Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 21



Memories of the Royal Irish Constabulary haunt me still as the bright smile of the Bohemian girl haunted the hero of the musical romance that bears her name. I have known so many of them in my time, so many that have got on well in the force and so many that have done well out of it, and I meet members of the force so often in my walks abroad, that now that my mind has been turned to thoughts of its members, I could almost, like the brook, go on for ever. I have seen many of the rank and file attain promotion to head constables, and several head constables rising, to be sub-inspectors. I have known several who were in the force in my time who obtained good positions in civil life and in business, and few, very few, of them are living still.

Among the head constables of my time, those of whom I retain the most vivid recollections are Head Constables Lamb and Foley, who were in joint charge of the police books in the court in my time. Lamb was a fine, burly, good-natured officer. Seeing that he was a policeman, it might be too much, to say that he was as mild and gentle as his name; but he certainly was kindly and considerate, though at times blunt and bluff. Then there was Head Constable Foley, an officer and gentleman in look and manner, in courtesy and dignity. I was not surprised when he was afterwards selected to be chief of the police force in St. John’s, Newfoundland, a position which he filled with signal ability and success. He was a brother of Signor Foli, well known as one of the leading opera singers of the day, who had to give himself an Italian appellation — at that time one had to be, or pose as an Italian or German to be able to get fair chances in the musical profession. That was very much the case in later times, too, though there have been exceptions; but they only proved the rule. In later days British and Irish have had a better chance. Through my association with the head constable I met the "Signor" often during his visits to Belfast. He, too, was a fine Irish gentleman. I came across recently a photograph of a number of local Pressmen, including myself, who joined m a presentation to Head Constable Foley on leaving the town for his Nova Scotian appointment. I alone am left of the group to tell the tale and recall the memory.

Many of the sub-inspectors of my time — sub-inspector, and not district inspector, was the official title in the days of which I am writing — received promotions to Resident Magistrates and county inspectorships. The names of these that occur to me as I write are Gardiner, Townsend, Bull, and Morrell — though the latter is of a more recent date, and Gelston, who is quite modern, and is now, I believe, in charge of County Kerry, where all but the spirit of man is sublime. Mr. Clayton is another whose name just occurs to me.

Dealing with the local heads of the police force, in my memory the first I recall is Mr. James Luttrel Bailley, or Captain Bailley as he was often called. He was a fine sturdy specimen of a good thorough-going officer — breezy and blunt, but efficient. He had a strong voice and a decided military style, and said what he had to say in a short and rapid manner, and went on — coming and departing like a whirlwind. His successor was, I think, Mr. Cullen, who afterwards obtained a high position in the headquarters in Dublin. He was of a more solid and stolid type than Mr. Bailley, had less of a military air and presence, but was a good officer withal. I remember meeting him on one occasion coming out of the Town Hall, and he had a fiery and furious look about him, which was far from usual,  for he was by no means an excitable man. “Hello, what has put you in a bad temper?” I asked. “The Mayor,” he said — we had not Lord Mayors in those days; and I may say the Mayor of the time was he who was later known as Sir Edward J. Harland. I asked him to explain. But I should first explain that the occasion was the second morning before the visit of the late King Edward and Queen Alexandra, who as Prince and Princess of Wales visited Belfast in the early ’eighties; and the subject out of which the irritating incident had arisen was the form in which the traffic of the main streets should be conducted on the evening of the visit, when there was to be a general illumination of the buildings and streets of the town. Mr. Cullen told me that on the previous day he had left with the Mayor a programme of the arrangements that were to be made for the procession and the public traffic during the evening. After thinking the matter over, and consulting with the various officers, he had, he said, come to the conclusion that a change would be desirable, and he had called upon the Mayor to submit the particulars and get his approval, which he expected as a matter of course. “Didn’t we arrange all that yesterday?” asked the Mayor when Mr. Cullen put the new programme before him. “Yes,” was the reply, “but on further consideration, I have changed my mind, and I think this would be a better plan.” “I’ll have nothing to do with a man that is always changing his mind. I never change my mind,” said the Mayor. “I change my mind when I see occasion,” retorted Mr. Cullen. “I’m not a mule.” And with that Parthian shot he left him, and emerged in the towering rage in the heat of which I found him. I am unable to say which plan was adopted. But I think a good plan must have been adopted for having regard to the huge traffic and crowding of the streets, there was as little confusion as could be expected on that brilliant and memorable night. And I can remember that the illuminations were magnificent and the spectacle brilliant and suggestive as a display of Belfast loyalty and for Belfast appreciation of Royalty, which then and now was great, and I hope ever shall be.

When Mr. Cullen was called up higher as one of the chiefs of the force in Dublin, his place was taken by Mr. Carr, of whom I have little remembrance save that he was a most genially disposed gentleman. To him succeeded Mr. Singleton, whom I first remember as a popular sub-inspector at Carrickfergus, one of the most genial and off-handed of men — a good officer and a fine gentleman. He was most popular both with the police and the public, and when in due course he was promoted to the Deputy-Inspector-Generalship in Dublin, everyone rejoiced at his promotion. I met and knew him intimately while he was in Belfast, and met him occasionally while he was in office in Dublin, and also after his retirement, and he was always the same genial, courteous, and affable gentleman. To Mr. Singleton, if I remember aright, succeeded Mr. Cameron, a very capable officer and fine gentleman, who, I think, retired from the service; and thus ended a brief and pleasant connection with the force and the city.

And then there was Mr. Moriarty, who died only a few months ago, having enjoyed his retirement for many years. Mr. Moriarty was a most wonderful man, who lived and worked as if by the clock. The regularity and system of his movements was, indeed, remarkable. I remember while living in Bangor meeting him almost daily at the corner of Rosemary Street on his way to his morning shave, I believe, before entering upon duty. If my train arrived at its usual time and I moved at my usual pace I met him just turning into Rosemary Street; and if I did not meet him I felt that my train or myself had not been punctual, for I always felt sure that my old friend would be at the same place at the same exact minute. He would be sure to keep time if the railway or the traveller did not. He was sharp and somewhat brusque in his style, but he was a good officer. Next came Mr. Leathern, who retired after a life of faithful service, and who knew happily lives in our midst, retaining the respect of all who knew him. Mr. Leathem was not only an excellent City Commissioner, careful in matters of discipline and duty, but free from that rigid officialism which disregards everything else. He was most courteous and kindly in the discharge of all his duties, and was popular with the police and the public, the aftermath, of which he still enjoys in his retirement, which, all his friends hope he will enjoy, for many and happy years.

Mr. Hill was in office during the memorable and disturbing Larkin strike, which lasted for weeks, and brought so much loss and disgrace, to the city. I have reason to remember that, for my duties, my experience, and my feelings at the time made me a close and continuous commentator on the movement and on its leader, Mr. Larkin. A friend connected with the cross-Channel steamboat and railway interests that were much affected at the time, afterwards told me that I had filled over eighty columns in my criticism and comments on the movement and its leader. I learned at the time, after some trouble and investigation, the real groundwork of the movement; and I did my best to expose and explain it, which brought on my poor head the special abuse and attention of the leader himself.

I remember at a comparatively early stage of the strike and the straffing being at the fringe of a crowd at the Custom House one Sunday afternoon — a crowd extending almost from the steps of the Custom House to the sheds. In the course of Larkin’s speech he said — “I hear ‘The Man in the Street’ is within my hearing, and I want to tell him” — and he went on to tell me and the audience as well many things that were far from respectful or appreciative. Some in my neighbourhood seemed to recognise me, and I candidly confess I quickly folded my tents and silently stole away. I did not care to be left to the tender mercies of Larkin’s lambs, even on the Sabbath day. I received many threats and warnings at the time, but I felt safe with the protection of the police, and I was justified, though on one occasion an individual carried his far from peaceful intention to and from the office in Royal Avenue for one entire afternoon and evening — it was one of the evenings of the days in which negotiations for settlement were conducted at the Grand Central Hotel.

There were criticisms of the police at the time, though for my part I could not blame them, much, for the late Government was in power and the Labour party was in its zenith as dictator. And between its leaders and the leaders of the Irish Nationalists the Government seemed afraid to show much vigour, and it would have been dangerous as well as difficult for the police to show too much. They did at last, however, and the result of that and a conference brought to an end the practical dictatorship which, to the disgrace of the authorities, and the serious danger and injury to the city, lasted for over two months. During this period, however, Mr. Hill, the City Commissioner, was laid aside as the result of an accident, and he could not be held responsible for any laxity of the police if there wan any — and if there was, I would not blame the police so much as the Executive, that gave them little backing up, and seemed then, as always, to pander to the troubles of the country rather than to protect either its trade or its loyal interests.

Mr. Hill retired during or at the end of this business, and the present Commissioner, Mr. Smith, took his place. And certainly no men could have filled the position better or more satisfactorily. He is at once courteous and capable, obliging and firm, calm and confident, ready in emergency, and well prepared for all difficulties. He has had some difficult and delicate matters to handle in his time, and his has handled them well, and enjoys the respect and confidence of all classes in the community. He is not only a gentleman who knows his duty and does it, but he is always ready and willing to assist those who call on him even extra officially, as I have found from personal experience. He has now had a long tenure of office, and I am sure the community would be glad to have him for many yearns more, and hope they will have — unless he is “called up higher,” as so many of his predecessors were, and as he would, in the opinion of all who know and honour him, well deserve. I may add that the Commissioner has a fine staff of District-Inspectors, of which Mr. Dunlop, Mr. Redmond, and Mr. Ross are, I think, the seniors — at anyrate they are those I know best.

To be continued...

From The Witness, 24th November 1916.

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

Saturday, 19 November 2016

One More...

One more boy killed in France;
     He’s only like the rest;
He’s had to take his chance;
     But, then — you loved him best.

The news that came at noon
     Your brightest hopes have shattered;
Let God arise! and soon
     His enemies, be scattered.

England expects to-day
     See each one’s duty done;
So “bound at home to stay,”
     Your victory must be won.

This sorrow in your heart
     Bury quite deeply down;
Get on, and do your part;
     Look upwards! There’s the crown.

Go out and do the deed
     Your boy would urge you do.
Help others in their need;
     There are some worse than you.

Then, when with all your might,
     You think “what might have been;”
It is not yet the night —
     There shall be light at e’en.

S. Maxwell, Bangor.

Poem: The Witness, 3rd November 1916
Image: A woman tends to a grave in Poperinghe near the Belgian city of Ypres. (c) Getty Images.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 20



Here have I been writing for a couple of weeks about the police courts, and discussing solicitors, magistrates, and lawyers, and have made no special reference to the police, who have given the courts their name and much of their business. It is like a performance of "Hamlet" with the noble Dane's part omitted, or like an essay on German culture that would exclude all reference to brutality and barbarity, ruthlessness and butchery, which are its principal developments. The police, like the poor, are always with us, and perhaps that is one of the reasons why I forgot them for a time. And yet for me, of all men, to neglect the police, and especially the Royal Irish, would be an act of ingratitude as well as of stupidity. If to be well known to the police could be regarded as a passport to respectability, I think I should claim a place in the front ranks, for I have been associated with the police in many departments, and have received great kindness from them. I have always found them courteous and obliging, and ready to help me with information and assistance in all cases in which I have called upon them.

My two years in the courts brought me into special association with, at any rate, one generation of them; and unless in one case, which I may refer to hereafter, I have never had an unpleasant association with or an unpleasant memory of the force. In my time the Royal Irish Constabulary had full charge of Belfast, with Mr. James L. Bailley as Commissioner, and Mr. Harrell, Mr. Thynne, Mr. Blake, and Mr. M'Dermott as sub-inspectors — and I will say of them as a fact, which their subsequent careers proved, a finer lot of officers could not have been in charge of any force. In the 'sixties we had a local force; but I had never an opportunity of seeing or judging of them except in the case of one or two who had been drafted into the constabulary from it, and were fine, strong, stalwart men. The riots of '64 and the Commission that followed put an end to the old municipal force. It had come in for much criticism. It was a local and civil force purely, and recruited locally. One of the grievances in regard to it was that it was largely a Protestant force, and under the control of the Town Council. It was alleged that the Town Council gave a preference to Protestants, and that the men were selected more on account of their faith than their fitness. One of the members of the Town Council, and he a Roman Catholic, of the time I believe rather startled the Commissioners — they were Messrs. Bary and Dowse, both afterwards Judges — by the statement that the members of the force were subjected to a preliminary examination, a suggestion that had never been made or heard of before. When asked to explain its character, he said they put them up against the wall and measured them. I am unable, as I have said, to offer any opinion about the old police; but at the time I came into close contact with the Royal Irish I can speak favourably of them. They were a fine body of men physically, and otherwise well trained and disciplined. And they were not confined to members of one denomination. There were Roman Catholics and Protestants in certain fixed proportions. I cannot say what the proportions were, and I cannot say how far that proportion is maintained at the present time. If, however, all I hear is true, the proportions have varied greatly by the increase of Roman Catholic; but as they have always been and, are one to me in kindliness and friendliness, I do not desire to raise any question on that point.

There were not a few policemen from the South and West, and if required some time to establish an understanding between them and the people. Their accent was as strange to the people as that of the people was to them. And it was some time before they acquired the geographical and ethnological knowledge necessary to a satisfactory understanding and a satisfactory discharge of duty. For example, one policeman startled the Court once by declaring that he had arrested his prisoner at the graveyard in York Street, which, of course, turned out to be merely Robinson's establishment for providing tombstones for the cemetery, which was elsewhere. There was another difficulty as appeared to me. At the time of which I am writing the memory of the riots of '64 had not died out; and many in the South and West of the classes that the policemen were recruited from had an idea that all Belfast men were Orangemen, and that Orangemen were all men of Brobdingnagian proportions, who went about armed with clubs to smash the heads of all Roman Catholics — or Fenians, as was the political term of their time — that came in their way. But by degrees knowledge came, and each began to understand the other better. The Southern and Western police found that the Belfast people were not all Orangemen, and that they were men that had the same feelings and passions as themselves, and only differed in their views of the position, power, and authority of the Pope.

I found the police on the whole, and even the Southern police, were not bad fellows. And I found that a policeman's lot was not that happy and idle one imagined by those who knew and saw them doing nothing but patrolling the streets, which they did not consider work at all. I was, and am, inclined to think that there is a wearisome monotony even about that, and always the risk of coming across some rowdy alcoholic person-male or female after their kind; and in my experience in many cases the females were the worse. I have seen the police taking prisoners to the court, and suffering badly in the process; and I have seen them in court the following day with marks of many wounds and scars on their faces and tunics. I learned, too, that there were some policemen who were never happy when they were not about the police court, and I learned of others who were not happy if they were. I do not suggest that this means that the one was more inclined to do duty than the other; it was only a case of taste and idiosyncrasy. I had heard a great deal about the clannishness of the police, about the readiness with which one policeman would back up and swear up for another. Well, I have discovered in my life that there is clannishness everywhere, clannishness at the Bar, clannishness on the Bench, and I did not think any worse of the police because they did their best to protect and support each other.

I was myself a victim of this spirit on one occasion. In the morning, while I used to be entering up the books for the magistrates before the Court opened, some of the police were in the habit of coming in and chatting with me. I had a weakness for joking in those days; but on one occasion I made the dangerous experiment of joking with a policeman. The Corporation at this time had issued a very elaborate series of new byelaws, which interfered, among other things, with the privileges of hawkers selling oranges and onions on the street and spreading their wares not only on the footpath, but on the streets, which, at the time, they did quite freely. The police were continually applying for summonses against these traders and others who broke the new and hardly understood bye-laws, and I suppose that was the reason the fact became so impressed on me. "Hello," I said one morning to a constable with whom I had the temerity to speak with a certain familiarity, "any more byelaws to-day? I declare if this goes on we will soon not be able to take our breakfast without a policeman's permission." I admit it was a poor joke, perhaps, but it was mine own. I made it, and forgot all about it till I was painfully reminded of it later in the day.

A very exciting case was on in the court. John Rea and several other solicitors were engaged, and there were about half a dozen magistrates on the Bench, including the two Resident Magistrates, Messrs. Orme and O'Donnell. It was a police case, and a breakdown was threatened because the police had failed to summon some particular witness. Thereupon my friend of the morning, who had no connection with the case at all, got up and said that it was impossible for the police to do their duty for the way they were obstructed by the clerks of the court. "For example, your Worship, here was a remark made to me this morning by one of the clerks of the court," whereupon the constable opened his notebook and read out the remark I have given above.

Consternation reigned all around. The magistrates looked at each other, and then looked at the clerks — a noble band of four — the clerks looked at each other, and the solicitors and police seemed overwhelmed by excitement. The only clerk who did not know where to look was the one who had made to the constable the remark he had so carefully registered in his notebook. I said I thought their Worships would understand the remark was mere chaff, and that I did not think it was a crime to chaff with a policeman. Then having got familiarised with the sound, of my own voice, and rising to the full height of my clerical dignity and oratorical powers, I said, "Now that this has been mentioned, I challenge him or any policeman in court to say that I ever obstructed him in the execution of his duty."

Then were opened the floodgates of magisterial and legal laudation on the head of the much-maligned and much-wronged clerk, in their opinion. Magistrate alter magistrate and solicitor after solicitor got up and declared that since the days when magistrates' clerks first dawned on the land there never was a clerk that equalled me in all the great and noble qualities that should adorn a clerkship; in courtesy, civility, capacity, carefulness — save the mark! — there was none to equal me. To the extent of over a column the local papers of the next morning chronicled this "Police Court Scene," so that for days after I blushed when a paper of that date fell into my hands.

I may say that till that man's dying day I never forgot or forgave him, and I think he was the only one while he lived, or the only one who ever lived, towards whom I ever entertained an unkindly or bitter thought. But I never got rid of the idea of the malevolent intention, and though on several occasions both before and after his
retirement from the force this constable seemed disposed to speak to me, I absolutely refused to either speak or shake hands with him. Perhaps I was wrong, but all who know me will understand that the wound must have been deep for the thought to rankle so long.

But while I mention this incident, I do it ns an exception that proves the rule that, on the whole, the police in those days did their duty fairly and honestly and honourably. There is one thing I noticed at this time. I think there was a rule in force that the police could get credit for the records of their prosecutions, the number apart from the character. There were four or five men in the force who, in my opinion and that of the other clerks, were more zealous for multiplying prosecutions than for doing other duty. In some of these cases we formed the opinion that the prosecutions were frivolous and vexatious, and pressed with too much severity. I will pay this tribute to the discipline and character of the force, that in a very few years every one of these men had to leave the force, their zeal having overcome their discretion and the official sense of justice. The police were no respecters of persons, and in many respects neither were magistrates. There was a story told, not of these days, but of days later, of two magistrates, had been spending a jovial, if not a riotous, evening together. One of them got too boisterous on the way home, and was either arrested or summoned in consequence. His companion of the previous evening took his seat on the Bench, fined his companion, and gave him a lecture on the disgraceful character of such conduct in one who occupied such a position.

There was another case, also of a later date, which showed the Spartan character of the police. I cannot vouch personally of its truth, but I know it was current, and generally accepted as true. Once during an Assize, one of the Judges, a very genial Judge, indeed, and one of the Resident Magistrates, who also possessed similar characteristics, were, with others, being entertained by the Mayor of the year at dinner at his private residence. He, too, was among the most hospitable and genial of men. He happened to mention during the dinner that their was an establishment in the town where the finest whisky could be procured at any hour of the day and up to a late or early hour in the night. The Mayor was driving his guests home after midnight, and the Judge asked him where was the place where the good whisky could be obtained. The host good-naturedly drove his guests to the entry in which the establishment was situated. A policeman on the beat saw the carriage, and guessed who and whom the occupants were and where they were. He made his way to the house, knocked at the door, and shouted "Police." The poor waiter did all he could by his language and pantomime to suggest to the constable that he should for the time give the house a "bye." But no; duty must be done; the law must be respected even by the highest. And so the constable entered, went up to the room, asked for and took the names of the three violators of the law. I never heard that there was any prosecution; but I did hear that the constable shortly afterwards was promoted to be a head constable. It was evidently considered that such a faithful servitor of the law was worthy of something better than his sweetness in patrolling Belfast streets in the desert night. I do not tell this either to make light of the offence or of those who committed it, but simply because it came into my mind as I was thinking of these old times of the police and their manner of discharging their duties; and I give it for what it is worth. It can do no harm to anyone now living, and it only shows the zeal and fidelity and impartiality of the police, which is the point I have been trying to make.

I alluded above to the sub-inspectors of police in Belfast about the time of which I am writing, as was the term then employed. Now it is district inspectors. Everyone of the four who, I believe, were in charge about the time to which I am referring, made good. Mr. Thynne (afterwards Sir Henry) was not only an excellent officer of police, but an excellent rifle shot, and for many years took a leading part in all rifle competitions, and for many years was one of the Irish competitors for the Elcho Shield. He was also a highly cultivated gentleman, a graduate of the old Queen's University, with treble honours, a gold medallist, and an LL.B. He was held in great respect by the police, the magistrates, and the public. Appointed a Resident Magistrate in the late seventies, in the year 1886 — during the dark and troublous time of Irish crime and history — he was appointed Deputy Inspector-General of the Royal Irish Constabulary, a position which he held till 1900. He received a knighthood during his term of office.

Mr. Harrell, now Sir David, was also a very efficient and zealous officer, and very courteous and popular. He was appointed a Resident Magistrate in 1879, and in 1883 was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, a position he held for ten years, when he was appointed Under-Secretary for Ireland. He was a gentleman of sound judgment and great independence of character. It was his son, Mr. W. V. Harrell, that was victimised by the Chief or Under-Secretary in connection with the landing of the arms by the Nationalists about three years ago. The unjust treatment of young Mr. Harrell was one of the basest acts of the base regime of Mr. Birrell at Dublin Castle. I make no reference to the part the then Under-Secretary, Sir J. B. Dougherty, played in the matter. I heard that Mr. Birrell said that it was with great regret he had to punish young Mr. Harrell by dismissal. I suppose his heart bled for him, as the heart of the Kaiser bled for Louvain. Mr. Harrell, jun., was subsequently vindicated before a Commission in Dublin — at any rate, the base treatment to which he was subjected was fully exposed, and his official character vindicated.

Then there was Mr. Blake, now Sir Henry Blake, who has had a most brilliant career. I see that "Who’s Who" says that his recreations are riding and shooting. I should say that amateur acting, with an occasional excursion into literature, were the recreations of his youth. He was a very fine-looking, manly, courteous, and dignified gentleman in his youth, and perhaps that and his amateur acting had as much to do with his success as anything else — I do not say this to depreciate his abilities, which were and are great. He married early in the 'seventies the daughter of Mr. Bernard Osborne, M.P., who was perhaps the wittiest man of his time in the House of Commons. Mr. Osborne possessed a number of fair daughters, who shared his health, if they did not share his wit; and I believe they possessed a good deal of that. One of the daughters married the Duke of St. Albans and another Mr. Blake, who was then a mere sub-inspector of constabulary, who thus linked the police and the peerage in a kind of way together. However, it was not till years after his marriage that great success came to him. He was, it is true, made a Resident Magistrate, and in the 'eighties a special Resident Magistrate, and then honour after honour fell to him — Governorship after Governorship — the Bahamas, Newfoundland, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Ceylon. In all these positions he seems to have done well, and in the midst of his labours found time to write a very fine book of "Pictures from Ireland, by Terence McGrath," which had a great vogue in its time from its literary setting as well as from its revelations. He has now retired from his varied and active duties, and relieves hia leisure by giving the public from time to time letters and suggestions about Irish affairs, which make interesting and suggestive reading, and the result of wide experience of Ireland.

The fourth of the quartet of sub-inspectors of my day, Mr. M'Dermott, became a Resident Magistrate, and disappeared from my ken. I remember, however, that he bore a good Irish name, and possessed Irish gentlemanly characteristics.

To be continued...

From The Witness, 17th November 1916.

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

Friday, 11 November 2016

The Munster Fusiliers

Come pass the call 'round Munster.
Let the notes ring loud and clear.
We want the merchant and the squire.
The peasant and the Peer.
For we mean to whip those Germans,
So away with your paltry affairs
And come join that grand Battalion
Called the Munster Fusiliers

The Kaiser knows each Munster
By the shamrock on his cap
And the famous Bengal tiger
Ever ready for a scrap.
With all his big battalions,
Prussian Guards and Grenadiers,
He feared to face the bayonets
Of the Munster Fusiliers

When marching up through Belgium
Sure we thought of days of old.
The cruel sights that meet your eyes
Would make your blood run cold
To see the ruined convents
And the Holy nuns in tears.
By God on high avenge or die
Cried the Munster Fusiliers

God rest our fallen comrades.
May they take their long last sleep
On the fields of France and Flanders.
Sure, we have no cause to weep.
For their deeds will live in history
And the youth of future years
Will read with pride
Of the men who died.
The Munster Fusiliers.

Image: Rescue of the nuns of Ypres by the Munster Fusiliers, December 1914 from Supplement Gratis with the Weekly Freeman, St. Patrick's Day Number, March 13th, 1915, © National Library of Ireland.
Text: Words of a song published during the Great War and reprinted in History Ireland magazine Spring 1998.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 19



I have referred to some of the lawyers connected with the Police Court in my time and after. I now come to the lawyers on the Bench. They were not so many, and I do not think that their limitations of legal knowledge limited their usefulness or effectiveness as magistrates. No doubt there are times at which a knowledge of law is necessary on the Bench; and it is well that at such times there should be a magistrate who knows the law, or a little. But in nine cases out of ten, and for the purpose of the ordinary routine of Petty Sessions work, an ounce of common sense is worth more than a pound of law. There were then, and I presume are still, magisterial handbooks — Levinge and Humphreys were the names and authors in my time — and these define the various offences, suggest the character of proof necessary, show the extent and limitation of punishment for each offence, so that he would be a poor magistrate, indeed, a mere simulacrum, if he could not learn from these volumes the scope of his powers and discretion. In my time we had magistrates who were lawyers — I am not now referring to R.M.'s, who, in my opinion, should all be lawyers — there was one, a most respectable and respected old gentleman, and a very kind friend of my own, who was a perfect terror to the officials. He was always searching for quirks and crotchets, and could never see the wood of fact for the trees of legal technicalities.

Mr. Edward Orme, R.M., and Mr. J. C. O'Donnell, R.M., were the two Resident Magistrates in my time. Neither was burdened with a knowledge of law, and yet, on the whole, no two men could have administered justice with more fairness. Mr. Orme was a retired army major, came from Connaught, and was a typical Irishman in his sense of humour and in his easygoing disposition and in his hatred of care or worry. Mr. O'Donnell was a Southern Irish squireen, full bodied and full blooded, who had gained his position as a Resident Magistrate, it was said, from the ability he had shown in the conduct of an important case that had arisen in the district in which he exercised local jurisdiction as a magistrate. How far he was ever trained in or for the law, I cannot say; but I will say this for him, he had a good general idea of the law, and combined with that a strong flavour of common sense. It was always to him and not to Mr. Orme we went in case of any legal detail that had to be looked after.

There was one thing both men had in common. They were Irishmen both. There was no sense of hurry or rush about them. With them time was made for slaves and not for Resident Magistrates or police courts. I remember the Court sitting often far into the day or afternoon, and when afterwards going over the work done my wonder often was how the time was spent. In addition to being easygoing, both magistrates were very considerate or polite, and would no more think of putting a curb on a solicitor than on the Chief Secretary. But minus the prolongation of the sittings to which as a clerk I naturally objected, life with and under these two magistrates was a delight. They were perfect gentlemen, and personally most kind and courteous. Mr. Orme was pre-eminently so, and his courtesy often extended to some of the occupants of the dock. I remember on one occasion when some old “ladye” — most of the female occupants of the dock in those days described, themselves as “ladyes” — in the witness-box had told her story in regard to the prisoner in the dock, the latter said — “She called me out of my name, and I struck her, yur Worship; but I am very sorry.” “Well,” promptly replied Mr. Orme, “the lady apologises; what more can she do?” I am not sure that she escaped punishment by reason of the apology, but at the same time tenderness was the badge of Mr. Orme.

As the rule was then and is now, one Resident Magistrate must be a Roman Catholic and one a Protestant. I need not say that Mr. O'Donnell was a Roman Catholic, but so far either was concerned they exhibited no sympathies. Mr. Orme imposed the usual fine of forty shillings and costs on a Protestant who cursed the Pope with as little hesitation as Mr. O'Donnell imposed the fine on a Roman Catholic who cursed King William. Of the two I think Mr. O'Donnell leant more to the side of severity than Mr. Orme, whose good nature and good humour were always conspicuous. I remember only one sentence of Mr. O'Donnell which I felt unduly severe. A gentleman well known in certain commercial circles was on his way to his office in the morning when in front of a certain public-house he observed a crowd. The barman had caught a rat in a trap, and he was having a field morning by getting some terrier to “worry” the rat on its appearance from the trap; This gentleman, who had strong humanitarian instincts, and thought that even a trapped rat should have a fair chance for its life, got indignant and struck the man with his cane. The gentleman was at once given in charge to the police, and marched to the court, which was sitting at the time.

The charge having been proved, Mr. O'Donnell sentenced the gentleman offhand to a month in jail, without the option of a fine. The gentleman was refined and courteous, and was in receipt of a good many hundreds a year as the representative of an English firm. He nearly collapsed as he was removed to the cell. During the day all the solicitors in court in turn made a pilgrimage to his cell, and he engaged them one after the other to get the sentence of imprisonment removed. Mr. O'Donnell was in a most virtuously law-asserting mood that morning, and he told each solicitor as he had told the prisoner at first, that he would show that in that court there was not one law for the rich and one for the poor. My heart bled for the gentleman who, while he may have acted wrongly and impulsively, had evidently humane feelings and sympathies. Mr. O'Donnell was in the habit at this time of calling me into his private room daily for chat and gossip, but I did not like to presume on that to put in a word for the gentleman. It was my duty to fill up the committals and get them signed, and on this day I kept them back in the hope that Mr. O'Donnell would send for me and give me a chance to say a word for the gentleman before he signed the committals. He did at last. “What do you think of what I did in that case?” he asked. “I do not think very much,” I had the boldness to reply. And I went on to point out that while it was all right that there should be only one law for the rich and the poor, the consequences of the punishment would be different. I pointed out that he would not have given a Smithfield rough more imprisonment than he gave this gentleman, and I pointed out that the imprisonment of a month in the one case would mean more than six months to the other, and in addition to destroying his health would ruin him for life, as it was doubtful if after imprisonment the firm would continue him in his employment. “There is a great deal in what you say,” Mr. O'Donnell smiled at last, and I was glad to see the smile. “Send for the gentleman.” And I did. Mr. O'Donnell then informed him that on reconsideration he had decided to change the sentence, and let him out on the payment of £10 to the Royal Hospital, which was paid, I got the case kept out of the papers, and none outside the court ever heard of the incident. I never was better pleased with myself than I was on this occasion. And I call attention to it as a sort of sidelight on the administration of justice, and not a bad sidelight, I hope, on Mr. O'Donnell, who was at heart a kindly and courteous gentleman.

There were riots that lasted several days during my police court period; but, strange to say, my memory is a perfect blank regarding them except as to one small personal one. On a Sunday afternoon I was paying a visit to the Southern part of the city, and found a large cordon of police drawn up at King Street and another near the Great Northern Railway. On my return I passed up College Square North without a thought of danger or trouble. As I got abreast of Christ Church I observed some one from Durham Street making wild gesticulations to me to keep back. I did not understand the reason for a moment, but on looking up Durham Street I saw a man at each of two entries in Durham Street with what appeared to be revolvers in their hands. I need not say I turned back, and as the evening was early dropped into the house of a friend in College Square. I found excellent company, and spent a very pleasant two or three hours; but when I was emerging I saw an angry crowd at the corner. I thought I would get out by the back way; but there were two crowds there, one at each end of the thoroughfare. I was then told that as my connection with the police court was known some of the rowdies of the district were on the lookout for me. I thought I would wear out their patience, and waited till about nine o'clock, when, all crowds and excitement had disappeared. I got home unmoved and undisturbed.

The majesty of the law was not upheld by Resident Magistrates alone in these good old easy-going days. We had borough magistrates, too, and a very decent class they were on the whole. John Rea, it is true, had not much respect for them, but then he had not much, respect for anything or anybody – not even himself. There were not so many of them as we have now ;and they had not the dignity of a city to cover them with glory; they were called borough J.P.'s. The authorities were more select and careful than they are at present — I do not speak of Belfast alone, but of the whole country. They did not, as for the last decade or two, send out into the highways and hedges to compel them to come in. There were county magistrates in those days as now, but then, as now, they considered themselves a class above the boroughs, and seldom, if ever, mingled with them, on the Bench.

They were, however, a very decent respectable lot of magistrates, and did their duty well and faithfully. A kind of rota was formed, and to certain magistrates were allotted certain days. Some of them attended regularly and did their duty. There was one thing that then impressed me, and impresses me still, with regard to the attendances of local magistrates. And that was the want of uniformity, not so much in the character of the decisions as in the fines or imprisonment. Some of them looked with considerable lightness, for example, on drunkenness or disorderly conduct, or even on assaultings of the police. On one day and with one magistrate the same class of offender would get off with a small fine or a caution, who on another day and with another magistrate would have the largest penalty or the longest imprisonment imposed.

We had some very fine, gentlemanly, cultivated men among the borough magistracy — I am only referring to those who attended the Court. There was Dr. Samuel Browne, R.N. (father of Dr. J. Walton Browne), a refined, courteous gentleman of dignity and fairness. There was Sir James Hamilton, who had become a knight in these days, who was one of the most cultivated men in the city, a graceful and polished speaker, and a most courteous gentleman. There was Mr. Wm. Bottomley, Mr. Elias Hughes Thompson, Mr. Jas. Alex. Henderson, Mr. (afterwards Sir) John Preston, Mr. (afterwards Sir) Robt. Boag, Mr. (afterwards Sir) Daniel Taylor, Mr. Philip Johnston, Mr. William Mullan, Mr. John Browne, J.P.; and many others. These were all most attentive to their duties. But there was one magistrate whom, above all others, I remember and respected. This was Mr. Samuel M'Causland, J.P. He was what might be called the handy man of the Bench. His place of business was near the Courts, and his kindness of heart and good nature were only equalled by his modesty. Many scores of times I was a court messenger to call him from administering his business in Victoria Street to administering the law in Town Hall Street. If the Resident Magistrates were late in arriving I was despatched for Mr. M'Causland. If a second magistrate was required to sit in some case that required two magistrates, “Go for Mr. M'Causland” was the order. I went, and Mr. M'Causland always came. To the end of his days I always entertained the greatest respect for this grand and kindly old man, who, when at an age that would have justified excuses from doing duty, was always ready to do his duty for Queen and country.

If I say there was little religion about the Bench in those days, I do not mean to suggest that religion was not as much respected as the law, but I do not think it was as prominent as a distinctive element as it is to-day. As I have said Mr. O'Donnell was a Roman Catholic and Mr. Orme a Protestant, and in this way balance was maintained, but I do not say that any prisoner or litigant was ever victimised or favoured on account of their religion. The majority of of the [reigist---------] doubt, were Protestants. But there where Roman Catholics on the Bench also, and some of them took an active part. Among these were Mr. Peter Keegan and his brother, Mr. James Keegan, who were in the wholesale whisky business, and very decent, fair-minded magistrates they were. There were also Mr. Bernard Hughes, Mr. John Hamill, and some others, who took their share of duty. I heard then, as I have heard lately, of packed Benches, but I could not honestly say there was very much of that in my time. If there was as little now I do not think there would be as much complaint as I have heard for some years past. And there were no Star-Chamber Courts in those days, but then there was no Mr. Birrell as Chief Secretary, and no Mr. MacSweeney as representing the partisan tyranny of the law as he did. They were really good old times for all concerned with the law, perhaps a little easy-going, but on the whole fair times, with a kind of rough justice that left little room for complaint.

To be continued...

From The Witness, 10th November 1916.

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

Monday, 7 November 2016

In the Trenches

   When you’re waitin’ in the trenches.
      An’ you haven’t much to do
   But to think on all the wonders
      That your life is passin’ through,
   You will sometimes fall adreamin’
      O’ the things your lot denies,
   An’ you’ll feel a kind o ’dimness
      Always comin’ to your eyes
When you find yourself asingin’ in the trenches.

   Oh! the songs we’re ever singin’,
      They are just the songs o’ home;
   An’ you couldn’t tell the reason
      Why the words won’t always come.
   It’s like keepin’ back the bullets
      To be strivin’ with your tears,
   When you hear the songs astealin’
      From the joys o’ other years.
It’s a wonder how you hear them in the trenches!

   Shure it’s Sandy’s always singin’
      O’ his bonnie Highlan’ glens,
   And beside you, you’ll be hearin’
      All about the English fens.
   Now, I wonder how they’d take it
      If me voice could steady be
   Till I’d sing the song o’ “Mother,”
      With its endin’, o’ “Machree,”
But I know I mightn’t try it in the trenches.

   You would never be for sayin’
      That a soldier isn’t meant
   To be mixin’ up his duty
      With a bit o’ sentiment.
   Shure it couldn’t daunt the valour
      That is beatin’ at his heart,
   An’ it doesn’t shame his country
      If he feels the teardrops start —
When he’s singin’ o’ its glory in the trenches.

   Why, it makes you know the value
      O’ the things you’re fightin’ for,
   An’ you’ll feel an inspiration
      That defies the ruth o’ war,
   For it’s just the homeland mem’ries
      That be callin’ everywhere,
   An’ you’ll sing the songs they bring you,
      Then be strong to do and dare,
Aye, be proud to die, if need be, in the trenches.

   I would mind me Dad asayin’,
      While a sigh he tried to hide,
   “It’s your country, lad, that takes you,
      An’ you’re not without a Guide,
   Let the bravery o’ Erin
      Prove how true its feelin’s be.”
   Now I think I’d hear him tellin’
      How I kept his trust in me
Could he hear his lad asingin’ in the trenches.

   When they’re sendin’ home dispatches
      They are always apt to say
   ’Twas the great courageous spirit
      O’ the men that won the day —
   Which I know is right to mention —
      But it also would be true
   If they’d say that half the winnin’
      O’ the victory was due
To the songs we’re always singin’ in the trenches.

Lily Marcus, Londonderry.

Published in The Witness, 3rd November 1916.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 18



In connection with Police Courts, while nominally the police give them their names and find their duties, solicitors play a large part, and in my days of the Belfast Courts the solicitors not only dominated, but ran them. One would have thought that the courts existed for the solicitors and not the solicitors for the courts. And there was one particular solicitor who seemed to run the whole court — that was the late Mr. William Seeds. Mr. Seeds is was a quiet, mild, bland gentleman, who had a gentle face and manner, and in dress and style had more the appearance of a court missionary than a court practitioner. He represented the Corporation, he represented the police, he prosecuted the publicans, and in his private practice was solicitor for many of the publicans he prosecuted. He could get anything he waited from magistrates, clerks, police, or his fellow-solicitors; he had such a wonderful way with him. I doubt if he was as great a lawyer as some of his brother practitioners, but he could make money while they were sleeping, and the consequence was that he was regarded, and I think rightly, as one of the richest practitioners in the court. He could not have blustered if he had tried; but in his gentle insinuating way he could often secure more for clients than some of those who blustered and bounced more. The Resident Magistrates, Mr. Orme and Mr. O'Donnell, would have done anything for Mr. Seeds, they respected him so much and admired his quiet, gentle, confidential and conversational style of pleading.

In those days Thursday was set apart for the consideration of publicans' cases. I do not think that in those days the publicans had so many friends on the Bench as they have to-day; and certainly if they had they did not show themselves in the same numbers and form as they are said to do now. In the matter of the present time I cannot speak from personal knowledge, but only judge by what I read in the papers and what I hear of the proceedings. Many a time and oft I filled up from five to ten, and sometimes more, receipts for 10s 6d each for Mr. Seeds, which represented the costs accruing to him in the day for prosecution fees in the case of convictions, but I do not hear or read of as many prosecutions in a month, or even in three. Mr. Seeds had no salary, but only fees, for his police work. Many a Thursday there were as many as twenty prosecutions against publicans or spirit grocers for illegal selling either at prohibited hours in the case of the publicans or for consumption on the premises by spirit grocers, who, to my mind then, and to my mind still, were and are the worst sinners so far at any rate as evasions of the law are concerned. I do not suggest that any of the publicans in my time were unjustly convicted, for the majority were defended by three men as capable of finding flaws in summons or in evidence as, with all respect to them, the men of the present day — I refer to William Harper, “Paddy” Sheals, and “Andy” M'Erlean — and they would have raised protest if such had been the case. I do not remember that there were any complaints of unjust convictions — except, of course, that publicans complained of all convictions. There was evasive evidence, and evidence of evasions on the part of publicans, as there is at present, but it did not carry the same weight; the same evidence of publican and spirit grocer generosity in giving free drinks, but it was not believed so readily as it is now.

I have heard those who ought to know say that there is just as much violation of the law now as before, and that the police are inclined to be as watchful, but the chances of a rebuff from the magistrates are so great that they naturally are not so reedy to lose time or bring worry or trouble to themselves by promoting prosecutions. I do not say that the practice prevails at present, but I was told some years ago on the authority of one who had every reason of knowing, that the system of beating up friendly magistrates in publican cases was well known, if not absolutely recognised. That was that the friendly, or supposed friendly, magistrates were all numbered, by some authority, and that at certain hours of the morning such a telephone message as the following would be sent to a certain, place in the city, “27 and 49 here, send for 39 or 45” — my numbers, of course, are imaginary. As I have said, I am unable to say anything on this subject personally; but I heard so much on the subject a few years ago that I feel justified in calling attention to it. I can quite understand that it would be as easy for this to be denied as it would be for a publican or his assistant to say that he was in the habit of giving free drinks during prohibited hours. At that I will leave the publicans, their prosecution, and Mr. Wm. Seeds of the old days.

I gave above the names of three other police court practitioners who, in my day, and for many days afterwards, made the courts ring with their eloquence. They were all good, vigorous lawyers, and enjoyed extensive practices. They threw themselves heart and soul into the defence of their clients and could argue or ridicule, indulge in wit and irony as the case necessitated. Mr. Sheals shone in wit, Mr. Harper in subtlety, and Mr. M'Erlean in mythology, much of that he and I used to study rhetoric and classics together at Mr. Pyper's evening classes for several winters. I can never forget one case in which Mr. M'Erlean shone in this department at the expense of a local magistrate, many years gone to his rest, a very fine old gentleman, though it was many years before he forgave me for having let the case be reported in the “Echo.” In the course of the cross-examination of a witness, whom he wanted to confuse or confute, M'Erlean asked referring to the occasion of a certain incident, “Was Achilles there?” “Was Artaxerxes there?” “Was Agamemnon there?” and so on through a collection of classical names. The witness was at first confused, but said “No” in each case, after, of course, some hesitation. The unfortunate magistrate seemed “riled” at the apparent hesitation shown by the witness, regarding all the names as real, and never saw the game or the joke. Indeed, one of the clerks of the time told me that on leaving the bench the magistrate said he did not believe a word the man had sworn — he believed those men were there. The magistrate, after the publication of the report, never took his seat on the Bench again. An amusing incident occurred some time afterwards. A fellow-magistrate of his, who was commenting on the ignorance of this gentleman, said to me it was a curious thing that so-and-so, naming the magistrate, did not know the names of “them ould Roman fellows.” It will be noted, however, that the “ould fellows” were not Romans, but Greeks

I may say that, in these days the late James M'Lean, Alex, and Daniel O'Rorke, and others used to come in special cases to the court. The Messrs. O'Rorke were most dignified and gentlemanly solicitors, an honour to their profession; Mr. M'Lean had himself been a police court practitioner for many years, but on being called up higher as Sessional Crown Solicitor, leaving his son, then Mr. Jas. M'Lean, jun., afterwards Mr. Jas. M'Lean, R.M., to follow in his police court footsteps; he only appeared in important cases. Where any of these gentlemen were concerned there was always dignity and ability of the highest order.

And then there was John Rea, who made frequent descents upon the court in my time. I cannot truly say that dignity was the usual accompaniment of his appearance. It was generally the reverse.

When he turned up, as he did occasionally, there was a lively and exciting time between the efforts of the magistrates to stop the avalanche fury of his oratory, or the repetition of his slanders and libels, and his determination and ingenuity to make each interruption an excuse for a new and more vehement departure. Sometimes he would come down to defend a client, but more frequently to make harangues.

As I say, he had sometimes clients, but as often as not he sought the client and not the client him. When he was “charged” with a speech or armed for an attack on somebody he would drop into the Court, with some prisoner in the dock, man or woman, it did not matter He would ask, “What are you charged with? I'll defend you," and he did by forgetting the client till he thundered against somebody or something, everything and everybody, libelled magistrates and merchants, Town Councillors by the half-dozen; and then when he had discharged his duty to himself, remembered his poor waiting and wondering client, whom he often got off by sheer humbug or cajolery at the end. But he had got in his attack.

Some friends have suggested that I should tell them more about John Rea, but I am afraid to begin, lest, like himself, I might go on too long. He was one of the most wonderful men in his time, a genius in many ways, but sicklied over with an eccentricity bordering on madness, and seared with a malignity and venom that made him a public danger as well as public nuisance. He was educated at the Old Academy in the days of its founder, the late, and in many ways great, Dr. Bryce. The late Lord Cairns and he were fellow-pupils, and afterwards Dr. Bryce was often heard to say that of the two Rea was the more brilliant, but erratic and reckless, while the other was more plodding and practical. The result was seen in the career of the two men. Lord Cairns proved one of the greatest successes at the English Bar, having attained its greatest prize, the Lord Chancellorship, while the other died by his own hand a pitiful and painful failure.

I never heard Lord Cairns speak, but have read his speeches. They were all careful, well reasoned; solid, and somewhat heavy in their style, but they were great all the same. But in fluency and forcefulness of expression, in readiness of repartee, in quickness in seizing points and in oratorical style and tone. I do not think he could have surpassed or even approached Rea. There was nothing studied or stereotyped about Rea's speeches. I have often admired his adroitness and his brilliancy, and have heard from him, delivered on the spur of the moment, as fine and finished sentences, as any man could produce, while his happiness of phrasing and vigour, his scathing, and his aptness in applying names and epithets to his opponents was unparalleled. I admit, however, his best speeches were marred by his personalities, and his best arguments weakened by his venom. I admit also that the epithets and phrases, the venom and vituperation, that were amusing and even effective at the first, became wearisome and, nauseating by repetition. I had them all dinged into my ears for years, both in public and in private, in town and country, in his own house and in railway trains, until I was as eager to keep out of his way as the German fleet is to keep away from the Brutish fleet, or an Irish Nationalist to keep away from a recruiting sergeant. I give one mild example of his style. Referring to the late Sir Edward Porter Cowan, who was at the time Mayor of Belfast (but not knight), he described him as “the Ace of Heart Whig, soft-headed, but by no means hard-hearted, whisky-mixing Mayor.” The vituperative phrase did no harm to its subject then, and its repetition will do no harm to his memory now. I may say that Ace of Heart Whig and forgery Tory was his favourite form of reference to the local politicians of the time, according as they represented either.

But while he was brilliant as well eccentric, he was also vain, and could be as easily flattered as a child. If I made any adverse reference to him I was anathema; if I flattered him he was delighted, and I could keep him off or bring him to me at pleasure. On one occasion, some months before his death, I happened to please him and he called at the office on a Monday morning, telling me I had got on the right lines at last, and he would dictate an article for me. He talked for half an hour, and I pretended to take notes. He went away quite pleased, though nothing that he gabbled had appeared. He came the next two or three days also, and I went through the same process. This was getting monotonous, and was occupying the most valuable period of my day. So on Friday I went down to the Commercial News Room and wrote there, so that I would escape him. I arrived at the office about a quarter past eleven — we were then in Donegall Street — but I found my enemy had waited. We met at the door, and he said, “It's a nice thing I have to come here every morning to teach you your business.” I replied, “I did not send for you, and I wish, for the future you would attend to your own business and let me attend to mine,” “I'll have you in the dock, sir,” he screamed, and rushed into the “News-Letter” office, no doubt for what he called a stenographer — he was never happy in public unless he had one about him. About three-quarters of an hour afterwards a friend of mine rushed up from the Police Court to tell me I should go down, as Rea was abusing and blackguarding me all sorts: I went down, not from any anxiety, I was quite accustomed to it — but from curiosity, and remained quietly behind while he was accusing me of all the crimes and misdeameanours and all the contemptibilities of which any man could be supposed capable. I laughed, and came away quite happy, and I have no doubt he did the same. He had got the gall off his stomach, and was satisfied.

This is one out of many samples, and will give the reader an idea of the kind of man John Rea was when in one of his wild fits, which were frequent. All the same, I heard of his death with great regret. It ended an association, of a mixture of pleasure and pain for a quarter of a century. There was, however, at times a method in his madness. In one of my conversations with him, when he was calm and rational, he explained to me how he preserved his physical health, and he was a strong, fine, well-built man, with a handsome face, and many becoming characteristics. He kept himself well, he said, by careful attention to hot baths, beefsteak, and exercise. And then he added, “When I feel myself getting over-strung I go down to some court, kick up a row, get committed by the magistrate for a fortnight, and then come out of jail well rested and well strengthened.” Incidents of this kind happened frequently in his life, but I do not think on all occasions the provocations were always given for the reasons suggested. But it is a fact that they took place frequently, and I well remember one occasion; it was in the country. The magistrate had committed him for the usual fourteen days for contempt, but both he and his clerk seemed in a difficulty about making out the committal, so as to be sure there was no flaw in it. They were consulting each other and consulting books, while the prisoner waited. He knew the difficulty. “Give me,” said he, “a form and I'll fill the committal myself” — and he did, and it was admitted that even himself, with all his resourcefulness and ingenuity, could not find a flaw in it. Of such was John Rea, whose career was recalled to me when thinking over my Police Court days — and after.

There is just one incident with which I would like to conclude. It was related to me just the other day. On one occasion the late Thos. G. Lindsay, a member of the family that he had abused, slandered, vilified for the greater part of his life, appeared in the Newsroom in rather an excited state, and said to my informant, “I do not know what is going to happen. I met John Rea at the door. He came and shook hands with me, and said he apologised for all that he had said against my family.” This, my informant told me, was a few days before Mr. Rea took his life.

To be continued...

From The Witness, 3rd November 1916.

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