Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Madman's Grave

IN the year 1793, an unknown maniac, whose dress and figure bore the vestiges of a once better lot, wandered to Ballycastle, a beautiful village on the shore of the county of Antrim. He was sullen, melancholy, and incommunicative; his days and nights were spent among the wild and lofty rocks in the neighbourhood of the bay, and his food was the shell-fish, or the sea-weed that was washed in by the tide. A life of such hardship and privation would have soon terminated the existence of one endued with unimpaired reason; but insanity hardens the constitution, by depriving it of a sense of its affliction, and by diverting the mind from real sorrow to imaginary objects. At certain periods of the month his sullenness was changed to frenzy, he then would groan and shriek as if suffering from excessive anguish, and although the neighbouring peasantry were frequently disturbed by his nightly moanings, yet, as he never attempted any act of violence, they suffered him unrestrained to indulge his misery. For several weeks he thus continued alternately melancholy or outrageous, until one night in the latter end of July, when the neighbouring cottagers were awakened by the loudness and horror of his shrieks. For a while they continued violent, then grew fainter, and at length sunk in total silence. Early the following morning a fisherman arose to examine a kelp-kiln which he had lit the night before, when the shocking spectacle of the half-consumed maniac met his sight. The wretched sufferer, while wandering on the projecting ledge of a steep cliff, had missed his footing, tumbled down the precipice, and rolled into the blazing kiln, which burned at the base of the rock! His mutilated remains were enveloped in a piece of sail-cloth, and buried in a little green recess at the foot of the precipice from which he fell. The verdure of this spot is rendered more lively by being contrasted with the grey tints of the surrounding rocks; it is adorned by sea pinks and other marine dowers, and on no part of the romantic shores of Antrim does the traveller of taste feel emotions more varied, or sensations more interesting, than on the spot where heaves the Madman's Grave.


Where Rathlin's fierce contending tides,
      In storms and calms incessant roar,
And rudely lash the moss-grown sides
      Of Ballycastle's rock-bound shore.
Where western winds for age prevail
      And chide the weary wanderers stay,
Who crowd the heaven aspiring sail,
      And swiftly fly the dangerous bay.*
Where the dark mine of old so fam'd,†
      Now echoes to the tempest's moan —
By song of poets never nam'd,
      Unmark'd by any sculptur'd stone.
'Tis there beneath the rock's bold brow,
      And lash'd by every foaming wave,
The child of sorrow's eyes may view,
      The poor deserted madman's grave.—
The sea-pink droops its feeble head,
      The lonely night-hawk screaming flies
Above the spot where low and dead,
      The maniac's form for ever lies.
No plated mockery held his frame,
      No train of friends wept o'er his bier;
No child sobb'd loud a father's name,
      Or kiss'd a speechless mother's tear.
Long, long beside the dangerous shore
      Beneath the wint'ry blast he stray'd,
And mingled with the ocean's roar
      The dreadful cries he nightly made.
His feet by every rough rock torn,
      Through snares of death he urg'd his way;
With him despair rose every morn,
      And clos'd each sad and cheerless day.
Yet dark oblivion's gloomy veil.
      O'er all his senses was not flung —
The midnight wanderer heard the tale,
      Of deep distress flow from his tongue.
Remembrance rack'd his tortur'd brain —
      Where hope has fled, a dreadful guest,
And incoherence mark'd the strain,
      Which sighs convey'd from misery's breast.
Dire was the night, when his last cry
      Pierc'd sad and oft the troubled air:
The sun rose o'er the Fairhead high
      But shone upon no maniac there.
The storm may raise the troubled sea,
      The wild winds o'er the mountain rave;
The maniac's soul from pain is free —
      He sleeps in yonder nameless grave.
Oh God of heaven! on me look down;
      Though dark distress be ever mine,
Let reason still maintain her throne,
      And I will bear, and not repine.
With reason all my steps to guide
      My soul shall shine supremely brave, —
When mercy shuns the vault of pride,
      And peace wide opens misery's grave.
M. B.

* Ballycastle bay is formed by the promontories of Fairhead and Bengore: it is very unsafe from the prevalence of westerly winds.
† A mine was discovered near the Fairhead, which had been worked some hundred years since.

Story from the Belfast Monthly Magazine, 1st December 1808.
Poem from the Analectic Magazine, August 1818.
Image: Ballycastle Strand by JP Rooney.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Light Cruisers (Old)

When you've marshalled your navies and gloried your fill
In the latest they show of invention and skill,
The lion in strength and the lizard in speed,
The watchful in waiting, the present in need,
The great Super-Dreadnoughts gigantic and grim,
The thirty-knot cruisers both subtle and slim,
The weight and the range of each wonderful gun —
Remember the cruisers, the out-of-date cruisers,
The creaky old cruisers whose day, is not done,
Built some time before Nineteen-hundred-and-one.

You may look to the South, you may seek in the North,
You may search from the Falklands as far as the Forth —
From Pole unto Pole all the oceans between,
Patrolling, protecting, unwearied, unseen,
By night or by noonday the Navy is there,
And the out-of-date cruisers are doing their share!
Yes, anywhere, everywhere, under the sun,
You will find an old cruiser, an off-the-map cruiser,
An out-of-date cruiser whose work's never done,
Built some time before Nineteen-hundred-and-one.

It may be you'll meet with her lending a hand
In clearing a way for the soldiers to land —
Escorting an army, and feeding it too,
Or sinking a raider (and saving her crew),
Blockading by sea or attacking by dry land,
Bombarding a coast or annexing an island;
Where there's death to be daring or risk to be run
You may look for the cruiser, the out-of-date cruiser.
The creaky old cruiser that harries the Hun
(Built some time before Nineteen-hundred-and-one).

In wild nights of Winter, when warmly you sleep,
She is plugging her way through the dark and the deep,
With death in the billows which endless do roll,
And the wind blowing cold with the kiss of the Pole,
While seas slopping over both frequent and green
Call forth on occasion expressions of spleen.
Of all the old kettles award we the bun
To the out-of-date cruiser, the obsolete cruiser,
The creaky old cruiser whose work's never done,
Built some time before Nineteen-hundred-and-one.

And when the Day breaks for whose smoke-trail afar
We scan the grey waters by sunlight and star,
The day of great glory — the splendour, the gloom,
The lightning, the thunder, the judgment, the doom,
The breaking of navies, the shaking of kings,
When the Angel of Battle makes night with his wings . . .
Oh, somewhere, be sure, in the thick o' the fun
You will find an old cruiser, a gallant old cruiser,
A creaky old cruiser whose day is not done,
Built some time before Nineteen-hundred-and-one.

Poem: Punch, 18th August 1915
Image: HMS Gladiator (1896) IWM Q021285

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

On Witchcraft (1812)

"What silly notions crowd the clouded mind,
"That is through want of education blind."

I SHALL not attempt, in the present essay, to trace the origin of witchcraft, from a belief that it is more than probable its antiquity would frustrate all inquiry. It therefore is only necessary to observe, that it was doubtless early formed among other superstitions, and since has been always more or less believed, as the people were well or ill informed. By numerous unquestionable authorities, it appears, that persons who possessed considerable learning were formerly believed to be magicians;1 and hence it seems reasonable to suppose arose druids, conjurors, sooth-sayers, magi, and many others of the same family.

Anciently we find the scotch calling such persons weirds; and the Danes, and other northerns, naming all males that were supposed to possess this occult art, wizards; the females, wicces, or witches, that is, wise women. At the same time we find the priesthood sanctioning such belief's, which they appear to have converted into a powerful engine to answer their turn, as those who dissented or disbelieved any of the church canons, were immediately accused of being wizards, or witches, and generally suffered as such.

In 1484, these opinions appear to have become very general; and the same year they received not a little confirmation from a bull issued by Pope Innocent the VIII. to the inquisitors of Almain, empowering them to proceed against such as had dealings with devils. The substance of the bull is as follows — "Pervenit ad auditum nostrum, &c." "It is come to our ears, that great numbers of both sexes, are not afraid to abuse their own bodies with devils. And with their enchantments, charms, and sorceries, to vex and afflict man and beast, with inward and outward pains and tortures; they destroy the human offspring, and the increase of cattle; they blast the corn of the ground, the grapes of the vines, the fruit of the trees, and the grass and herbs of the fields, &c. Therefore with the authority apostolic, we give power to the inquisitors, &c. to convict, imprison, and punish, &c."

For several years after the issuing of this bull, witches, and their executions, considerably increased; and about this time, a Jesuit, called Debrio, wrote a book, in which many reasons were given why Protestants were so much in the power of the devil; adding, that witchcraft goes along with heresy, as madness with a fever! This plainly shows to what good account the clergy had turned this superstition.

Until the reign of Henry VIII., we hear little of witchcraft in England; but in 1541, Lord Hungerford consulting some reputed witches, to know how long Henry VIII. would live, was discovered and beheaded for it; soon after, two acts were passed against witchcraft and sorcery. In 1562, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the Countess of Lenox, and four others, were condemned, because they had consulted wizards how long the Queen would live; the same year a new statute was enacted against witchcraft. So much did the belief of witches prevail at this time, that the learned Bishop Jewel, in a sermon which he preached before Queen Elizabeth, prays "that the laws against witches and sorcerers be put in execution, as they were grown so numerous."

In the following reign, these opinions increased much; James even wrote a work on this subject called Deamonologie, first published in Edinburgh, and afterwards in London. Reading this book, and approving its doctrine, is said to have been a sure way to gain his favour. It was asserted in this book that swimming was a fair trial for a witch; alleging as a reason, that as such persons had renounced their baptism by water, that the water refused to receive them! The parliament seems to have instantly caught the infection, as in the first year of his reign the act of Queen Elizabeth against witchcraft, was repealed, as too mild, and one more strict passed, entitled, "An act against conjuration, witchcraft, and dealing with evil and wicked spirits;" which act established those opinions so fully, that it is said to have become unfashionable to doubt them!

This general infatuation soon became such, that in some villages ia Britain, the witches were said to have been fully as numerous as the other persons; for as a late author has justly observed, "prodigies are always seen in proportion as they are expected." It was during this reign that the present translation of the bible appeared; from which circumstance it is asserted, and with some likelihood, that several phrases were adopted, that favour the vulgar notions of witchcraft, much more than the old translations.

It is worthy of remark that France, Sweden, and most European countries, were under the same strange infatuation about this time.

About this period we read of persons who perambulated the country, to discover witches, called witch-finders, one of whom, Matthew Hopkins, witch-finder-general, of the County Essex, in 1614, caused sixty reputed witches to be hanged, for which he received twenty shillings a head! The persons who were accused of being wizards, or witches, had commonly to go through a water ordeal; first having their thumbs and toes tied across one another, after which they were thrown into a deep river or pool; if they sunk and were drowned, they were considered to have been innocent: but if they swam or sprawled out, as was sometimes the case, it was looked on as a sufficient proof of their guilt, and they usually suffered accordingly. In 1647, the said Hopkins published a book on the subject of witchcraft, in which he mentions twelve signs by which witches are to be known.2

To such an alarming degree did this witch-finding system increase, that it is computed between two and three thousand persons suffered death for witchcraft, in England and Scotland, between the years 1640, and 1661. Several of the persons who suffered, confessed they were wizards, or witches; this, however, is not strange, when we consider the barbarous usage they received, after being accused; for if not thrown into a pool, they were neither suffered to eat, drink, nor sleep, but walked constantly between two persons, who never permitted their devoted victims to sit down, until they confessed, which they generally did, either from being delirious, or weary of their lives. In either case, they were usually questioned about causing the death of some person or persons, who had died lately, under what was deemed suspicious circumstances; and some have been known to confess they had killed people, who were then alive and well; yet, strange to tell, none of these blunders appear to have operated the least in their favour, though such incongruous expressions was an undoubted proof of their insanity.

Scotland was perhaps the last country in which such scenes were legally acted. In East Lothian, in Scotland, there is an eminence called "Spott Law;" in the parish register of which place, is the following memorandum:— "October, 1705, many witches burnt on the top of Spott Law."

As mankind became informed, the belief of witches, and witchcraft vanished; and at length the legislature, on the 24th March, 1736, gave the finishing blow, by repeating those acts against witchcraft, which had so long disgraced our statute books; since which period a gradual decrease has been observable. At present we scarcely hear any thing of this mystic art — except now and then some old woman losing the milk, or butter of her cow.

S.S. B.Clare.

[1] Pythagoras, an eminent philosopher, who flourished A.M. 3420, was accused of magic; and in A.D. 1254; the learned Roger Bacon was twice cited to Rome for crimes in this way, and acquitted himself both times, with much applause for his learning. So late as 1489, George Ripley, and William Blackney, two distinguished mathematicians, were believed to be necromancers. Within these forty years, a decent old woman was accused of being a witch, because she had more butter on her cow's milk, than some of her neighbours.

[2] Hopkins carried on this horrid trade for many years, till some gentlemen, shocked at his barbarities, caught him, and tied his thumbs and toes together, as he had done many others, and in this state threw him into the water, where he swam. It does not appear, by the accounts that have reached us, that he suffered death from this circumstance; but it had one good effect, it cleared the country of him, and ruined his business.

Text from the Belfast Monthly Magazine, September 1812.
Image top: Witches by Hans Baldung. Woodcut, 1508.
Image middle: Title page of Daemonologie, in forme of a dialogue, James I.
Image bottom: Etching of a Ducking Stool.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

"Old Q" – An Irish Character Sketch

By Precentor Courtenay Moore, M.A.

The "Old Q" of this paper has no connection whatever, except in title, with "Old Q" of more infamous than famous memory.

My "Old Q" belonged to a class of Irishmen not much exploited in literature; he was in no sense a "Stage Irishman": he never tried to amuse people, though he did amuse "an audience fit though few," very much. He was by nature sour and severe, he had none of the sparkling fun connected with the typical Paddy, far otherwise, his reputation was mainly founded on his facility for making "pinitrative remarks." When I made his acquaintance he represented like Charles Lamb, "Retired Leisure"; but, unfortunately, unlike Lamb, without a pension. He was one of a family of small farmers, and had received a fairly good education. He had a working knowledge of Latin, and was also a fairly good Gaelic scholar. He had been "a guardian of Her Majesty's public revenues," like Mr. Bardell, but for some reason sufficient, or insufficient, his services had been dispensed with, and alas without a pension. Perhaps, or probably in his own estimation, it was "an Irish grievance." Be that as it may, when I knew him first he was what is called in Ireland, "a walking gentleman" – a gentleman at large.

He was then turned sixty, "a grey and gap-toothed man," our intimacy rapidly ripened. Primate Alexander, who was a great master of epigrams, described Bishop Reichel as "an acidulated draught from the Diocese of Meath," and this phrase very happily hits off my "Old Q." He seldom or never smiled, and never laughed; he was always acidulated, sarcastic, caustic, always making "pinitrative remarks." His conversation was also remarkable for his choice of language, he used a good deal, indeed a great deal of what we call in Ireland "Dictionary English," interspersed with strong epithets in Gaelic, which gave it an added flavour. Poor man, "he lived very near his timper," so people used to describe him. Over his official life he drew a decent veil, probably wisely; he had served in England and Scotland, but as a rule never intimated that he had "been foreign." Having no occupation except "caring" a public building, he had much spare time on his hands, and like every Irishman he was a born politician. Friends supplied him with newspapers, and he went by the name of "the pocket o' papers." Descriptive titles of their kind are very common in Ireland. Having much spare time on hands he often paid me a visit to enable him to pass it. He regarded himself as a public censor of morals, not that he was encouraged in this tone and temper of mind, but he had always a grievance, "what harm," he said, a favourite Irish form of expression, "what harm if I wasn't always trying to put people right, and do them good  –  and this is the return they make me"! He was like Corney Delaney in Jack Hinton, "Ugh, the haythens, the Turks." "Old Q's" formula was, "I declare to God I'd rather live among the Kurds of Armenia" – pronounced Armainia – "than be with them – Goths and Vandals! Goths and Vandals"! He had only a few intimate friends, who, partly from pity, and partly for the amusement they found in his society patronized him. "Mr. Bill," a local notable of joking and generous nature, and he had been great allies, and "shone well," as the saying goes, for a time, but "Mr. Bill" deserted him at a crisis, and "Old Q," who required absolute obedience, "Love me all in all or not at all," never forgave this defection.

"Mr. Bill," he used to say with great emphasis, "Mr. Bill made a holocaust of me, but I'll be his Nemesis." This remark was carried to "Mr. Bill" who inquired, "would you give me small change for that, laddy boy." "Mr. Bill" had a great reputation of his own for conversational powers, he was said "to talk like a threshing machine"; it was a good description!

In the course of time "Old Q" got to be described as "the Bodyguard" as well as "the Pocket of Papers," in consequence of his personal attendance on myself. He used to spring out from side streets and back streets on me as I went about the Parish, and accompany me in my walks, giving me some lessons in conversational Gaelic, which were very useful, I had by no means the worst of the intimacy. Every Sunday he had a happy day, for he spent it with a relative, a comfortable farmer in the district. This habit was well known, and got to be described in an amusing way, viz.:–"'Mr. Q' takes a country life every Sunday." It sounds very bloody, but it did not mean that he committed a murder every Sunday, only that he spent it in the country. He had only three or four intimate friends. There was an old woman in the Parish at the time who had an equally limited circle, she used to say to me, "well, I've just the three 'frinds,' God Almighty, yer Reverence, an' 'Mr. Bill'" – the "Mr. Bill" aforesaid. "Old Q" was not so pious, he did not introduce much of religious phraseology into his conversation. His "pinitrative remarks" have been already illustrated. On a certain occasion he followed some young children, who had annoyed him, home to their mother's house, and addressed her as follows:– "My good woman, I'm not certain that your children will end their days on the gallow's, but I'm sure they will in good time appear in the dock." Naturally he was not generally popular, he plentifully showered about such contemptuous Gaelic terms as "bosthoon," "cauboge," "omad-haun," etc., at all and sundry of the lower order who annoyed him. He was wonderfully susceptible of flattery, and one of his friends was in the habit of "bringing him forth butter in a lordly dish." It was most amusing to see and to hear this, the flatterer arranged his attitude, bending his knees, spreading his hands on his thighs, and gazing with the most rapt attention and even devotion into "Old Q's" face, as the latter described how in his earlier days he would clear a street with a "boscaun soggart," literally "death without the priest" – i.e., a stout blackthorn – and how he would glory to do it again. Reader have you ever seen an Irish listener of this type? If not, you don't know Irish life yet – he or she is like Tennyson's nun –
"Breathless with adoration."

Under the influence of Dan K.'s worship "Old Q" waxed warm, grasped his blackthorn by the middle, making it flourish round his head after the fashion which the French call faire le moulinet, like the Miller when preparing to fight with Gurth, as described in Ivanhoe – like Goldsmith's broken soldier he –
"Shouldered his crutch and showed how fields were won."

Poor man, unfortunately for himself he lived before the period of Old Age Pensions. He was miserably poor; his financial backbone was a small weekly allowance of outdoor relief. Then there was the country life which he took every Sunday. This implied a good dinner with roast goose, roast beef or roast mutton, and whiskey punch. The taking of the country life also meant a large loaf of home-made bread and a jar of cream which he carried back with him every Sunday night. Still, even with all these little extras he had a hard time of it, and lived a very Spartan life. He had not the usual religious consolation which Irish people as a rule have, not that they were in any sense denied him, but he had not the temperament to enjoy them. "The iron had entered into his soul"; he was "one writ in sour misfortune's book." He spoke of devotees as "craw-thumpers" and schamers – more of his "pinitrative remarks." He could and would and did point out concrete instances of such. He once came in a very angry and unsettled state of mind to complain of one of his own clergy who, he said, had declared that he was selling himself to me as a convert, and that I was buying him. The report was absolutely baseless, and was probably circulated only to annoy him. But, said he, "I'll let him see he can't villify me with impunity." It was a case of:–
"Nemo impune me lacesset."

"If necessary I'll carry him to his Bishop, and if necessary from his Bishop to the Court of Rome and lay his misconduct before his Holiness the Pope himself."

Fortunately, this extreme course did not become necessary. By degrees his health failed, "sharp misery had worn him to the bone." As long as he "could take a country life every Sunday" he took it, but, alas, in time strength failed him. He was obliged to take refuge in the Union Hospital, it was practically the only resource open to him. Naturally he did not like the surroundings and associations. He missed the loose leg, the open air, the blue or grey sky, the green fields, the lofty mountains, the Sunday dinner on roast goose and whiskey punch – all these exchanged for the hospital ward and the companionship of a class which he disliked. Still, he would never say die. I saw him occasionally as a friend before the end came – our friendship continued unbroken and unabated to the last, as might naturally have been expected. He used to say to me when I asked him how he was – "Fauga me shood moratasha" – i.e., leave it alone, leave it as it is; in other words let us be patient – a very philosophic and Christian maxim. Poor man, he went through fire and water in this world, let us hope that God brought him to a wealthy place. I have known many specimens of the Irish character, yet never one quite like him or almost in any degree like him. He had no Irish fun in him, no Irish geniality, little or nothing of what we are accustomed to regard as typically Irish. Yet he was absolutely un-English. If you had met him at the North Pole you would have known him at once to be Irish by his face. Misfortune no doubt sorely tried him. He knew a good deal of old interesting local history, and from him I learned an account of the last duel fought in the Co. Cork, which I contributed to the Cork Historical and Archaeological Journal, then he was a fairly good Gaelic scholar; indeed, take him all round he had a very fairly furnished mind, he was rather, on the whole, an exceptional type of Irishman, he had little or no Blarney, little or no soft sawder, he was too fond of "pinitrative temarks," and he had to take the consequences, which were often anything but pleasant, but, no doubt, he comforted, or tried to comfort himself by saying, "Liberavi animan mean," or, "Fauga me shood moratasha." Another Irish proverb of which he was very fond was, "One must cut the gad nearest the throat." The root idea of this is you must release yourself by ridding yourself of the most choking stricture. Poor "Old Q" was trying to cut the gad nearest the throat all the time I knew him, and if I in any degree helped him in the painful effort I feel thankful, and I readily confess that I owe as much or more to him than he did to me. How can anyone be lonely, even in the country, with such society. There was another great oddity in the parish at the same period, a retired Protestant clergyman – an excellent English scholar, whose favourite authors were Shakespeare and Shelley. He was quite at home with both. He, too, had a great selection of Dictionary English. Take a specimen. He had a vivid imagination. He contemplated long and costly foreign tours, and often talked much of publishing a volume of poems. One day he dropped in and said – "I have been to the railway station inquiring the price of tickets en route to the Continent, and as I crossed the lawn I could not help thinking with what contempt the great Condor of the Andes, and the Albatross that sleeps upon the wing must regard the poor human biped that is compelled to travel with a railway ticket"!

I versified this sentence soon after in order to preserve it:–
O mighty Condor I often ponder,
And think with wonder,
On thy powers of flight
Whilst mine are slight.
And thou O mighty Albatross,
Who art of birds a boss,
Canst sleep upon the wing,
While I a poor weak thing
Must travel with a railway ticket,
And let the guard and porter nick it.

Text: The Church of Ireland Gazette, 22nd April 1914.
Image: Old Tramp, a painting in oils by Laszio Mednyanszky.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Dublin Disturbances (A differing perspective)

The Witness, 28th April 1916

We use this phrase advisedly in order not to give the occurrences that have taken place in Dublin this week the dignity of rising or a rebellion so far as dignity can be associated with an Irish Nationalist upheaval. Some of the darkest chapters and the darkest phases of Irish history are associated with rebellions. We have had what are called risings as well as rebellions, and there has seldom been a long period in our national history that has not had a record of one or other. Within modern history, and within modern memory, we had the Cabbage Garden rising or rebellion of Smith O'Brien in '48, and we had the Fenian rising of '66. So far as any practical results were concerned both ended in fiasco, and were more subjects for ridicule than for serious consideration from an historical or practical point of view. What we have designated Dublin disturbances are much more grave and serious than either of those, and represent an extent and power of organisation which distinguish them from their two immediate predecessors. Both represented hours, but this represents days of defiance of authority and the assertion independence from Britain. We have had the Post Office and Stephen's Green Park and the hands of the rebels. We have had them entrenched in Stephen's Green. We have had them on the admission of Mr. Birrell, the so-called Irish secretary, in command of four or five points of Dublin. We have had soldiers and policemen shot at by the rebels and over a dozen deaths of uniformed representatives of British authority, who seem to have been the favourite objects of the rebel attack. We have had railway, telegraphic, telephone, and postal communication with the Metropolis practically stopped for three days. Dublin and Belfast have been as much isolated from each other as if they had been separated by countless miles of desert. We have had thousands of troops dispatched to Dublin as if it was a new theatre of the great war. We hear of places occupied by the rebels, and we hear of some of them being retaken. We hear that the Post Office and the Great Central Park and thoroughfare have been in the hands of the rebels for at least a couple of days, and we hear that they have been recaptured. We hear that a British gunboat has been shelling Liberty Hall in Dublin as if it was in an enemy's country, and of the soldiers having gained possession of it, as we might read in a report of some developments in France and Flanders. We are told in Parliament that the rebels have got command in certain cases, and that eleven insurgents have been killed. Disturbance is a mild epithet to apply to these proceedings, but when we remember that they all occurred and what Mr. Asquith once described as "the one bright spot in the kingdom," we do not like to make any reflection on Mr. Asquith as a prophet or Premier by suggesting such terrible suggestive words as rising or rebellion in a country which he so highly appreciated, and for whose rebellious elements he has done so much.

It may be asked how and why, in a country like this, such movements could have been developed or could have been permitted to be carried so far. It may be asked were were the authorities, where were their secret service agents, how was it possible, with anything like an efficient Government or an efficient staff in control, this could not have been prevented or checked earlier? It may have all come as a surprise on the authorities, but that something was brewing and preparing for Easter was as well known, or at least as generally anticipated, as was the German war by all outside Government circles before the declaration. It was known that the Sinn Feiners, the Irish volunteers, were organising great demonstrations over the country on that day, and all who had understanding of the signs of the times warned the authorities they should be prepared, not after the event, but before it, to deal with it. The authorities had been appealed to time and again to deal with the Sinn Feiners and the Irish Volunteers, who were carrying on not only a crusade against recruiting, but a crusade against everything British in the country. But the Government took no notice. Mr. Redmond had asked or demanded that nothing should be done to interfere with the Sinn Feiners on the professed ground that they were an insignificant and negligible body, and it would only advertise them or bring them into importance to interfere with them. As in duty and by habit and custom bound, the Government did not interfere. They let them go on and conspire, as the British Government let the Germans and pro-Germans do before the war. Then, like a bolt from the blue, came on Tuesday the news that a German warship, disguised as a merchantman, filled with arms and ammunition, had arrived at the Irish coast, with Roger Casement on board, and that he had been arrested and the German boat sunk – we since learned that the Germans sank the vessel themselves. About the same time we heard mysterious rumblings about an attack on Dublin, about the seizure of the Post Office and other Government offices by rebels, the hoisting of the flag of the Irish Republic over these buildings, and of soldiers being deliberately shot on making their appearance in uniform in the streets. Gradually the facts, or at least such of them as it pleased the authorities to make known, were published as summarised above. And the danger is not over yet, and, if unofficial reports can be credited, is increasing.

Now, the first and most natural question is, what should be done to the Government that either remained ignorant of this, or allowed the movement to reach such a head? But a question behind that is, have we or have we had a Government in Ireland at all for years? All we do know or have known in regard to government in Ireland was that whenever Mr. Redmond asked was granted, whatever Mr. Redmond wanted protected was protected, whoever Mr. Redmond wanted to escape liability from serving the Empire was accorded the privilege. In fact, the government of Ireland seems to have been in the hands of Mr. Redmond, and we now see the mess that has been made of it from a British point of view. We have learned from statements that he made in the House of Commons that Mr Birrell is still Chief Secretary of Ireland. We have known and heard a little of him of late that we had forgotten his very existence, and no more thought of associating him with the government of Ireland than with the government of Timbuctoo. But having been allowed to make the official announcements, we may understand that he is still at least nominal Chief Secretary. But what is worse. He told the House of Commons the other day that he was coming over to Ireland himself. His previous presences in Ireland were generally associated with some surrenders to Nationalists and some sacrifice of Unionists, and it must be painful and paralysing to think that we are going to have him amongst us at this crisis. His position as an absentee Chief Secretary was bad enough, but his interference as a resident Secretary is, if possible, more alarming. But we have had to suffer much for our sins, and we suppose we will have to accept this additional suffering.

Now, we are not prepared to state openly that Mr. Redmond was dishonest or insincere in asking for tender treatment to the Sinn Feiners. We are prepared to admit the Sinn Feiners have one fist for the British Government they have another for Mr. Redmond. But we are prepared to say that one of the reasons for Mr. Redmond's desire for tenderness to the Sinn Feiners was this, that he knew, while professing that they were negligible, that they were really more powerful, numerically and otherwise, than his own followers, and he knew that any action taken would reveal that fact. As he had made his position by humbugging and deceiving the British public, and especially the British Radicals, he meant to do it to the end. And in that as in other respects the Irish Government gave him every assistance and encouragement. It is possible later on he will make capital as to the elements he had to fight against, and as to what he did to repress them. Now, we do not for one moment suggest that Mr. Redmond, like many others of his nominal followers, is gloating over what has taken place and then humiliation of the British Government involved. We can quite understand a sense in which he might feel that it might "his game," and insofar he would be thoughtful. But as we have all along maintained, there is very little to choose between him and his followers and Sinn Feiners. Both want rid of the British Government and its controls; both want Ireland to be free, in the words of some of the leaders, from the earth to the air. The only difference to our mind between them is that the Redmondites hope to use Home Rule as a preliminary to complete freedom afterwards, whether in the form of an Irish Republic or not we cannot say, while the Sinn Feiners do not believe in taking the two bites of a cherry, and want to secure their Irish Republic without the hypocrisy of the preliminary stage.

It is impossible to make any separation between the preparation for the landing of arms and ammunition on the eve of Easter Monday and the occurrence of Easter Monday. It is equally impossible to believe that the body that planned and organised it all is the negligible body Mr Redmond would have had us and the Government believe the Sinn Feiners were. How far German gold and German brains help the rebels we are not prepared to say, but there can be no doubt that it was all planned and arranged in conjunction with the Germans, and that the Germans hoped for great results from this emeute. Though they may not gain all they expected they have gained more than we could have wished. They have gained the opportunity of circulating in their own country and throughout the neutral word that there is that there is an Irish uprising against the British, and they have rendered it necessary to send thousands of troops to Ireland that might have been desirable or necessary for the front. That is all painful and humiliating enough, as it is painful and humiliating enough for us to have to write as we have done in regard to what is supposed to be the British Government in Ireland. But we cannot do it otherwise. They should not have allowed this movement to get ahead at all, and if they allowed it to raise its head they should have been prepared to crush it more rapidly than they have done. We refrain from any comment on the effect of all this on the future of the country. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. And the state of things in Dublin, and, we fear, in other parts of the country also, is sufficient to fill our thoughts and increase our anxieties for one week. Though it is a trite saying we cannot help using it again – the Government has some dragons teeth, and they have sprung up armed men. And the men and the arms seem to remain in more or less potency till the hour of writing.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Vale of Shadows

There is a vale in the Flemish land,
   A vale once fair to see,
Where under the sweep of the sky's wide arch,
Though winter freeze or summer parch,
The stately poplars march and march,
   Remembering Lombardy.

Here are men of the Saxon eyes,
   Men of the Saxon heart,
Men of the fens and men of the Peak,
Men of the Kentish meadows sleek,
Men of the Cornwall cove and creek,
   Men of the Dove and Dart.

Here are men of the kilted clans
   From the heathery slopes that lie
Where the mists hang gray and the mists hang white,
And the deep lochs brood 'neath the craggy height,
And the curlews scream in the moonless night
   Over the hills of the Skye.

Here are men of the Celtic breed,
   Lads of the smile and tear,
From where the loops of the Shannon flow,
And the crosses gleam in the even-glow,
And the halls of Tara now are low,
   And Donegal cliffs are sheer.

And never a word does one man speak,
   Each in his narrow bed,
For this is the Vale of Long Release,
This is the Vale of the Lasting Peace,
Where wars, and the rumors of wars, shall cease,
   The valley of the dead.

No more are they than the scattered scud,
   No more than broken reeds,
No more than shards or shattered glass,
Than dust blown down the winds that pass,
Than trampled wefts of pampas-grass
   When the wild herd stampedes.

In the dusk of death they laid them down
   With naught of murmuring,
And laughter rings through the House of Mirth
To hear the vaunt of the high of birth,
For what are all the kings of earth
   Before the one great King!

And what shall these proud war-lords say
   At foot of His mighty throne?
For there shall dawn a reckoning day,
Or soon or late, come as it may,
When those who gave the sign to slay
   Shall meet His face alone.

What, think ye, will their penance be
   Who have wrought this monstrous crime?
What shall whiten their blood-red hands
Of the stains of riven and ravished lands?
How shall they answer God's stern commands
   At the last assize of Time?

For though we worship no vengeance-god
   Of madness and of ire,
No Presence grim, with a heart of stone,
Shall they not somehow yet atone?
Shall they not reap as they have sown
   Of fury and of fire?

There is a vale in the Flemish land
   Where the lengthening shadows spread
When day, with crimson sandals shod,
Goes home athwart the mounds of sod
That cry in silence up to God
   From the valley of the dead!

Clinton Scollard

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Sons of the Manse (1916)

"I was ever of opinion that the honest man who married and brought up a large family, did more service than he who continued single and only talked of population." It is with this naive sentence that the Vicar of Wakefield begins his immortal narrative in Goldsmith's deathless story. It was quite natural that my mind should at once recall the sentence when I perused the wonderful roll of honour in connection with the Irish Manse which appeared in the columns of "The Witness" on March 31st. It is true that the roll is incomplete, and important additions will yet be made to it. But it is beyond dispute that Irish Manses have sent into the military service of the Empire at least two hundred and fifty of their sons to do what they can in defence of King and country. We are not a very big Church, and the Manses do not bulk large in the eyes of the world; but a contingent of two hundred and fifty stalwart young men in the present emergency who are all sure to give a good account of themselves in the war will be regarded as a noble contribution on the part of Irish Presbyterian Manses. If we add to this the roll of daughters of the Manse who have volunteered to serve as nurses, about twenty already, we get some idea of the effective help which our Manses are rendering to the Empire. It is quite evident that the opinion of the Vicar of Wakefield, that "the honest man who married and brought up a large family did more service than he who continued single and only talked of population," is one which is widely shared by the ministers of our Church. Clerical celibacy is a survival of Paganism, and it is not only a Scriptural doctrine that the minister of religion should be the husband of one wife, but it now becomes clear that the marriage of the clergy is a strength and a fountain of power both to the Church and to the State. The Manses have taken their proper place in the economy of the nation, and are responding with splendid liberality to the call of the Empire. The whole Church has good reason to be proud of the record, and pleased with the patriotic spirit which animates her Manses. A minister's son is as brave as the bravest to fight the foe, and a minister's daughter is as ready as the readiest to leave her happy home and to face the hardships of the hospital or the perils of the battleship to dress the wounds of soldiers. The facts speak volumes for the character of the Manse, and for the domestic atmosphere which pervades it.

There was a time not so very long ago when there was a popular belief that a minister's son was not very well cut out for facing the battle of life; and not much was expected of him in the ordinary competitions of the world. He might hold his own at school, or earn distinction at college, for he was brought up amongst books; but unless he grew into a student and a recluse he broke down in secular pursuits, and was altogether too soft for the rough and tumble of the arena. He was supposed to be sheltered from the rough blasts of the world, and he was not expected to seize his oar and pull his share in the contrary winds and cross currants of life. If, unhappily, he went astray, he was singled out as a melancholy warning to all his youthful contemporaries, and a sample of the sort of milky manhood which Manses wens alone able to produce. All that is now a thing of the past. All lines of life are now open to ministers' sons, and happily Manses have placed themselves in healthy touch with the professions, with the civil service, with commerce, with agriculture, and with all the active pursuits of men. Ministers' sons are now not only training themselves for the ranks of the clergy, but they are forging ahead at the Bar, in the medical profession, in engineering, in business, in farming, and in the army. We have but to look around us, and we see ministers' sons on the bench, the leading luminaries in surgery and medicine, merchant princes, enterprising agriculturists, brilliant engineers, trustworthy solicitors, artists, soldiers, members of Parliament, and they easily hold their own in all the legitimate competitions of life. I am not surprised, therefore, that now in the Empire's great agony the Manses are turning out their sons and daughters in scores and hundreds to take their full share in the stern work of war. It has been now established as a matter of observation and experience that a Manse is a first-rate place for a man or a woman to be born in; and anybody who has had an opportunity of knowing what the life of a Manse is from the inside has no trouble in accounting for the fact.

In the first place, the piety of the Manse has ceased to be of the cloistered kind, as it used to be a generation ago. The Manse has thrown open its windows and doors to the free social breath of the whole world. Ministers do not want any longer to be treated as if they stood outside the great currents of active life. Their families desire simply to be regarded like the families of other people, to enter into the same healthy pursuits, to share the same duties, to bear the same responsibilities, to enjoy the same innocent pleasures, to be taken at the same intrinsic estimates, to be exempt from none of the ordinary privations, "fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled bv the same winter and summer." From this point of view I regard the Manse as on the whole the most natural and simple and healthy home in the parish ,and an ideal place and daughters. This change has been gradual and almost imperceptible; but it has taken place, and so far from the ancient piety of the Manse having suffered in consequence it has vastly improved in health, in strength, in
all gracefulness and beauty.

But in the second place, the Manse is a hive of hard work. A minister who does his duty must be a very hard-working man. He has to preach twice on the first day of the week, and he must be fresh and interesting every time if he is to hold his own with the people; and then his engagements through the other six days of the week are innumerable and boundless. Talk of working hours, eight hours in the twenty-four, as other workers talk; a minister is literally on the go all the twenty-four hours round. He is in perpetual danger of sinking into a drudge, and if he does not take the greatest care he will develop into a mere, clerical machine. He must study earnestly; he must keep abreast of his pastoral visitation; he must meditate profoundly on all the questions of the day; he must give himself out perpetually in sympathy, in counsel, in oversight, and above all he must direct and inspire his whole congregation. Even in small and rural charges, perhaps, his duties are the most exacting of all. I once heard the late Dr. Donald Fraser, of Marylebone, say in the English Synod, and he said the truth, "The troubles of a minister are usually in the inverse ratio of the size of his congregation." Then the minister's wife is usually the busiest woman in the whole congregation; most busy if she abstains from parochial work, looking after the affairs of the Manse where she is financier, manager, wife and mother all in one. It is hers to solve the almost insoluble problem of how to support the refined hospitalities of the Manse on a very limited income, and how to maintain the character of a lady in a community where she is the observed of all observers. In this atmosphere of hard work the children grow up, the sons to prepare themselves for taking their place afterwards in life, and the daughters to qualify for an honourable role in the future.

In the third place, the Manses are now universally conducted on strictly teetotal principles. I believe this is most true in Ireland. It has been my good fortune to have been the guest at one time or another in nearly all the Manses of the General Assembly, and I never saw a decanter on the table of one of them. I think it will be acknowledged that this is a good atmosphere for the rearing of young men. At any rate it is a fact that the vast majority of our ministers' sons are pre-eminently sober, if not total abstaining men.

In the fourth place, the sanctity of the Sabbath is established in the Manse, and above all there is the daily observance of family worship. Both these are essential for the formation of a Christian home, and the Manse is a Christian home in the proper sense of the word. The sons of the Manse are members of a home, not of a lodging-house, and the home feeling gets into their blood. This is the very finest inheritance on which they can enter. Usually the father is a boy with his boys, and the mother is a girl with her girls, and there are no households so happy, so full of love, so bright with mirth, so pure from the taint of selfishness, so united with happy memories, so braced by mutual co-operation as those that grow up in a Manse. I have known many large families in Manses, large enough to satisfy the ideal of even the Vicar of Wakefield, and I have not known one with a black sheep among them. If there are any black sheep I have only heard of them; I have not known them.

But lastly, there is a characteristic of the Manse which I think contributes more than all else to the manhood of its sons to which I have only incidentally referred. I mean its restricted financial resources. I refuse to speak of the poverty of the Manse, for poverty is after all a relative term. There are men and women who do not account themselves wealthy, but to whom the whole yearly revenue of a Manse would not serve for a single day's pleasure; and there are multitudes of honest folk in the world who do not own themselves poor to whom the income of the Manse would look like a mine of gold. The fact is, that if we consider only the bare necessities of life Manses cannot be said to be poor; and if we consider the luxuries they cannot be said to be rich. Ecclesiastical finance has so managed it that if Agur, the son of Jakeh, himself were an Irish Presbyterian minister his prayer would be almost perfectly answered -- "Give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with food convenient for me, lest I be full and deny Thee, and say who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor and steal, and take the name of my God in vain." One thing is certain, that if any young man has a lust for acquiring riches he ought not to seek the ministerial office. At the same time so skilfully managed is the exchequer of the Manse that for the ordinary visitor it is impossible to judge whether it is poor or rich. Most ministers' wives are perfect queens in their own homes, and they can be open-handed and generous on little as on much. Besides, when a house is rich in refinement, in culture, in courtesy, and in good breeding, it is astonishing how attractive frugality can be made to look and how extremely little coarse extravagance will be really missed. It is in these higher riches that Manses excel, and nothing is better for the rearing of sons and daughters. The worship of mammon does not coarsen the young spirit, and the higher faculties both of mind and body find a pure atmosphere for their exercise. At the same time I do not endorse the view that straitened means are best for ministerial life. I believe that as the general standard of living improves the salaries of ministers ought to improve with it. Presbyterians have never accepted the ascetic doctrine that poverty is a grace of the spirit. Long years ago, I heard of a man who at a visitation in his church, when the Presbytery came to inquire into the ministerial income, cried out to the Court, "O you keep our minister orthodox, and we shall see to keep him poor." And they kept him poor, until at last the very congregation ceased to exist. I believe the very best test of a congregation's spiritual life is its generosity towards its minister; and everybody knows that in a Manse there are legitimate ambitions both in the minister and in his wife, both in their sons and in their daughters, which must be simply and sternly repressed by reason of the res angustae domi. I wonder very much why the Sustentation Fund does not become the most popular fund of the Church. It ought to be, and it will be I think as soon as this war is over. Ten or twenty pounds a year added to the equal dividend would bring sunshine into many a Manse, would bring joy to the heart of many a careful minister's wife, would lighten the load of many a hardworking minister, and would greatly smooth the road of many a son and daughter of the Manse as they struggled forward into the battle of life.

For all these reasons we can understand well how it is that the Manses have responded so nobly to the call of the nation in this war. They have done what they could, and the gift they have laid upon the altar is their sons and daughters. We look for good fruit to grow on a good tree, and the Manses are good trees. When we witness the noble procession of brave sons and daughters who are going forth now from the Manses of the Church with their lives in their hands to serve King and country in the war we shall all stir ourselves to a fresh interest in their welfare. I believe that in no Church in Christendom are the relations between pastors and people more healthy, more cordial, or more Scriptural than in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at the present time. It only needs that a few influential wealthy men shall look into their chequebooks in a prayerful spirit, and as God's stewards to kindle a fire of generosity in favour of the Sustentation Fund, which will bring joy into every Manse of the Assembly, and be an adequate thankoffering for the heroic sacrifices which these Manses are now making for their country.

by "Southern Presbyterian."

From The Witness, 14th April 1916.
Image: Painting by Chris Collingwood