Thursday, 31 December 2015

A Prayer for the New Year

Let me be a little kinder,
Let me be a little blinder
To the faults of those about me;
Let me praise a little more;
Let me be, when I am weary,
Just a little bit more cheery—
Let me serve a little better
Those that I am striving for.

Let me be a little braver
When temptation bids me waver,
Let me strive a little harder
To be all that I should be;
Let me be a little meeker
With the brother who is weaker,
Let me think more of my neighbour
And a little less of me.

Let me be a little sweeter—
Make my life a bit completer,
By doing what I should do
Every minute of the day.
Let me toil without complaining,
Not a humble task disdaining;
Let me face the summons calmly
When death beckons me away.

Reprinted from The Witness, 21st January 1916.

Good-Bye to Abdul

EARLY in December, 1915, it was stated in the House of Lords that a well-known General had recommended the evacuation of the British and French armies on Gallipoli. The statement was an extraordinary one to make public at such a time, and the soldiers were furious. But on second thoughts we said to ourselves: “Well, the Turks will never think we are going to abandon the expedition, because if we were we should not be such damned fools as to say so.” Even the Germans were misled into that idea.

The Berliner Tageblatt stated that the Dardanelles undertaking would have been abandoned long ago if it were as easy to get out of the jaws of the lion as to get into them.

Yet in a few weeks’ time we were off the Peninsula and enjoying our Christmas dinner far away from Gallipoli. The beast had been disappointed of his prey at Anzac. The jaws of the Turko-German lion had snapped ; but they had snapped a little too late. The story of how the enemy was outwitted is a fascinatingly interesting one; but it cannot even yet be told in detail. The joke of the whole thing, apparently, was that the Turks, instead of thinking we were evacuating, thought we were landing three new divisions to make another attack. But whatever happened, there can be not the least doubt that the Turkish commander was left lamenting the fact that he had at least failed to scupper our rearguard, and that he did not even capture one solitary machine gun.

The great thing from our point of view was to make it appear from day to day as if events were running their ordinary course. The cleverness and the resource with which this was accomplished will one day pass into history in detail. The final operation orders were a model of clear thinking and organization from the main principles down to the smallest detail of the Great Adventure. One and all, from the highest commands down to the privates in the trenches, carried them out with a loyal cooperation and enthusiasm worthy of the best traditions of our race. To a non-combatant on the Peninsula carefully watching events from day to day the position appeared to bristle with difficulties, some of which it seemed almost hopeless to surmount. To such an extent was this the case that the final triumphant success, when it did come, was a little difficult of realization.

Towards the close of the Great Adventure the humorists got to work, and it was no uncommon sight to see a comfortable dug-out bearing the notice — A Louer. Many of the men left messages for Abdul — “A Merry Christmas” and “Good wishes for the New Year.” One gunnery officer gathered together all the bottles he could find and piled them outside the mess. “The Turk,” he said, “will think our last strafe was the result of a great carousal.” One battery away on the right left its mess-table set with bully beef, a bottle of whisky, and some other odds and ends, “With compliments to the commander of ‘Beachy Bill.’” On the table in another dug-out there was left a gramophone, wound up and with the needle on the record ready to give out the tune. The air was “The Turkish Patrol.”

In our mess, however sad or serious we might be inwardly, we managed at least to maintain a cheerful exterior, extending mock sympathy to the “die-hards,” and chaffing each other as to the various capacities that we should presently be appearing in at Constantinople.

The idea was sedulously cultivated that the men were going into rest camps; but the intelligence of the colonial troops was too keen to permit of the continuance of this deception. A query to the O.C. Artillery as to when his second lot of guns were going into the “rest camp” elicited only a smile, and a suggestion that the guns were getting tired was an insult that rankled but could not be replied to.

In the dug-outs, in the trenches, and in the artillery observation posts various kindly messages, and even presents of food, were left for our gallant foes. One New Zealand artillery officer, whose skull was laid bare by a shell that came through the roof of his observation post, left a message for the Turkish gunners to say that the shell “did not get him.” That same officer carried on till his gun was withdrawn and safely placed on board an outgoing ship.

But underlying all this fun and frolic that is so well-recognized a trait of British character in the presence of extreme danger, there was a deeper feeling of sadness that we should be leaving, without a further struggle, the ground so dearly won — the ilex-covered valleys and hills, gained and held with the life's blood of so many of the noblest and best of New Zealand's and Australia’s sons. Somewhat poetically one of the New Zealand soldiers put this phase of thought to his Battalion Commander: “I hope, sir,” he said,” that those fellows who lie buried along the Dere will be soundly sleeping and not hear us as we march away.” The idea that his dead comrades might think the living were forsaking them seemed to have made a deep impression on his mind.

"The End of a Very Gallant Adventure" is the title given to his work by the naval officer from whose sketch the above diagrammatic drawing has been made. The whole movement was carried out so skilfully and secretly on the night of January 8th and 9th that the Turkish troops had little idea of what was actually taking place. The casualties on the British side were reported to be negligible. Drawn by S. Begg.
The spirit of the men towards the close was splendid. As the last days drew near the suspense grew greater. Did the Turks know that we were evacuating? Would they attack at the last moment our attenuated lines? These were questions that were ever uppermost in our minds; but even up to the last day we had a supreme confidence in our ability to repel any Turkish attack that might be launched upon us. The New Zealand General — now in command of the Army Corps — finally took all ranks into his confidence, and issued an order expressing his trust in their discretion and their high soldierly qualities to carry out a task the success of which would largely depend upon their individual efforts. In the case of an attack he expressed himself confident that the men who had to their credit such deeds as the original landing at Anzac, the repulse of the big Turkish attack on May 18, the capture of Lone Pine, the Apex, and Hill 60, would hold their ground with the same valour and steadfastness as heretofore, however small in numbers they might be. The splendid spirit of the men at the finish showed that this confidence was not misplaced.

On the Friday I went into the firing line on the Apex — the highest ground won in all the fighting — and found the New Zealanders, who still occupied that post of honour, tumbling over one another to be the last to leave. The Colonel commanding one battalion called for thirty volunteers from two companies. Every man in each company volunteered. Men were coming to their commanders and begging that they might be allowed to be in the last lot to go.

“Do let me stay,” said one man. “I was in the landing, and I should like to be one of the last to leave.”

It was just the same with the Australians—they all wanted to be in the “Diehards.” “Have you many volunteers for the ‘Die-hards’?” I asked one commander.

“Every mother’s son of them wants to be a ‘Diehard’!” he rephed.

And this, mind you, was at a time when we thought that most of the “Diehards ” would, for a certainty, be either killed, wounded, or taken prisoner — at a time when a little jumpiness and hesitation might very well have been expected. In one position on the left, when the last lot assembled at the cookhouse, it was found that there were two missing. One had gone back to the firing line for his pipe, the other for something he had left behind in his bivouac!

With such excellent organization on the part of the staff, and such brave and loyal co-operation and sang-froid on the part of the officers and men in the trenches, it is perhaps, after all, not to be wondered at that the Turks were busy shelling the vacant trenches and the deserted beaches a day after men, mules, and guns were already well across the Gulf of Saros, in the language of the official dispatch, “to be employed elsewhere.” They had triumphantly succeeded in one of the most difficult of operations — in a feat that is unique in the annals of warfare.

From Light and Shade in War by Captain Malcolm Ross and Noel Ross, 1916.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Conundrums

What does a stone become in water? Wet.

What is it that can kick without feet? A gun.

How can one best get along in the world? Walk.

When is a goat nearly dead? When it is all butt.

What is always behind time? The back of a watch.

Why is thought like the sea? It is a notion (an ocean).

What kind of vice do even bad people dislike? Ad-vice.

What do we often catch, but never see? A passing remark.

When has a man four hands? When he doubles his fists.

Why is a bootblack like the sun? Because he shines for all.

When is a cook like a barber? When she dresses hare (hair).

Why is a noisy man like a candle? Because he is often put out.

Why is sneezing like a waterfall? Because it is a catar(rh) act.

Why is a grain of wheat like an acorn? Because it is "a corn."

When is a lamp-post a lamp-lighter? When the lamp is taken off.

Why is necessity like a stupid lawyer? Because it knows no law.

When is water most liable to escape? Whew it's only half tide.

Why has a kiss two s's? Because it takes two to complete the spell.

When is an artist a dangerous person? When his designs are bad.

Why is a cracker like death? Because it is a debt o' natur' (detonator).

Why is a sovereign gained like a guinea? Because it is one pound won.

What is the least valuable thing a man can have in his pocket? A hole.

Why is your nose like V in civility? Because it is between two eyes.

What flower becomes liquid when you take off its head? The pink (ink).

What is that which is invisible, yet never out of sight? The letter "s."

Why is an obliging man like an old story? Because he is affable (a fable).

Which king, known to the Prophet Samuel, would prevent speech? A-gag.

Why is ploughed ground like a riotous mob? Because it is arable (a rabble).

Why is a dead dog like a shipwreck? Because it is a bark (barque) lost.

Why is a tight shoe like a hot summer? Because it makes the corn grow.

Why has a greedy man a short memory? Because he is always for-getting.

Why are well-darned stockings like dead men? Because they are men-ded.

Long and lank – thin and tail – spits fire and kills all. What is it? A gun.

What is it we often tell others to do and can't do ourselves? Stop a minute.

What county in Ireland reminds you of a candle nearly burnt out? Wick-low.

Why is a punctual man like the letter "m"? Because it is always in time.

What kind of field is older than you are? One that is pasturage (past your age).

Why is the letter P like the most cruel Roman? Because it to near O (Nero).

When did the cock crow so that all the world heard it? When it was in the Ark.

What four letters spell the Russian Ambassador's title? X L N C (Excellency).

Why is a wise man like a nail? Because his head prevents him from going to far.

What fruit may Noah be supposed to have chiefly laid up in the Ark? Pears (pairs).

What is the most difficult train to catch? All about the same, if the train gets the start.

What creatures took money into the Ark? The duck took a bill, and the skunk a (s)cent.

Why is attar of roses like a letter from Australia? Because it is sent (scent) from afar.

Why is a selfish man like the letter P? Because he is the first to pay and the last in help.

Why is a cat catching its tail like a good housekeeper? Because it makes both ends meet.

What to the most remarkable animal in the world? The pig, because it is first killed, then cured.

What grows less tired the more it works? A carriage wheel grows less tyred the more it works.

Why is a horse a curious feeder? Because he eats best when he has not a bit in his mouth.

Why is a loaf which has fallen overboard like a lobster? Because it is bread (bred) in the sea.

How is it Dutch people come into the world ready dressed? Because they are born in Holland.

There is a word of five letters from which two can be taken, and only one left. What is it? Stone.

Why should not the number 283 be mentioned in polite society? Because it is two (too) gross.

Why are people born deaf always good? Because they have never erred (heard) in their lives.

What is that which, while we feel but cannot see, which is easily swallowed, but never eaten? Flattery.

What is that which, while it belongs entirely to yourself, is used more by others than you? Your name.

Why is a doctor out of temper like a woman out of temper? Because he has lost his patients (patience).

What is the difference between a fowl with two wings and a fowl with only one? Merely a matter of a pinion.

Why are blacksmiths the most discontented of mechanics? Because they are always on the strike for more pay.

Why as a young lady looking at a sign-post like a letter with a wrong address? Because she is miss-directed.

Why is it probable that Charles I. consented to be executed? Because they "axed" him whether he would or not.

Why is a rude fishmonger likely to get more business than a civil one? Because his sells fish, and gives sauce with it.

If all the letters in the alphabet were to run a race which letter would be sure to be the first in starting? The letter S.

What is the difference between a cabinet-maker and a crockery dealer? One makes tea-sets, the other makes set-tees.

What is that which a lady never had, and never can have, and yet she has it in her power to present to another? A wife.

Why is coal the most contradictory thing known to commerce? Because, when bought, instead of going to the buyer it goes to the cellar.

Why should an ill-fitting pair of trousers remind you of two French ports? Because they may be too long and too loose (Toulon and Toulouse).

What force or strength cannot get through, I, with a gentle touch, can do; and many in the street would stand, were I not as a friend at hand? A key.

Who can drink the most coffee on an empty stomach, a large man or a small man? Neither, for after the first swallow, the stomach is no longer empty.

From The Witness, 3rd December 1915

Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Lore of Christmas

EXTENDING into the mists of antiquity far behind Christianity, lie the beginnings of religion, a natural movement of the human spirit towards the Divine: far behind every Festival of the Christian year, woven into the historical circumstance of each, lie similar occasions when men rejoiced and worshipped. Thus our great Festivals are native to humanity from ever there was man, and the Christian celebrates them as purified in the baptism of Christian thought and sentiment. So it is with Christmas, the supreme occasion when we set aside all that forbids the mingling of joy with worship.

The name “Christmas” sets the tone of the occasion, for Christmas is The Christ Mass or Feast, a Holiday in His honour. We shall find as we look at the customs of the Festival that this idea of holiday for His sake is either the origin of each custom or has submerged within itself earlier and pre-Christian elements.

Christmas without its decorations would be foreign to sentiment. Taking pride of place is our use of Holly, Mistletoe and the Christmas Tree. Seasonable significance attaches to each.

HOLLY, by tradition The Holy Tree. In pre-Christian Roman times Holly was used in the Saturnalia. Many a god and goddess was believed to lurk in the groves and woods of the Ancient World, and, being humanly imagined, was thought to feel the rigours of the winter. Evergreens were therefore brought indoor to home and Temple at Saturnalia in the belief that god and goddess, sheltering in the foliage, would thus come to sojourn under a human roof-tree until the burgeoning of Spring. In this old custom lies the origin of our use of sprays and festoons of greenery at Christmas. Later a Christian significance attaches to the use. The Crown of Thorns was claimed to have been Holly, and it was the blood shed at Calvary which dyed the berry scarlet. Thus the Holly, symbolically, linked the Birth with the Atoning Death.

Alongside this lies the old Legend that the ROBIN in compassion sought to peck the torturing thorns from Christ’s brow and so became stained in his breast with the evidence of Nature’s care for her Noblest Son.

Similarly the use of THE MISTLETOE is pre-Christian and Druidic. The Ancient Celt held the Oak sacred and believed that when the oak tree slept in winter, its spirit came to reside in the Mistletoe which was parasitic to the oak and evergreen. To gather and hang it indoors meant the importing to a household of the mighty spirit of the oak and with it, good fortune. Here no subsequent Christian legend grew up; we retain a simple usage of the childhood of our race.

THE CHRISTMAS TREE is to the British people a newcomer. Its introduction is usually ascribed to Prince Albert who set one up at Windsor in 1841; but as a matter of history Princess Lieven actually forestalled him by several years, and so can claim the authorship of a gracious custom.

The use of the Tree is therefore of Teutonic origin and an old German Legend gives it grace. A forester and his family were seated before the fire one wild winter night when a knock came to the door. Answering, the forester was surprised to see a child cold, tired, and hungry. The child was brought in, fed and put to sleep in the bed of Hans, the son of the house who slept that night on the floor. In the morning the forester awoke to the music of some celestial choir, as it were at his door. Looking at his little guest he saw His face dazzling in its brightness. It was the Christ-child Himself. Departing, He took a bough of Norway spruce and planting it firmly in the ground. He thanked the forester and told him that “the Tree” would always bring him abundance in the depth of winter.

The decorating of the Tree is also Teutonic, and in Germany, when lighted up, the Tree is
always placed in the window. The custom of placing a decorated and illuminated Tree in a town street or city square is also part of the tradition, as is the placing of a Silver Star at the top — the Star of Bethlehem. Owing to the deep religious significance of the custom only presents which bring joy and pleasure are hung on the Tree. Utilitarian gifts are grouped at the foot, as in the days of yore.
“And now the fir tree . . .
 Acclaimed, by eager blue-eyed girls and boys,
 Bursts into tinsel fruit and glittering toys.
 And turns into a pyramid of light”.

                      (Eugene Lee-Hamilton).

THE CHRISTMAS CARD is a modern custom, and the traditional picture with its white winter scene, its waits and its stage-coach or Santa Claus owes much to the marriage of the sentiments of Washington Irving in America to those of Charles Dickens here, Christmas, of course, in the British Isles, generally coincides with a mild spell of weather, but the conceit is pleasing.

Last century schoolboys were made to write and decorate an essay before they left Grammar School or Public School for the Christmas holiday. These essays were taken home as evidence of progress — a pleasing variation to the usual school report which could not fail at times to be condemnatory of ill-spent time during term. Proud parents displayed the fruits of youthful genius on the mantelpiece for all to see, and later an eager father decided to be a genius himself and sent the proof of his abilities round his friends. So arose the private greeting card with its seasonable appearance and message. Those who maintain the tradition in its happy freshness still make their own cards. Here commercialism is the foe of the Christmas spirit as elsewhere.

Christmas is a FEAST, Hence the association of a rich table with the occasion. In Britain at first a BOAR’S HEAD and the BARON of BEEF: our forefathers were doughty trenchermen. The Boar’s Head had an apple or a lemon in its mouth and its ears were decorated with sprigs of Rosemary.
“The Boar’s Head, in hand bear I,
 Bedecked with bay and rosemary:
 And I pray you, my masters, be merry.
         I bear the Boar’s Head,
         Rendering praise to the Lord”.

As a later gift from America came the TURKEY, now universally the Christmas Dish.

THE PLUM PUDDING, originally Frumenty, a stewed wheat dish. As ingredients were added it became Plum Porridge and so Plum Pudding. Traditionally it was beef or mutton broth thickened with brown bread, raisins, currants, prunes (the “plums”), spices and ginger-bread.

THE MINCE PIE was originally a real pie of chopped hare, pheasant, capon or partridge. Later it became a sweetmeat of raisins, orange, sugar and spices. By tradition each pie eaten in silence brings happiness for one month in the New Year, but nobody has ever solved the problem of the schoolboy who ate seventeen in silence and then wondered how many he might be allowed that day twelvemonths.

Bringing in the YULE LOG, the wood for the Christmas evening fire, was itself a ceremony involving singing, dancing and general hilarity. By custom the Log was not burnt out but a portion saved to light the Log of the next Christmas.

MUMMING AND WASSAILING. In mediaeval times young men dressed up and visited the houses of town and countryside, acting, singing, and dancing. Healths were drunk and good cheer abounded. The custom, now all but dead, is the remnant of the ancient Yule Festival in honour of ODIN, the Yule Father. This custom brought into our Christmas customs a Norse strand.

To the mediaeval period also belongs the PANTOMIME, originally a Play in Dumb Show. Eater, singing and the use of masks were introduced as well as the Ballet. Later still it became the special Christmas Variety Entertainment built up loosely around a Fairy Tale.

THE CAROL goes back to the period when in the mediaeval Church singing and dancing were part of the Festival. With the disappearance of dancing from the Church the Carol came to signify a merry song suggestive of joy and with the lilt of dancing in its notes — a happy song to celebrate the Nativity. The Carol proper dates to the disciples of St. Francis of Assisi (12th Century) and spread from Italy. Its value as a vehicle for the collection of alms fixed it firmly among the customs of the European Christmas.

BOXING DAY. Almsgiving at Christmas found its climax in the opening of the alms boxes after the Christmas Day Service. The distribution however, was reserved for St. Stephen’s Day, which thus became known as Boxing Day. The day had, however, another significance. It was for apprentices and servants a holiday from morning to night and The WREN BOY and many another traditional figure toured from house to house, singing, acting, dancing and seeking alms. It is interesting to us that both the whole holiday for servants and the early morning visit of The Wren Boy are features of the St. Stephen’s Day of Connacht and other parts of Ireland.

And so to SANTA CLAUS. St. Nicholas was the Patron Saint of Russia, of children, sailors and travellers. In the Dutch, San Nicholas: if you say it quickly enough often enough you will learn how the name slurred into the affectionate Santa Claus.

In Myra in ancient Lycia there lived a poor man with his three daughters. They were without fine clothes and had little to eat, but like all girls, they used to dream of their future. For them the dreams were about happy marriage and comfortable homes. None however would marry them who had no dowry.

In the same town lived Nicholas, wealthy and generous of spirit. He had discovered the joy of causing pleasure in the hearts of others, and was happiest if he did good by stealth. One night, from outside their open window, he discovered the plight of the three girls, and the very next night he lightly tossed three purses of gold into the room at their feet and slipped away. Three purses of gold! The meaning was clear, there was one for each, and before long each girl had realised her dream and was happy. Nicholas continued his habit, especially in gifts for children, and the dark days of winter were his happiest. In due course he was found out, and his name speedily became a legend. The Church canonised him, with perhaps more wisdom than in other cases, and so he lives for ever as St. Nicholas — evidence to us of the blessing of the Church on kindness done by stealth.

His sleigh, built, of course, in Fairy Land so as to travel through the air, and his reindeer are a Nordic idea and the final beautifying with legendary detail of the central custom of Christmas.

Christmas was not always celebrated on 25th December, but in the earliest times was twelve days later. The 6th of January is still called “Little Christmas”, and in many a part of Ireland you will still find it kept with lighted candles in the window for welcome and a door on the latch all night to let the Christ-Child in. A countryside so lighted is a blessed sight on “Twelfth Night” in parts of Connacht and Munster.

Behind all the richness of legend and custom lies the single impulse of joy and worship:— “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.”



Reprinted from the Presbyterian Herald December 1949


Thursday, 10 December 2015

Notes on the Ulster Scot

In Queen Elizabeth’s day, by an Act passed in the eleventh year of her reign, Ulster was declared to be “the most perilous place in all the isle.” This statement is not surprising, for the northern province was then the most distinctively Irish portion of the country. The native race in it was purer than that in the other three provinces. Of course the term purity can only be applied relatively to any portion of Ireland, as Huxley’s famous essay clearly demonstrated. The variety of races which constitute Ulster nationality is truly astonishing. “Saxon, or Norman, or Dane are we,” sang Tennyson. Doubtless considerations of space and metre prevented him from giving an exhaustive list. For the men of the northern province not only are Saxons, Normans and Danes; they are also Irish, Scots, French and German. The Irish were everywhere; so too were the Scots. There are no more than twenty miles of sea separating County Antrim from Argyll at one point. The Council in Dublin surveyed in the year 1533 the arrival of the Macdonnells with disapproval, declaring that “the Scots also inhabit now busily a great part of Ulster, which is the King’s inheritance; and it is greatly to be feared, unless that in short time they be driven from the same, that they, bringing in more number daily, will, by little and little, so far encroach in acquiring and winning the possessions there, with the aid of the King’s disobedient Irish rebels, who do now aid them therein after such manner, that at length they will put and expel the King from his whole seigniory there.”

 In his excellent book on the Ulster Scot the Rev. J. B. Woodburn investigates the beginnings of this remarkable race. Of course the author admits that his genesis is in part to be found in Scotland, but he is careful to point out that the Ulsterman is as Celtic as a native of Munster. It is not a question of racial distinctions: the Ulster Scot is as Celtic as the Connaughtman. The M'Crea-Magee College in Londonderry, now an affiliated college of the University of Dublin, has had about a thousand students since 1865, when it was opened. The names of 146 of those students begin with Mac, and if the disguised Macs (such as Magill) are included we have a total of 200, or twenty per cent., bearing a single Celtic cognomen. One-seventh of the names of the ministers of the Irish Presbyterian Church at the present moment have names which begin with the same prefix. Here are some of the facts which Mr. Woodburn emphasises to prove that the Ulstermen are
      Kindly Irish of the Irish,
      Neither Saxons nor Italians.

The late Rev. Dr. Kane, the Grand Master of the Orangemen, was a typical Ulsterman, and he maintained that he never could forget he was also an O’Cahan.

Mr. Woodburn raises the extremely interesting question as to why the North differs from the South so much. It is plain that climate will not explain the differences, for the Donegal man is quite different from the Antrim man. Physical reasons, in this sense, are not sufficient. We think that the isolation of the northern province is no small cause, and in its explanation we reproduce what we have written elsewhere. A glance at the map will show that Ulster is surrounded on three sides by the sea; and that the fourth side has for its land frontier a line drawn from Dundalk to Bally-shannon. The waters of Lough Erne occupy the western half of this line, forming a complete defence from Ballyshannon to Belturbet, a distance of nearly fifty miles. The Eastern half is bounded by the chain of the Fews mountains, rising in front of Dundalk, long the outmost post of the English Pale. The centre of the line was protected by the counties of Monaghan and Cavan, interlaced with a perfect network of bogs and lakes. Through these there was only one road, that by Carrickmacross in the Barony of Farney. This pass was the Killiecrankie of Ulster, and was appropriately designated “The Gap of the North.”

Long after the other three provinces had been reduced to submission, chiefs such as the O’Nials retained a large measure of independence. Their aim was to keep their tribesmen faithful to the pastoral ideal of life; and this aim they achieved. They felt that such a life was best fitted to enable them to retain their authority and to preserve their followers from adopting English customs. Fynes Moryson showed that “plenty of grass makes the Irish have infinite multitudes of cattle, and in the heat of the last rebellion the very vagabond rebels had great multitudes of cows which they still (like the nomads) drove with them whithersoever themselves were driven, and fought for them as for their altars and families.” These nomads were the creaghts. When James I. endeavoured to give a system of administration to Ireland, he met with the greatest difficulty from this pastoral population, accustomed to wander about without any fixed habitation. Fynes Moryson describes their dwellings as made of wattles or boughs, covered with long turves or sods of grass, which they could easily remove and put up as they roved from place to place in search of pasture. North and West of Lough Neagh, it seems that the whole population was formed of creaghts, living this wild and nomadic life. At this period, there was not, according to Sir John Davies, one fixed village in County Fermanagh.

With the Ulster Plantation, 1608, appeared the definite appropriation of the lands among the new settlers, and with it disappeared the custom of creaght. The disappearance took time, for, so late as the year 1690, John Stevens records in his remarkable “Journal” (p. 161) meeting the creaghts, “which are much like the Tartar hordes, being a number of people some more some less, men, women, and children, under a chief or head of the name or family, who range about the country with their flocks or herds and all the goods they have in the world, without any settled habitation, building huts wherever they find pasture for their cattle and removing as they find occasion.” The fact is that the old form of society persisted longer in Ulster than in the other three provinces. Con O’Niall cursed all his posterity in case they learned the English language, sowed wheat, or built them houses. Speed explains Con’s reasons: “Lest the first should breed conversation, the second commerce of sustenance, and with the last they should speed as the crow that buildeth her nest to be beaten out by the hawk.”

Reprinted from the Church of Ireland Gazette of 8th May 1914.

Sunday, 6 December 2015


Rain and wreckage around me,
   Home desolated and waste;
One cruel blow has left me
   Memories I ne'er can efface.

I sigh for a touch of kindness,
   And voices I hear no more;
Those who are left to befriend me
   Stand at the open door.

Humble and bare was our shelter.
   Contented and happy my lot:
Ah! why should a human earthquake
   Crumble and shatter the spot.

I, even I, left behind them,
   Why bemoan their sad loss;
Them who protect'st the friendless,
   Help me to bear the cross.

Vengeance, thou useless weapon;
   Jesus has said unto me,
Suffer the sad and the weary
   Ever to come unto Me.

Drumskelt House, 5/10/'15.

This poem appeared in The Witness of 12th November 1915 with the preamble:-- "Elizabeth is the victim of a recent Zeppelin raid. She was rescued from the ruins, dazed, but unhurt. Father, mother, brothers, sisters, all were completely wiped out. She is now in Dr. Barnardo's Homes."

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Notes on the Rock of Cashel

In O'Hanlon's "Life of St. Mochoemoc of Liath Mor," in the Diocese of Cashel, some curious particulars, from which the following is selected, are given concerning the Rock of Cashel:–

"Again was the same king (Failbhe) visited by St. Mochoemoc and by St. Colman, son of Dare. Failbhe spoke haughtily to both, but he was reproved by our saint, who declared that the bishop, his companion, on account of his nobility, relationship, and virtues, at least ought to receive some courtesy from the monarch, while Mochoemoc also announced that the Demon of Pride and the Demon of Lust held sway over him. Sensible of his crimes, the king felt sorrowful, and Mochoemoc then cried out to the Demon of Pride, 'Thou seed-sower of vices, take flight, and sit on yonder stone until joined by your companion, when I shall speak to you.' Next was the Demon of Lust banished from the king, and he went to keep company with the other wicked spirit. Then said the saint to both, 'Depart you two seducers to the north side of Cashel Tor, where we have not to travel, and may you do little mischief until the Day of Judgment.' The mediaeval legend pointed out the place of their captivity, where their moans and wailings were frequently heard." I think that the place of the captivity has been quarried away, so that the Demons of Lust and Pride are no longer imprisoned in the Rock.

Dante ("The Vision of Hell," Canto i.) has represented Lust, Pride, and Avarice by the leopard, lion, and she-wolf, and in Canto xxxiv. the three winds produced by the wings of Lucifer are lust, pride, and avarice. It was a commonplace of mediaeval ethics that lust, pride, and avarice were the roots of all the sins of the world.

According to the "Chronicum Scotorum," Failbhe died A.D. 636, and Mochoemoc A.D. 646. But according to the Irish hagiologists, Colman of Derrymore, a few miles east of Liath Mor, was son of Aengus, King of Cashel, who, according to the "Chronicum Scotorum," was slain A.D. 487. Dare, mother of Colman, is stated to be sister of St. Enda of Arranmore, and daughter of Conall derg, son of Daimen, King of Oriel, whose chief fort, Raith mor, was near the Cathedral of Clogher, in the demesne of the old bishops of Clogher. Adamnan in his "Life of St. Columba " makes mention of "Clocherum filiorum Daimeni," or "Clogher of the sons of Daimen," who was father of Conall derg, who endeavoured to prevent St. Molasius from taking possession of Devenish, in Lough Erne, which belonged to the kings of Oriel. Conall derg launched his boat on Linn an tairb ("the pool of the bull"), beside Portora (corrupted from the Irish, Port an tairbh), and set sail for Devenish, but the saint proved too many for the king of Oriel. It appears to me that Colman of Derrymore could not possibly be son of Aengus and Dare, but it is not easy to discover his real parentage owing to lack of particulars, but he may be identical with Colman of Bruis (Cluain Bruices) and Doon (Dun Blesce), in the Diocese of Emly.

O'Clery, in the "Donegal Martyrology," has made Colman of Cluain Bruices, son of Nathfraoch, and brother of Aengus, king of Cashel. No light is cast on this Colman of Cluain Bruices by the editors of Donegal Martyrology, Drs. Todd and Reeves, who do not even identify Cluain Bruices, but this I was enabled to do some years ago by means of the entry in the "Calendar of Aengus," p.167, concerning Colman, who therein is stated to have been the founder of the monasteries of Dun Blesce and Cluain Bruices, and I published this discovery, which after all was not very much in itself, being so easily attained, in one of our archaeological journals. There the matter for some time rested, but afterwards I was enabled to carry it further, when I found that Colman, or Columb, the founder of these old monasteries at Doon and Bruis, was the Colman or Columb, son of Eochaid and Aiglenn, who founded the monastery of Snamh Luthir, and this item is now for the first time published. Adamnan ("Life of St. Columba," ii., 43) refers to "Columbanus, son of Eochaid, a holy man, founder of that monastery which in the Irish tongue is called Snamluthir, who acted as guide in the same ear with St. Columba." Bishop Reeves identified Snamluthir as Slanore, in the County Cavan.

Years ago an old man told me that the Rock of Linfield, near Pallas Grean, was, in Irish, named Carraig Coluim Chille, or the "Rock of St. Columb Cille," and that the well and the old church on this rock were named Tobar Coluim Chille and Cill Coluim Chille. These particulars were also published, but at the same time I thought that the name Columb Cille had in the local tradition superseded the less well known Columb or Colman of Doon and Bruis, and, moreover, Lewis in his article on Grean Parish names this old church on Linfield Rock, Kilcolman, and states that it was founded in the seventh century. Thus it is likely that the monastery on Linfield Rock, like those at Doon and Bruis, was founded by Columbanus, the friend of Columb Cille, and hence we have opened a new chapter in the early ecclesiastical history of the Diocese of Emly, and probably also of Cashel, if Columb, son of Eochaid and Aiglenn, be identical with the Columb, who, according to the legend, accompanied Mochoemoc to the Rock of Cashel.

J. F. Lynch

This article, written by J. F. Lynch, appeared in the Church of Ireland Gazette, 6th March 1914.
Image: Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary by Elizabeth O'Kane.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

At Duty's Call

Out on the front
Where the battle's brunt
   Was heavy as war may be,
In a ruined town,
With the houses down,
   Where one might but wreckage see,
I reach two dwellings without a roof,
   Walls standing bare to heaven.
Where the shrapnel shells had awful proof
   Of disastrous fury given.

Here I found,
Amid havoc around,
   A shattered, roofless wreck,
Where, undismayed,
Two ladies stayed,
   In answer to duty's beck.
Desolation spread on every side,
   Yet there those ladies stayed,
And by ceaseless foraging supplied
   For the wounded soldiers' aid.

They worked every day
To shed some ray
   Of comfort on broken men;
In wet and dry
They found supply
   For their noble mission. Then
They rested and slept when passed daylight,
   Ready for any call;
While the cannons roared through the fearful night.
   In a way that might heroes appal.
Officers frowned,
Yet smiled when they found
   How the ladies felt no fear.
How they lived on
Where ruin won
   Everything far and near.
The town had been captured more than once
   Recaptured and captured again,
Again recaptured; and ever since
   The Germans attacked in vain.

Of the British race
In heart and face,
   Aristocrats born were they;
Nursed amid ease
Themselves to please,
   War brought this new display —
At duty's call their homes they left,
   Luxury, safety, all;
And at the front, of comfort bereft,
   They formed their hospital.

A roofless house,
All ruinous,
   Sheltered these dauntless two.
They gathered food
With a fortitude
   That angels' work could do,
Day by day, and night by night
   Succouring, cheering those
Who wounded fell in the ceaseless fight
   Against relentless foes.

So there they were,
That noble pair,
   Worthy of Fatherland,
Doing Christ's work
Where perils lurk
   At duty's stern command,
An honour to gracious womanhood,
   A glory to human name,
Caring for nothing but doing good,
   Nothing for empty fame.

But when the scroll
Of heroes unroll,
   And the names of martyrs stand
Emblazoned abroad
In the smile of God,
   The noblest from every land,
Methinks, those two shall wear a light
   Of beauty and high renown,
And on each brow shall be stainless bright
   Christ's gift, an immortal crown.

R. W. R. Rentoul

This poem was entitled "What an American Lady saw at the Front" and was printed in The Witness, 26th November 1915.
Image: Nurses treating soldiers at a clearing station in France (Mary Evans Picture Library).

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Isle of the Druids

The Druids bringing in the Mistletoe
by George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel 1890
(Glasgow Museum)
It is universally agreed that the Druids derived their name from that superstitious reverence they paid to the oak: "Deru," in the Saxon language, signifying an oak. They were composed of the highest orders of the people, the commonalty, for obvious reasons, being excluded from the arcana of their political system, whereby a strict alliance was formed between the Church and State; and this union rendered them awful to the people, and necessary to those who were placed in elevated stations of life by birth, education, or employment.

Their hair they wore short, but their beards very long. In their hands they carried a wand, and an enchased ornament, called the Druid's egg, was hung about the neck. Their garments – a kind of loose gown – reached down to the ground, but when engaged in religious ceremonies they always wore a surplice.

The Isle of Anglesea was their chief seat of residence, where they had their principal seminary, and held an annual meeting of the States. Such was the reputation of this seat of the muses that the children of the Gauls were sent for education hither. Ireland had its Druids also. The Druids have been distinguished by historians into three orders or classes – namely, (1) Druids, properly so called, (2) Bards, and (3) Vates or Eubates.

Those who ranked under the first class united a secular with an ecclesiastical authority, by regulating all public affairs, presiding over the mysteries of religion, offering all grand expiatory sacrifices, adjusting religious ceremonies; nay, their power extended to life and effects, respecting which their decisions were final; yet they were all in subordination to one Arch-Druid, elected from their body by a majority. This primate, or coiphi, enjoyed his supremacy during life; his person was held sacred, and the power of excommunication and deposing kings at his pleasure depended upon his will, which was absolute.

The Druids of the second order, styled Bards, were not only priests, but national preceptors, heralds, poets, and musicians. To them was committed the important trust of educating children of all ranks. Their memory was the repository containing the noble exploits of their heroes. These, on public occasions, they sung in verses of their own composing, accompanied with harps or a chorus of youths; but at their solemn religious ceremonies they also sang hymns.

Those of the third class were the Vates, who devoted themselves to the study of physic, natural philosophy, astronomy, magic, divination, and augury; in the knowledge of which they were skilled to a degree that seemed above the pitch of mental knowledge in the eyes of the ignorant people. Rowlands, in his Mona Antiqua, imagines that the "second sight" (in which he seems to believe) called Taish in Scotland, to be a relic of Druidism, and builds his conjecture upon this noted story, related by Vopiscus, who says:–
"Diocletian, when a private soldier, in Gallia, on his removing thence, reckoning with his hostess, a Druid woman, she told him he was too penurious, but that he need not be so sparing of his money, for after he should kill a boar she assured him (looking steadfastly in his face) he would be Emperor of Rome. These words made a great impression upon him, and he was afterwards much delighted in hunting and killing boars, often saying, when he saw many made emperors, and his own fortune not mending, 'I kill the boars, but it is others eat their flesh.' However, many years after, Arrius Aper, father-in-law of the Emperor Numerianus, grasping for the empire, treacherously slew him, on which fact being brought by the soldiers before Diocletian (then become a prime commander in the army), he asked his name, and being told he was called Aper – i.e., a boar – without further pause sheathed his sword in his side, saying 'Et hunc aprum cum caeteris,' which done the soldiers saluted him emperor."

Druids sacrificing to the sun in their temple called Stonehenge
by Nathaniel Whittoc (1791-1850)
engraving based in Dr. Stuckley Oxford-Ashmolean Museum

Although the policy of the Druids would never suffer their laws and religious tenets to be handed down in writing, it being their custom to teach their disciples everything by heart, a Bayardan author has been at some pains to collect some of the Druidical maxims, or rules, of which the most remarkable are these:–
"None must be instructed, but in the sacred groves."
"Mistletoe is to be gathered with reverence, and if possible, in the sixth moon. It must be cut with a golden bill."
"Everything derives its origin from heaven."
"The arcana of the sciences must not be committed to writing, but to the memory."
"Great care is to be taken of the education of children."
"The disobedient are to be shut out from the sacrifices."
"Souls are immortal."
"The soul after death goes into other bodies."
"If the world is destroyed it will be by fire or water."
"Upon extraordinary emergencies a man must be sacrificed."
"According as the body falls, or moves after it has fallen, according as the blood flows, or the wound opens, future events are foretold."
"Prisoners of war are to be slain upon the altars, or burnt alive, enclosed in wicker, in honour of the gods."
"All commerce with strangers must be prohibited."
"He that comes last to the assembly of the States ought to be punished with death."
"Children are to be brought up apart from their parents until they are fourteen years of age."
"Money lent in this world will be repaid in the next."
"There is another world, and those who kill themselves to accompany their friends thither will live with them there."
"Letters given to dying persons, or thrown on the funeral piles of the dead, will faithfully be delivered in the other world."
"The moon is a sovereign remedy for all things," as its name in Celtic implies.
"Let the disobedient be excommunicated; let him be deprived of the benefit of the law; let him be avoided by all, and rendered incapable of any employment." Query – Can this be the origin of boycotting?

All masters of families are kings in their own houses; they have a power of life and death over their wives, children, and slaves."

Human sacrifice by a Gaulish Druid
by Felix Philippoteaux
from Histoire de France by L P Anquetil 1851
The most remarkable monument of antiquity in our islands, if we take into account its comparative preservation, as well as its grandeur, is Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain, the chief temple and seat of justice of the Druids, or Baal worshippers. It originally consisted of an outer circle of thirty stones, fourteen feet high, and upon the tops of them was carried throughout a continuous impost of large flat stones of the same width. An inner circle, enclosing a diameter of 83 feet, appears to have consisted of much smaller stones, without imposts, but about the same in number as the outer circle. Within the second circle were five large stones with an impost, with three smaller stones in advance of each; these have been called the trilithons. The circles were called "Doom Rings," or circles of judgment; the flat stones of the interior were the "cromlechs," or altars on which the victims were sacrificed. They are great stone scaffolds, raised just high enough for such horrid exhibitions, and just large enough in all their proportions and so contrived as to render the whole visible to the greatest multitude of people. The officiating priest, pouring a libation upon a man as a victim, smote him upon the breast, near the throat; and on his falling, both from the manner of his fall, and from the convulsions of his limbs, and still more from the flowing of his blood, they presaged what would come to pass.

The rocking stones, or "Dolmans," masses of granite or sandstone often weighing more than six or seven hundred tons, which are so exquisitely poised that they can be moved by the touch of a finger, were other great adjuncts to the system of terror and superstition by which the Druids maintained their influence; they sought to appal and govern the popular mind by imparting a more than natural grandeur to some great work of nature, by connecting it with some effort of ingenuity which was under the direction of their rude science.

Druidical circles are not confined to England or Scotland. On the opposite shores of Brittany the great remains of Carnac exhibit a structure of far greater extent even than Abury or Stonehenge, or in Co. Kerry. In hazlewood deer-park, near Sligo, there is a Megalithic structure on Irish soil – and another near Rosscarbery, Cork, and two doom rings in slime and mortar, like the tower of Babel, at "Shannon" that are as rare as Kit's "Cotty Stools," in Kent. Cromlechs and Raths and Duns are numerous throughout Ireland.

At the little village of Stanton Drew, in the County of Somerset, about seven miles east of the road between Bristol and Wells, stands a well-known Druidical monument, which, in the opinion of Dr. Stukeley, was more ancient than that at Abury. It consists (according to a recent writer) of four groups of stones, forming (or rather having formed when complete) two circles, and two other figures, one an ellipse. Although the largest stones are much inferior in their dimensions to those at Stonehenge and Abury, they are by no means contemptible, some of them being nine feet in height, and twenty-two feet in girth. There is a curious tradition very prevalent among the country people respecting the origin of these ruins, which they designate the "Evil Wedding," for the following good and substantial reasons:–
Many hundred years ago, on a Saturday evening, a newly-married couple, with their relatives and friends, met on the spot now covered by these ruins to celebrate their nuptials. Here they feasted and danced right merrily until the clock tolled the hour of midnight, when the piper (a pious man) refused to play any longer. This was much against the wish of the guests, and so exasperated the bride, who was fond of dancing, that she swore with an oath she would not be baulked of her enjoyment by a beggarly piper, but would find a substitute if she went to the infernal regions to fetch one. She had scarcely uttered these words, when a venerable old man, with a long beard, made his appearance, and having listened to their request, proffered his services, which were right gladly accepted.
The old gentleman (who was no other than the arch-fiend himself) having taken the seat vacated by the godly piper, commenced playing a slow and solemn air, which, on the guests remonstrating, he changed into one more lively and rapid. The company now began to dance, but soon found themselves impelled round the performer so rapidly and mysteriously that they would all fain have rested. But when they essayed to retire, they found, to their consternation, that they were moving faster and faster round their diabolical musician, who had now resumed his original shape. Their cries for mercy were unheeded, until the first glimmering of day warned the fiend that he must depart. With such rapidity had they moved, that the gay and sportive assembly were now reduced to a ghastly troop of skeletons. "I leave you," said the fiend, "a monument of my power and your wickedness to the end of time": which saying, he vanished. The villagers on rising in the morning, found the meadow strewn with large pieces of stone, and the pious piper lying under a hedge, half dead with fright, he having been a witness to the whole transaction.
The Druids, or the Conversion of the Britons to Christianity, engraved
by Simon Francois Ravenet. Printed in 1778 (engraving) by Francis Hayman.

Possibly Burns may have heard the above-mentioned story before he wrote his poem on "Tam o' Shanter." Her Majesty Queen Victoria was fond of hearing it recited at Balmoral in years that are flown.

The earliest name borne by Iona was Innis-nan Druidneach, or Isle of the Druids. This appellation indicates that before St. Columba introduced Christianity into the Hebrides, Iona was occupied as a seat of Druidical worship.

The Isle of Anglesea was a famous abode of Druidism until Suetonius, a Roman general, destroyed them, their rude temples, doom rings, and circles of judgment (A.D. '61).

Tacitus says that from the greatness of the heavenly bodies they inferred that the gods could neither be enclosed with walls, nor assimilated to any human form.

Our "Bonfire Night" had its origin in the Druids Be-il-tin, or fire of the gods. It was converted into a vigil in honour of St. John.

The Druids now whilst arms are heard no more,
Old mysteries and barbarous rites restore.
A tribe who singular religion love,
And haunt the lonely coverts of the grove.

Written by Rev. Canon French in the Church of Ireland Gazette, 20th February 1914.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Between Midnight and Morning

You that have faith to look with fearless eyes
     Beyond the tragedy of a world at strife,
And trust that out of night and death shall rise
               The dawn of ampler life;

Rejoice, whatever anguish rend your heart,
     That God has given you, for a priceless dower,
To live in these great times and have your part
               In Freedom’s crowning hour.

That you may tell your sons who see the light
     High in the heaven, their heritage to take:—
“I saw the powers of darkness put to flight!
               I saw the morning break!”

O. S.

This poem appeared in Punch 16th December 1914 with the with the following preamble:
Lines for King Albert's Book, published to-day for the benefit of The Daily Telegraph’s Belgian Relief Fund.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Summer on Gallipoli 1915

An unbroken cycle of golden days,
   Of splendid cloud-filled dawns of blue,
Dazzling, grilling noon-tide blaze,
   And truly gorgeous sunsets, too!

A plague of flies, tormenting still,
   Torturing heat and choking dust,
Bombs that paralyse and kill,
   And valour that fight and conquer must.

Soldiers with heat of ardour keen,
   Spirit as light as the breeze that blows,
Laughter at hideous perils seen,
   And perils that never themselves disclose.

Such is life on Gallipoli —
   Hand-grenades fly about like balls;
This is what Britain's sons can be
   When their noble, widespread Empire calls!

Oh, the thirst! the appalling thirst
   That tortures an army in such a state,
Fighting with violence accursed —
   The Turk and his diabolic hate!

The Turk with his neck in Germany's hand,
   Used by Germany's hellish will,
Taking his last and fatal stand
   Man's liberties to strangle and kill.

But all in vain their alliance wars
   In triple strength, like three frogs vile;
For against them fight God's hosts of stars
   And all His angels, unseen the while.

Hearts of oak and steel and fire!
   Thoughts of home and dear ones there!
Every heart has one desire
   To win the victory clean and square.

So does the fearful war go on,
   Not a thought but of triumph soon
Or late; but a fight that must be won,
   Summer or winter, night or noon.

Ye that sleep on Gallipoli,
   There on those awful, shattered crags,
Britain's glorious sons are ye,
   While round the world float her breeze-blown flags.


Reprinted from The Witness, 12th November 1915
Image: IWM Q13345 – British soldiers resting in shelters recently captured from the Turkish Army.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

God Speed - A poem for Remembrance

   Out from the thunder of battle,
   Down the pathway of pain,
   Into the infinite Peace
   That is God,
   My Brother, thou goest.

To all that is strongest in Strength,
   Tender in Tenderness.
Into the Infinite Love
   That is Life,
My brother, God speed thee.

                           – Eva Anstruther

From The Witness, 1st October 1915.
Image: Moving up the line by Richard Hubbard.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Ulster Divison

There are hearts to-day in Ulster
   Distraught with pain and fears;
There are eyes to-day in Ulster
   That are dim with many tears;
For soon our best and dearest
   On the battlefield will be.
We would, therefore, "God of Battle,"
   Commend our men to Thee.

Oh, give them strength and courage
   And steadfastness of heart,
When in the hour of trial
   To bravely act their part,
And succour and defend them,
   Their Leader ever be,
And make them bold in life or death
   To put their trust in Thee.

To those who tend the wounded
   Give wisdom, love, and skill;
Be ever present with them
   To guard them from all ill.
And keep far death and sickness
   From those who spend their zeal,
And ever bless their efforts
   And give them power to heal.

To Thou who art the Author
   Of concord, love, and peace,
We pray, if it may be Thy will,
   Bid war and tumult cease,
And bring our men in safety back,
   Led by Thy mighty hand;
And grant us peace with victory,
   And bless our Fatherland,

Belfast. M. M'KAY.

Text: The Witness, 29th October 1915.
Image:  Group of the Royal Irish Rifles, 36th Ulster Division, before parading for the trenches. Near Bertincourt, 20 November 1917. © IWM (Q 3175).

Thursday, 29 October 2015

The Dangerfield Ghost

IN the reign of George II., the head of the house, Sir Hugh Horsingham, married a young wife, and brought her home to Dangerfield, with the usual demonstrations and rejoicings peculiar to such an event. Sir Hugh was a dark, morose man, considerably older than his bride. Stern and forbidding in his manners, but possessing deep feelings under a reserved exterior, and a courage and determination not to be daunted or subdued. Such a man was capable of great things, for good or for evil; and each was the very nature on which a woman's influence might have produced the most beneficial results. But, unfortunately, young lady Horsingham had but one feeling for her lord, and that was intense terror of his anger. She never sought to win his confidence, and never entered into his political schemes, his deeper studies, or even his country amusements and pursuits; all she thought of was how to avoid offending Sir Hugh; and, ere long, this one idea grew to such a pitch, that she quite trembled in his presence, could scarcely answer distinctly when he spoke to her, and seemed hardly to draw breath in freedom save when out of his sight. Such a state of things could have but one ending — distrust and suspicion on one side, unqualified aversion on the other. A marriage, never of inclination — as, indeed, in those days amongst great families few marriages were — became an insupportable slavery ere the first year of wedded life had elapsed; and by the time an heir was born to the house of Horsingham, probably them was no unhappier couple within fifty niles of Dangerfield, than dark Sir Hugh, and his pretty, fair-haired, gentle wife. No! she ought never to have married him at all. It was but the night before her wedding that she walked in the garden of her father's old manor-house with a bright, open-hearted, handsome youth, whose brow wore that expression of acute agony which it is so pitiable to witness on a young countenances — that look almost of physical pain, which betokens how the iron has, indeed, "entered the sufferer's soul." "Ah! you may plead. 'Cousin Edward;' but we women are of a strange mixture, and the weakest of us may possess obstinacy such as no earthly consideration can overcome." "Lucy! Lucy! for the last time, think of it — for the love of Heaven, do out drive me mad — think of it once more — it is the last, last chance." — The speaker was white as a sheet, and his hollow voice came in hoarse, inarticulate whispers, as he looked almost fiercely into that dear face to read his doom. Too well he knew the set, filed expression of her delicate profile. She did not dare turn towards him; she could not have looked him in the face and persevered, but she kept her eyes fastened on the horizon, at though she saw her future in the fading sunset; and whilst her heart seemed turning to very stone, she kept her lips firmly closed; she repressed the tears that would have choked her, and so, for that time, she conquered.

Lucy had a great idea of duty; hers was no high-principled love of duty from the noblest motives, but a morbid dread of self-reproach. She had not character enough to do anything out of her own notions of the beaten track. She had promised her father she would marry Sir Hugh Horsingham — not that he had the slightest right to exact such a promise — and she felt bound to fulfil it. She never remembered the injury she was doing "Cousin Edward," the right which such devotion as his ought to have given him. She knew she loved him better than any one in the world; She knew she was about to commit an act of the greatest injustice towards Sir Hugh; but she had "promised papa;" and though she would have given worlds to avoid fulfilling her compact, she had not strength of mind to break the chain and be free.

Cousin Edward! Cousin Edward! you should have carried her off then and there; she would have been truly grateful for the rest of her life, but she would have died sooner than open her lips. He was hurt — reckless — almost savage. He thought her sullen. "Once more, Lucy," he said, and his eye glared fiercely in the waning light, "once more, will you give me one word, or never set eyes on me again?" Her lip never moved. "I give you till we pass that tree" — he looked dangerous now — "and than" — he swore a great oath — "I leave you for ever." Lucy thought the tree looked strange and ghastly in the rising moon; she even remarked a knot up in its smooth white stem, but she held out whilst one might have counted ten; and when she turned round, poor girl! Cousin Edward was gone.

At this period, there was set on foot one of those determined plots, which during the first two reigns of the House of Hanover, so constantly harassed that dynasty.
Sir Hugh, of course, was a prime mover of the conspiracy, and was much in London and elsewhere, gathering intelligence, raising funds, and making converts to his opinions. Ned Meredith, having, it is to be presumed, all his energies occupied in his own private intrigues, had somewhat withdrawn of late from the Jacobite party; and Sir Hugh heard, with his grim, unmoved smile, many a jest and innuendo levelled at the absentee.

One stormy winter's evening, the baronet, well armed, cloaked, and booted, left his own house for the metropolis, accompanied by one trusty servant. He was bearing papers of importance, and was hurrying on to lay them, with the greatest despatch, before his fellow conspirators. As night was drawing on, Sir Hugh's horse shied away from a wild figure, looming like some spectre in the fading light; and ere he had forced the animal back into the path, his bridle was caught by a half naked lad, whom the rider at once recognised as an emissary he had often before employed to be the bearer of secret intelligence, and who, under an affectation of being half-witted, concealed much shrewdness of observation, and unimpeachable fidelity to the cause.

"Whip and spur. Sir Hugh — whip and spur," said the lad, who seemed flustered and confused with drink; "you may burst your best horse betwixt this and London, and all to get there before you're wanted. A dollar to drink, Sir Hugh, like handsome Ned gave me this morning — a dollar to drink, and I'll save you a journey for the sake of the 'Bonny While Rose,' and the 'Bird with the Yellow Bill.'"

Sir Hugh scrutinised the lad with a piercing eye, flung him a crown from him purse, and bid him "out with what he had to say, for that he himself was hurried, and must push on to further the good cause." The lad was sobered in an instant.

"Look ye here, Sir Hugh," he said, eagerly; "Handsome Ned went down the road at a gallop this morning. There's something brewing in London, you may trust me, Sir Hugh, and I tried to stop him to learn his errand; but he tossed me a crown and galloped on. He took the hill-road, Sir Hugh, and you came up the vale; but he's bound for Dangerfield, I know, and mayhap he's got papers that will save your journey to London: no offence, Sir Hugh," added the lad, for the baronet's face was blank as midnight.

"None, my good boy," was the reply, in a hoarse, thick voice. "Hold, there's another crown for you — drink it every farthing, you villain! or I never give you a sixpence again;" and Sir Hugh rode on, as though bound for London, but stopped a mile farther forward, at a place where two roads met; and entrusting his papers to his servant, bade him hasten on with them, whilst he galloped back through the darkness in the direction of his home.

He can let himself in by the garden gate with his own pass key. Ere he is aware, he is tramping up the corridor in his heavy horsemen's boots — his hand is on the door — there ia a woman's shriek — and Sir Hugh's tall, dark figure fills the doorway of Lucy's sitting-room, where, alas! she is not alone, for the stern, angry husband is confronted by Ned Meredith!

Lucy cowers down in a corner of the room, with her face buried in her hands. Cousin Edward draws him-self up to his full height, and looks his antagonist steadily in the face, but with an expression of calm despair, that seems to say fate has now done her worst. Sir Hugh is cool, collected, and polite; nay, he can even smile, but he speaks strangely, almost in a whisper, and hisses through his set teeth. He has double-locked the door behind him, and turns to Cousin Edward with a grave, courteous bow.

"You have done me the honour of an unexpected visit, Mr. Meredith," he says; "I trust Lady Horsingham has entertained you hospitably! Pray do not stir, madam. Mr. Meredith, we are now quits; you saved my life when you encountered Colonel Bludyer; I forbore from taking yours, when I had proofs that it was in my right. We have now entered on a fresh account, but the game shall be fairly played. Mr. Meredith, you are a man of honour — yes, it shall be fairly played." Ned's lip quivered, but he bowed, and stood perfectly still. "Lady Horsingham," continued Sir Hugh, "be good enough to hand me those tables, they contain a dice-box. Nay, Mr. Meredith," seeing Ned about to assist the helpless frightened woman; "when present, at least, I expect my wife to obey me." Lucy was forced to rise, and trembling in every limb, to present the tables to her lord. Sir Hugh placed the dice-box on the table, laid his pistols beside it, and, taking a seat, motioned to Cousin Edward to do the same. "You are a man of honour, Mr. Meredith," he repeated; "we will throw three times, and the highest caster shall blow the other's brains out." Lucy shrieked, and rushed to the door: it was fast, and her husband forced her to sit down and watch the ghastly game.

"Good God, Sir Hugh!" exclaimed Cousin Edward, "this is too horrible — for your wife's sake — any reparation I can make, I will; but this is murder, deliberate murder."

"You are a man of honour, Mr. Meredith," reiterated Sir Hugh; "I ask for no reparation but this — the chances are equal if the stakes are high. You are my guest, or rather, I should say, Lady Horsingham's guest. Begin." Cousin Edward's face turned ghastly pale: he took the box, shook it, hesitated, but the immovable eye was fixed on him; the stern lips repeated once more — "You are a man of honour," and he threw — "Four." It was now Sir Hugh's turn. With a courteous bow he received the box, and threw — "Seven." Again the adversaries cast, the one a six, the other a three; and now they were even in the ghastly match. Once more Cousin Edward shook the box, and the leaping dice turned up — "Eleven." Lucy's white face stood out in the lamp-light, as she watched with stony eyes that seemed to have lost the very power of sight.

"For God's sake, forego this frightful determination, Sir Hugh," pleaded Cousin Edward; "take my life in a fair field. I will offer no resistance; but you can hardly expect to outdo my throw, and nothing shall induce me to take advantage of it: think better or it, Sir Hugh, I entreat you."

"You are a man of honour, Mr. Meredith, and so am I," was the only reply, as Sir Hugh brandished the box aloft, and thundered it down on the table — "Sixes!" "Good casting," he remarked, and at the same instant, cocking the pistol nearest to him, discharged it full into his antagonist's bosom. The bullet sped through a delicate lace handkerchief, which he always wore there, straight and true into Cousin Edward's heart. As he fell forward across the table, a dark stream flowed slowly, slowly along the carpet, till it dyed the border of Lucy's white dress with a crimson stain. She was on her knees, apparently insensible; but one small hand felt the cold, wet contact, and she looked at it, and saw that it was blood. Once more she uttered a shriek that rang through those vast buildings, and rushed again to the door to find it locked. In sheer despair she made for the window, threw open the casement, and ere Sir Hugh could sieze or stop her, flung herself headlong into the court below. When the horrified husband looked down into the darkness, a wisp of while garments, a bruised and lifeless body, was all that remained of Lady Horsingham.

That night one-half of Dangerfield Hall was consumed by fire. Its mistress was said to have perished in the flames. The good neighbours, the honest country people, pitied poor Sir Hugh galloping back from London, to find his home in ruins, and his wife a corpse. His gay companions missed "Ned Meredith" from his usual haunts; but it was generally supposed he had obtained a mission to the Court of St. Germains, and there was a rumour that he had perished in a duel with a French marquis. A certain half-witted lad, who had followed Sir Hugh back to Dangerfield on that fearful night, might have elucidated the mystery; but he had been kidnapped, and sent to the plantations. After many years he returned to England, and on his death-bed left a written statement, implicating Sir Hugh in the double crime of arson and murder. But long ere this the culprit had appeared before a tribunal which admits of no prevarication, and the pretty boy with the golden curls had become lord of Dangerfield Hall. The long corridor had been but partially destroyed. It was repaired and refurnished by successive generations; but guests and servants alike refused to sleep again in that dreary wing, after the first trial. Every night, so surely as the old clock tolled out the hour of twelve, a rush of feet was heard along the passage — a window looking into the court was thrown open — a piercing scream from a woman's voice rang through the building — and those who were bold enough to look out, averred that they beheld a white figure leap wildly into the air and disappear. Some even went so far as to affirm that drops of blood, freshly sprinkled, were found every morning on the pavement of the court. But no one ever doubted the Dangerfield ghost to be the nightly apparition of Lucy, Lady Horsingham. — "Kate Coventry."

From The Northern Whig, 7th September 1859.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Thoughts in Verse

Thoughts that great hearts once broke for, we
Breathe cheaply in the common air;
The dust we trample heedlessly
Throbbed once in saints and heroes rare
Who perished, opening for the race
New pathways to the common place.
— Lowell.

I live for those who love me,
For those who hold me true,
For the heaven that lies above me
And awaits my spirit, too.
For the cause that needs assistance,
For the wrong that needs resistance,
For the future in the distance.
And the good that I can do.
— Mrs. Linnaeus Banks

Text from The Witness,  17th September 1915
Image: An edit of Lost in Thought by Susan Harrison-Tustain

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Stolen Sheep

Our readers are all familiar with Sir Walter Scott's "Heart of Mid Lothian," and will recollect the truly touching scene where Jeanie Deans cannot and will not utter what she knows to be false, to save the life of a sister whom she loves as her own soul. It is one of the most masterly of the descriptions of the great "magician of the north," and if a single individual can read it without having every sympathy of his heart aroused, he must be dull if not dead to the finer sensibilities of the soul. But at the same time, we think the "Stolen Sheep," which appeared in the annual for last year called "Friendship's Offering," not unworthy of being placed side by side with the scene in the "Heart of Mid Lothian." There is not an Irishman, at least, who will not feel a strong desire to give the preference to this story, of which we here present an abstract.

Michaul Carroll was a poor and honest peasant, whose family were visited with famine and typhus fever at a time when the wide-spread misery of the country rendered assistance from the neighbours nearly hopeless. His wife and a young child died — he himself was attacked by the disease, and on recovering, his weak state and sallow look totally prevented even the possibility of him getting employment. His old father and infant son are starving at home, in their wretched cabin — Michaul, desperate, and broken down, steals a sheep, which he kills, and conceals in an out house. It was discovered — Michaul was arrested — and his poor old father was taken as a witness against his son!

The assizes soon came on. Michaul was arraigned; and, during his plea of "not guilty," his father appeared, unseen by him, in the gaoler's custody, at the back of the dock, or rather in an inner dock. The trial excited a keen and painful interest in the court, the bar, the jury-box, and the crowd of spectators. It was universally known that a son had stolen a sheep, partly to feed a starving father; and that out of the mouth of that father it was now sought to condemn him. "What will the old man do?" was the general question which ran through the assembly; and while few of the lower orders could contemplate the possibility of his swearing to the truth, many of their betters scarce hesitated to make for him a case of actual necessity to swear falsely.

The trial began. The first witness, the herdsman, proved the loss of the sheep, and the finding the dismembered carcass in the old barn. The policemen and steward followed to the same effect, and the latter added the allusions which he had heard the father make to the son, upon the morning of the arrest of the latter. The steward went down from the table, There was a pause, and complete silence, which the attorney for the prosecution broke by saying to the crier, deliberately, "Call Peery Carroll."

"Here, sir," immediately answered Peery, as the gaoler led him by a side-door, out of the back dock to the table. The prisoner started round; but the new witness against him had passed for an instant into the crowd.

The next instant, old Peery was seen ascending the table, assisted by the gaoler, and by many other commiserating hands, near him. Every glance was fixed on his face. The barristers looked wistfully up from their seats round the table; the judge put a glass to his eye, and seemed to study his features attentively. Among the audience, there ran a low but expressive murmur of pity and interest.

Though much emaciated by confinement, anguish, and suspense, Peery's cheeks had a flush, and his weak blue eyes glittered. The half-gaping expression of his parched and haggard lips was miserable to see. And yet, he did not tremble much, nor appear so confounded as upon the day of his visit to the magistrate.

The moment he stood upright on the table he turned himself fully to the judge, without a glance towards the dock.

"Sit down, sit down, poor man," said the judge,

"Thanks to you, my lord, I will," answered Peery, "only, first, I'd ax you to let me kneel, for a little start;" and he accordingly did kneel, and after bowing his head, and forming the sign of the cross on his forehead, he looked up and said — "My Judge in heaven above, 'tis you I pray to keep me in my duty, afore my earthly judge, this day; — amen:" — and then repeating the sign of the cross, he seated himself.

The examination of the witness commenced, and humanely proceeded as follows — (the council for the prosecution taking no notice of the superfluity of Peery's answers.)

"Do you know Michaul, or Michael, Carroll, the prisoner, at the bar?"

"Afore that night, Sir, I believe I knew him well; every thought of his mind, every bit of the heart of his body: afore that night, no living cratur could throw a word at Michaul Carroll, or say he ever forgot his father's renown, or his love of his good God; — an' sure the people are after telling you by tins time how it came about that night — an' you, my lord, — an' ye gintlemen, — an' all good Christians that hear me; — here I am to help to hang him — my own boy, and my only one — but, for all that, gintlemen, ye ought to think of it: it was for the weenock aud the old father that he done it; indeed, an' deed we had'nt a pyratee in the place; an the sickness was amongst us, a start afore; it took the wife from him, and another babby; an' id had himself down a week or so beforehand; an' all that day he was looking for work but could'nt get a hand's turn to do; an' that's the way it was; not a mouthful for me an' little Peery; an', more betoken, he grew sorry for id, in the mornin', an' promised me not to touch a scrap of what was in the barn, — ay, long afore the steward an the peelers came on us, — but was willin' to go among the neighbours an' beg our breakfast, along wid myself, sooner than touch it.

"It is my painful duty," resumed the barrister, when Peery would at length cease, — "to ask you for further information. You saw Michael Carroll in the barn that night? —"

"Musha — The Lord pity him and me — I did, Sir."

"Doing what?" —

"The sheep between his hands," answered Peery, dropping his head, and speaking inaudibly.

"I must still give you pain, I fear; stand up; take the crier's rod; and if you see Michael Carroll in court, lay it on his head."

"Och, musha, musha, Sir, don't ax me to do that!" pleaded Peery, rising, wringing his hands, and, for the first time, weeping — "och, don't my lord, don't, and may your own judgment be favourable, the last day."

"I am sorry to command you to do it, witness, but you must take the rod," answered the judge, bending his head close to his own notes, to hide his own tears; and at the same time many a veteran barrister rested his forehead on the table. In the body of the court were heard sobs.

"Michael, avich, Michael, a corra-ma-chree!" exclaimed Peery, when at length he took the rod, and faced round to his son, — "is id your father they make to do it, ma-bouchal.

"My father does what is right," answered Michaul, in Irish. The judge immediately asked to have his words translated; and when he learned their import regarded the prisoner with satisfaction.

"We rest here," my lords, said the counsel, with the air of a man free from a painful task.

The judge instantly turned to the jury-box.

"Gentlemen of the jury. That the prisoner at the bar stole the sheep in question, there can be no shade of moral doubt. But you have a very peculiar case to consider. A son steals a sheep that his own famishing father, and his own famishing son may have food. His aged parent is compelled to give evidence against him here for the act. The old man virtuously tells the truth, and the whole truth, before you, and me. He sacrifices his natural feelings — and we have seen that they are lively — to his honesty, and to his religious sense of the sacred obligations of an oath. Gentlemen, I will pause to observe, that the old man's conduct is strikingly exemplary and even noble. It teaches all of us a lesson. Gentlemen it is not within the province of a judge to censure the rigour of the proceedings which have sent him before us. But I venture to anticipate your pleasure that, notwithstanding all the evidence given, you will be enabled to acquit that old man's son, the prisoner at the bar. I have said there cannot be the shade of a moral doubt that he has stolen the sheep, and I repeat the words. But, gentlemen, there is a legal doubt, to the full benefit of which he is entitled. The sheep has not been identified. The herdsman could not venture to identify it (and it would have been strange if he could) from the dismembered limbs found in the barn. To his mark on its skin, indeed, he might have positively spoken; but no skin has been discovered. Therefore, according to the evidence, and yon have sworn to decide by that alone, the prisoner is entitled to your acquittal. Possibly, now that the prosecutor sees the case in its full bearing, he may be pleased with the result."

While the jury, in evident satisfaction, prepared to return their verdict, Michael's landlord who had but a moment before returned home, entered the court, and becoming aware of the concluding words of the judge, expressed his sorrow aloud, that the prosecution had ever been undertaken; that circumstances had kept him uninformed of it, though it had gone on in his name; and he begged leave to assure his lordship that it would be his future effort to keep Michael Carroll in his former path of honesty, by finding him honest and ample employment, and as far as in him lay, to reward the virtue of the old father.

While Peery Carroll was laughing and crying in one breath in the arms of his delivered son, a subscription, commenced by the bar, was mounting into a considerable sum for his advantage.

From The Dublin Penny Journal, 11th August, 1832.