms, which at a short distance look like a snowfall. On a neighbouring hill is a fine old Danish earthwork, a fort, called by the natives "The Rath," fifty yards in diameter, the grassy walls, some ten feet high and four yards thick, reared in a perfect circle, on which grow gorse and brambles. The graveyard is sadly neglected. Costly Irish crosses with elaborate carving stand in a wilderness of nettles and long grass. Not a semblance of a path anywhere. To walk about is positively dangerous. Ruined tombstones, and broken slabs which appear to cover family vaults, trip you up at every step. Every yard of progress is made with difficulty, and you move nervously among the tall rank nettles in momentary fear of dislocating your ankle, or of being suddenly precipitated into the reeking charnel house of some defunct Mayo family. The Connaught dead seem to be very exclusive. Most of the ground is enclosed in small squares, each having a low stone wall, half-a-yard thick, with what looks like the gable-end of a stone cottage at the west end. Seen from a distance the churchyard looks like a ruined village. At first sight you think the place a relic of some former age, tenanted by the long-forgotten dead, but a closer inspection proves interments almost up to date. Weird memorials of the olden time stand cheek by jowl with modern monuments of marble; and two of suspiciously Black Country physiognomy are of cast-iron, with I.H.S. and a crucifix all correctly moulded, the outlines painted vermilion, with an invitation to pray for the souls of the dead in the same effective colour. The graveyard shows no end of prayer, but absolutely no work. No tidiness, order, reverence, decency, or convenience. Nothing but ruin, neglect, disorder, untidiness, irreverence, and inconvenience. Ora et labora is an excellent proverb which the Irish people have not yet mastered in its entirety. To pray and work is as yet a little too much for them. They stop at the first word, look round, and think they have done all. This graveyard displays the national character. Heaps of piety, but no exertion. Any amount of talk, but no work. More than any people, the Irish affect respect for their dead. You leave the graveyard of Oughewall smarting with nettle stings, and thankful that you have not broken your neck. The place will doubtless be tidied, the nettles mowed down and pathways made, when the people get Home Rule. They are clearly waiting for something. They wish to be freed from the cruel English yoke. When this operation is happily effected, they will clean their houses, move the dunghills from their doors, wash themselves, and go to work in earnest. The Spanish Queen vowed she would never wash herself till Gibraltar was retaken from the English. Seven hundred years ago the Irish nation must have made a similar vow—and kept it.
A passing shower drove me to the shelter of a neighbouring farmhouse, where lived a farmer, his wife, and their son and daughter. The place was poor but tolerable, the wife being far above the Irish average. The living room, about ten feet square, was paved with irregularly-shaped stones of all sizes, not particularly flat, but in places decidedly humpy; the interstices were of earth, the whole swept fairly clean, but certainly not scrubbed. The rafters, of rough wood, were painted black, and a rough ladder-like stair, open at the sides, led to the upper regions. To have an upstairs is to be an aristocrat. The standard of luxury is much lower than in England, for almost any English agricultural labourer would have better furniture than that possessed by this well-to-do but discontented farmer. An oak cupboard like a wardrobe, a round deal table, and four rough rush-bottomed chairs of unstained wood comprised the paraphernalia. The kitchen dresser, that indispensable requisite of English farm kitchens, with its rows of plates and dishes, was nowhere to be seen. The turf fire on the hearth needed no stove nor grate, nor was there any in the house. A second room on the ground floor, used as a bed room, had a boarded floor, and although to English notions bare and bald, having no carpet, pictures, dressing table, or washstand, it was clean and inoffensive. The churning and dairy operations are carried on in the room first described, where also the ducks and hens do feed. The farmer holds fifty acres of good land, for which he pays fifty pounds a year. His father, who died thirty years ago, paid twenty-four pounds, which he thinks a fair rent to-day. Has not made application to the Court, although he might benefit by twenty-five to thirty-five per cent. Is aware that the Judicial Rent is sometimes fixed at a sum above what the tenant had been paying, and admits that this might happen to him. "Yes, the land round the house is very good, very good indeed, but what can be seen from here is by far the best of it. That is always the way in this world, the best at the front."
From this and other remarks of like tendency I gather that the noble landlord is in the habit of placing all the best land of his estate along the high read, concealing the boggy, rocky portions in the remote interior, fraudulently imposing on the public, and alienating sympathy from the tenant, thereby inflicting another injustice on Ireland.
"The English laws are right enough, as far as they go," said the farmer, "but the English will not do the right thing about the land. Now we know that an Irish Parliament will settle the matter forth-with. That's why we support Home Rule. We know the opinions of the men who now represent us, and we can trust them in this matter if in no other. The land is the whole of it. If that were once put on an unchangeable bottom I would rather be without Home Rule. Some say that even if our rents are reduced by one-half, the increased taxes we must pay would make us nearly as poor as ever, and that all this bother and disturbance would not really save us a penny piece. And I think this might be true. So that if something could be done by the English Parliament I should prefer it to come that way. And so would we all, a hundred times. For with the English Parliament we know where we are, and what we're doing. I'm not one to believe that the land will be handed over to us without payment. Plenty of them are ignorant enough to believe even that. My view is just this: If the English Parliament would settle the land question, I would prefer to do without an Irish Parliament. That's what all the best farmers say, and nothing else. No, I wouldn't invest money in Ireland. No, I wouldn't trust the bulk of the present members for Ireland. Yes, I would prefer a more respectable class of men who had a stake in the country. But we had to take what we could catch, for people who have a stake in the country are all against Home Rule. What could we do? We had no choice. We sent Home Rulers because an Irish Parliament is pledged to meet our views about the land. We know they will fulfil their pledges, not because they have promised, nor because they wish to benefit us, but because they wish to abolish landlordism and landlords from the country. The landlord interest is English interest, and that they want to get rid of. Their reasons for settling the land question are not the farmers' reasons, but so long as it is settled the farmer will reap the benefit, and will not care why it was settled. Give us compulsory sale and compulsory purchase, at a fair price, and you will find the farmers nearly all voting against Home Rule. No, the priests would not be able to stir us once we were comfortably settled. Why, we'd all become Conservatives at once. Sure anybody with half-an-eye could see that in a pitch-dark night in a bog-hole."
My friend assured me that secret societies are unknown in Mayo, or at any rate, in the Westport district. The young men of Clare, he thought, were Fenians to a man. "They are queer, blood-thirsty folks, enemies to Ireland. Why, they object to other Irishmen. They will not allow a poor fellow from another county to work among them as a harvest-man. They would warn him off, and if he would not go, they'd beat him with sticks, and when once they begin, you never know where they'll stop. They should be put down with a strong hand."
But where is the strong hand? Mr. Morley, recently replying to Mr. Arnold Forster, said that "it was admitted that the police were working as faithfully and as energetically under the present as under the late Government, and added that the authorities concerned were taking all the steps which experience and responsibility suggested." Mr. Morley is right in attributing faithfulness to the police, and their energy is doubtless all that can be reasonably expected under very discouraging auspices. Mr. Morley speaks more highly of the police than the police speak of Mr. Morley. From Donegal to Bantry Bay, from Dublin to Galway and Westport, north, south, east, west, right, left, and centre, the police of Ireland condemn Mr. Morley's administration as feeble, vacillating, and as likely to encourage crime. They speak of their duties in despondent tones. I have from time to time given their sentiments, which are unvarying. They know not what to do, and complain that while they continue to be held responsible they dare not follow up their duties with the requisite energy. Only yesterday an experienced officer said:—"The men are disheartened because they do not know how their action will be taken, and because they feel that anything in the nature of enterprise is very likely to injure themselves individually. They feel that in the matter of arrests it is better to be on the safe side, and then they know how unavailing all their efforts must be in the disturbed districts of Kerry, Clare, and Limerick, where the arm of the law has been paralysed by Mr. Morley's rescision of the salutary provisions so necessary in those counties. Outrages and shooting are every-day occurrences, for many cases are never reported to the police at all. If the police caught the criminals in the act there would be no result, for the juries of those three counties would not convict, and the venue cannot now be changed to Cork.
"Some of the Nationalist members were the other day asking in the House whether the Cork magistrates had not been presented with white gloves, and so on, to bring out the fact that there was no crime to punish on a recent occasion; but what does this prove? Merely that Mr. Balfour's action in changing the venue of three counties to the city of Cork, where moonlighters are tried by a jury of independent traders of Patrick Street was wise and sagacious. The white gloves of Cork were a tribute to Tory administration. The Cork juries convicted their men, and stood by the consequences. They have escaped so far, as all bold men escape. If the Limerick moonlighters must have been tried in Cork there would have been no moonlighting. The police can always catch them, when there is any use in catching them. In country districts the movements of people are pretty well known, and these fellows are always ready to betray each other. Mr. Morley may talk fine, and may mean well, but the people who have been riddled with shot have Mr. Morley to thank. Of course he is under compulsion. He has to please the Irish Separatists. Old women and children are outraged and shot in the legs because of Mr. Morley's political necessities."
I think my friend was right as to the effect of boldness in action. There is too much truckling to the ruffian element, not only by Mr. Morley, but by most Unionists resident in Ireland. Opinions on this point vary with varying circumstances. Several shopkeepers in a Mayo town were utterly ruined for expressing their political opinions, or for being suspected of harbouring opinions contrary to the feeling of the majority. They were boycotted, and had to shut up shop. Others, older-established, or in possession of a monopoly, weathered the storm, but their opinions cost them something. These are the milder cases. Yet shooting or bludgeoning are likely enough to follow overt political action, such as refusing to join a procession or to illuminate.
It was hard to find a Protestant farmer in this district, but I succeeded at last. His notions were strange, very strange indeed. He thought his rent fair enough, and was of opinion that the tenant must be prepared to take the good years with the bad years. "These countrymen of mine, like somebody I've read of, never learn anything and never forget anything. They do not half farm the land. They don't understand any but the most elementary methods. They do not put the land to its best use. When they had prosperous years, and many a one they had, they put nothing by for a rainy day. They are very improvident. I have been in both England and Scotland, and I know the difference in the people. They have more self-reliance, and they are keen after improvements. They are not satisfied to have just enough, to live from hand to mouth. They must have comfort, and they like to be independent. Now, Paddy is content to just scrape along. If he can barely exist he's quite satisfied. He's always on the edge of the nest, but he feels sure that when the worst comes to the worst, somebody or something will step in and save him from starvation.
"Nearly every man in this county has been in England, many of them twenty times or more, working for months and months in the best farmed districts. Have they got any wrinkles? Divil a one. They have not planted a gooseberry or currant tree, they have no pot-herbs, no carrots or parsnips—nothing at all but potatoes and turnips. The farmers have no system of winter feeding, and they won't learn one. There is a great and growing demand in England for Irish butter, which, properly put up in a tasty way, would fetch fine figures, but the lack of system in winter feeding and winter calving prevents the supply from being kept up. The farmers will make no change in their habits, and they don't work as if they meant it. They lounge about all day, waiting for the crops to grow and the cattle to get fat, and then they wonder they are so poor. The only hope of the Irish people is their absorption in America. They work well enough when surrounded by new influences. Once get them away from the priests, and away they go; you can't stop them. They have great natural abilities, but somehow they won't bloom in Ireland. If they put forth the same energy in Ireland as in America they would do well. But they never will. Their religion keeps them down, and they can't get out of their old habits."
I observed that the Earl of Sligo had obtained eighty-two decrees of possession against tenants for non-payment of rent, and that the Mayo News, while censuring his action, admitted that most of the tenants owed two years' rent at least. My Black Protestant friend might tell me whether the heading "Another Batch of Death Sentences" was a fair description of this legal action, and whether the tenants were, in his opinion, totally unable to pay the rent.
"To call them sentences of death is absurd, The people are not evicted and left homeless, but merely deprived of their rights as tenants. In England, if a man does not pay his rent, he is thrown out, and nobody says Nay. In Ireland a man may pay no rent for seven years, and yet, when he is evicted, the people cry Shame on the landlord, who, in most cases, has been patient to the limit of human endurance. The landlord has watched the tenant neglecting the land, and living more expensively on the money he ought to have paid as rent. Now, let me submit a point which never seems to strike the English Unionist speakers. And yet it is plain enough. The Separatists say evictions are cruel and tyrannical because the people cannot pay the awful, exorbitant rents. Now notice my point!
"A rent may be too high, but the land must be worth something. Now these people have paid nothing at all for two years or more.
"Talk to these defaulters, and they will usually say 'The land is worth just one-half.'
"Why don't they pay that half?
"Then they would be only one year behind, instead of two, and they would get no notice to quit.
"But instead of paying the one-half which they themselves say the land is worth, they pay nothing at all. Does that look honest? Does it look genuine? Don't you think anybody could see that they are taking advantage of the unsettled state of things to avoid any payment whatever? They await Home Rule, which is to give them the land, and they are anticipating its advantages.
"They all know Hennessy's brandy, and can tell you the difference between the one-star and the three-star brands.
"In England everybody is at work. In Ireland most are at play. A man who has been taught to work in England feels inclined to follow them up here with a whip, they look so idle even when at work. They move about as if half-dead. They are as lazy as Lambert's dog, that leaned his head against the wall to bark. The young women won't work either. My sister in Athlone is obliged to give her servants three nights a week off from five to ten, or she could have nobody. Then they are always going to mass or keeping some festival of the Church. Speak a word of reproof and away they go. They are as proud as Lambert's other dog, that took the wall of a muck-cart and got squelched for his pains.
"Home Rule would never do Ireland any good. Quite the contrary. What can do a man good who tries to get his dinner by standing about and saying how hungry he is?
"As to the agitators, they will always agitate. When one source is dried up they'll invent another. They have their living to get, and agitation is their trade. And a paying trade it is. Are they disloyal to England? I believe them Fenians at heart—that is, Fenians in the matter of loyalty. They would use any power they might get to damage England, and if England gives them power she'll bitterly rue the day. Paddy may be lazy, but put your finger in his mouth and he'll bite. The English Separatists don't see this, but when I see the fox in the hen-roost I can guess what brought him there. If I put the cat in the dairy I should expect her to taste the cream. Trust the Irish Nationalist members! I'd as soon trust a pack of wolves with my lambs."
My friend is a scientific gardener, and descanted on the wonderful climate of Ireland, where plants that will not grow in England nourish luxuriously. I told him I had seen bamboo growing in the open air at Dundalk, and asked him if the Bonds of Brotherhood (Humbugis Morleyensis) or the Union of Hearts (Gladstonia gammonica gigantica) would come to perfection in Hibernia. He thought the soil and climate unsuitable, and was sure they would never take root. The gammonica had been tried, but it withered and died. It could not be "budded" for want of an Irish "stock."
A scrap-book, fifty years old, revealed a condition of things so strangely like that of the present day that I obtained permission to copy the following skit, which, but for the mention of the old convict colony, might have been written last week. It is headed "Extract from the forthcoming history of the Irish Parliament." The Home Rule project is therefore ancient enough:—
One blow and Ireland sprang from the head of her Saxon enslaver like a new Minerva!
Proudly and solemnly she then sat down to frame a Republic worthy of Plato and Pat. Her first
President had been a workhouse porter, who was also a night watchman. He was, therefore, eminently fitted for both civil and military administration. The speech of President Pat on opening Congress developes his policy and his well-digested plans of legislative reform. Here are a few quotations:—
The Key-stone of Government is the Blarney-stone.
Political progress may always be accelerated by a bludgeon.
Our institutions must be consolidated by soft-soap and whacks.
The People's will is made known by manifesto, and by many fists too.
Every man shall be qualified to sit in Congress that is a ten-pound pig-holder, provided that the pig and the member sleep under the same roof.
Members of Congress will be paid for their services. Gentlemen wearing gloves only to have the privilege of shaking the President's hand. The unwashed members to be paid at the door.
Pipes will not be allowed on the Opposition benches, nor may any member take whiskey until challenged by the President.
Under no circumstances will a member be suffered to sit with his blunderbuss at full cock, nor pointed at the President's ear.
Our Ambassadors will be chosen from our most meritorious postmen, so that they may have no difficulty in reading their letters.
The Foreign Office will be presided over by a patriotic editor who has travelled in New South Wales and is thoroughly conversant with the language.
Instead of bulwarks, the island will be fortified with Irish Bulls, our engineers being of opinion that no other horn-works are so efficient.
To prevent heartburnings between Landlord and Tenant, a Government collector of rents shall be appointed, and Tenant-right shall include a power to shoot over the land and at anyone on it.
And this was written half-a-century ago. It reads like yesterday!
Oughewall, June 10th.
No. 35.—IN A CONGESTED DISTRICT.
This is the first station on the Balfour line which is to run from Westport to Achil Sound—now in process of construction by Mr. Robert Worthington, the great Dublin contractor, who has built about a million pounds' worth of Irish railway, and who is of opinion that Home Rule means the bankruptcy of Ireland, and that the labouring population of the country would by it be compelled to emigrate to England, bringing their newly-acquired skill as railway workers into competition with the navvies and general working population. The seven miles of line between here and Westport are not yet packed and ballasted, and the ride hither on an engine kindly placed at the disposal of the Gazette, was not lacking in pleasurable excitement. The bogey engine kicked and winced and bucked and cavorted in a fashion unique in my experience. She seemed to be exhilarated by the pure mountain air, charged with ozone from the Atlantic main. Watching her little eccentricities, it was hard to believe her not endued with animal vitality. She walked the railway like a thing of life. She ducked and dived and plunged and snorted and reared and jibbed like a veritable cocktailed nag of the true old Irish breed. Sometimes she seemed to go from under you as she suddenly dipped into a slight depression. Sometimes she rolled like a ship at sea, and you began to wonder if sea-sickness were possible on land. The scenery is not striking, and the surrounding country, though poor and desolate, is by no means sterile. No tracts of black bog, no impassable morasses, no miles of rocks and boulders, but a fairly good grazing country, with here and there, at long intervals, a white cottage. The engine slows at one point, where the rails are twisted into serpentine convolutions by yesterday's tropical heat. Both sides are considerably displaced, but they still bear the right relation to each other, and the faithful machine, sniffing and picking her way carefully, glides safely over the contorted path. A short tunnel, with sides of solid masonry and roof-arch of brick, again demands extra care, and it is well that the pace is slowed, for half-way through, a man becomes dimly visible running a trolley off the line. Mountains arise on the left and in front, and my old friend Croagh Patrick puts in his Nationalist appearance. Then Newport heaves in sight, a cemetery on high ground opposite the site of the station, and overhanging the line, kept in its place by an immense retaining wall, without which the "rude forefathers of the hamlet" would fall from their narrow cells and block the progress of the civilising train. A handsome viaduct ends the run, finis coronat opus, and I walk a hundred yards to see the awkward spot which at first seemed to have no bottom, but which energy and industry have conquered, as they conquer everything. The line was going on happily until this point was reached, when a soft bog was broached, which threatened to swallow everything, opening its cavernous jaws with appetite which long seemed insatiable. The engineer choked it off with a hundred thousand cubic yards of earth, a quantity which to the untechnical ear sounds like a little kingdom, or at least like a decent farm, and the bog cried, Hold! enough. The total length of the line will be twenty-six-and-a-half miles, the cost, exclusive of the permanent way, which is an extra of some L1,800 a mile, being L110,000, most of which is dispensed among the labourers of the district, who thank the Balfour Administration for a great work which would never have been undertaken as a merely commercial speculation. The congested areas here, as elsewhere, have been powerfully assisted and benefited by the sagacity which at once afforded relief, improved the country, and opened the way to great markets. Temporary assistance is succeeded by a solid and permanent benefaction.
And still the people are not happy. Most of them are rather below the Irish average. Their isolated position in the extreme west, and their want of means of communication, may partly account for this. Few ever see a newspaper, and when they do they only read stuff concocted for them by unscrupulous people who write down to their level, and deliberately endeavour to keep them in total darkness. The men employed on the line work well, and Mr. William Ross, civil engineer, tells me they are even better workers than the Galway men, to whom I gave due credit for industry. The townsfolk are great politicians. That is, they echo the absurdities they hear, and are ready to believe anything, provided it is unlikely enough. The country papers of Ireland are poor and illiterate beyond belief, but their assumption of knowledge and superior information is amazing. One of the Galway rags recently treated its readers to a confidential communication having reference to the real sentiments of Lord Salisbury and Mr. Balfour as opposed to those ostensibly affected by those statesmen and to those with which they are popularly credited. Lord Salisbury is really dying for Home Rule, and Mr. Balfour would depart in peace if he could once behold a Dublin Parliament bossed by Tim Healy and William O'Brien. Lord Salisbury is not so bad as he seems, nor is Balfour altogether beyond hope of salvation. Both are under a kind of Tory terrorism which makes them say the thing that is not, compels them against their wishes to fight, forces them reluctantly to make a show of opposition. But both of them wink the other eye and have doubtless unbosomed themselves—in strict confidence—to the editor of the Galway paper. The poor folks of Ireland swallow this stuff, and will quote it gravely in argument. The Irish Catholic has a large circulation, and a glance over its columns, particularly its advertising columns, is highly suggestive at the present juncture. People offer to swop prayers, just as in Exchange and Mart people wish to barter a pet hedgehog for a lop-eared rabbit, or a cracked china cup for a gold watch and chain. Gentleman wishes someone to say fifteen Hail Marys every morning at eight o'clock for a week, while he, in return, will knock off a similar number of some other good things. The trade in masses is surprising. For a certain sum you get one mass a week for a year, for a higher figure you get two masses a week and an oleograph, for a trifle more you get mentioned in special prayers for benefactors, with a rosary that has touched the relics of Thomas-a-Becket or has been laid on the shrine of Blessed Thomas More. One advertisement sets forth the proviso that unless the payment is regular the supplications will be stopped. No pay, no prayer. Point d'argent, point de pretre. Prayers and advice, political or otherwise, at lowest terms for cash. No discount allowed. A reduction on taking a quantity.
A very knowing Newport man explained the present political position. "'Tis as simple as Ah, Bay, Say. Parnell wint over to France an' Amerikay, an' explained to thim how the English was oppressin' and ruinin' the poor Irish people; an' whin the Saxon seen he was found out, an' whin the Americans sent thousands an' thousands of pounds to pay the cliverist men in Ireland to fight the English in Parlimint, thin the English begun to give us back part of what they robbed us of. Every bite ye get in England manes that much less in an Irish mouth, an' the counthry is all starvin' becase England is fattenin'. All the young folks is gone out of the counthry; an' why did they go? Becase England makes the laws, an' becase she makes the laws to suit herself, an' to ruin us. Sure nine-tenths of the land is owned by Englishmen, who make us pay twice, aye, an' four times the rint the land is worth; an' that's what England thinks us good for, an' nothin' else. We're just slaves to the Saxon, as many's the time I heard the priest sayin' it. An' it was thrue for him. Sure, the counthry is full of coal, an' if we wor allowed to get it we'd be as rich as England in five years. Sure, Lord Sligo's estate is made of coal, an' although he's a Conservative, an' a Unionist, an' a Protestant, the English Parlimint wouldn't allow him to get it because it was in Ireland, an' they wor afraid the Irish would get betther off. An' sure they want to keep us paupers, so that we'll be compelled to 'list for sojers, an' fight for England against Rooshia and Prooshia, an' Injy, an' foreign parts, that the English is afraid to do for themselves."
His opinions are not below the intellectual average of those held by the majority of the Irish electorate. The ignorance of the rank and file of the Irish voters is exasperating to Englishmen, who are quite unable to understand their credulity, to combat their bitter prejudices, or to make headway against their preconceived notions. English Gladstonians who believe that Home Rule ought to be a good thing will stagger with dismay when confronted with the people who will rule the roost. For the intelligent are nowhere in point of numbers. The thick-witted believers in charms, in fairies, in the curative and preservative virtues of holy water, will have the country in their hands. The poor benighted peasants, who firmly believe that Mr. Balfour has the moonlighters in his pay, and that the murders of the Land League were ordered by Lord Salisbury to cast discredit on the national cause—these are the people who, voting as they are told by the priests, would govern the action of the Irish Parliament. They believe that Home Rule by some magic process will supply the place of industry and enterprise, will open up innumerable sources of boundless wealth, and will bring about Mr. Gladstone's "chronic plethora" of money. But, above all, the people are to be for ever delivered from the "English yoke." What the phrase means they know not. They only repeat what they have heard. The dogs around Newport are muzzled. It would be well for the people if their advisers were muzzled too.
Public feeling is well organised in Ireland. Although the people are not readers of daily news, the kind of sentiment ordered at head-quarters is immediately entertained. How it spreads nobody knows, unless it is spread from the altar. A change has come over the public sentiment. Among the more intelligent farmers there is a revolt against Home Rule. At a Unionist meeting held the other day at Athenry, all the speakers agreed on this point. One said that the change might be inoperative, because the farmers dare not avow their true opinions, because they have little or no faith in the secrecy of the ballot, and because they dread the unknown consequences of ruffian vengeance. The ignorant masses have also experienced a change. They have been undergoing a process of preparation for the next agitation. The poor folks at first believed that when they got Home Rule all would be well. That consummation devoutly to be wished, was to enrich them all. The agitators have to guard against the resentment of the disappointed people. They are hedging industriously. If Home Rule should come it will do no good, because it is not the right brand. John Bull has spoilt it all, as he spoils everything. Home Rule would have done all they promised, but this is not the Home Rule they meant! They took it at first as a small instalment of what they would afterwards kick out of the Saxon, but those outrageous Unionists have shaved it down to almost nothing. It is not worth having, and the only thing to do, say some Newport politicians, is for the Irish Nationalist party to rise in a body an' lave the House, an' not put a fut back into it till they get what they want. I wish my Newport friends could make their counsel prevail.
The latest phase of feeling, then, is an affected indignation at this supreme treachery of the English people. Over and over again I have quoted the opinions of people who said Mr. Gladstone meant to hoax Ireland again. This was when all seemed to be going quite smoothly. The Government concessions and the moderate use of the closure have convinced the doubters that they were right, and they breathe battle and slaughter. Irishmen like fighting debates, decided measures, tremendously hard hitting. As a people they do not believe in constitutional agitation. They would prefer sudden revolutions, cannons roaring, blood and thunder. They openly avow their preference, and say that this would have been their method, but that England has elaborately disarmed the country, which declaration clashes with the popular opinion, often exultantly expressed, that Ireland is full of arms. The truth is with the revolutionaries, who would certainly prefer battle but for its well-known danger. If Ireland could be freed by moonlighters firing at long ranges from behind stone walls, with an inaccessible retreat within easy reach, the English yoke would have but a short shrift.
A frantic Newporter said:—"We never got anything by love, but always by fear, and compulsion should be our motto. I've no patience wid thim that'll stand hat in hand, or be going down on their knees to England for every bit an' sup. John Mitchel an' James Stephens was the only men of modern times who properly understood how to manage the English. Of coorse, Parnell did something to advance the cause, an' 'tis thrue that he had no revolution nor insurrection of the old sort. But the Land League was arranged to include all the secret associations and to make use of thim all. Ye had Whiteboys, an' Fenians an' Ribbonmen agin ye, an' ye can't say but what the secret societies did the business, an' not what they call the constitutional agitation. Ye might have talked to the English Parlimint till doomsday an' ye'd not make it move a hair's-breadth for Ireland. But follow up yer talk wid a bit of shootin' an' then ye'll see what ye will see. 'Twas very bad, an' no man could agree wid it; but it did what no talkin' would ever have done. Compulsion is the right idea. An' what about dynamite? If ye look properly at the thing, why wouldn't we use dynamite? Haven't we a right to do as we choose in Ireland? Ought not the Irish people to be masters of Ireland? We say clear out—lave us to ourselves, take away yer landlords, yer sojers, yer police, an' thin we'll not have recoorse to dynamite. We have a right to free ourselves by any means that comes handy. All's fair in love an' war. No, I'm not sayin' that I'd do it meself personally. But whin ye come to look into it, why wouldn't we be justified in usin' dynamite? Ye pitched shells into Alexandria whin it suited ye. Why wouldn't we blow up London wid dynamite, if it suited us?"
The Newport people have not heard of the Union of Hearts. A decent old man who was trying to sell home-spun tweed of his own making, said:—"The English has been hittin' us for many a year, but whin we git Home Rule we'll be able to hit thim back. God spare me to see that day!" And he raised his hat, just as the people mentioned by Mr. A.M. Sullivan, M.P., "raised their hats reverentially" when they heard that a landlord or agent was shot. Whenever I hear a friendly sentiment, a friendly wish, a friendly aspiration in connection with England from the lips of any Nationalist I will gladly record it, if possible, in letters of gold. I do not expect this to happen. Speakers who attack England are most popular. The more unscrupulous and violent they are, the better their reception. Nationalist M.P.'s who in England have spoken well of Mr. Gladstone or of the English people are sharply hauled over the coals. The fighting men are the patriot's glory. The Irish people believe that the introduction of a Home Rule Bill is due to the action of their bullies, rather than to the persuasive argument of their civilised men. A very small minority desire to give John Bull some credit for fair play, an opinion hotly resented by the mob.
"Ah, now, listen to me, thin."
"Sure, I'm lookin' at ye."
"Don't I know we bate the Bill out of Bull."
"An' how would ye know, at all, at all?"
"How would I know, is it? D'ye take me for a fool?"
"Arrah, thin, sure I would not judge ye by yer looks!"
That is a model bar spar, the combatants drinking dog's-nose, sometimes called "powdher an' ball"—a drink of neat whiskey washed down by a pot of porter. The Connaught folk drink whiskey neat, but usually follow the spirit with water. They take up both glasses at once, and after a loving sniff at the poteen they pour it slowly down, the shebeen stuff tasting like a torchlight procession. Then they hastily toss off the water, making a wry face, and mostly addressing to the despised fluid the remark—
"Ye'll find IT gone on before!"
The desperate appeal of the Parnellite party for funds has evoked much merriment among Irish Unionists, and much burning scorn from anti-Parnellites—who themselves have much need of the money. A young friend has sent me the following parody, adapted from an old and well-known, melody:—
The patriot came down like a wolf on the fold, And all that he asked was their silver and gold; And he pocketed all that he got, as his fee, From the shores of the Liffey to rocky Tralee. Tho' Pat looked as naked and bleak as his soil, Yet there stood the patriot to sack up the spoil. And from parish to parish the box went its rounds— If we give you our speeches you must give us your pounds.
The coming golden time is neatly hinted at. Home Rule will pay for all:—
When it comes, you no longer shall lie in a ditch, Every beggar among you at once shall be rich; The hedger and ditcher shall have an estate, And drive his four horses, and dine off his plate. What! you won't? And your champion in want of a meal, With his coat out at elbows, his shoes down at heel; With his heart all as black as his speeches in print! Boys, I know what you'll do: you'll just keep back the Rint. Now down with your cash, never think of the jail, For Erin's true patriots the Virgin is bail; She'll rain down bank notes till the bailiff is blind— Still you're slack! Then I'll tell you a piece of my mind.
The priest is invoked to compel unwilling subscribers:—
Would you like to be sent, in the shape of a ghost, To be pokered by demons and browned like a toast? Or be hung in a blaze with a hook in your backs, Till you all melt away like a cake of bees'-wax? Would you like to be pitchforked down headlong to Limbo, With the Pope standing by with his two arms akimbo? No matter who starves, plank down on the spot, Pounds, shillings, and pence; we'll take all that you've got.
The poem breathes the true spirit of Separatism-cum-Sacerdotalism.
Newport (Co. Mayo), June 15th.
No. 36.—IRISH IMPROVIDENCE THE STUMBLING BLOCK.
The further journey from Newport to Mulranney on the Gazette special engine was yesterday delayed for a few hours by the announcement that during the night part of the line had sunk into a bog—a circumstance which might have seemed unusual and ominous to English engineers, but which Mr. Lionel Vaughan Bennett regarded as a mere matter of daily routine, hardly worth more than a passing mention. There was nothing for it but to take another walk round Newport, and after further admiring the great wall holding up the embankment opposite the station—a colossal work executed under great difficulties—to look at the surrounding landscape. Those who are interested in engineering may like to know the dimensions of this wall, which is two hundred feet long, thirty-five feet high, and ten feet thick at the base, tapering off to a thickness of five feet at the top, and is built of a fine limestone quarried from the railway cutting a little further out. The view from either of the ridges between which the town is built, is magnificent, mountain, valley, sea, and river contributing to the effect. From one ridge you see Clew Bay and the Croagh Patrick range, with an immense tract of country of varied appearance. From the other, immediately above the station, an enormous valley stretches away to the Bogagh mountain in front and the peaked summit of Lettermoughra on the left. At the latter point of view are some wooden cabins which the Saxon might mistake for pigsties or small cowsheds until he discovered they were inhabited by patriots, keen on Home Rule and charitable coppers. Beware of civility in these parts. From casual passers-by it nearly always means an appeal for alms, and after a few days' experience you are apt to fall into misanthropy. Some of these beggars have a fine dramatic way of opening the conversation. A hale and seemingly able-bodied man of fifty or thereabouts came up carrying a wheel, which he dropped when about ten yards away with the fervently uttered exclamation—