Thursday, 27 August 2015

How the Vodka Came – A Russian Legend

I wonder if you have heard the story they tell in Russia to the little children of the Czar of how the vodka came. Now that it is gone, a great and terrible curse gone from the lives of the great Russian people, the legend comes back to the peasants, and while the men are away at the war the mothers tell the children over again the story of the Imp and the Crust.

It is the tale of an honest Russian peasant working hard in the fields. He was ploughing, and after a time he felt tired and hungry, and ready for a rest.

"How glad I am," he said to himself, "that I have brought a large crust of bread with me. Now I will sit and eat it, and the horse can wander round and graze."

He went to take the crust from his coat, when he found, to his great surprise, that it was gone.

"Whatever shall I do?" he cried. "It really has disappeared. Never mind, I shall manage somehow without it. Perhaps the person who took it needed it more than I do. May it do him good." Now, when he said this the person who had taken it felt very disappointed; for he was hiding near, and hoping the peasant would swear angrily when he found the bread gone.

What sort of a person could that be? No one nice surely. No, indeed, he was not nice, for he was an imp — a little devilkin! And he was so unhappy because no bitter feelings were roused in the peasant that he rushed away to tell the Master-Devil all about it, and the Master-Devil thoroughly scolded him.

"You are not doing your work well!" cried the master. "You are a very stupid little imp, and I am going to have you punished. You must make all the peasants swear and be wicked. You have only been wasting your time."

Then he ordered the Imp to be beaten, and he was thrashed and thrashed until he had called he had thought of a way to make the peasants bad, instead of good.

"Then do it well!" cried has master. "I will give you three years to finish your work."

Away scampered the Imp back to the earth, as fast as he could go, to begin his dreadful task.

Losing no time, he turned himself into a labourer, and was hired as a servant to the honest peasant.

That year he begged his master to sow the corn in the marshy ground, and his advice was taken.

It turned out to be wonderfully clever advice, for the year was unusually dry. Hardly, any rain fell, and the poor peasant was the only one to harvest a good crop, and he had more than he could use in a whole year.

The next spring the labourer begged his master to sow his corn on the hill instead of in the marsh, and again, the peasant took his advice.

Again it turned out to be the very best i thing he could have done, for it was a whole season of rain, and all the other fields of grain were beaten down and rotten. But grain in the field on the hill grew and ripened, and when harvest came the peasant had more corn than he could use.

He was generous and gave much of the corn away to a poor man who had none. This made the Imp very angry, and be began trying harder than ever to do his evil work.

He persuaded his master to let him take some of the corn, which he said he could make into a very delicious drink. At first the simple peasant could not believe that it would be nice, and was afraid of wasting his grain; but the labourer had so often given him good advice that he had not much fear, and gave way. Then the wicked Imp made spirits out of the corn.

"Drink, master, drink!" he cried; and the peasant drank and was very soon quite stupid and tipsy.

The wife was called in, and after drinking the spirit she, too, became like her husband. Alas! all too soon they grew to love the evil drink, and made more and more, sharing it with their friends, so that everyone came to crave for it.

Now, the Imp was delighted with his work, for he saw that all that was good and nice was being killed in the peasant and his friends, and he hurried away to fetch the Master-Devil, so that he could show him what he had done. When they came back there was a party in the peasant's house.

"See," whispered the Imp. "That is the man who did not grudge his last crust. Watch him now!” And they hid where they could see all that was happening.

"Give my friends more drink, wife!" called out the peasant; and his wife took up the glasses to fill them.

At that moment the Imp caused her to trip, and she spilled the spirit on the floor.

Then her husband was dreadfully angry. He raged and swore, and behaved in a cruel way.

"See! See!" said the delighted Imp to his wicked master. "See! That is the man who once parted willingly with his last crust of bread!"

While the peasant and his friends were drinking and laughing, a poor, tired worker came in and sat down. He was thirsty, and looked longingly at the drink; but none was given him, for the peasant only stared unkindly, and said: "Do you think I am going to find drink for everyone?"

This pleased the Imp and his master very much, but the Imp whispered:

"Wait! Wait and see what will happen soon. You will be happier still. Only wait till they have had more and more to drink!"

Then the peasants grew wilder and rougher, and at last instead of only making foolish speeches, they began to quarrel and fight. Soon the little cottage was filled with horrible sounds, and the peasants behaved more like beasts than human beings. They were wild with drink, and unable to control themselves.

Such a pitiful scene it was that it is too sad to dwell on it. But the Master-Devil and the Imp were in high spirits.

"You have done well, very well," said the elder, "and I am more than satisfied with you. If the peasant only goes on drinking he will always be a beast."

And that is all. It would be very nice if there had been a happy ending to the legend, but the happy ending did not come.

But a really happy ending is now at last beginning, for the Czar has kicked the vodka out of Russia, and all the people are glad.

Reprinted from The Witness, 27th August 1915.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

My Tour in the West - Ireland 1915 (pt 3)

If in my previous paper I have dwelt much on hotels and comforts it was for the purpose of showing intending tourists that in these matters at least man has done much for Connemara and the South-West. I had frequently heard complaints made or doubts expressed into the character of the accommodation to be found in the West, but our experience proved that in all respects the accommodation was most satisfactory. Of course, I would not advise intending tourists to follow us in our lightning speed. The ground that we covered in a day would serve for three or four days, or even a week. There was scarcely a spot we visited that we did not wish to remain longer, both for the charm of the scenery and the various excuses offered. For lovers of the picturesque or for lovers of the rod, for those who want to enjoy scenery or to enjoy the milder form of sport, such as angling, there are opportunities and facilities in abundance. There are touring routes planned out of endless variety. We only enjoyed a selection. In looking over the guide-books on my return I was as much surprised by what I had not seen as by what I had. With regard to what I had seen, the writer of the guide bock had not exaggerated. So, assuming them to be as truthful in regard to the others, I can only say that in the resources of Connemara and the West and South-West, so far as touring is concerned, must be inexhaustible.

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Though I cannot say that man, meaning thereby the local man outside hotel proprietors, has done much for the West, Mr. Balfour did much by his light railway and the road scheme, and prepared the way for more. The Midland Great Western, in developing the railway system, have really opened the gate of the West, and allowed easy, I dare not say, free access, but by these railways, motors, and hotels they have done all that could be expected, and I am sure at as reasonable rates as the circumstances would warrant, and what the Midland has done for the West the Great Southern has done for the South and South West, and as a result we find excursions to Killarney from Belfast at wonderfully cheap rates. Of course, our own Great Northern has its part in that. And I should mention specially Messrs. Thomas Cook & Co., who by their enterprise and their arrangements in the matter of touring in Ireland have conferred a great boon not only on tourists, but on the inhabitants of all touring centres. They seem to have planned tours for all tastes and all pockets.

College Street, Killarney c1900. National Library of Ireland L_CAB_03397

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But I must pay that while I met with no disappointment in the scenery I met with disappointment in other respects. I wished I had been able to see the West as Thackeray, Barrow, Johnson, and others did in the first half of the last century. They had no railways and motors to rush them through. A Bianconi's car or a modest side-car was all they had to depend on. It afforded them time to go when they, pleased and as they pleased and to talk to men, women, and children as they passed along. Most of these writers, Thackeray specially, seem to have been more impressed by and interested in the people and the pigs than in anything else. In fact, pigs, potatoes, poteen, and petticoats seem to have made the strongest impression of them. Thackeray, we know, was particularly impressed by the neat handed Phyllis's, who ministered to his wants in the various hotels he stopped at, of which we have lasting evidence in "Peg of Limavady" and "Kitty of Coleraine." He was, if possible, more charmed by those he met in the South and West, over whom he seems to have gone into ecstasies. I must say, however, that none of us had any time to study these houris of the West as Thackeray had, but I am afraid the race must be extinct or that all are so good that it is difficult to pick out the best. But I do not think any of us lost our hearts or our heads as Thackeray seems to have dome. But then, perhaps, we had not such artistic eyes as he had or such an appreciation of a good dinner and graceful service.

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By my recollections of those old tourists and chroniclers I was prepared to meet pigs and red petticoats at every step, but it was the third or fourth day before I saw a single pig, and as to red petticoats, I only found them in graceful abundance in Achill. Indeed, I think it was only here we saw the life of the West in all its ancient characteristics unmarred by modern developments. Here we found in endless number along the road the donkey with panniers carrying goods to or from markets, donkeys carrying small loads and men and women who, it appeared to us, would have been more humanely occupied in carrying the donkeys. Here, too, we saw red petticoats in abundance, and also the old custom of a man and woman riding the one horse. It was all interesting, all picturesque, all truly Irish, and we were grateful, for it assured us that in their encroachments upon Ireland English customs had not penetrated as far West as Achill.

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In another respect we met with disappointment. Thackeray, for example, tells us that he saw thousands of people idling on the bridge at Galway. I did not see more than half a dozen on it, but it was early morning when I passed over it. Then he and other writers dwelt at large upon the wonders of Claddagh, and upon its ancient people, ancient laws and customs. In these grand old days the Claddagh people had a King and Queen of their own, and one of them describes a ball at which all the inhabitants attended, except the King and Queen, who were out selling fish, which was and is the principal source of livelihood of these descendants of Irish kings. But I did see the part of the town in which the present generation live, and I must say that if ever ruin and desolation were stamped on human dwellings it was here.

Claddagh, Galway c1900 –

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But so far as I could observe the track of desolation is over the place. Passing over the bridge, where Lough Corrib flows with a power that might drive any amount of machinery, I saw a huge building of bad and derelict look. I found it was Persse's distillery, which is now used as a store for lumber. I saw other old buildings, which had seen better days, but which now seemed to exist more as memories of the past than as incidents of the present. Eyre Square is the principal square and centre of Galway. On looking out from the Railway Hotel, on one side of it the first thing that meets the in a small old building, such as one would have associated with Carrick Hill in its oil days, and next to it a one-storey building, with its old thatch remaining, and, of course, unoccupied. I was not surprised to hear that many of the Home Rulers who visited Galway were disillusioned as to the advantages of local government in one part of Ireland at least.

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I could not say with these writers that I saw much idleness in the West, for in many parts of my tour I saw few people of the peasant class either working or idling. I do not think I saw a man working in a field in all Connemara. I could sympathise with a young lady who recently made a short stay in the West, who said that she was glad to get back to Dublin to enjoy the sight of a man. Had it not been for what I had read about the slackness of recruiting I should have said the men were all with the colours. But if there were many they were old, and not new recruits, if we are to believe the statistics. I dare say, however, many of them were away harvesting in England or Scotland.

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Still I must say I do not know what man would do in many parts of Mayo or Galway. In many places the stones are as plentiful as grass, and that does not seem of the richest. There is very little tillage over the greater part of the West that we passed through, so that it would be difficult to know how men could he employed. I did not observe any signs of what is called congestion, except, perhaps, at the extreme West, where the people seem to depend on fishing or tourists for a living.

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I must add, however, that I did not see so much beggary as I expected, and I will add, so many signs of poverty, so far as the dress or countenance of the people we met would suggest poverty. One of those old writers said that if giving to the poor was lending to the Lord, Ireland would be the place for promoters to establish Celestial banks. I honestly believe we have more poverty, so far as appearances would suggest poverty, in some of our Belfast slums than there is in the West of Ireland, so far as we saw it. It is true we may not have mingled much with the madding crowd in districts where poverty is paramount. But I can only speak of what I saw and heard. I have seen what I would call more poverty-stricken looks in the city than I saw in my entire route in the West.

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In reading old accounts of tours in the West I find that the principal features that struck the tourists in many districts were the workhouses, the jail, and the convents or chapels. We did observe that the workhouse does form a prominent feature of many towns, and so do chapels; but in some parts of the country jails have been amalgamated, and those that are left are only wrecks of their former selves, and not calculated to impress tourists. We found churches, or the vanes of churches, on various sections of our route, so that the moderns seem to keep pace, and more than pace, with the ancients in the great attention and lavish money they spend on their ecclesiastical buildings. While Roman Catholic churches so largely predominate, and while the popular representation both of the counties and the towns is chiefly in the hands of Roman Catholics, or of Protestants who do the work for them, perhaps even better than they could themselves, the Protestant element is well represented in both the West and South so far as our exploitation extended. In many of the towns and small districts a large number of the principal shops were occupied by Protestants. This is true from Connemara to Clare and from Sligo to Limerick, and of all places else most true of Limerick, where some of the finest shops and almost all the principal industries are in the hands of Protestants. And I am bound to say that, so far as my inquiries and information wont, these Protestants seem to be held in the highest respect. It is not for me either to explain or moralise on that. I merely mention this as one of the most striking features of my trip apart from the scenery.

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I can only say that it left on me the most pleasant recollections, and I would advise any Northerner who has the time and means to enjoy a holiday in either the West or the South. They will be warmly welcomed and well repaid in the variety of scene and life they will enjoy, in the wild picturesqueness of mountain and lake and dell that will pass like a splendid panorama before their eyes at every turn, and in the new experience of life and character that will be theirs.

– "The Man in the Street," in "The Ulster Echo."

Source: The Witness, 13 August 1915.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The Greater Love

A little while ago our love was strait,
A jealous narrow gate,
And few might pass therein—
We said we loved
More than our own, but were not strangely moved
By others' grief or cowardice or sin
That now our help and pity so entreats.
We saw our young men in the busy streets
And, thinking lightly, troubled not at all
To ask if they were brave
To answer some high call
And shrink not from the menace of the grave.

But lo! the change, the change!—
Our settled thoughts outrange
The bitter, selfish order, old and deep;
We love, we love our men whose hearts are strong,
Their children and their wives who shall not weep
Uncomforted! Great death itself can wrong
Only the poor of heart who faint and fail—
For them we grieve because their love is pale;
They cannot know how mighty it may be,
Nor how it lifts the old,
Who may not take their part in victory,
To see their thoughts of love were close and strait
And that their hearts were cold
Till this great hour set wide that jealous gate.

— Morley Roberts

Reprinted from The Witness, 13 August 1915,
Image: The Second Battle of Ypres, 22 April to 25 May 1915 by Richard Jack.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

My Tour in the West – Ireland 1915 (pt2)

I must admit that so far as comfort and arrangements were concerned the evening and the morning that were our first day augured well for the pleasure as well as the enlightenment of the trip. It is true we did not see much of Sligo, but we saw much of its bays and surroundings. But we saw enough of it to satisfy is that both this town and its local government might be better, and that it should be in better hands. But I am afraid that that could be said of many other Urban Councils, so perhaps we should not regard Sligo as the chief of sinners in that; respect. But I do think from all I saw and heard that it is entitled to a front place in the ranks. At the railway station we discovered what great things the Midland Great Western Company had done for us, as they have done great things for the West of Ireland, of which more anon. We had a special saloon car at our disposal, and it continued with us till we took leave of its system at Ennis. We also had in special charge of us, so far as the railway was concerned, Mr. Thomas Elliott, the traffic superintendent, who is not only a most careful and capable official, but a most courteous and obliging gentleman. He looked after our comforts, creature and otherwise, so long as we remained in his bailliewick, and we all feel grateful not only to him for his attention and care, but grateful to the company for having sent him. I may say that I here, too, met for the first time Prof. Cook, who edits one of the best Irish guide books, and is himself a cyclopedia of information on the district and its resources, and can tell as many and as strange "fishing" stories as ever entered into the mind of an angler to relate or invent. He is a great angler as well as a great raconteur. At Galway he almost made me weep over the sufferings to which the salmon are exposed by nets. I felt ashamed to finish the salmon I had for breakfast lest it might have been unmercifully netted and deprived of a sporting chance of life. However, he was a most interesting companion, and we were all sorry to find that professional duties in Dublin called him away before the end of our tour. Under pleasant auspices and in a spirit of combined jollity, observation, and inquiry, we set out for Claremorris, Castlebar, and Westport to Mallaranny, a railway journey of four hours' duration. But with the variety and charm of the scenery, and advantages of conversation and comment, the journey did not seem long, and was far from wearisome. There were many points on the route, and especially Westport, with its rich foliage, and the residence of the Marquess of Sligo in its neighbourhood. But we had to push on, only glancing at what we might have dwelt on, with Achill and the Atlantic as our farthest object for the day. But when we got to Mallaranny and to the picturesque and well-equipped hotel which the Midland Railway provided, we did not desire to leave the place, and nothing but the assurance that we were to come back and remain overnight could have reconciled us to the departure. There, indeed, one in search of rest could remain many days, the world forgetting, by the world forgot. It is a considerable descent from the level of the railway to the level of the sea, and through beautiful hedgerows with fuchsias in plenty, we reach the hotel, about midway to the shore. The hotel is not only picturesque itself, but has in front a beautiful bay, with islands and mountains, so that the prospect was one to charm and delight. I may just stop here to say that the rivers and bays seem as plentiful in Connemara as mountains, and that the disciples of Isaac Walton could find rest and enjoyment, with abundance of fish waiting for the hook, and scenes that would delight the eye of an artist, and give pleasure and repose to any wearied soul. It is fishing, fishing everywhere, and plenty of fish to catch, if one knows how and cares for the sport. For my part I neither know nor care. But if any do they cannot go astray in finding fish and kindred sport in almost any part of the route over which we were carried.

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Tourists arrive by horse-drawn cart at Slievemore Hotel, Dugort, Achill c1900.
 National Library of Ireland LROY 06798

After luncheon and a short run on the railway we were once more on motoring bent, and a pleasant run of an hour and a half or so brought us through Achill to Dugart. where we were entertained by Mr. Sheridan at the Slievemore Hotel, to tea and talk, for Mr. Sheridan is not only a custodian of many curiosities, but he is a curiosity in himself, being an artist as well as hotel proprietor, and whose pictures are as much a feature of the hotel as its cleanliness and cuisine. A lovely and restful spot in itself, it had a special interest for me in the fact that just in front lies Blacksod Bay, about which so much has been heard in connection with the all Red route from Ireland to Canada. It seems that war vessels, can anchor in the bay, so that Atlantic liners might do the same. It would be an expensive matter to construct railways and harbour for such a service, and it is a question if it will be ever, or at any rate for a long time, carried out. But those who profess to know say that it is feasible, except for the money, and would shorten the distance between this country and Canada. Here as elsewhere the rod and gun have fine opportunities for exercise.

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It was on our return to Mallaranny, I think it was at Achill station, that we witnessed an interesting sight, in the light of the fate that has overtaken the Canadian flour in the Dufferin Dock – namely, the distribution of some waggon-loads of Canadian flour to the supposed poor people of the district. There were fifty or one hundred people, chiefly women, looking carefully after the flour, which some men were carrying out for them. They were all dressed, in the now to us familiar red petticoats, and were pushing and rushing and jabbering away in what I suppose was Irish, and laughingly welcoming the treasure trove. I found that some got two bags and some four, whether according to their relative necessities or the scale of their valuation I cannot say. All I can say is that if there was much distress among these people they disguised it wonderfully. I did not see half a dozen of pinched faces or ragged clothes such as we would associate with distress in Belfast. There was a healthiness and a cheerfulness suggestive of anything but poverty. It is perhaps true, as suggested to us by a native looker-on, that the people who were getting the flour were not the real and deserving poor at all, but those who understood the gentle art of manipulating. At any rate, if there was much distress among the people they did not show it. It may be, however, that the air is a food in itself, and that that made them all look so healthy. I cannot say. Someone, however, a looker-on, made the remark, whether original or not I cannot say, that "If it was not for these famines we would be all starved." The saying has its meaning and the incident its moral.

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On our return to Mallaranny we were entertained to diner by the Railway Company, the proprietor's of the hotel, and in due time, and after toasting our hosts and Mr. Elliott, and discussing the incidents of the day, we retired to rest with that contented feeling that arises from something having been accomplished, something done, to earn a night's repose. We had done Achill, and got a Pisgah view of the Atlantic, wherewith we were content. Sufficient for the day were the ever-changing panorama of wild and picturesque beauty and the moderately bright sun thereof.

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We have now reached the third day of our journey, and I must hurry up, as I find I am spending more days at the tale than at the trip. We bade farewell, and a regretful farewell, to Mallaranny at ten o'clock in the morning. Though our enthusiasm remained high, our spirits fell, for the morning was wet and dull, and in great part the day was as the morning. This was the day reserved for some of the best scenery, especially of mountain – the mountains known as the Twelve Pins and Croagh Patrick coming within our line of route. But, alas! We could see little, if any, mountain except its base, for their caps were all covered with clouds, and while their fleeces may have had a charm of their own we should have preferred the mountains to have had a place in the sun rather than in the clouds. However, we had to make the best of it. And we did.

Bath Hotel, Westport c1911
Our first stop was at Westport, where the Midland Great Western had motors to meet us. We had not time to observe the surroundings of Westport, which are beautiful, but we had a drive in the town, and saw the river which glides through it. And then we made our entry into Galway. Here we had mountains and valleys, rivers and bays at every turn. We had more foliage and less stones than at Mayo, and picturesqueness everywhere. It was on part of this route, if I remember aright, we were pointed out the residence of the inventor of the submarine, Mr. Holland. It appears he offered it at first to the British Government, which refused it, as usual, and the inventor had to find a market for it in the United States, whence it proceeded to Germany, and we now know the use the Germans have made of it. As a counterblast to that we were told that the man who fired the shell that sunk the first German war vessel came from the same neighbourhood, so that Ireland produced quite as great a hero as Michael O'Leary, though we do not hear so much about him. I could not say whether our run was twenty, thirty, or forty miles for the forenoon, for miles seemed as nothing to the chauffeurs or the motors, but true to time and rule we reached the Grand Hotel, Leenane, at the head of the beautiful Killary Bay, of which we had many fine views, at the scheduled hour. It is remarked in my guide-book that this place is noted for its excellent lunch, and it well deserves to be. The situation is beautiful and central, and the proprietor, Mr. M'Keown, is a marvel, for not only does he run a fine hotel with beautiful grounds, but he makes cloth, and gives considerable employment. It is all conducted in a most primitive way, but the results are said to be satisfactory to manufacturer and wearer. I may just mention -- and it is not peculiar to this place – that programmes are provided for a week's visit, with tours or fishing provided for each day.

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Leaving Leenane our next stop was at Clifden. It was on this part of our route that we enjoyed some of the most picturesque scenes of our trip. One of the finest of these was at Kylemore. With a lough in front, and rich woodland all around, stands the baronial pile erected by the late Mr. Mitchell Henry, M.P., at one time member of the firm of Messrs. A. & S. Henry, and a beautiful church provided by the same lavish hand close by. The mansion is stately and its situation picturesque. Seldom have I seen a residence so beautiful and so far from the madding crowd. Here, indeed, can rest be found, with everything to delight the eye and charm and satisfy the artistic sense. None but a man of taste could have conceived such a residence, and none but a man of great means could have provided it. But then Mr. Henry was rich, and member for Galway at the time, and so he pleased him self, and delighted his constituents at the same time. In the evening we reached Clifden, and saw the little town and some of the artists who make ornaments out of the Connemara marble, which is found within measurable distance of it. Our next halt was at Recess, which, like so many other places, is an angling centre. If Recess has many inhabited houses we did not see any save the Railway Hotel, which is situated at the head of a beautiful lough, and embowered among beautiful foliage. We could have dwelt long on this beautiful spot, but the gong sounded for dinner on arrival, and we found ourselves the guests of the Midland Great Western Railway, with Mr. Brady. M.P. for Stephen's Green, one of the directors of the company, representing them. We did ample justice to the dinner, which was as fine as could have been provided in any hotel in the kingdom, and the attendance, which was excellent, was all provided by girls. Our guides and ourselves took advantage of this occasion to thank the directors of the railway company for their kindness, which was marked, and their hospitality, which was lavish. At a late hour we entrained for Galway, which we reached after midnight, when we had our first news about the settlement of the coal strike, for during the rest of the time we were out of range of newspapers.

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Church Street, Ennis

Reserving what I might have to say about Galway I content myself to-day with a brief account of our next day's run, which in many respects was among the most pleasant of our tour. We travelled by the Midland Great Western through Athenry to Ennis, the capital of Clare, where we bade farewell to that railway that had done so much for us. Here we were transferred to a light railway, that of West Clare, and introduced to its veteran manager, Mr. P. Sullivan, the doyen of railway managers, and the finest specimen of a good-natured and kindly Irishman I have met. Here we were also joined by Mr. Smith, the traffic superintendent of the Great Southern and Western Railway, which company interests itself in this movement, and is co-operating heartily in every effort to develop touring in the South and South-West. Mr. Smith proved an interesting companion as well as a most capable and experienced railway official. Here, as in the former part of our route, we had a special saloon carriage, but it was like a toy compared with the other. But if smaller in size, it was a model of taste and neatness, with fine coloured glass windows, more suggestive of a Cathedral than a railway carriage. And, what is more, it was all of home manufacture, this small railway making all its own carriages. We had a pleasant run through Clare, which is more noted for pasture than tillage, and more noted for crime than either. Our first stop was at Lahinch, a lovely little spot by the sea, with an hotel constructed of Norwegian pine, and removed from its natal place in sections. It is picturesque and comfortable. In addition to the sea, the pride of Lahinch is its golf course and its hotel, which is named after golf, and its charming scenery. Here we were entertained to an elegant luncheon, presided over by Mr. Murray, who is chairman of the company. I had an idea I had seen him before, and after an introduction I was sure, for he is Mr. Murray, of Limerick, head of one of the finest drapery establishments in the South – Tod & Co. – and connected with many of the most flourishing concerns in the city. He is a member of the Presbyterian Church, and I then remembered I had met him at the Assembly in Belfast in the old days of instrumental music, in which he took a great interest. I was proud to hear that he is held in honour all over Limerick, where his name and work for the promotion of industry and all good work is a household one. From Lahinch we were motored by the coast to Ballyvaughan, and then by a serpentine or cork-screw road over the mountains to Lisdoonvarna. With the Atlantic on one hand and for the great part mountains covered with stone, on the other, the experience of this drive was as novel and interesting as the scene was picturesque and suggestive. For mile upon mile, as far as the eye could see, there was nothing but mountains of huge boulders that at a distance suggested heather till you realised that they had another covering. Lisdoonvarna, celebrated for its spas and its health-giving propensities, is situated at the top of the mountain, and is mainly a town of hotels and boarding-houses. My part of the company was entertained at the Queen's Hotel, which has a charming prospect, and is well equipped with all comforts and conveniences. Lisdoonvarna is a favourite health resort not only for the people of the South, but from many other parts of the country, and not least by Roman Catholic clergy, of whom there were many. We sampled the waters, and were shown over the grounds. I must say that the spot seems ideal as a health resort, and its arrangements are most modern.

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Having done justice to Lisdoonvarna, we were motored to Ennis, a station on the Clare Railway, and driven by a special train to Kilkee, where we were put up at Moore's Hotel, of which Miss M. Fulham is the manageress. It was morning before we could see Kilkee, but the sight of it was worth the whole journey. It is one of the most picturesque watering-places in Ireland, with a beautiful strand and ruggod rocks that add to its picturesque grandeur. The morning was bright and beautiful, and we saw the place at its best, with hundreds of children enjoying themselves in the sands and in the surf. It has a local Council, but its guide, philosopher, and friend seem to be the Rev. Canon Glynn, who did the honours of the reception for us, and explained what he and others had done for modernising the town in the matter of sanitation and water. Pure water to drink and the waters and waves of the Atlantic to sport in Kilkee must surely have a great future before it, as it is very good and growing in the present.

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At noon we left for Kilrush, a fine shipping port a few miles from Kilkee. It seems an industrious and thriving little town. Here we joined the Limerick Steamship Company's Shamos, and steamed up to Limerick, which we reached at four o'clock.

– "The Man in the Street," in "The Ulster Echo."

Source: The Witness, 6 August 1915.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Call

See from the hills that river run
Red as the rays of the setting sun.
What is there in that ripping rill
That makes my saddened senses thrill?
’Tis blood! red blood! It cries to me
From the storm-swept hills of Gallipoli.

List to the mother’s mournful moan,
As she nurses grief; unseen, alone.
“Oh, river of death; Thou hast borne away
My joy, and turned to night my day,
For the child of my love and prayers, ah me!
Is filling a grave in Gallipoli."

Hark to her voice within that cry
Pleading with pent-up agony,
’Tis my Master speaks: “Would My servant share
My glorious crown and mansions fair?
Take up thy cross and follow Me
To the moaning hills of Gallipoli.”

Humbly I follow on, spurred by that call,
Seeing through cloud and mist His love o’er all,
Bruised and torn, maybe, yet not dismayed,
Looking to Him for strength and aid,
Hastening to that glad day, when all shall see
The Christ of the Cross in Gallipoli.

Riddell’s Creek. J.S.

The Witness, 22 October, 1915

Thursday, 6 August 2015

My Tour in the West – Ireland 1915


I have just returned from a tour in Connemara and in the West and South-West of Ireland. It was most interesting and illuminative. It was a lightning tour, but it was unaccompanied by any thunder except the thunder of eloquence, and occasionally the thunder of the Atlantic. Tt was carried out under the most pleasant auspices. We had as guides, philosophers, and friends two of the leading spirits of the Irish Tourist organisation, Mr. J. Maher Loughnan and Mr. C. Hartnell, with Mr. Moore, of the celebrated Cook Touring Agency, and Mr. Hewitt, of the Lunn and Polytechnic Touring Organisations, and we had as hosts the Midland and Great Western Railway Company, and we had saloon carriages, special trains, and, motors placed at our disposal. But if our programme was interesting it was also exhausting. We were assured there was "no time" in Connemara, but we found if there was none among the natives, our guides and our guardians took good care to keep us up to time – and a good time I admit it was. We were conducted over all the principal spots of interest in the West, from the Corrib to the Shannon, from Achill Point to Kilkee and Limerick. Regarded as pleasure it was delightful; regarded as work the most tolerant trades unionist would have rebelled. There was no eight hours' day. From early morn to dewy eve we were on the run and rush, and on one memorable occasion it was after midnight before we were delivered safe and sound in the City of the Tribes. But we know that the pleasure we delight in physics pain; in this case physicked work -- for there was no pain and no grumbling.

Between sleeping and rushing between dining and driving, between talking and listening, between rest and refreshment, between posing for the camera and watching nature's poses there was little time left for either blessing or cursing, for writing, or even reading. News travelled so slowly compared to us that it hardly overtook us. We were all interested in the fate of Warsaw and the Welsh coal strike, but we could hear nothing about either until any that was bad become stale to the rest of the world. Forced to forget the world, and by the world forgotten, we pursued the even, and occasionally the uneven, tenor of our way. We knew there was day or night, but we had difficulty in remembering the day of the week; in fact, often we had to look up our itinerary to discover what day of the week it was at any time any of us found leisure to inquire.

I set out with the intention of writing up each day's proceedings in the form of a diary, and I made an attempt at the outset, part of which I hope to reproduce. But while I hoped to present my narrative in the form of a diary I assure my readers it will be as great though as pleasant a task on my memory to do so as it was on my energies to keep pace with the young men in a hurry, who dragged me at their heels. Reserving my diary for future day or days, as my pen will provide or my readers endure, I wish, to-day

Reserving my diary for future day or days, as my pen will provide or my readers endure, I wish, to-day to present a brief outline of our tour, and a few general impressions. If I happen to bore my readers by my narrative it will be my fault, for I assure them they would not be bored by travelling over the same ground. But I would advise any who would do so, and I hope many will to hasten more slowly than we did; to tour in a more leisurely fashion, though I would not ask them to do it in a more lordly fashion. We were through all Connaught, and witnessed, or were within easy reach, of all places of scenic interest, from Sligo Bay to Blacksod Bay, and round by Clew Bay to lough Corrib and Galway Bay. Thence we proceeded through Gaffe to Ennis and Kilkee and the Atlantic. Then we sailed for four hours on the Shannon, winding up our tour to Limerick, where among many other cases I was snapshotted beside the Treaty Stone. There was little worth seeing that We were not shown, and little worth telling that we did not hear. The only disability we suffered from that the sun did not shine on us with the brilliancy it did this morning, as I peered out at my temporary home from home, at Whitehead. The clouds and the rain, were too dense for even him to peer through, and too dense to enable us to see the various mountain pinnacles that rose majestically along our route. But the sun gave us an occasional peep and an occasional beam. He seems, however, to have partially sulked while we were in Connemara, but he came out of his tent on the lordly Shannon, and made our journey there so pleasant that we unanimously decided to forgive him for his neglect of us in Connemara. I may say, however, in justice to ourselves and our hosts, that we did not miss him much, for with the combined warmth of our own hearts and theirs quite a summer heat and brightness pervaded us everywhere. I hope to prove this before I conclude.

It would, of course, be impossible to keep politics and religion out of the minds of any of us, but we never touched it with our tongues, except in chaff, or in sadness for what these had done, or not done, for Connemara. Out hosts differed as much in politics and religion as we did. There were among the twenty odd journalists both Unionists and Nationalists, Roman Catholics and Protestants. There was the "News-Letter" and "Evening Telegraph" and the "Freeman" and the "Independent," and there was "The Witness" and the "Irish Catholic." With such comminglings it would hove been folly to spoil our pleasure by arguing and quarrelling with each other as if we represented rival factions of Nationalists. We agreed to conceal our differences and unite in our points of agreement, which was to enjoy the scenic charms of Connemara, Clare, and the Shannon, and ask others to enjoy them for themselves. Unionism and Nationalism, Protestant and Catholic were only names to us, and only mentioned as matters of fact and not as matters of controversy. And to do the Tourist Organisation Society justice, I am perfectly satisfied that the one feeling that animates them is to do practical good to the country by attracting visitors from one part to another, and to bring plenty in their train to North and South. The one thing needful for this season and for all summer seasons is that people should find rest and change, and how could they find both better than by exploring and exploiting their own country, and making more prosperous those parts of our beautiful island that are most dependent on tourists far their livelihood; and in many of these districts the people have nothing but their scenery to live on and what it can bring in the way of tourists.

I may just say in conclusion that during the week I must have covered between trains and motors and steamers over seven hundred miles – not a bad week's work in itself.

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The best laid schemes of mice and journalists often gang agley. Between the best intentions and their execution there is sometimes a great gulf fixed. I set out on my Western trip with the idea of writing it up in diary form, but as I did not write it up daily, as I meant to do, and I now find days and places so inextricably mingling in any brain that I must content myself with a general rather then a diurnal record. Our tour began on Monday, and continued until Saturday, when the Northern contingents took leave of their colleagues. Having enjoyed the sweet toil of travel far a week we have all resumed the less sweet toil of labour, abandoning high jinks in the drawing room of life for the more simple enjoyments of the kitchen. That we had a good time goes without saying. No one could have been sad in such company and amid such varied scenes.

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According to the original programme, we from the North should have joined the party in Dublin, and left that Capital on Monday morning, paying a visit to Lough Gill on the way. Two Belfast journalists and myself chose the shorter route via Enniskillen. But we missed not only a scene of beauty, but of great joy, for the Mayor and Corporation of Sligo entertained the party in the little vessel with that generous hospitality so characteristic of the West from the days of Charley O'Malley to the present time. Even with the cost and waste of war to face, and with the local rates in the locality running from 12s to 15s in the £, the hearts of the people of the West are given to hospitality. I do not say this in a churlish, but rather in a disappointed way, for I was told by my colleagues that the welcome and the hospitality were alike cordial and characteristic. But if we missed the treat of the Mayor and Corporation in the morning we enjoyed it in the evening, and it was all the heart or home of man could expect anywhere, to say nothing of the West.

Lough Gill, Sligo – Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland (1900) Library Ireland
It was four o'clock on Monday afternoon when we reached Sligo by way of Clones and Enniskillen, and the Sligo and Leitrim Railway. At Enniskillen we met Mr. Armstrong, the excellent manager of the latter, who is doing so much to develop the district which he serves. We had half an hour in Enniskillen, where we met an old journalistic colleague, Mr. William Ritchie, who has crowned a life of labour by an age of ease, as the successful proprietor and Editor of the "Fermanagh Times," and who hospitably entertained us. The only thing that troubled Mr. Ritchie, and I may add Mr. Armstrong also, was that Lough Erne, with its picturesque islands and rich woodland surroundings, had hot been included in our tour. But Mr. Ritchie was not the only journalist we met there. Mr. Trimble, a local Editor and proprietor, and the organiser of the Fermanagh Horse, was out travelling companion till the borders of Sligo, and from him we learned all that need be known about the grandeur of Fermanagh.

What we did notice, however, that as soon as we left the County Fermanagh we left something like a cold shiver come over us. While Fermanagh showed abundance of rich lands and fine woods, Leitrim was bare of both. We passed at once from timber to stones, from rich lands to poor lands. The trees were few and far between, and the soil was more like that associated with Connaught than with Ulster, or whose borders it lies. Rain began to fall at the time, which added to the chilling and depressing effect. Sligo brightened us up a little, for we began to see green trees and arable land instead of stones and barrenness. This was not my first visit to Sligo. I spent some days in it nearly forty years ago when the Land League was in its infancy and only in training for an age of crime and outrage. The occasion was the trial of Michael Davitt, the founder of the League; John Daly, of Castlebar; and John B. Killen, then a young Irish barrister with advanced leanings on land and national questions. He, I am told, is still alive. They were summoned for language used in speeches at a meeting somewhere in the county, is regard to which one of the best professional reporters of his day and some police shorthand writers, among whom, if I remember right, was Mr. Jerry Stringer, afterwards a head constable in Belfast, gave evidence.

I may here say that part of the contention of the Crown was that the speakers, or some of them, made suggestive reference to the fate that landlords deserved; but the case of the defendants was that it was landlordism and not landlords the threats were made. Mr. John Rea, I have little doubt on the inspiration of Mr. Killen, was specially engaged to defend the prisoners, which he did with a vigour and thoroughness that surprised not only the local magistrates, but the local public. But, to do his memory justice, he did it in his best style. I cannot remember the results of the trial, but I think a short imprison, but followed. I may here recall that Mr. Davitt stopped at the same hotel as myself, so that I saw a great deal of him. He was a very dark, sinister-looking man, and devoid of the right arm. But at the time he had taken to journalism, and between his writing in the court, and he wrote at a rapid rate with his left hand, and in his hotel must have turned out reams of copy during the trial. As I am writing, the impression comes to me that Davitt conducted his own defence, but I am not quite sure.

Castle Street, Sligo c1910 – National Library of Ireland
There was a difference between my first arrival in Sligo and my second. The first was in the middle of the night, and in very cold weather, so that I was muffled up. Some one had given me the name of the Imperial Hotel to stop at, and at the station I made my way to the hotel 'bus to find myself alone, all my colleagues from Dublin having booked for the Victoria. No sooner had I got seated than I observed a band forming up in front of the 'bus as if to escort some occupant to the hotel. As I did not think such a distinction was intended for me, I questioned the hotel boots as to the meaning or occasion for this unexpected tribute. His reply was that Mr. Parnell had been expected that night, and the members of the band had mistaken me for Mr. Parnell – my beard was more brown than it is to-day, and that was almost all of me they could see, and Mr. Parnell had a brown beard. I hurriedly explained to the man that I was not Mr. Parnell, whereupon the band melted away, and so I had to go to the hotel unhonoured and without a musical escort. It was the only time in my life when I had the chance of a Nationalist ovation, and I sometimes regret that I had not taken advantage of it. Still I dreaded what would have been the consequence when my hour of repose and speech had come.
On my late tour, in common with my two friends, I had been booked for the Victoria Hotel, and we all got into the 'bus, glad of a change from our long journey. But we were no sooner seated than a young man came up and asked if we belonged to the Tourist Organisation party. I am not quite sure if he did say organisation, but we understood him, and we said we did. He told us that he had a motor, and had been told to convey us somewhere or other. We took him on trust. No sooner were we seated in the car than we discovered that there was something distinguishing about it. I have sometimes seen motors engaged in special Unionist or legal work displaying a couple of small "Union Jacks." Our motor sported a couple of flags, too, but they were of a different colour. One was the Irish flag, and the other the Belgium flag. I may just here say that from I entered the gateway of the West till I left it I did not see a Union Jack, except, perhaps, on a recruiting poster. The only sight suggestive of the red, white, and blue was three young and pretty girls at a station in Clare, one of whom wore a red jacket, the second a white jacket, and the third a blue one, and whether from accident or design they walked abreast with the colours in the order, mentioned.

In a few minutes we met nearly half a score of motors containing the members of our expedition from Dublin and several members of the Dublin Corporation, who had been doing the honours of Lough Gill to our colleagues. We then set out on a twenty or thirty mile motor drive, which included the Falls of Glencar and Rosse's Point, a fine watering-place within short distance of Sligo, where we were entertained by the heads of the Golf Club, and where there is an excellent golf course that the members claim to be a champion course. I did not go over it and I cannot say; and, to be candid, I could not have said if I had gone ever it. This was our first motor drive in the West. The scenery was interesting, but the land was not. We saw little tillage and little ground that could be tilled, and we did not see many cattle on the land that appeared suitable for grazing.

On our return to Sligo part of us were housed at the Victoria and part at the Imperial Hotel. I was among those at the Victoria. We found the hotel clean and comfortably, and were hospitably entertained by Mr. Hall the proprietor. I had not sufficient time to see how far Sligo had improved or otherwise since my visit, but did notice some good business houses, especially that of Lyons, as well known and popular in the West. I had hoped to see Mr. Jackson, a Belfast man, who is at the head of a large milling add shipping industry in Sligo, but unfortunately he was not at home, as I hoped to learn from him something of the business and labour conditions of the city. There is here, as in many other places in the West, a magnificent Roman Catholic church; I think, indeed, it must be a Cathedral, it is so grand. I understand Sligo is a good business town, but cannot be nailed a progressive or prosperous one. Yet it seems a fine centre for business, but its local government is none of the best. I am told that the local rates ran from 12s 6d to 14s or 15s in the £. That is a great charge upon the ratepayers, and they do not seem to get very much for it all. As a rule Sligo comes in as the end of Connemara touring, but we made it the beginning, so that Sligo and not Galway was, as the guidebooks say, our gateway to the wonderful West.

– "The Man in the Street," in "The Ulster Echo."

Source: The Witness, 30 July 1915.