Thursday, 16 April 2015

Historical Notice of the City of Dublin (pt3)

Gerald, 9th Earl of Kildare
In giving historical sketches of Dublin it may not be irrelevant to notice that branch of the Geraldine family so much connected with the City as being always their neighbours, often their champions, and very frequently their viceroys. The earls of Kildare commanding by their castles of Maynooth, Leixlip, Kilkea, &c. the approaches to the valley of the Liffey, and having a fixed residence at Thomas's Court adjoining the town, always occupied an important position in the good opinion and affections of the citizens. And indeed the peculiar characteristics of the family, which were well defined as the well known lines of a Fitzgerald's mind, seemed best suited to rivet popular affection, and secure for them 'golden opinions.' In the government of their retainers, mild – to their enemies stern – easily displeased – sooner appeased – warm friends and bitter foes – liberal, brave, pious, merciful – the anecdote recorded of Gerald, the eighth Earl, might be told of any other of the race. In a rage with one of his followers, an English horseman seeing the chafed earl in his fearful mood, offered Master Boice, a gentleman of his household, an Irish Hobby (Poney) on condition that he would go up to his lord and pluck a hair out of his black heard. Boice, who knew his master, and felt how far he might venture on a Geraldine's nature, even while boiling in the heat of his choler, approached his lord and said, "here, my master, is one who has promised me a choice horse, if I snip one hair out of your honor's chin." "One hair," quoth the earl – "I agree thereto, but mark me Boice, thou malapert varlet, if thou pluckest more than one, I promise thee to bring my fist from thine ear." But it is (pursuant to our promise) with Gerald, the ninth earl, and his son Thomas, that at present we have to do, and we present them as subjects of historical entertainment to our readers, because not only connected in a very interesting manner with the City of Dublin, but also with a very stirring period of Ireland's history. The civil wars of England being brought to a close by the accession of the House of Tudor, and the politic Henry the Seventh having seen the great value of Ireland, a system of government was commenced in his reign, and adhered to during the long reign of Henry the Eighth, of keeping up an English interest in Ireland, and managing the great Irish lords, whether Milesian or Anglo Irish, by creating and fostering jealousies amongst them, and alternately elevating or depriving the rival interests. In this way was Gerald, earl of Kildare, at one time favored, at another suspected; now lord deputy, now accused of treason; one while pursuing, as Chief Governor of the land, the rebel Irish; storming the strong-holds of the king's enemies in Munster and in Ulster, sending as the most acceptable of presents the grim head of Shane O'Toole, from the glen of Imale, to John Rockford, mayor of Dublin, and returning from all his hostings, as the historian of his day has it, "loaden with hostages, prey and glory" – again summoned to London to answer for his usurpations, and his correspondence with the enemies of the State, and finding Cardinal Wolsey his bitter as well as his able enemy. Wolsey, in order to conduct the English interest, had sent over a confidential person to Ireland, Dr. John Allen, who had been very active in England in the suppression of the monasteries – this clever and subtle man, appointed at the same time lord chancellor and archbishop of Dublin, acted as a counterpoise to the Geraldines, and reported all their conduct to his employer; therefore on the earl of Kildare's appearance before the Council Board of England, Wolsey, with that swelling hauteur that marked the purpled Churchman, and which gave occasion to the following couplet, not more remarkable for its alliteration than its bitterness –

  "Begot by butchers, but by bishops bred,
  "How high his honour holds his haughty head" –

accused the earl before the king in a taunting style that wounded the fierce, nobleman more than the matter of the allegation: conniving at the rebellious practises of the "lewd earl of Desmond, his kinsman," of acting "more as king of Kildare than the earl, reigning more than ruling in the land." To this the Geraldine most characteristically replies, "What is Kildare to blame for Desmond more than my good brother Ossory (Butler,) who, notwithstanding his high promises, having also the king's power, is yet content to bring him in at leisure? – cannot the earl of Desmond shift, but I must be of his council – cannot lie hide himself except I wink – if he be close, am I his mate – if he be befriended, am I a traitor? This is a doughty kind of accusation which they urge against me, wherein they are gravelled and moved at my first denial. You would not see him, say they. Who made them so familiar with mine eyesight – or where was the earl within my view – or who stood by, when I let him slip – or where are the tokens of my wilful hoodwink? But you sent him word to beware of you – who was the messenger – where are the letters – convince my negatives – see how loose the idle gear hangeth together – Desmond is not taken – well – you are in fault – why – because you are – who proveth it – nobody – what conjectures – so it seemeth – to whom – to your enemies – who told it them – they will swear it – what other ground – none." After for some time continuing in this strain to justify himself from this accusation, and others of the same nature, he in defending himself against the taunt of being king of Kildare, addresses himself to Wolsey and says, "I marvel greatly my Lord, that one of your Grace's wisdom should appropriate so sacred a name to so wicked a thing – but howsoever it be, my Lord, I would you and I had changed kingdoms but for one month, and I would trust to gather up more crumbs in that space than twice the revenues of my poor earldom. But you are well and warm, and so hold you, and upbraid not me with such an odious term. I slumber in a hard cabin when you sleep in a soft bed of down – I serve under the king's cope of heaven, when you are served under a canopy – I drink water out of my steel skull cap, when you drink wine out of golden cups – my horse is trained to the field when your jennet is taught to amble. When you are graced and my-lorded, and crouched, and kneeled unto, then I find small grace with our Irish Borderers, except I cut them off by the knees."

It may well be supposed how the English arch-prelate winced under this indignant reply of the Hibernian; accordingly lie adjourned the cause under pretence of waiting for further evidence, and had the earl remanded to the tower, from whence he was restored through interest made for him by the English nobility, but was again recommitted, and if Speed tells truth, a circumstance occurred, during his second detention in the tower, which, as giving another tint to the picture of a Geraldine, is worth the reader's perusal. The cardinal having got at length sure evidence, as he said, that Kildare had plotted with O'Neil and O'Connor, sent a mandate for his immediate execution. At the instant of the arrival of the fatal messenger, Fitzgerald was playing at push-groat with the lieutenant of the tower, who on reading the paper changed countenance, and shewed signs of great grief, whereupon Kildare swore by St. Bridget that there was some "mad game in that villian scroll. But come Master lieutenant, fall what will, this throw is for a huddle," and accordingly throwing he gained his groats. The game over, with great composure he listened to the contents of the letter, and had little difficulty in persuading his keeper to go to the king, and know from him personally whether he was to die; accordingly the officer went and had an interview with Henry, who, surprised at the mandate, which was surreptitiously obtained from him, and offended at the malice of the cardinal, and in order to control (as he said) the priest's sauciness, gave the lieutenant his signet for a countermand of execution, at which the cardinal stormed; but soon after his day of disgrace came, and Kildare restored to royal favour, returned to Ireland to assume the sword as lord deputy, and to stand at the head of the party opposed to the English interest there. The changeful story of this nobleman is not yet told – clever, dauntless, and victorious, he shone brighter when breaking forth from the cloud of adversity than when basking in unobstructed beams of good fortune. Hating the Butlers, more perhaps for enjoying the favor of Wolsey, than even from hereditary motives, he was not content with carrying his arms against the obstinate enemies of his king, the O'Neils and O'Connors; but with the royal forces he invaded Kilkenny, and destroyed all belonging to the Earl of Ossory and his party. Moreover, instead of devoting himself to restoring peace and prosperity to the distracted island, he made himself a mere partizan in the quarrels of the Milesian chieftains; and in. order to support his son-in-law, the Tanist of Ely, O'Carrol, against the son of the deceased chieftain of that district, who, being of age, and a competent man, had asserted his right, to succeed his father, he besieged the castle of Birr, held by the young O'Carrol, where he received a shot from a falcon in the head, that caused him to raise the siege, and so deranged his intellect, that hot and fiery as he was before, he now became more unruly, and committed errors and extravagancies that nearly brought about the destruction of his noble family.

On the occasion of his wound; there is an anecdote recorded of him that does not redound much to the credit of his good nature. When recovering a little from the stun of the bullet, he sighed deeply, which when one of his followers observed, he, in order to raise his lord's spirits, said – "Good, my lord, be not discouraged; for I myself have been shot three times, and yet have recovered – to which the angry lord replied – "Would to God thou hadst, received also the fourth shot in my stead!"

The extravagant use which Kildare made subsequently of his power as deputy, raised a host of enemies against him which he could not resist. The Earl of Ossory, Sir William Sheffington, and Allen, Archbishop of Dublin, formed a cabal to put an end to his administration; and John Allen, Master of the Rolls, a creature of the Archbishop, was sent over the water to complain to the king of how matters were managed in Ireland. To the ear of an English monarch, the report which this official gave of the decay of Ireland, must have been in no small degree vexatious. He acquainted his majesty, that "neither English order, tongue, or habit, nor the king's laws, were used above twenty miles in compass; that the decay was occasioned by the takers of coyne and livery,1 without order after mens' own sensual appetites, and taking cuddies garty, and caan for felonies, and murder, alterages, saults, slaunciaghs, &c. &c. and that they want English inhabitants, who formerly had arms and servants to defend the country; but of late the English proprietors hath taken Irish tenants, that can live without bread or good victuals, and some for lucre, [it seems that the Irish landlord has been always pretty nearly of the same character,] to have more rent, and some for impositions and vassalages, which the English cannot bear – have expelled the English, and made the country all Irish, without order, society, or hospitality. Formerly, English gentlemen kept a retinue of English yeomen, according to the custom of England, to the great security of the country; but now they keep horsemen, or kernes, who live by oppressing the people. The great jurisdiction of the nobility is another cause of destroying the king's subjects, and revenue, and the black rents which the Irish exact, enriches them, and impoverishes the English."

Thomas, 10th Earl of Kildare
It is not to be wondered at, that upon such a report being made, the Lord Deputy should be summoned to London, to account for his administration. This mandate he most unwillingly, and after much evasion, obeyed; and being permitted to name his successor, on an undertaking of being accountable for his conduct, he had the hardihood to nominate his eldest son Thomas, a young man of one-and-twenty, who possessed all the qualities peculiar to his house, together with an excessive rashness and sensitiveness of character that made him altogether unsuitable to govern Ireland. Perhaps, says the historian, this promising young Geraldine would have exceeded his ancestors, if by laying the too great burthen on his weak shoulders, they had not broken his back in the beginning. In our next sketch we shall give an account of the government, rebellion, and destruction of this tenth Earl of Kildare, who, as we have before reported, went by the name of Silken Thomas.

[1] Hereafter we shall give a particular explanation of these terms, which so frequently occur in Irish history. For the present let it be understood to mean all the licence of the free quartering of military men upon a wretched peasantry.

Source: The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Jul. 21, 1832)

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Historical Notice of the City of Dublin (pt 2)

We now take up the history of Dublin from the period of the Anglo-Norman conquest; and in thus approaching nearer to our own times, we crave the indulgence of the reader, and hope that we will be enabled to state truths without indicating any bias.

No king, perhaps, ever gained so important a possession as Ireland, at so little personal expense, as did Henry the Second of England. While with all his chivalry, and the flower of his dominions, he was vainly endeavouring to preserve France as part and parcel of the British empire, a few of his subjects on the marches of Wales had won for him apparently against his consent, an island without which the empire must have been incomplete, even though France had been retained. The Plantagenet, though he affected to be angry until Strongbow and the extraordinary handful of men who had secured Dublin and the east of Ireland for him, was not slow in proceeding to take possession in person of the crown that was thus won. On landing at Waterford, he immediately went on to Dublin, attended by Strongbow, and having in his train a gallant body of the Anglo-Norman nobility, and a small but well appointed army. When he reached the metropolis, he summoned the Irish kings to meet him, which was obeyed by the kings of Meath, Brefney, (Longford,) Uriel, (Louth,) and many others. But O'Connor, the Irish monarch, would not trust himself on the eastern side of the Shannon, and made his submission to Hugh de Lacy, who was commissioned to receive it, acknowledging Henry as his liege lord. Dublin, at the period of the Plantagenet's arrival, did not contain a house fit to receive a King, or capable of exhibiting those festive hospitalities which, as a King, he was determined to display to his new subjects. Therefore, outside the walls, in what was then called Hoggin, but now College Green, a large temporary building was erected, composed of wattles plastered with clay. In this pavillion, run up after Irish fashion, Henry kept his Christmas. Within these rude walls, hung with the draperies of Flanders, and with the gorgeous plate and household decorations of France and Italy, he dazzled, while he feasted the Irish chieftains, and confirmed them in the opinion of his wealth and power. Having established courts of justice, granted English laws, which were accepted, and held a Parliament, according to the existing Anglo-Norman constitution, and after staying a few months, he hurried back to the peculiar field of his ambition -- Normandy; leaving Dublin, not under the government of Strongbow, for of him he was ever jealous, but of Hugh de Lacy, Robert Fitzstephen and Maurice Fitzgerald, who, for their talents, rank and possessions, amongst the Anglo-Norman conquerors of Ireland, he supposed would prove a counterpoise to the power of Strongbow. Henry, though he accepted the conquest of Ireland because it cost him little, and though he had cunning enough to see that it was worth something, yet actuated by his mean parsomony, political views, and perhaps a low estimate of the real value of our country, determined that the private individuals at whose risk it was obtained, should also be at the expense of preserving what was already mastered, and of subduing the rest. So, after bringing over a colony from Bristol to settle in Dublin, and occupy the place of the evicted Ostmen, he distributed immense territories to the grandees who had first invaded, and gained a footing on our isle. To Strongbow he gave all Leinster; to De Lacy, Meath; to De Courcy, Ulster; and to Robert Fitz Stephen and Miles de Cogan, Cork. Thus he laid the foundation of that great Anglo-Norman aristocracy, or rather oligarchy, who ever at war with the Irish or the crown, were the chief cause of the unquiet state of Ireland for five hundred years.

It is not within our scope to enter into detail on the annals of Dublin, because, in fact, there is not a great deal that is really historically interesting. The colony of Bristollians settled under Henry's encouragement and charter, seemed to have amalgamated readily with the Irish and Ostman remnant that remained in the city after the seizure of it by Miles de Cogan. The walls being strengthened, and the Castle of Dublin commenced in 1205, by Meyler Fitz Henry, and completed in 1220 by Henry de Londres, the Archbishop, and rendered a respectable fortress, the citizens of Dublin were found to be of great use in maintaining the English power in Ireland. They went forth from the Lords lieutenants and Lords deputies, in carrying the war beyond the pale, and in breaking the hostile confederacies of the Anglo-Irish or Milesian chieftains; and the fame of their martial prowess went before them beyond the Shannon, and as far as the Giant's Causeway. On these occasions the martial force of Dublin consisted of twenty companies, drawn from the Corporations, and headed by their Masters as Captains, and bearing before them their black standard, which, as Stanihurst says, was "ragged and jagged, and almost by the rough tract of time, worn to the bare stumps." This array was always beheld by their enemies with particular respect and dread, and it was not alone the Byrnes or the O'Tooles that were kept by them in check, but the farthest north had reason to feel their power.

The particular day for mustering the martial array of Dublin was Easter Monday, which is still called Black Monday, for the following reason: the Bristollians, to whom Henry the Second had granted the city, and who now in fact composed the majority of the citizens, had introduced a sport which appears to have been lost in England, but is to this day a favorite game with the Irish -- the hurling of balls on an extensive green. In the year 1209, a party of the citizens having challenged another party to a hurling match on Easter Monday, they fixed on an open space, now Cullenswood, which then stretched from within two miles of the Castle of Dublin to the Wicklow mountains. Here, while unarmed, and deeply engaged in this beautiful and interesting game, they were set upon by the Byrnes and the O'Tooles, and a dreaded slaughter ensued.1

It was chiefly owing to the defensive precautions of the Dublin citizens, and to their reputation for discipline and valour, that Edward Bruce failed in his attempt at making Ireland an appendage to the Scottish crown. He had engaged in his alliance, all Ireland north of Dublin, and had marched (A.D. 1316) as far as Castlenock, within four miles of the city. But the townsmen having set fire to the suburbs, demolished Thomas-street, and even in the ardour of defence having pulled down part of a monastery of Dominican friars to strenghten the fortifications. Bruce saw that he had no chance, and under the mixed discouragement of his failure and want of provisions, he was forced to retreat to Ulster, where he was finally defeated. Thus this brief but dangerous attempt of the Scotch on Ireland was frustrated: and the good citizens of Dublin, in suing out their pardon from the king for demolishing part of their town, and making submission to the Church for delapidating a holy house, doubtless mixed no little pride with their penance, as having made sacrifices in their country's cause.

But this was not the only occasion on which the Dublinians committed acts which compromised them with both Crown and Church. They unfortunately engaged in the long feud that was carried on in the fifteenth century, between the earls of Kildare and Ormond, taking part with the Geraldine against the Butler. On a certain occasion they tore the earl of Ormonde from the sanctuary at Mary's Abbey, and breaking open the door, they not only did violence to him, but to the Abbot, carrying him forth from his own altar as they would a corpse. For this the mayor and sheriffs had to do public penance, walking barefoot through the streets of the city, from Patrick's church to Christ's church, and so on to Mary's Abbey. But this was not all. In a quarrel which took place between Ormonde and Kildare in st. Patrick's church, the citizens, who thought their favorite Geraldine in danger, actually discharged a flight of arrows in the sanctuary, at Ormonde's retinue, some of which having stuck in the sacred images that were kept in the rood loft, complaint was made to the Pope, and a legate a latere was sent to make inquisition into the matter. The citizens could only be absolved by their undertaking that their mayor should ever afterwards, in detestation of the enormity, walk barefooted through the city in open procession, on Corpus Christi day. Indeed in these primitive times the ecclesiastical discipline under which good people were kept, was by no means light; and perhaps the world is not much better since the Church's discipline has been relaxed. What, for instance, would the worthy people of Dublin in the nineteenth century say, if subjected to the penalties for sinning to which their forefathers of the thirteenth century were bound? The Black Book of Christ's church records the following ordinance:-- "If any citizen committed a public sin, he should for the said offence commute for a sum of money; if he continued in his sin, and that the same was enormous and public, that then ('fustigetur') he should be cudgelled about the church; that for a third offence he should be cudgelled before the processions made to St. Patrick's or Christ's church; and if after his penance he should persist in his sin, the Official of the Archbishop should give notice of it to the mayor, and bailiffs, who should either turn him out of the city, or cudgel him through it."

But Dublin fell into a worse scrape than any that have been mentioned. In the year 1486, the citizens, encouraged by the influence and example of the earl of Kildare and the Archbishop, received Lambert Simnel, and actually crowned him king of England and Ireland, in Christ's church; and to make the solemnity more imposing, they carried the young imposter on the shoulders of a monstrous man, one Darcy, of Platten, in the county of Meath; and being in want of a crown, they borrowed one for the occasion from the head of the image of the blessed Virgin that stood in the church dedicated to her service at Dame's-gate.2 But the townsmen soon finding out their error, and feeling that they had to do with a prince of the house of Tudor, who was both resolute and wise, (Henry the Seventh) tendered their humble apology and submission in the following words:-- "We were daunted to see not only your chief governor, whom your highness made ruler over us, to bend the knee to this idol, but also our father of Dublin, and most of the clergy of the nation, except his Grace the Archbishop of Armagh. We therefore humbly crave your highness's clemency towards your poor subjects of Dublin." The prayer of this petition his majesty was pleased to accede to, though the citizens were not entitled to pardon on the plea of benefit of clergy, for many who affixed their marks to the instrument could not write.3

But we must conclude for this number, promising our readers a treat when we come to give the history of Silken Thomas, -- Thomas Fitzgerald, lord deputy of Ireland, -- who was so called from the splendour of his military trappings and his gallant and noble bearing. His life and fate are highly interesting, and will adorn a page of our little Journal. In the mean time, hoping that our readers will not complain that we are either dry or tedious, we bid them good-bye -- for a week.

[1] It may interest the reader to peruse the quaint description that Stanihurst gives of this affair:-- "The citizens, having ever great affiance in the multitude of the people, and so consequently being somewhat retchless (reckless) in heeding the mountain enemie, that lurched rude, their noses, were wont to roam and royle in clusters, sometimes three and four myles from towne. The Irish enemy espying that the citizens were accustomed to fetch such odd vagaries on holydays, and having an inkling withal by the means of some claterfert (traitor) or other that a company of them would range abroad, on Monday in the easter week, towards the woode of Cullen, they lay in a state very well appointed, and layde in sundry places for their coming. The citizens rather minding the pleasure they should presently enjoy than forecasting the hurt that might ensue, flockt unarmed from the citie to the woode. Where, being intercepted by their lying in ambush, they were to the number of five hundred miserably slayne. The citizens, deeming that unluckie tyme to be a cross or dismall day, gave it the appellation of Black Monday. The citie, being soon after peopled by a fresh supply of Bristollians, to dare the Irish enemie, agreed to bancket yearly in that place. For the mayor and the sheriffes, with the citizens, repayre to the Woode of Cullen, in which place the mayor bestoweth a costly dinner within a moate or roundell, and both the sheriffs within another, where they are so well guarded by the youth of the citie, as the mountain enemie dareth not attempt to snatch as much as a pastye crust from thence."

[2] This gate was so called from the church of St. Mary les Dame that adjoined it.

[3] Our readers are aware that benefit of clergy was extended to those only who could read and write.

Text: The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Jul. 7, 1832)

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Historical Notice of the City of Dublin

The period of the foundation of our City is involved in as much obscurity as the etymology of its name. It may easily be supposed that men would congregate at such a convenient spot for fishing and commerce as the ridge of land that rose above the last place where the Liffey was fordable, before it joined the sea; and therefore it is very probable that such a position, presenting means of safety and support, of offence and defence, was very early seized on. The geographer Ptolemy places (A.D. 140,) a town exactly in the parallel of Dublin, and calls it "Civitas Eblana." Our city therefore has a just claim to an antiquity of seventeen centuries. But we are inclined to suppose that though the Greek cosmo-grapher had good reason to lay down such a place as "Civitas Eblana," yet it is to the Vikingar — pirates, or "Sea-Kings," of Scandinavia — that the settlement of Dublin, as a place of commerce, and as a fortified town, may be attributed.

These bold intelligent Ostmen, (as the Scandinavians were called by the Irish, because they came from a comparatively Eastern country,) saw that Dublin harbour was one of the best, and the river Liffey one of the most commodious, and the valley of Dublin one of the most fertile, in the island. They therefore selected this central position, and landed their troops, where, according to custom, they erected a fortified Rath; and on that ridge that hangs over the lowest ford of the Liffey, on the exact spot where the Cathedral of Christ's Church now stands, they excavated large vaults or crypts, in one of which St. Patrick, the apostle of Ireland, is said to have celebrated the sacred offices of his religion.1 Here they deposited the produce of their commerce and their plunder, and used to retreat to them on occasion of any sudden invasion of their enemies.

But very probably, it is to the sea-king, Avellanus, that we owe the establishment of our city as a place of military and commercial importance. He, with his brethren, Siterick and Yvorus, having heard from their roving countrymen of the fertility and capabilities of the green western isle, landed a fresh swarm from the Baltic, and proceeded to win, by their swords or their policy, a settlement in Ireland. Yvorus, who was doubtless the more cautious of the three, and had a good military eye, pitched on Limerick; Siterick, struck with the great commercial advantages that the junction of the Nore, the Suir, and the Barrow, presented, sailed up that fine estuary, and landed at Waterford; but Avellanus, with the eye of a king, saw at once that neither the waters of the Shannon or the Suir would answer his purpose; and so he selected that spot where the Awn-Liffey ceased to be navigable, and on the rising ground that rose from its southern bank, he planted himself, convinced that if ever Ireland was to come under the sway of one monarch, it would become the seat of the metropolis of the island. Stanihurst, on the authority of Giraldus Cambrensis, asserts that the city owes its name to this Avellanus, and with the license of an etymologist deduces it in this way:—
But this surely cannot be the derivation: for Ptolemy, upwards of six hundred years before, called it Eblana Civitas. Probably the author of the life of St. Kevin gives the best derivation. Speaking about St. Garban, he says, "he lived near Ath Cliath, which is also called by the Irish, Dubh Lein, signifying the dark bath." Now any one who observes the Liffey may see good reason why the ford over this unusually dark flowing stream might be called the black bathing place.2

Stanihurst, with his usual quaintness, in commenting on the wise choice of Avellanus, says, "The Dane did well — for our city is of all sides pleasant, comfortable, and wholesome: if you would traverse hills, they are not far off; if champaign ground, it lieth of all parts; if you be delighted with water, the famous river called the Liffey, named of Ptolemy Lybinum, runneth fast by; if you will take a view of the sea, it is at hand."

The Ostmen, then, may be considered as the founders and colonizers of Dublin, as indeed they were of the most important towns in Ireland, such as Cork, Waterford, Limerick, &c. &c. for the same Stanihurst observes, that "until the arrival of the Danes, such means of strength the Irish had not, for until these days they knew no defence but woods, bogs, and strokes." The colonization of the Danes in Dublin and other maritime places had no doubt a great effect on the character of the Irish. Their commerce with the Ostmen in peace made them more acquainted with the wants of civilized life, and their contests in war made them more expert in the art of attack and defence. But nothing could effect a continued unity of purpose among the Irish chieftains. The Danish king, acting under the same wily policy as the English used long afterwards in India, at one time mediated between the contending chiefs, and at another time sided with the weakest, occasionally protected a usurper, or set himself up as the avenger of blood. Thus did he establish his influence, and strengthen his kingdom; and long after the Danish power was broken in the interior of the island, the Ostmen still remained firm in Dublin. In vain did the Airdrigh (Monarch) call together the Righbegs (petty kings) to unite in expelling the stranger from their shores. The Dubh Gael and the Fin Gael,3 (for so in these days were the Norwegians distinguished from the Dane) still kept possession of their strong hold, Dublin, and the surrounding territory; and not even the just vengeance of O'Melaghlin, king of Meath, nor the Munster confederacy, cemented by the talents and the military prowess of Brian Boro, could effect the purpose. It was reserved for those mailed warriors, the Normans, who had acquired by their settlement in France, and their achievements in Italy, all the arts of civilized warfare, and the discipline connected with chivalrous training, without losing any of their Scandinavian hardihood, to upset the Ostman power in Dublin.

During the period immediately preceding the Anglo-Norman conquest, the Danes or Ostmen of Cork, Limerick, and Waterford, more especially of Dublin, living-under a polity, civil, military and ecclesiastical, quite distinct from the Milesian kingdoms into which Ireland was divided, kept up an active and close correspondence with their kindred settlements in the Isle of Man, the Orkneys, and England. A barbarous and insulting murder first brought the Anglo-Normans to the Danish gates. Dermot M'Murrough, in revenge for the assassination of his father, (whom the citizens of Dublin had invited to a feast, and taking advantage of his security, not only slew him, but buried his body in a dunghill along with a dog,) joined with the Normans, commanded by the redoubtable Miles de Cogan, and marched to Dublin. O'Connor, the monarch of Ireland, saw that if the Normans were successful, they would keep the city, and thinking that old enemies were better than new ones, and not choosing to let them get the key of Ireland into their hands, marched with an immense force to protect the city, and at Clondalkin waited the approach of the enemy. But on the arrival of king Dermot of Leinster, with his allies, the appearance of the English warriors, steel-clad from head to foot, struck such terror into the undisciplined and disunited Irish, who were without defensive armour, that they did not stand the shock, but fled before their foes. Dublin did not share a better fate. While the citizens were parleying with a herald, and disputing about the terms of surrender, the fierce Miles de Cogan burst with his men over the city wall, and sacked the town. The Ostman king, Asculph M'Torcall, escaped with difficulty to his shipping in the bay — and thus Dublin changed its masters.

But it was too valuable a possession to be allowed to remain quietly in the hands of its new occupiers. The Norman adventurers, under their leader, Strongbow, had fallen under the jealous displeasure of king Henry II. of England, who ordered them to return home, and while they were hesitating what to do, O'Connor, the Irish monarch, entered into a confederacy with the ejected Ostman king of Dublin, who had gone amongst his Danish allies in the north to raise supplies, and having summoned the largest army ever before collected in Ireland, surrounded the city, and cut off its supplies. Lawrence O'Toole, the Archbishop of Dublin, true to the Milesian cause, and patriotically anxious to get rid of the English, did all he could to persuade Strongbow to surrender, who, seeing the difficulties he had to encounter, was inclined to take the advice: but unfortunately, the Irish, not knowing the enemy they had to deal with, insisted on such extravagant terms, that they were rejected; and Miles de Cogan, the bravest of these Anglo-Normans, advised a sudden and desperate sally upon the Irish. Accordingly five hundred men, led on by Cogan, supported by Strongbow, and Raymond le Gros, broke in upon the Irish lines at Finglas — and this handful of determined and desperate men actually routed the Irish host, and nearly took king O'Connor prisoner, who at the time was enjoying the luxury of a bath.

The Irish army were scarcely dispersed, when M'Torcall appeared with his Ostman shipping and forces in the river. These were so numerous, that he had full expectation of recovering his lost city; and had he arrived in time, and joined in the attack with the Irish monarch, there is every reason to suppose that the Norman-English would have been driven out of the country. But the fortune of war was otherwise. There is a great deal of romantic interest attached to this last struggle of the Danes with the Anglo-Normans. As Strongbow had his brave and valiant knight, the indomitable Miles de Cogan, so M'Torcall was attended by a Scandinavian, named John le Dane, or John the Mad. Maurice Regan reports that this northern Hector was of such enormous prowess, that with one blow of his battle-axe he could cut the thigh bones of the horsemen like cheese, and their legs would fall off like so many cabbage-stalks to the ground. Thus these two fierce knights were matched together, and dreadful must have been the struggle as they met
"Foot to foot and hand to hand."
But this is not the only romantic circumstance attending this celebrated engagement. A petty king of the name of Gille Mo Holmock, of Ostman descent, but who had adopted the manners, dress, and habits of the Irish, and who governed a district not far from Dublin, came and offered the English his assistance. "No," says Miles de Cogan, in the pride of his knighthood, "we won't have your help!" (perhaps he distrusted him,) "all we want you to do is this: if we beat the Danes, cut off their retreat to their ships, and help us to kill them; and if we he defeated, and are forced to fly, why, fall on us, and cut our throats, sooner than let us he taken prisoners by these pirates."

The performance of these conditions Gille Mo Holmock swore to observe, and he stood aloof while the Ostmen marched to assault Dublin. The assault was made at Dame Gate, and the furious onset was headed by-John le Dane, but Miles de Cogan stood there to oppose him, just where the entrance to the Lower Castle Yard now is. But in the meantime, the Norman knights, who had learned in the battle fields of Italy and France the military arts and stratagems by which superior numbers may he matched and overpowered, made, under the command of Richard de Cogan, a sally from the postern then called Pole Gate, at the foot of Ship-street, and taking a circuit through the fields whereon now stand Stephens-street and Georges-street, John le Dane was attacked both in flank and front. This decided the day. John le Dane was slain by Miles de Cogan, and M'Torcall was taken prisoner by Richard de Cogan, and hanged the next morning; while Gille Mo Holmock, true to his promise, fell upon the retreating Danes, and cut them to pieces, so that few escaped to their ships in the Liffey.

Thus ended the dominion of the Sea-Kings in Ireland. Henceforward the history of Ireland is connected with the Anglo-Normans or English; but as our space is limited, we must suspend our continuation of the History of Dublin, till our next Number; and after we have concluded it, we will take up the history of all the great towns and cities in Ireland, presenting a short but clear account of Irish customs, manners, fortunes, and adventures.

[1] Over one of these early Danish vaults or fornices, or crypts, sanctified, as tradition says, by the consecration of St. Patrick, Sictricus, son of Avellanus, king of the Ostmen of Dublin, built Christ's Church. There are still many of these under ground Danish depositories in Ireland, of which we may very probably give some account in our Journal. In the county Antrim we have seen them, where they are called Picts' holes. Within six miles of Dublin, and adjoining the beautiful village of Lucan, there is a fine and commanding Danish Rath, in the centre of which there is one of those artificial caves spoken of above. About twenty years ago, the author of this article was shown a very large and double circular cave in the side of the hill between Rathcoole and Naas, a few hundred yards from the ten-mile stone in that line of road.

[2] The other and more ancient name Bally Ath Cliath, the town of the ford of hurdles, arose from a common practice of the Irish who used to make muddy rivers, such as the Liffey was, near its junction with the sea, and near bogs and marshes, fordable by means of hurdles or kishes laid down where they desired to pass. It was a rude substitute for a bridge, and did more mischief than perhaps those who laid them down thought of — for the course of rivers was impeded, bogs formed, and swamps established.

[3] The Fin Gael were settled in that broad and fertile plain that stretched north of the Liffey, until it meets the high lands that hang over the Boyne. The inhabitants of this district form a distinct race to this day, and evince a marked difference from the natives of Meath and Louth, not only in their habits of industry, but also in their personal appearance. The Dubh Gael were settled In those parts south and west ot Dublin, joining Wicklow and Kildare.

From The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Jun. 30, 1832)

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Vancouver and Victoria in 1914


by Rev. John Pollock

This is now the second time I have crossed the North American Continent. On the first occasion I did it in a little over five days; this time I have spent seven months on the journey. I shall never forget the impression of immensity that first journey made upon me. At Boston I boarded the train in the evening, and in due course climbed into my berth. Next morning I climbed down, and had breakfast. In the afternoon I had lunch. 3Later I had supper, and went to roost in the roof. Down next morning; through the same programme, and sought my perch at night. Day after day, night after night, this went on, the train all the while speeding on its seemingly interminable journey, Practically in a straight line. My favourite off-study is astronomy, which has led me to think somewhat disrespectfully of this "speck-of-dust" planet of ours. The best antidote for that contempt is a non-stop railway run from ocean to ocean, through less than one-eighth of the length of the equator. I for one have come to realise that "our little world" is of quite decent dimensions, and has no reason to be ashamed of itself.


My first visit to Vancouver, seven years ago, was by accident. The journey Eastward took out of me some of my British conceit. From Boston to Moose-Jaw the several trains I travelled by were all up to time; but no sooner did I get under my beloved Union Jack than things went to pieces. When we reached Mission Junction I found that I had lost my connection for Seattle — no self-respecting train could be expected to wait for five hours — and had to go on to Vancouver, where in fifty minutes I started afresh for my final destination. Vancouver has ever since been associated in my mind with one of the noblest actions of my life. I spent most of my short time in a stationer's shop, writing picture postcards home; so that my friends saw a good deal more of Vancouver than I did. It has been suggested that the explanation lies rather in the direction of stupidity, or a desire on my part to impress my friends with the idea that I had seen much; but all such insinuations treat with the room they deserve. In those days a few hours' lateness was nothing thought of. This time I arrived from Calgary on the minute, in a train which had done the entire tarns-Continental journey.

Vancouver I judged to be, for situation, the most beautiful Canadian city I had visited; though I afterwards felt that it must give the palm to Victoria. Vancouver is not old as its name seems to indicate, as it has simply appropriated, to the distrust of Victoria, the name of the contiguous great island on which the older city is situated. This city is new — most of it very new, for about twenty-five years ago it made a fresh start, after a fire that almost annihilated it. Since then, and especially within the last dozen years, it has grown enormously. I was the guest of former members of my first congregation, who left the old Fifeshire village for this new land twenty odd years ago, and three years ago came to this farthest West. Their house is in the suburb of North Vancouver, which when they arrived had no existence. It has actually made great progress since I left home! Tram cars now run along populous streets, where eighteen months ago there was nothing but forest. Charred tree-trunks, the relics of forest fires, stand like black spectres among dainty villas; while in stumps here and there you can see from the side-walk the cuts made by the lumber-men for the insertion of their "spring-boards," on which they stood to work their great two-handed saws.

Here, indeed, East meets West; or, perhaps more correctly, West meets East. The turban is common on the streets of Vancouver. Every fifth man you meet is an Oriental; well, at all events it looks like that. The proportion of the female to the male population is as fourteen to twenty-five, the disparity being partially explained by the fact that, with the exception of a few Japs, the Orientals do not bring their women-folk with them. Consequently they are credited with little intention of settling down. They are looked upon simply as cheap labourers, whose presence has already lowered the wage standard. Their admittance to the province is barred by law, except under such conditions as are practically prohibitory. When I was there the city was moved by a rumour that a ship-load of Hindus was on its way over in a Japanese tramp steamer. The rumour did not receive anything like universal credence, and as the days passed and nothing was heard of the mysterious craft it began to be smilingly referred to as the phantom ship. But the crowd of our dark-skinned fellow-citizens has since turned up all right, and the fat is in the fire. With the exception of a score or so who have already been in Canada, and are simply returning, none of the consignment has been allowed to land. It is believed that they will all be "declined with thanks," and bundled home again.

Passengers from the Komagata Maru. Vancouver Archives# CVA 7-127.
It is possible that this was the ship to which Rev. Pollock refers.
I had the good fortune to synchronise my visit with a banquet of the women's section of the local Canadian Club, and had the honour to receive a hurried invitation as an unexpected guest. The elite of Vancouver feminine society was there, and was addressed at considerable length by Principal MacKay, of Westminster College. The speech was an able one; but it was longer than it was broad. And I could see that the policy of exclusion was popular with this fair audience. The speaker did not definitely advocate any particular policy, and it seemed to me that he was feeling his way with his hearers. I felt, however, that as Boyle Roche might have put it, the cloven hoof of a short-sighted racial prejudice ran through it all. When I was requested, somewhat to my surprise, to address the company. I ventured to say that, while I was by no means as ready to express a dogmatic opinion on Vancouver's burning question as some native Canadians were to dictate to Belfast, I had what was probably a constitutional bias against all artificial and mechanical solutions of racio-political problems. Of course, if "God hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth," we have it on the same high authority that He also "hath fixed the bounds of their habitation;" but that clause might well stick in the throat of the greatest colonising nation of all history. For my own part I shrank from any policy that might dull the fervour of a Christian anticipation of the good time ahead, "when man to man the world o'er shall brothers be."

And I felt it profoundly. But, at the same time, the complexity of the problem must be acknowledged by any man who comes into contact with it. It is not so simple as it looks to those who view it from a distance. Not much can be said against the contention that the rate of admission of races of lower moral ideal ought to be to some extent determined by the maximum rate of possible assimilation. Experience puts that at 5 per cent. But to my thinking one or two fallacies must go before the problem can be effectively dealt with. If assimilation is desiderated on the one side, adaptation is no less urgently needed on the other. And it is well for us Britishers to remember that the Asiatic menace is approaching us also. Perhaps the time is nearer than we dream when the Oriental will be as much in evidence on the streets of Belfast as he is on those of Vancouver to-day. We must adjust ourselves to the situation. All that that means space would fail me even baldly to indicate. But we must put a new meaning, a worthier meaning, into the phrase, "Our higher standard of living." Undoubtedly the Oriental has much to teach us about the beauty of the "simple life," which is modelled upon a higher standard than the life of luxury which many seem to regard as the chief glory of out Western civilisation. And if we object to the lower moral plane on which the Hindu lives, let us see to it that we are living on a higher, ceasing to
       "Compound for sins we are inclined to
        By damning those we have no mind to.”
Perhaps the soundest moral argument for the partial exclusion of the Asiatic bases itself not on the unctuous assertion that we are too good to have him among us, but on the more obvious fact that we are not good enough to run the risk.

Crowds outside the C.P.R. Station for the embarkation of the first overseas troops. Vancouver Archives# Mil P276.1.
Vancouver is the terminal of the Canadian Pacific Railway proper; but if you want to go further west the C.P.R. can accommodate you. The whole sea-front belongs to the C.P.R. It is told of a man who had travelled as I have done, across the continent by the C.P.R., staying in C.P.R. hotels, literally living and moving, week in and week out, in an all-pervading atmosphere of C.P.R., that when he came to this C.P.R. city of Vancouver, and asked a man on the street for the correct time, he was told that it was "2-47, C.P.R" "Man alive," he exclaimed, "don't tell me that the C.P.R. owns the time!" You need not abandon the C.P.R. when you reach the coast, for you can go by C.P.R. liners to Melbourne or Yokohama if you want to. And so I got on board the sumptuously appointed C.P.R. steamer for Victoria. It was a five hours' run, through scenery which, if it does not surpass in beauty the Firth of Clyde itself, runs it close. The lack of human life is its main defect. We passed only two small items of coasting craft. There was not a single town or village visible between Vancouver and Victoria and very few isolated houses.

The approach to Victoria, the Capital of British Columbia, is very fine; but the city itself is by no means impressive at first sight. Even when experienced passengers gather at the gangway rail, and the Steamer slows down, and the men stand ready to fling the ropes you see nothing but a wealth of foliage, surmounted by the majestic dome of the provincial capital, with a few attendant towers and spires. Then the helm goes down, the ship swings round a point where no point seemed to be, and you find yourself at a busy wharf. I spent only a few days in Victoria, but during that time the natural beauty of the city grew upon me. With exception of Edinburgh and Hamburg, it is the fairest city for situation I have ever seen. As western cities go, it is old; its first European settlers reaching it, of course, by way of Cape Horn, while as yet the great continental interior lay unexplored. It has an old-world atmosphere about it, and some of it looks as ancient as Quebec. Vancouver has its giant pre-historic pines; but Victoria has its magnificent English beeches, with here and there a gnarled oak of patriarchal air. The population is mainly English, there being but a thin sprinkling of Irish and Scotch.

Victoria has a brilliant future before it. At present it has no railway communication with the mainland; but very soon the system of Vancouver Island will be linked up by a bridge which must rank as one of the greatest in the world. The city will undoubtedly share largely in the phenomenal development which British Columbia confidently anticipates from the opening of the Panama Canal, which will reduce the sea distance from Liverpool by nearly 6,000 miles. "There would seem to be no reason, if facilities are provided, why millions of bushels of western grain should not find an outlet through Panama." The beautiful little metropolis, with a population under 60,000, will yet stand high among the cities of the world. Even in her present semi-isolated position she is going ahead by leaps and bounds, albeit she is feeling the present commercial depression more than perhaps any other city in Canada. I have no recent figures beside me; but her bank clearings for 1912, totalling £37,000,000, t showed an increase of 36 per cent, over the previous year, while there was 100 per cent. increase in value of new buildings erected. Victoria is the farthest out-post of our great Dominion, and at this far extremity the blood of the Empire pulses as strong as at the very heart itself. Nowhere is Canadian loyalty to the Motherland more pronounced than here at the gateway of the Orient. It was of Victoria that Kipling wrote, and wrote most truly —
     "From East to West the circling word has passed,
         Till West is East beside our land-locked blue;
      From East to West the tested chain holds fast.
         The well-forged link rings true!"

Reprinted from the The Witness, 10th July 1914, this article was part of a series called 'Cities of the West' by Rev. John Pollock of St. Enoch's Presbyterian Church, Belfast.

Sunday, 22 March 2015


Over the hills where the grey hills rise
Smoke wreaths climb to the cloudless skies,
White in the glare of the noonday sun,
Climbing in companies, one by one,
          From the strong guns,
          The long guns,
     That wake with break of day
And dutifully drop their shells a dozen miles away.

Far beneath where our airmen fly,
Slowly the Garrison guns go by,
Breaking through bramble and thorn and gorse,
Towed by engines or dragged by horse,
          The great guns,
          The late guns,
     That slowly rumble up
To enable Messrs. Vickers to converse with Messrs. Krupp.

Garrison cannon is never swift
(Shells are a deuce of a weight to lift);
When they are ready to open shop,
Where they are planted, there they stop.
          The grey guns,
          The gay guns,
     That know what they're about,
To wait at fifteen hundred yards and clear the trenches out.

4.7's and 9.4's,
Taking to camping out of doors;
Out of the shelter of steel-built sheds,
Sleeping out in their concrete beds —
          The proud guns,
          The loud guns,
     Whose echo wakes the hills,
And shakes the tiles and scatters glass on distant window-sills.

Little cannon of envious mind
May mock at the gunners who come behind;
Let them wait till we've lined our pots
On to the forts and the walls of Metz;
          The siege guns,
          The liege guns,
     The guns to batter down
The barricades and bastions of any German town.

Though there be others who do good work,
Harassing German, trouncing Turk,
Let us but honour one toast to-day —
The men and the guns of the R.G.A.!
          The vast guns,
          The last guns,
     When Spring is coming in,
To roll down every Eastern road a-booming to Berlin!

Text: Punch, 30th December 1914.
Image: Three 8-inch howitzers of 39th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA), firing from the Fricourt-Mametz Valley during the Battle of the Somme, August 1916. (c) IWM Q5817

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Edmonton and Calgary in 1914

by Rev. John Pollock


Ten years ago there was no Edmonton to speak of, and rather less Calgary. Neither of them has much of a past, and, alas! the present is not exhilarating; but each of them believes it has a big future. Each of them button-holes the visitor, and assures him, in an inconsequential way, that it is shaping to be the greatest city on this Continent, sir. Of course, the forecast is not necessarily discredited by the fact that every tenth shack-town in Canada holds the same modest estimate of its own ultimate destiny.

Jasper Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, between 1903 and 1914
(Library and Archives Canada/PA-021244)


The province of Alberta, stretching west to the watershed of the Rockies, and from the frontier to the great North-West Territory, has an area of over 253,000 square miles, or nearly 5,000 more than double that of the United Kingdom. A large proportion of British soil is mountainous and otherwise barren; Alberta is fertile, besides being rich in coal, oil, and natural gas. But, while the population of the British Isles shows 470 to the square mile, Alberta has less than two. Thirty years ago she had 20,000 inhabitants, at the beginning of the century a little over 70,000, to-day 500,000. During the decade 1901-11 Alberta's population advanced 413 per cent., probably the largest provincial expansion on the planet. In a recent year 20,000 acres were taken up by settlers every day! Yet only three per cent, of farm land has been appropriated, leaving nearly 100,000 acres still available. The Albertan is naturally proud of his province. One could hardly be astonished if in Alberta measles were less common than megalocephalus; which, I am told, is the correct word to use when you don't want to say swelled-head.


Now, Edmonton is the capital of Alberta. It magnifies its office, and is doing its best to live up to its Metropolitan dignity. The Parliament House is a fine building; for beauty of architecture it is Canada's nearest approach to Belfast City Hall. The population of Edmonton is increasing so rapidly that were I to set down the correct figure, which nobody knows, the comp. would do well to add a thousand or two. Edmonton's own estimate is no more trustworthy than Calgary's estimate of Edmonton. Probably it is somewhere in the vicinity of 55,000. Already the city has about forty miles of paving, one hundred miles of water-mains, and twenty miles of boulevards. Its eye is ever on the future, and all its plans are cast in the interests of the million-peopled city of next generation. Its street numbers run up to figures that make you catch your breath. At present an effort is being made, so far with but moderate success, to introduce the modern American numerical system of street nomenclature. Street and avenues lie at right angles to each other, and are numbered in regular sequence. The system has undoubted advantages, the most important being simplicity. Between each street or avenue and the next there are one hundred numbers; or rather, after each street or avenue a new hundred begins. If you want 253 on 17th Avenue, you look for it after 25th Street, about half-way to 26th. Till quite recently the streets were named, and the numbers stood in no relation to the "blocks." The transition means temporary chaos. Here, for example, is 568; and you want 371. Yon walk back a block or two and find yourself among the ten thousands. Nobody can tell you whether 34th is the old Problem Street, or whether Puzzle Boulevard is now 49th Avenue. On one such perplexing hunt I stood and pinched myself. Was I in the throes of that ghastly nightmare, usually induced by a cheese supper, in which I make vain attempts to reach a constantly receding destination, arriving in time to see an angry congregation dispersing? I almost expected to find myself, in a cold sweat, staring at my bedroom wallpaper.


Really, the making of a city is no joke, especially when the raw material comes tumbling in upon you in such profusion; and some of the material is very raw. While in Edmonton I sojourned with an old St. Enoch's family, whose house cannot now be described as being on the outskirts; not three years ago, when they arrived, they could shoot game from their front windows. There was not even a board side-walk. Street lights there were none. Now, that house is within a stonecast of a well-patronised tramline, with frequent service, on a thoroughfare as busy as Antrim Road. Alongside of handsome stone buildings, with pillared facades, those still stand most primitive erections not yet old, run up when what is now a busy commercial area was nothing but a trackless bush. One of the leading physicians, whose parents I had met on a visit to Belfast some years ago, ran me all over and around in his auto, and gave me such a comprehensive view of Edmonton as I could not otherwise have had. We visited the old British fort, built of rough logs, which was the nucleus of the present city. He showed me the famous Death Trail, along the course of which so many dropped and died in that tragic rush to the Klondike. My friend drove me through the principal streets, avenues, and boulevards of the "twin cities" of Edmonton and Strathcona, which are now one. The impression made upon me was that this will one day be a most beautiful Metropolis. In the making of it space has not been spared; indeed, many of the streets are much too wide. On the Strathcona side there is in course of erection for the University of Alberta what will be one of the finest educational suites of buildings in the Dominion. Affiliated to the University is a Presbyterian college, with over forty students in residence, whom I had the pleasure of addressing.


From Edmonton I went South to Calgary. Seven years ago, on my way to the Christian Endeavour Convention at Seattle, I stepped out of the train, and, while most of my fellow-travellers were lunching, spent ten minutes in what was then a very small town. Turning the corner of the little wooden waiting-room, I found myself in a street of frame houses, with one or two unimpressive buildings of brick. There were, if my recollection is correct, nothing but plank side-walks. Of course, there were no tramways, for there was no place for street cars to go to. Ten minutes was quite sufficient for viewing the little town. I expected to see a great change on my second visit; but what I expected wasn't in it with what I saw. Leaving the large and well-appointed station, I stood in amazement in a handsome thoroughfare, adorned with massive electric candelabra of the very newest pattern. Beautiful Corporation tramcars whirred past at brief intervals, crowded with passengers. One of them was the most artistic thing in tramcars I ever saw, built a la charabanc, enamelled in bright colours, and sparkling with silver mounted fittings. It was the "observation car," in which I afterwards made a delightful tour of the city for twenty-five cents. Around me towered some of Canada's most aspiring skyscrapers. Led by a friend, I ascended one of them – by elevator, of course: the beautiful "department store" of the Hudson's Bay Company, perhaps the richest corporation in the Dominion, whose shares cannot now be bought at any price. From the roof I saw one of the sights of my life, the snow-capped Rocky Mountains on the far horizon. It did not look far; twenty miles or so. The atmosphere was so clear that the distance was deceptive, for the nearest peak is almost one hundred miles off. The Rockies were not again visible during my visit.

Calgary c1914 (Glenbow Archives nb-16-357)


According to "police estimate," Calgary has a population of 63,000. It baa seventy miles of tramlines. Measured by its bank-clearings, it is already the sixth in importance among the cities of the Dominion. For beauty of situation it is surpassed by few, if any. Just when I was there a scheme for the beautifying of the city was being submitted to the Corporation, and has now probably been adopted. It means the gradual expenditure of an enormous amount of money; but if carried out in its entirety, as doubtless it will ultimately be, it will make Calgary a rival of Washington, if not of Paris. The scheme is the work of an eminent architect, and includes a spacious and beautiful "civic centre," broad tree-lined boulevards, the utilising of severe gradients by the erection of terraces and parterres, with marble facings and stairways, embellished with statuary, leading down to the finest of public parks. Would that I might be there to see! But it was pointed out by the architect in his "exposition" that the Napoleonic scheme for the beautifying of Paris is only now nearing completion. As it is, Calgary has already done well, and made considerable progress towards the goal of its ambition, a foremost place among the beautiful cities of the world, and first place on the American Continent. And, as the proverb hath it, "Aim at a silk gown, and you're sure of the sleeve."


Calgary is a more famous town to-day than it was when I was there a fortnight ago. Then it was "as flat as flat." No poor hunter for dollars ever felt more out of it than I did. You couldn't get salt on their tails. Since then the city has become the centre of a terrific oil boom. The boring has been going on for years, and hope deferred had made many hearts sick; but one day the piercer struck tile subterranean reservoir, and the precious fluid spurted the height of the Albert Memorial. It has now settled down to steady work, and is yielding over two hundred barrels a day. The touts were at me when I was there, beseeching me, in their oiliest manner, to have financial mercy on myself; but, with that consummate prudence for which I have always been distinguished, I declined to speculate. Wish I had known! One man had bought a thousand shares in that particular bore, at half a dollar. When the oil spurted he sold fifty for his money; so that now he has nine hundred and fifty which have cost him nothing. My! I might have come home a dollar millionaire, and cleared the debt not only of St. Enoch's, but of the Church House an well. I never felt so generous in my life.

Reprinted from the The Witness, 12th June 1914, this article was part of a series called 'Cities of the West' by the Rev. John Pollock of St. Enoch's Presbyterian Church, Belfast.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

A Thousand Strong...

       A THOUSAND strong,
       With laugh and song,
To charge the guns or line a trench,
       We marched away
       One August day,
And fought beside the gallant French.

       A thousand strong,
       But not for long;
Some lie entombed in Belgian clay;
       Some torn by shell
       Lie, where they fell,
Beneath the turf of La Bassée.

       But yet at night,
       When to the fight
Eager from camp and trench we throng,
       Our comrades dead
       March at our head,
And still we charge, a thousand strong!

This poem is reproduced from Punch, 3rd February 1915.