"God help the poor—owld—man!"
This adjuration falling short of its aim, he came up and asked for "a few coppers," at the same time invoking about sixpennyworth of blessings in advance, a sort of sprat to catch a mackerel.
"Got no coppers," I said, rather impatiently.
"May ye never have one till the day of yer death," said the good old man, this time with an unmistakable accent of sincerity. He hobbled off with the wheel, muttering something which may have been blessings, and a fine healthy young fellow came up. "Good mornin', an' 'tis a foin bit of scenery, but we can't ate it, an' we'd die afore we'd go into the poorhouse, an' a thrifle of money for a dhraw at the pipe would be as welkim as the flowers of May, an' 'tis England is the grate counthry, and thim that was in it says that Englishmen is tin per cint. betther than Irishmen, aye, twinty per cint."—and so forth, and so forth. There were six more applications in a hundred yards, one of them from a well-dressed boy of fourteen or fifteen, who gracefully reclined on a bank with his legs crossed, his arms under his head. Begging to the Irish race is as natural as breathing. They have an innate affinity for blessing and begging, and they beg without need. Anything to avoid work. They are for the most part entirely destitute of a spirit of independence. They will not dig, and to beg they are not ashamed. According to a Newport authority they are growing worse than ever. While I awaited the fishing up of the line he said:—
"The conduct of the poorer classes is becoming more and more a disgrace to the country. There is poverty, of course, but not so much, nor in so great a proportion, as in England. This line has been in progress for two years and a half, and the people of this district have received many thousands of pounds without any perceptible improvement of position, either as to solvency or personal appearance. They are as ragged as ever, as dirty as ever, and decidedly more dishonest than ever. They are more extravagant in their eating and drinking, and the women spend more in ridiculous finery; but in spite of the wages they have earned, they have not paid their way one bit better than before. They usually sow the land and live on the crops, selling the surplus to pay the rent, which is usually very moderate, and well within what the land will pay. For thirty months many hundreds of them, thanks to Mr. Balfour, have enjoyed an additional income of fifteen shillings a week, but they have not paid their rents any better than before. They have so many people agitating for them, both here and in England, that whatever they do or fail to do, they know they are sure of substantial support. While Irishmen only were working for them, they felt less secure, but now Mr. Gladstone and his following have taken their cause in hand, they feel more sure of their ground, and accordingly they have lapsed into confirmed laziness and dishonesty. They have found out the strength of combination, and the possibility of withholding payment of rent, and year by year they are falling lower and lower. Their morality is sapped at the root. They have the utmost confidence in their clergy, and their conduct being supported, and even advised from the altar, they spend all their money quite comfortably, sure that in case of eviction the country will be up in arms for their assistance, and that weak but well-meaning English tourists, seeing their apparent condition, will help them liberally. The English tourist has much to answer for. He couples dirt and nakedness with misfortune and poverty, and nine times out of ten he is altogether wrong. People with five hundred pounds in the bank will go about barefoot, unwashed, and in rags. No Englishman can possibly know his way about until he has lived for some time in the country, remaining in one spot long enough to find out the real state of things. He runs about hurriedly from place to place, observing certain symptoms which in England mean undeserved poverty and suffering. His diagnosis would be right for England, but for Ireland it is hopelessly wrong. What he sees is not so often symptomatic of undeserved misfortune, as of laziness, improvidence, and rank dishonesty. The Irish are a complaining people. Self-help is practically unknown among them, at any rate, among the Catholic population. They have reduced complaining to a system, or, if you will, they have elevated it to the level of a fine art. The recent agitations have demolished any rudimentary backbone they ever had, and the No-rent Campaign, with its pleas of poverty and financial inability, has done more to pauperise the people than all the famines Ireland ever saw.
"You can do nothing for them. One great argument for Home Rule is the fact that the people are leaving the country. Best thing they can do. Let them get to some country where they must work or starve. Then they will do well enough. They work like horses in America, and their native cuteness conies out in trade with surprising results. The Irish race make a splendid mixture, but you must not take them neat. I am looked upon as a monster when I say, Let them go. I think it would be best. Let them clear out of the country, and leave it to people who can make it pay. Let Ireland be populated by Englishmen or Scotsmen, or both, and in twenty years the country would be one of the most prosperous in the world. Those are my opinions, and few Irishmen will gainsay them. They think them cruel, but their truth is generally admitted. Mr. Balfour has helped the people, and in a way which was best calculated to put them permanently on their feet. All to no purpose. You can't go on making lines that will not pay. You can't go on doling out charity for ever. Take the boats, nets, and so on, given to the congested districts. When those are gone you may give them more. The people will be exactly where they were. A few have been taught fishing, you say. But it will not spread. Those who have learned the art have been taught almost by compulsion, and at the first opportunity they will fall back into their own ways. The farmers will not change their methods. If one among them did so he would be a mark for derision. No Irish villager has the pluck to say, I will do this or that because it is the best thing to do. He must do as the others do, even to planting his farm, selling the produce, and also in disposing of the proceeds. Nowhere is public opinion so powerful, so tyrannical, or so injuriously conservative as in Ireland. I challenge contradiction. Any intelligent Irishman who has lived in an agricultural and Roman Catholic neighbourhood will admit every statement I have made."
Later in the day I laid these observations before three Irish gentlemen dining at the Mulranney Hotel. All three readily and fully concurred, and there can be no doubt that these sentiments will be unanimously confirmed by any competent tribunal in or out of Ireland, Such being the case, the absurdity of the Home Rule agitation becomes evident at once.
At last the sportive young engine whose playfulness and prankishness were mentioned in my last, came whinnying up, harnessed to an empty truck in which was a bench with a green cloth, emblematic of Ireland. This was better than convulsively clinging to the engine while she madly careered along narrow and dizzy precipices, every kick threatening to be your last, and emerging from the fiery ordeal, begrimed and swarthy, your knees half cooked by the engine fire. All this happened on my journey from Westport to Newport, but now the truck promised Sybaritic luxury, and if the rail should again give way, if the bog-hole, "still gaping to devour me, opened wide," I should at least disappear with dignity, should take my holium cum dignitatis in a truck, on a green-covered seat, and with the consciousness that I was doing something to fill up the gap, to solace the aching void in Ireland's bosom. Away we went, thundering along between the quivering bogs, as through a land of brown-black calves'-foot jelly. The line itself is sound, well-made and firm. I had this from Mr. Hare, engineer of the Board of Works, who said that Mr. Worthington's railways have an excellent name for solidity and thorough, conscientious work. Mr. Hare was formally taking over the last bit of line, that between Mulranney and Achil Sound, with which the Midland and Great Western Company will at present have nought to do. The company will work from Westport to Mulranney, although some portions of the line have a gradient of one in sixty, and the directors are shy of anything steeper than one in a hundred by reason of the wear and tear involved to rolling stock and permanent way by gradients requiring so much brake power. But the last seven miles they decline to touch on the terms offered by the Government at present. No doubt the line will be worked, and by the company aforesaid, but the contracting parties are for the moment at a deadlock. No line between Mulranney and the Sound could possibly pay. England is building Irish railways to give the people a chance, as the splendid quays of Newport, Limerick, and Galway were built.
Nothing, or next to nothing, is done on these quays. The Channel, as it is called at Newport, is a fine expanse of water about one hundred and twenty yards wide, leading through Newport Bay directly into the Atlantic. Only one boat, I was told, comes into the port. I saw it there, unloading a hundred and eighty tons of Indian corn—a Glasgow vessel, the Harmony, a sailer, which had taken three weeks to the voyage, which a steamer easily runs in thirty six to forty hours. Galway was busier, but not by Irish enterprise, and Limerick was mostly fast asleep. The people cry aloud and shout for quays, harbours, piers, and railways; and when they are built they ask for something else. They are without the faculty of industrial enterprise. They are always waiting for weather, wind, and tide. They lack resourcefulness, energy, invention. When the flour mills ceased to pay they had no notion of using the buildings and water-power for some other purpose. When the Coventry ribbon trade went to the dogs the people found salvation in bicycles. If Coventry had been in Ireland the people would have starved and murmured to the end of time.
Two miles out we came to Deradda, where eighty men were at work. Next came Shellogah and the squeamish bit of bog. A number of men were busy on the line, and right in front of us was a gap in the rails, the platelayers laying the steel for dear life while the engine came up. We slackened speed, but made no stop, and the last rail was finally bolted as we ran upon it. Carefully and gingerly we pushed along, my triumphal chariot in front of the engine, over the shivering embankment, on each side of which were deep-cut channels which seemed to have been hewn through acres of Day and Martin's blacking, so jetty and oily seemed this Irish bog. The subsidence of yesterday had forced the boundary walls of the line into wide semicircles, and it seemed likely to be touch-and-go with the engine, truck, and your humble commissioner. I took a last look at the landscape, and made a final note, but, while inly wondering whether I should be ultimately consumed in the form of peat or dug up and exhibited to future ages as a bog-preserved brutal Saxon, with a concluding squash we passed the rotten spot, and it was permissible to breathe again. "We prefer it to sink at once," said Mr. Bennett. "Then we know the 'hard' is not far off, and we can fill up till the line becomes solid as a rock. When it goes down by degrees, sinking a foot to-day and a foot to-morrow, we find our work more difficult. We never leave a bad bit till we are assured, by careful examination and severe and repeated tests, that all is solid and secure." He told me how much earth had been dumped on this spot, which, like the soft place mentioned in my last, has given Mr. Balfour's proteges a world of employment. I forget the quantity, but it sounded like an island or a small range of mountains. Soon on the left we saw the great expanse of Clew Bay, with its three hundred and sixty-five considerable islands, nearly all with cottages, cattle, and pasture, but without a tree. The Yankee breezes blew refreshingly, and the scenery around became of wildest grandeur. High mountains hemmed us in on every side, rising one over another, huge masses of rock impending over untrodden passes, unknown to any guide-book, and leading no man knows whither. Some mountain sheep on the line scaled the embankment and leaped the five-foot wall like squirrels. Then a group of obstinate black cattle, one of which narrowly escaped sudden transformation into beef. Then the station of Mulranney, or rather its site, for the foundations are not yet dug out. Some neat wooden cottages attested the contractor's care for his workmen, and the beautiful bay with its extensive sands and lovely surroundings came into view far below. A steep descent brought us to the hotel, an unlicensed house kept by a Northern Protestant. A quaint and charming place, known and prized by a select few. The Board of Works gave Mulrannoy a pier, but the whole bay boasted only a single boat. The people make no use of their pier. It stretches into the sea in a lonely, melancholy way, and, so far as I could see, without a boat near it, without a soul upon it or within half-a-mile. The Mulranians cannot do anything with the pier until they get Home Rule. In Limerick one day I saw a dead cat before a cottage door, in a crowded part of Irishtown. A week later pussy was diffusing an aromatic fragrance from the self-same spot. The denizens of this locality are waiting for Home Rule. They cannot move their dead cats while smarting 'neath the cruel English yoke.
The Home Rulers of Mulranney are not original. They say the same things over and over again, merely echoing what they have been told by others. They believe that their country has unlimited good coal, and that the English Parliament prevents the mines being sunk for fear of losing Irish custom. "We wish it were trap," said Mr. Bennett. "We are always looking for it, but although we have made a million's worth of railway, we have never seen a vestige of coal. It is safe to say that there is no coal in Ireland, except in one or two well-known spots, where it exists, and is mined, in small quantities." Another enlightened Irishman, of wide experience in many lands, expressed the conviction of the majority of his countrymen that the proposed Parliamentary change will never take place.
"The thing is too ridiculous to be possible. The respectable portion of the community were alarmed at first, as well they might be, knowing as they do precisely what it means. But as time went on that alarm has to a great extent subsided, not, as some will say, because the people are in any degree reconciled to the idea, but purely and simply because they see that the bill must perish when exposed to the light of criticism. The people as a whole do not want the bill. The poorer classes do not know in the least what it means, nor what all the bother is about. They are told that they will be hugely benefited, but nobody can tell them how. Of course they vote for Home Rule, because in these parts the priest stands at the door of the polling booth and tells them as they go in how they are to vote. He also questions them as they come out, and they know beforehand that he will do so, and act accordingly. They dare not tell him a lie, for fear of spiritual trouble. They believe that the priest has their eternal future in his hands, and this belief is encouraged by the well-known argument used by the Roman Catholic clergy, a very familiar phrase in Ireland, "You must do as I tell you, for I am responsible. God will require your soul of me at the day of judgement!" What can the poor folks do? Even the higher classes are not exempt from this superstitious fear. They may be more or less freethinkers—freethinking is common among educated Catholics who are yet compelled by custom to conform to the outward observances of their faith—but yet, when the pinch comes, they are influenced by the prepossessions of their childhood and environments, and they mostly vote as they are told. They dread to offend the priest, though not to the same extent as the poor peasantry, who believe that confession of a wrong vote would entail the refusal of extreme unction, and that this would mean untold and endless torture in the world to come. And the priests preach politics every Sunday. The people like it better than the old style of Instruction. They call their sermons Instructions, you know, and they instruct the people to some tune. No doubt they have a right to persuade their flocks to follow a certain course. The temptation to preach something which at once catches the people's attention and furthers their own views is very great, and perhaps excusable. But is their teaching designed or calculated to suit England? The English may not understand the Irish question, but they may be sure that whatever suits the Papal power does not suit them. The modern Irish priest is a sworn foe to England. It cannot be otherwise. He springs from the small farmer class, which has sworn to extirpate landlordism, which, to their minds, is synonymous with British rule. The English Parliament, hoping to win over the farmers, who are the strength of Ireland, has made one concession after another, with what result? Absolutely none. The property of the landlord has been sacrificed bit by bit, in fruitless endeavour to please these people, who are more discontented than ever. And so they will continue to be as long as discontent pays. In Ireland the landlord is nothing, the tenant is everything. The policy of England with regard to Irish landlords reminds me of the man who, having to dock a dog's tail, cut off half-an-inch every day to gradually accustom him to the loss, and to minimise the 'suffering of the baste.'"
You can go nowhere in Ireland without meeting an Ulsterman. There was one at Mulranney. You may know them by their accent, by their size, by a general effect of weight, decision, and determination. They are mostly big men, large-boned and large-limbed, of ruthless energy, of inexhaustible vitality. They are demons in argument, tenacious and crushing. They bowl straight over-hand and dead on the middle stump. The lithe and sinuous Celt is no match for them. No matter how he twists and turns they grab him up, and, will he, nill he, fix him in front of the argument. They are adepts in cornering an opponent by keeping him to the point. You cannot catch them napping, and you cannot turn their flank. They are contented enough, except that they sigh for more worlds to conquer. They delight in difficulties, and demolish Home Rulers with a kind of contempt as if the work were only fit for children. They seem to be fighting with one hand, with great reserve of power, and, after doubling up an opponent, they chuck him over the ropes, and look around, as if, like Oliver, asking for "more." My Mulranney friend said:—
"Bull confessedly does not know what to do, and he calls in two sets of Irish experts (we'll say) and asks for their opinions. One set of Irishmen never quarrel with anybody and always pay their debts. The other set quarrel with everybody and don't pay what they owe. One set are successful in everything, the other set are successful in nothing. One set have always been friendly and helpful to Bull, the other set have always been unfriendly and obstructive to him. He proposes to reject the advice of the successful, amicable, helpful men, who have always stuck up for him, and to follow the advice of the quarrelsome, unsuccessful, unfriendly men, who have always spoken ill of him and have spent their energies in trying to damage him. Bull must be a fool—or rather he would be if he meant to act in this foolish way. He will not do so; that can never be. But why waste so much time?"
I submitted that this waste was due to Mr. Gladstone, and not to England at all. He said—
"There is no England now. There's nothing left but Gladstone."
Of course he was wrong, but the mistake is one that under present circumstances any loyal Irishman might easily make.
Mulranney (Co. Mayo), June 17th.
No. 37.—ON ACHIL ISLAND.
The final spurt from Mulranney to Achil Sound was pleasant, but devoid of striking incident. This part of the line is packed and ballasted, and the Gazette engine sobered down to the merely commonplace, dropping her prancing and curveting, with other deplorable excesses of the first two runs, and pushing my comfortable truck with the steadiness of a well-broken steed. No holding on was required, as we ran between the two ranges of mountains which guard the Sound, and along the edge of a salt-water creek, which seemed to be pushing its investigations inland. Barring the scenery the ride became uninteresting by its very safety. The line for the most part is based upon the living rock, and there were no exciting skims over treacherous bogs, no reasonable chance of running off the line, no ups and downs such as on our first flight were remindful of the switchback railway, no hopping, jumping, or skipping. Anybody could have ridden from Mulranney to Achil. There was no merit in the achievement. All you had to do was to sit still and look about. You could no longer witch the world with noble truckmanship. We ran over a bridge built to replace one washed away by a mountain torrent. The engineer who constructed the first had failed to realise that the tinkling rivulet of summer became in winter a fiercely surging cataract. The Achil Mountains loomed in full view, Croaghaun to the left, Sliebhmor (pronounced Slievemore) the Great Mountain, in front, with many others stranger still of name. Then the Sound came in sight, with the iron viaduct-bridge which has turned the island into a peninsula. Then the final dismount, and a scramble among rusty rails, embankments, sleepers, and big boulders strewn about in hopeless chaos. Then the little inn, with a stuffed fox and a swan in the porch. A glance at the day-before-yesterday's paper, which has just arrived, and is considered to serve up news red-hot; and then invasion of the island. A few hookers are anchored near the swivel-bridge of the viaduct, in readiness for their cargoes of harvesters for England and Scotland, and now and then big trout and salmon throw themselves in air to see what is going on in the world around them. A group of men who are busily engaged in doing nothing, with a grace and ease which tells of long experience, manifest great interest in the stranger, whom they greet civilly and with much politeness. Men, women, and children are digging turf in a bog beside the road. All suspend operations and look earnestly in my direction. This is one of the amenities of Irish life. Driving along a country road you see men at work in a field. They stop at the first rumble of the car, and leaning on their spades they watch you out of sight. Then they resume in leisurely style, for work they will tell you is scarce, and, to their credit be it observed, they show no disposition to make it scarcer still. They husband it, hoard it up, are not too greedy, leave some for another day. They dig easily, with a straight back, and take a long time to turn round. The savage energy of the Saxon is to them unknown. Why wear themselves out? "Sweet bad luck to the man that would bur-rst himself as if the wuruld wouldn't be afther him. Divil sweep the omadhaun that would make his two elbows into a windmill that niver shtops, but is always going. Fair an' aisy goes far in a day. Walkin' is betther than runnin', an' standin' is betther than walkin', an' sittin' is betther than standin', an' lyin' is betther than any o' thim. Twas me owld father said it, an' a thrue wurud he shpoke, rest his sowl in glory."
The Achil folks are ardent politicians. They have been visited by Michael Davitt, Dr. Tanner, and others, and most of the population, all the Catholics in fact, became members of the Land League. The area of the island is about forty thousand acres, a vast moorland, with miles of bog, and hills and mountains in every direction. There are also several large lakes, which abound with white trout. The cultivated portions of the land only seem to dot the great waste, which nevertheless supports a population of some five thousand persons. The houses are mostly filthy, the people having cattle which live with the family. I approached a house to make inquiries, and was driven from the open door by the smell issuing from the interior. The next was sweeter, having perhaps been more recently cleaned out. Only one room, with a big turf fire, creating an intolerable atmosphere. A bed filled one-third of the floor, most of the remainder being occupied by two cows. A rough deal table near the bed comprised the furniture, and visitors, therefore, must sit on the sleeping arrangement. A civilised Irishman said:—"Two cows, two clean cows only, and you're surprised at that! Where have you been? Where have you been brought up? Let me tell you something, and when you get to Dugort ask the doctor there whether I am correct. A family not far away were stricken down with typhus fever. The people are mostly healthy and strong, although living under circumstances which would soon kill people not used to them, or not enjoying the same splendidly pure air. Well, the poor folks, eight of them, were all down at once, and no wonder, for when I visited them I never saw such a sight in my life. There were three in one bed in one corner, three in one bed in another corner, and two in shake-down beds on the floor. In the same room were a mare and foal, three cows, one pig under a bed, and a henroost above, on the ceiling. What would the sanitary authorities of Birmingham say to that menagerie in a sick room? Somebody wrote to the Local Government Board, and the Board referred the matter to the Poor Law Guardians. But the Guardians themselves kept cattle in their houses. It is the prevailing custom. Wherever you go in Achil, you will find cattle in the houses, along with the family, sharing the same room. The people cannot be moved from this custom. A large landowner built some good cottages for them, and offered them rent free, on condition that they would not live with the cattle. The people would not accept, so they got the houses at last on their own terms, and took the cows with them as before. They say that the cows enjoy the warmth and give better milk. They also say that the big turf fire stands them in lieu of feed to some extent. The Achil folks are hopeless in the direction of improvements. They have had the Protestant Colony at Dugort before them for more than sixty years—a well-housed, well-clad community, living clearly and respectably, paying their way, and keeping at peace with all men, but they have not moved an inch in the same direction. They bury their dead in the old savage way, without any funeral rites, except such as the relatives may have in their minds. The priest says no prayer, reads no service, does not attend in his official character, unless specially engaged and paid. Usually he does not attend funerals at all, although he may sometimes join the procession as a mark of respect. And the weddings are arranged in a way you might think barbarous. A young man fancies a girl he sees at mass, or at a funeral. He gets a bottle of whiskey and goes to see the father, who nearly always wishes to get the daughter off his hands, without any regard whatever for the poor girl's feelings. I was present at one of these negotiations. 'What will you give with her?' said the young fellow, a boy of eighteen or so. 'Three cows and a calf,' said the father. 'So-and-so got three cows and a calf and a sheep.' said the suitor. The father pondered a bit, but eventually, not to be behind, conceded the sheep. The lover tried a bit further. Somebody else had three cows and a calf and a sheep and a lamb, but the old man stood firm, and the bargain was struck, with mutual esteem, after several hours' haggling and a second bottle of whiskey. I called in the evening to learn the girl's fate. She had been two years in service and had got unorthodox notions. She screamed with affright when the father brought the fellow forward and told her what was arranged. She had seen him before, but had never spoken to him, and the sight of him had always been most repugnant to her. She ran away into the bogs, but the country was up, and she was soon found. Then after a sound beating she was handed over to the ardent swain along with the cows, and so forth, nominated in the bond.
"They marry early or go to America. The boy is usually seventeen or eighteen, the girl fifteen or sixteen. I have known girls marry at thirteen. Not long ago a boy I knew well, a mere weakling, unable to do even a boy's work, got married. He was seventeen, or nearly seventeen, but he didn't look it. They believe that their poverty, such as it is, is due to the predominance of England. Their hatred of the English is very pronounced, but a casual visitor will not see it. He has money to spend, and they flock round him in a friendly way. But let him live among them! They tried to boycott the Protestant settlement, and if their priests had ruled on that occasion they would have starved us out or would have made things so unpleasant that we must have left the field. That was during the Land League agitation. The Protestants declined to join and vengeance was declared, but Bonaventure, head of the monastery, forbade it. He is a splendid fellow, not like the ordinary priests at all. So they were saved. But let this change come about, once let that bill become law, and all Protestants must leave the island, must give up the land they have tilled and tended until it is like a garden, and seek their fortunes elsewhere. That is a certainty. Ask everyone you meet, and you will find that each will say just the same thing."
A smart car driver, named Matthew Henay, was dubious as to the benefits accruing from Home Rule. His driving was a study, and his conversations with Maggie, his little mare, were both varied and vigorous. "Now me little daughter, away ye go. That's the girl now. Me little duck, ye go sweetly. There's the beauty, now. Maggie me love, me darlint, me pride; ye know ivery word I spake. Yes, she does, Sorr. She ondhershtands both English an' Irish. I can dhrive her in both, but I have an owld woman o' me own that can only dhrive her in Irish. Home Rule will do no good at all. Twinty years I wint to England to harvest, an' eighteen iv it to the same masther an' on the same farm. An' ye don't get me to belave all I hear widout thinkin' a bit. An' I say, get out o' that wid yer talk o' mines an' factories, an' rubbish. Where's the money to come from? says I. That's what nobody knows. Sure, we'd be nothin' widout England. A thousand goes from this part every year, an' even the girls brings back ten to fifteen pounds each. That's all the circulation of money we have. An' as all we get's from England, I say, let us stick to England, but nobody agrees wid me. There's the girl, now. Away ye go, me little duck, me daughter, me beauty, me—bad luck to ye, will ye go? What are ye standin' there for? Will ye get out o' that, ye lazy brute? Take that, an' that, an' that, ye idle, good-for-nothin', desavin', durty daughter of a pig. Now d'ye ondhershtand who's masther, ye idle, skulkin', schamin', disrespictable baste?"
Misther Henay was favourably disposed towards the Protestant settlers of Dugort, but another Sounder was very bitter indeed. "A set of Soupers an' Jumpers an' Double-Jumpers. What's the manin' iv it ye ask? Soupers is Catholics that's turned Protestants for the sake of small pickin's sich as soup. That's what they are at Dugort. An' Jumpers is worse than Soupers. For Soupers only changed once, but Jumpers is thim that turned once an' then turned back again, jumpin' about from one religion to another. Ye can have Jumpers in anythin'. Ye can have thim in politics. Owld Gladstone is a Jumper and a Double-Jumper an' a Double-Thribble Jumper. An' if we get a Parlimint for ourselves, 'tis because he daren't for the life of him say No—an' divil thank him. Yes, we'll take the bill; what else will we do? We can amend it whin once we get it. But afther so much jumpin', owld Gladstone's a man I wouldn't thrust. A man that would make so many changes isn't to be thrusted. I wouldn't be surprised if he wouldn't bring in a coercion bill at any minute. Ah, the thricks an' the dodges iv him! An' the silver tongue he has in his head! Begorra, I wouldn't lave him out o' me sight. 'Tis himself would stale the cross off a donkey's back."
The Achil ditches are full of ferns, and a hundred yards from the sea are clumps of Osmunda regalis—otherwise known as the Royal fern—spreading out palm-like fronds four feet long. Other ferns, usually regarded as rare, abound in every direction, and potatoes and cabbages grow at the very water's edge. The vast plains are treeless save for the plantations round the house of Major Pike, who has shown what can be done to reclaim the land, but his excellent example has attracted no imitators. Except in the Major's grounds there is not a tree on the island, unless we count the hedges of fuchsias, twelve to fifteen feet high, which fence in some of the gardens. The Post Office, engineered by Mr. Robins, of Devonshire, an old coastguardsman, is surrounded by fuchsia bloom, and every evidence of careful culture. Here I met some Achil folks who did not understand English, and a mainland man who does not believe in the future of the race. He said:—
"I think their civilisation has stood still for at least five centuries. They are so wedded to their ancient customs that nothing can be done for them. They are not so poor as they look, and the starvation of which you hear in England is totally unknown. As an object of charity Achil is a gigantic swindle. When the seed potatoes were brought here in Her Majesty's gunboats the people were too lazy to fetch them ashore. I was there and heard an Irish bluejacket cursing them as a disgrace to his country. They do just what the priests tell them from week to week. Every Sunday they get their instructions. They keep up the cry of distress when there is no distress, for fear of breaking through the custom. They have been helped on all sides, but they will not utilise their advantages. The sea is before them, swarming with fish, which they will not catch. They said, we have no pier, no quay. They were set up with these and everything they needed. What did they do with them? Nothing at all. The work is falling to pieces and they let it go. They sometimes go out in coraghs, and catch enough fish for the day's food, but that is all. They don't pay their rents, and their rents would amuse you. Twenty-five shillings a year for a decent house and a good piece of land is reckoned a heavy responsibility. One man I know named McGreal has twenty acres of good land and a house for seventeen shillings and sixpence a year. They will not sell you butter, they will not sell you milk. They say they want it for themselves. None of them has ever paid a cent for fuel. All have turf for the digging, and much of the Achil turf is equal to coal. The sea is in front of them, and all round them, and the lakes are full of fish. And yet the hat is sent round every other year.
"They used to pay their debts. Now they will pay nothing, and their audacity is something wonderful. A gentleman over there has bought some land, and the people turn their cattle on it to graze. He remonstrates, and they say, 'What business have you here? Keep in your own country.' He sued them for damages. They had nothing but the cattle aforesaid, and, as he could not find heart to seize, he had no remedy. They keep their cattle on his land, although he has, since then, processed them for trespass. They have already divided the spoils of the Protestants; that is, in theory. They are anticipating the Home Rule Bill in their disposal of the land. They have marked out the patches they will severally claim, and are already disputing the future possession of certain desirable fields.
"English Gladstonians ridicule the fears of Irish Protestants, who declare unanimously their conviction that Home Rule means oppression. This ridicule is absurd in face of the fact that every Protestant sect, without exception, has publicly and formally announced its adherence to this opinion. The Church of Ireland believes in Catholic intolerance; the Methodists believe it; the Baptists believe it; the Plymouth Brethren believe it; the Presbyterians believe it; the Unitarians, the most radical of all the sects, believe it; the Quakers, who never before made a public deliverance of opinion in any political matter, believe it; and all these have issued printed declarations of their belief. The Roman Catholic laity, the best of them, believe it; but the Catholic Bishops say No, they will not admit the soft impeachment. And Englishmen who are Gladstonians believe these Bishops in preference to all the sects I have enumerated. Could anything be more unreasonable? But it is of a piece with the whole conception of the bill, which seems to contain every possible absurdity, and is based on extravagant assumptions of amity on the part of Irish Catholics, of which there is not one particle of evidence in existence. All the evidence points the other way, and Irish Protestants know that under Home Rule their fate is sealed. There would be no open persecution, but we should be gently elbowed out of the country. All who could leave Ireland would do so at once, and England would lose her most powerful allies in the enemy's camp. For it is the enemy's camp, and this fact should be borne in mind. Mr. Gladstone and his followers would be horrified to hear such a statement, which they would regard as rank blasphemy. But every Irishman knows it, and every Englishman knows it who lives here long enough to know anything. Irish Nationalists have two leading ideas—to get as much out of England as possible, and to damage her as much as possible by way of repayment. Mr. Gladstone wants to put England's head on the block, to hand an axe to her sworn enemy, and to say, 'I'm sure you won't chop.' People who have common sense stand amazed, dumbfounded at so much stupidity."
A pious Catholic bore out the statements of my first Achil friend with reference to the comparative comfort of the Islanders. He said:—"We live mostly on bread and tea. Of course we have plenty of butter and eggs, and now and then we go out and get some fish. I had a go at a five-pound white trout to-day, with plenty of butter and potatoes. At Dugort people who live in cabins have money in the bank, aye, some of them have several hundred pounds. And yet they took the seed potatoes sent by England. Well, they wanted a change of seed, and they must do the same as their neighbours. It would not do to pretend to be any better off than the rest. They are compelled to do as the majority do in everything, or they would be boycotted at once. They cease work when a death occurs in the parish. If an infant three days old should give up the ghost, every man shoulders his spade and leaves the field. And he does not return till after the funeral. If another death occurred on the funeral day, he would leave off again, and so on. No matter how urgent the state of the crop, he must leave it to its fate, or leave the country, for no one would know a person who would work while a corpse lay in the parish. They would look upon him as an infidel, and, if possible, worse than a Protestant. Luckily we don't often die hereabouts, or we'd never get the praties set or the turf cut. Sometimes they won't go to work because someone is expected to die, and they say it isn't worth while to begin. I have known a lingering case to throw the crops back a fortnight or more. Oh, they don't grumble; any excuse for laziness is warmly welcomed. They complain when people die at inconvenient times, and will say the act might have been delayed till a more convenient season, or might have been done a little earlier. The whole population turn out for the funeral, but they don't dig the grave until the procession reaches the graveyard. Then the mourners sit around smoking, both men and women, while a couple of young chaps make a shallow hole, and cover the coffin with four to six inches of earth. No, it is not severely sanitary, but we are not too particular in Achil."
These unsophisticated islanders are decidedly interesting. Their customs, politics, manners, morals, odours seem to be strongly marked—to have character, originality, individuality. I fear they are mostly Home Rulers, for in Ireland Home Rule and strong smells nearly always go together.
Achil Sound, June 20th.
No. 38.—THE ACHIL ISLANDERS.
Dugort, the capital city of Achil, is twelve miles from the Sound, a terrible drive in winter, when the Atlantic storms blow with such violence as to stop a horse and cart, and to render pedestrianism well-nigh impossible; but pleasant enough in fine weather, notwithstanding the seemingly interminable wastes of bog and rocky mountain, dotted at infrequent intervals with white cottages, single or in small clusters of three or four. After Major Pike's plantations, near the Sound, not a tree is visible all the way to Dugort, although at some points you can see for ten miles or more. Here and there where the turf has been cut away for fuel, great gnarled roots of oak and fir trees are visible, bleached by exposure to a ghastly white, showing against the jetty soil like the bones of extinct giants, which indeed they are. The inhabitants say that the island was once covered by a great forest, which perished by fire, and Misther Patrick Toolis, with that love of fine words which marks the Irish peasant, said that the charred interior of the scattered remains proves that the trees were "desthroyed intirely by a grate confiscation." The heather, of two kinds, is brilliantly purple, and the Royal fern grows everywhere in profusion, its terra-cotta bloom often towering six feet high. The mountains are effectively arranged, and imposing by their massiveness, height, and rugged grandeur. Some of the roads are tolerable, those made by Mr. Balfour being by far the best. Others are execrable and dangerous in the extreme, and in winter must be almost impassable. Sometimes they run along a narrow ridge which in its normal condition was of barely sufficient width to carry the car, and it often happens that part of this has fallen away, so that the gap must be passed by leading the horse while the car scrapes along with one wheel on the top and one clinging to the side of the abyss. The natives make light of such small inconveniences, and for the most part ride on horseback with saddles and crupper-bands of plaited rye-straw. Every householder has a horse or an ass, mostly a horse, and young girls career adown the mountain sides in what seems the maddest, most reckless way, guiding their half-broken, mustard-coloured steeds with a single rein of plaited straw, adjusted in an artful way which is beyond me to describe. Very quaint they look, on their yellow horses, which remind you of D'Artagnan's orange-coloured charger, immortalised by Dumas in the "Three Musketeers;" their red robes floating in the breeze, their bare feet hanging over the horse's right flank. When they fall off they simply get on again. They seldom or never are hurt. They are hard as nails and lissom as cats. Dr. Croly, of Dugort, saw a girl thrown heels over head, turning a complete somersault from the horse's back. She alighted on her feet, grabbed the rein, bounded up again, and gaily galloped away. During my hundred miles riding and walking over the island I saw many riderless horses, fully accoutred in the Achil style, plodding patiently along the moorland roads, climbing the steep mountain paths. At first I thought an accident had occurred, and spent some time in looking for the corpse. There was no occasion for fear. The Achil harvesters going to England and Scotland ride over to the Sound, where lie the fishing smacks which bear them to Westport, and then turn their horses loose. The faithful beasts go home, however long or devious the road, sometimes alone, sometimes in company, only staying a moment at the parting of the ways to bid each other good-bye, then going forward at a brisker pace to make up for lost time.
The hamlet of Cashel, not to be confused with Cashel of the Rock, is the first sign of life after leaving the Sound. A ravine, with white cabins, green crops, and huge boulders, on one of which seven small children were sitting in a row, unwashed, unkempt, with little calico and no leather. Bunnacurragh has a post-office run by a pensioner who grows roses, and keeps his place like a picture, the straw ropes which secure the thatch against the western gales taut and trig, each loose end terminated by a loop holding a large stone. The stones are used in place of pegs, and very queer they look dangling all round over the eaves. Not far from here is an immense basin-like depression of dry bog. Then a monastery, in the precincts of which the ground is reclaimed and admirably tilled, the drainage being carried over ingenious turf conduits, the soil lacking firmness to hold stone or brick. The vast bulk of Slievemore soon looms full in front, and after a long stretch of smooth Balfour road and a sharp turn on the edge of a deep ravine on the right with a high ridge beyond it, the Great mountain on the left, Dugort, with Blacksod Bay, heaves in sight. A final spurt up the hilly road and the weary, jolted traveller, or what is left of him, may (metaphorically) fall into the arms of Mr. Robert Sheridan, of the Sea View Hotel, or of Mrs. Sheridan, if he likes it better.
There are two Dugorts, or one Dugort divided against itself. The line of demarcation is sharp and decided. The two sections stand but a short distance apart, each on an opposite horn of the little bay, but the moral distance is great enough for forty thousand leagues. The Dugort under Slievemore is Protestant, the Dugort of the opposite cliff is intensely Roman Catholic. The one is the perfection of neatness, sweetness, cleanliness, prettiness, and order. The other is dirty, frowsy, disorderly, and of evil odour. The Papists deny the right of the Protestants to be in the island at all, speak of them with acerbity, call them the Colonists, the perverts, the Soupers, the Jumpers, the heretics; and look forward to the time when a Dublin Parliament will banish law and order, so that these interlopers may be for ever swept away, and their fields and houses become the property of the Faithful. They complain that the Protestants have all the best land, and that the Papist population were wrongfully driven from the ground now occupied by the colony. Like other Catholic poor all over Ireland they will tell you that they have been ground down, harried, oppressed, grievously ill-used, habitually ill-treated by the English Government, which has never given them a chance. They explain the prosperity of their Protestant neighbours by knowing winks and nods, and by plain intimations that all Irish Protestants are secretly subsidised by England, that they have privileges, that they are favoured, petted, kept in pocket money. To affect to doubt this is to prove yourself a dissembler, an impostor, a black-hearted enemy of the people. Your Achil friend will drop the conversation in disgust, and by round-about ways will call you a liar. He is sure of his facts, as sure as he is that a sprinkling of holy water will cure rheumatism, will keep away the fairies from the cow, will put a fine edge on his razor, will keep the donkey from being bewitched. He knows who has had money and how much, having reasoned out the matter by inference. He could sell himself to-morrow, but is incorruptible, and will remain a strong rock to the faith, will still buttress up the true hierarchy of heaven. He cannot be bought, and this is strange, for he never looks worth twopence.
It was during a famine that one Mr. Nangle, a Protestant parson from the North, went to Achil and found the people in deepest distress. They were dying of starvation, and their priests had all fled. Mr. Nangle had no money, but he was prompt in action. He sent a thousand pounds' worth of meal to the island on his own responsibility, and weighed down by a sense of the debt he had incurred, went to London to beg the money. He was successful, and afterwards founded the Achil mission at Dugort, now called the Colony. Needless to say that all the land belonging to the mission was duly bought and paid for, and that the Protestants have been the benefactors of Achil. The stories of wrong-doing, robbery, and spoliation, which the peasantry repeat, are of course totally untrue. The example of a decently-housed community has produced no perceptible effect on the habits of the Achilese. The villages of Cabawn, Avon (also known by its Anglicised name of River), Ballyknock, Slievemore, and Ducanella are dirty beyond description. Some of the houses I saw in a drive which included the coastguard station of Bull's Mouth were mere heaps of stones, with turf sods for tiles, whereon was growing long grass which looked like a small instalment of the three acres and a cow. Some had no windows and no chimney, the turf reek filling the hovel, but partly escaping by a hole in the roof. The people who live in this look as it painted in umber by old Dutch masters. These huts are small, but there is always room for a pig or two, which stalk about or stretch themselves before the fire like privileged members of the family. This was very well for the Gintleman that paid the Rint. But he merits the title no longer. His occupation's gone.
A sturdy Protestant said:—"Suppose Home Rule became law, then we must go away. We are only here on sufferance, and every person in the Colony knows it and feels it only too well. Our lives would not be endangered: those times are over, but we could not possibly stay in the island. Remove the direct support of England, and we should be subject to insult and wrong, for which we should have no earthly remedy. What could they do? Why, to begin with, they could pasture their cattle on our fields. If we turned them out they could be turned in again; if we sue them we have a day's journey to take to get the cause heard, and if we get the verdict we can recover nothing. Shoot a cow or two! Then we should ourselves be shot, or our children. No, there has been no landlord-shooting on the island. This kind of large game has always been very scarce on Achil. Just over the Sound we had a little sport—a really merry little turn it was—but the wrong man was shot.
"A Mr. Smith came down to collect rents. The Land League was ruling the country, and its desperadoes were everywhere. It was decided to shoot Mr. Smith, after duly warning him to keep away. Smith was not to be deterred from what he thought his duty (he was a Black Protestant), and away he went, with his son, a neat strip of a lad about seventeen or so. When they got half-way to the house which Smith had appointed as a meeting-place a man in the bog which bordered the road called out, and waved a paper, which he then placed on a heap of turf. Young Smith went for it, and it read. YOU'LL NOT GO HOME ALIVE THIS NIGHT. 'Drive on, Tom,' said the father. 'We'll do our work, whether we go home alive or dead.' Coming back the same evening the father was driving, the son, this young lad, sitting at the side of the car, which was furnished with a couple of repeating rifles and a revolver. Suddenly three men spring up from behind a fence and fire a volley at the two Smiths, but as they rose the horse shied and plunged forward, and hang me! if they didn't all miss. The elder Smith still struggled with the frightened horse, which the shooting had made ungovernable, but the boy slipped off the car, and, seizing one of the rifles, looked out for a shot in return. It was growing dusk, and the bog was full of trenches and ups and downs, of which the three fugitives cleverly availed themselves. Besides, to be shot at from a point-blank range of three or four yards, scrambling down afterwards from behind a frantic horse, is not the best Wimbledon method of steadying the nerves. The boy put the rifle to his shoulder, and bided his time. Presently up came one of the running heroes, and young Smith shot him through the heart, as neat a kill as ever you saw. The dead man was identified as a militiaman from Crossmolina, up Sligo way. The League always brought its marksmen from a distance, and it is known that most of them were persons who had received some military training. Then the youngster covered another, but missed, and was about to fire again when his father shouted, 'Hold hard, Tom, that's enough sport for one day.'"
My friend was wrong. The second shot lacerated the man's shoulder, and laid him up for many a long week. I had the fact, which is now first recorded, on undoubted authority. Young Smith may be gratified to learn, for the first time, that his second bullet was not altogether thrown away. This may console him for the loss of the third reprobate, whom he had got "exactly between the shoulders," when the elder Smith ordered him to desist. The occurrence was such a lesson to the Land League assassins that they for ever after forswore Achil and its immediate surroundings. As Dennis Mulcahy remarked, "The ruffians only want shtandin' up to, an' they'll not come nixt or near ye." Mr. Morley would do well to apply this moral to the County Clare.
The best authority in Achil said:—"The hat is always going round for the islanders, who are much better off than the poor of great English cities. They have the reputation of being in a state of chronic famine. This has no foundation in fact. They all have land, one, two, or three cows, and the sea to draw upon. For their land and houses they pay nothing, or next to nothing; for good land in some cases is to be had for a shilling an acre. The lakes also abound with fish. They glory in their poverty, and hail a partial failure of crops with delight. They know they will be cared for, and that provisions will be showered upon them from all sides. They say, 'Please God, we'll have a famine this year,' and when the contributions pour in they laugh and sing, and say, 'The distress for ever! Long live the famine!' The word goes round at stated intervals that they are to 'have a famine.' They jump at the suggestion, act well together, and carry out the idea perfectly. The Protestants never have any distress which calls for charitable aid. They live on the same soil, under the same laws, but they never beg. They pay their rents, too, much more regularly than the others, who of late years can hardly be got to pay either rent or anything else. The Protestants are all strong Unionists. The Catholics are all strong Home Rulers. Their notions of Home Rule are as follows:—No rent, no police, a poteen still at every door, and possession of the land now held by Protestants, which is so much better than their own because so much more labour has been expended on it, and for no other reason. Who tells them to 'have a famine'? Why, the same people who arouse and keep alive their enmity to the Protestants; the same people who tell them lies about the early history of the Colony—lies which the tellers know to be lies, such as the stories of oppression, spoliation, and of how the mission took the property of the islanders with the strong hand, aided by England, the home of robbery, tyranny, and heresy. The people would be friendly enough but for their priests. Yet they have marched in procession before our houses, blowing defiance by means of a drum and fife band, because we would not join one or other of their dishonest and illegal combinations. They opened a man's head with a stone, producing a dreadful scalp wound, and when Doctor Croly, the greatest favourite in the whole island, went to dress the wound, five or six of them stopped his horse, with the object of giving him a 'bating,' which would have ended nobody knows how. The doctor produced a revolver, and the heroes vanished like smoke."
The good doctor is himself a Unionist, but more of a philanthropist than a politician. He is the parish doctor, with eight thousand people to look after, the whole being scattered over an immense area. I accompanied him on a twenty-mile drive to see a girl down with influenza, much of the road being almost impracticable. Some of his experiences, coming out incidentally, were strange and startling. He told me of a night when the storm was so wild that a man seeking him approached the surgery on all-fours, and once housed, would not again stir out, though the patient was his own wife. The doctor went alone and in the storm and blackness narrowly escaped drowning, emerging from the Jawun, usually called the Jordan, after an hour's struggle with the flood, to sit up all night in his wet clothes, tending the patient. On another occasion a mountain sheep frightened his horse just as the doctor was filling his pipe. The next passer-by found him insensible. Nobody might have passed for a month. A similar misadventure resulted in a broken leg. Then on a pitchy night he walked over the cliffs, and was caught near the brink by two rocks which held him wedged tightly until someone found him and pulled him up, with the bag of instruments, which he thinks had saved him. And it was as well to pause in his flight, for the Menawn Cliffs, with their thousand feet of clean drop, might have given the doctor an ugly fall. Two girls, whose male relations had gone to England, had not been seen for three days. Nobody would go near the house. The doctor found them both on the floor insensible, down with typhus fever, shut up with the pigs and cows, the room and its odour defying description. The neighbours kept strictly aloof. Dr. Croly swept and garnished, made fires, and pulled the patients through. "Sure, you couldn't expect us to go near whin 'twas the faver," said the neighbourly Achilese. Mr. Salt, the Brum-born mission agent, was obliged to remain all night on one of the neighbouring islands—islands are a drug hereabouts—and next morning he found an egg in his hat. Fowls are in nearly all the houses. Sometimes they have a roost on the ceiling, but they mostly perch on the family bed, when that full-flavoured Elysium is not on the floor. I saw an interior which contained one black cow, one black calf, some hens, some ducks, two black-and-white pigs, a mother, and eleven children. Where they all slept was a puzzle, as only one bed was visible. The hens went whir-r-r-up, and perched on the bedstead, when the lady smiled and wished me Good Evening. She looked strong and in good going order. The Achilese say Good Evening all day long. A young girl was grinning in the next doorway, a child of fourteen or fifteen she seemed. "Ye wouldn't think that was a married woman, would ye now," said a neighbour, with pardonable pride. "Aye, but she is, though, an' a foin lump iv a son ye have, haven't ye, Maureen." Mr. Peter Griffin, once a land commissioner, told me that a boy having applied for the fixing of a judicial rent, the commissioners expressed their surprise upon learning that he was married. "Arrah, now," said the applicant, "sure 'tis not for the sake of the bit that the crathur would ate that a boy need be widout one o' thim!"
In Achil, as elsewhere, the better people are certain that the Home Rule Bill will never become law. From their point of view, the thing seems too absurd to be possible. They are face to face with a class of Irishmen, among whom civilisation seems to have made no perceptible progress for centuries, who scorn every improvement, and are so tied and bound down by aboriginal ignorance and superstition as to be insensible to everything but their ancient prejudices. It cannot be possible, they argue, that Ireland should be given over to the dominion of these people, who, after all, are in the matter of advancement and enlightenment fairly representative of the bulk of the voters for Home Rule all over the country. The civilised community of Achil are unable to realise the possibility of such a surrender. They do not discuss the measure, but rather laugh at it. An able business man said:—
"We get the daily papers a little old, no doubt, but we follow them very closely, and we concur in believing that Mr. Gladstone will in the long run drop the bill. We think he will turn round and say, 'There now. That's all I can do. Haven't I done my best? Haven't I kept my promise? Now, you can't blame me. The Irishmen see it coming, and they will get out of it as much dramatic effect as possible. The party organs are already urging them to open rupture with the Government. Compulsion is their game, and no doubt, with Gladstone, it is the most likely game to pay. But he might rebel. He might grow tired of eating Irish dirt; he might pluck up spirit enough to tell these bullies who are jockeying him, and through him the British Empire, to go to the Divil. Then we'd have a fine flare-up. Virtuous indignation and patriotic virtue to the fore! The Irish members will rush over to Ireland, and great demonstrations will be the order of the day. The Irish love demonstrations, or indeed anything else which gives a further excuse for laziness. The priests will orate, the members will prate, the ruffians elate will shoot or otherwise murder a few people, who will have Mr. Gladstone to thank for their death. For what we wanted was twenty years of resolute government, just as Lord Salisbury said, and if Mr. Balfour had been left to carry it out Ireland would have come her nearest possible to prosperity and contentment. But with steady rule one day, and vacillation, wobbling, and surrender the next, what can you expect? The Irish are very smart, cute people, and they soon know where they can take advantage of weakness. The way these poor Achil folks, those who have been to England, can reckon up Mr. Gladstone! They call him a traitor now. And yet he promises to let the Irish members arrange their own finance! 'Here, my boys,' says he, 'take five millions and spend it your own way.' Will John Bull stand that? Will he pay for the rope that is to hang himself? Will he buy the razor to cut his own throat? Where are his wits? Why does he stand by to witness this unending farce, when he ought to be minding serious business? This Irish idiocy is stopping the progress of the Empire. Why does not Bull put his foot on it at once? He must do so in the end. Where are the working men of England? Surely they know enough to perceive that their own personal interests are involved.
"In Achil we have practically peasant proprietary and nothing else. Eleven hundred men and women are at this moment in England and Scotland from Achil alone. They will return in October, each bringing back ten, fifteen, or twenty pounds, on which they will live till next season. The Irish Legislature would begin by establishing peasant proprietary all over Ireland. The large farmers would disappear, and men without capital, unable to employ labour, would take their place. Instead of Mayo, you would have the unemployed of the whole thirty-two counties upon you. Ireland would be pauperised from end to end, for everybody who could leave it would do so—that is, every person of means—and as for capital and enterprise, what little we have would leave us. Which of the Irish Nationalist party would start factories, and what would they make? Can anybody tell me that?"
I submitted that Mr. William O'Brien, the member for Cork, might open a concern for the making of breeches, or that Mr. Timothy Healy, the member for Louth, who was reared in a tripe shop, might embark his untold gold in the cowheel and trotter business, or might even prove a keen competitor with Walsall in the manufacture of horsewhips, a product of industry of which he has had an altogether exceptional experience. "Is not this true?" I enquired.
My friend admitted the fact, but declined to believe in the factory.
Dugort (Achil Island), June 22nd.
No. 39.—IRISH UNFITNESS FOR SELF-GOVERNMENT.
There stands a city neither large nor small, Its air and situation sweet and pretty. It matters very little if at all. Whether its denizens are dull or witty. Whether the ladies there are short or tall, Brunettes or blondes—only there stands a city. Perhaps 'tis also requisite to minute, That there's a castle and a cobbler in it. It is not big enough to boast a barber. These indispensable adjuncts of civilisation exist in Connaught, but only at rare intervals. Roughly speaking, there is a space of about a hundred miles between them. From Athlone to Dugort, a hundred and thirty miles, there is only one, both towns inclusive. Castlereagh is a deadly-lively place for business, but keenly awake to politics. The distressful science absorbs the faculties of the people, who care for little else. Like all the Keltic Irish, they are great talkers, and, surely, if talking were working the Irish would be the richest nation in the world. "Words, words, words," and no deeds. The Castlereagh folks are growing despondent. The Irish Parliament that was to remit taxation, present every able-bodied man with a farm, do away with landlords and police, and reduce the necessity for work to a minimum, seems to them further off than ever. They complain that once again the people of Ireland have been betrayed. Mr. Gladstone has done it all. To be sure they never trusted him, but they thought him an instrument in the hands of Fate and the Irish Parliamentary party. Spite of all he is supposed to have done for the Irish, Mr. Gladstone is not popular in Ireland, and, as I pointed out months ago, they from the first declined to believe in his sincerity. They rightly regarded his action anent Home Rule as the result of compulsion, and, rightly or wrongly, believed that he would take the first opportunity of throwing over the whole scheme. That he should act thus treacherously (they say) is precisely what might be expected from an impartial review of his whole career, which presents an unequalled record of in-and-out running—consistent only in its inconsistency. Having apparently ridden straight for awhile, it is now time to expect some "pulling." His shameful concessions to the Unionist party may be taken as a clear indication of his congenital crookedness, and the refusal of the Nationalists at Killybegs, on the visit of Lord Houghton, the other day, to give a single shout for the Grand Old Man, bears out my previous statement as to the popular feeling. Amid the carefully organised show of enthusiasm and mock loyalty which greeted the visit of the Viceroy, not a cheer could be raised for Mr. Gladstone. The local wirepullers did their best, but the priests who for weeks have been arranging their automata, at the last moment found that the dummies would not work. There were rounds of cheering for this, that, and the other, and when the mob were in full cry, someone shouted, "Three cheers for Mr. Gladstone." Dead silence. The Gladstonian Viceroy and his following were left high and dry. The flood of enthusiasm instantly receded, and the beating of their own hearts was the only sound they heard. Mr. Morley's name would have obtained a like reception. The people were doubtless willing to obey their leaders, and to make some slight sacrifice to expediency, but every man left that particular cheer to his neighbour. Hence the fiasco for which the people have already been severely reprimanded. Someone should have called for cheers for Balfour. Anyone who knows the West of Ireland knows there would have been an outburst of hurrahs, hearty and spontaneous. The Irish are delightfully illogical.
A respectable old Fenian had a poor opinion of the present Home Rule agitation. He said:—"I am of the school of Stephens and Mitchel. When a people or nation is radically discontented with its rulers it should throw them off by force. If the Irish could hold together long enough to maintain an armed insurrection for two weeks only, help would be forthcoming from all quarters. When a young man I cherished the hope that this would be accomplished, but I have long abandoned the notion that anything of the kind will be possible in my time. For individual Englishmen I have as much friendship as anybody, not being himself an Englishman, can entertain. What I dislike is English rule, and the present movement does not interest me, because its leaders profess allegiance—for the present, anyhow. No doubt the general idea is to obtain as much advantage as possible, and to gradually increase the strength of Ireland; but, in my opinion, the Fenian movement was the true and legitimate method, and the one best suited to the genius of the Irish nation. Notwithstanding all that has been said and written by English speakers and writers, the movement was worthy of honour, and had it been successful, would have received high praise and commendation from every country except England. To be respectable, revolutions or insurrections must be successful, or at any rate, must have a certain amount of success to commence with. The English people never properly understood the Fenian movement. To begin with, the name of Fenians was not assumed by the Irish body of conspirators. The Fenians proper were entirely confined to America, where they acted under the instructions of John O'Mahony, with Michael and Colonel Corcoran as lieutenants. The Colonel commanded the Irish brigade of the American army, and was pledged to bring over a strong contingent at the right moment. The Irish party in Ireland under Stephens was called the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood, to which I am proud to say I belonged. That is all over now, and I am content to be loyal, under compulsion. There is nothing else for it. The young men are all gone to America, and the failure of the enterprise has damaged the prestige of the cause. The organisation was very good, and you might say that the able-bodied population belonged to it, almost to a man. England never knew, does not know even now, how universal was the movement. The escape of James Stephens, the great Number One, from Richmond Bridewell, was something of an eye-opener, but not half so astonishing as some things that would have happened if the general movement had been successful. It was Daniel Byrne and James Breslin, who let him out. Byrne was a turnkey, Breslin was hospital superintendent, and both held their posts on account of their well-known loyalty. Byrne was found out, or rather it was discovered that he was a Fenian, but they could not prove his guilt in the Stephens affair, and he never rounded on Breslin, who went on drawing his screw from the British Government for many a long day, until he took a trip to America, where his services to the cause landed him in a good situation. So he stayed there, and told everything, and that was the first the British Government knew about it, beyond suspicion of Byrne.
"If Stephens had made up his mind for an outbreak the funeral of MacManus was the right occasion. He missed his tip then, and no mistake. There never was another chance like that. He said the arrangements were not complete, and from that moment the thing dwindled away, and we who were working it up in the rural districts began to think he did not really mean business. We were short of arms, but a small success would have improved our condition in that respect. Lots of the country organisers went to Dublin to see his funeral, and when we saw the crowds and the enthusiasm we all agreed that such a chance was not likely to occur again. MacManus had been a chief of the insurrectionary movement of 1848, and had been transported for life to Botany Bay, I think. He escaped to America, and died there in 1861. Mahony, the Fenian commander-in-chief, proposed to spend some of the revolutionary funds in bringing the body to Ireland, there to give it a public funeral. This was a great idea, and as the Government did not interfere, it turned out a greater success than anyone had anticipated. There were delegates from every city in America, and from every town in Ireland. It took about a month to lug MacManus from the Far West to Dublin, and the excitement increased every day. In my little place we collared all the timid fellows who had been holding back before, until there was not a single man of the peasant class outside the circle. MacManus was worth more dead than alive.
"A hundred thousand men followed the hearse through the streets of Dublin. At the critical moment Number One held back. If the streets had been barricaded on the evening of the funeral the country would have stood an excellent chance of obtaining its independence. The moment was missed, and such chances never come twice. The French would have made a big thing of that affair. Stephens was great at organisation, but he had not the pluck to carry out the enterprise. He had not the military training required, nor the decision to act at the right moment. So here we are and here we shall remain, and I am your humble, obedient, loyal servant to command.
"No, I do not believe in the present leaders at all. I think they want to be paid big salaries as Irish statesmen, and that they are unfit to clean the boots of the men with whom I acted thirty years ago. The Fenians, or rather the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood, had no wish to make money by their patriotism, and what is more, they were ready to risk their skins, whenever called upon to do so. They were willing to fight. These chaps do nothing but spout. The I.R.B. agreed among themselves, and obeyed orders. These fellows can't agree for five minutes together, and their principal subject of quarrel is—Who shall be master? Gladstone is fooling them now, and good enough for them. A pretty set of men to attempt to govern a country! They don't know what they want. We did. We swore every man to obedience to the Irish Republic. That was straightforward enough. The young 'uns round here have the same aspirations, but they dislike the idea of fighting. They expect to get round it some other way.
"John Kennedy, of Westport, damaged the cause in Mayo more than any man in Ireland. He was a young fellow of about five-and-twenty, only a few years in the constabulary, but somehow he got into sworn meetings in disguise, and burst the whole thing up. The queerest feature about this business is the fact that although everybody knew the man not a shot was ever fired at him. That shows the fairness of the Fenians. A member of the Brotherhood would have been promptly dealt with, you bet. But Kennedy was an open enemy, and had a right to circumvent us if he could. Give us credit for some chivalrous feeling. We certainly deserved it, as this case amply proves.
"The Land League? The Ruffian League, the Burglar League, the Pickpocket League, the Murder League—that's what I always called it. A hole-and-corner way of carrying on the fight, which had been begun by MEN, but which the latest fashion of Irishmen have not the courage to canduct as men. The Fenian conception was high-souled, and had some romance about it. We had a green flag with a rising sun on it, along with the harp of Erin. Our idea was an open fight against the British Empire. There's as much difference between the Fenians and their successors as between the ancient Romans and the Italian organ-grinders with monkeys. Good morning, Sir, and—God save the Queen."
This was a jocosity if not a mockery, but it was the first time I had heard the words in Ireland. The tune is almost unknown, and the current issue of United Ireland ridicules the notion that the Irish are going to learn it. The band of the Royal Irish Constabulary, playing in front of their barracks in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, on Friday evenings, sometimes include the tune in their programme, but when I heard them it was led up to and preceded by "St. Patrick's Day in the Mornin'," to which it was conjoined by one intervening chord. A Castlereagh Protestant said:—
"The children here are taught to curse the Queen in their cradles. Don't know how it is, but hatred to England seems bred in the bone of the Catholic Irish. They make no secret of their hopes of vengeance. The Protestants will have to levant in double-quick time. The people here hate Protestants, whether English or Irish, likewise anybody who holds a Government appointment. Some few days ago I was at Westport, and while in the post office there, a beggar asked Mr. Hildebrand for alms. You know that every western town swarms with beggars. He said No, and this tramp immediately turned round and said:—
"'We'll very soon have ye out o' that, now.'
"A relative of mine, who holds a sub-office, has been told the same thing fifty times. There you have the spirit of the poorer people. And don't forget that the illiterates have the power in their hands. Just think what this means.
"In England, with all your agricultural districts, with all your back slums of cities, there was only one person in each hundred and seventy who could not write his name, or at all events, one in a hundred and seventy who was unable to manage his voting paper.
"In Ireland the figures were one in every five, and of the remainder two at least were barely able to perform so simple an operation as making a cross against the right name. Are these people fit to govern themselves?
"There were two polling booths in Westport. There were three priests at each door. Tell the English people that, and see what they think of it.
"A Scotch gentleman staying in Westport during the late 'mission' was stopped at the door of the Roman Catholic Church. He was not permitted to enter, because the priests are ashamed to show civilised people the credulity and crass ignorance of their congregation. At one of these services everybody held a lighted candle, and at a given signal, Puff! out went out the lights, and with them away went the sins of the people.
"A priest was sent for in Achil. The case was urgent. A man was dying, and without Extreme Unction his chances in the next world were reckoned shady. The priest was enjoying himself in some festivity, and the man died before his salvation arrived. A relative declared he would tell the bishop. The priest reassured him with a scrap of paper, whereon were written these words, signed by himself, 'Saint Peter. Admit bearer.' 'Stick that in the dead man's fist,' said he. The man went away delighted. These are the intelligent voters whose influence is now paramount in the Parliament of England. It is by these poor untutored savages, manipulated by their priests, that the British Empire is now worked. The semi-civilised peasants of Connaught, with the ignorant herds of Leinster and Munster, at the bidding of their clergy have completely stopped the course of legislation, and left the long-suffering and industrious working men of England and Scotland to wait indefinitely for all the good things they want. The cry is, Ireland stops the way. Why doesn't England kick it out of the way?
"Turn about is fair play. Let England have a turn now. Fair play is a jewel, and Ireland has fair play. Ireland has privileges of which neither England nor Scotland can boast. The Protestants of Ireland are everywhere prosperous and content. The Catholics of Ireland are everywhere impoverished and discontented. Wherever you go you find this an invariable rule. The two sects may hold their farms from the same landlord, on precisely similar terms, and you will find that the Protestants pay their rent, and get on, while the Catholics don't pay, and go from bad to worse."
"Is this extraordinary difference the result of British rule?"
Many a time I have asked Catholics this question. They cannot explain the marked difference on the ground of alien government, as both are subject to the same. They will say, 'Oh, Protestants are always well off,' as if the thing were a matter of course, and must be looked upon as inevitable. But why? I ask. That they can never tell.
Stand on a big hill near Tipperary and you will see four Roman Catholic churches of modern build, costing nearly a hundred thousand pounds. Father Humphreys will tell you how the money was raised, will show you over Tipperary Cathedral, and will let you see the pig-styes in which the people are housed. That is the man of God who wrote to the papers and complained that it had been reported that the Catholic clergy of Tipperary had done all they could to stop boycotting. Father Humphreys said:—"I protest against this libel on me. I am doing nothing to stop boycotting."
A neighbour of my friend spoke of many changes he had witnessed in the political opinions of people who had become resident in Ireland, having previously been Gladstonians in England. He said:—"When the Achil Sound viaduct was opened, chiefly by the efforts of a Northern Protestant who gave L1,500 towards the cost, a Scotchman named Cowan was chief engineer. He came over a rabid Home Ruler, and such a worshipper of Mr. Gladstone as cannot be found out of Scotland. In six months he was Unionist to the backbone, and not only Unionist but Conservative. The Achil folks, when once the bridge was built and given to them, decided to call it Michael Davitt Bridge. It had not cost them a penny, nor had they any part in it. At the priest's orders they rushed forward to christen it; it was all they were good for. They put up a big board with the name. Cowan went down alone, he could not get a soul with pluck to go with him, and chopped the thing down, the Achil Nationalists looking on. In the night they put up another board, a big affair on the trunk of a tree, all well secured. Cowan went down and felled it as before, watching it drift away with tide. Then they gave it up. They wouldn't go Three! Carnegie, the Customs man, came here a strong Home Ruler. Looking back, he says he cannot conceive how he could be such an ass. A very cute Scotchman, too. Some of the Gladstonians mean well. I don't condemn them wholesale, like father does. You should hear him drop on English Home Rulers. He understands the Irish agitator, but the English Separatist beats him. I have been in England, and several times in Birmingham, and I have heard them talk. Father is very peppery, but I moderate his transports. Speaking of the English Home Rulers he'll say—
"'Pack o' rogues.'
"'No, no,' says I, 'only fools.'
"'Infernal idiots,' says he.
"'No, no,' says I, 'only ignorant.'
"As I said, I have been in England, and have heard them talk, so I know."
He asked me if I had noticed the external difference between Irish communities which support Home Rule and those which support the Union. I said that a contrast so striking must impress the most casual observer, for that, on the one hand, Unionism is always coupled with cleanliness and decency, while on the other the intimate relationship apparently existing between Home Rule and dunghills is most suggestive and surprising.
Unionism and order: Separatism and ordure—that is about the sum.
Castlereagh, June 24th.
No. 40.—OBJECT LESSONS IN IRISH SELF-GOVERNMENT.
A small town with a great name, about one hundred miles west of Dublin. There is a ruined castle, and one or two ruined abbeys, but nothing else of interest, unless it be the herons which stalk about the streams in its environs, and the Royston crows with white or gray breast and back, which seem to be fairly numerous in these parts. Ireland is a wonderful country for crows and ravens, which hop about the village streets as tame as barndoor fowls. A King of Connaught is buried in Saint Coenan's Abbey, but dead kings are almost as common as crows, and Phelim O'Connor seems to have done nothing worthy of mention beyond dying in 1265. I had hardly landed when I met a very pronounced anti-Home Ruler, a grazier, apparently a smart business man, and seemingly well up in the controversy. He said:—"I have argued the question all over Ireland, and believe I have made as many converts as anybody. Many of my countrymen have been carried away by the popular cry, but when once they have the thing put to them from the other side, and have time to think, they begin to have their doubts. Naturally they first lean to the idea of an Irish Parliament. It flatters Irish feeling, and when men look around and see the country so poor and so backward they want to try some change or other. The agitators see their opportunity, and say, 'All this results from English interference. If we managed our own affairs we should be better off all round.' This sounds plausible, and agrees with the traditional distrust of England which the people have inherited from past ages. Men who are fairly intelligent, and fairly reasonable, will say, 'We can't be worse off than we are at present.' That is a stock argument all over the country. The people who use it think it settles the business. The general poverty of the people is the strength of the Home Rule position. The priests tell them that a Government composed of Irishmen would see them right, and would devote itself to looking after their interests; and really the people have nobody to tell them anything else. Nor are they likely to hear the other side, for they are only allowed to read certain papers, and if Englishmen of character and ability were to attempt to stump the country they would not get a hearing. The clergy would make it warm for anybody who dared to attend a Unionist meeting. So that process is altogether out of the question. Isolated Roman Catholic Unionists like myself need to be in a very strong and independent position before they dare to express their views. Roman Catholics of position are nearly all Unionists at heart, but comparatively few of them dare avow their real convictions. To do so is to couple yourself with the obnoxious land question. The people, as a whole, detest landlords and England, and they think that an opponent of Home Rule is necessarily a sympathiser with British rule and landlordism, and therefore a foe to his country and a traitor to his countrymen. Few men have the moral courage to face this indictment. That is why the educated Catholic party, as a whole, hang back. And then, they dislike to put themselves in direct opposition to their clergy. Englishmen do not care one jot what the parson thinks of their political opinions, but in Ireland things are very different. I am against Home Rule because I am sure it would be bad for Ireland. The prosperity of the country is of some importance to me, and for my own sake and apart from sentimental considerations, and for the credit of Ireland, I am against Home Rule. We should be poorer than ever. I would not trust the present Irish party to manage anything that required management. They have not the training, nor the business capacity, nor sufficient consistency to work together for a single week. They cannot agree even at this critical moment, when by their own showing, the greatest harmony of action is required in the interests of Ireland. I say nothing about their honesty, for the most scrupulously honest men could not succeed without business ability and united action. They are a set of talkers, good for quibbling and squabbling and nothing more.
"They are M.P.'s because they can talk. Paddy loves a glib talker, and a fellow with a good jaw on him would always beat the best business man, even if Paddy were allowed his own choice. Of course he has no choice—he votes as the priest tells him; but then the selected men were all good rattling talkers, not in the House, perhaps, but in their own country district in Ireland. Paddy thinks talking means ability, and when a fellow rattles off plenty of crack-jaw words and red-hot abuse of England, Paddy believes him able to regenerate the world. These men are not allowed to speak in the House. They only vote. But let me tell you they are kings in their own country.
"Since Parnell ordered his followers to contest all the elective Boards in Ireland, the Nationalist party have almost monopolised the Poor Law Boards, with the result that nearly every one has been openly bankrupt, or else is in a state of present insolvency. Mr. Morley has been asked for particulars but has declined to give them. He knows that the list of insolvent Poor Law Boards in Ireland, if once given with particulars, to the British public, would show up the prospects of Home Rule in such a damaging way that 'the cause' would never survive the shock. Why does not the Unionist party bring about this exposure? Surely the information is obtainable, if not from Mr. Morley, then from some other source.
"Why are they bankrupt? you ask. Partly through incompetence; partly through corruption. In every case of declared bankruptcy Government has sent down vice-Guardians receiving three hundred pounds to five hundred pounds a year, and notwithstanding this additional burden to the rates the vice-Guardians in every case have paid off all debts and left a balance in hand inside of two years. Then they retire, and the honorary Guardians come back to scuttle the ship again. Tell the English people that. Mr. Morley cannot deny it. You have told them? Then tell them again, and again.
"In the Killarney Union the Nationalists ran up the rates from one thousand seven hundred pounds to three thousand six hundred pounds. More distress? Not a bit of it. But even admitting this, how would you account for the fact that the cost ran up from sixteen shillings a head to twenty-five shillings a head for every person relieved?
"The Listowel Union was perhaps the biggest scandal in the country. The Unionist Guardians relieved the people at a cost of five shillings a head. The Nationalists got in and relieved them at a cost of fifteen shillings a head. And there wasn't a reduction on taking a quantity, for the Unionists only had two hundred on the books, while the Nationalists had two thousand or more.
"At the same period exactly those Unions which remained under the old rule showed little or no increase in the rates. Kenmare remained Unionist, and when the great rise in poor-law expenses followed the election of Nationalist Guardians Kenmare spent less money than ever.
"The Nationalist Guardians have been vising the poor rates to reward their friends and to punish the landlords. They have been fighting the landlords with money raised from the landlords by means of poor rates. Evicted tenants generally received a pound or twenty-five shillings a week out-door relief. This punishes the landlords, and saves the funds of the Land League, now called the National League. Ingenious, isn't it? These are the men who form the class furnishing the Irish Parliamentary party. These bankrupt, incompetent, and fraudulent Guardians are the men with whom English Gladstonians are closely allied. The Board meetings are usually blackguardly beyond description. You have no idea to what extremes they go. No Irishman who loves his country would trust her to the tender mercies of these fellows."
I have not yet been present at any meeting of an Irish Poor Law Board, and probably, as my friend remarked, I "do not know to what extremes they go." The Mayo News of a week or two ago reported an ordinary meeting of the Westport Board, and I noticed that one Guardian accused his colleagues of stealing the potatoes provided out of the rates for the paupers. This was reported in a Nationalist print edited by a gentleman who has had the honour of being imprisoned for Land League business. The report was evidently verbatim, and has not been contradicted. The Westport folks took no notice of the affair, which may therefore be assumed as representing the dead level of an Irish Poor Law debate. To what sublime altitudes they may occasionally rise, to "what extremes" they sometimes go, I know not. The College Green Parliament, manned by such members, would have a peculiar interest. The Speaker might be expected to complain that his umbrella (recently re-covered) had mysteriously disappeared. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might accuse the President of the Board of Trade of having appropriated the National stationery, and the Master of the Rolls might rise to declare that a sanguinary ruffian from Ulster had "pinched his wipe." The sane inhabitants of the Emerald Isle affirm that Home Rule would be ruinous to trade, but the vendors of shillelaghs and sticking-plaster would certainly have a high old time.
An Englishman who has had exceptional opportunities of examining the matter said:—"I don't care so much for Irish interests as for English interests, and I am of opinion that no Englishman in a position to form a correct judgment would for one moment support the bill. The tension is off us now, because we feel that the danger to a great extent is over. The bill could not be expected to survive a public examination. The Gladstonians themselves must now see that the scheme was not only absurd and impossible, but iniquitous. Under a Home Rule Bill their native land would cut a sorry figure, such as would almost shame the milk-sop Radical party, 'friends of every country but their own.' A Government with a sufficient majority to carry a British measure might at any time be turned out of office by the eighty Irish members, who could at any time make their votes the price of some further concession. And you know the character of the men, how thoroughly unscrupulous they are. All are enemies of England, and yet we who know them and the feeling of their constituencies are asked to believe that they would never abuse their powers. Why give them the temptation? Then, whatever debts Ireland might incur England would have to pay, should Ireland repudiate them? The bill provides that England shall be ultimately responsible for three-quarters of a million annually for the servants of the Crown in Ireland, such servants being at the orders of the Irish Legislature. It is a divorce case, wherein the husband is to be responsible for the wife's debts incurred after separation. This is Mr. Gladstone's fine proposition. And then England will have no police under her control to make defaulters pay up. You can't make the people pay rent and taxes with all your present force. How are you going to collect the two or three millions of Ireland's share in Imperial expenditure without any force at all? The police will be at the orders of the Irish Parliament, which will be returned by the very men who will owe the money. 'Oh yes!' say Dillon, Healy, O'Brien, and all the rest of the No Rent and Land League men. 'We'll see that the money is paid.' The previous history of these men ought to be enough for Englishmen. But if Tim Healy and Co. wished the money to be paid, they would have no power. They must take their orders from the people. How would you collect the interest on the eighteen or twenty millions Ireland now owes? The police and civil officers would, under a Home Rule Bill, be the servants of the Irish Government, and would have no sympathy with England. A hitch would very soon arise between the two Parliaments either on the interpretation of this or that clause, or else because the Irish Parliament fell short of its duty in collecting the tribute. The Irish Government would stand firm, and would be supported by priests and people. The British Grenadiers would then come in, and where would be the Union of Hearts? Irishmen are fond of a catch-word. Like the French, they will go to death for a phrase. But the Union of Hearts never tickled them. The words never fell from Irish lips except in mockery.
"Protection would be the great rallying cry of a Home Rule Government. The bill refuses power to impose protective duties, but Ireland would commence by conceding bounties to Irish manufacturers, who would there and then be able to undersell English traders. No use going further into the thing, there is not a good point in it for either country. No use flogging a dead horse. There never will be any Home Rule, and there's no use in discussing it. A liberal measure of Local Self-Government will be the upshot of this agitation, nothing more. And that will come from the Tory party, the only friends of poor Ireland."
The Parnellites are strong in Roscommon, and to hear them revile the priests is both strange and sad. These are the only Catholics who resent clerical dictation. They seem in a quandary. Their action seems inconsistent with their expressed sentiments. They plainly see that Home Rule means Rome Rule, and, while deprecating priestly influence, they do their best to put the country into priestly hands. They speak of the Anti-Parnellites with contempt and aversion, calling them rogues and vagabonds, liars and traitors, outside the pale of civilisation, and yet they work for Home Rule, which would put their beloved Ireland in the power of the very men whose baseness and crass incompetence they cannot characterise in terms sufficiently strong. For the Anti-Parnellites outnumber the Parnellites by eight to one; so that the smaller party, although monopolising all virtue, grace and intellect, would have no show at all, unless, indeed, the Nationalists were further subdivided, on which contingency the Parnellites probably count with certainty. I interviewed a champagny little man whose views were very decided. He said:—