Thursday, 22 September 2016

Kitchener's Men

Have you heard the story of “Kitchener's men,”
    How he made an army from nothing at all?
Nerved, each as if with the strength of ten.
    For the one great cause they came at his call,
And smote, with the veteran's might and ken –
That great new host, the Kitchener men!

Silent and grim he held to his way,
    Held the critics' gibes in scorn.
Faced the task of each clamant day,
    By the level track or the thicket of thorn;
“ 'Tis a slow siege war,” he said, “but then
You shall win, at the last, with Kitchener's men!”

When the battle broke, that first of July,
    On the German front, from the Somme's bright flood –
Through the shrapnel scream and the slogan cry –
    They sealed his vow in their red heart's blood.
On, north, o'er the Ancre brook and fen,
Those serried ranks of “Kitchener's men!”

Loud and high was the song of the shell,
    As it splintered and crashed through the Mametz Wood;
When a young life reeled in the rush and fell,
    Another stepped in where his pal had stood;
O'er trench and crater and “dug-out” den
The waves swept on – of “Kitchener's men.”

Gordons, and Suffolks, and Royal Scots,
    Kent and sturdy Northumberland,
Their blood-stained blue forget-me-nots
    Have kissed at our heart and thrilled on our hand;
For each, as I said, had the strength of ten,
That dauntless host, the Kitchener men!

Sons of the North, and sons of the South,
    Stafford, and Erin's Fusilier,
Londons and Yorks, but all one mouth,
    One throat, one heart, with the Britons' cheer;
If you ask of England's “where” and “when,”
Go, read the story of “Kitchener's men!”

Ulster lads, with the song of the Boyne
    And the “No Surrender!” of Derry's gate,
With the sinewy arm and the girded loin
    And the faith that mocks at Hell and Fate,
O streams of the Strule and the Erne and the Bann,
The stream was red where their young blood ran!

And the signal star shot into the air,
    “Come to our help!” – but they never came;
So they fought to the last, and died, at Serre,
    Those Lancashire lads! Oh, they played the game!
What else could they do, just there and then,
Than fight and die? – They were “Kitchener's men!”

Where was Kitchener? Who can tell
    Of the vigil-post whence he gazed, from far,
As his young troops marched, and dared, and fell
    In the hottest front of the world-wide war?
His spirit, I think, was proud just then
'Mid the splendour of God and the glad “Amen!”

Where does he rest 'neath the restless tide? –
    By the black-ribbed rocks or the white-ridged sand?
His Ocean-tomb is great and wide
    As his field of battle was wide on land.
His work was done! And he died just then
When the bugle called for “Kitchener's men!”

Rev. Dr. J. Laurence Rentoul, Melbourne.

Poem from The Witness, 22nd September 1916

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 13



The passing of the Irish Church Bill in 1869 ended the connection between the Church and the State in this country, and, so far as my memory serves me, questions and controversies arising out of that monopolised the chief attention until the 'sixties came to an end and the 'seventies commenced, and even for many years afterwards. There was not only the political effect of the measure to be discussed, but the practical results of it. The supporters of the Establishment clung to the hope that the Lords, with Lord Cairns, an Ulsterman, as Lord Chancellor, at their head, would throw out the Bill. But they did not, and the complaints of its members were deep and loud and long. The Lords were accused of treachery, and even the Crown did not escape. Most of the language used was strong and violent, and not a little of it by ministers of the Establishment, and ministers of Belfast, too. But it was reserved for one, happily not in Belfast, to bring discredit on the Church and his cloth by declaring that he would kick the Queen's Crown into the Boyne. This was a Rev. Mr. Flannigan, from the borders of Ulster. His foolish phrase about "kicking the Queen's Crown into the Boyne" was for years dished up in Nationalist journals and in Nationalist speeches as if it represented the feelings and spirit of the Church. But it only represented a few extremists, and the phrase was as much regretted and condemned by his brethren of the Church as it was by all loyal men in the country.

There is this, however, to be said for those that took the extreme "Church" view. It was maintained by the supporters of the Establishment, and I have no doubt it was technically true, that the Disestablishment of the Church was a breach of the Act of Union, and a betrayal not only of the Church, but of the Protestantism of the country. It was alleged that if the Union was broken on one point it could be broken in all, and we nave since had evidence that a complete breach became a question of practical politics, and that a complete breach, except in so far as an out-flow of British gold is concerned, is the popular demand and desire of the day.

The controversy and feeling created by the passing of the Church Act was for a period as strong and bitter as the agitation about the passing of Home Rule. At public meetings, in the pulpit, and in the Press the passing of the Act, the treachery and disloyalty to Irish Protestantism which it was regarded as representing, were subjects of discussion and denunciation not for weeks and months, but for years. And Belfast even more than Dublin was the centre of the controversy. The fact that the vast majority of Protestants then, as now, resided in Ulster, and that Belfast was the capital of Ulster in general, and of Irish Protestantism in particular, kept the fires of controversy burning here almost day and night, on the Sabbath as well as on the weekday.

The robbery of the Church was the burden of many a song and many a sermon, many a speech and many a leading article. Home Rulers have told the British that as the agitation over the Disestablishment of the Church passed over in time so would the agitation against Home Rule. It is quite true that agitation passed away by the healing influence of time and the loyalty and liberality of the Protestant denominations affected. But while the agitation against the Bill was in some respects as strong as the earlier stages against Home Rule, there was and is this difference. While with the friends of the Establishment there was bitterness as well as disappointment, and a strong feeling of principle as well, the measure did not affect or rouse Presbyterians to the same extent that the Home Rule agitation has done. With many of them there was the feeling and the hope that out of their temporary suffering and sacrifice there would come relief to the country from agitation and grievance-mongering; that the loss or sacrifice to them and the Sister Church would be a gain to the State, and with characteristic patriotism the ministers of the day threw the funds provided into the treasury of the Church, and the people added their share, too, not to the extent they should have done, but yet to a moderately satisfying extent for the time.

The vast majority of the Presbyterians of that generation who lived through the stages of the Home Rule controversy, and who survive to day, and accepted patriotically and philosophically the Irish Church Act, were and are the strongest opponents of Home Rule; and among the strongest of its opponents were, so long as they lived, supporters of the policy that led to Disestablishment. Presbyterians and all others to-day will understand what I mean when I say that the late Right Honourable Thomas Sinclair was as staunch a supporter of Mr. Gladstone in his Disestablishment policy as the Right Hon. John. Young was an opponent. Yet Mr. Sinclair was no less enthusiastic an opponent of Home Rule than Mr. Young – more enthusiastic no man could have been – and to the last hour of his active life devoted himself to the cause of the Union with an ability, zeal, and energy as unequalled as it was brilliant and effective.

As one who passed through that period of stress and strain, and saw and heard much of what went on in our midst during the time, I am prepared to say that however strong the feeling and however strong the sense of justice or of British ingratitude, the feeling that lay beneath even the strongest opponents of the Gladstonian policy was not within measurable distance of the feeling of deep-rooted and determined antagonism as that created by Home Rule.

Whatever may have been the breach in the Act of Union, the Irish Church Act did not mean even to the opponents of Disestablishment what Home Rule means. It is true, it was recognised by the old Liberals of the time as a concession to Romanist demands and a surrender of Protestant interests, but they were content to ignore these in the hope that, as a result, we would have an Ireland of activity rather than agitation, of prosperity instead of poverty; of union not only with England, but within the country. And then we had the British Government and the British Parliament to take charge of the country. There was no thought then and no dread of the state of things that has since arisen. The Protestants of that time took the declarations of Roman Catholics at their lip value, and believed that the removal of this great and undoubted grievance, this removal of a religious inequality or disability, would bring about reconcilement and contentment. The Roman Catholics clamoured for equality and got it, so far as the State was concerned. They did not then realise the force of what Mr. Disraeli had said a decade or two before, that the Church, while clamouring for equality, was demanding supremacy – and would not be content without it.

As one who was in the midst of this conflict, and from official position and circumstances had full opportunity of understanding the feeling and spirit that prevailed, I can testify that such a possibility as the demands now made and such a possibility as the demands now conceded never entered their minds. What did enter their minds was the hope, with many amounting to a conviction, that the measure then passed would soothe and satisfy Roman Catholic feeling. The Liberal spirit of the time was expressed by the Rev. John Macnaughtan, who defending himself against the charge of working with Roman Catholics, justified his action on the principle of fair policy, equality, and statesmanship, said if it ever came to be a question between Protestantism and Romanism be would be found with his back to the cathedral wall. And he was a Liberal of Liberals, a voluntary in religion as opposed to the principle of Establishment, which he carried so far that when he came to this country he refused to accept the Regium Donum.

To be continued...

From The Witness, 15th September 1916.

The "Man in the Street" was the pen name of Alexander McMonagle editor and manager of The Witness and Ulster Echo.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Hate and Pity at Ginchy

Subaltern's Human Letter to His Aunt

by 2nd-Lieut. Arthur Conway Young

We are privileged from time to time to reprint the private letters of serving soldiers, written on the field to their relatives at home, which, despite strict censorship, often contain the most vivid and human descriptions of life at the Front and during battle. This is abundantly true of the following account of the Irish attack on Ginchy, on September 9, 1916, written by 2nd-Lieut. A. C. Young, of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. Mr. Young, who was educated at the City of London School, and had been a journalist on the "Japan Chronicle" at Kobe, survived this action but was killed on August 16, 1917, at the age of 27.

MY dear Auntie Maggie,

As I told you in my last brief note, I took part in the battle of Ginchy, and I promised you when I had time that I would give you an account of it . . .

Try and picture in your mind's eye a fairly broad valley running more or less north and south. You must imagine that the Germans are somewhere over the farther, or eastern, crest. You are looking across the valley from the ruins of Guillemont. About half-right the farther crest rises to a height crowned by a mass of wreckage and tangled trees. Well, that is Ginchy . . . It was like being near the foot of Parliament Hill, with the village on top. Our right flank was down near the bottom of the valley; our left extended up to the higher ground towards the ruins of Waterlot Farm.

The trench was very shallow in places, where it had been knocked in by shell-fire. I had chosen it as the only one suitable in the neighbourhood, but it was a horrible place. British dead were lying round everywhere. Our men had to give up digging in some places, because they came down to bodies which were lying in the bottom, having been buried there when the parapet blew in. The smell turned us sick. At last, in desperation I went out to look for another trench, for I felt sure the Germans must have the range of the trench we were in, and that they would give us hell when dawn broke. To my joy I found that a very deep trench some distance back had just been vacated by another regiment, so we went in there.

This man is coming back from Ginchy after it had been captured on September 9, 1916. The losses of the six battalions that took part in the attack were so heavy that every man who could possibly struggle back to the dressing-station on his feet had to do so. This wounded man has found the ever-ready help of a couple of his comrades to get him over the last trench he will see for a long time. (Imperial War Museum)

The night was bitterly cold. I have felt hunger and thirst and fatigue out here to a degree I have never experienced them before, but those are torments I can endure far better than I thought I could. But the cold – my word ! it is dreadful . . .

However, dawn broke at last. It was very misty. All night we had been trying to get into touch with the unit on our left, but without success. So the Captain sent me out with an orderly to see whether I could manage it. We two stumbled along, but the mist was so dense we could see nothing.

We came to one trench after another, but not a living thing could we see – nothing but dead, British and German, some of them mangled beyond recognition. Bombs and rifles and equipments were lying all over the place, with here and there a greatcoat, khaki or grey according to the nationality of their one-time owners, but of living beings we could see no sign whatsoever.

There was a horrible stench in places which nearly turned our stomachs. To make matters more wretched we could not make sure of our direction, and were afraid of running into a German patrol, or even into a German trench, for such accidents are by no means uncommon in this region. However, we managed to find our way back, and report that up to such and such a point there was no one on our left.


THE Captain was not content with this, so I went out again, this time with another officer. Having a compass on this second occasion I felt far more self-confidence, and to our mutual satisfaction we discovered that the unit on our left was the right flank of an English Division. Captain Edwards was very bucked when we brought back this information. As the mist continued for some time afterwards we were able to light fires and make breakfast . . .

It was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon when we first learned that we should have to take part in the attack on Ginchy. Now, Auntie, you expect me to say at this point in my narrative that my heart leapt with joy at the news and that the men gave three rousing cheers, for that's the sort of thing you read in the papers. Well, even at the risk of making you feel ashamed of me, I will confess that my heart sank within me when I heard the news.

I had been over the top once already that week, and knew what it was to see men dropping dead all round me, to see men blown to bits, to see men writhing in pain, to see men running round and round, gibbering, raving mad. Can you wonder therefore that I felt a sort of sickening dread of the horrors which I knew we should all have to go through? Frankly, I was dismayed.

But, Auntie, I know that you will think the more of me when I tell you, on my conscience, that I went into action that afternoon, not with any hope of glory, but with the absolute certainty of death. How the others felt I don't exactly know, but I don't think their emotions were far different from mine.

You read no end of twaddle in the papers at home about the spirit in which men go into action. You might almost think they revelled in the horror and the agony of it all. I saw one account of the battle of Ginchy, in which the correspondent spoke of the men of a certain regiment in reserve as almost crying with rage because they couldn't take part in the show. All I can say is that I should like to see such superhuman beings. It is rubbish like this which makes people in England think that war is great sport. As a famous American general said, "War is Hell," and you have only got to be in the Somme one single day to know it.


BUT to get on with the story. We were ordered to move up into the front line to reinforce the Royal Irish Rifles. The bombardment was now intense. Our shells bursting in the village of Ginchy made it belch forth smoke like a volcano. The Hun shells were bursting on the slope in front of us. The noise was deafening. I turned to my servant O'Brien, who has always been a cheery, optimistic soul, and said, "Well, O'Brien, how do you think we'll fare?" and his answer for once was not encouraging.

"We'll never come out alive, sir!" was his answer. Happily we both came out alive, but I never thought we should at the time.

It was at this moment, just as we were debouching on to the scragged front line of trench, that we beheld a scene which stirred and thrilled us to the bottommost depths of our souls. The great charge of the Irish Division had begun, and we had come up in the nick of time . . .

BETWEEN the outer fringe of Ginchy and the front line of our own trenches is No Man's Land – a wilderness of pits, so close together that you could ride astraddle the partitions between any two of them. As you look half-right, obliquely along No Man's Land, you behold a great host of yellow-coated men rise out of the earth and surge forward and upward in a torrent – not in extended order, as you might expect, but in one mass – I almost said a compact mass. The only way I can describe the scene is to ask you to picture five or six columns of men marching uphill in fours, with about a hundred yards between each column. Now conceive those columns being gradually disorganized, some men going off to the right, and others to the left to avoid shell-holes. There seems to be no end to them. Just when you think the flood is subsiding, another wave comes surging up the beach towards Ginchy.

WE joined in on the left. There was no time for us anymore than the others to get into extended order. We formed another stream, converging on the others at the summit. By this time we were all wildly excited. Our shouts and yells alone must have struck terror into the Huns, who were firing their machine-guns down the slope. But there was no wavering in the Irish host. We couldn't run. We advanced at a steady walking pace, stumbling here and there, but going ever onward and upward.

That numbing dread had now left me completely. Like the others, I was intoxicated with the glory of it all. I can remember shouting and bawling to the men of my platoon, who were only too eager to go on.


The Hun barrage had now been opened in earnest, and shells were falling here, there, and everywhere in No Man's Land. They were mostly dropping on our right, but they were coming nearer and nearer, as if a screen were being drawn across our front. I knew that it was a case of "now or never," and stumbled on feverishly. We managed to get through the barrage in the nick of time, for it closed behind us, and after that we had no shells to fear in front of us.

I mention, merely as an interesting fact in psychology, how in a crisis of this sort one's mental faculties are sharpened. Instinct told us, when the shells were coming gradually closer, to crouch down in the holes until they had passed. Acquired knowledge, on the other hand – the knowledge instilled into one by lectures and books (of which I have only read one, namely Haking's "Company Training") – told us that it was safer in the long run to push ahead before the enemy got our range, and it was acquired knowledge that won.

And here's another observation I should like to make by the way : The din must have been deafening (I learned afterwards that it could be heard miles away), yet I have only a confused remembrance of it. Shells which at any other time would have scared me out of my wits, I never so much as heard and not even when they were bursting quite close to me.

Both before and after the taking of Ginchy the fighting was of the fiercest and the losses enormous. The top photograph shows the battlefield as it was on the day the village tell to troops of the l6th (Irish) Division after a piper had rallied the men. Troops are advancing towards the German lines over open ground subject to heavy shell fire. The lower photograph is the approach to the village as it is today, with its wayside calvary. (Photos, Imperial War Museum and Wide World)

One landed in the midst of a bunch of men about seventy yards away on my right : I have a most vivid recollection of seeing a tremendous burst of clay and earth go shooting up into the air – yes, and even parts of human bodies – and that when the smoke cleared away there was nothing left.

I shall never forget that horrible spectacle as long as I live, but I shall remember it as a sight only, for I can associate no sound with it . . .

We were now well up to the Boche. We had to clamber over all manner of obstacles – fallen trees, beams, great mounds of brick and rubble – in fact, over the ruins of Ginchy. It seems like a nightmare to me now. I remember seeing comrades falling round me.

MY sense of hearing returned to me, for I became conscious of a new sound, namely, the continuous crackling of rifle-fire. I remember men lying in shell-holes holding out their arms and beseeching water. I remember men crawling about and coughing up blood, as they searched round for some place in which they could shelter until help could reach them. By this time all units were mixed up : but they were all Irishmen. They were cheering and cheering and cheering like mad.

It was Hell let loose. There was a machine-gun playing on us near by, and we all made for it. At this moment we caught our first sight of the Huns. They were in a trench of sorts, which ran in and out among the ruins. Some of them had their hands up. Others were kneeling and holding their arms out to us. Still others were running up and down the trench distractedly as if they didn't know which way to go, but as we got closer they went down on their knees, too.

In this formation and over such ground as this the British Army went forward to fight on the Somme. It has been remarked by the writers of this and many other chapters that the value of discipline and training was never better proved than in such attacks as this. These men are supporting troops going up to the attack near Ginchy on September 9, 1916. A shell from the enemy's artillery is bursting just behind them. In the foreground is a trench with a litter of discarded equipment on the parapet. (Imperial War Museum)

To the everlasting good name of the Irish soldiery, not one of these Huns, some of whom had been engaged in slaughtering our men up to the very last moment, was killed. I did not see a single instance of a prisoner being shot or bayoneted. When you remember that our men were now worked up to a frenzy of excitement, this crowning act of mercy to their foes is surely to their eternal credit. They could feel pity even in their rage.

By this time we had penetrated the German front line, and were on the flat ground where the village once stood surrounded by a wood of fairly high trees . . . As I was clambering out of the front trench, I felt a sudden stab in my right thigh. I thought I had got a "Blighty," but found it was only a graze from a bullet, and so went on . . .


McGARRY and I were the only two officers left in the company, so it was up to us to take charge. We could see the Huns hopping over the distant ridge like rabbits, and we had some difficulty in preventing our men from chasing them, for we had orders not to go too far. We got them – Irish Fusiliers, Inniskillings and Dublins – to dig in by linking up the shell-craters, and though the men were tired (some wanted to smoke and others to make tea) they worked with a will, and before long we had got a pretty decent trench outlined.

While we were at work, a number of Huns who had stopped behind and were hiding in shell-holes commenced a bombing attack on our right. But they did not keep it up for long, for they hoisted a white flag (a handkerchief tied to a rifle) as a sign of surrender. I should think we must have made about twenty prisoners. They were very frightened. Some of them bunked into a sunken road or cutting which ran straight out from the wood in an easterly direction, and huddled together with hands upraised. They began to empty their pockets and hand out souvenirs – watches, compasses, cigars, penknives – to their captors, and even wanted to shake hands with us!

THERE was no other officer about at the moment, so I had to find an escort to take the prisoners down. Among the prisoners was a tall, distinguished looking man, and I asked him in my broken German whether he was an officer. "Ja! Mein Herr!" was the answer I got. "Sprechen sie English?" "Ja!" "Good," I said, thankful that I didn't have to rack my brains for any more German words. "Please tell your men that no harm will come to them if they follow you quietly." He turned round and addressed his men, who seemed to be very gratified that we were not going to kill them.

I must say the officer behaved with real soldierly dignity, and not to be outdone in politeness by a Hun, I treated him with the same respect that he showed me. I gave him an escort for himself and told off three or four men for the remainder. I could not but rather admire his bearing, for he did not show anything like the terror that his men did.

I HEARD afterwards that when Captain O'Donnell's company rushed a trench more to our right, round the corner of the wood, a German officer surrendered in great style. He stood to attention, gave a clinking salute, and said in perfect English, "Sir, myself, this other officer, and ten men are your prisoners." Captain O'Donnell said "Right you are, old chap!" and they shook hands, the prisoners being led away.

There were a great many German dead and wounded in the sunken road. One of them was an officer. He was lying at the entrance to the dug-out. He was waving his arms about. I went over and spoke to him. He could talk a little English. All he could say was "Comrade, I die, I die." I asked him where he was hit, and he said in the stomach. It was impossible to move him, for our stretcher-bearers had not yet come up, so I got my servant to look for an overcoat to throw over him, as he was suffering terribly from the cold. Whether or not he survived the night I don't know.


AFTER the counter-attack had subsided I was ordered to take my men and join up with the rest of the battalion on our right. There we spent the night in a trench. We must have been facing south. It was a miserable night we passed, for we were all very cold and thirsty. We had to keep digging. When morning broke it was very misty. We expected to be relieved at two in the morning, but the relief did not come till noon.

Never shall I forgot these hours of suspense. We were all hungry. The only food we could get was Hun black bread, which we picked up all over the place; also Hun tinned sausages and bully beef. We had to lift up some of the dead to get at these things. Some of them had water-bottles full of cold coffee, which we drank. We all craved a smoke. Fortunately, the Hun haversacks were pretty well stocked with cigarettes and cigars.

I got a handful of cigars off a dead Boche, and smoked them all morning. Also a tin of cigarettes. His chocolates also came in handy. Poor devil, he must have been a cheery soul when living, for he had a photograph of himself in his pocket, in a group with his wife and two children, and the picture made him look a jolly old sport, and here he was, dead, with both legs missing! The trench (between ours and the wood) was stacked with dead. It was full of debris – bombs, shovels and whatnot – and torn books, magazines, and newspapers. I came across a copy of Schiller's "Wallenstein."

Hearing moans as I went along the trench, I looked into a shelter or hole dug in the side and found a young German. He could not move as his legs were broken. He begged me to get him some water, so I hunted round and found a flask of cold coffee, which I held to his lips. He kept saying, "Danke, Kamerad, danke, danke." However much you may hate the Huns when you are fighting them, you can only feel pity for them when you see them lying helpless and wounded on the ground . . .


ABOUT ten yards farther on was another German minus a leg. He, too, craved water, but I could get him none, though I looked everywhere. Our men were very good to the German wounded. An Irishman's heart melts very soon. In fact, kindness and compassion for the wounded, our own and the enemy's, is about the only decent thing I have seen in war. It is not at all uncommon to see a British and German soldier side by side in the same shell-hole nursing each other as best they can and placidly smoking cigarettes.

A poor wounded Hun who hobbled into our trench in the morning, his face badly mutilated by a bullet – he whimpered and moaned piteously as a child – was bound up by one of our officers, who took off his coat and set to work in earnest. Another Boche, whose legs were hit, was carried in by our men and put into a shell-hole for safety, where he lay awaiting the stretcher-bearers when we left. It is with a sense of pride that I can write this of our soldiers.

WELL now, that's the story of the great Irish charge at Ginchy so far as I can tell it. I suppose by this time the great event has been forgotten by the English public. But it will never be forgotten by those who took part in it, for it is an event we shall remember with pride to the end of our days. Need I tell you how proud we officers and men are of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, who played as big a part as any in the storming of that stronghold, and who went into action shouting their old battle-cry of "Faugh-a-Ballagh," which means "Clear the way!"

Will write again soon.
With fondest love,
Ever your affectionate nephew,

Original source unknown.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 12



I sometimes get afraid that my memory is becoming fleeting and fitful, scattered and diffused, and, like myself, somewhat disjointed. Like myself, too, it has not been trained satisfactorily in the way it should go. When I projected these papers I had no definite line or subject in my mind, and I now find it difficult to concentrate my mind on any one subject. As I take my walks abroad, I meet one person who suggests memories in one direction, and another immediately afterwards turns it in another. One place or one incident recalls certain memories, which are all driven out of my head as I come in contact with others. In fact, it seems to be of a chameleon character, and takes its hue from its surroundings.

For example, every time I meet my friend Dr. Lowe, the General Secretary of the Assembly, all my memories take an ecclesiastical turn, and Presbyterian at that, and then for a time I can think of nothing else until my path is crossed by someone else. The other day, for example, in pursuit of same aid to memory on some subject I came into contact with my friend Mr. Meyer, the Town Clerk, and at once municipal matters, and the marvels of Corporate foresight, activity, and virtue became my obsession. No doubt, Mr. Meyer was little more than an infant in arms when my Corporate studies commenced; but he was rather a precocious youth, and was able to recall as a child many things that had first impressed me as a man.

We began to exchange memories of the Corporation and the town, and we were both able to recall, if not the old Town Hall in Police Square, at least the new Town Hall in Victoria Square, which was its successor. That, of course, has given place to the new Town Hall, or, rather, City Hall, and the old Town Hall is now more associated with war than peace — recruiting for the war or assisting those who have gone to war. Mr. Meyer, however, called my attention to one item that he had accidentally come across to show the care and economy that were practised in those days. A committee, after careful inquiry, had come to the conclusion that a clock was required for the Town Hall, and they reported in regular form that they recommended the Corporation to spend the sum of five pounds in that useful addition to the municipal equipment.

With the aid of maps and memories we both arrived at the conclusion that few of us in this day recognise the comparatively limited area that represented Belfast in the early 'seventies. The Waterworks and Richmond represented the extent of peopled Belfast on the North side, and the Blackstaff its business end on the South. It is true there was further South a Botanic Road, a Malone Road, and a Lisburn Road, and the Queen's College, the Botanic Gardens, the Workhouse, and the Deaf and Dumb Institution beyond, with Wellington Park and Windsor Avenue thrown in. There were also a number of private mansions beyond, enjoying all the privacy of truly rural retreats, and as far from the madding crowd as St. John's Church, Malone, is at present. The old Northern Counties Railway was practically the terminus of the city at the York Road end, and Connswater and Mountpottinger Corner were the inhabited limitation on the County Down side. The Lunatic Asylum represented the utmost fringe of the Falls Road. The Shankill Graveyard was about the last occupied area on the historic road, and the junction of Oldpark Road, save for St. Mary's Church and the Crumlin Road mills and a few private residences, represented all of active or private life that was beyond it.

The great part of all the growth beyond that belongs to the half century under review. It was while recalling these things that I really began to realise the vast strides our city has made, and the vast debt we owe to those men who, as Corporators or capitalists, land developers and investors in land and houses, have created the greater Belfast that is at once our pride and glory.

While in a general way we boast about Belfast, I question if we all realise as we should the changes the last half century have wrought in the growth and life of the city, in its extension of area and increase of population, in the character of its people and its buildings, its streets and its great industrial works, and the teeming population, which have acted and re-acted to raise the city to its present position, industriously and commercially, in population and prosperity, in harmony and contentment.

Since the idea of this took shape in my mind I have taken some walks through the new areas, part on foot and part in imagination; and the more I have seen and the more I have thought the more am I filled with admiration for the grandeur of the conceptions and the excellence of the execution in many cases. In passing from an old area to a new, whether in the urban or suburban districts, one cannot help being struck with the change in taste and character of the streets and buildings. This is, if possible, more conspicuous in what may be called the working men districts. Not only in the size and construction of the houses is there a marked change, a change in the conveniences and comforts; but in the streets and the surroundings there are evidences of taste as well as design, of health as well as comfort. In the olden time houses were built generally to the very front of the street, and usually back to back without either air space or facility for removing refuse. The idea was to utilise every foot of ground regardless of everything else. In these later and better days of houses and streets provision is made for spaces in front and rere; houses are not packed close together, and where refuse used to be thrown out we often find neat flower spots or clean open spaces. I do not think there is a town or city in the kingdom where better provision is made for the working classes not only as to the cheapness, but as to the completeness of the houses and the healthy surroundings that are provided. This is general over all parts of the city, and in central as well as in suburban districts.

Then when we come to the suburban districts, we have miles of extension on all sides, beautiful villa residences with well laid out grounds, splendid wide streets, and good houses, with, in many cases, trees, shrubs, and flowers, which impart picturesque charm to the scene. Hundreds of acres that fifty years ago were only waste unoccupied ground or little cultivated fields are now covered with fine houses, streets, and gardens, and characterised by a neatness, tidiness, and sign of comfort that delight the eye and rejoice the heart. The Crumlin and Shankill Roads are almost encroaching on the mountains; the Antrim Road residential area extends almost to what are ironically called Bellevue Gardens; the Knock and Belmont districts are almost joining with Dundonald and Holywood; Cregagh is fast threatening the Castlereagh Hills; the Malone and Lisburn Roads making a residential race to Dunmurry; the Falls threatening even to leave the Cemetery behind, and the York Road joining up with Greencastle. And in all continual improvements in the character of the houses and in the extent of ground round the houses or margining the streets, signs of growing taste, increasing comforts, and increased prosperity.

I hardly realised myself the real character and importance till my mind or eye became concentrated on it in connection with the article. Familiarity, I fear, makes us forget both the growth and the beauty of our city and its surroundings. The central or low-lying situation of much of it does not lend itself to picturesqueness; but the city has been made picturesque, and a bird's eye view of it from one of the surrounding hills will enable us to realise fetter the extent of the charm of our city, and fill us with just pride. Only the other day I found myself in what I may call the garden city that Sir Robert M'Connell has created on the Cliftonville Road. I wandered through the maze of its streets, everywhere being struck by the character and variety of the villas and streets, the cleanliness that prevails everywhere, the endless variety of shrubs and flowers that adorn the grounds in front of and around the houses. Only a few years ago this was waste fields, and now it is a small town, a perfect scene of beauty and comfort. And one feature of this is that all the houses are owned bv the occupiers; each occupier is his own landlord, and feels the personal interest in making his home, his estate, as neat, picturesque, and comfortable as possible. The project of Sir Robert in developing the property on these lines was an ideal one, and it has been carried out ideally and successfully. The development of which such fine finish is shown here is going on in various parts of the city, if not quite on the same lines, at least on the lines of tasteful improvement.

To be continued...

From The Witness, 8th September 1916.

The "Man in the Street" was the pen name of Alexander McMonagle editor and manager of The Witness and Ulster Echo.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

The Red Cross Nurse

She goes amid the maddened press,
    Of Teuton, Briton, Slav, and Gaul,
Our nation's White Ambassadress,
    The foe of none, the friend of all.

Above the guns, above the cheers
    For Flag or Kaiser, Folk or King,
The common cry alone she hears —
    The cry of human suffering.

Still men will play the devil's game,
    Though, all must lose and none may win
And still a foolish world's acclaim
    Exalts the sworded paladin;

But tears will fall and lips will play
    And hearts beat warm in every land
For her who saves while heroes slay.
    Oh, valiant soul; oh, gentle hand!

Poem from The Witness, 27th August 1915.
Image top taken from a WW1 poster for the Belgian Red Cross.

To the Sisters of the Red Cross who have perished in Hospital Ships 
sunk by German submarine

When at last the deeps reveal
    The treasure they have stored.
When the victorious trumpets peal
    For the coming of the Lord –

In glory then shall these arise,
    To take their crowns in fee.
Who hallowed by their sacrifice
    His altars in the sea.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 11



Some friends who have expressed an interest in my reminiscences have asked me if I could give them a fuller explanation of the position and vote of the Assembly when at the cross roads of Establishment versus Disestablishment, with a reference to those who took part in the historic debate at the meeting of 1868. This is a large order in these days of "snippets," and with my snippetty and unconventional manner and methods. Up till fifty years ago, and for a year or so afterwards, the Irish Presbyterian Church enjoyed an endowment of about £30,000 a year from the State, which was called the Regium Donum. This provided an endowment of £75 Irish, £69 odd British annually for each minister. That was not a very large endowment, and did not, in the opinion of many Presbyterians of the time, represent either the duty of the State to the Irish Presbyterians, or the necessities of the Church or the ministry. A Sustentation Fund was necessary then as now, and it required a great deal of special energy and effort to enable it to provide with anything like decency or adequacy for the ministry of the Church.

No doubt the cost of living and the taste in living were not then anything like what they are to-day, and the ideas of giving on the part of the people were much more narrow and limited. To some of them the Regium Donum seemed to be a magnificent endowment, and in too many cases they did not appear to think it necessary to do as much as they ought to supplement it, and did not feel inclined to astonish the ministers or the Church by their liberality. Attempts were made from time to time to get the endowment increased, and these became stronger and more urgent at the very time Mr. Gladstone was threatening to put his axe to the root of the endowment tree.

A stimulus was given to that by indications on the part of the Irish Chief Secretary, Earl Mayo, that levelling up was to be the Conservative policy, and that the extension of endowments to all the Churches, with a possible increase to the Regium Donum, was to be the policy of the then Government. The Conservative party, with Lord Derby at its head, was then in power, and Mr. Disraeli was his Chancellor of the Exchequer. In '67, a letter in response to appeals made on behalf of the Church, was sent to the authorities of the Church, signed by one of the Treasury officials, to the effect that as the Estimates for that year had been made up nothing in the way of increase could be given that year, but the matter would be borne in mind in the following year. But by that time many things had happened. Lord Derby resigned in consequence of ill-health, and Mr. Disraeli achieved the summit of his ambition; and became Prime Minister. And not only that. Mr. Gladstone carried his memorable resolution decreeing that the Irish Establishment must cease to exist.

During the year the deputation representing the Church had interviews with the then Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Abercorn, the handsome Duke as he was called, the Duke whom Disraeli afterwards immortalised in "Lothair," and the Chief Secretary, the Earl of Mayo, both of whom promised support to an increase, and Colonel Taylor, the member for Dublin, who was Government Whip, pledged the Government to propose, an increase of the Regium Donum "if the leaders of the Opposition would be willing to support it." They also saw Mr. Disraeli after he became Premier. That astute statesman expressed the greatest esteem for the Irish Presbyterians, who, he said, were second to none for intelligence and character. He admitted the inadequacy of their endowment, and said nothing would give him greater pleasure than, to increase it "as soon as he felt in circumstances to do so." The same deputation saw Earl Russell, the Opposition leader, who told them that he thought Presbyterian ministers should be placed in a position equal to those of the Established Church. The deputation also saw several of the Ulster members, at that time all Conservatives, who promised to support them in the matter.

It was in these circumstances, and on the report of the committee which sent the deputations, that the question came up in the Assembly of 1868. It must also be remembered that the political atmosphere was electrical, for it was known that the then Parliament had had its day, and would cease to be, and that the whole question would be threshed out in a General Election in a few weeks. While the Assembly was not, and is not, supposed to touch politics, in this case politics touched the Assembly, and I suspect influenced most of the speaking and the voting. As the threatened issue in the country was Disestablishment or not, so it was in the General Assembly. It was men who were well known for Conservative leanings who proposed the resolutions, which ultimately carried, and which were interpreted as supporting the Conservative policy, which was for maintaining the Irish Church and the Regium Donum as well, to say nothing of Maynooth and the priests, while the leaders of the contra resolutions were, in the main, supporters of the Liberal party.

But I must make this clear. While I believe that none of the ministers recognised as Conservatives, supported what I may term the Liberal policy, a great number of Liberals supported the Conservative policy. And when I mention the names of Richard Smith and N. M. Brown and Mr. S. M. Greer, as three out of many — I might say dozens — I do not think I am far astray in my statement.

And, further, I am not astray in stating that, apart from the support of the principle of Establishment, which they did not desire to disavow, there was a feeling among many of these ministers that the leap into the future was rather risky for the Church, and that they did not feel disposed to inflict on their successors a deprivation which they and the Church could ill bear. It must be remembered that the standard of giving was not very high, not anything as high as at present. And these men had not had works to justify the faith to the extent that later generations have seen. And yet, let it not be forgotten that we are to have an adjourned meeting of Assembly in the course of a few weeks to endeavour to raise the present standard higher still. While the fears of many of these fathers of the Church were not justified, it is only fair to them to say that many of those of Liberal politics put what they regarded as the interests of the Church before the interests of party in voting in favour of the levelling-up policy. My own personal conversation with several of them would justify me in making this statement, and give this explanation of their votes on the occasion.

As would naturally be expected, the selection of Moderator for such an Assembly would be an indication of the trend of the Assembly. The candidates were the Rev. Chas. L. Morrell, of Dungannon, who had been nominated by twenty Presbyteries, and the Rev. J. R. M'Allister, of Armagh, nominated by four. Mr. Morrell was elected by a majority of. twenty-one votes — 133 voting for him and 112 for Mr. M'Allister. In so far as one dare venture to associate politics with the holders of such an office, I think I would be justified in describing Mr. Morrell as a Conservative. At any rate up till that time, and I think afterwards, Mr. Morrell had been one of the chief nominators of and speakers for Colonel Stuart Knox as member for Dungannon — the Colonel and Dungannon disappeared as direct political factors some years later. That Colonel Stuart Knox was a Conservative there could be no doubt. It was about this period, or a little later, an incident occurred that made the gallant Colonel a sensation for some days. He got up on one occasion, and astonished the House of Commons and Mr. Gladstone by reading a quotation as from a speech of Mr. Gladstone in regard to the Irish Church which was in eloquent opposition to the policy he was advocating.

The House was amazed, and Mr. Gladstone was noticed slipping out. He shortly afterwards returned with a volume of Hansard, and explained that what the hon. gentleman had been quoting was not a speech of Mr. Gladstone, but one of Mr. (afterwards Chief Justice) Whiteside, who was a politician of another calibre. It appeared that Mr. Gladstone's name stood at the head of the page, but Mr. Whiteside's speech began in the middle, and the Colonel had read as if it was all a part of Mr. Gladstone's speech. It was in connection with that incident the "Daily Telegraph," then in its palmy and young born days, wrote an article, of which I remember this sentence — "Colonel Stuart-Knox is neither a clever nor a thoughtful man, but he is as God made him, and it ill becomes us to sneer at want of intellect in one of His creatures."

Mr. Morrell was one of the most popular men of his day in or out of the Church; sturdy, vigorous, genial, and humorous, of large build and large heart. His very presence on the platform was a delight, and his humorous sallies and suggestions often did more to win support than did the serious arguments of many other men. I am unable to spy from recollection what the private politics of Mr. M'Allister were, but I presume they were not those of Mr. Morrell. He was a man of great earnestness and activity in the Church, and was convener of one of its most important funds — I believe it was the Sustentation Fund. He was a very active member of the Court, and worked both for his congregation and the Church.

The outgoing Moderator for the year was the Rev. Robert Montgomery (uncle of the Rev. Dr. Henry Montgomery), one of the earliest and most respected Indian missionaries of the Church. As he had spent all his mature life in India he took little save an official part in home controversies during his year of office, and in his retiring address he carefully avoided any reference to them. His successor contented himself in part with general references expressing his adherence to the, principle of Establishment, but there was nothing committal in that, as both sides seemed to be at one on that point. But some of his subsequent references showed, even though in a glass darkly, that he was on the side of Mr. Disraeli, as Mr. Disraeli had previously declared that he was on the side of the angels.

There was a little preliminary storm over the report of the committee, which was read by the Moderator, and some expressions of ridicule indulged in when Mr. Disraeli's promises were referred to, but the Rev. John Rogers, who seemed to take a leading, if not the leading, part in these negotiations, resented these, and said that it was due to Mr. Disraeli to say that Mr. Disraeli had never repudiated the document [the letter promising consideration of the increase of the Regium Donum in the next estimates], and his whole demeanour left the impression on the deputation that it was a promise. We did not know so much in those days as we do now as to the valuelessness of a scrap of paper; but the view of Mr. Rogers' opponents was that this letter was of no more value than the German scrap of paper is regarded to-day. Mr. Rogers, however, resented that, and repeatedly asserted that the pledge was genuine and definite. In the light of subsequent events, if not, indeed, in the light of many at the time, it was a safe promise, as the chance of redeeming it was slight, for at the time a wave of opinion had set in that was destined to overwhelm Mr. Disraeli and his party for a time.

It was the Rev. Professor Dill, of the Magee College, Derry, uncle of the Rev. Dr. S. M. Dill, Alloway, and father of Sir Samuel Dill, of. the Belfast University, and Mr. R. F. Dill, of the Foyle College, Derry, who led the forces of the Establishment, or, to be more strictly accurate, the forces that protested against the withdrawal of the Regium Donum, for many who did not love the Establishment or desire the continuance of its special privileges voted with the Professor. Professor Dill was one of the ablest theologians of his day, one of the most clear-headed ministers, and one of the most eloquent speakers in the Assembly, a man of fine culture and fine manner. The resolutions he presented were seven or eight in number — in those days the resolutions of the Assembly were as voluminous as the speeches, accepting the principle of State Establishment, justifying, the conditions and conclusions under which the Regium Donum had been received, asserting that it had been beneficial to the State and advantageous to the Church, and protesting against its threatened withdrawal. The union had been honourable to both Church and State, and the latter had no right to take it away. They should hold to it till it was wrenched from them, and to, relinquish it would be to throw the weight of their influence into the scale of Cardinal Cullen, He warned them to keep clear of all political complications.

Rev. Dr. Cooke, who was old and feeble, but still with the fire of battle in his eye, seconded the resolutions, as they represented principles which he had always maintained. Rev. Alex. Gray, afterwards Rev. Dr. Gray, College Square, supported the resolutions in a vigorous and argumentative, speech. If they cast the Protestant ministers without a day's notice on the voluntary givings of the people no tongue could describe the evils that would ensue. He would pluck up Prelacy by the roots if he could plant Presbyterianism in its stead, but he would never blot out any form of Protestantism to put Prelacy in its stead.

The issue was joined when the Rev. Dr. Kirkpatrick, of Rutland Square, a fine old veteran of the Church, who had long sustained the banner of Presbyterianism in the capital and in the Church, got up to propose the amendment. His amendment was fully as long and as forcibly expressed as the resolution. But while approving of the establishment of truth and protesting against the endowment of error, the amendment declared that the full and impartial Disendowment of all religious denominations in Ireland is to be preferred to a scheme of general endowment by which truth and error are treated indiscriminately. They had, he said, a right to have the Regium Donum, and to contend for it, but not a right to do that if it compromised them. In rejecting the Regium Donum they would have the sympathies of all the Free Evangelical Churches of the world, whose praise and sympathy they should court. The Rev. John Macnaughtan, who was then in the plenitude of his rhetorical powers, seconded the amendment, maintaining that the only alternative to religious equality, which they supported, was the Endowment of the Church of Rome. As long as wood grows and water runs, and the Pope remains in his place, the man of sin not destroyed, and riches in the British Exchequer, Rome will find some way to encroach; but he would take away that which is the ostensible ground of grievance they have in the Irish Established Church.

The debate continued for six or seven sederunts, and was kept up with great heat, and in the midst of great heat. I intended to give some note of the various speakers, but find space would not permit. I may say, however, that the Rev. John Rogers, Mr. S. M. Greer, who had contested Derry in the Liberal interest; Rev. Richard Smyth (afterwards Prof. Smyth, M.P.), Rev. Prof. Porter, Rev. Hugh Hanna, Rev. Henry Henderson, Mr. J. P. Corry, M.P., supported Dr. Dill's resolution; and Rev. L. E. Berkeley, Rev. A. Robinson, Broughshane; Rev. Professor Wallace, Rev. T. Y. Killen, Mr. John Eagleson (elder), Mr. (afterwards Sir) Thomas M'Clure, Dr. M'Cosh, Rev. J. B. Rentoul spoke in favour of the amendment.

Rev. John Macnaughtan closed the debate. The roll was then called, with the result that 180 voted for Dr. Kirkpatrick's amendment, and 210 against, and Dr. Dill's resolutions were afterwards carried by the same vote and the same majority — 30. The ministerial vote was 182 for Dr. Dill's resolution, and 134 for Dr. Kirkpatrick's amendment — clerical majority, 38. The vote of the elders was 46 for the amendment and 28 against — a majority for the amendment of 18. This reduced the majority of the entire Assembly to 30, as stated.

I have read over the reports of the speeches delivered on the occasion. They were on the whole able and brilliant speeches, some of them among the finest ever delivered in the Assembly. But time has worked such changes in me or in the perspective that the perusal of them now does riot fire the blood of rouse the feelings as they did when first delivered or first read. One reads them now as history, not as polemic, and wonders how people were stirred so much by them. The whole question of the relation of the Church to the State, and especially of the relation of the Presbyterian Church, were all discussed with great fulness, and with what was regarded as great freshness and force.

The whole question of the establishment of truth and the duty of the State to establish it, and along with it the wickedness of endowing error; while both sides were at one in regard to the establishment and endowment of truth, the line of cleavage was as to the endowment of error, which would be involved in the levelling up policy of Mr. Disraeli and the Conservatives of the time. It was contended on the part of the majority that it would be time enough to discuss the latter point when it was reached, but that in the meantime the Assembly should only concern themselves with the Regium Donum, that had only been threatened, and not wrested from them. But perhaps the most remarkable faults about the speeches were the prophecies of both sides which have not been fulfilled. The veil that then hung over the future has been removed. On the one hand it has been proved that the Disestablishment and Disendowment have not brought the ruin to the Church or to religion that its opponents anticipated, and that the liberality of the people, while it has not been by any means ideal, has not failed to the extent anticipated; but that on the contrary, both the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church are stronger in all that makes for life and spirit in the Church and in the country. On the other hand, the prophecies and hopes of the supporters of that policy, that the Disestablishment of the Church would end the Roman Catholic and Nationalist grievances, and prepare the way for a new era of peace and unity, have been completely falsified; and it has been established that after these and other grievances, old and new, real or fancied, have been removed, the hostility to the British, and to British rule is tenfold greater, if possible, than it was then, and a more real danger to the country and to the Empire.

There was a very noisy and excited scene after the division, some clamouring for a new amendment, and others content with things as they were. In the end, however, the majority had their will, and many of the resolutions were passed amid, hilarious delight on the one side and a sense of depression and disappointment on the other.

But the vote did not save the Irish Church or carry the Presbyterians into the Establishment camp. The Liberals won in Belfast, Armagh, Derry, and Carrickfergus, and for the first time broke the Ulster Conservative phalanx; and the election over the country followed, giving Mr. Gladstone the majority that enabled him to introduce and carry the Church Bill, the Ballot, and the Irish Land Bill of 1870, which for the first time legalised Ulster tenant right, and opened the way for further land reform, which, however, while it greatly benefited the Ulster and Irish farmers, has not completely satisfied the Irish Nationalist horse-leach, which is ever crying for more.

To be continued...

From The Witness, 1st September 1916.

The "Man in the Street" was the pen name of Alexander McMonagle editor and manager of The Witness and Ulster Echo.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 10



For the time I am referring to the late 'sixties and early 'seventies, the division in the ranks of the Conservatives diverted attention from the divisions between Protestants and Catholics as a rule, though it cannot be said that the old party spirit had died out. Whatever may have been its condition before the 'sixties, it became very strong afterwards. The riots of 1865 raised it to fever heat, and it was not subdued for many years. And I cannot say that it is dead at the present day, though the differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants rest now largely on the new issues raised by Home Rule, which was not in the ascendant then. It was not till after the Disestablishment of the Church that Home Rule appeared on the horizon, a horizon that it darkened since, and continues to darken. It was the Irish Church and Irish land that formed the dividing line of parties in the 'sixties and early 'seventies. Repeal had died, killed in part by the Roman Catholics and the Young Irelanders, and Fenianism had taken its place. But Fenianism was a secret, and not an open, movement, and so far as it suggested, a serious danger had been nipped in the bud.

Home Rule, whatever we may say of its latest developments, was originated by Butt and other Protestants, chiefly professors connected with Trinity College, who started it, it was said, out of revenge on the Government for the passing of the Irish Church Act. I myself saw the original document, signed by fourteen or fifteen names, the majority of whom were Protestants. One, I remember, was Professor Haughton, and another Professor Galbraith, both of Trinity College; and the latter acted as secretary of what was called the Home Government Association. I knew him well, and met him often in the early 'seventies, and especially during the great election campaign of Mr. Parnell. I attended almost all the meetings in his favour, but I never once heard Mr. Parnell speak. The professor usually apologised for him by saying that he was addressing a meeting in another part of the county; but I do not think any other reporter heard him any more than myself.

I remember one meeting at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains at which Professor Galbraith made the usual announcement that Mr. Parnell was then addressing a meeting in a distant part of the county. On reaching the main road a lady and gentleman passed in a trap. I did not know either of the occupants, but I was told that they were Mr. and Miss Parnell. It was many years afterwards before I either saw or heard him. I could not say, therefore, how much he had changed in the meantime; but I can say he must have changed much in his readiness to be seen and heard in public, to judge from his subsequent history. Two reasons were given for this modesty in facing the electors. One was that he was not a good speaker or hesitated to face the public, and the other was that some of his

Two reasons were given for this modesty in facing the electors. One was that he was not a good speaker or hesitated to face the public, and the other was that some of his friends were afraid that he might use wild and whirling words, and do his candidature harm. I am inclined to think it was the former, for it is admitted that Mr. Parnell's first appearance in the House did not promise that the House had discovered an Irish orator. But he may have thought, as Mr. Disraeli said after his first speech, which was not much appreciated, that the time would come when they would hear him. At any rate, it did.

But here let me say that I do not believe for one moment that any, or at least many, of the men who founded the Home Government Association ever entertained the idea of Home Rule on the lines in which it developed. I question if they had more advanced ideas than what was expressed by the term local government or mild Devolution, and, if I remember aright, only few of those whose names were in the original list made themselves conspicuous in the movement after its later developments. We must also remember that Butt himself was cast aside and repudiated, as he did not seem to work for the advanced ideas of the movement as they developed under Mr. Parnell. I still think it was an unfortunate move on the part of the gentlemen, who originated the movement; but at the same time it is only fair to them to say that they were not of the new revolutionary and irreconcilable type of the later movement. But they had sown the seed, and the extremists reaped the harvest in one form and the Government in another.

But I am wandering from my muttons. At the time of which I am writing, and no less in the city of which I am "reminiscing," the members of the then Established Church were, in the main, Conservatives, while the Presbyterians were divided between the two parties, the majority of the ministers, as I previously said, having been Liberals, and the majority of the laity Conservatives. But a large number of the Presbyterian laity were Liberal, but there was more among the merchants and business men than among the working men, so many of whom were allied to the Orange Order. I may say, however, that during the great election I came in contact with several working men who were warm supporters of Mr. M'Clure, and they seemed to be a superior class of working men, too. The Roman Catholics, of course, supported the Liberals, as was natural, having regard to the questions that divided the two parties, and that the Disestablishment of the Church and the question of tenant-right were both questions in which they were specially interested. It was mainly to remove a grievance of which Roman Catholics complained that Mr. Gladstone took up the question of the Irish Church, though it must be admitted the Presbyterian Liberals were as eager and earnest on the subject as the Roman Catholics.

Indeed, it was this fact that led to the repeated taunts of the Conservatives that the Presbyterian Liberals were in alliance with the Roman Catholics. It was in connection with the taunt that the Rev. John Macnaughtan, one of the most eloquent and enthusiastic Liberals of the day — one so wedded to the voluntary principle that he never accepted the Regium Donum — made a memorable reply. After describing the common grievances of Presbyterians and Roman Catholics in relation to the Church, he said that if ever the time came when it would be a question of Romanism versus Protestantism in this country, his back would be found to the Cathedral wall. I can safely say, however, that many of those who were the staunchest supporters of Liberalism and strongest opponents of Establishment at that time became the staunchest Unionists of the Home Rule time, and were always in the van in defence of the Union and all that it represented. There is one thing further I may say in this connection, and that is that the majority of the Presbyterian Liberals at the time believed that with the removal of the Irish Church, which had been described as a badge of conquest, with substantial reform in land, we have ended the Irish trouble, and promoted union and prosperity and content. It is an unfortunate truth, however, that instead of providing that desirable result, these concessions only whetted the appetite for more, until the present hour, when it seems as if nothing would satisfy the Nationalists but the Parnellite s policy of breaking the last link between Ireland and the sister kingdom and eliminating everything that would represent England in government, policy, or faith. I think, however, it is due to the memory of the Liberals of those days to say that their hopes and aims were great, and that if their faith has not been justified by Nationalists' work since, they are not the only section of well-designing and well-intended people who have had their hopes blighted and their dreams of well-being and well-doing disappointed. I may say that there is no more in common, either in spirit or feeling, between the Liberals of the dawn of the last half century and those who are called Protestant Liberals in this day than there is between Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Ramsey MacDonald, who both call themselves Liberals, or between Mr. Joe Devlin and Mr. Tim Healy, who both call themselves Nationalists.

I have wandered far from what I wished to refer to when I sat down, to write. That was in relation to the party feeling of the time as represented by party expressions in the Police Court, which was a feature of the first and second decades of the last half century. The consignment of the Pope and King William to a fiery future in the 'sixties and 'seventies was very common. The expression of that feeling was frequently displayed in chalk in various parts of the city, and not a week passed, sometimes scarcely a day, without the police having some one up at the Court for this offence. "Party expressions" was not the language of the charge, but the use of language calculated to lead to a breach of the peace; but "Party Expressions" became the favourite phrase, and the usual headings in the newspapers. The magistrates at first inflicted small fines of ten or twenty shillings, but it seemed to have had no effect, and forty shillings was then standardised as the fine, and became well recognised, so that the friends of the prisoners usually went to Court armed with the fine and the usual costs.

No doubt it was generally when under the influence of drink that these offensive expressions were used. A story was current at the time that one prisoner who had been arrested for cursing the Pope, asked the policeman if the fine of forty shillings was the highest likely to be inflicted for the offence – that the number of curses would not add to the punishment — and so I presume he was satisfied with the answer, and thinking he would have value for his money, kept on repeating the curse all the way to the Police Office. For many years this class of offence was frequent. In the olden time few Police Court reports were complete without the headline, "Party Expressions." Nowadays, and for many years, past, it is very seldom one sees it or hears of it now. It is a welcome and satisfactory change whatever has brought it about. It probably arose from an improvement in education as well as in feeling, or from a lessening of drinking among the classes that might be expected to indulge in such expressions. I should hope that a better feeling had much to do with it, a lessening of individual antagonism arising out of religious differences. I honestly believe that spirit was growing, and would continue to grow, if politicians would keep in the background the questions that are calculated to promote and intensify these feelings. But the aggressive manner in which the Home Rule question, with religion at its root, has been forced on the attention of the people, is not calculated to soften asperities or soothe prejudices. The satisfactory thing, however, is that this question is now discussed on a larger plan and looked at from a broader point of view, in the mass rather than the individual. I am quite aware that the Nationalists, whose action has done the most to keep this feeling of hostility alive, claim that they are the people who want religious differences suppressed, and pre-eminently want the people to be all one. But the way in which they want them all to be one, the Protestants and Unionists to be one with them, is to be one not alongside the Nationalists, but under them. I give full credit to those Nationalists, not excluding Mr. Devlin, who were willing to consent to the six Ulster counties being excluded for at least a recognition of some rights for the Protestants of Belfast and Ulster; but it has been painfully brought home to us that that is not the intention of the majority, either of the Nationalist extremists or the hierarchy of Ireland, who have declared against it. At any rate, the change to which I have referred is a welcome and satisfactory one, so far at least as Belfast is concerned.

To be continued...

From The Witness, 25th August 1916.

The "Man in the Street" was the pen name of Alexander McMonagle editor and manager of The Witness and Ulster Echo.