Monthly Archives: July 2011

Lered and lewed

This one will, eventually, take us to a place of delight and sustenance. Bare with Malcolm as he tracks towards his goal.

Malcolm reckoned he hit on the phrase at the very end, the punch-line of  Chaucer’s Physicians Tale:

Beth war, for no man woot whom God wol smyte,
In no degree, ne in which manere wyse
The worm of conscience may agryse
Of wikked lyf, though it so pryvee be
That no man woot therof but God and he.
For be he lewed man, or ellis lered,
He noot how soone that he shal been afered.

Or, as Malcolm might have rendered that for the benefit of the algae-d end of the gene pool:

Be aware, for no man knows whom God will strike,
Despite social status, nor in what ways
The worm of conscience grieves
The wicked soul, though secret be the deeds
Which no one knows of but God and he.
For be he ignorant or learned, yet
He cannot know when fear will make him squirm.

For Chaucer’s age, and much later, the greatest social divide was between those who could relate to written text (the “lered”), and those incapable (“the lewed”).

Today that discriminator might lay between the readers of the tabloids and of the “broadsheets” (only a couple of which retain that format). But, pause for a Neil Gaiman moment:

Richard Mayhew walked down the underground platform. It was a District Line station: the sign said BLACKFRIARS. The platform was empty. Somewhere in the distance an Underground train roared and rattled, driving a ghost-wind along the platform, which scattered a copy of the tabloid Sun into its component pages, four-color breasts and black-and-white invective scurrying and tumbling off the platform and down onto the rails.

Richard walked the length of the platform. Then he sat down on a bench and waited for something to happen.

Nothing happened.

Well, at the moment, that’s quite explicable. Blackfriars underground station remains closed.

However, this is also a moment of social inclusion. Crossrail (a-hah! you see at last the significance of the headline image!) and the Thameslink projects mean there are certain points across London where supercilious Savile-Row suits meet subterranean jerkins and overalls.

One such interface is Blackfriars, which — one way or another — will shortly become the crossroads of London’s mass transport. It sits neatly between the City and the River, between Farringdon to the north (where Crossrail and City link will interface) and London Bridge to the south (gateway to all points across the stockbroker suburbs)

Happy he he who has shares in hotels nearby.

As Neil Gaiman would have it:

He had crossed Blackfriars Bridge, in the City of London, many times, and he had often passed through Blackfriars station, but he had learned by now not to assume anything. “People.”

So, this lunchtime the Lady in his Life and Malcolm were seeking sustenance. A quest had taken them to the legal quarter, thence out of the Middle Temple into Fleet Street. This opened a whole number of possibilities:

On Fleet Street:

In Carey Street, behind the Royal Courts of Justice:

Make a hike up to Holborn and return to:

  • The Cittie of York (a Sam Smith’s house, probably some of the cheapest, best ale in central London).

Choices, choices. All palatable, all attractive.

And thou beside me in the wilderness

Instead, having book-shopped, it was the Black Friar that won the cut.

What is truly astonishing is that this place ever needed rescuing (it’s now Grade II listed) from the vandals. It ought to be obligatory on every London visitor’s schedule — and not just for the astounding interior. Nice selection of pics here.

Being a Nicholson’s house, it come with added choice. On draught, the pumps that forced on him decisions, decisons were:

All of those seemed to be doing excellent trade, and with good reason.

So, to mark it being a Friday, foddering involved fish-and-chips (neatly, nicely done — especially as Malcolm traditionally gets the Lady in his Life’s mushy peas) and a bottle of the house Chenin Blanc (South African, but acceptable). Then back to the nut-brown stuff.

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig

The quick way to Norf Lunnun from Blackfriars is currently by First Capital Connect, and all on the travel card. The “fast” trains from Brighton to Bedford are Farringdon, St Pancras and St Alban’s only; but the “stoppers” have a useful stage at Kentish Town, convenient for the 134 bus to the top of the hill adjacent to Redfellow Hovel.

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Lighten up!

Malcolm detests all those exiguous health and other warnings.

The latest target of his bottomless bile is the “parental warning” that appears on movie posters.

As he stood waiting for a bus today, he wondered:

Is it really, really necessary for the world to take warning that a Jim Carrey film — remember him? he used to be an actor — involved “mild mock threat” and “flatulence jokes”?

 

 

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The not-so-great and the not-so-good, no 25: Thomas Meagher

This character appeared, literally and figuratively, in the immediately-previous post.

They’ve renamed the Quay in Waterford, outside where he was born in 1823, and what is now the Granville Hotel, after Meagher. Thomas Francis was the son of (also) Thomas Meagher, a leading businessman who prospered on the trade with Newfoundland — and apparently was born there (which puts doubt on the Irish tricolour story). Meagher senior was twice mayor of the city and its MP between 1847 and 1857. There were two siblings: a brother Henry (who stayed in Waterford and became a JP) and a sister, Mary Agnes (who took her profession as a nun).

Education and dropping out

Thomas Francis Meagher  was well-educated: first by the Jesuits at Clongowes, then at Stonyhurst — from which he returned with West British manners, accent and wardrobe. He was supposed to complete his studies for the law when, in 1844,  he joined Dublin’s Queen’s Inn. Instead, he fell among politicians, and identified himself with the Young Irelanders. A virulent speech, in which he urged fellow Repealers not to abhor the sword  or stigmatise the sword, led to a split in the repeal association, to Meagher and his allies defecting, and to Thackeray labelling Meagher, with dismissive heavy sarcasm (and a bit of racism), “Meagher of the Sword” — a name Meagher happily adopted for himself.

Waterford by-election, February 1848

The  two MPs elected for Waterford City in 1847 were Meagher, senior, and Daniel O’Connell. O’Connell’s death the following August created a vacancy. Meagher, junior, stood for the Young Irelanders, but was opposed by his own father, who was supporting a Whig, Costello. Things were nasty enough at the nominations, but turned for the worse when news came through of the 1848 revolution in France, and the enthronement of Louis Philippe. The local Wolfe Tone Club responded by raising the revolutionary French tricolour in Waterford’s Mall. When Meagher was defeated in the election, the Young Irelanders rioted, and smashed the windows of their opponents.

Charge of sedition

Meagher was now unbridled in his speeches.

One, made at 33 The Mall (the base of Waterford’s Wolfe Tone Club) on March 7th 1848, urged insurrection, and had him charged with sedition. This is supposed to be the first occasion on which the Irish tricolour (green, white and orange) was flown. Between his arrest and his trial, Meagher took off for Paris, to congratulate the Parisians on their successful revolution. On his return he presented the tricolour to the people of Dublin. At the arraignment before Lord Chief Justice Blackburne (April 16th 1848), the Dublin jury could not agree, and Meagher — now a marked man in the eyes of the authorities — was released.

The battle of Widow McCormack’s potato patch

Something of a radical hero, and a member of the Irish Confereration war directory, Meagher now speachified around the country. In July 1848, habeas corpus was suspended, a further warrant for Meagher’s  arrest was issued, and a reward posted. With nothing to lose, the Young Irelanders — William Smith O’Brien, John Blake Dillon and Meagher raised the flag of open rebellion, culminating at the final meeting (July 28th 1848) at The Commons in the County Tipperary. When the police arrived, they found themselves confronted with barricades, and wisely retreated to Mrs Margaret McCormack’s farmhouse. The police had an impregnable position, and their attackers ran short of ammunition. After two fatalities, and the news that police reinforcements were on the way, the rebels faded quietly away.

The leaders of the rising, including Meagher, were put on trial for high treason, and condemned to be hung, drawn and quartered (despite the jury’s recommendation to mercy). A special Act of Parliament was required to commute the sentences to transportation.

Tasmania

Meagher was off to the penal colony in July 1849; but, from the start, was afforded considerable freedom. He farmed; and married Catherine Bennett, the daughter of another Irish political exile. Only the younger of their two sons survived: yet another Thomas, he went to West Point in 1872.

Meanwhile Meagher informed the magistrate at Campbeltown that he intended to break his parole. He rode to the coast and was picked up by Captain Betts of the Elizabeth Thompson, transferred to the Acorn, and duly arrived in New York by May 1852. He settled into being a leading member of the New York Irish-American community, published his revolutionary speeches, and took American citizenship. He was called to the New York Bar in 1855, and was a mover in establishing, first, The Citizen and later the Irish News (a paper which identified with the Southern States). He remarried, this time the daughter of a successful bussinessman.

The slavery issue

This is the great unmentionable.

With few exceptions, Irish-Americans seem to have had, at least a blind spot, at worst an acceptance on the crucial issue.

We can, for the purposes of this brief summary, suggest a couple of reasons:

  • Irish immigrants were competing for employment with Blacks;
  • The Irish identified with the Democratic Party.
Malcolm may well return to this small matter, even repeatedly.
War service
Meagher is forever identified with the Irish 69th New York volunteers. He had raised his own company of Zouaves (i.e. light cavalry) which became the 69th’s company K.
Their first engagement, at the Battle of Manassas, July 21st 1861, at the same time cememnted Meagher’s own reputation but suggested his military weaknesses. His horse was shot from under him; but others — especially his political enemies — noted the timidity and fragility of the 69th. The latter was in part to be explained by their short enlistment — the 69th was due to return home within hours of Manassas, further they were ill-trained and undisciplined.
This is where that Louis Lang painting fits in.
To an extent, Meagher was now trapped by his own image. He volunteered the short-term 69th for the period of hostilities, and specifically saw it as the equivalent of the Wild Geese of the 18th century. First as elected colonel, then as brigadier-general, Meagher was very much the figurehead for the 69th. Whether, as his biographer for the DNB suggests, he was a courageous commander who helped shape the brigade into one of the army of the Potomac’s finest combat units, is arguable. In any case, the raw recruits of 1861 soon became battle-hardened. In the Seven Days Virginia Campaign of June 1862, in which the 69th distinguished itself, the Federal forces benefitted from the failure of Stonewall Jackson to put in an appearance, and the inexperience of Lee as overall commander, attacking established Federal positions. Had McClellan counterattacked, the Union could have been in Richmond within hours. Instead Lee was able to claim a technical victory.
At Antietam the 69th were to the fore in attacking the Confederate’s position at Bloody Angle. 506 men of the 69th died in the cornfield.
Worse was to come at Fredericksburg (December 13th 1862). Burnside ordered an attack  on the entreched Confederate positions, behind the stone walls of Mayre’s Heights. The 69th confronted  the 24th Georgia (itself replete with Irishmen). 14,000 of Burnside’s 40,000 were slaughtered, and the 69th reduced to a small residue.
At Chancellorsville (May 1863) the 69th were a skeleton command. Meagher had asked, and been refused leave to return to New York to raise reinforcements: he resigned his command. The main criticism of Meagher was that he had wasted his manpower by carelessness brought on by his heavy drinking.
He did not have another military post until he was re-commissioned in December 1864, and sent to Nashville and the military district of Etowah. In January 1865 he was ordered to advance towards Savannah, in support of Sherman’s campaign in Georgia. He made such a mess of the transportation (again blamed on his alcoholism) Grant relieved him of his command forthwith. Meagher returned to New York, and resigned from the Army a few days after the South’s official surrender.
The end of the affair
Political connections had President Johnson appoint Meagher secretary to the Montana territory, and he became the territorial governor in September 1866. Red Cloud’s Sioux were restless, and John Bozeman (of the Bozeman Trail fame) seemingly got himself killed by the Sioux. Meagher rose to the occasion by raising the militia of the Montana Volunteers.
On July 1st 1867 he was aboard a riverboat, the G.A.Thompson, in the Missouri River, awaiting materiel for Fort Benton. He fell overboard (wikipedia presents the alternative “explanations”, which include drunkenness and murder); and his body was never recovered. Meagher County, Montana (population all of 1,900) is named in his honour.
Oh, and they gave him a suitably braggart statue outside the State Capitol in Helena.

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Every picture tells a story

Malcolm was, from an early age, inculcated with prejudice that those massive Victorian panoramas represented “bad taste”. As the mood and the times changed, he found he quite took to them.

So, last Saturday’s Irish Times magazine, with a full frontal of Louis Lang’s Return of the 69th (Irish) Regiment (see pages 10-11, or as above) and the accompanying article by Lisa Marlowe, was mustard on the beef.

It helped that, a few days earlier, Malcolm had been reading Dr Amanda Foreman. That reminded him the vast eighty-square feet of canvas was representing the aftermath of the First Battle of Bull Run, 21st July 1861. This has in the last week been featured in the New York Times‘s running 150th anniversary memorial:

A crisis for the Federal forces had arrived; raising the Rebel Yell for the one of the first times in the war, Confederates built momentum until they forced their enemy into full retreat. Picnicking civilians who had driven out from Washington to witness a Union victory found themselves swept up in a fleeing mass of soldiers, pieces of artillery, supply wagons and carriages that choked the Warrenton Turnpike. Representative Alfred Ely of New York, captured during the chaotic aftermath of the battle and treated roughly by a hot-tempered Confederate colonel, found himself en route to Richmond and confinement in Libby Prison.

The focal point of that Confederate charge was the 69th New York, as Dr Foreman explains:

The field was littered with bodies when Sherman ordered the 69th to make their charge. By now it was late afternoon and many Union soldiers had reached the end of their strength. Sensing his enemies’ exhaustion, in one of his few sensible decisions of that day, General Beauregard ordered the Confederates to make a countercharge. The Rebels surged forward, letting out wild, whooping screams as they ran. The ‘Rebel yell’, as it became later known, froze the Union soldiers in their tracks. Just as Colonel [of the 69th] Corcoran shouted shouted to his men to rally to the flag, two other Federal regiments on the hill smashed into them, pursued by the Confederate cavalry.

The sudden urge to flee spread to other parts of McDowell’s army …

At some point there one might wonder just how magnificent the 69th had been at Bull Run. From which, we might adduce whether this Louis Lang wall-hanging is much more than a propaganda piece.

Now Malcolm would dearly, dearly love to make the 69th New York the heroes of the War — perhaps on a part with the 6th Louisiana Volunteers on the other side. Sadly, it just doesn’t quite work that way.

Up front and central

In the centre of that Louis Lang painting is Captain Thomas Meager, of whom we hear a great deal. Lisa Marlowe has him thus:

Cpt Thomas Francis Meagher is the central character of Lang’s painting, rising above the crowd on the back of his bay horse, waving his cap to the Irish-American grandees on the balcony of the Washington Hotel. After a trip to Paris to congratulate France on its 1848 revolution, it was Meagher who brought back the tricolour that would become the flag of independent Ireland.

Let us move swiftly on …

… to Dr Foreman on the Battle of Antietam (17 September 1862), when Captain Meagher has risen to higher things:

The Irish Brigade lost half its men in less than twenty minutes; the brigade general, Thomas Meager, ‘the Prince of New York’, survived by being too drunk to ride.

Meagher is thereby nominated as number 25 of The not-so-great and the not-so-good.

None of that may seem entirely fair.

However, scrutinise Louis Lang’s great effort carefully. Remember: this is the rough end of New York in 1861. Do you see a single black face? Now consider this, from Noel Ignatiev’s How the Irish Became White (page 120):

On the docks, the Irish effort to gain the rights of white men collided with the black struggle to maintain the right to work; the result was perpetual warfare. Black workers had traditionally been an important part of the waterfront work force in New York, Philadelphia, and other Northern cities, as well as Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans, and other Southern ports. By the 1850s the New York waterfront had become an Irish preserve; few black men could find work on the docks except during strikes under police protection, and even Germans were unwelcome. In 1850, Irish laborers had struck demanding the dismissal of a black laborer who was working alongside them. During the strike of 1852, and again in 1855, 1862, and 1863, Irish longshoremen battled black workers who had been brought in to take their places. The Longshoremen’s United Benevolent Society, formed in 1852, was exclusively Irish, even marching annually in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade. It is significant, however, that at no time did the Society declare its commitment to an Irish monopoly of jobs, stating instead that it sought to ensure only that “work upon the docks … shall be attended to solely and absolutely by members of the ‘Longshoremen’s Association,’ and such white laborers as they see fit to permit upon the premises.”

This, of course, is all a precursor to the New York Draft Riots of 1863 —which is a polite definition of a pogrom against Black people, which included the torching of an orphanage for back children. Then the (predominantly, but not exclusively) Irish working class of New York went on the rampage:

… by 1862 abolitionist speakers drew huge audiences, black and white, in the city. Increasing support for the abolitionists and for emancipation led to anxiety among New York’s white proslavery supporters of the Democratic Party, particularly the Irish. From the time of Lincoln’s election in 1860, the Democratic Party had warned New York’s Irish and German residents to prepare for the emancipation of slaves and the resultant labor competition when southern blacks would supposedly flee north. To these New Yorkers, the Emancipation Proclamation was confirmation of their worst fears. In March 1863, fuel was added to the fire in the form of a stricter federal draft law. All male citizens between twenty and thirty-five and all unmarried men between thirty-five and forty-five years of age were subject to military duty. The federal government entered all eligible men into a lottery. Those who could afford to hire a substitute or pay the government three hundred dollars might avoid enlistment. Blacks, who were not considered citizens, were exempt from the draft.

In the month preceding the July 1863 lottery, in a pattern similar to the 1834 anti-abolition riots, antiwar newspaper editors published inflammatory attacks on the draft law aimed at inciting the white working class. They criticized the federal government’s intrusion into local affairs on behalf of the “nigger war.” Democratic Party leaders raised the specter of a New York deluged with southern blacks in the aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation. White workers compared their value unfavorably to that of southern slaves, stating that “[we] are sold for $300 [the price of exemption from war service] whilst they pay $1000 for negroes.” In the midst of war-time economic distress, they believed that their political leverage and economic status was rapidly declining as blacks appeared to be gaining power. On Saturday, July 11, 1863, the first lottery of the conscription law was held. For twenty-four hours the city remained quiet. On Monday, July 13, 1863, between 6 and 7 A.M., the five days of mayhem and bloodshed that would be known as the Civil War Draft Riots began.

At least 120 black New Yorkers (but “not citizens”) were murdered. Even after the Civil War, the reconstruction of an orphange for black children was resisted by good Irish-Americans.

It is worth remembering that the New York Irish were good fighters — but not for abolition.

 

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Georgie, porgie, no pudding, no pie

George Osborne increasingly resembles the rabbit in the headlamps. Or the hedgehog defying the steamroller.  Or the condemned man approaching the gas chamber. Or another once-promising young politician waking up to the the old Chinese curse.

Today’s performance, hailing a growth of one fifth of one per cent in the GDP as … well … “growth”, was dismal. Even the Spectator’s David Blackburn can manage only anaemic as a descriptor, in an uncharacteristic three-sentence terseness.

For Osborne to deliver his “good news” in a small bicycle factory was a nice, representative, metaphor for the UK economy. Any other finance minister across Europe would have looked for somewhere more dynamic: a high-tech car plant, for instance?

Then there were the excuses: so far we’ve had “unseasonable” warm weather in April and that royal wedding.

Germany, of course, has only one public holiday a year — October 3rd — German Unity Day. However, many Länder, and the more productive ones at that, would have had six in the same last quarter:

  • April 22, Good Friday;
  • April 25th, Easter Monday;
  • May 1st, Labour Day;
  • June 2nd, Ascension Day;
  • June 13th, Pentecost Monday;
  • June 23rd, Corpus Christi.
Dearie me, all those Mercs, Beemers and Audis that must have gone unmade and  unsold because of such lethargy.

And, naturally, we all believe that the Japanese tsunami and the Euro crises affected Britain disproportionately.

By no coincidence:

Reuters is reporting that the Office for National Statistics will not publish a breakdown of second quarter GDP by spending until October, more than a month after its anticipated release on August 26.

Now, why would that happen, might one think? Turd-burnishing takes time.

The pick of the press-cuttings litter is probably from Jim Pickard, drafting an Osborne “speech” for the Financial Times:

“……And I take great reassurance that in a sea of financial disaster, surrounded by the shattered fiscal remains of Greece, Italy, Iceland and Portugal, our great nation is nothing less than a safe haven of economic growth. A rock, no less. For sure, that growth is less exceptional than it would have been, due to several one-off factors.

The weather was slightly too cold at the start of the year and a bit too warm later on; and quite windy as well. The tragic events in Japan have undermined our crucial supply chains. And the Royal Family have only themselves to blame by organising a wedding – instigating an economically disruptive Bank Holiday – at such a sensitive time.

I could point the finger elsewhere. Lady Gaga went on tour during the spring, which kept a significant number of productive units away from their desks. Nick Clegg indulged in a five-day visit to Brazil, when he could have been marshalling the forces of economic activity back home.

There were the wrong types of leaves on the line. And the dog ate my homework.”

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The not-so-great and the not-so-good, no 24

As Malcolm is recording elsewhere, he has spent the last week in the company of the delightful — if extended — Dr Amanda Foreman. Out of that popped a couple of devious characters who deserve closer study. Since we haven’t had one of these for a while, here goes.

She was Kane, but was he Able?

In a footnote (page 589) Dr Foreman refers to this “off-colour Victorian joke” about octogenarian Lord Palmerston being cited in “a bizarre divorce case”. That appears in Pam’s DNB entry:

Womanizing, until desire outran performance, was only one of Palmerston’s recreations. As late as 1863 a shady Irish journalist, O’Kane, cited the then prime minister as co-respondent in his divorce. The case was dismissed, and with it a claim for £20,000 damages, for want of proof that the O’Kanes were married.

J.T.Delane, the editor of the Times mentions the case in a letter to G.W.Dasent (November 4th, 1863):

The news here is of a suit for divorce against Palmerston, at the instance of a certain Timothy O’Kane of Grove Place, Brompton, the place of crim. con. alleged being Cambridge House, and the time June 23 last ; of course, it is a mere attempt to extort money, but none the less unpleasant. He, however, only laughs at it and is coming up to the Lord Mayor’s Day to show how little he cares for it. Otherwise, there is very little doing.

However, two days later, Delane adds:

The Palmerston scandal is stoutly denied, but either there is something in it, or the public invention is more fertile than ever, for the details stated are very precise. We have, however, often agreed in the case of previous scandals that “the lie circumstantial ” is greatly on the increase and much improved. There is absolutely no other public news and not much of any kind.

Dasent’s reply, dated November 14th, from Corfu, tells us something:

I do hope the Palmerston scandal is not true, or that it will blow over. The names and places sound rather Irish and therefore untruthful.

All this in the throes of the Schleswig-Holstein Question.

The O’Kane allegations were the sensation of the early months of 1864. They went around the world: in the midst of the Civil War, the New York Times reported on it at some length.

As we have seen, Palmerston was accused by Timothy (but see below) O’Kane of the seduction of his wife, Margaret. The allegation was that Palmerston and Mrs O’Kane had several assignments at the Palmerston mansion, Cambridge House, in Piccadilly. Margaret O’Kane first denied any involvement before changing her story: hers had been a Catholic wedding, carried out in a private house, and therefore was not lawful. O’Kane withdrew his suit on the morning of the trial. Palmerston denied everything, but counter-charged that O’Kane had been prepared to withdraw his accusation for the consideration of £20,000. In public, O’Kane maintained his suit would have succeeded, but he had declined to pursue it to protect his children.

Disraeli, the ultimate Tory cynic, suggested to Lord Derby that Palmerston might have contrived the whole “absurd escapade” himself, as a popularity boost. Were the story widely published,  “He would sweep the country”.

Timothy Joseph O’Kane

There is a monograph, The Life and Times of Thadeus O’Kane, by Rod Kirkpatrick, which Malcolm has not seen, so his best source for O’Kane is the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

From this we learn that Timothy Joseph O’Kane was born 24 January 1820 at Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland, the son of Gregory O’Kane and his wife Johanna O’Kane, née Fraimes.

He had studied for the priesthood at Maynooth College, but moved to London to work as a journalist. On October 2nd, 1851, he contracted this odd marriage to Margaret Matilda Augusta Morris, described as “an actress”. Together they had four daughters and one son.

After the non-action for non-divorce (about which the ADB remains hazy), O’Kane left London, adopted the forename Thadeus, and sailed for Australia.

His first position there was in Ipswich,  sub editor for the Northern Australian in Ipswich, south-east Queensland, before moving to the cattle-town of Rockhampton and the Morning Bulletin. By 1873 he was editing The Northern Miner in Charters Towers, a paper he bought outright in January 1874 from the proceeds of a libel action, and remained editor until five months before his death (May 17th 1890) at Ipswich. He was involved in Liberal Party politics, as an Alderman on the local Council, and contesting three parliamentary elections.

As the ADB has it:

O’Kane was one of the most colourful, influential and hard-hitting figures in early Queensland journalism: he lost count of the libel actions he faced. In his own words, he had ‘a warm temperament and strong passions’, and was a staunch friend and a bitter enemy. He abhorred J[ohn] M[urtagh] Macrossan, editor of a rival paper, but was a persuasive advocate for such favourite interests as the Liberal Party, Roman Catholicism, separation, republicanism, Irish Home Rule, mining development and miners’ safety. Once called ‘the best Radical in North Queensland’, he had a brand of paternalistic liberalism which, by his death, ceased to satisfy an increasingly radical mining community.

O’Kane’s contest with Macrossan (a Donegal man) was both journalistic and political. In the 1878 Election, Macrossan had swung his papers, the Northern Advocate and Miners’ Journal, behind the Conservative Party of Thomas MacIlwraith. This prompted O’Kane’s denunciation of Macrossan’s papers as  “a collection of lies and hoodlum scurrility.”

A bit of O’Kane’s legacy

In 1876 three of Thadeus O’Kane’s children joined him in Australia. The son, John Gregory O’Kane, became a reporter for his father at the Northern Miner. In 1881 John married Jeanie Elizabeth O’Kane (from Ballymoney in the County Antrim), a 21-year-old school-teacher. There was a bit of scandal there, too, when John O’Kane got himself involved in an affair with la donna e mobileDaisy Bates (originally Maggie O’Dwyer of the County Tipp), which involved the suicide of a fellow reporter. Daisy Bates went on to a short-lived marriage with “Breaker” Morant.

That part of Queensland doesn’t have a long written history, but Jeanie O’Kane’s cottage (she was widowed in 1898) remains, and there she was living by the end of WW1:

There are several things which should not be missed when visiting Charters Towers and The Miner’s Cottage is near the top of that list. The old Miner’s Cottage building is a typical example of a late 1800’s workers cottage. These timber-framed “inside/outside” homes were a common sight in the early days of this town. In fact many hundreds of these dwellings were constructed between 1880 and 1920. 

The Miner’s Cottage (also known as O’Kanes cottage) is situated on its original site in the heritage precinct of Charters Towers. It was once the home of a very colourful character, Thadeus O’Kane’s daughter-in-law. O’Kane was a very influential man in town as the proprietor and editor of the Northern Miner newspaper. The building is now the home of the “Miner’s Cottage Collection”, a fascinating range of domestic and mining related artefacts that have been sourced from the local community. 

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True Brit

Open to correction, but Malcolm reckons just four “British” riders appeared in the 167 finishers of the Tour de France:

  • 31: Geraint Thomas, an hour and 48 seconds back, born in Cardiff;
  • 76: David Millar, two hours, fourteen minutes and fifteen seconds back,  born in Malta;
  • 130: David Cavendish, at three hours, fifteen minutes and five seconds, born in the Isle of Man;
  • 137: Ben Swift, at three hours, eighteen minutes and seven seconds, born in Northampton.
To nobody’s great surprise, the much-paraded (by the Murdoch publicity machine at least) Sky Pro-Cycling team finished in sixth place (of ten).
Malcolm’s fascination for le Tour arises from two absolutes:
  • it invariably marked the last three weeks of the school summer term;
  • he once tried to walk up the last climb of a stage at Serre-Chevalier, which a fortnight before these guys had raced up.

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