if I be alive and your mind hold and your dinner worth the eating.
That quotation, brief as it is, cut-and -pasted from the MIT site, where you will also find this headline: “Big Julie”, of course, was the Chicago gangster (played by B.S. Pully, the “blue” comedian) in Guys and Dolls. Big Julie always played with his own dice.
While we’re “off-colour” …
… there are these insights from Damian Thompson, courtesy of Saturday’s Telegraph:
Here’s a trenchant headline for you: “Transgender community celebrates ‘great diversity of gender identity’ in new book.” And another: “President tells youth groups to be vigilant against racist attitudes and to value diversity in society.” Care to guess which venerable organ published them? Here’s a clue: “Multicultural awards take place in Dublin following three-year break.”
Actually, that last one is a bit of a scoop. To anyone who knows modern Ireland, the notion that Dublin went a whole three years without multicultural awards is frankly incredible. Somebody really screwed up. They’re supposed to happen every month at least. The newspaper is the Irish Times, which these days makes the Guardian look like the bulletin of the Prayer Book Society. Rumour has it that it employs a special nurse to soothe joints sprained by marathon sessions of finger-wagging.
This week was a good one for the finger-waggers. The Irish parliament passed a law stripping political parties of state funding unless 30 per cent of their candidates are women; in later elections the quota will rise to 40 per cent. This means that bright men will be dissuaded from entering politics because the system will fill the Dáil with dim hectoring feminists with DIY Sinéad O’Connor haircuts. (Incidentally, did you know that eight out of the past 10 World Hectoring Champions have been lady members of the Irish Green party? It’s called Comhaontas Glas. Don’t ask me how it’s pronounced: the bizarre vagaries of Gaelic pronunciation were designed to trip up the English.)
Anyway, my point is not that rigged elections will destroy the democratic mandate of the Dáil, though they will. It’s that an especially toxic strain of political correctness has infected almost the entire Irish intelligentsia. Small-government conservatives are treated like lepers – something that, the Guardian/BBC axis notwithstanding, isn’t true of British public life. Meanwhile, the sucking up to minorities is beyond parody: a recent Irish Times profile of the travellers made them sound like latter-day Athenians. How long before there’s a transvestite traveller quota in the Dáil?
Admittedly, the programme of thought reform is not complete: the Irish working class is still instinctively socially conservative. But it is, unsurprisingly, increasingly anti-clerical, and that takes us to the heart of the matter. Churchgoing in Ireland has fallen off a cliff, thanks to the clergy’s dreadful record of committing and covering up paedophile crimes. The moral vacuum at the top of a hierarchical society has been filled by political correctness, much of it imported from the European Union at the height of Ireland’s Brussels-worship.
Identify innate prejudices lurking in those five paragraphs. But — hey!— we can’t abide “political correctness”, can we?
Your starter for ten:
- Irish is a an alien tongue, so that’s fair game (just don’t try mocking the Frogs or the Huns, the Nips or the Chinks, when you’re looking to do business with them).
- Gender equalities? can’t have that! who’ll cook dinner and wash my socks?
- It’s all the fault of the EU, isn’t it?
- And Guardianistas are always fair game.
Add your own pig-ignorances at (s)will.
Gutter xenophobia (would Tony Gallagher, editor of the Telegraph, be capable of arguing that Thompson wasn’t in the gutter?) is endemic to English journalism. Perhaps we should omit the “journalism” substantive. And Scottish independence could, happily, restore to its rightful place the lost verse of the National Anthem?—
Oh, dear! another irony! Field Marshall George Wade (1673-1748), whose roads crushed the Scots after the 1715 Jacobite Rising, was Irish-born at Kilavally, co. Westmeath, the son of a Cromwellian Major. So obviously a candidate for one of Malcolm’s occasionals on the Not-so-great and the not-so-good.
A Malcolmian aside
Sadly — for it would prompt an digression of some length, the story that Wade’s illegitimate daughter married Ralph Allen, whose quarries produced that gorgeous limestone to build Georgian Bath, seems just a tale.
Ralph Allen, entrepreneur, postmaster, Cornishman, patron and friend of Alexander Pope and Whig politicians, is better recognised in his literary version: Squire Allworthy in Fielding’s Tom Jones.
Thompson is mining a seam has been endemic in English thinking for centuries. Gerald of Wales, when he accompanied Prince John on his Irish trip, could claim the original copyright:
This people, then, is truly barbarous, being not only barbarous in their dress, but suffering their hair and beards to grow enormously in an uncouth manner, just like the modern fashion recently introduced; indeed all their habits are barbarisms. But habits are formed by mutual intercourse; and as this people inhabit a country so remote from the rest of the world, and lying at its furthest extremity, forming, as it were, another world, and are thus secluded from civilised nations, they learn nothing, and practise nothing but the barbarism in which they were born and bred, and which sticks to them like a second nature. Whatever natural gifts they possess are excellent, in whatever requires industry they are worthless.
Bede, by comparison, had been much more positive. Perhaps that is because in AD730 conquest and domination were not the agenda, in the way they had become in Gerald’s day:
Ireland is broader than Britain, is healthier and has a much milder climate, so that snow rarely lasts for more than three days. Hay is never cut in summer for winter use nor are stables built for their beasts. No reptile is found there nor could a serpent survive; for although serpents have often been brought from Britain, as soon as the ship approaches land they are affected by the scent of the air and quickly perish. In fact almost everything that the island produces is efficacious against poison. For instance we have seen how, in the case of people suffering from snake-bite, the leaves of manuscripts from Ireland were scraped, and the scrapings put in water and given to the sufferer to drink. These scrapings at once absorbed the whole violence of the spreading poison and assuaged the swelling. The island abounds in milk and honey, nor does it lack vines, fish, and birds. It is also noted for the hunting of stags and roe-deer. It is properly the native land of the Irish; they emigrated from it as we have described and so formed the third nation in Britain in addition to the Britons and the Picts.
Advance the fiendish Fenian
By the time Punch could produce that gem, the main staples of the prejudice were established. “Britannia”, stern and wise, was defending her dependent junior “sister” from the demons. the Irish peasant is characteristically deformed and depraved.
That is a mild version. There are far worse.
He was the chief cartoonist for Punch between 1841 and 1861, and his illustrations for Dickens, especially A Christmas Carol became iconic. He was also seminal in ramping up hibernophobia among English readers.
Repeatedly he reaches for repulsive anthropomorphic grotesques to depict things Irish.
This shows as early as 1848:That, of course, is the Young Ireland movement. Malcolm has been this way, recently, and feels no great need to traipse back through Widow McCormack’s potato patch.
Making John Mitchel (the usual spelling, despite Leech) the point of that cartoon, to the exclusion of O’Brien, Meager and Dillon, might seem perverse. It does however, precisely date the moment. Mitchel was — arguably — the hottest head, and, as editor of The United Irishman, a tall poppy to be cut down. Mitchel’s arrest in March 1848, his prompt conviction for treason felony, and sentence of transportation, pushed the Young Irelanders to their abortive rising.
In the last couple of decades, they’ve become a regular on wall-plaques, posters and tea-towels. They inevitably have a faux-Irish bar named in their honour. Just off the Strip in Las Vegas, so you have been warned.
Have you missed the hype it goes like this:
In 1874, word reached an astounded Queen Victoria that the Sir Charles Duffy who had been elected Prime Minister of Australia, was the same Charles Duffy who had been transported into exile there 25 years before. On the Queen’s demand, the records of the rest of the transported Irishmen were revealed and this is what was discovered:
The Queen’s Record of the Rest of the Transported Irishmen:
- Thomas Francis Meagher: Governor of Montana
- Terrance MacManus: Brigadier General, U.S. Army.
- Patrick Donahue: Brigadier General, U.S. Army.
- Morris Leyne: Attorney General of Australia, in which office…
- Michael Ireland succeeded him as Attorney General of Australia.
- Richard O’Gorman: Governor General of Newfoundland.
- Thomas D’Arcy McGee: Member of Parliament, Montreal, Minister of Agriculture and President of Council Dominion of Canada
- John Mitchel: Prominent New York Politician, father of John Purroy Mitchel, Mayor of New York at the outbreak of world war I.
To which it is obligatory to add:
The moral of the story: you can’t keep a good Irishman down.
Malcolm suspects a lot of that is “improved” from Tim Pat Coogan’s own inventiveness, especially from Wherever Green is Worn. A cynic might add not all went well:
- Meagher drowned in the Missouri, having mysteriously — though probably drunk —fallen from a steamboat;
- MacManus died in abject poverty in San Francisco,as early as 1861, so no Civil War command;
- Donahue is frequently confused with his near-name-sake — the Patrick Donahoe who died in his bed, aged 90, a prominent Boston businessman, newspaper owner and philanthropist;
- Neither “Leyne” (even his name is disputed, though he seems to have come fromKerry) nor Ireland seem to receive an entry in the Dictionary of Australian Biography;
- McGee was never more than a Member of the Canadian Parliament, but was assassinated;
- Richard O’Gorman became a New York lawyer and judge, and here may be confused with Sir Terence O’Brien, Manchester-born Governor of Newfoundland 1889-95;
- Before 1901 there was no Australia, and the six territories were separate entities, so Duffy was no Prime Minister thereof — though briefly he was Premier and Chief Secretary of the province of Victoria, and ditto for Attorneys General of Australia: ;
- John Purroy Mitchel fell out of aircraft, having failed to strap himself in.
There are several fuller analyses of this superb urban myth.
More of Leech
When John Leech produced this one for Punch (14 December 1861), he was exploiting several contemporary ideas.
One was the notion of the “missing link” in evolution (Leech had used a similar representation for a visiting French zoologist earlier in the year). Hence, the Irish nationalist belongs to an irrational and inferior species.
Specifically, though, the burning topic was the Trent incident. A Unionist captain had removed two Confederates delegates from a British merchant ship. Daniel O’Donoghue, a Nationalist MP, used a public meeting at Dublin’s Rotunda to declare that Ireland would offer England neither money nor men at this moment of tension. Notice how Punch and Leech are leaning towards support for the Confederates (refer on this to Amanda Foreman, whom Malcolm has noted previously, and more than once).
Leech in Ireland
Through a shared enthusiasm for hunting, Leech became friends with the Reverend Samuel Reynolds Hole, squire and vicar of Caunton, Notts. In 1859 the two travelled through Ireland, and out of that trip came A Little Tour in Ireland, with illustrations by Leech.
After a long run up, getting to Dublin, and a rumination around TCD, we join Hole in Phoenix Park, amid the RIC:
Picked men, and admirably trained, they are as smart and clean, lithe and soldier-like, as the severest sergeant could desire. They do credit to him whose name they bear, for they are still called Peelers, after their godfather Sir Robert, who originated the force, when Secretary for Ireland. Fifty of them had left Dublin for Kilkenny that moring, to expostulate with the bold pisantry on the impropriety of smashing some reaping-machines recently introduced among them. The Irishman is not quick to appreciate agricultural improvements. It required an Act of Parliament to prevent him Attaching the plough to the tails of his horses …
We have Hole’s number: all that concern for the horses, rather than implied rural unemployment. And isn’t the pun on peasant/piss ant so neat and witty? Or not.
As these couple of examples show, Leech went along with the fun. even when he got away from the anthropomorphics:
Hole, who — for a beneficed and married cleric of the Church of England — spends a remarkable part of his narrative admiring young ladies (and Leech sketching them) manages the odd occasion of human sympathy, shows a capacity to write, and almost manages to maintain the effect:
We witnessed at the railway station, on our arrival at Galway, a most painful and touching scene, — the departure of some emigrants, and their last separation, here on earth, from dear relations and friends. The train was about to start, and the platform was crowded with men, women and children, pressing round for a last fond look. Ever and anon, a mother or a sister would force a way into the carriages, flinging her arms around her beloved, only to be separated by a superior strength, and parted from them with such looks of misery as disturbed the soul with pity. And then, for the first time, we heard the wild Irish “cry”, beginning with a low, plaintive wail, and gradually rising in its tone of intense sorrow …
Nor was this great grief simulated, … but came gushing from the full fountain of those loving hearts. There were faces there no actor could assume — faces which would have immortalised the painter who could have traced them truly, but were beyond the compass of art. Two, especially, I shall never forget. A youth of eighteen or nineteen, who had a cheerful word and pleasant smile for all, though you could see the while, in his white cheek and quivering lip, how grief was gnawing his brave Spartan heart … and the other, an elderly man, who had stood somewhat aloof from the rest, with his arms folded, and his head bent, motionless, speechless, with a face on which despair had written, I shall smile no more until I welcome death…
Many of the emigrants had bunches of wild flowers and heather, and one of them a shamrock in a broken flowerpot, as memorials of dear ould Ireland. Nor does this fond love of home and kindred decline in a distant land; no less a sum than £7,520,000 having been sent from America to Ireland, in the years 1848 to 1854 inclusive, according to the statement of the Emigration Commissioners.
No end of prejudice
Leech was not unique, not the first, and by no means the last in this mode. Nor is it entirely an English failing. This from as recent as 2005, and Vancouver:
So Damian Thompson can rest easy. He and his like have taught well. As Malcolm can personally testify:
- one can be born and raised in Norfolk,
- one’s speech still has those Anglian broad vowels and missed consonants,
- spend half-a-century of adult life in England’s fair and pleasant land,
- because of a while at school and university in Dublin, one is inevitably “that mad Irishman”.