THE LIFE STORY OF AN OLD REBEL
BY JOHN DENVIR
AUTHOR OF "THE IRISH IN BRITAIN" "THE BRANDONS" ETC.
DUBLIN SEALY, BRYERS & WALKER 86 MIDDLE ABBEY STREET 1910
I.—Early Recollections—"Coming Over" from Ireland
II.—Distinguished Irishmen—"The Nation" News-paper—"The Hibernians"
IV.—O'Connell in Liverpool—Terence Bellew MacManus and the Repeal Hall—The Great Irish Famine
V.—The "No-Popery" Mania—The Tenant League—The Curragh Camp
VI.—The Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood—Escape of James Stephens—Projected Raid on Chester Castle—Corydon the Informer
VII.—The Rising of 1867—Arrest and Rescue of Kelly and Deasy—The Manchester Martyrdom
VIII.—A Digression—T.D. Sullivan—A National Anthem—The Emerald Minstrels—"The Spirit of the Nation"
IX.—A Fenian Conference at Paris—The Revolvers for the Manchester Rescue—Michael Davitt sent to Penal Servitude
X.—Rescue of the Military Fenians
XI.—The Home Rule Movement
XII.—The Franco-Prussian War—An Irish Ambulance Corps—The French Foreign Legion
XIII.—The Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain
XIV.—Biggar and Parnell—The "United Irishman"—The O'Connell Centenary
XV.—Home Rule in Local Elections—Parnell succeeds Butt as President of the Irish Organisation in Great Britain
XVI.—Michael Davitt's Return from Penal Servitude—Parnell and the "Advanced" Organisation
XVII.—Blockade Running—Attempted Suppression of "United Ireland"—William O'Brien and his Staff in Jail—How Pat Egan kept the flag flying
XIX.—General Election of 1885—Parnell a Candidate for Exchange Division—Retires in favour of O'Shea—T.P. O'Connor elected for Scotland Division of Liverpool
XX.—Gladstone's "Flowing Tide"
XXI.—The "Times" Forgeries Commission
XXII.—Disruption of the Irish Party—Home Rule carried in the Commons—Unity of Parliamentary Party Restored—Mr. John Redmond becomes Leader
XXIII.—The Gaelic Revival—Thomas Davis—Charles Gavan Duffy—Anglo-Irish Literature—The Irish Drama, Dramatists, and Actors
XXIV.—"How is Old Ireland and how does She Stand?"
THE LIFE STORY OF AN OLD REBEL
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EARLY RECOLLECTIONS—"COMING OVER" FROM IRELAND.
I owe both the title of this book and the existence of the book itself to the suggestion of friends. I suppose a man of 76 may be called "old," although I have by no means given up the idea that I can still be of use to my country.
And a Rebel? Yes! Anything of the nature of injustice or oppression has always stirred me to resentment, and—is it to be wondered at?—most of all when the victims of that injustice and oppression have been my own people. And why not? If there were no rebels against wrong-doing, wrong-doing would prosper. To an Irishman, who is a fighter by temperament, and a fighter by choice against those in high places, life is sure to provide plenty of excitement; and that, no doubt, is why my friends have thought my recollections worth printing. The curious thing is that my share in the struggle for Irish self-government has been almost entirely what I might call outpost work, for I have lived all my life in England.
Indeed, it seemed but a stroke of good luck that I was born in Ireland at all. My father (John, son of James Denvir, of Ballywalter, Lecale) came to England in the early part of the last century, and settled in Liverpool, where my eldest brother was born. It was during a brief period, when our family returned to Ireland, that I and a younger brother were born there. My father was engaged for about three years as clerk of the works for the erection of a castle for Sir Francis Macnaghten, near Bushmills, County Antrim. This must be one of the least Catholic parts of Ireland, for there was no resident priest, and I had to be taken a long distance to be christened. There was a decent Catholic workman at the castle, James MacGowan, who was my god-father, and my Aunt Kitty had to come all the way from "our own place" in the County Down to be my god-mother.
Brought to England, my earliest remembrances are of Liverpool, which has a more compact and politically important Irish population than any other town in Great Britain.
Anyone who has mixed much among our fellow-countrymen in England, Scotland and Wales knows that, generally, the children and grandchildren of Irish-born parents consider themselves just as much Irish as those born on "the old sod" itself. No part of our race has shown more determination and enthusiasm in the cause of Irish nationality. As a rule the Irish of Great Britain have been well organised, and, during the last sixty years and more, have been brought into constant contact with a host of distinguished Irishmen—including the leaders of the constitutional political organisations—from Daniel O'Connell to John Redmond.
I have taken an active part in the various Irish movements of my time, and it so happens that, while I know so little personally of Ireland itself, there are few, if any, living Irishmen who have had such experience, from actual personal contact with them, as I have had of our people in every part of Great Britain. As will be seen, too, in the course of these recollections, circumstances have brought me into intimate connection with most of the Irish political leaders.
My father came to England in one of the sloops in which our people used to "come over" in the old days. They sometimes took a week in crossing. The steamers which superseded them, though an immense improvement as regards speed, had often less accommodation for the deck passengers than for the cattle they brought over.
Most of the Irish immigration to Liverpool came through the Clarence Dock, where the steamers used to land our people from all parts. Since the Railway Company diverted a good deal of the Irish traffic through the Holyhead route, there are not so many of these steamers coming to Liverpool as formerly.
The first object that used to meet the eyes of those who had just "come over," as they looked across the Clarence Dock wall, was an effigy of St. Patrick, with a shamrock in his hand, as if welcoming them from "the old sod." This was placed high upon the wall of a public house kept by a retired Irish pugilist, Jack Langan. In the thirties and forties of the last century, up to 1846, when he died, leaving over L20,000 to his children, Langan's house was a very popular resort of Irishmen, more particularly as, besides being a decent, warm-hearted, open-handed man, he was a strong supporter of creed and country.
I am old enough to remember hearing Mass in what was an interesting relic in Liverpool of the Penal days. This was the old building known to our people as "Lumber Street Chapel." Of course, the present Protestant Church of St. Nicholas (known as "the old church") is a Catholic foundation. Lumber Street chapel was not, however, the first of our places of worship built during the Penal days, for the Jesuits had a small chapel not far off, erected early in the eighteenth century, but destroyed by a No-Popery mob in 1746. St. Mary's, Lumber Street, too, was originally a Jesuit mission, but, in 1783, it was handed over to the Benedictines, who have had charge of it ever since. Father John Price, S.J., built a chapel in Sir Thomas's Buildings in 1788. I can recollect this building since my earliest days, but Mass was never said in it during my time.
Lancashire is the only part of England where there are any great number of the native population who have always kept the faith. I once spent a few weeks in one of these Catholic districts. My employer had an alteration to make in the house of a gentleman at Lydiate, near Ormskirk. I used to come home to Liverpool for the Sundays, but for the rest of the week I had lodgings in the house of a Catholic family at Lydiate.
There was an old ruin, which they called Lydiate Abbey, but I found it was the chapel of St. Catherine, erected in the fifteenth century. The priest of the mission had charge of the chapel which, though unroofed, was the most perfect ecclesiastical ruin in Catholic hands in South Lancashire. During the time I was at Lydiate there came a Holiday of Obligation, when I heard Mass in the house of a Catholic farmer named Rimmer. This was a fine old half-timbered building of Elizabethan days, and here, all through the Penal times, Mass had been kept up, a priest to say it being always in hiding somewhere in the district.
The priest in charge of Lydiate at the time I was there told me he was collecting for a regular church or chapel, and hoped soon to make a commencement of the building. Some years later he was able to do so. Our church choir at Copperas Hill, Liverpool, was then considered one of the best in the diocese. The choirmaster and organist, John Richardson, was a distinguished composer of Catholic church music, and held in such high esteem that, for any important celebration, he could always secure the services of the chief members of the musical profession in and about Liverpool. In this way, on one occasion Miss Santley came to help us. She was accompanied by her brother, then a boy, who has since risen to the highest position in the musical world—the eminent baritone, Sir Charles Santley.
St. Nicholas' was, as it is yet, the pro-Cathedral of the diocese, and whenever a new church had to be opened, or there was any important ceremonial anywhere in Lancashire, our choir was generally invited. In this way I was delighted to go to the opening of the new church at Lydiate, so that I was taking part in the third stage of the Catholic history of the diocese—having said a prayer in the old ruin, and attended Mass in Rimmer's, and now assisting at the solemn High Mass at the opening of the Church of our Lady, not far from the old chapel of St. Catherine.
At the time I went to Mass in Lumber Street Chapel, Liverpool, which is nearly 70 years since, there were but four other chapels, as they were generally called then, in the town—Copperas Hill (St. Nicholas'), Seel Street (St. Peter's), St. Anthony's and St. Patrick's. It must have been a custom acquired in the Penal days to call the older Catholic places of worship rather after the names of the streets in which they were situated than of the saint to whom they were dedicated. During the Famine years the bishops and clergy must have found it extremely difficult to provide for the tremendous influx of our people. I have seen them crowded out into the chapel yards and into the open streets; satisfied if they could get even a glimpse of the inside of the sacred building through an open window. I see by the Catholic Directory there are at the time I now write thirty-nine churches and chapels in Liverpool. The schools have increased in a like proportion.
The progress in numbers, wealth and influence of the Irish people may be pretty well marked by the gradual increase in the number of churches and schools, which have been built for the most part by the Irish and their descendants. All honour to the noble-hearted, hard-handed toilers who have contributed to such work, and greater glory still to the humble men who, after a hard week's work in a ship's hold at the docks, or perhaps in the "jigger loft" of a warehouse eight stories high, turn out every Sunday morning to act as "collectors," and go in pairs from door to door, one with the book and the other with the bag in hand, to raise the means of erecting the noble churches and schools that everywhere meet our view in Liverpool to-day.
With regard to the social position our people occupy in Liverpool, there have been many Irishmen who have come well to the front in the race of life, some of whom have occupied the foremost positions in connection with the public life of the town. On the other hand; a large number of our fellow-countrymen in Liverpool are by no means in that enviable condition. Many of them have set out from Ireland, intending to go to America, but, their little means failing them, have been obliged to remain in Liverpool. Here they considered themselves fortunate if they met someone from the same part of the country as themselves to give them a helping hand, for it is a fine trait in the Irish character—and "over here in England" the trait has not been lost—that, however poor, they are always ready to befriend what seems to them a still poorer neighbour. Those who have lived here some time are glad to see someone from their "own place," and, amid the squalor of an English city, the imaginative Celt—as he listens to the gossip about the changes, the marriages, and the deaths that have taken place since he left "home "—for a brief moment lives once more upon "the old sod," and sees visions of the little cabin by the wood side where dwelt those he loved, of the mountain chapel where he worshipped, of a bright-eyed Irish girl beloved in the golden days of youth. These and a host of other associations of the past come floating back upon his memory, as he hears the tidings brought by Terence, or Michael, or Maurya, who has just "come over." It often so happens that, from the very goodness of the Irish heart, the newcomers are frequently drawn into the same miserable mode of life as the friends who have come to England before them may have fallen into.
Irish intellect and Irish courage have in thousands of cases brought our people to their proper place in the social scale, but it is only too often the case that adverse circumstances compel the great bulk of them to have recourse to the hardest, the most precarious, and the worst paid employments to be found in the British labour market.
In the large towns, in the poorer streets in which our people live, a stranger would be struck by the swarms of children, and of an evening, at the number of grown-up people sitting on the doorsteps of their wretched habitations. John Barry once told me that a friend of his asked one of these how they could live in such places? "Because," was the reply, "we live so much out of them." The answer showed, at any rate, that their lot was borne cheerfully.
Nevertheless, there are Irishmen too—men who know how to keep what they have earned—who, by degrees, get into the higher circles of the commercial world, so that I have seen among the merchant princes "on 'Change" in Liverpool men who, themselves, or whose fathers before them, commenced life in the humblest avocations.
Liverpool has, on the whole, been a "stony-hearted stepmother" to its Irish colony, which largely built its granite sea-walls, and for many years humbly did the laborious work on which the huge commerce of the port rested. But, perhaps, in years to come Liverpool will realise the value of the wealth of human brains and human hearts which it held for so long unregarded or despised in its midst.
DISTINGUISHED IRISHMEN—"THE NATION" NEWSPAPER—"THE HIBERNIANS."
I have met, as I have said elsewhere, most of the Irish political leaders of my time in Liverpool, but I will always remember with what pleasure I listened to a distinguished Irishman of another type, Samuel Lover, when he was travelling with an entertainment consisting of sketches from his own works and selections from his songs. Few men were more versatile than Lover, for he was a painter, musician, composer, novelist, poet, and dramatist. When I saw him in one of the public halls he sang his own songs, told his own stories, and was his own accompanist.
His was one of a series of performances, very popular in Liverpool for many years, called the "Saturday Evening Concerts." He was a little man, with what might be called something of a "Frenchified" style about him, but having with it all a bright eye and thoroughly Irish face which, with all his bodily movements, displayed great animation. I can readily believe his biographers, who say he excelled in all the arts he cultivated, for his was a most charming entertainment.
Lover undoubtedly had patriotism of a kind, and some of his songs show it. It certainly was not up to the mark of the "Young Irelanders," one of whom attacked him on one occasion, when he made the clever retort that "the fount from which he drew his patriotism was a more genuine source than a fount of Irish type"—alluding to the plentiful use of the Gaelic characters in "The Spirit of the Nation," the world-famed collection of songs by the Young Ireland contributors to the "Nation" newspaper. There are passages in Lover's novel of "Rory O'More" and his "He Would be a Gentleman" that show he was a sincere lover of his country. I agree in the main with what the "Nation" said of him in 1843—"Though he often fell into ludicrous exaggerations and burlesques in describing Irish life, there is a good national spirit running through the majority of his works, for which he has not received due credit."
One of his stories, "Rory O'More," achieved universal popularity also as a play, a song and an air. In it there is a passage which, when I first read it, I looked upon as an exaggeration, and as somewhat reflecting upon the dignity of a great national movement like that of the United Irishmen. Lover brings his hero, Rory, into somewhat questionable surroundings in a Munster town—intended for Cork or some other seaport—to meet a French emissary. One would think that a struggle for the freedom of Ireland should be carried on amongst the most lofty surroundings. But I found in after life that the incidents described by Lover were not so exaggerated as might be supposed, for, as "necessity has no law," during a later revolutionary struggle we had often to meet in strange and unromantic places, as I shall describe later, for most important projects.
Lover's wit was spontaneous, and bubbled over in his ordinary conversation with friends. An English lady friend, deeply interested in Ireland, once said to him—"I believe I was intended for an Irishwoman." Lover gallantly replied—"Cross over to Ireland and they will swear you were intended for an Irishman."
A famous Irishman, whom I saw in Liverpool when I was a boy, was the Apostle of Temperance, Father Mathew.
At this time he visited many centres of Irishmen in Great Britain, and administered the pledge of total abstinence from intoxicating drink to many thousands of his fellow-countrymen. In London alone over 70,000 took the pledge. As in Ireland, this brought about a great social revolution. The temperance movement certainly helped O'Connell's Repeal agitation, which was in its full flood about this time.
My remembrance of Father Mathew was that of a man of portly figure, rather under than above the middle height, with a handsome, pleasant face. He had a fine powerful voice, which could be heard at the furthest extremity of his gatherings, which often numbered several thousands. As he gave out the words of the pledge to abstain, with the Divine assistance, from all intoxicating liquors, he laid great emphasis on the word "liquors," pronouncing the last syllable of the word with almost exaggerated distinctness. After this he would go round the ring of those kneeling to take the pledge, and put round the neck of each the ribbon with the medal attached.
I ought to remember his visit to Liverpool, for I took the pledge from him three times during his stay in the town.
My mother took the whole family, and, wherever he was—at St. Patrick's, or in a great field on one side of Crown Street, or at St. Anthony's—there she was with her family. She was a woman with the strong Irish faith in the supernatural, and in the power of God and His Church, that can "move mountains." A younger brother of mine had a running in his foot which the doctors could not cure. She determined to take Bernard to Father Mathew and get him to lay his hands on her boy.
At St. Patrick's, with her children kneeling around her, she asked the good Father to touch her son. He, no doubt thinking it would be presumptuous on his part to claim any supernatural gift, passed on without complying with her request. Father Mathew's next gathering was in the Crown Street fields. I was a boy of about nine years, attending Copperas Hill schools. Mr. Connolly, who was in charge, was a very good master, but there was nothing very Irish in his teaching. Some idea of this may be formed when I mention that—though there were not a dozen boys in the school who were not Irish or of Irish extraction—the first map of Ireland I ever saw was on the back of one of O'Connell's Repeal cards.
It was not until the Christian Brothers came, a few years afterwards, that this was changed. I shall always be grateful to that noble body of men, not only for the religious but for the national training they gave. We had Brothers Thornton and Swan—the latter since the Superior of the Order in Ireland.
Under them we not only had a good map of Ireland, but they taught us, in our geography lessons, the correct Irish pronunciation of the names of places, such as (spelling phonetically) "Carrawn Thooal," "Croogh Phaudhrig," and similar words.
But our old master, Mr. Connolly, was a good man too, according to his lights. Hearing of Father Mathew's visit, he asked how many of the boys would go to Crown Street to "take the pledge"—their parents being willing? Out of some 250 boys there were about a dozen who did not hold up their hands.
It is unnecessary for me to say that my mother was there again with her afflicted boy and the rest of her children, and again she pleaded in vain. She was a courageous woman, with great force of character—and a third time she went to Father Mathew's gathering. This was in St. Anthony's chapel yard, and amongst the thousands there to hear him and to take the pledge she awaited her turn. Again she besought him to touch her boy's foot. He knew her again, and, deeply moved by her importunity and great faith he, at length, to her great joy, put his hand on my brother's foot and gave him his blessing. My mother's faith in the power of God, through His minister, was rewarded, for the foot was healed.
I had an aunt—my mother's sister—married to a good patriotic Irishman, Hugh, or, as he was more generally called, Hughey, Roney, who kept a public house in Crosbie Street. The street is now gone, but it stood on part of what is now the goods station of the London & North Western Railway. Nearly all in Crosbie Street were from the West of Ireland, and, amongst them, there was scarcely anything but Irish spoken. I have often thought since of the splendid opportunity let slip by O'Connell and the Repealers in neglecting to revive, as they could so easily have then done, so strong a factor in nationality as the native tongue of our people. My Aunt Nancy could speak the Northern Irish fluently, and, in the course of her business, acquired the Connaught Irish and accent.
After a time Hughey Roney retired, and the house was carried on by his daughter and her husband, John McArdle, a good, decent patriotic Irishman, much respected by his Connaught neighbours, though he was from the "Black North." It used to be a great treat to hear John McArdle, on a Sunday night, reading the "Nation," which then cost sixpence, and was, therefore, not so easily accessible, to an admiring audience, of whom I was sometimes one, and his son, John Francis McArdle, another. This younger McArdle, originally intended for the Church, became in after life a brilliant journalist, and was for a time on the staff of the "Nation," the teaching of which he had so early imbibed. The elder McArdle was a big, imposing looking man, with a voice to match, who gave the speeches of O'Connell and the other orators of Conciliation Hall with such effect that the applause was always given exactly in the right places, and with as much heartiness as if greeting the original speakers.
After Father Mathew's visit, their trade fell away to such an extent that John McArdle, determined to hold his ground—while still keeping the public house open, though the business was all but gone—broke another door into the street, and made his parlour into a grocery and provision store. This enterprise on his part was only necessary for a short time, as the abnormal enthusiasm in the cause of temperance which, for the time being, had swept all before it, had subsided to such an extent that McArdle, after a time, turned the room to its original purpose, and was able to resume his readings from the "Nation" to admiring audiences, as heretofore.
Yet, though so many fell away from their temporary exaltation, there were still large numbers who remained firm, and the lasting good from Father Mathew's work was undeniable.
So popular was John McArdle's house, that it was used as one of the lodges of the Ancient Order of Hibernians—then very strong in Liverpool, and stout champions of country and creed. In regard to this organisation, I find in the "Irish World" of New York a high tribute paid to them by the Very Rev. Thomas J. Shahan, of the Catholic University of America. In his paper on "Hibernianism" he said there was a tradition in the Ancient Order that they first started in Ireland in the Penal days as a bodyguard to their poor parish priest when he said Mass in the open air. Anyone who has spent most of his life in England, as I have done, can well understand that this is not simply an effort of this good priest's imagination, for, over and over again I have seen the Hibernians among the first to come forward in defence of their priests and churches when these were threatened. In the course of his paper Dr. Shahan quoted a letter from the Brethren in Ireland, Scotland and England to the Brethren in New York. It sent instructions and authority to the few brothers in New York to establish branches of their Society in America.
These were the qualifications laid down: Members must be Catholic and Irish, or of Irish descent. They must be of good moral character, and were not to join in any secret societies contrary to the laws of the Catholic Church. They were to exercise hospitality towards their emigrant brothers and to protect their emigrant sisters from all harm and temptation, so that they should still be known for their chastity all over the world. The members of the Order in America were to be at liberty to make laws for the welfare of the Society, but these must be in accord with the teaching of the Church, and their working must be submitted to a Catholic priest. The letter says—"We send you these instructions, as we promised to do, with a young man that works on the ship and who called on you before." Directing that a copy of the document should be sent to another friend, then working in Pennsylvania, the letter concluded—"Hoping the bearer and this copy will land safe and that you will treat him right, we remain your brothers in the true bond of friendship this 4th day of May, in the year of our Lord, 1837"—
"PATRICK M'GUIRE, County Fermanagh. "JOHN REILLY, County Cavan. "PATRICK M'KENNA, County Monaghan. "JOHN DURKIN, County Mayo. "PATRICK REILLY, County Derry. "PATRICK DOYLE, County Sligo. "JOHN FARRELL, County Meath. "THOMAS O'RORKE, County Leitrim. "JAMES M'MANUS, County Leitrim. "JOHN M'MAHON, County Longford. "PATRICK DUNN, County Tyrone "PATRICK HAMILL, County Westmeath. "DANIEL GALLAGHER, Glasgow. "JOHN MURPHY, Liverpool."
It will be noticed that of the twelve Irish counties represented above, six are in the province of Ulster, three in Connaught, and three in Leinster, so that the Hibernians appear to have had their stronghold in the Northern province and the adjoining counties in Connaught and Leinster. This is exactly as one might expect, seeing the necessity for a defensive organisation against the Orangemen of Ulster. The Order took deep root in Glasgow and Liverpool on account of the convenience of access by sea from Ireland to these cities.
I was too young to have known John Murphy, who signed the letter for the Liverpool Hibernians, but, from what I knew of these afterwards, it is likely that he was a dock labourer. As I will show, these men, over and over again, to my own knowledge, gave splendid proofs of their courage and love of creed and country. Their love of learning, too, has been equal to that of their fathers in the days when our country was "The Island of Saints and Scholars." Some of these poor men may not have had much learning themselves, but they made great and noble sacrifices that their children should have it. I noted with interest in the Irish papers recently that the name of the Secretary of the Hibernian Order at the Bridge of Mayo, County Down, was "Brother Denvir."
Our country sent over to Liverpool, besides sterling Nationalists, as bitter a colony of Irishmen—I suppose we can scarcely deny the name to men born in Ireland—as were, perhaps, to be found anywhere in the world. These were the Orangemen. If there was one place more obnoxious to them than another it was the club room of the Hibernians in Crosbie Street. But though in their frequent conflicts with the "Papishes" they wrecked houses and even killed several Irishmen—for they frequently used deadly weapons against unarmed Catholics—they were never able to make a successful attack on McArdle's. One of my earliest experiences was being on the spot on the occasion of a contemplated assault on the Hibernian club room on the day of an Orange anniversary. This was in 1843.
Parallel to Crosbie Street, where the club room was situated, was Blundell Street, where my uncle, Hughey Roney, lived in a house immediately behind McArdle's—the back door of the one house facing the back door of the other. This side of the street, with the whole of Crosbie Street, has long since been absorbed by the railway company before mentioned.
I cannot imagine why my mother chose this particular day to take me to see our relatives, except it was the inveterate longing which her early surroundings and training had given her to assist at the "batin' of an Orangeman," or why I should have been the chosen one of the family to come, unless it was that she thought I was the one most after her own heart in her warlike propensities. However this may have been, there we were in the first-floor front room of my Uncle Hughey's. Every room, from cellar to garret, was crowded with stalwart dock labourers—at that time these were almost to a man Irish—prepared to support another contingent of Hibernians who garrisoned McArdle's in a similar manner. Hearing outside the cry—"he Orangemen!" I looked out of the window and up the street, and there, sure enough, was a strong body of them marching down, armed with guns, swords, and ship carpenters' hatchets. At once the word was passed to the contingent in Crosbie Street to be prepared to meet the threatened attack.
Nearer and nearer the Orangemen came. They had got within some thirty yards of Roneys when, between them and the object of their attack, out of Simpson street, which at this point crosses Blundell Street at right angles, there intervened the head of a column of police, under the Liverpool Chief Constable, an Irishman, Michael James Whitty. There was a desperate engagement, but, notwithstanding their murderous weapons, the Orangemen were utterly routed, flying before the disciplined charge of the police, who freely used their batons on their retreating opponents.
A few words about Michael James Whitty, who led the charge with right good will, may not be inappropriate here. Many years afterwards, when we were both engaged in the profession of journalism, I had the pleasure of making his acquaintance through my reviewing in the "Catholic Times" a very able book of his, a "Life of Robert Emmet." He asked Mr. Thomas Gregson, his private secretary, a friend of mine: Who had written this review? Upon hearing who it was, he asked Mr. Gregson to bring us together. When we met, he told me how pleased he was with my review, and that there was somebody on the "Catholic Times" who could appreciate his book.
He became Chief Constable of Liverpool in 1828. About this time Messrs. Rockliffs published a weekly newspaper called the "Liverpool Journal," which came into the hands of Mr. Whitty after he had resigned the office of head constable. An offshoot of the "Journal" was the "Daily Post," which, in Mr. Whitty's hands was (and indeed has been ever since under the direction of Sir Edward Russell, who still holds the reins) a powerful organ of Liberalism. One of Whitty's sub-editors on the "Daily Post" was Stephen Joseph Meany, a somewhat prominent figure in the Young Ireland and Fenian movements.
As showing the power of the Press, there is no doubt that Whitty and Meany, in the "Journal" and "Post," and through their influence otherwise, did much to secure recognition of a great Irish actor. This was Barry Sullivan, who was, I think, the finest tragedian I have ever seen. He is still remembered with appreciation by many in England, and, I am sure, in Ireland too.
He was a patriotic Irishman, and once offered himself to our committee as a Nationalist candidate for the Parliamentary representation of Liverpool. This was in the days when it was a three-membered constituency. It was only the belief that the sacrifice which he thus offered to make for his country would have injured his career as an actor that prevented us from accepting his offer.
In my boyhood a great feature in Liverpool was the annual procession of one or other of the local societies.
The great Irish and Catholic procession, of which the Hibernians formed the largest contingent, was, of course, on St. Patrick's Day. A considerable portion of the processionists were dock labourers; a fine body of men, who were at this time, as I have already said, mostly Irish.
The Orange processions in Liverpool were often the occasion of bloodshed, for in them they carried guns, hatchets, and other deadly weapons, as if they were always prepared for deeds of violence. The ship carpenters were the most numerous body in the Orange processions. Indeed, they formed such a large proportion that, by many, the 12th of July was called "Carpenter's Day." Shipbuilding used to flourish in Liverpool, and, as none of the firms engaged in it would take a Catholic apprentice, it was quite an Orange preserve. This became somewhat changed when the Chalenors, an English Catholic family, who were already extensive timber merchants, commenced ship-building, and, of course, took Catholic apprentices.
The Orange ring was thus gradually broken up, and, as iron ships superseded wooden ones, ultimately the shipbuilding trade almost vanished from Liverpool. The ship carpenters, for the most part, found their occupation gone, and many of them ended their days in the workhouse.
A further instance of the decline of rabid Orangeism might be cited. It was not an altogether uncommon thing for people to be fired at from the windows of Orange lodges. I see, according to the "Nation" of July 20th, 1850, that "an innkeeper of Liverpool named Wright fired out of his house and wounded three people." In justification of this he stated that "a crowd of Ribbonmen assembled round his house." At one time there used to be a notorious Orange lodge held in a public house called "The Wheat Sheaf" in Scotland Road. The members of this body thought nothing of firing upon an unarmed and peaceable crowd from the windows, and I remember an Irishman being shot dead upon one of these occasions. The change that has taken place in this district can be best realized from the facts that, in after years, the landlord of "The Wheatsheaf" bore the name of Patrick Finegan, that, at the present moment, Scotland Road is, as it has been for many years, represented in the City Council by a sterling body of Irish Nationalists, and that the Scotland Division of the Borough of Liverpool is the one place in Great Britain where an Irish Home Ruler, as such, can be returned to Parliament against all comers, as Mr. T.P. O'Connor has been, ever since the Division became a separate constituency.
To return to the St. Patrick's Day processions. I used to look forward to them with delight in my childhood, and, even now, cannot help lingering lovingly on their memory. They were splendid displays, which I can remember much better than many things which occurred, so to speak, but yesterday.
"Our street," which was close to Russell Street, Rodney Street, and other thoroughfares through which the procession passed, was by no means what you would call an Irish street. Indeed, the most influential man in it was a retired sea captain named Jamieson, who, if not an Orangeman "all out," was certainly at one time an Orange sympathiser. He and my mother often had political discussions, which usually ended in fierce quarrels, and when he would swear he would have us "run out of the street," she used to threaten to bring up the men from the docks and leave not a stone upon a stone of his house. Whether it was through his being impressed by her terrible earnestness as a member of the Church militant, or whatever else was the reason, Jamieson in the end became a Catholic, and died a most edifying death.
Before his conversion, however, as well as after—Jamieson to the contrary notwithstanding—"our street" always took a lively and neighbourly interest in the St. Patrick's procession, and used to turn out to a man, to a baby it would, perhaps, be more correct to say, for was not one of the chief sights of the procession their decent neighbour, Timothy, or, as he was more generally called, "Thade" Crowley, the pork butcher, at the corner? There were splendid pictures and devices on the banners—I can see them all most vividly now—St. Patrick, Brian Bora, Sarsfield, O'Connell, the Irish Wolf Dog, with the motto "Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked," and harps and shamrocks galore, but Thade Crowley was in all our eyes the finest figure in the procession.
Among his greatest admirers were a Jewish family named Hyman, who lived next door to him. Though the Jews are supposed to hold what was Crowley's stock-in-trade in abomination, the two old ladies—Mrs. Crowley, who used to say she was of "Cork's own town and God's own people," and Mrs. Hyman, who came from Cork, too, though, needless to say, without a drop of Irish blood in her veins—were great cronies.
As a consequence, the Hymans were among the most eager of the spectators to get the first glimpse of honest Thade Crowley as he walked in front of his own particular lodge of the Hibernians. He was a portly, well-built man, of ruddy complexion, and open, genial countenance. He wore buckskin breeches, top boots, green tabinet double-breasted waistcoat, bottle-green coat with brass buttons, and beaver hat. The Crowleys were very popular in the neighbourhood, as they never had but a kindly word for everybody.
When I was a small boy, about 9 or 10 years old, I often listened with delight to Mrs. Crowley, who had a fluent tongue, expatiating on the glories of her native city—
By the pleasant waters of the River Lee.
and I have heard her exclaiming, I at the time believing it most implicitly:
"Sin, is it? Sure. I never heard of sin till I came to Liverpool; there's no sin in Cor-r-k!"
And she rattled the "r" with a strong rising inflexion, greatly impressing me with the high character of Ireland and of Cork in particular.
At that time I had never seen Ireland but as an infant at my mother's breast.
I was a boy of about 12 when I first re-visited Ireland; and, as the steamer entered Carlingford Lough, which to my mind almost equals Killarney's beauty—but that, perhaps, is a Northman's prejudice—with the noble range of the Mourne mountains on the one side and the Carlingford Hills on the other, it seemed to my young imagination like a glimpse of fairy land.
Carlingford reminded me of what my old masters, the Christian Brothers, used to teach us, that those places ending in "ford" had at one time been Norse settlements. There is not the slightest trace, I should say, of people of Norse descent along this coast now, unless we accept the theory that would regard as such the descendants of the Norman De Courcy's followers, who can be recognised by their names, and are still to be found, side by side, and intermingling with those of the original Celtic children of the soil in the barony of Lecale. It is astonishing, by the way, how you still find in Ireland, after centuries of successive confiscations, the old names in their old tribal lands, mingled in places, as in Lecale, with the Norman names; the two races being now thoroughly amalgamated—as distinguished from the case of King James's Planters in Ulster, who, to this day are, as a rule, as distinct from the population amongst whom they live—whether of pure Celtic strain or with a Norman admixture—as when first they came.
There was an idea in our family that I had a vocation for the priesthood, and I was being sent to my uncle, Father Michael O'Loughlin, parish priest of Dromgoolan, County Down, who placed me in charge of Mr. Johnson, a somewhat noted classical teacher in the neighbouring little town of Castlewellan.
I have seen but little of Ireland, but during the few months I was here on this occasion I made the best use of my time. I could have had no better guide and preceptor than "Priest Mick," as my mother used to call my uncle. I imagine that the term "Priest," which, in the North of Ireland, was formerly so much used as a prefix to the name of the Catholic clergyman, must have arisen amongst those not of his own flock, and was probably not intended to have exactly a respectful meaning.
Father Michael sometimes came to see his relatives in Liverpool, who were very numerous. He called them the "Tribe of Brian" (his father's name) and he made a point of visiting them all, down to the very latest arrival—indeed, I think he was the only one who knew the whole of the ramifications of "the Tribe."
He used to say that his father—the aforesaid Brian—had one of the largest noses in the country. There was only another man, he said, who could approach him in that respect. If the two men met in a very narrow "loanan "—what they call a "boreen" in other parts of Ireland—the other man, who was a bit of a wag, would put his hand to his nose, and make a motion of putting it aside, as if there was not sufficient room for two such organs, and call out with a kind of snuffle: "Pass, Brian!"
The late Mgr. O'Laverty, in his "History of the Dioceses of Down and Connor," says: "From a government official survey in 1766 there were fifteen families in Castlewellan, of whom two only (Hagans and O'Donnells) were Catholics." Up to that date there must have been, during this century, a considerable clearance of the Catholic population from the best land of this district, for I should say—judging from King James's Army List and other authorities—that the Magennises (who, with the MacCartans, were the chief territorial families of the old race in Down) still held land in the neighbourhood up to the end of the seventeenth century. As still further showing this, it will be found that "Eiver Magennis of Castlewellan" was one of the members for the County Down in what Thomas Davis truly describes as "The Patriot Parliament" of 1689.
The learned historian of Down and Connor gives an interesting account of the only Norman colony of any extent in the province of Ulster. I have already spoken of this. Notwithstanding the very small Norman admixture, in the main the Catholics of the North are the most pure-blooded Celts in Ireland. And even in the case of Lecale, the original Celtic population intermingled with the descendants of the Norman settlers, who, like the older native population have ever remained true to the old faith. The preponderance of the Celtic element in the Catholics of Ulster must be overwhelming. What is called "Protestant Ulster" is practically a foreign importation, which the native population never absorbed, as they did the earlier invaders.
Speaking of the Rev. Cornelius (or, as he was oftener called, Corney) Denvir, a relative of ours, who afterwards became Bishop of Down and Connor, Father O'Laverty says: "The Denvirs are a Norman race, brought to Lecale by De Courcy. The late bishop observed the name in several of the towns in Normandy."
I only met Bishop Denvir once, when my father—who was his second cousin—took me to see him at the Grecian Hotel, Liverpool, when he was on his way either to or from Rome. I once, when a small boy, incurred my father's displeasure by criticising adversely (from what I had read in the "Nation") Dr. Denvir's support of what was called the "Bequest Bill." There were some strictures in the "Nation" on the favour shown to this Bill by three of the Irish Hierarchy, Archbishops Crolly and Murray, and Bishop Denvir. The last was a man of great learning. An edition of the Bible was published under his auspices by Sims and McIntyre, of Belfast.
During my stay in Ireland, I lived in the house of my uncle, Owen (or Oiney, as he was commonly called) Bannon, in the townland of Ballymagenaghy, where my mother was born.
No boy could have had a better object lesson in the part of Irish history embracing the Plantation of Ulster than Ballymagenaghy. It is eminently typical of the kind of rocky and barren land to which the children of the soil were driven—land which would hardly bear cultivation. I need scarcely say that the people were "Papishes" to a man.
There was a hill behind my Uncle Oiney's house called Carraig (pronounced "Corrig"), in English "rock," and the name might well apply to most of the townland, in which the chief productions seemed to be stones and rocks. Carraig was a kind of shoulder of what I heard the people calling "My lord's mountain." This was part of Lord Annesley's domain, and separated from Carraig and several small farms by a wall, which ran down to a sheet of water at the foot—Castlewellan Lough. I, as a student of the "Nation," was not at all satisfied that an Irish mountain should be called by such a name, which spoke volumes for the state of serfdom into which the people had fallen. I was not long in finding the real name—Sliab na Slat (mountain of Rods).
I often looked with admiration at the view from its highest point. Underneath, the side of the mountain was clothed with trees down to the edge of the lough, which mirrored the wooded eminences of exquisite beauty surrounding it. Looking eastward you could see Dundrum Bay and the white sails of the fishing boats.(They used to sing a mournful lament around the turf fires of Ballymagenaghy of "The loss of the Mourne Fishermen" in a great storm off this coast). Further off you might see an occasional large sailing vessel or steamer, and, further still, in the dim distance, you could just discern the Isle of Man. Southward the eye took in the noble range of the Mourne mountains, running from east to west, from where, at Newcastle, the Irish sea comes to kiss the foot of the lofty Slieve Donard, towering in majesty over all his fellows—rugged sentinels of the hills and vales of Down.
Lying, as if nestling under the Mourne range, was a small, well-wooded hill, part of the domain of Lord Roden, who held high rank among the Orange ascendancy faction, and, as will be seen later, may be said to have held the lives and liberties of his Catholic fellow-countrymen in this district in his hands.
In Ballymagenaghy I was oftener called by my mother's name than my father's. In those days, as often as not, when a girl got married she was still called by her friends by her maiden name. So, on the first Sunday after my arrival, when I was taken over to Leitrim chapel, where I served my uncle's Mass, I found myself referred to as "Peggy Loughlin's wee boy." It did not seem at all strange to me, for I scarcely ever heard her called by any other name. Indeed, some forty years afterwards—when I was organising for the Irish National League—I met a County Down man in Cumberland. He was, as I soon found, from "our own place," as they affectionately call it. He was trying to trace out what family I belonged to. At last he had it—"Oh" he said, "You would be a son of Margaret O'Loughlin?" I hesitated for moment, when Edward McConvey, the local organiser—a County Down man, too—who had introduced us, laughed heartily as he said: "Here's a quare man; doesn't know his own mother's name!" In fact, I had so seldom heard my mother called anything else but "Peggy" that the proper name sounded strange for the moment. Indeed, it had evidently taken our friend some time to remember the name of "Margaret," which he, no doubt, thought the more polite one to use in speaking of my mother.
Her family did not generally use the prefix "O" in her younger days. It was only after her two brothers, Bernard and Michael, became priests, and always called and signed themselves "O'Loughlin," that the prefix was resumed. This is a common experience in other Irish families.
Many of the small holdings in Ballymagenaghy would not support in anything approaching to comfort the large families with which the sturdy and industrious people were blessed. This was certainly the case with the Bannons, but they were not entirely dependent on the land they tilled, as several of the family were employed in weaving in a portion of the house, the looms being their own. I have often admired the beautiful damask table-cloths produced in the homes of these "mountainy" people, the webs, when finished, being taken to Banbridge, to the warehouses of the manufacturers, and the yarn and the patterns for the next lot being brought back on the return journey.
I believe that these cottage industries no longer exist, and that the beautiful fabrics, for which our northern province is famous, are now produced by steam power in Banbridge and other Ulster towns.
As the young men and boys of the Bannons worked at their looms, and the women and girls at their spinning and "flowering," when not wanted to help on the land, the father, Oiney, would occasionally go over to England as a travelling packman, and so increase the family store. I have known in late years other Ulstermen doing this—amongst others my old friend Bernard MacAnulty, of whom I shall have more to say later.
I had often, at my home in Liverpool, heard of Irish hospitality. Here in Ballymagenaghy I had many practical illustrations of this in the way they treated the "poor man" or "poor woman" as they called them—they never called them beggars—who came to their doors. Indeed, it seemed to me that these had no occasion to ask for help, for more than once I have seen a "poor woman" coming in with her bed upon her back, putting it down in the warmest corner behind the chimney breast, and making herself at home as a matter of course, without going through the formality of asking for a night's lodging.
Of the enormous number of harvestmen who passed every year through Liverpool, except from the County Donegal, there were not so many from the northern province. The majority were from Connaught. They generally landed at the Clarence Dock, Liverpool, a wiry, hardy-looking lot, with frieze coats, corduroy breeches, clean white shirts with high collars, and blackthorn sticks. I have seen them filling the breadth of Prescot Street, as they left the town, marching up like an army on foot to the various parts of England they were bound for. This was before special cheap trains were run for harvestmen.
At night, in my Irish mountain home, after I had prepared my Latin lessons for the following day, and my uncle, aunt, and cousins had left off work, I joined with great enjoyment in the family group around the turf fire, and listened with rapt attention to songs and stories; my favourite among the latter being the adventures of Barney Henvey among the fairies in the old rath, or "forth," as they called it, of Ballymagenaghy.
I may say that, up to this moment, I have a certain liking for such stories—of course as fairy stories. But, being a boy of enquiring mind, I wanted to get at the whole theory of the existence of these beings, and, accordingly, this is what I gathered as to the origin, present existence, and future state of the "good people," as they called them. In "The Irish Fairy Legends," a number of my "Penny Irish Library," I find I have dealt with the subject. As the passage gives the explanation I got at my uncle Oiney's more correctly than I can trust to my memory to give it now, after a lapse of some sixty years, I may be excused for giving the following extract:—
The belief is that, in the great rebellion of Lucifer, of the spirits who fell from heaven, some, not so guilty as those who "went further and fared worse," fell upon our earth, and into the air and water that surround it. These are the Fairies, who have their various dispositions, like mortals, and like them, at the day of judgment, will be rewarded or punished according to their deserts.
In the "Fairy Legends" I have also given the story of "Barney Henvey" mentioned above. There is something like it in the "Ingoldsby Legends," and, no doubt, in the fairy mythologies of other nations, but my story is of Irish origin. Heaven only knows through how many ages it has been handed down to us. It is one of the fairy stories my mother and grandmother used to tell us as long ago as I can remember. I have a little grandson who, when smaller, used sometimes to insist when put to bed after he had said his "lying-down prayers," upon hearing "Barney Henvey" before he went to sleep; and so it will, no doubt, go on, and such stories may be told in ages to come, not only in Ireland—"A Nation once again"—but in every settlement of the Clan-na-Gael throughout the world.
Friends and neighbours would come to my uncle Oiney's from beside Castlewellan Lough, and over from Dolly's Brae and Ballymagrehan, who, after the day's work, enjoyed going "a cailey." I hope my Gaelic League friends will forgive me if I don't give the correct sound of this word, but that is my remembrance of how they pronounced it some sixty years ago in the County Down.
Sometimes at our little gatherings, the "wee boy from England," as the neighbours called me, would be asked to read from the "Nation" a speech of the Liberator—the title his countrymen gave O'Connell after Catholic emancipation. I was always delighted with this; entering as fully and enthusiastically into the spirit of what I read as any of the company.
As often as not, in Ballymagenaghy there would be sung, to the accompaniment of fiddle, flute or clarionet, one of those stirring songs which, week after week, appeared about this time in the "Nation" from the pens of Thomas Davis, and the brilliant young men in O'Connell's movement known as the "Young Irelanders "—songs "racy of the soil," like the "Nation" itself, which stirred the hearts of the Irish race like the blast of a trumpet, songs which are still sung by Irish Nationalists the world over.
On the Sundays, the Bannons and their next neighbours, the Finegans, MacCartans, and MacKays, with their fiddles, flutes, and clarionets, supplied the chief part of the instrumental music of the choir—for there was no organ—at the little mountain chapel at Leitrim, where my uncle, Father Michael, officiated. The happy remembrances of those Sundays of my boyhood are always brought back to me whenever I read T.D. Sullivan's "Dear Old Ireland," which is equally characteristic of this corner of the "black North" as of the raciest part of Munster—more especially where he sings:—
And happy and bright are the groups that pass From their peaceful homes for miles, O'er fields, and roads, and hills to Mass, When Sunday morning smiles; And deep the zeal their true hearts feel When low they kneel and pray! Oh, dear old Ireland! Blest old Ireland! Ireland, boys, hurrah!
But nothing excited my boyish enthusiasm more than the stories of the Insurrection of 1798. I was too young to understand much of what my grandmother used to tell us about these times before she died. My mother was born in 1799, and was the youngest daughter of her family, but her eldest sister, my Aunt Mary, wife of Oiny Bannon, was 12 or 14 years old at the time of the Rising, and could describe more vividly what she saw connected with it than I can now recall incidents in the Repeal and Young Ireland Movements.
Listening to her, I could almost fancy I could see my grandfather, Brian O'Loughlin, leaving his home with the other Ballymagenaghy men, with their pikes and such guns as they could muster, to join the United Irish forces previous to the battles of Saintfield and Ballinahinch. At the time of my visit to my mother's birthplace, my grandfather's house was in the occupation of the family of his youngest son, Edward, and, as a pilgrim visiting a sacred spot, I have stood on its floor, as I afterwards did on the field of Ballinahinch itself.
My Aunt Mary used to speak of an incident which I have never read of in any account of the battle, but I am inclined to believe there was some foundation for what she used to tell us. In one part of the engagement it seemed as if the bravery of the insurgents would have been crowned with a victory as decisive as they had gained at Saintfield, when, by some untoward circumstance, the fortunes of the day turned, and, in the end, the United Men were defeated. Perhaps what my Aunt Mary told me may be some explanation of the turn in the tide of battle. She used to say that when it looked as if the United Men were carrying all before them, a portion of their forces called out for a "Presbyterian ('Prispatairan' she used to call it) Government," that this caused some hesitation among the Catholics, that after this the battle went against them, and that the day ended in disaster.
The story seems somewhat improbable, as it might be asked how, in the excitement of a battle, men of one religion could be distinguished from those of another? But this will not seem so unlikely if the circumstances arising out of the Ulster Plantation of King James I. be remembered. As a consequence of this you will find townlands and parishes and whole districts, where the soil is poorest, where the people are almost exclusively Catholic, and others where the non-Catholic population are in an overwhelming majority. In the United forces the men of each locality would have been drilled and trained together, and, in the same way would, no doubt, act together on the field of battle, so that, without any actual arrangement for that purpose, the Catholic or the Presbyterian would, most likely, find himself among his own co-religionists.
It is wonderful how the memories of '98 were handed down from one generation to another, not only in Ireland, but wherever our people have made their homes.
This has been brought home to me in the most forcible possible manner by a circumstance which has come to my knowledge only a few months since—so to speak—after a lapse of over a hundred years.
This is that General James William Denver—after whom, for his distinguished career, the capital of the State of Colorado was called Denver City—had for his grandfather Patrick Denvir, who did a man's share in the insurrection of '98, and, for his connection with it, had to fly from his native Down to America.
This information I had from General Denver's daughter, replying on behalf of her brother, to whom I had written to find if the family were of Irish origin. I had some doubt about this, seeing that they spell their name with an "e" in the last syllable, whereas we and all of the name in the County Down use an "i." The lady's letter was not only interesting but most welcome, as showing that they were not only of Irish but of patriotic origin. They evidently continue to take an interest in the land from which they have sprung, for the lady made some enquiries about the late Bishop Denvir, of whom I have already spoken.
Most of the United Irish leaders and a large proportion of the rank and file in the '98 Rising were Presbyterians, and fought and bled for Ireland with the same heroism as their Catholic neighbours, amongst whom no name is more cherished in the County Down than that of the Protestant General Monroe, who, my Aunt Mary used to tell us, was hanged at his own door in 1798. How is it that the sons of the men of 1782 and of Grattan's Parliament, and of 1798 were not as good Irishmen as their fathers? I think I can give a kind of explanation.
It must be remembered that the era of Grattan's Parliament and of the Volunteer movement of 1782, of which present-day Nationalists are so proud, was also the era of the Penal laws. Since then the Protestants have seen the Irish Catholic rising from the dust of serfdom and standing in the attitude of manhood. They have seen him gradually obtaining a share in the making of the laws of the land, and, naturally, becoming the predominant political power in Ireland—the Catholics being the majority of the population. I may be wrong, but I have a theory that many of the Protestants of Ireland—who once had all the political power in their hands, and did not always use it too mercifully in their treatment of the rest of their countrymen—are afraid that if they assisted in getting self-government for Ireland the power in the hands of the enfranchised majority might be used against them.
That this is a groundless fear is shown from the fact that no men have been more honoured in Ireland than such Protestant leaders as William Smith O'Brien, Thomas Davis, John Mitchel, John Martin, Isaac Butt, and Charles Stewart Parnell. The same feeling is constantly shown at this moment towards distinguished Protestants among the present Irish Parliamentary Party.
What has fostered the Anti-Irish feeling among Irish Protestants for the last hundred years has undoubtedly been the fell system of Orangeism, which has caused so much hatred and bloodshed among men who, whatever their race or creed, are now children of the one common soil. The Orangeman looked upon himself as part of a foreign garrison, holding the "Papishes" in subjection. He was armed with deadly weapons; consequently, the defenceless Catholic was almost entirely at his mercy, and the Orangeman was but too often backed up in his lawlessness by the law and its administrators.
This almost necessitated the existence, as a kind of defence against Orangeism, of a body I used to hear them speaking of when I was a boy in Ballymagenaghy, called the "Thrashers," which, I imagine, must have been some kind of a secret society.
It must have been a sort of survival of these "Thrashers" that my friend, Michael Davitt, many years afterwards, came across somewhere in the North of England. The incident, as described by him, was both amusing and saddening. He addressed them in his capacity as a Fenian Organiser. After they had heard him patiently, an old man, the spokesman, said:
"Tell me—do you have Prodestans in this Society of yours?"
"Certainly," Davitt answered. "We invite all Irishmen."
"Then we'll have nothing to do with yez!"
As my Aunt Mary could relate thrilling stories of '98, so could my own mother tell me all about the savagery of Orangemen in her days. She used to describe to me the attempts of an Orange procession to pass through Dolly's Brae, when she was a young girl, before she left Ireland. Dolly's Brae is a kind of rugged defile through which passes the road from the town of Castlewellan, which, running westward, divides the townlands of Ballymagenaghy and Ballymagrehan. It is an entirely Catholic district, and not at all on the ordinary route by which the processionists would reach their homes. Yet, in a spirit of aggression, and well-armed, as usual, with Orange banners waving, drums beating, and bands playing "Croppies lie down," "The Boyne Water," and similar airs, this was the district they sought to march through.
It so happened that the proposed hostile parade was not altogether unexpected. In any case, their approach was heralded by the firing over "Papish" houses, as the processionists came towards Dolly's Brae. From the heights above they were seen—my mother being one of the watchers—in sufficient time to have the people of the immediate neighbourhood warned of the threatened Orange incursion.
The defenders of Dolly's Brae had no firearms, as their opponents had, but they gathered up any weapons they could to repel the invaders. The Orangemen came on, expecting an easy victory. They had got well into the defile, and were firing at their opponents, who were in sight before them at some distance on the road, and into the houses on each side, when they were thrown into confusion by a storm of large stones and pieces of rock hurled down the steep sides of the defile upon them by assailants who had been up till then invisible.
According to the description of my mother, who was always a militant Catholic of the most orthodox description, and a strong physical force Irishwoman as well, the Dolly's Brae engagement must have borne some resemblance to the battle of Limerick, as described by Thomas Davis:—
"The women fought before the men; Each man became a match for ten; So back they pushed the villains then From the city of Luimneach Lionnglas".
She ought to know, for she was in the thick of the fight. The confusion of the Orangemen was turned into a complete rout, and they fled, leaving their banners and other trophies in the hands of the mountainy men.
For many years the Orangemen never attempted to go near the place, but, with the connivance and active aid of the guardians of the peace, they did at last, many years afterwards, appear on the scene again. The Orange anniversary was celebrated at Tollymore Park, the seat of Lord Roden, who was a sort of Orange deity at the time. Tollymore Park is some four or five miles south-east of Dolly's Brae, which is in the heart of the Catholic district, and, as I have said, far out of the direct road of the Orangemen returning to their own homes.
Yet they deliberately took this route. They were a formidable body, well armed with guns. At their head was one Beers, the agent of Lord Roden, and a magistrate who, for the "protection" of the Orangemen, had under his command a strong body of the constabulary and a detachment of soldiers. The ordinary Englishman, who knows the police as they are in his country as the guardians of the public peace, must not confound them with those in Ireland. The Irish constabulary are simply the permanent British army of occupation, well armed and drilled, and, physically, as fine a body of men as any in the world. These were the forces under the command of Lord Roden's agent, for the invasion, for such it was, of a peaceful Catholic district.
When the people sought to defend themselves from this invasion as best they could, Beers, in his capacity as a magistrate, gave the police and soldiers under his command the order to fire—which they did—upon the people and into their houses. Consequently, what followed was nothing short of a butchery, under cover of which the Orangemen wrecked the Catholic houses in the glen.
I shall never forget the grief of my mother, at this time residing in Liverpool, at reading in the newspapers the names of the victims who had been murdered outright or wounded. They were all her next door neighbours "at home"—people she had known from childhood.
The horrible outrage roused universal indignation. In Parliament the Irish members demanded a full official enquiry as to how this murderous business came to be carried out by a Government official. As a result Lord Roden and his agent were deprived of the Commission of the Peace—their offence was too glaring to be entirely overlooked. But to the friends of those who had been legally murdered, and the innocent people whose houses had been wrecked, this was a cruel mockery. Had the criminals been Catholic peasants, they would have been put upon their trial for their lives, and, at the very least, sent into penal servitude. What confidence could the Catholics of Ulster have in the administration of the law, knowing, as they did, that even where they were more than able to hold their own against the Orangemen, they were sure to be sufferers in the long run, seeing that their opponents would be backed up by the forces that should go to preserve law and order.
It is thirty-five years since I last re-visited the County Down. I took my son with me. He was nearly of the same age as I was myself when I lived in Ballymagenaghy, but I could only show him the site of Oiney Bannon's house. It was not the too common case of an eviction, for the Annesleys had the reputation of being tolerably good landlords. The land, as I have said, was very poor, in fact, if the people got it for nothing it would hardly repay cultivation. But it was picturesque, and therefore Lord Annesley took some of it into his domain, and these barren hills and rocks, when planted with trees, added to the beauty of the scenery. The dispossessed tenants got land from him in Clarkhill, not far off.
Since that time, judging from the Irish newspapers, there seems to have been progress in the right direction, for the little town of Castlewellan, where for a short time I went to school, from being a place where, in the Penal days, a Catholic was scarcely allowed to live, seems to have become a strong Nationalist centre for South Down. This was my mother's part of the country. I have seen similar paragraphs which proved to me that, in the barony of Lecale, County Down, my father's part, the people, though not so demonstrative as the "mountainy men," can still, as ever, be relied upon to stand as firm as Slieve Donard itself for creed and country.
O'CONNELL IN LIVERPOOL—TERENCE BELLEW MACMANUS AND THE REPEAL HALL—THE GREAT IRISH FAMINE.
O'Connell, when passing through Liverpool on his way to Parliament, always made the Adelphi Hotel his headquarters, and used to hear Mass not far off at the Church of St. Nicholas, or, as it was more generally called, "Copperas Hill Chapel," where I used to serve as an altar boy. I must have been a very small boy at the time when I first remember the Liberator coming to Mass at our Church, for, on one occasion, on stretching up to the altar to remove the Missal it was so difficult for me to reach that I let it fall over my head.
Without being by any means what is termed a "votheen," O'Connell was a faithful and devout son of the Catholic Church. During the many years when he was passing through Liverpool, going to and returning from Parliament, and on other occasions when he came to Irish gatherings in the town, he attended Mass daily whenever possible, and frequently approached Holy Communion.
O'Connell spoke several times from the balcony of the Adelphi Hotel. From my earliest days I was an earnest politician, and one of my most cherished remembrances is of having been brought by my father to one of these gatherings. The Liberator addressed a great multitude, who filled the whole square in front, and overflowed into the adjoining streets. My recollection of him on this occasion is that of a big man, in a long cloak, wearing what appeared to me some kind of a cap with a gold band on it. This must have been the famous "Repeal Cap" designed by the Irish sculptor, Hogan, who, when investing O'Connell with it at the great gathering at Mullaghmast, said: "Sir, I only regret this cap is not of gold."
As in our later Irish movements, we frequently had meetings in one or other of the Liverpool theatres. O'Connell was, as often as his attendance could be secured, the central figure, and drew enormous gatherings. At one of these meetings at the Royal Amphitheatre there was an attempt by an armed body of Orangemen to storm the platform, on which were all our leading Irishmen. Among the most active of these was Terence Bellew MacManus, who had all his lifetime been a devoted follower and admirer of O'Connell. On this particular night, which was long before the unfortunate split into "Old Ireland" and "Young Ireland," he had a fine opportunity of displaying his "physical force" proclivities in defence of the "moral force" leader.
The Orange attack was of short duration. They were simply cleared out as if by an irresistible whirlwind. We have always been able to hold our own in Liverpool, when it came to physical encounters against all comers. We have generally had some organisation or another—whether constitutional or unconstitutional—but, apart from this, the nature of the employment of our working-men, especially in O'Connell's time, brought them together in such a way that large numbers of them knew each other, and could act together in case of emergency.
MacManus, who had command of the stewards on the night of the attack, knew a number of men like Mick Digney, who was what was called a "lumper"—that is, a contractor in a small way who took work in the "lump" and employed men for loading and unloading ships. Digney and other friends would find their way for consultation and the making of the necessary arrangements beforehand on occasions like this to MacManus, whose place of business—he was an extensive forwarding agent—was one of those half-offices, half-warehouses, which used to be in North John Street.
Another class of men who were reliable for such occasions were the bricklayers' labourers. Of course, it is different now—and a sure sign that our people are rising in the social scale—but in those years, and long afterwards, I never knew a bricklayers' labourer who was not an Irishman.
The frequent mention at these gatherings of a sterling Irishman I knew well in after years, Patrick O'Hanlon, reminds me of two friends of my father of the same name who belonged to another class of men, the wood-sawyers, who, at that time, were mostly Irish. They had not exactly the same name as Patrick, for it was not so customary to use the O' or Mac in those days as it has since become. Not that Hughey and Ned Hanlon did not know that they were entitled to the honourable Gaelic prefix, but, with the good nature which is rather too characteristic of Irishmen sometimes, those who had preceded them had allowed other people to drop the O' in using their name, until it became rather difficult to resume it.
Needless to say that Hughey and Ned Hanlon, John Green, Mike Doolan, and other wood-sawyers were at the Royal Amphitheatre among MacManus's volunteers. The Hanlons, in particular, were fine lathy men, without an ounce of spare flesh, but they had sinews of iron. Hughey used to come to our house with other neighbours every week to hear the "Nation" read, and the songs in it sung to the accompaniment of Harry Starkey's or my Uncle John's fiddle. The Hanlons were North of Ireland men, and Hughey often used to proudly tell us that the O'Hanlons were the Ulster standard-bearers.
At that time, besides the Amphitheatre, where during those years several Irish demonstrations were held, a popular place for our gatherings was the Adelphi Theatre (previously the "Queen's"), which was in somewhat better standing then than afterwards, though it, too, has had within its walls most of the Irish leaders of the last half century.
I remember one occasion in particular when O'Connell was, of course, the hero of the day, which impressed itself upon my youthful mind the more forcibly on account of the presence on the platform of Jack Langan—of whom I have already spoken—a warm-hearted and generous supporter of the great Dan, and the Cause of Repeal. Indeed, we boys regarded the Irish champion boxer with the admiration we would have bestowed upon Finn MacCool or some other of the ancient Fenians, could they have appeared in bodily form amongst us.
Little we then thought that we should be welcoming on the same platform the Fenians of our own days.
That meeting in the Adelphi has also been frequently brought back to my mind since, because for a long time the "leading man" in the stock company at that theatre was Edmond O'Rourke (stage name Falconer), a sterling Nationalist, with whom I made a closer acquaintance in later years.
I was often brought by my father to the weekly gatherings in the Repeal Hall, Paradise Street, where, among the speakers on the Sunday nights I can best remember were Terence Bellew MacManus, Patrick O'Hanlon, Dr. Reynolds, George Smyth, and George Archdeacon.
MacManus and Smyth (the latter of whom I knew well in after years), besides being prominent workers in O'Connell's agitation for Repeal of the Union between Ireland and Great Britain, took active parts in the "Young Ireland" movement. Dr. Reynolds was another of the Young Irelanders. So also was Archdeacon, who, in addition, still showed his belief in physical force by his connection with Fenianism, for which he suffered imprisonment.
Young as I was, I shall never forget the days of the Famine, for Liverpool, more than any other place outside of Ireland itself, felt its appalling effects. It was the main artery through which the flying people poured to escape from what seemed a doomed land. Many thousands could get no further, and the condition of the already overcrowded parts of the town in which our people lived became terrible, for the wretched people brought with them the dreaded Famine Fever, and Liverpool became a plague-stricken city. Never was heroism greater than was shown by the devoted priests—English as well as Irish—in ministering to the sick and dying. So terrible was the mortality amongst them that several of the churches lost their priests twice over. Our own family were nearly left orphans, for both father and mother were stricken down by the fever, but happily recovered.
It will not be wondered at that one who saw these things, even though he was only a boy, should feel it a duty stronger than life itself to reverse the system of misgovernment which was responsible.
There was, no doubt, a good deal of English sympathy for the famine-stricken people, and there were some remedial measures by Parliament—totally inadequate, however, but I am afraid that the "Times" and "Punch," two great organs of public opinion, but too faithfully represented the feelings of many of our rulers. The "Times" actually gloated over what appeared to be the impending extinction of our race. Young as I then was, but learning my weekly lessons from the "Nation," I can remember how my blood boiled one day when I saw in a shop window a cartoon of "Punch"—a large potato, which was a caricature of O'Connell's head and face, with the title—"The Real Potato Blight."
At the time of the Rising of 1848 I was commencing my apprenticeship with a firm of builders, who were also my father's employers. They were successors to the firm through whose agency he had been sent to Ireland as clerk of the works, just previous to my birth there. It was the custom of the firm, when a boy came to commence his apprenticeship to be a joiner, to keep him in the office for a time as office boy. I was employed in the office at the time of the Rising, but one of the partners in this firm of builders, who was also an architect, seeing that I had had a good education, and, through attending evening classes at the Catholic Institute and Liverpool Institute, had a considerable knowledge of mathematics and architectural drawing, gave me employment which was more profitable to the firm and congenial to me than that of an ordinary office boy or junior clerk. Besides helping in the ordinary clerical work in the office, I was put to copying and making tracings of ground plans, elevations and sections of buildings, and working drawings for the use of the artizans, besides assisting in surveying. I was about three years employed in this way before entering into the joiners' workshop. The firm was most anxious that I should remain in the office altogether, and I have often thought since that my father made a mistake in insisting that I should learn the trade of a joiner, which he considered a more certain living than that of an architect or draughtsman, unless one had influential connections.
It was from the upper window of the office where I was at the work I have described that I could see the men belonging to our firm drilling as special constables in the school yard opposite, in anticipation of trouble in connection with an Irish Rising.
The authorities were evidently preparing for a formidable outbreak in Liverpool, for there was a large military camp at Everton—a suburb of the city—and three gunboats in the river ready for action, in case any part of the town fell into the hands of the Irish Confederates. Special constables, as in the case of our own firm, were being sworn in all over the town, and the larger firms were putting pressure upon their employees to be enrolled. Indeed, some 500 dock labourers were discharged because they would not be sworn in. My father declined to be a special constable, but suffered no further from this than becoming a suspect—his services being too valuable to be dispensed with by his employers.
He was a genuinely patriotic Irishman, steadfast in his political creed, though unostentatious in his professions, being more a man of action than of words. My mother, as I think I have already sufficiently indicated, was, on the other hand, more demonstrative. I think she must have had a positive genius for conspiracy. Whatever the movement was she must have a hand in it. On one occasion—I forget exactly what it was—some compromising documents had to be got out of the way for the time being. In those days sloops used to come over from Ireland with potatoes, and the cargoes used to be sold on the quay at the King's Dock. She often bought a load of potatoes here to supply a small general shop which she kept to help out my father's earnings. It was under such a load of potatoes that she had brought home that she concealed the dangerous documents.
It was in June, 1848, in the columns of the "Nation" that I first met with the name of Bernard MacAnulty. In after years I worked in successive national movements with him, and ever found him a dear friend and most active and enthusiastic colleague. As showing that he was a man of advanced proclivities, I may mention that he wrote to the "Nation" suggesting the formation of the "Felon Repeal Club" in Newcastle-on-Tyne. From then up to the last day of his life he was the same generous whole-souled Irishman he had been from the beginning. His stalwart frame and pleasant, genial face were well known during the whole of the Home Rule movement, in which I was thrown into frequent contact with him, when we were both members of the Executive of the Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain.
He was a North man, from the County Down, a successful merchant—having started life as a packman—in Newcastle-on-Tyne, and so won the respect of all classes that he was elected a member of the Town Council, in which he served with great credit. The northern Catholic, who is so often a pure Celt, is sometimes credited with having acquired some of the qualities of his Presbyterian neighbours of Lowland Scots extraction. But this is only on the surface, and Bernard MacAnulty was a typical example of this. No braver or more generous Irishman ever breathed, and he had a fund of humour which would have done credit to the quickest-witted Connaughtman or Munsterman that ever lived. Though the Ulster accent is generally regarded as a hard one, I never thought it was so with my friend. Perhaps this is owing to my partiality as a County Down man, which, though born in Antrim, I always consider myself, Down being the native place of my people from time immemorial. I have always thought that the people born and reared, as Bernard was, among the Mourne Mountains and their surroundings have anything but an unmusical accent.