Category Archives: Irish politics

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 …


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

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

The “not-so-good and not-so-great” revisited

Well, to be honest, I’ve lost count on this irregular series. Yet, today I need a peg to hang a hat on:


I see, on the shelf behind me, three of Anne Leonard’s oeuvres, in grander company than they deserve:


In either incarnation, as myself or as pseudonym, I do not appear in any. My circle at TCD in the early 1960s was as active, as interesting, as complex, as talented (if not more so) as that exclusive world of ex-pat, West Brit jeunesse dorée she celebrates. Where she, and her set, mentally resided (mainly in Kensington and the English Home Counties, with the odd baronial pad), we were merely the spear-carriers, the walk-on parts, who flitted across the screen to add texture.

No, Ms Leonard, MBE; no, Colin Smythe (writing that Irish Times puff-piece), yours is not the Trinity I remember:

Trinity was more like an Oxbridge college than a university: you could know “everyone”. And this is what Anne Leonard has shown us in her three volumes, the most recent, Portrait of an Era, a superb visual record of what Trinity was like in the 1960s, with essays and photos by students of students, of scholars, of staff, of President de Valera, of events, cars, fashion, Players, Trinity Week, Dublin pubs, sport, porters in their archaic uniforms, a time when all male students dressed in jacket and tie, and women only wore dresses, men living in college having to attend Commons in their black gowns every weeknight, and when roll calls preceded each lecture and all students had to attend six sevenths of those given in each seven-week term.

The reason for that is my Trinity was definitively in Dublin, in Ireland, and not semi-adjacent to the Kings’s Road. We were not wholly taken by cars, fashion, Players, Trinity Week. Actually, one year we had our own anti-Ball party, which (as I recall) involved drinking bottled beer in the Dublin mountains and watching the sun-rise over Dun Laoghaire. I admit I had a tie, and wore it occasionally — though my “jacket” may have been a donkey-jacket.

Far more TCD students at that time were Irish and Northern Irish than Ms Leonard, MBE, cares to recognise. Our concerns and interests were not exclusively English.

Most of us could not afford the rents of rooms in College: mine was a cold-water flat in a Ballsbridge basement (sanitary arrangements irregular, but hat-tip to the Edwardian bath-house off Botany Bay). We used bars which were not the Bailey or the International: mine was the corner bar of O’Neill’s in Suffolk Street. We ate at joints like the Universal Chinese restaurant in Wicklow Street, when we could afford to — and bread-and-processed cheese when we couldn’t. We travelled by Dublin Corporation bus. We swilled endless quantities of Maxwell House instant coffee. We argued incessantly about things that mattered: Cuba, Irish membership of the EEC, CND, the Black North under the Brookelborough mal-administration.

While Ms Leonard, MBE, and her associates and supporting Players, everyone der biedere Mann, reckoned Max Frisch and The Fire Raisers were the last word on world politics, the TCD Fabians were involved in the Universities Branch of the (Irish) Labour Party, and even reaching out to the assorted odd-balls of Queen’s Labour Group.

Ms Leonard, MBE, writes about her little self-anointed élite: they were, and as these books show, more effete.

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Filed under Dublin., History, Irish Labour, Irish politics, Irish Times, Trinity College Dublin


The Dublin definition of sports:

Rugby is a game for gurriers, played by gentlemen.
Soccer is a game for gentlemen, played by gurriers.
Hurling is a game for gurriers, played by gurriers.

Which leaves only:

  1. Where do we locate women’s football?
  2. Why does this spell-check insist on replacing “gurriers” with “furriers”?
  3. Is the OED completely up-the-creek over defining and explaining “gurrier”?

In order:


Watching a grand-daughter,

  • playing in the traditional inside-left position, and
  • launching into a “robust” tackle (which would have involved a yellow card in the professional game),

raised questions about:

  • whether this was a sport or war-by-other means, and about
  • the standards of refereeing in New Jersey.

There is, by the way, a nice piece on the BBC web-site,  by Gemma Fay, outlining the history for women’s football.


Spell-checks are notorious.

First, one has to make sure the grotesque US-variants have been side-stepped. This has improved in recent years, but there are still serious difficulties with “ise”/”ize” endings.

Look, folks, it ought to be straightforward. “-ize” is for verbs derived from the Greek “-ιζω” ending. I fully appreciate that classical Greek is no longer a mainstream school subject, but you really need to get up to speed on this.

The spell-check, particularly with early versions of Microsoft Word, has ever been a useful guide (especially with typos), but a very poor master (especially with homophones).

Which provokes me further: what is the lexicon of a spell-check? 30,000 words (with plurals and variations for tenses)? If so, the one here on WordPress fails to comprehend my vocabulary.


Now this is the most interesting.

gurrier, n.

Pronunciation: Brit. ˈɡʌrɪə/ , U.S. ɡəriər

Etymology: Origin uncertain. Perhaps Irish English gur-cake, a mincemeat-filled pastry slice formerly associated with street urchins (of unknown origin), or perhaps French guerrier warrior. Perhaps compare Scottish English gurry (noun) brawl, dog-fight, bustle, (verb) to wrangle, dispute, to grumble, growl.

Originally: a Dublin street urchin. Now usually: a rough, aggressive young man; a lout, a hooligan. Also as a term of abuse.

So much for the OED. Try Wiktionary:

Etymology uncertain. Suggestions include:

  • alteration of gutter
  • from gurry, a brawl
  • related to gur cake, a cheap cake eaten by poor children
  • from French guerrier, a warrior

The word “gurrier” is a misspelling of a word used in the West of Ireland, “gorier” for a hatching hen. The Irish word for “hatch”, as used in reference to hatching birds, is “gor”. The translation of, “the hen is hatching” is “tá and cearc ar gor”. The word is pronounced, “gorrier”, with the “o” sounding as the “o” in the irish word, gorm (blue) or poll (hole). In view of its derivation, this would be a more appropriate spelling. The “u” spelling is the result of the Dublin working class, known as a “Dub” accent, which has a tendency to pronounce the “o” as a “u” sound, for example, world is pronounced wurld, working is pronounced wurking, etc. A rapid “Dub” accent interruption for an explanation would often consist of, whah, whah whah, whah’s thah, whah’s thah, and would sound like the bock, bock, sound of a hatching hen when disturbed.

At some point there, I think I detected urine being extracted.

Equally, “gurrier” can become a mark of pride in an anti-heroic, reverse-snobbery sort of way. Here comes an illuminating exchange from Dáil Éireann on 29 November, 1967. The participants are Minister of Finance Haughey and James Dillon of Fine Gael (both barristers):

Mr. Haughey: You are an “ould” fraud.

Mr. Dillon: What an edifying contribution to the discussion on the economic state of Ireland.

Mr. Haughey: What about yours?

Mr. Dillon: We have heard frequently of the general accents of the Dublin gurrier.

Mr. Haughey: This is very edifying.

Mr. Dillon: I was born and bred in North Great George’s Street and I regard myself not only as a Mayo man but a Dublin man too: a gurrier, no.

An Ceann Comhairle: I do not think the Deputy should refer to the Minister——

Mr. Dillon: Oh, I am not referring to the Minister as a gurrier. I am only expressing amazement that a resident of Clontarf, who has graduated to Portmarnock, should use the language of the gurrier.

Mr. Haughey: You are wrong on both counts and I do not resent the title “gurrier” at all.

Mr. Dillon: That shows you are not a native of Dublin. You are only an import. If you did understand its meaning, you would resent it bitterly. I want to emphasise that I never said the Minister was a gurrier because I know from whence he comes, but I resent his using the language of the gurrier for it is the language of the gutter.

Mr. Haughey: Do you mean you can call me a fraud and my actions fraudulent——

Mr. Dillon: I do not think I referred to the Minister as a fraud.

The notion of “Charlus” Haughey not being a fraud is too, too risible. However, the ambiguity of “gurrier” is there made clear.

Advanced students of Hibernicisms may now wish to attempt a definition of “cute hoor” (not, as the spellcheck would like to insist, “cute hour”)

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Neither Queen nor queasier

This sticker was on the corner of the Royal Mile and Bank Street (and a very appropriate location, too).


Edinburgh, 13 Sep 2014

I’m still calculating the number of ironies that lie hidden in this message, at this time.

One cannot fairly quote Connolly on independence without also citing his views on capitalism:

If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain.

England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.

England would still rule you to your ruin, even while your lips offered hypocritical homage at the shrine of that Freedom whose cause you had betrayed.

Nationalism without Socialism – without a reorganisation of society on the basis of a broader and more developed form of that common property which underlay the social structure of Ancient Erin – is only national recreancy.

Not England, perhaps, but Il Presidente Salmond’s friends: Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, Russian plutocrats buying enough real estate to earn a passport, Asian millionaires renting by the week the Highland deer-stalking experience, Texan oilmen …

Until we are rid of those parasites, the Union is a marginally better bet.

Until then … well, G.K.Chesterton was a (very) right old Tory, but he doesn’t need too much emendation. And the scansion works just the same:

We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,
Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street.
It may be we shall rise the last as Frenchmen rose the first,
Our wrath come after Russia’s wrath and our wrath be the worst.
It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest
God’s scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best.
But we are the people of Scotland; and we have not spoken yet.
Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.

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A snippy Kipper

Vignette, [old] York, St Helen’s Square, Saturday lunch-time.

A lady is passing out flyers denouncing UKIP. As, of course, is her democratic right — provided the leaflet is clean, decent, has an imprint, and fulfils the legal requirements. You take one or leave it.

Not good enough for the convinced Kipper who was loudly denouncing here and all her works. Offensively.

It was he, not she, who was blocking the pavement, and making a scene.


Where have I seen  similar phenomenon before?

Well, many times. Many, many times. [Thank you, Dame Celia. Don’t call us. We’ll call you.]

It all began in the Congo Civil War of the early 1960s. The Irish government made one of its first forays into international peacekeeping and despatched a batch of troops to join ONUC.

On 8th November 1960 a platoon of the 33rd Battalion were set upon by a Baluba party. Nine Irish soldiers died. Only eight bodies were recovered immediately.

I remember the parade and the crowds in Dublin’s O’Connell Street — nothing would be seen like it until JFK came to town.

There is nothing queasy about Irish humour at its broadest. It hasn’t really recovered from the excesses of Swift’s satire.

So, “Baluba” went into the Irish political vocabulary — specifically it meant the “culchies” (itself a Dubliner’s derisory term for “agricultural” country folk) who annually turned up at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fhéis to the despair of the polished urban hierarchs.

I hereby declare many Kippers are also “culchies”, and — as seen at their worst last Saturday in York, akin to “Balubas”

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Filed under Fianna Fail, History, Irish politics, politics, UKIP, York

A Sticky business

150px-Workers_Party_of_Ireland_logoPaul Goodman, Head Lar of the ConHome web-site, has this:

In today’s Sun (£), Robert Halfon publishes his own prospectus, urging that the Tories rename themselves the Workers’ Party, offer free membership to trade unionists, value public sector workers, cut taxes for lower earners, and so on.

For the record, some believe The Sun is a newspaper.

Robert Halfon is the MP for Harlow, which is a natural “swing” seat. His majority is less than 5,000. He puts himself about quite a bit. There may be a connection between those previous three sentences.

Exeter University, presumably on the basis of some intellectual evidence, awarded Halfon a B.A. in Politics and a M.A. in Russian and East European politics.

Meanwhile …

Back in  1982 the “Sticky” wing of Sinn Féin adopted the name, so Páirtí na nOibrithe has a lien on the name “Workers Party”. Clearly nobody pointed this salient detail out to Halfon, or his political studies did not extend to the island next-door. This is not irrelevant: though the apostrophe seems to come-and-go from one occasion to the next, John Lowry and others operate under the name within the UK jurisdiction.

Using the name might be deemed “passing off“:

… a common law tort which can be used to enforce unregistered trademark rights. The tort of passing off protects the goodwill of a trader from a misrepresentation.

The law of passing off prevents one trader from misrepresenting goods or services as being the goods and services of another, and also prevents a trader from holding out his or her goods or services as having some association or connection with another when this is not true.

Does this qualify as further evidence of the “Stupid Party”?

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Filed under Irish politics, Murdoch, Northern Ireland, Northern Irish politics, Sinn Fein, Times, Tories.