Saturday 31 December 2016

The Old Year, and the New

We must bid good-bye to you, Old Year,
    Time’s sands are well-nigh run;
We bid farewell with much regret
    But, alas? it must be done.

Your cup of sorrow was great, Old Year,
    Almost full to the brim;
You oft drank of the waters of Marah,
    Mercifully slaked with Elim.

The Reaper Death was busy, Old Year,
    His scythe cut many down;
We trust, through faith and service,
    They gained an immortal crown.

You witnessed sad grief, Old Year—
    Bereavement, anxiety, pain;
The world seemed groaning with sorrow.
    And tears were hard to restrain.

Hark! ’tis the last stroke of midnight,
    The Old Year has silently fled;
It has joined the many before it,
    It is numbered with the dead.

We turn to greet the New Year,
    We stand at its portals so clean;
No foot has yet crossed its threshold.
    All its plans are yet unseen.

“We have not passed this way heretofore,”
    The road may seem dark and strange;
But God, who upholds the universe,
    Can surely our short lives arrange.

We cannot see into the future,
    We know not what is in store;
But the Father’s love and protection
    Encompass us evermore.

With courage we enter the New Year,
    Taking short views of the way;
Having faith that our Leader
    Will give grace and strength each day.

We pray to the God of armies,
    That He grant strife and bloodshed to cease;
And send to all the nations
    In the New Year, lasting peace.

Jane Thomson, Cullycapple, Aghadowey.

Poem: The Witness, 29th December 1916
Image: Edinburgh Castle with fireworks at New Year by Andy Peutherer.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 26



The reign of the Lord Mayors of Belfast has been the reign of law and also of gospel, the gospel of progress and prosperity, the gospel of social and material improvement and development. I do not suggest or imply that we had not a good deal of this before, or that all the credit of it rests with the generation that produced it. Much planning and preparing had taken place. The seed had been sown, and all that this generation had to do was to reap the harvest. And it has reaped it in abundance, Belfast was not extended and developed into a city by a stroke of a pen or the flash of a magician’s wand. It became a city because it had grown into a city, and all that authority did was to give it the Order of Merit as it is given to a successful statesman or soldier. And if Belfast has progressed as a city it has not been in despite of, not on account of external and even internal efforts, to depress, discredit it, and destroy it. It may not have been the object of the British Radicals and the Government in Ireland that it set up to mar its prosperity; but everything they proposed and planned tended in that direction. Its interests and its feelings were disregarded and outraged. Its prosperity was denied, and its Unionist and pro-British association and ambitions decried. A campaign of slander and insult, of deprecation and depreciation was carried out, not only by Nationalist leaders, in Ireland, but by their representatives in the British Cabinet and in Dublin Castle. Then, as now, Mr, Joseph Devlin used all his resource of ingenuity and daring devilishness to belabour and belittle it, and he found support and encouragement in high places. He is carrying on that same campaign still, as we have evidence of late; but with all his faults Mr. Duke is not as Mr. Birrell, and has blessed where Mr. Birrell would have cursed. Mr. Duke nailed Mr. Devlin’s lies to the counter, whereas Mr. Birrell would, in all probability. if not in all certainty, have upheld them, if not with oaths and curses, at least with flippant jests and insolent sneers.

It was in 1888, under the Mayoralty of Sir James Haslett, that the charier constituting the city was granted; but if was not till 1892, and the May of that year, that the dignity of Lord Mayor was conferred. On the 1st of May Mr. Daniel Dixon presided as simple Mayor — only simple, however, in a titular sense — and on the 1st of June he presided as Lord Mayor, and received the congratulations of his brother members and the thanks of the citizens on his new dignity, which, however, was later overshadowed by that of the Right Hon. Sir Daniel Dixon, Bart. I must say, however, they seem to have taken matters quietly in those days, for the congratulations only come in incidentally and in connection with the report of the Law Committee, mildly announcing the new dignity; and I could not help noting that Mr. Robert Wilson, Ormeau Road, joined in the congratulations as a junior member of the Board. Mr. Wilson is still with us in good health and spirits; but he is no longer a junior member; he is very senior and respected at that, on the Water Board, of which he was chairman.

I have said that before this period the fathers of the city had not been idle in the way of development. Within the period under review up till tin it time we had the Gasworks purchased, at a cost of £386,000, and the horse tram system introduced by an English company. We had Ormeau and Royal Avenue opened, the Queen’s Bridge widened, the collapsed Albert Bridge reconstructed, the extensive main drainage works, with the improved sanitation resulting, in great part carried out, the Free Library in Royal Avenue opened. These were all great works and valuable, even if costly; but we forget the cost in appreciation of the satisfactory results in convenience, comfort, health, and educational improvement that have resulted. An honour, say I, to the men, the Mayors, and the Councillors who were concerned in the promotion and development of these, among other, local improvements; and while in this column as from 1892 I welcome the coming Lord Mayors, I would speed the parting Mayors with hearty acknowledgments of their work and worth.

Sir Daniel Dixon, the first Lord Mayor, was a unique personality, a man of sound common sense and shrewdness, without show or pretence, a worker who never wasted his time and breath in idle talk, an industrious and enterprising business man, to whom success seemed to come as naturally as his breath, and who carried into municipal and public life the same qualities of initiation and organisation, of energy and foresight that characterised him in business. His word was his bond. He was no time-server or popularity hunter. He was slow at promising, but prompt in performance. If he could grant a request, he would say so off hand. If he promised to grant it whatever was asked was done, without show or parade, and as if it was a duty and not a service he was performing. He occupied the Lord Mayor's chair for six years, in itself a tribute as rare as it was merited, a tribute honourable alike to him and the men who chose him.

To him succeeded Mr. Wm. M'Cammond, who filled the chair for two years in succession, and was honoured with a knighthood in the second. Sir William was a man of the people, who carved his own way to the leading position he occupied in the building world and in the esteem of his fellow-citizens, and carved it as honourably as successfully. He was eminently practical and clear-sighted, shrewd, sagacious, and enterprising; as modest as he was prudent and forceful, and as kindly and good-natured a gentleman as ever lived.

Then came a gentleman who has been as much in the public eye as any citizen of his day and generation. This was Mr. W. J. Pirrie, now, Lord Pirrie, peer of the realm, and one of the greatest, if not the greatest, magnates in the shipbuilding and shipping industries of the world. If Sir Edward Harland laid deep and strong the foundation of the Queen's Island Shipbuilding and Engineering Works, Lord Pirrie has erected a superstructure that stands four-square and defiant to all the winds that blow and to all the storms that beat. He had done much and travelled far at the time he entered upon the Lord Mayoralty; but his doings since and his travels on the road of fame since have so completely overshadowed his earlier achievements that one finds it difficult to realise that one man has done and travelled so much in the path of industry and honour, and is doing and travelling still to even greater fame, if possible.

His occupancy of the Lord Mayoralty was, a revelation of good work, noble deeds, generous hospitality, and civic dignity. He was unsparing of his time, his talents, and of his purse in his efforts to sustain the dignity and fulfil the duty of his high office; and he succeeded beyond all precedent and all criticism. His mansion at Ormiston was a centre of hospitality as tasteful as it was extensive, while his attention to all the official requirements of his office was the subject of general praise. The city was justly proud of him, not only as Lord Mayor, but as a great captain of industry, and felt itself honoured by his life work and service in its midst. It was proud of his Ulster association, Ulster characteristics, and of what he had done to sustain the prestige of Belfast and Ulster all the world over. He was not only kindly and courteous, but efficient and energetic. He thought rapidly, and acted promptly. He did not wait upon the order of doing, but did at once. He had no patience with slowness or sloth. He sometimes got impatient with the slowness of public Boards. He told me once that it worried him to have to spend hours or days in considering matters no more important than he had to dispose of in every fifteen minutes of his life, and if he could not do that he could do no business at all.

But no notice of Lord Pirrie as Lord Mayor, or, indeed, as anything else, would be complete without a reference to Lady Pirrie, If ever there was a case in which husband and wife were one in excelsis it and was, in the case of Lord and Lady Pirrie. Before she became Lady Mayoress Lady Pirrie was known as a lady of grace and charm in all her social relations. After that she became known not only as a lady of charm, but as a lady of eloquence, tact, and gifts for public life before these qualities had become vitalised, and in some cases vulgarised. The first occasion on which I heard her in her new role was at a dinner in Ormiston, when she responded for the ladies with a fluency and grace that put all the male orators in the shade. As I was taking leave of her later in the evening she expressed the hope that I had enjoyed myself. I saw her countenance change as I told her I was very sorry I had been there. What has happened? she asked. Well, I replied that up till that evening I had been content with her husband’s oratory as representing the city, but after I had heard her I was afraid I would not be able to listen to him patiently again. Her sweet smile I that followed is my last remembrance of the occasion.

One other personal incident with regard to her ladyship. It was during Mr. Pirrie’s Lord Mayoralty that the Institute of Journalists visited the city for the first, and up till the present the last time. Those of us connected with the local body were anxious that they should receive a good reception, and were sure, that the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress would do their part. Personally I feared – I hope the word will not be misunderstood – that the Lord Mayor would give a dinner, and in those days ladies were not so much invited to dinners as in later years. We thought of the ladies and I thought of the Lady Mayoress, and delicately conveyed a hint to her that the Lord Mayor and the men could look after themselves, if she would look after the ladies. I had no more in my mind than a garden party at the time, and no one was more astonished than myself when I received an invitation from her ladyship for a ball in the Ulster Hall. That ball came off in due course, and to say that it was magnificent would be to describe it feebly — it reached perfection’s graceful heights. All I will say of it is that, as we were taking our departure at a very late, or early, hour two or three of the Institute leaders from London called me over and told me that they had all come to the conclusion that that was the most magnificent entertainment they had received, except, perhaps, at the Guildhall, London; but that that of the Lady Mayoress had surpassed the London one in the personal attentions paid the guests and in the happy Irish manner in which they were all made to feel at home. I have had occasion to thank Lady Pirrie for almost unbounded courtesies and kindness during my life; but her graceful and generous action in this matter remains as a crown. All we journalists felt her action as a compliment to ourselves as well as a gracious and generous development of civic hospitality.

I hope Lord Pirrie, if he ever reads this, will pardon me if, despite his own personal kindnesses which have been unceasing, the warmest corner in my heart and memory is for Lady Pirrie. I need not dwell upon her great work in connection with the Royal Victoria Hospital, of which she may be truly said to have been the creator, or to her other acts of generosity in connection with the city. In common with almost every citizen with whom I came in contact I regret that circumstances have separated Lord and Lady Pirrie from the residential, social, and philanthropic life of the city. Though their visits now are almost as rare as those of angels, we are always glad to see them and to hear of them. We have the evidence from time to time that we are not forgotten by them. And we have had only recently strong proof that Lord Pirrie is extending and developing the business interests of his great firm in the city on an extensive and enterprising scale; and I for one am satisfied that his heart and that of her ladyship is still with the city in which they both grew up in life and love and in personal and public association.

The name of Sir Robert M'Connell must ever occupy a prominent position not only for his services in the capacity of Lord Mayor, but for the part he displayed in the development of the city before that time, and the part he has played since. He was not only the recipient of civic honours, but of regal honours. It was his fortune to be Lord Mayor during the visit of the late Queen to Dublin. In connection with that visit there was a certain amount of local feeling because her Majesty did not include Belfast in her Irish Royal tour. No doubt her Majesty received a right royal reception in the capital, and a loyal one, too, inasmuch as thousands of Loyalists from Ulster and other parts of the country went up to Dublin to add their voice to that of the Irish capital, which then, as now, was not so loyal as some other parts of the country. But if her Majesty did not visit Belfast, she did not forget it, and on one memorable night the Lord Mayor was visited by a special courier from Dublin, armed with the official mandate creating him a baronet of the United Kingdom. The honour was welcomed and accepted bv the Lord Mayor and the citizens as a compliment in Royal recognition and position of the prestige of the city.

Sir Robert made an excellent, efficient, and an hospitable lord Mayor, and retired with the respect of the citizens, which he still enjoys. But, to my mind, Sir Robert’s work as a developer of the city overshadowed even his work as Lord Mayor. His success in the city was as rapid as it was beneficial, not only to himself, but to the city. I remember him a young and energetic clerk in a rent agent’s office, and in common with my compeers I watched his progress until he became the most prominent rent and estate agent and the most inspiring and enterprising factor in the development of the city. His position in the Council gave him special opportunities for promoting schemes of development; and as he had initiative, foresight, and enterprise, he was able to carry them out. He bought land here and there through the city in large plots, and multiplied new houses and new streets, and new villa districts, until places that were little more than wildernesses or desert blossomed into roses, rents, and rates for the advantage of the promoter as well as the city. In fact, for years there was a regular boom in such property, until the enterprise of himself and others, of course, overleaped itself, and there was a reaction. We had too many houses, with the natural result of a temporary set back. But it is for the prophets to look ahead; and Sir Robert was a prophet. Where would we have been now for house accommodation but for his enterprise and the spirit of enterprise he encouraged or developed? The cry now is that we have not houses enough, and the consequence is that in many cases we see advertisements of premiums offered to secure them. So that, in my humble opinion, Sir Robert M'Connell has done a great work for the city, and in conjunction with his son, Mr. Joseph M'Connell, is doing a great work still, and that despite the fact that his physical sight has diminished almost to vanishing point. But his mental strength is still as strong and clear as ever; and long may it remain.

Sir Otto Jaffe, whom the terrible changes of war have, I hope only temporarily, personally divorced from the commercial and public life of the city, of which he was long a great part, filled the office of Lord Mayor for two years, and discharged the duties with conscientiousness and efficiency. In race and religion he was not of the people, but his father established a fine business here, to which he, in conjunction with his brothers, now dead, succeeded, and which under his careful hands, grew and prospered. Though a German by race, and a Jew by religion, Sir Otto Jaffe identified himself with all our local interests, and as I came a good deal into personal contact with him I am satisfied that the interests and prosperity of the city and country were dear to his heart. He has large interests in the city and in its trade; and in his absence his son, Mr. Wm. Jaffe, who is personally respected by all who know him, represents his interest. But he is entitled to respect for what he did as Lord Mayor and for the interest, he took in the material and philanthropic developments of his time.

When Sir Daniel Dixon in his second period of office laid aside his cloak of office Mr. Robert J. M'Mordie put it on, and worthily wore it for several years till his death occurred so sadly and so suddenly when he was at the zenith of his popularity and potency. His name and work are still so fresh in the memory of my readers that it would be needless for me to dwell on it. But I can at least say this, that no man could have devoted himself more assiduously, with greater singleness of purpose, and more whole-hearted devotion to maintain the dignity of the office and the improvement and development of the city and the citizens than he. He was able and tactful, sound in judgment, and endowed with great common sense and practical sagacity. His success in the chair, in the management of the Council, and in the affairs of the city was a surprise as well as a delight to those who had known him as I did. It was not that we did not know his ability and thoroughness, his knowledge of men and affairs. But he had shown in his earlier years such force of individual character and such independence of judgment and action, such disregard of popular opinion, such resolution in maintaining what was right and scorning compromise that I for one never believed that he could work in harness with so many and such conflicting elements. But no man could have displayed more of the qualities that go to concentration and harmonising, and in promoting unity and concentration in the great work and duty of head of the civic government than he. And the honours showered on him in his life and the tributes paid at his death were no more than the joint recognition of brilliant service honestly and honourably rendered. A notice of him would be incomplete without a reference to Lady M'Mordie, who is still with us, who was his stimulator and supporter in all his social and philanthropic and hospitable work, and who, though not Ulster born, has become more Ulster than the most of the Ulster born in her interest in and enthusiasm for everything connected with the life and progress, and especially the health and social well-being, of the community.

To be continued...

From The Witness, 29th December 1916.

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

Saturday 24 December 2016

Santa Claus

Twas the eve before Christmas; “Good night” had been said,
And Annie and Willie had crept into bed.
There were tears on their pillows and tears in their eyes,
And each little bosom was heaving with sighs.
For to-night their stern father’s command had been given
That they should retire precisely at seven
Instead of eight; for they troubled him more
With questions unheard of than ever before.
He told them he thought this delusion a sin,
No such being as Santa Claus ever had been,
And he hoped after this he should never more hear
How he scrambled down chimneys with presents each year.

And this was the reason that two little heads
So restlessly tossed on their softy downy beds.
Eight, nine, and the clock on the steeple tolled ten;
Not a word had been spoken by either till then,
When Willie’s sad face from the blankets did peep,
And whispered, “Dear Annie, is you fast asleep?”
“Why, no, brother Willie,” a sweet voice replies;
“I’ve tried in vain but can’t shut my eyes
For somehow it makes me sorry because
Dear papa has said there is no Santa Claus!
Now, we know there is, and it can’t be denied,
For he came every year before mamma died;
But, then, I’ve been thinking that she used to pray,
And God would hear, everything mamma would say,
And perhaps she asked Him to send Santa Claus here
With the sack of presents he brought every year.”
“Well, why tan’t we pray dust as mamma did den,
And ask Dod to send him with presents aden?”
“I’ve been thinking so, too,” and without a word more
Four little bare feet bounded out on the floor,
And four little knees the soft carpet pressed.
And two tiny hands were clasped close to each breast.
“Now, Willie, you know we must firmly believe
That the presents we ask for we’re sure to receive,
You must wait just as still, ’till I say the Amen,
And by that you will know that your turn has come then.”
“Dear Jesus, look down on my brother and me,
And grant us the favours we are asking of Thee.
I want a wax dolly, a tea set and ring,
And an ebony work-box that shuts with a spring.
Bless papa, dear Jesus, and cause him to see
That Santa Claus loves us far better than he;
Don’t let him be fretful and angry again
At dear brother Willie and Annie, Amen.”
“Please, Desus, et Santa Thus turn down to-night
And bring us some presents before it is light,
I want he sud dive me a nice little sed
With bright shining ’unners an’ painted all 'ed,
A box full of tandy, a book and a toy,
Amen, and den, Desus, I’ll be a dood boy.”

Their prayers being ended, they raised up their heads,
And with hearts light and cheerful again sought their beds.
They were soon lost in slumber, both peaceful and deep,
And with fairies in Dreamland were roaming in sleep.

Eight, nine, and the little clock had struck ten,
Ere the father had thought of his children again.
He seems now to hear Annie’s half-suppressed sighs
And to see the big tears stand in Willie’s blue eyes.
“I was harsh with my darlings,” he mentally said,
“And should not have sent them so early to bed.
But then I was troubled, my feelings found vent
For bank stock to-day has gone down ten per cent.
But, of course, they’ve forgotten their troubles ere this,
And that I denied them the thrice-asked-for kiss;
But just to make sure I’ll steal up to their door.
For I never spoke harsh to my darlings before.”
So saying he softly ascended the stairs;
And arrived at their door to hear both of their prayers.
His Annie’s “bless papa” draws forth the big tears,
And Willie’s grave promise falls sweet on his ears.
“Strange, strange, I’d forgotten,” said he with a sigh,
“How I longed when a child to have Christmas draw nigh.
I’ll atone for my harshness,” he inwardly said,
“By answering their prayers ere I sleep in my bed.”
Then he turned to the stairs and softly went down,
Threw off velvet slippers and silk dressing gown,
Donned hat, coat, and boots, and was out in the street,
A millionaire, facing the cold driving sleet.
Nor stopped he until he had bought everything
From the box full of candy to the tiny gold ring.
Indeed, he kept adding so much to his store
That the various presents outnumbered a score.
Then homeward he turned with his holiday load,
And with Aunt Mary’s help in the nursery ’twas stored.
Miss Dolly was seated beneath a pine tree
By the side of a table spread out for her tea.
A work box well filled in the centre was laid,
And on it the ring for which Annie had prayed.
A soldier in uniform stood by a sled,
“With bright shining runners and painted all red.”
There were balls, dogs, and horses, books pleasing to see,
And birds of all colours were perched in the tree.
While Santa Claus laughing stood up on the top,
As if getting ready for more presents to drop.
And as the fond father the picture surveyed
He thought for his trouble he had amply, been paid.
And he said to himself, as he brushed off a tear,
“I’m happier to-night than I’ve been for a year.
I’ve enjoyed more true pleasure than ever before.
What care I if bank stock falls ten per cent. more.
Hereafter I’ll make it a rule, I believe,
To have Santa Claus visit us each Christmas Eve.”
So thinking he gently extinguished the light,
And tripped down the stairs to retire for the night.

As soon as the beams of the bright morning sun
Put the darkness to flight, and the stars one by one,
Four little blue eyes out of sleep opened wide,
And at the same moment the presents espied.
Then out of their beds they sprang with a bound,
And the very gifts prayed for were all of them found.
They laughed and they cried in their innocent glee,
And shouted for “Papa” to come quick and see
What presents old Santa Claus brought in the night
(Just the things they wanted), and left before light.
“And now,” added Annie, in a voice soft and low,
“You’ll believe there’s a Santa Claus, pappa, I know.”
While dear little Willie climbed up on his knee,
Determined no secret between them should be.
And told in soft whispers how Annie had said
That their dear blessed mother, so long ago dead,
Used to kneel down and pray by the side of her chair.
And that God up in heaven had answered her prayer.
“Den we dot up and prayed dust well as we tood,
And Dod answered our prayers, now wasn’t He dood?”
“I should say that He was, if He sent you all these,
And knew just what presents my children would please.
(Well, well, let him think so, the dear little elf,
’Twould be cruel to tell him I did it myself.)”

Blind fathers! Who caused your stern heart to relent,
And the hasty words spoken so soon to repent?
’Twas the Being’ Who made you steal softly upstairs,
And made you His agent to answer their prayers.

Poem: The Witness, 22nd December 1916.
Image: Santa Claus by William Holbrook Beard c1862

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 25



Glancing over the carefully compiled and compact booklet in which the Town Clerk, Mr. Meyer, records the beings and doings of our civic fathers, it occurred to me that from its resources and those of my own recollections I might recall some memories, or at least names, of the men whom Belfast made, and who in turn helped to make modern Belfast. And, first, I thought I would take note of some of the Mayors and some of the Lord Mayors of the city. We had Sovereigns before we had Lord Mayors, and Mayors before we had Lord Mayors. The Sovereigns and Mayors, as far as titular rights are concerned, have gone; but the Lord Mayors remain, and I hope will go on for ever.

The Mayors within my memory were all very good Mayors, as the demands of the time went; and our Lord Mayors have all been good Lord Mayors as far as such have met all the new requirements of the more exalted title with unfailing dignity and success. They ail labour under a disadvantage compared with holders of the dignity in other is and towns. They have no salaries to cover the expenses of their office, and they are many. A salary of £1,000 a year was attached to the office, but the salary disappeared in the early 'seventies, though the office and its duties remained. The Apostle Paul said that bishops must be given to hospitality. Though I do not think such a duty was as divinely ordered in the case of Mayors, I must say our Mayors, and especially our Lord Mayors, have lived up to injunction quite as much as the bishops have done as far as I can know or hear of such privileged and exalted personages. In the 'seventies and 'eighties, and even in 'nineties, the Mayors were given to hospitality; but it was not till we had Lord Mayors, and a then Mr. Pirrie, to set the example, that we had hospitality in excelsis. In the last century Aldermen and Counsellors, with Judges, prominent and representative citizens, and even newspaper Editors, were entertained in groups at intervals in their private houses. And excellent entertainments many of them were. But with the advent of Lord Mayors, and especially with the fine facilities of the City Hall, the hospitality given to single spies has been given to battalions. And at every frequent intervals not only the blessed Corporators, but other citizens, as well as distinguished visitors, have experienced the hospitable attentions of Lord Mayors in large numbers, and with lavish kindness.

The first Mayor within my recollection to break through the rule of purely private hospitality was Mr. James Alex. Henderson, who was Mayor in 1873-74, and who, in the autumn of his second year, created a pleasant and welcome sensation by inviting the member's of the British Association and hundreds of the citizens to a trip to the Giant's Causeway in one of the Fleetwood steamers, and entertaining to luncheon, and tea, to say nothing of the etceteras, with characteristically tasteful and hospitable liberality. I well remember the disappointment of many noblemen and gentlemen of the district who had made arrangements for entertaining the Association in sections when they found that the majority of the members of the Association, who seemed to have as keen an eye and mind for social enjoyment as for scientific investigation, begged to be excused by their original hosts, and rushed off to enjoy the refreshing breezes and the Northern seas and coasts and the kindly thoughtfulness of the Mayor. I must confess that I, who had intended to stay at home for the day, could not resist the tempting invitation, and joined the crowd of savants and citizens who enjoyed a pleasant excursion. I do not think science was much discussed or thought of on the day; but more pleasant subjects and matters were freely discussed. And I think if ever there was a host who had “For he's a jolly good fellow” sung into his ears it was Mr. Henderson on that day. And those who remember him need no assurance that he was a model host as well as a fine and courteous gentleman; and while happiness reigned around that day I do not think there was a happier man on board than he.

In these good old days the Corporation only consisted of forty members; but they were very representative members, not only of the city, but the larger interests of the city, more so, I will say, without meaning either offence or reflection, than the sixty members of the present day. And yet those of us who were Liberals – this wa in a day when Liberalism was something dignified and respectable, and not a mere cloak covering a heterogeneous and hybrid collection of Radicals, Socialists, pacifists, pro-Germans, intransigeants, and separatists, who put party before patriotism and place before principle — had many hard things to say of it and had occasion to say many things. The Corporation was a close borough for Conservatives; and if “No Liberal may enter here” was not written over its portals, it was certainly not easy for Liberals to enter. Yet when I look back upon what they were, and what they did, I must admit that they left their mark on the city in many improvements and developments. The Corporation may have travelled at a greater pace and spent thousands where hundreds were spent in more recent years; but having regard to the times and to the fact that it was not till the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain set an example of what Corporations might do that municipal authorities everywhere rose to anything like the full height of their duty and responsibility. In that year there were in the Council Daniel Dixon, who, with his brother Thomas, was laying strong and deep the foundations for the great enterprises with which his name was subsequently and honourably associated; Thomas G. Lindsay, brother of Robert Lindsay, who had been a kind of king of the Corporation for many years, and representing large business interests; Mr. (afterwards Sir) Wm. Ewart, the head then of one of the greatest spinning and weaving factories in the city; John Browne, whose extensive timber trade was one of the commercial features of the city, and of which the Corporation had ample opportunities of judging; T. H. Browne, his brother, who was as much an upholder of temperance as timber; Samuel Lawther, then blossoming into the great shipowner which he afterwards became; Philip Johnston, who, with James Carlisle, represented what is become the Brookfield Spinning Co.; Wm. Harvey, one of the founders of the firm of M'Laughlin & Harvey, then developing into the great firm it has become; Wm. Gregg, extensively engaged in the iron trade, whose business characteristics and public interests of the city are so well represented by his sons; James H. Haslett (after Sir James), who early gave promise of that municipal, political, and philanthropic potency which he afterwards attained; William Mullan, wholesale grocer, who was described as the only Liberal in the Corporation; Elias Hughes Thompson, then the head of a large firm of linen and flax merchants; Robert Boag, Afterwards Mayor and knight, and head of a high-class tailoring business known as the extensive wire manufacturer, who only passed away a few months ago. Then we had Dr. Whitaker, medical man and chemist, of the then leading firm of Wheeler & Whitaker, a popular member, who subsequently became Medical Officer of Health to the Corporation, and died at a ripe old age, leaving a family whose sons have won respect in their professions, and whose daughters rendered effective service in connection with local political and patriotic movements; Robert Kelly, a well-known and respected solicitor, whose son, Mr. Hugh C. Kelly, is the popular Sub-Sheriff of Down; Mr. Jas. Jenkins, Mr. R. D. Bates, and many others whose names I cannot recall.

I set out with the intention of dealing in some detail with the characteristics and work of our various Mayors and Lord Mayors; but on recalling their number and the variety, I am forced to the conclusion that I have come face to face with a difficulty too great for me to overcome. I find that it would need a page instead of the couple of columns I propose to devote to this corner of my memory to do justice to them. I must, therefore, content myself with a few personal references to each, and as a section, first, to the Mayors up to 1892, when the town became a city, and the name Mayor became absorbed in the greater dignity of Lord Mayor. In these eighteen years we had nine Mayors, which goes to show that several of them enjoyed two years of the office, and one did, in fact, enjoy three years. Mr. Thomas G. Lindsay and Mr. (afterwards Sir) Robert Boag had one year each — one '75 and one '76. The first-named was a member of a family that held an influential position in the business as well as the public life of the city, and was himself a gentleman of very strong and decided views and of marked individuality. He believed in Belfast, he believed in Conservatism, and he believed in Protection, and never hesitated to give expression to hie convictions. And he was a man who did what he thought was right, and little troubled what others thought of him or his projects, and he left the office, having discharged all its functions to the satisfaction of his fellow-townsmen, and lived for several years afterwards. His successor, Mr. Boag, was a very quiet, dignified, and courtly and courteous gentleman, who was the very essence of courtesy and courtliness; and the knighthood which he received at the termination of his year of office was regarded as a fitting compliment. Mr. John Preston, who followed, acquitted himself so well in his first year that he was unanimously accorded a second, earning a knighthood as well as the respect of the Corporation and the ratepayers. He was the head of a very fine business, which still bears his name, and he was, in addition, one of the political leaders of the time, who exercised great influence and gained much respect in his time. He interested himself in the Harbour Board as well as in the Town Council, and was much respected.

Mr. John Browne, who succeeded, was also accorded a two-year term of the office. He took a great interest in the development of the town, and for years acted as chairman of the Improvement Committee, for which his extensive knowledge of the timber trade gave him special knowledge and interest. His great business grew in his hands, and he prospered with it.

Mr. E. P. Cowan, afterwards knight, was the first liberal in my time to be called to the office of Mayor — Mr. Wm. Mullan, who was described by John Rea as a Whig, was Mayor the winter I came to Belfast. He was connected with the whisky trade, which, perhaps, was not so much under a ban then as it has become since; but he was very popular among Liberals — in fact, he was one of the leaders of the party; and more than once in his lifetime entertained the Liberal leaders visiting the town at his picturesque residence, Craigavad, now occupied by Mr. John C. White. The hospitalities of his mansion were great, and his wife, Lady Cowan, was a model hostess He was knighted in his first year of office, and he certainly was a very popular and dignified Mayor. Mr. (afterwards Sir) David Taylor, like Sir Robt. Boag, was Scotch by birth and accent, too, but his enterprise in connection with the house of Arnott & Co., his chairmanship of the Poorlaw Board, his interest in the municipal and philanthropic life of the city identified him and His interests so closely with Ulster that we forgot that he was not native and to the manner born. Certainly Sir David was a very fine, kind-hearted gentleman, and a devoted Presbyterian to boot, and he gave to the Church one of his sons, now Dr. D. A. Taylor, who has done so much in connection not only with its pulpit, but its philanthropic work.

I must make a pause at the next Mayor — the Mayor of 1885. Mr. E. J. Harland had been the prime factor, in transforming the Queen's Island from an Easter Monday and summer evening pleasant resort into a hive of industry, and laid strong and deep the foundations of the great firm that still bears his name, and has attained such world-wide fame and rendered such brilliant service to the commerce and the war service of the country. He devoted many years to the shipyard and the White Star Line, and some of the leaders of the city I thought he might devote some of his energy, and, I will add, his cultivated taste, to the town. And he gave both in lavish I abundance for two years, and so impressed the community with his worth that the fine statue now in front of the City Hall perpetuates his memory so far as the public life of the city is concerned. His work as a great master and industrial pioneer is perpetuated in the name of the firm.

It was during his Mayoralty that the late King Edward and Queen, Alexandra, then Prince and Princess of Wales, visited Belfast, and no man could have done more than he did on that occasion to honour the Royal guests, and the town at the same time. The magnificent ball that he gave their Royal Highnesses in the Ulster Hall eclipsed everything that had gone before, and in its special characteristic anything that came after it. The decorations of the hall, the brilliancy of the gathering, the scene of life and grace and beauty were such as could not fade from the memory of anyone present, while the supper arrangements, in charge of the most celebrated London caterer of the day, rounded off an evening of joy and pleasure and charm unbroken and unconfined. The baronetcy that he received shortly afterwards was regarded by all the citizens as a mark of Royal appreciation, both to the Mayor and to the town, and as a tribute richly deserved. During his term of Mayor Sir Edward Harland also discharged the duties of chairman of the Harbour Board; but so well was his mind and time organised that no interest, public or private, suffered during his term of office. Though he owed his birth to England, he devoted his life to Ulster, and his name deserves to be remembered and honoured by all who can appreciate work and worth for the welfare of the community. He afterwards faithfully served the city in Parliament, and died rich in its honour and respect.

Mr. James Haslett, who followed Sir Edward Harland for two years, did not occupy such a prominent position in the industrial life of the city as he; but no man of his day, or, indeed, of any day, was more prominently or more assiduously associated with the municipal and political life of the community in which he lived. He was an assiduous worker, an admirable speaker, a most courteous and obliging gentleman, and as Chancellor of the Exchequer — a position since admirably filled by the Mayor-elect — he looked carefully after the pence as well as the pounds of the ratepayers. He was a most popular Mayor, and his popularity continued as member of Parliament till death took him. He was one of the most obliging and kindly of men, to whom it was a pain to refuse a request. His Mayoralty involved a new departure in the hospitalities of the office, for which he was much criticised by some and much applauded by others. He was a rigid and consistent teetotaler, and he had the courage of his convictions — and it required courage at the time — by refusing to introduce any wines or liquors at his official luncheons or dinners. It required a strong man to do this at the time, but Mr. Haslett was a strong man and a consistent one, too, on the temperance question, and he set an example which, however, has since been more honoured in the breach than the observance. Sir Robert Anderson, to whom reference will be made later, did the same.

His successor was Mr. C. C. Connor, whose name and family had been prominently identified with the linen trade of the town. He was himself a most cultivated gentleman, and more attached to pursuits of science than of business. He devoted himself unceasingly and ungrudgingly to the duties of his office, and the fact that, he was called upon to fill the chair three times in succession was a proof that his worth and services were appreciated by his fellow-citizens, Parliamentary honours followed.

Here endeth the Mayors.

To be continued...

From The Witness, 22nd December 1916.

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

Monday 19 December 2016

Christmas Hymns: Their Story – His-story

No sooner was Halloween over than Christmas goods appeared on the shelves and Christmas music began to assail our ears. But long before Wizard, Noddy Holder and the other modern classics "Carols" were the soundtrack to Christmas. This article, which was written 100 years ago, gives the background to some of those classics.

The most popular Christmas hymns, as befits those associated with the season of universal peace and goodwill, come to us from various ages and very various authors, and are sung by Christian people of all denominations the World over.

Two of them date from the early centuries of the Church, and our English versions beginning “O come all ye faithful,” and “Of the Father’s love begotten,” are translations of grand old Latin hymns. The well-known “While shepherds watched their flocks by night” was written in the late seventeenth century, and most of the other familiar Christmas hymns in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, their authors varying from an Irish Poet Laureate and an English bishop to a well-known woman writer of hymns, and an American poet-pastor.

It is curious that no popular Christmas hymn apparently has come to us from the Middle Ages, but carols were the Church’s Christmas songs in these times, and comparatively few of them can be classed as hymns. For the most part they were more or less quaint songs of the Nativity, poor as to literary quality, in many cases were doggerel, though sometimes redeemed by the earnestness and simplicity or the real piety of their general tone. Modem carols are generally of different type, and several well-known ones are worthy of a place in any collection of hymns. Among these may be mentioned the beautiful carols beginning “Like silver lamps in a distant shrine,” and Dean Farrar's “In the fields with their flocks abiding,” with its refrain—
He sang, that first sweet Christmas,
The song that shall never cease—
Glory to God in the highest,
On earth good will and peace.

This was written when its author was an assistant master at Harrow School, and was composed expressly for the boys to sing in their chapel services at the Christmas season.

It has become familiar to people in general since Mr. John Farmer set it to music in “ Christ and His Soldiers,” the Christmas Cantata which has become so popular.

Of the Christmas hymns included in most hymnals, and sung by all Christians at the great festival, two must be regarded as first favourites, “Hark! the herald angels sing,” and “Christians Awake.” “Hark! the herald angels sing” is probably the most popular of all, and this not only in the English-speaking world, but among Christian converts in the Far East and dusky natives of Africa, for it has beer, translated into many languages and dialects, and taken by missionaries wherever they have gone.

It was in 1739 that Charles Wesley first published this particular one of his almost innumerable hymns, but like most of them it was probably written at odd times on the tablets he carried about continually for the purpose, a line or verse being added whenever it occurred to him, at any hour of the day or night. It was included in the first Methodist hymn book which appeared in 1743, and the first line was “Hark! how all the welkin rings,” while the hymn consisted of ten four-line verses. About 1766 the first line was altered into the now familiar “Hark! the herald angels sing” and the hymn shortened, and since then it has been “revised” by many editors in various hymnals, as a comparison of present editions will show.

“Christians Awake” has an interesting personal story, for it was written by a father for his favourite little daughter, in fulfilment of a promise to write something specially for her as a Christmas gift. The manuscript, which is still to be seen in the library of Cheetham Hospital, Manchester, is headed “Christmas Day for Dolly,” “Dolly” being Dorothy Byrom, who found it on her plate at breakfast on Christmas morning, 1745, to her very great delight and pride.

John Byrom, who came of a Manchester family, wrote many other hymns, mostly for the boys of Cheetham’s Hospital School, but “Christians Awake” is the only one that has become really well known. It was published first in the “Manchester Mercury” as a Christmas carol, and attracted the attention of John Wainwright, organist of the Parish Church, who set the verses to the beautiful and popular tune ever since associated with them.

It is said that on the following Christmas Eve Mr. Wainwright took his choir to Mr. Byrom’s house out at Kersal, and there, in the darkness of the winter night, they sang outside his door “Dolly’s” treasured hymn. The author was delighted with the music, which he heard for the first time under these striking conditions, and the friendship begun that night between the two men lasted for the remainder of their lives.

“While shepherds watched their flocks by night,” without which no Christmas carol service would be complete, was written by Nahum Tate, an Irishman who became Poet Laureate of England in the seventeenth century. He collaborated with his friend, Dr. Nicholas Brady, in producing a new metrical version of the Psalms, and several of the compositions in this book still find their place in most hymn books — e.g., “As pants the hart for cooling streams,” and “Through all the changing scenes of life,”

“While shepherds watched” was first published in Tate & Brady’s Psalter of the year 1702, but it has been proved to be the work of the Poet Laureate alone. For at least a century and a half it has been the favourite hymn of the “Waits” at their midnight carol-singings, and there is no sign of any waning of popularity.

Regarding another popular favourite, “O, come all ye faithful,” the ancient Latin Adeste Fideles, it is interesting to note that translations have been published in the language of nearly all countries where missions are established. Canon Oakley’s version, printed first in 1852, has been used for most of these, and the translators have generally kept to the original metre, so that the hymn may be and is sung to the same tune in all parts of the world.

Two Epiphany hymns are frequently sung at Christmas, and are especially appropriate, while their beauty of thought and expression has won for them an abiding place among favourite hymns. “As with gladness men of old,” which has been described as “one of the finest compositions of its kind in our language,” was written by Mr. Wm. Chatteron Dix, who only died in 1900. The inspiration came to him one evening some years before his death, when he was recovering slowly from a serious illness, and asking for pencil and paper he wrote down the verses which had been gradually growing into form in his mind. Published first in a little hymn book of limited circulation, “As with gladness” attracted more and more attention, and now may be found in most collections.

“Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,” the other beautiful Epiphany hymn sung frequently at Christmas, competes with the same author’s “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty,” in general esteem. It was written by Bishop Heber, and was first published in a weekly paper called the “Christian Observer” in 1811. The manuscript, in the bishop’s small, clear handwriting, is still preserved in the British Museum, forming a leaf or so of two ordinary exercise books belonging to his children, in which he scribbled various compositions, the back of the pages being used for problems of Euclid.

Another favourite Christmas hymn is printed among the children's hymns in most collections, but “Once in royal David’s City” is beloved by old and young alike. It was written by Mrs. Alexander, wife of the well known Primate of Ireland, and together with her “There is a green hill far away” tells the essentials of the Christian story in a way which cannot fail to make an appeal to everybody who can appreciate winsome simplicity.

A less well-known Christmas hymn, but one of great beauty, is “Angels from the realms of glory,” which is now to be found in most English and American collections. It was written by James Montgomery, author of many hymns of high poetic and religious quality, and published first in the Christmas Eve, number of a Sheffield paper, the “Iris,” in 1816. Another Christmas hymn which is growing in popularity in England and America is “It came upon the midnight clear,” a beautiful composition. It was written in 1849 by an American pastor, Edmund Hamilton Sears, published first in a religious magazine, then in American hymnals, and now is to be found in several British collections.

In our day Christmas music includes not only many of the most popular Christmas hymns, and, at special services as well as at home gatherings, some of the old favourite carols, but often selections from Handel’s most famous oratorio, the “Messiah,” which, of course, is equally appropriate at Christmas and Easter, and is received enthusiastically at both seasons. Mendelssohn’s “Hymn of Praise” also is becoming increasingly popular at Christmas, and “The Holy Family,” an English version of “L’enfance du Christ,” by Berlioz, is sometimes given. English musicians, including Purcell, Goss, Elvey, and others have also composed special music for the Christmas festival, but at the services in the churches it is the Christmas hymns, in which the congregation can join and sing their own tributes to the Babe of Bethlehem, that are most truly popular, and of these no one grows weary.

Text: The Witness, 8th December 1916
Image: Evening Carolers by Thomas Kinkaid, 1991.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 24



In the book of my memory and in the history of Belfast the year 1874 forms an interesting page. It was in that year “The Witness” first saw the light, and it was in that year the Belfast Corporation purchased the Gasworks from the English company, and could claim the gas light of the town as their own. In this way Belfast possessed two new lights, neither of which has been extinguished yet. “The Witness” has grown and expanded, and the Gasworks has grown and extended; but while the Corporation light for the time become dim, the light of “The Witness” continues to shine stronger and brighter than ever. With the thought of the last-mentioned light in my mind, I turned up the file of “The Witness,” and cast my eye over its pages for the year to see what they should recall or suggest. The first thing they suggested was the modesty and the excellence of the earliest issues, and I can say this without egotism, as I had nothing to do with them. But while the matter and the arrangement were excellent, I was greatly struck with its modest size as compared with the present sheet. It was almost like an infant in arms compared with a full-developed youth; but it was a fine, strong, healthy infant, full of promise and potency of stalwart manhood. But it had a good beginning, and its latter and has increased so that its present and future are assured both in position and influence, and in the increasing support it is receiving from our kind friends the readers and the advertisers.

Though I only intended to make this date a starting point for other subjects and other persons than those with which I have dealt, I have found in the incidents of the year as recorded in “The Witness” sufficient material to make what I hope will be an interesting column. And first, I will refer to the General Election of the spring of that year, which ended in the rout of Mr. Gladstone and the return of Mr. Disraeli to power. It was in view of that election that Mr. Gladstone made his first experiment in Irish education by offering a bribe to Roman Catholics in connection with Trinity College. The bribe failed in its purpose. Mr. Gladstone was defeated, and he retired in high dudgeon and with no kindly feelings towards the Vatican authorities, who had refused to accept this proposals. His indignant feelings found expression in his celebrated pamphlet on the “Vatican Decrees,” in which he  [?]aliminated against the Vatican and its interference with rights and liberties in terms which led to recrimination and controversies for months, if not for years. Indeed, it was difficult to imagine that the author of that pamphlet was the man who afterwards launched his Home Rule schemes which would have established Vatican rule in Ireland. But, then Mr. Gladstone was a great opportunist, and when tempted by the alluring prospect of power through Nationalist votes he fell like Mother Eve when tempted by the serpent.

Belfast from 1868 to 1874 had been repressed by Messrs. M'Clure and Johnston; but at this election Mr. Johnston was in virtual alliance with Mr. J. P. Corry — I was living in Dublin at the time, and, therefore, cannot write from personal recollection, but, at any rate, the polls for Mr. Corry and Mr. Johnston were only within about a couple of hundred of each other, and were over 8,000 – Mr. Corry heading the poll, while Mr. M'Clure's vote was only a few over 4,000, and John Rea, who had projected himself into the contest received about 500. But if Mr. M'Clure lost a seat in Parliament, he gained a baronetcy, which Mr. Gladstone conferred on him at a subsequent date. At that time Mr. M'Clure must have been advancing in the seventies. I am indebted to the late Mr. Thomas M'Knight, Editor of the “Whig,” for the information that in a private letter to Mr. M'Clure covering the offer of the baronetcy Mr. Gladstone showed his taste and tact by stating that Mr. M'Clure would appreciate the honour all the more as it was a hereditary one.

So far as Presbyterianism is concerned, Belfast had one representative still; but Mr. Corry represented the Conservatives, while Mr. M'Clure was a Liberal. But in Ulster at large Presbyterians secured a large share of members, more than before or since, and the majority of them were Liberals. Mr. Chas. Lewis shared with Mr. Corry the Conservative honours, while Prof. Smyth, the first minister returned; Mr. Sharman Crawford, and Mr. Thos. A. Dickson were Liberals.

Lest I should forget, let me, however, note, though not specially of local or Ulster interest, that I observed that the Budget demand for this year was seventy-two millions. What a drop in the ocean that is compared with our Budgets of to-day, and those we have had are nothing to those we will have.

I observe that the Moderator of Assembly that year was the Rev. Wm. Magill, afterwards D.D. of Cork, who succeeded Rev. Wm. Johnston, afterwards D.D. There were many interesting features of that Assembly, which was held in St. Enoch’s, to which I might refer, and I will content myself with a reference to the year's proceedings as regards the instrumental music question. The subject had been several years before the Assembly, and it had been proved that, I think, seven, eight, or nine congregations had used the instruments. It was this year that the ex-Moderator (Mr. Johnston) brought forward his series of resolutions which, while expressing sympathy with the local difficulties that had led these congregations to take this step, appealed to them to fall into line with the majority in the matter. This resolution, which was much of a compromise, did not meet with the
approval of the instrument users, who protested vehemently; but the desire to stave all action was so general that the resolutions were adopted. We had some more excited debates before the Assembly bade farewell to the controversy.

The two outstanding local features of the year, after a strike of millworkers that lasted for over six weeks, and a financial disturbance arising from the failure of the firm of Lowry, Valentine, & Kirk, were the visit of the British Association and the visit of Messrs. Moody and Sankey in the autumn. There could have been no greater contrast between the characteristics and objects of these two meetings/ Though the British Association was supposed to deal with science alone, its President, Professor Tyndall (and his fellow-philosopher, Prof. Huxley, with him), made it the occasion of one of the most deliberate attacks on revealed religion in the history of the Association.

It is difficult for the present generation to realise the furore this Presidential address created, not only in Belfast, but throughout the Christian world. The address was delivered in the Ulster Hall to one of the most brilliant and intellectual audiences that ever assembled within its walls. There were the members of the British Association, and among them the greatest lights in the world of science, and there were all that the hall could contain of Belfast citizens attracted by the dignity and character of the savants, the world-wide interest and importance of the meeting, and not least by the brilliant reputation Tyndall had achieved, not only in science, but in its literary exposition. Huxley may have surpassed him as a popular expositor, but Tyndall was unapproachable in his own sphere and in his own methods both of investigation and exposition. I well remember the lecturer and the lecture — Tyndall, with his white hair, his clear-cut intellectual features, and the grandeur of his periods, the reference to the work and the writings of scientists, the illuminating and far-reaching character of his exposition of scientific developments, and the startling development of his address when he announced definitely and dogmatically that in matter he found the promise and potency of all life.

During the weeks and months that followed, the pulpit and the Press, even the talk of homes and dinners, were concerned with the great issues that had been raised. Sermons were preached, articles written to confide the materialistic teachings of the scientists. Among those who made perhaps the greatest contributions on this subject that I remember and heard were our own Professor Watts, of the Assembly’s College, and Dean (afterwards Bishop) Reichel, of I the Irish Episcopal Church, a former professor in the Belfast Queen’s College. But nearly all bur professors and preachers and publicists dealt with the subject and if at the end the arch-materialist was not pulverised he ought to have been. No doubt there were those, as there are still those who affected a superior knowledge, and believed that sceptical utterances indicated higher intellectual gifts than those possessed by others and who expressed contempt for the efforts of the religionists to overthrow the scientist. I was not, and am not, yet sufficiently acquainted with the higher thinking on religious or scientific subjects to express an opinion; but I will say this, if they did not defeat him and leave him on the field as David left Goliath, they made great dents in his armour, and to a very great extent lowered his pretentions.

After some time and many orthodox blows and knocks, Tyndall wrote a kind of apology or explanation, in which he said that the address had been written piecemeal in the Alps, under great disadvantages, and in regard to the charge of material atheism that had been freely levelled against him, said that “it was not in, the hours of clearness and vigour that this doctrine commends itself to my mind.” It is true that, in the language of the time, he afterwards “recanted his recantation.”

Though the controversy then raised, as the great scientist said of himself and of those whom he addressed, has “mingled with the infinite azure of the past,” I hope it will not be uninteresting to recall a man and a controversy that raged long and strong in Belfast and the world.

It was a strange coincidence that before the echoes of the controversy between religion and science had died out we had a visit that created as much excitement and inspiration for religious truth as the visit of Tyndall and the Association tended to produce [----------------] This was the visit of Messrs. Moody and Sankey, which lasted several weeks, and awoke the dry bones of indifference and secularism as it never witnessed before or since. These American evangelists had been doing a tremendous work in Scotland and England, so that when they appeared in Belfast the ground was prepared for them. These men and their work were a revelation, and though scoffers described them as American sensationalists, they certainly sensationalised – if I may coin a word – to good purpose. The principal Presbyterian churches of the city – May Street, Fisherwick Place, Rosemary Street, and St. Enoch’s — were thrown open to them, and thrice daily meetings were held, not so much crowded, as over-crowded. Mr. Moody was a strong, rugged, energetic personality, in whom the fires of evangelism seemed always burning. There was a novelty and freshness about his manner and his matter. He was unconventional and familiar in his form of address, quaint and original in his illustration and language with a rich vein of humour, which often produced a laugh — but I will admit even the laugh was not vacant or the result of vacancy in the speaker. Words flowed from him in an incessant stream; but they all had a purpose and an aim, and seldom failed to serve the one and attain the other. The “after meetings” for personal talks, which were so characteristic of his movement and methods, were a new feature to all, and criticised by some; but many ministers and others who took part in them assured me and assured the public at the time that these personal talks and personal appeals bore much fruit. In addition to meetings in churches, there were open-air meetings at the Botanic Gardens, at Agnes Street, at the Queen’s Island, and other centres, and huge crowds gathered at all the meetings, and a spirit of sobriety and earnestness prevailed.

If Mr. Moody’s preaching was a powerful factor at these meetings, Mr. Sankey’s singing and that of the choir with which he was associated was no less potent as a drawing and an inspiring force. If ever there was a sweet singer on earth I think Mr. Sankey was that. He had special hymns, special tunes, and his solo singing was most wonderful, most enchanting, most inspiring. Certainly as a combination these two men were complete and harmonious, and none who heard them could ever forget them, however little they might have been impressed by the simple Gospel they preached and sang — for the singing as well as the preaching was directed to and by Gospel feeling and Gospel teaching. It is not for me to deal with the temporary or permanent results of these meetings from the purely religious side; but I can say this, that for the time the hearing and talking about them and their Gospel were universal, and that those in positions competent to judge held the opinion that the fruits of their labours were great, and in a vast number of cases permanent. Of course there were scoffers who, as such people do, judging others by themselves, declared that the love of the dollars rather than the love of souls inspired the evangelists; but I  will say this from what I saw and heard of Mr. Moody, that if he had loved dollars alone he could have made them in plenty in business life, for such an energetic, active, resourceful, and go-ahead man could have succeeded in any walk of life and I believe with less mental and physical strain.

I often wondered how Mr. Moody could maintain the freshness of his illustrations and arguments, his heart-searching and soul-searching appeals. I learned something of the secret of this as I travelled in the carriage with him from Belfast to Derry. I doubt if he spoke a dozen words during the journey. He had a large Bible with him and sheets of white paper. He kept looking over the Bible for passages here and there. He would in the intervals turn his head toward the window, not so much to see as to think, and then he would jot down his thoughts on the paper. And he covered many sheets of paper on the journey. But he only put a few lines on each page, his handwriting being very large, no doubt to easily catch his eye while speaking, but as steady as could be expected on a train. Between his two or three discourses daily he must have spent a good deal of time in this way so that I fancy there was much working as well as praying to maintain the interest and secure the success of his meetings, the memory and effect of which remain for many a day.

To be continued...

From The Witness, 15th December 1916.

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

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 23



I am still in the hand of the law and the Resident Magistartes; but I have secured release, and I promise to release my readers after this week. But I have been so closely associated with so many of our R.M.s that their memories interest me, and that is the reason I dwell so much on them. On the death of Mr. J. C. O'Donnell, the Hon. Thomas O. Plunkett was appointed in his place. Mr. Plunkett was a member of the Roman Catholic branch of the Plunkett family; and he was in every respect worthy of the name and the country. He was not only honourable by title, but by character and disposition, every inch, and he had many inches, an Irish gentleman. He was for some years a colleague of Mr. Lloyd, and was as attentive to his duties and as careful of the dignity of his Court, and had as strong a sense of justice as his colleague; but he was not so inflexible or as severe in his sentences as he. At the same time, during the regime of these two magistrates there was no hesitation or delay in the conduct of the Courts. Mr. Plunkett was of a genial disposition, courteous and kindly, and was very popular with the entire community. Mr. Clifford Lloyd was succeeded by Mr. Thos. Hamilton, tall, erect, and vigorous, an excellent magistrate. He had been connected with the Revenue Service before his appointment as a magistrate. He was married to a daughter of the late Mr. Robt. Atkinson, D.L., of Beaumont, who had realised a fortune as a representative of the firms of Guinness and Bass. To him succeeded Mr. R. J. Eaton, who was known in certain quarters as "Mitchelstown." This arose from the fact that he had been Resident Magistrate in Cork and, in charge of the police at the great riot at Mitchelstown, where the police did their duty with great vigour and effectiveness. It was in connection with these proceedings that Mr. Gladstone used the phrase, "Remember Mitchelstown," which became a favourite Nationalist cry for many years. Mr. Eaton was a very efficient magistrate, and a very gentlemanly man.

At the time of the riots of 1886 the two Resident Magistrates were the Hon. Colonel Forbes (Protestant) and Mr. Felix J. M'Carthy. I knew both men well, but I had more respect for the Roman Catholic than the Protestant. There was a gentleness and courtesy about Mr. M'Carthy that was rather missing in his colleague, whose manner and methods, despite his honourable prefix, did not commend him to the community. During the riots there was naturally great excitement and great feeling; and it required great delicacy and great firmness on the part of the magistrates to do justice and avoid even a pretext for the allegation of partisanship. In the case of Mr. M'Carthy I never heard any complaint of partiality; but I remember many in the case of Colonel Forbes. But it was not of partiality towards the Protestants, but towards the Roman Catholics. It may have been that, in the desire to avoid suspicion of partiality towards Protestants he was more severe and stringent with those of them that came under his official notice at the time; but I cannot, of course, say. But it was notorious that in several cases Mr. Harper, who was the principal solicitor acting for the Protestants, had to go to the Queen's Bench to get bail for his clients, while Mr. M'Erlean in many cases got bail for his clients without that roundabout and expensive process.

There was one case that led to a great deal of feeling both as regards the magistrate and the police. A Protestant living in a street in close proximity to Roman Catholic quarters had his house attacked, his windows smashed, and much of his property injured. This man fired a number of shots at the raiding crowd. A police constable living in the neighbourhood saw the attack on the house, and saw the man firing; but he took no action in regard to the crowd, but arrested the man who fired. The man was returned fro trial, and, of course, without bail by Colonel Forbes. The case came on before Mr. Justice Lawson at the Ulster Winter Assizes in Omagh. Having regard to the character of the charge and to the righteous severity shown by Judge Lawson in other cases, the prisoner and his friends feared the worst, When the Judge heard the evidence as to the attack and its character he put an end to the case, and said the persons who should have been in the dock were the raiders and not the victim, who had done nothing wrong but defend himself and his property.

As a result of Colonel Forbes's action in this and other cases a strong feeling of indignation was raised in the town, and a movement was set on foot to have the colonel removed. It was an open secret at the time that Colonel Forbes used all his influence to have Mr. M'Carthy removed at the same time. The Protestant Press and public raised a protest against this; and I remember myself writing an article in "The Ulster Echo" protesting against the attempt to remove Mr. M'Carthy. He as well as I knew the strings that were being pulled, and he afterwards expressed his appreciation of what the Protestants in the Press or otherwise had done to vindicate him from what, under the circumstances, would have been unwelcome, as well as an affront in involving him in the Colonel's condemnation.

I remember some years afterwards in an hotel in a Northern watering-place meeting a couple of Roman Catholic priests. To the three of us one evening entered an English gentleman and two young men, with whom he was making a tour of the country. The young men were Roman Catholics, and the English gentleman was a Protestant. In the course of the conversation the English gentleman mentioned that he and other Protestants went occasionally to hear Bishop Vaughan, of Salford, who was afterwards Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster. One of the priests, turning to me, said we would not do that in Belfast. I gave a reply which, however, is not germane to my present purpose. I added that this Roman Catholic clergyman and those of his cloth and creed were going up and down the country talking about the intolerance of Belfast, while, in fact, so much did they exhibit the opposite that if the stones and bricks that had been provided with Protestant money were removed from some of the churches and convents some of them would be in danger of toppling to the ground. Warming to my subject, I described, without giving names, the incident I have referred to above. One of the young men spoke out and said he could confirm all that I had said, as he believed I was referring to Mr. M'Carthy, and that he knew him well (Mr. M'Carthy had then retired), and that he had often spoken, and always warmly, about the kind treatment he had received from the Protestants of Belfast.

Mr. Garrett Nagle succeeded Mr. M'Carthy as our Roman Catholic R.M., and he is still doing his duty, and doing it well, here. Mr. Nagle is one of the most devout Roman Catholics I know, but he dispenses justice with an even, a fair, and gentle hand. He is very mild, very courteous, very considerate, and mingles mercy with justice, and justice without rigour. He does not rush; he takes time to think.

The Protestant Resident Magistrates of a later date were Mr. F. G. Hodder and Sir A. Newton Brady. Mr. Hodder was one of our best magistrates and one of the most popular. He was a sound lawyer, and a most excellent gentleman as magistrate or as friend Sir A. Newton Brady's position was acknowledged when, during his term of office, he received the honour of knighthood – an honour that does not often fall to one occupying such a position, and for services connected therewith. And then there is Mr. John Gray, who is now with us. He is the Resident Magistrate in the city whom I have not met personally, and, therefore, can only speak of him from what I hear, which is that he is a good and painstaking magistrate, does his duty well, impartially, and faithfully. He seldom, if ever, takes part in public functions or mingles with the social life of the community. I did see and hear him once in connection with the inspection of the garden plots near the Waterworks, in which he seemed to take a sympathetic interest, but that is all. From all I learn  his heart seems to de divided between the police courts and his home, and as soon as he is done with his work at the courts he makes his way home.

To be continued...

From The Witness, 8th December 1916.

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

Thursday 1 December 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 22



I hope I am not boring my readers with these reminiscences. Sometimes I think I am; but from the remarks and letters of many of them, and from the circulation of "The Witness," which is increasing every week, I have a hope that I am not. I know they want order and symmetry. It may be that I attach more importance to incidents that left impressions on my memory than many might think they deserve. Never having kept notes or preserved old documents or papers, I am dependent on what, I fear, is a feeble and fugitive memory; and I write from week to week as incidents or names occur to me without any prearranged plan. This must be my excuse for the looseness of matter and manner that characterises them.

Before I dispose of the police court, I cannot refrain from making a reference to the Resident Magistrates who succeeded Messrs. O'Donnell and Orme; and with all of whom I had an intimate personal acquaintance. And here I may say that during my connection with the court and since I have formed the opinion that in Belfast all the magisterial work should be done by paid magistrates, as in Dublin, to say nothing of cities in England and Scotland. I hear complaints now about the failure of justice in many cases from the partisanship of magistrates. But when I first formed the opinion there was no question in my mind or experience of partisanship. What led me to form the opinion was, as I have said, the inequality of treatment by different magistrates, inequality in the form of fines. For a similar offence one magistrate would impose a light fine and another a heavy fine; some would give imprisonment without the option of a fine, and others would give the option of a fine.

It may be said that there is inequality even among paid magistrates and judges; and to a certain extent that is true; but, on the whole, I am satisfied that justice would be more fairly and equitably and equally administered by paid rather than unpaid magistrates. We all know the complaints not only in Belfast, but all over the country at the present time; and I am quite sure that in large numbers and classes of cases the complaints are justified.

The Resident Magistrate who succeeded Mr. Orme was Mr. Clifford Lloyd, who may be said to have made history in many parts of Ireland, as well as in Belfast. He brought a new atmosphere into the courts, an atmosphere of decision and vigour and prompt and rapid administration of justice. The rhetoric of the solicitors, and several of them were masters of rhetoric, was suppressed, or at any rate limited, and they were confined to the law and to the facts. John Rea once tried to restore the ancient order, and raved and raged with all his old virulence and all his old irrelevances. When he persisted after warnings in his old courses, Mr. Lloyd committed him at once jail, and from his decision there was no appeal and no change. The man who had mastered the Court found that he had a master, and he troubled Mr. Clifford Lloyd no more. I have been told that at times afterwards Rea would go down to the court and harangue the crowd before the magistrates took their seats on the bench; but when someone would whisper "Here's fiord Lloyd," he would gather up his papers and steal away.

Mr. Lloyd suffered, I think, from some from of spinal disease; but he was a man of such courage and strength of will that he would allow nothing to interfere with duties; and I have seen him going to court when he could do little more than crawl, and one of the old clerks told me that he has seen him doing duty when had to be almost carried to the bench. As strength of will, force of character, a high sense of public duty were his characteristics, I mention this as an illustration of what I would describe as the mastery of his mind over his body.

On the Bench Mr. Lloyd was, indeed, a terror to evildoers. Certainly many of the sentences he passed startled many of the old offenders, and frightened would-be offenders. He had had a military training; if I remember aright he had the rank of colonel when he took up his duties here, and this may have given him a stronger sense of duty, order, and discipline than men not so trained. In many cases, and especially in bad cases, his sentences certainly were severe, and those who came under his lash were bound to remember him. On one occasion after he had distinguished himself not only in Belfast, but in connection with some disturbances, I was having some food in a restaurant on a Friday afternoon. The only other at the table was a comfortable looking countryman. At the time Mr. Lloyd's name was on the tapis in connection with something, and we naturally entered into conversation on the subject. My co-diner denounced him in all the moods and tenses, and I think described him as a brute. I ventured to remark that I thought Mr. Lloyd was a very fair magistrate, and I did not think anyone could complain of him except one who had received his magisterial attention. My companion, who was sitting at the off-side of a large table, thereupon got up, seized a knife, and made as if coming round to attack me. Whether anyone came or whether the man calmed down, I could not say, but I know that I carried away no scars and I remember no attack.

I am afraid it was a case of striking deeper than I knew, an accidental weakness of mine that got me into trouble more than once. A few years ago during the Home Rule excitement I was sitting one night in the smoking room of a London hotel at which I was stopping. There were two or three gentlemen talking at a table near me. One of them, who seemed got up after the caricatures of Abraham Lincoln, with lantern jaws, a goatee, and a very dark and stubby beard of some days' growth. With an accent that suggested either three weeks or three generations' residence in God's own country, and in a loud voice he was decrying England in the most coarse and virulent terms, vulgar and offensive in tone and character. I listened as long as my patience could hold out, but at last I felt impelled to interfere. "Excuse me," I said, "it has been one of the privileges of my life to know many Americans; but I never heard an American talk as you talk except an American who came from Galway."

"Do you mean to insult me, sir?" fiercely cried the man. "I do not," said I; "but I could not help hearing what you said, and it was so different from anything that I have ever heard from Americans, I could help saying what I did." And I repeated it. "I won't stay here to be insulted," exclaimed the very angry man, and he rose left the room. After he had gone one of the gentlemen said, "I am afraid you struck deeper than you knew, because before you came in he told us that he had come from Galway."

To return to Mr. Lloyd. He certainly left his mark on the police courts and on the violaters of law and order. No doubt in some cases his sentences erred, if they did err, on the side of severity; there were those who thought severity was his badge. But I will say this for him, that it was just and fair. If there was a doubt or attendant circumstances that justified leniency, he gave the culprit the benefit of the doubt or of the circumstance. But I admit that where a case was a bad one his hand came down very severely, at least in comparison to the class of sentences that I had been accustomed to. He was not severe on first offenders, and if prisoners brought before him for drink would promise to bring him a temperance pledge he would let them off when they brought the pledge; but if they did not the police were after him or her the next day. And then there was no leniency.

There was one thing said about him by his detractors, and that was that he preferred the evidence of the police before that of a civilian. There may have been some truth in that; and it may be possible that the police might colour their evidence as well as civilians. I do not think, however, there was as much truth in the statement as was alleged. But I will say this for him, that I believe he upheld the police so far as insisting upon punishing attacks on the police when in the execution of their duty when he was satisfied that they had been so attacked. There was, however, a point that I sometimes discussed with Mr. Lloyd. I had a idea that in some cases at least of drunkenness in which arrests were made that the people might have been given in charge to friends or taken home, instead of being taken to the cells. Men and women who might have been sent quietly home, and who would have gone, when arrested turned on the police, and a simple charge of drunkenness ended in a charge of assaulting the police. That, perhaps, was not, and is not, an orthodox view, but I had seen some cases in London where that was done. I told him once of what I had seen in that capital on one occasion. I happened to be there on a Whit Monday, and I asked a journalistic friend who had placed himself at my disposal to take me to some place where I could see a Whit Monday crowd. He took me to Greenwich, where I saw a London crowd with a vengeance. The streets were crowded, and there was no little bickering and shouting, and even fighting, among the crowds; but I did not see a single arrest made. In fact, I do not think I saw a dozen policemen, during the day.

In one case I saw a regular rowdy fight between two roughs, and a great crowd gathered. One or two very substantial and very jolly looking policemen watched the fight for a time as if to see fair play. When one of them thought the smaller was getting the worst of it he quietly ambled in, and, seizing a man with each hand, shook them separated them, took one of them some distance away, and did not let him return, and the other man walked away in a different direction. The policeman laughed, the crowd laughed, and in a few minutes normal conditions were resumed. I did not see a single arrest made while I remained.

I mentioned the incident on my return to Mr. Lloyd, and said that I was afraid if a similar incident had taken place in Belfast there might have been half-a-dozen arrests before it was all over. However, Mr. Lloyd did not seem to like that free and easy police system; but he added that while it might do for England, he was afraid it would not do for Ireland, as the people were more excitable and less disposed to respect order or the police.

I will mention one story that Mr. Lloyd used to tell himself with great gusto. He was very severe on jarveys that hurried over crossings at cross streets, and had become the terror to those who did as to other evildoers. On one occasion he hired a car to catch a train, and he had not much time to spare. The jarvey crawled like a snail over these crossings. Mr. Lloyd got impatient, and asked the driver to hurry or he would miss his train. The man, of course, knew who his fare was, and he said, "I cannot go any quicker, for there is an old tyrant called Lloyd, who would be heavily down on me if I did." Mr. Lloyd, however, caught his train, and afterwards delighted to tell the story at his own expense, for he had a sense of humour as well as a sense of rigid justice.

To be continued...

From The Witness, 1st December 1916.

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