Category Archives: Ireland

Getting there: the generation game

This Poo Beresford continues to hang in the air, bear down on my mind, and burden my conscience, as it has now for a couple of weeks. I tried sneaking up on it, through the start of the Plantation of Ulster. Now I’ll try to move on and up the line of descent.

What I hope will show is how the Beresfords climbed the social ladder, with a speed and success that outran the other planters.

The pain now arriving at platform one …

iu

Don’t rush past the map of newly-minted County Londonderry, by Thomas Raven (and there’s one of greater definition on-line here). It shows how the twelve great liveried companies found themselves lumbered with swathes of countryside, about which they had little knowledge, but which they were committed to pacify and populate.

So, in 1610 two thrusting chancers arrived as the advance party: John Rowley and Tristram Beresford. The former was the overseer at Derry, deputed by the Goldsmiths; the latter by the Clothworkers at Coleraine. On paper, it might seem Rowley had the better prospects … but watch and learn.

A bit of begatting

And Tristram Beresford (about 1574-1666) begat Sir Tristram Beresford, 1st Baronet of Coleraine.

baronetsAnd Sir Tristram Beresford (?-1673) married Anne Rowley, daughter of aforesaid John. He thereby begat a son (Randal) and two daughters. He was MP for the County of Londonderry in the Irish Parliament in 1634, 1656-58 and 1661-1666. By his second marriage to Sarah Sackville he begat a further three sons and three daughters. The baronetage dates from 1665.

And Sir Randal Beresford (?-1681), 2nd Baronet of Coleraine, married Catherine Annesley, daughter of Francis Annesley, 1st Viscount Valentia.

Pause for thought: Annesley was an intimate of Lord Deputy Chichester (who was, in turn, no great fan of the Ulster Planation — in large part because he was not a prime beneficiary). So: two generations on, the Kentish Beresfords are in close proximity with the on-the-spot rulers of Ireland, who via Annesley have control of the Irish exchequer.

And Sir Randal, with Catherine, begat Tristram, the third baronet, two other sons, and two daughters.

And Sir Tristram Beresford (1669-1701), 3rd Baronet of Coleraine, married the eccentric Nichola Sophia Hamilton (she had all kinds of spiritual traumas with the Earl of Tyrone), daughter of the Baron Hamilton of Glenawly, and by her begat four daughters and a single son. This Sir Tristram was “out” with the Williamites, attainted by James II, and “restored” after the Glorious Revolution. He knew which side his bread was buttered; and we might notice how the Beresfords are now, most assuredly, in good odour and deep with the Ascendancy … and with the Whigs now running the show in Westminster.

If you were with me in that preceding paragraph, you’ll have notice that the bold Sir Tristram pegged it, aged just 32. His heir, Sir Marcus Beresford (1694-1763) now the 4th baronet, was still barely an infant. His “guardians” were the Viscount and then Viscountess Dungannon (i.e. the Trevor family). I’m feeling the urge to post on how the Dungannon title was rapidly resurrected after Marcus Trevor’s death (8th November 1706): and it bodes to be on the salacious side.

Anyway, back to the begatting.

tyroneAnd Sir Marcus Beresford, 4th Baronet of Coleraine, scored all the jackpots. Barely of age, he became MP for Coleraine: though Lodge’s  Peerage of Ireland (page 302) puts it, somewhat drily (long ∬s and all):

… before he attained his full age, was cho∫en to parliament for the borough of Coleraine, which he continued to repre∫ent, until K. George I was plea∫ed to advance him to the peerage by privy ∫eal, dated at St Jame∫’s 11 June, and by patent at Dublin 4 November 1720.

In 1717 he married Lady Catharine Power, the only child and heiress of the last and 8th Earl of Tyrone.

The Powers descended from the Anglo-Normans who arrived with Strongbow. The surname “Power” was anglicised from “le Poer”, and now was as good a moment to revert to the Frenchified, poncified form. From the “le Poer” side, the match with a warranted Williamite (now Hanoverian) Whig happily expunged any hang-over from the messy business involving the execution (for being a Jacobite colonel) of the 6th Earl.

The bold Sir Marcus, now making his mark in London society and being a bit of a weighty number in Anglo-Irish politics, deserved his Hanoverian  silver balls and ermine — so, on 4th November 1720, he was advanced to Earl of Tyrone, Viscount Tyrone, and Baron Beresford. And all that before his 27th year was completed.

And the Earl of Tyrone, with the Baroness-le-Poer-in-her-own-right, begat three sons, who all died young, before the fourth, George de la Poer Beresford (born January 1735) would survive and inherit. A fifth, John, followed the money, became a barrister, a commissioner of the revenue, MP for Waterford and member of both UK and Irish Privy Councils. As well as taster of wines for the port of Dublin. A seventh son (#6 also died an infant) went into the church, became Bishop of Ossory and spawned a total of ten sons and six daughters.

And Sir George de la Poer Beresford succeeded to the Earldom, 4th April 1763. His first appointment was as Governor and Keeper of the Customs of Waterford (that’s the de la Poor connection). He took his place as a member of the Irish Privy Council and became a knight of the Order of St Patrick. All of that signified he was a heavy hitter, at the apex of the Irish Ascendancy.

Troubled times

Let’s lift our eyes from Irish simplicities, where the divisions (and opportunities for divide-and-rule) were clearly defined. Things across the water were complicated by the accession of George III and the congealing of the British parliamentary two-party system. Basil Williams, for the Oxford History of England, had it like this:

On 25 October 1760 the old king, George II, died. A choleric, obstinate little man with violent prejudices and a great sense of his own importance … For the last six years of his reign he was bewildered by the intrigues and incompetence of Newcastle and still more by the masterful assuredness of Pitt. But, though vastly preferring his gemültlich little electorate [Hanover], where he had no worries and everybody was deferential, he was a good constitutional king in always recognizing, after much preliminary blustering, his own limitations and the necessity of acceptin[g] the advice of ministers supported by ‘that d____d House of Commons’…

The new king, George III, in his first public act showed his anxiety for peace and his antagonism to Pitt’s bellicose humour. In his declaration to the privy council on his accession he spoke of ‘this bloody and expensive war’, softened down, it is true, on Pitt’s demand, in the published version, to ‘expensive but just and necessary war’. [pages 367-368]

So the diplomatic card-game began, with Pitt holding the trumps (not just the Canadian and Caribbean conquest, but even Belle Île, a fraction of France itself) but marked cards (the French negotiator was Castelnau, who had been one of Newcastle bought informants).

With the Peace of Paris, Bute and Fox departed the political arena. Fox had run the national exchequer as an adjunct to his own; and it would take twenty years to settle scores. Grenville was a clean skin, but prickly about his reputation, and suspected — with reason — that Bute had open channels to the king. Grenville attempted to impose himself, and crack down: Wilkes was the prime target. While Greville was stabilising the national finances, the partisan cleavage was widening.

A bit more begatting

For the Beresfords (now Poer Beresfords) to rise higher, George de la Poer Beresford needed a good political marriage. He found it in Elizabeth Monck, daughter of Henry Monck and Lady Anne-Isabella Bentinck (herself daughter of the Duke of Portland). Note those surnames: the Poor Beresfords had chosen sides in the developing political trench-fighting. The marriage produced four sons and four daughters.

Thus we arrive at Poo Beresford and his equally-remarkable brother: neither of whom were legitimate. But that’s another story …

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Filed under History, Ireland, Irish politics, Northern Ireland

Ulster’s “New Men”, 1610

Here I am again, slip-sliding gently towards a promise on Sir John Poo Beresford, (1766–1844).

Getting there involves getting my mind around the Beresford family, and that was where I was starting.

New Men

What was in my mind was how the Ulster Plantation represents another dimension of the “New Men” of the Renaissance and its aftermath.

The conceit starts in ancient Rome. A novus homo would be, precisely, the individual, the first person in a previously-undistinguished family, elected to the Senate.  Seneca, in Epistle XLIV, laid down the rules (or lack of them):

… who is well-born?  He who is by nature well fitted for virtue. That is the one point to be considered; otherwise, if you hark back to antiquity, every one traces back to a date before which there is nothing. From the earliest beginnings of the universe to the present time, we have been led forward out of origins that were alternately illustrious and ignoble. A hall full of smoke- begrimed busts does not make the nobleman.  No past life has been lived to lend us glory, and that which has existed before us is not ours; the soul alone renders us noble, and it may rise superior to Fortune out of any earlier condition, no matter what that condition has been.

The notion was serially revisited by Boethius (a civil servant under Theodoric), Dante (whose background is cloudy), Petrarch (son of a lawyer), and Chaucer (a background from Ipswich shoe-makers). It regains currency in the Italian fifteenth-century, and the ideas are current in Elizabethan England.

Enter the Beresfords

Another point of departure was John Lodge, The Peerage of Ireland, revised by Mervyn Archdall, vol 2, pages 296-7:

Tristram Beresford, Esq., the third son, was born before the year 1574, and coming into Ireland as manager for the corporation of Londoners, known by the name of the society of the New-Plantation in Ulster, at the time they made the plantation in county of Derry, in the reign of James I, settled at Coleraine in the coiunty of Londonderry, having issue by the daughter of _____ Brooke [*] of London, two sons and three daughters, viz:

(1) Sir Tristram, his successor.

(2) Michael of Dungarvan and of Coleraine, Esq., who was constituted, with his brother, and others, commissioners in the precinct of Derry, for examining the delinquency of the Irish, in order so the distinguishing of their qualifications for transplantion; and in 1654 he was sheriff of the counties of Derry, Donegall, and Tyrone, of which he was also a commissioner of the civil survey and revenue. He married Mary, daughter of Sir John Leake, Knt. and by his will, dated 5 July 1660, directed his body to be buried in the church of Coleraine, in his father’s sepulchre, which was done accordingly; and he had issue by her, who was buried at Temple-Patrick in the county of Antrim, one son Tristram, who died young; and four daughters his coheirs, viz: Anne, married to Thomas Whyte, of Redhills in county of Cavan, Esq.; Olive, first to _____ Thornton, and secondly to Sir Oliver St George, of Headford in Galway, Bart.; Elizabeth to captain Robert Shields; and _____ to Arthur Upton of Temple-Patrick, Esq.

(1) Daughter Anne was first married to Sir Edward Doddington, and secondly to Sir Francis Cooke, Knt, and was buried at Coleraine.

(2) Jane, to George Cary of Redcastle in the county of Donegall (descended from the Carys of Clonelly in Devonshire) and by him, who died 22 April 1640, had five sons and four daughters, viz. Francis of Redcastle (who married Avice, sister to Captain Henry Vaughan, and they both lie buried in the church of Redcastle, having had issue Francis; Chichester, who died unmarried; Margaret; Avice; and Letitia); George; Edward of Dungiven in the county of Derry, (who died 4 June 1686, leaving issue Edward, George; Tristram; Elizabeth; Mary; Anee and Jaen); Robert of Whitecastle in the county of Donegall, (who died in March 1681, leaving Robert; George; Edward; Tristram; William; Anne; Letitia and Mary);

(3) Susanna, married to _____ Ellis.

[*] Elsewhere there ‘s “genealogist” gossip which identifies her as Susannah Brooke or Elizabeth Brookes. Note the naming of the third daughter, which may help.

tree1

Already we can outline four generations, and we haven’t ventured beyond the seventeenth century.

We can start to draw some “conclusions”

The most obvious is that the leading Ulster planters were — very definitely — young men (typically younger sons) on the make.

[1] Many were sprung, like Tristram Beresford, from the London guildsmen. This again makes perfect sense. The London liveried companies were not over-pleased by having the whole plantation scheme descended on them:

When the embryo project was unveiled to the liveried companies in July 1609, and individuals invited to adventure, there was a marked lack of enthusiasm. The Mercers were perhaps the frankest. While thanking the king for his offer, they pointed out that ‘they are for the most part men that live by merchandise and therefore are very inexperienced in managing business of that nature and withal want means and ability for the accomplishment thereof. [So] this company are not willing to have a hand or intermeddle in the same’. The Ironmongers expressed their ‘desire with our best means to help the state and commonwealth, but what we would we cannot in respect of weakness’. When it came to attempts to generate subscriptions, members were curiously absent or unavailable because they were dwelling out of the city. Of the 46 men on the Ironmongers’ subscription list, 9 were absen, 10out of the city, and 2 allegedly ‘not of ability’. The story was much the same elsewhere.

[Source: Ó Ciardha & Ó Siochrú (eds): The plantation of Ulster, Ideology and practice, page 82]

Hence any overseers put in place by the London companies would be hungry young thrusters, hard of complexion and temperament.

[2] This was a new, a frontier society. The blueprint was already well-defined. It was a society of incorporated cities and boroughs, which is a prime reason why the liveried companies of London were the chosen means of delivery:

This use of urbanity for colonial purposes was not the mere product of over-ripe imaginations. Rather it was borne of experience and practice. Just as corporations were a crucial dynamic in the plantation of Ulster after 1610, so they had figured prominently in the wide-ranging social and economic reforms initiated in England since the 1540s. The origins of these reforms were many, complex and varied. However, in terms of sanction by central government, the driving force — including urban incorporation — was [Sir Thomas] Smith, [William] Cecil and other members of their sprawling Cambridge mafia who dominated the higher echelons of royal power for much of the Edwardian and Elizabeth eras. More to the point, one of the outcomes by the turn of the seventeenth century was a discernible ‘corporate system’ by which cities and boroughs — or ‘little commonwealths’, as contemporaries described them – had filled the topography of provincial England.

[Source: Ó Ciardha & Ó Siochrú (eds): The plantation of Ulster, Ideology and practice, page 69]

Consequently a main requirement imposed on the planters was the establishment of boroughs: 25 corporate towns (though by 1613 only 14 had been established — and only 16 were to happen) across the plantation. Derry was to have 200 houses, and room for 300 more; Coleraine to have 100 and room for 200 more (that came down to a quibble over what constituted a “house”) [see Ó Ciardha & Ó Siochrú, pages 84-85].

[3] The success (and failure) of the plantation was this focus on ‘urbanity’. Derry and Coleraine (the third largest borough was Strabane) may have been puny in global terms; but they were all that the planted territory could boast. Not that they didn’t do well enough:

… although they didn’t become the thriving metropoloi envisaged by the propaganda of 1609-10, they did enjoy a significant mercantile presence. Merchants from Scotland, Chester and London were soon frequenting the two ports, while as early as 1614-15 a merchant fleet of seven ships accounted for 18.5% of Londonderry’s exports. London derry boasted urban amenities not available elsewhere. Its street were paved: it had a town hall costing between £500 and £1,000; its school was founded by the London merchant Matthew Springham, its master receiving a salary of 20 marks per annum through the London Society; its cathedral church of St Columba, the first purposely built Protestant cathedral in the three kingdoms, costing at least £3,800 opened in 1633 with a capacity of 1,000 people. True, Londonderry lacked other key features found in Englishtowns: there was still no bridge; a recommendation that a bridewell should be built was resisted; and there were no almshouses: indeed there was little sign of any charitable activity at all. A key variable in determining the relative success of Londonderry and Coleraine was the fact that the landlord was directly involved in building whereas elsewhere in the plantation urban development was promoted through the granting of building leases. Urban settlements elsewhere were terribly under-capitalised.

[Source: Ó Ciardha & Ó Siochrú (eds): The plantation of Ulster, Ideology and practice, page 85]

In passing, I suffer a slight cringe over the attempt there to apply anachronistic and economic-history evaluations: “18.5%”, “a capacity of 1,000 people”, “key variable”, “under-capitalised”.

One could — in a more romantic spirit — extrapolate into group psychology. This is the earliest seventeen-century. The minds involved are still accustomed to think of social advance in terms of acquiring lands, rather than anything ‘entrepreneurial’ or ‘proto-capitalist’. Just as in Virginia and the Carolinas, a century later, that kind of social position is going to be found, carving out estates in the countryside.

[4] These interlopers efficiently established themselves, and built networks — those daughters seem to have been seeded very effectively to generate a nexus of power and possession.

Note, though, as far as Beresford genealogy goes, that it is a “west” Ulster concentration: Derry, Donegal, Cavan and Galway. There is not, as yet, a social top-tier: distinctions and titles beyond mere baronet or knight are not yet present. That will come a generation or two still further on.

We can look to a precise contemporary, the glove-maker’s son from Stratford, for the definition of the “new men”. He puts the words into the mouth of Brutus, the old republican patrician, somewhat scornful of the arriviste Caesar — but they could easily apply to himself, his generation, and the aspiring and arriving Ulster ascendancy:

But ’tis a common proof,
That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round.
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend.

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Filed under Chaucer, History, Ireland, Literature, Northern Ireland, politics, Shakespeare, social class

Place-holder

There was a post intended for here on Sir John Poo Beresford, (1766–1844), naval officer and politician.

I stumbled upon this unfortunately-named bod as a result of searching the British national art archives.

poo-beresford

Unfortunately, seeing the surname, I became caught up in the various Beresfords who infest Anglo-Irish history from the seventeenth century onwards (one of the minor ones, as Provost of TCD, gave us the Campanile).

Now I have an appointment with the morning flight from Leeds-Bradford to Belfast City, and several days wallowing in the fleshpots of Belfast, Bushmills and Portadown.

Normal service may be resumed next week (shortly before a further commitment in Prague).

Busy life, this retirement.

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The not-so-great and the not-so-good, revisited: an extended intro

A while back I attempted a succession of these: blog-efforts on rediscovered and overlooked characters, mainly from Irish history. Many of them were scions and by-products of the Ascendancy.

But first the prologue (the main event is the next post):

The Tory-people-friendly UK government press offices put out a couple of images of the Chancellor:

cx8rag4weaaauib-jpg-large cx8ze-pxaaa_mfd

Th estimable @JohnRentoul nailed one of the portraits:

William Pitt the Younger on the left, I think. Who’s on the right?

While I was rootling madly through the Government’s Art collection, the answer came from elsewhere:

Gordon, John Watson; Sir George Cornewall Lewis (1806-1863), 2nd Bt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Editor of the 'Edinburgh Review'; Government Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/sir-george-cornewall-lewis-18061863-2nd-bt-chancellor-of-the-exchequer-editor-of-the-edinburgh-review-28284

Gordon, John Watson; Sir George Cornewall Lewis (1806-1863), 2nd Bt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Editor of the ‘Edinburgh Review’.

Not a “well-known” name, but Lewis deserves a bit of a boost — around 1862 — stone-walling the ultras who wanted the UK to go for the Confederates in the American Civil War.

His origins were in the Welsh Marches, but his Irish connection was a worthy one.

As  a young, rising, and talented lawyer, freshly-minted by the Middle Temple, with an interest in the “public service”, in 1833 Lewis  became “an assistant commissioner of the inquiry into the condition of the poorer classes of Ireland”. He spent some time in 1834 researching the problems among the Irish diaspora across the developing industrial towns of England. Then he turned to the state of Irish education, which took him into heavy reading on the land question and on the Irish established church.

Out of that, in 1836, came a substantial document:  On Local Disturbances in Ireland; and on the Irish Church Question:

title-page

Don’t rush past that: note the dedication. Charles Sumner was in England in 1838, as part of a European tour. Sumner would go on to be a potent force in American politics, as an abolitionist, founding member of the Republican Party, and Radical during the Reconstruction.

Lewis’s book was seminal in looking to balance the ecclesiastical situation in Ireland, by ‘concurrent endowment’ (he invented the term), and in advocating ‘a legal provision for the poor’, which amounted to applying to Ireland the principles of the 1834 English poor law. It doesn’t need a genius to spot where that one would go adrift in the Great Famine, particularly as Lewis was also rejecting ‘the principle that it is the duty of the state to find employment for the people’.

Rapid promotion

lewisLewis became Chancellor of the Exchequer in a wholly mid-Victorian manner.

His father died in January 1855, and Lewis inherited the baronetcy and, on 8th February 1855, unopposed, the seat as MP for the Radnorshire boroughs. On 22nd February he became Gladstone’s successor at the Treasury, and on 28th February a Privy Councillor.

We might wonder at Phillip Hammond’s choice of such a figure, to look over his shoulder in the study of Number 11, Downing Street.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

First, am I wholly adrift in seeing some facial similarities between the image on the right, and Hammond, himself?

Second, Lewis came to the Chancellorship in a moment of financial crisis — how to pay for the Crimean War. Hammond has even greater problems, in the aftermath of the #Brexit vote.

Allow me to filch from the Dictionary of National Biography:

Lewis remained chancellor until the government was defeated in February 1858. Gladstone at first was helpfulness incarnate to his successor, but Lewis deviated from Gladstone’s canons of financial rectitude, especially with respect to the question of whether to finance the Crimean War by taxation or by loans. Lewis faced a severe crisis in the nation’s finances, brought on by a war more prolonged and expensive than anyone had expected. His first budget, on 20 April 1855, had to meet a deficit of £23 million. Lewis raised £16 million by a loan, £3 million by exchequer bills (later increased to £7 million), and the remaining £4 million by raising income tax from the already high 14d. to 16d. in the pound and by raising indirect taxes. The £68 million thus raised was easily the largest sum raised up to this time by a British government. Lewis’s budget set aside the Gladstonian view that war abroad should be met by corresponding taxation-pain at home but, in terms of practical politics, financing by loans (to which Lewis resorted again in his second budget of 19 May 1856) was probably unavoidable if Palmerston’s government was to survive. In 1855 Lewis carried through the Commons the Newspaper Stamp Duties Bill, an inheritance from Gladstone and an important step in repealing the ‘taxes on knowledge’ (as the duties on newspapers and paper were called). Lewis’s policy of loans meant excellent commissions and profits for the City of London, which greatly preferred him to Gladstone.

Such parallel: almost uncanny.

 

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Not seen, but getting heard

 has bragging rights to open threads on Slugger O’Toole, and kicked off a good one:

Ruth Taillon chaired a panel with Dawn Purvis, Martina Devlin and Bernadette McAliskey for a session entitled And where were the women when history was made? at the John Hewitt International Summer School in Armagh.

Note the names already in the frame there.

So I had to have my two cents’ worth, and here for the record it comes:

For a few examples from Easter Week:

  • Mollie Adrian, on her bicycle, shuttled orders and reports between Pearse in the GPO and the Fingal Battalion, so that Thomas Ashe would get the credit.
  • Maire Nic Shiubhlaigh was in command of the Cumann na mBan at Jacob’s factory, from where she had an excellent view of the pounding the GPO was getting.
  • The Cumann na mBan had to be ordered out of the GPO — it took Seán McDermott backing up Pearse before they would agree — late on the Friday morning of Easter week. The first shell arrived soon after their departure.
  • At the Department of Agriculture farm at Athenry, Mellows had about 500 men armed with a total of 35 rifles and 350 shotguns. The women of the Cumann had the local bullocks slaughtered, and made the stew to feed them all — which was about the most positive aspect of Mellows’ “campaign`”.
  • The Kilkenny Cumann were (later) more than tart in their comments about how the menfolk sat around debating, but not actually getting stuck in.
  • Marie Perolz of Inghinidhe na Éireann, on her motor-bike, all the way from Dublin to the brigade in Cork, brought MacCurtain and MacSwiney the orders for the Rising (how the other eight orders got through, I’m not sure).
  • Rose McManners of the Inghinidhe was in the Jameson distillery to observe how clueless MacDonagh was when it came to leadership. When the garrison of 44 men at the South Dublin Union surrendered, and dumped arms, Rose and the other twenty Cumann picked up the weapons and brazenly carted them into the Richmond Street barracks. They got away with it, because the British Army had no women searchers to hand.
  • Kathleen Lynn took command at City Hall after Seán Connolly was killed, and negotiated the surrender of the ICA garrison.
  • Elizabeth O’Farrell, nurse and midwife, of the Cumann na mBan, under fire took the white flag from the GPO to Moore Street, to open the surrender negotiations.

Then, of course, as Kathleen Clarke never stopped complaining, the women of 1916 were largely elided from the record. It’s not they weren’t there, but as Jessica Rabiit said, “I’m just drawn that way”.

KathleenClarke

As I was posting that, it came to my mind that once — around 1960 — I shook hands with Caitlín Bean Uí Chléirigh.

She was

  • a Sinn Féin TD in the Second Dáil (and spoke against the Treaty in the Great Debate),
  • was on the receiving end of attention (first from the British, then from the Free Staters),
  • was a Fianna Fáil TD for Mid Dublin in the Fifth Dáil, then in the Seanad,
  • then on Dublin Corporation — including being the first woman to be Lord Mayor.
  • To her credit, she was one of the women who despaired of de Valera after the 1937 Constitution re-defined the role of women, and then continued her shift to the left (or, rather, maintained her stand as Fianna Fáil became corporatist and shifted to the right).
  • So, in 1948 she was a candidate for Clann na Poblachta.

By the time I met her, she was definitely out in the leftist fringes. A Great Lady.

 

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Don’t look back

Remember The Go-Between:

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

My past has a positive gazetteer of “foreign countries”:

  • In the beginning there was post-War London, with its winter smogs, watching the conductors with their bull’s-eye lamps leading — yes, leading —  trams through the filth of a London particular. And being totally embarrassed by the word “nun” in my father’s The Star crossword. But Londoners had the choice of three evening papers then.
  • There is Wells, Norfolk (see previous posts ad nauseam), where tumbledown flint cottages (yours for hundred quid a throw, or less) became the second-homes for Islingtonians (starting print £350,000 plus).
  • Schull, West Cork, which has suffered a similar fate to north Norfolk, and where I spent a series of mixed-miserable schoolboy-vacations, translating Euripides, swimming among the sea-wrack, and catching a huge pollack (which left the house-cat bloated). And where I was accosted by the Parish Priest and reminded I had not been in church that Sunday. When I protested I was not of his congregation, I was further told that was not the point: I should have been in my church.
  • The light-hearted, golden-age, early-’60s Dublin, where one could eye-ball the likes of Paddy Kavanagh, in the flesh, in his cups, in McDaid’s, for the price of a pint. Now he has a seat by the canal; and the pub has a website.
  • And one particular parenthood (after the other two). This the one we hadn’t expected. Carrying a toddler off the rocking ferry onto Staffa, and across the machair to Fingal’s Cave. Years passing, and having her near-pass out climbing a 13,000 foot peak in the Rockies (she would go on to camp at 18,000 feet in the Himalayas). Then having her escort her ageing Pa past the Spanish Steps, across the Piazza di Spagna, to acknowledge the Keats-Shelley House.

And so on. And so on.

Which brings me to this, in the New York Times. So tell it like it is, Angel Daphne:

NYT

I, too, am Eugene Gant. But I can’t look back: my old neck’s too stiff. But I, like Thomas Wolfe, recall my Lycidas:

Ay me! Whilst thee the shores, and sounding Seas
Wash far away, where ere thy bones are hurled,
Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides,
Where thou perhaps under the whelming tide
Visit’st the bottom of the monstrous world;
Or whether thou to our moist vows deny’d,
Sleep’st by the fable of Bellerus old,
Where the great vision of the guarded Mount
Looks toward Namancos and Bayona’s hold;
Look homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth.
And, O ye Dolphins, waft the hapless youth.

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Filed under County Cork, Dublin., History, Literature, New York Times, travel, Wells-next-the-Sea

My post-box is green

I’m trying to manipulate Famous Seamus‘s second most-famous quote:

Be advised my passport’s green.
No glass of ours was ever raised. to toast the Queen.

The prompt was the piece Leo Benedictus did for The Guardian, over the weekend:

Last week, Hong Kong said goodbye to one of the last vestiges of imperialism by covering up the royal insignia on its green post boxes. But is there ever a point when this kind of history is worth preserving?

Perhaps you know that things are healing when, after centuries of violent tyranny and pillage, the British empire comes down to arguing over postboxes. In Hong Kong, where 59 of the old colonial postboxes remain, the postal service has announced that it plans to cover the royal insignias with a metal plaque – in order to avoid “confusion”. (The boxes have already been painted green and had the Hong Kong Post’s logo added to them, so you would have to be very confused indeed not to realise what they’re for.) Hong Kong postbox fanciers say that the insignias are “part of Hong Kong’s heritage and daily life”, and plan to protest on Saturday.

So are they right? At what point does a bitter colonial history stop needing to be expunged and become, well, just history, that needs actual preservation? Look around the world and you’ll find few clear answers.

VR boxThat is illustrated nowhere better than by standing on the bridge at Belleek. You can see where the tarmac subtly changes colour and texture between the jurisdiction of the County Fermanagh and that of the County Donegal. Behind is the 30 mph sign, ahead is one for 80 km/hr.

Leave the A47, and head down the N5 for Ballyshannon, and it’s not far before you spot one of the relics of imperialism: a post-box with Queen Victoria’s monogram and crown, painted green. There’s even a precious few of the classic Penfolds around (one was — perhaps still is — in Clonakilty, county Cork).

I once bought a Donegal tweed hat in Belleek — it was indeed my “End of Empire hat” (which I eventually lost in the Grand Hotel, Scarborough). I was invited to do the transaction in euros. It’s called “peaceful co-existence”: something that the two administrations, the two cultures of the island of Ireland, especially the Unionists of the North, are still stretching to achieve. It’s a characteristic in much of Andy Pollack’s writings, not least the piece he had on his blog-site in AugustThe Republic is now a warm place for Protestants, which has finally made it to the print-copy of the Irish Times.

When David Cameron announced:

“The general election will be held on May 7 and until that day I will be going to all four corners of all four nations of our United Kingdom with one message — together we are turning the country around”,

I was sure that would no more likely embrace Belleek than Muckle Flugga. I was not disappointed.

But a pity: had he gone, he might have learned something.

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Filed under Ireland, Irish politics, Irish Times, Northern Ireland, travel