|On this Day: January|
|1st||1801 - The Union of the Ireland and Great Britain in the United Kingdom became law.
1926 - The Irish Free State broadcasting service 2RN opened.
1957 - Two IRA men died in an attack on an RUC base in Brookeborough.
1973 - Ireland joined the EEC along with Denmark and Britain.
1974 - The first day in office for the Northern Ireland Executive.
1990 - The Northern Ireland Fair Employment Act became law.
|2nd||1922 - Anti-Treaty Republicans published the newspaper Poblacht na hÉireann.
1941 - Three Carlow women died in a Nazi bombing raid
|3rd||1935 - The Anglo-Irish Coal-Cattle pact was signed.|
|4th||1562 - Shane O'Neill
and the Earls of Ormonde and Kildare reached London. William Camden
described the wonder with which the long-haired gallowglasses were
received in the English capital.
1906 - Irish Parliamentary Party MP William O'Brien called on nationalists to extract maximum concessions for Ireland from each British government.
1969 - Loyalists attacked civil rights demonstrators in Derry.
|5th||1907 - Ireland's first motor show opened in Dublin.
1911 - Protestant church leaders condemned the Catholic ne Temere decree.
1922 - De Valera offered to resign after the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty were published.
|6th||1839 - Night of the Big Wind.
1955 - National Farmers' Assocation formed.
1961 - Seán Mac Eoin left Ireland to serve as General Commanding Officer of the United Nations.
1991 - Irish EC Presidency launched.
|7th||1922 - The Dáil Éireann voted narrowly to accept the Anglo-Irish Treaty.|
|8th||1902 - The Great National Convention tookplace in Dublin.
1952 - Peig Sayers travelled to Dublin for the first time at age 81.
1968 - Northern Ireland PM Terence O'Neill and Taoiseach Jack Lynch met in Dublin.
1979 - Betelgeuse tanker disaster.
|9th||1967 - Demonstrations by the National Farmers' Association blocked the roads.|
- Arthur Griffith was elected President of the Provisional Government.
De Valera and supporters walked out of the Dáil Éireann.
1952 - An Aer Lingus plane crashed in Wales with the loss of twenty lives.
1970 - Huge anti-Apartheid demonstrations took place in Ireland as Ireland played South Africa at rugby.
|11th||1954 - The Irish Council of the European Union was formed in Dublin.
1970 - Sinn Féin split into Official and Provisional wings.
1988 - John Hume and Gerry Adams met in Belfast.
|12th||2000 - Despite controversy, people in Limerick turned out in droves for the film premiere of Angela's Ashes.|
|13th||1847 - Irish Confederation established.
1923 - The residence of President W.T. Cosgrave was set on fire.
|14th||1965 - The Taoiseach Seán Lemass arrived in Belfast for a historic meeting with its Prime Minister Terence O'Neill.|
|15th||1939 - A proclamation was posted in public places throughout Ireland announcing the IRA's declaration of war on Britain.
1996 - Former Minister for Justice Pádraig Flynn made controversial comments on The Late Late Show regarding a £50,000 donation to Fianna Fáil.
|16th||1881 - Lowest temperature ever recorded in Ireland (-19.1C, at Markree, County Sligo).
1900 - Three lion cubs raised by an Irish red setter went on show at Dublin zoo.
1960 - A 103-year old shipping service between Cork and Glasgow came to an end.
|17th||1914 - Sir Edward Carson inspected a parade of the East Belfast Regiment of the UVF.|
|18th||1953 - Sinn Féin decided to contest all twelve constituencies in Northern Ireland.
1978 - Britain was found guilty in the European Court of Human Rights of inhuman and degrading treatment of internees in Northern Ireland.
|19th||1785 - Richard Crosbie made the first successful hot air balloon flight in Ireland, from Ranelagh Gardens to Clontarf.|
|20th||1645 - Siege of
1792 - The Dublin Corporation approved a resolution to King George III asking for the Protestant Ascendancy to be preserved.
1992 - Peter Brooke offered to resign as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland after singing on The Late Late Show only hours after an IRA bombing.
- First meeting of the Dáil Éireann at the Mansion House
in Dublin, where an independent Irish Republic was declared. The
Anglo-Irish War began with the shooting of two policement in Tipperary.
1946 - Work started on a comprehensive English-Irish dictionary.
|22nd||1923 - The Irish language became a subject for examination in the Civil Service.
1972 - Jack Lynch and Patrick Hillery signed the Treaty of Accession to the European Communities.
1996 - 'The Mitchell principles' were proposed as conditions for talks in Northern Ireland.
|23rd||1774 - Dudley Cosby, former MP for Carrick, died of an overdose of Danish poison.|
|24th||1957 - Sir Alfred Chester Beatty became the first honorary Irish citizen.|
|25th||1999 - The Vincentian Refugee Centre, the first of its kind, was opened by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.|
|26th||1907 - The performance of The Playboy of the Western World in Dublin triggered a week of rioting.
1944 - W. T. Cosgrave resignws as leader of Fine Gael.
|27th||1995 - The first formal discussions took place between the Taoiseach John Bruton and Gerry Adams.|
|28th||2007 - Sinn Féin announced their acceptance of the police, as part of the St. Andrew's agreement.|
|29th||1887 - Pro-Unionist newspaper The Union founded in Dublin.
1932 - Ten years of Cumann na nGaedhael rule came to an end.
|30th||1913 - The House of Lords rejected the Home Rule Bill.
1972 - Bloody Sunday - 13 demonstrators killed by British paratroopers in Northern Ireland.
1992 - Charles Haughey resigned as Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil.
2005 - Fatal stabbing of Robert McCartney.
|31st||1984 - Teenager Ann Lovett died after giving birth in a religious grotto.|
Fox Hunting in Ireland
Westmeath Hunt around 1930
Hounds at Cork
Hunting with hounds has long been a tradition in Ireland, introduced by English landowners and still largely associated with the Anglo-Irish and wealthy farmers. The major day for hunting in Ireland is St Stephen's Day, December 26th. At one time, indicators of an affluent family were said to be 'a priest in the family, a pump in the yard, and the hunt once a year'. The oldest pack on record is the Muskerry Hunt, established in 1743, while the Scarteen Hounds of Tipperary, known as the 'black and tans', have been in the Ryan family for more 350 years. In 1859, The 'Irish Master of Foxhounds Association' was set up to govern hunting disputes - at that time, packs of hounds belonged to local families, and disputes often broke out over hunt boundaries. In 1891, a general set of rules was established, with foxhunting described as 'the hunting of the Fox in his wild and natural state with a pack of Hounds'. After World War I, economic troubles led many families to hand their packs of hounds over to local farmer committees, and county packs developed. Fox hunting became more organised and structured. From the 1970s, the Association lobbied against the trapping of thousands of foxes for their pelts. More recently, fox hunting in Ireland has come under moral pressure from groups such as the Irish Council Against Blood Sports. Mass protests took place in 1997 against fox hunting and in 1999 the release of a video showing the digging out of a fox in County Cork led to the introduction of a Code of Conduct. While fox hunting was outlawed in Britain, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to continue with the practice, and fox hunting with hounds remains legal in the Republic. The Foxhounds Association today represents 35 hunts in the Republic and three in the North.
Author: Maria Kelly
A History of the Black Death in Ireland
Date published: 2001
Between the years 1347 and 1350, half the population of Europe succumbed to the Black Death. Dublin and Drogheda were the first Irish towns to suffer. Sickness swept across the land, affecting towns and villages so severely that, according to Friar John Clyn of Kilkenny, 'there was scarcely found a man to dwell therein'. Port towns took the brunt, and in Cork 'the greater part of the citizens all went the way of the flesh'. Friar Clyn described 'boils, abscesses and pustules. [Some victims] died in frenzy'. Aedh Mac Aodhagáin pleaded in 1350 'I myself am full twenty-one years old [...] let everyone who shall read this utter a prayer of mercy for my soul'. Within months many priests had fallen, meaning that the sacraments could not be given. The remaining clergy underwent a drop in moral standards. In 1352 they stood accused, among other things, of gluttony and adultery, and a Kildare poet wrote of them 'deep can ye booze, that is all your care'. While in many parts of Europe people viewed the plague as punishment from God and sought to avert His wrath through self-flagellation, processions of Flagellants were uncommon in Ireland. Nonetheless, the Pope ordered Irish archbishops to warn against this 'vain religion'.
Historians are divided on the longer-term affects of hte plague. It may not have brought about the end of villeinage by itself, but labour shortages led to rent reductions, higher wages, and the acceptance of Gaelic-Irish tenants by great landlords who previously only took on the English. New landlords emerged, including the Butlers of Kilkenny. Times were hard for the English colony in Ireland; people fled the already depleted cities, and by 1435 those who stayed behind were 'on the point of being famished'.
Chapter XXIFirst published 1912. This edition 1914 by Smith, Elder & Co, London
A fictional account of an uprising by Ulster Protestants against Home Rule in Ireland.
George A. Birmingham
went down to the club next morning at about half-past ten
o’clock, hoping to see Conroy. He, so I thought, might be able to
tell me what was likely to happen during the day. Moyne could tell me
nothing. I left him in the hotel, desperately determined to take the
chair at any meeting that might be held; but very doubtful about how he
was to do it.
The streets were much less obviously martial than they had been the night before. There were no soldiers to be seen. There were only a very few volunteers, and they did not seem to be doing anything particular. The police – there were not even many of them – looked quite peaceable, as if they had no more terrific duties to perform than the regulation of traffic and the arrest of errant drunkards. I began to think that I had accidentally told Moyne the truth the night before. All our warriors seemed to be in bed, exhausted by their marching and counter-marching. I did not even see McConkey with his machine gun. This disappointed me. I thought McConkey was a man of more grit. One night’s work ought not to have tired him out.
Ulster Volunteers in 1912
Clithering was in the club. He, at all events, was still alive. Very likely he was caught the night before by some patrolling party and forced to go to bed. Unless he happened to be carrying some sort of certificate of his religious faith in his pocket, Crossan would almost certainly have put him to bed. The moment he saw me he came fussing up to me.
“I’ve very glad to be able to tell you,” he said, “that the troops are to be kept in barracks to-day unless they are urgently required. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that’s a good plan.”
“It depends,” I said, “on the point of view you take. It won’t be at all a good plan for the police if there’s any fighting.”
“I telegraphed to the Prime Minister last night,” said Clithering; “I sent a long, detailed message-”
“I heard about that,” I said, “from one of the war correspondents, a man called Bland. You rather blocked the wires, and he couldn’t get his messages through.”
“It was of the utmost possible importance,” said Clithering, “that the Prime Minister should thoroughly understand the situation. Our original idea was that the appearance of large bodies of troops in the streets would overawe – ”
“They weren’t overawing any one,” I said.
“So I saw. So I saw yesterday afternoon. I telegraphed at once. I gave it as my opinion that the troops, so far from overawing, were exasperating the populace. I suggested – I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the suggestion was wise – in fact I urged very strongly that the troops should be kept out of sight to-day – under arms and ready for emergencies – but out of sight. I am in great hopes that the people will settle down quietly. Now, what do you think, Lord Kilmore?”
“They’ll be quite quiet,” I said, “if you let them hold their meeting.”
“Oh, but that’s impossible,” said Clithering. “I quite agree with the Prime Minister there. Any sign of weakness on the part of the Government at the present crisis would be fatal, absolutely fatal. The Belfast people must understand that they cannot be allowed to defy the law.”
“Then you’d better trot out your soldiers again, all you’ve got.”
Clithering did not seem at all pleased at this suggestion.
“We shall rely upon the police,” he said, “to put a stop to the meeting. I do not anticipate that there will be any organised –”
“On the whole,” I said, “I’m very glad I’m not a policeman.”
“Sure,” said Clithering, “the responsible leaders of the Unionist party will understand the criminal folly of – You don’t anticipate-”
“I’m nothing of a prophet,” I said; “but if you ask my opinion I’d say that the police will be wiped out in about ten minutes. They’re a very fine body of men; but there aren’t nearly enough of them. If you really want to stop the meeting you’ll have to get out the soldiers, and even with them – ”
“But we want to avoid bloodshed,” said Clithering. “We cannot have the citizens of Belfast shot down by the military. Think of the consequences. A Tory Government might – but we! Besides, the horrible moral guilt.”
“It’s no affair of mine,” I said; “but I should have thought – I dare say I am wrong. There may be no moral guilt about killing policemen.”
“But they won’t be killed,” said Clithering. “Our one aim is to avoid bloodshed.”
“You’re trying the police rather high,” I said. “They’ll do what you tell them, of course. But I don’t think it’s quite fair to ask them to face ten times their own number of men all armed with magazine rifles when they have nothing but those ridiculous little carbines.”
“Oh, but the police are not to have firearms,” said Clithering. “Strict orders have been given – batons ought to be quite sufficient. We must avoid all risk of bloodshed.”
“Good gracious!” I said. “Do you expect a handful of police with small, round sticks in their hands – Oh! go away, Clithering. You mean well, I dare say, but you’re absurd.”
It is very seldom that I lose my temper in this sudden way. I was sorry a moment afterwards that I had given way to my feelings. Poor Clithering looked deeply hurt. He turned from me with an expression of pained astonishment and sat down by himself in a corner. I pitied him so much that I made an effort to console him.
“I dare say it will be all right,” I said. “The police will probably have sense enough to go away before they’re shot. Then the meeting will be held quite peaceably. I don’t know what the political consequences of that may be, but you’ll get off the moral guilt, and there’ll be no bloodshed.”
This ought to have cheered and consoled Clithering; but it did not. It made him more nervous than ever.
“I must go at once,” he said, “and see the General in command. Everything must be -”
He left the room hurriedly without finishing his sentence. This annoyed me. I wanted to know what everything must be.
The reading-room of the club is on the first floor, and the window commands an excellent view of Donegall Place, one of the principal thoroughfares of Belfast. The club stands right across the eastern end of the street, and the traffic is diverted to right and left along Royal Avenue and High Street. At the far, the western end, of Donegall Place, stands the new City Hall, with the statue of Queen Victoria in front of it. There again the traffic is split at right angles. Some of the best shops in the town lie on either side of the street. A continuous stream of trams passes up and down it, to and from the junction, which is directly under the club windows, and is the centre of the whole Belfast tramway system. It is always pleasant to stand at the reading-room window and watch the very busy and strenuous traffic of this street. As a view point on that particular morning the window was as good as possible. Donegall Place is the chief and most obvious way from the northern and eastern parts of the city to the place where the meeting was to be held.
Between eleven o’clock and twelve the volunteers began to appear in considerable numbers. I saw at once that I had been wrong in supposing that they meant to spend the day in bed. One company after another came up Royal Avenue or swung round the corner from the High Street, and marched before my eyes along Donegall Place towards the scene of the meeting. Small bodies of police appeared here and there, heading in the same direction. Now and then a few mounted police trotted by, making nearly as much jangle as if they had been regular soldiers. The hour fixed for the meeting was one o’clock, but at noon the number of men in the street was so great that ordinary traffic was stopped. A long line of trams, unable to force their way along, blocked the centre of the thoroughfare. The drivers and conductors left them and went away. Crowds of women and children collected on the roofs of these trams and cheered the men as they marched along.
At half-past twelve Moyne drove along in a carriage. The Dean was beside him, and Cahoon had a seat with his back to the horses. The progress of the carriage was necessarily very slow. I could not see Moyne’s face, but he sat in a hunched-up attitude suggestive of great misery. The Dean sat bold upright, and kept taking off his hat to the crowd when cheers broke out. Cahoon, whose face I could see, seemed cheerful and confident.
At the back of the carriage, perched on a kind of bar and holding on tightly to the springs, was Bland. Barefooted urchins often ride in this way, and appear to enjoy themselves until the coachman lashes backwards at them with his whip. I never saw a grown man do it before, and I should have supposed that it would be most uncomfortable. Bland, however, seemed quite cheerful, and I admired the instinct which led him to attach himself to Moyne’s carriage. He made sure of being present at the outbreak of hostilities, since the meeting could neither be held nor stopped till Moyne arrived; and he had hit upon far the easiest way of getting through the crowd which thronged Donegall Place.
At a quarter to one Bob Power and his company arrived. Instead of marching to the scene of the meeting Bob halted and drew his men across the end of the street right underneath the club windows. Crossan, with another company of volunteers, joined him.
Bob and Crossan consulted together, and Bob gave an order which I could not hear. Two of his men laid down their rifles and ran along the street, one taking each side of the line of trams. They shouted to the people on the roofs of the trams as they passed them. The orders, if they were orders, were obeyed. There was a hurried stampede of women and children. They climbed down from the trams and ran along the street towards my end of it. Bob’s men opened their ranks and let them go through.
One after another the shops in the street were closed. Roller blinds and shutters covered the windows. A telegraph boy on a red bicycle rode through Bob’s lines into the empty street. He stopped and dismounted, evidently puzzled by the deserted appearance of the street. Two of the volunteers seized him and took the envelope from his wallet. They sent him back to the post-office. The poor boy was so frightened that he left his bicycle behind him.
Bob gave an order and one of his men took the bicycle and rode off in the direction of the meeting. A few minutes later one of the club waiters brought the telegram to me. It was from Lady Moyne.
“Saw the Prime Minister this morning. He is taking all possible measures to avoid bloodshed. Has telegraphed instructions to the military authorities. Tell Moyne. Am sending duplicate message to him. Want to make sure of reaching him.”
I glanced at my watch. It was five minutes past one; evidently too late to tell Moyne anything. Whatever was happening at the scene of the meeting had begun to happen at one o’clock. I waited.
Ten minutes later a motor car, driven at a furious pace, dashed round the corner at the far end of the street, and sped towards us. A single passenger sat beside the driver. I recognized him at once. It was Clithering. Halfway down the street he suddenly caught sight of Bob’s volunteers. He clutched the driver by the arm. The car stopped abruptly, backed, turned round and sped back again. I lost sight of it as it swept round the corner.
Then followed another period of waiting in tense silence. The men beneath me – there must have been about five hundred of them – did not speak. They scarcely moved. Bob and Crossan stood in front of them, rigid, silent.
Bob’s scout, the man who had mounted the telegraph boy’s red bicycle, appeared in front of the Town Hall and came tearing along the street. He sprang to the ground in front of Bob and Crossan and spoke to them eagerly. They turned almost at once and gave an order. Their men lay down. I heard the rattle of their rifles on the pavement. I could see their hands fiddling with the sights, slipping along the barrels and stocks, opening and snapping shut the magazines. The men were nervous, but, except for the movements of their hands, they showed no signs of great excitement. One man, near the end of the line, deliberately unbuttoned his collar and threw it away. Another took off his coat, folded it up carefully, and laid it on the ground behind him. It struck me that it was his best coat, a Sunday garment which he was unwilling to soil. Bob walked slowly along the line, speaking in low tones to the men. Crossan stood rigidly still a few paces in front of the line, watching the far end of the street.
Another cyclist appeared and rode towards us. One of the men fired his rifle. Crossan turned round, walked back to the man, and struck him on the head. Then he wrenched the rifle from his hands, threw it into the street, and kicked the man savagely. The man made no resistance. He got up and slowly left the ranks, walking away shamefacedly with hanging head. I do not think that Crossan had spoken to him, nor did he speak to any one else. His action explained itself. He turned his back on the men and once again stared down the empty street. Discipline was evidently to be strictly preserved in the ranks of the volunteers. There was to be no shooting until the order was given.
When Crossan’s proceedings ceased to be interesting I looked round to see what had become of the cyclist. I caught sight of him in the custody of two volunteers. He was shoved through the door of the club. I could only see the top of his head, and so failed to recognize him until he entered the room and came over to me.
“Bland,” I said. “How did you get here?”
“I spotted this window,” said Bland, “as I rode along, and I asked them to put me in here. Is it a club?”
“Yes,” I said. “What happened at the meeting?”
“Get me a whisky and soda,” said Bland, “if you’re a member.”
I rang the bell.
“What happened?” I said. “Did they hold the meeting?”
“They were holding it,” said Bland, “when I left. But it wasn’t much of a meeting.”
I ordered a whisky and soda from a terrified waiter.
“What about the police?” I asked.
“They ran over the police,” said Bland. “I don’t think they killed many. There wasn’t any shooting. The whole thing was done with a rush. Damned well done. You couldn’t call it a charge. The police were drawn up in the middle of an open space where four or five roads met. The men kind of flowed over them. When the place was clear again, there weren’t any police. That’s all. Ah! here’s the whisky!”
He was evidently thirsty for he drank the whole tumbler-full in a draught.
“What about Moyne?” I said. “What did he do?”
“Oh. He stood up on the back seat of a carriage and began to make a speech. But that didn’t matter.”
“What did he say?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t stay to listen. I expect he urged them not to kill any one. But it does not matter what he said. The men with rifles, the volunteers, began to march off at once, in good order, some in one direction, some in another. In five minutes there wasn’t anybody left to listen to Lord Moyne except a few corner boys. I can tell you this, Lord Kilmore, there’s a man with a head on his shoulders behind this insurrection. He has those men of his holding all the most important parts of the town. I got hold of a bicycle – ”
“How?” I said. “You’re very wonderful, Bland. How did you get a bicycle in the middle of a battlefield?”
“Stole it,” said Bland. “It belonged to a policeman, but he is probably dead, so he won’t mind. I rode after two or three different parties of volunteers just to see where they were going. When I got back to the place of the meeting there was a body of cavalry trotting up. I had a sort of feeling that the battle would come this way. It ought to. This is the most important place in the town. All lines of communication meet here. Your side has brains enough to see that. The question is, will the soldiers attack them here? I chanced it. If there’s any good fighting to-day it ought to be here.”
I am not sure whether the General in command of the troops had the brains to recognize that the post which Bob Power held was the key to the whole situation. He did a good deal of desultory street fighting in other places, and though he made a strong show of attacking Bob Power in the end I think he was drawn into it by accident.
Bland lit a cigarette, and he and I stood at the window watching.
A crowd of men appeared at the far end of the street, running in wild disorder. They ran quite silently with bent heads and outstretched hands. Behind them, immediately behind them, came a squadron of dragoons galloping. As the fugitives turned into the street the soldiers overtook them and struck right and left with their swords. They were using the flats, not the edges of the blades. The fugitives staggered under the blows. Some of them stumbled and fell; but I do not think that any one was seriously hurt.
“Lord Moyne’s audience,” said Bland. “The corner boys. There’s not an armed man among them.”
I noticed that when he pointed it out to me. The flying men, wild with terror, rushed into the empty trams. For the moment they were safe enough. The dragoons could not get at them without dismounting. They pulled up their horses.
Bob Power gave an order. Rifles cracked all along his line. The men must have emptied their magazines before they stopped firing. The officer of the dragoons gave an order. His squadron wheeled and galloped back the way they came. Five horses lay plunging on the ground. Four men dragged themselves clear of their saddles and ran after their comrades. The other lay where he fell.
Six men detached themselves from Bob’s lines and ran forward. In a few minutes they were dragging the terrified fugitives from the trams and driving them across the street. They came towards us, wailing aloud in high shrill voices, like women. Behind them came Bob’s volunteers, carrying the wounded dragoon, and supporting a couple of the fugitives who had been knocked down the soldiers. The howling men were pushed through the ranks to the rear. The volunteers closed up again in silence. Not even when the dragoons turned and galloped away did they break their silence. I have heard of soldiers going into battle with shouts and greeting moments of success with cheers. These man fired on their enemies without a shout and saw them fly without a cheer. Five minutes later a company of infantry marched into the street, extended into open order, and fired. Bob’s men fired. More infantry came. They deployed along the front of the City Hall. The rifle fire from both ends of the street was rapid and continuous. It was the first time in my life that I had ever been in danger of being killed by a bullet. I confess that for a few minutes I was so nervous that I was unable to give any attention to the fighting going on in front of me. So many rifles were going off at the far end of the street that it seemed certain that not only Bland and I but every one of Bob’s men must necessarily die at once. To my very great surprise I was not hit. My nervousness began to disappear. I peered out of the window and noticed that none of Bob’s men were either killed or wounded.
“I suppose,” I said to Bland, “that this is a regular battle. You’ve had some experience so you ought to know.”
“Oh yes,” said Bland, “it’s a battle right enough – of sorts.”
A bullet snicked through the window glass above my head and buried itself in the wall at the far end of the room. I looked at the volunteers again. They did not seem to be suffering. I took a glance at the soldiers at the far end of the street. The firing did not seem even to annoy them.
“There seems to me,” I said, “to be very little damage done. Don’t they usually kill each other in battles?”
“The shooting’s damn bad,” said Bland, “damned bad on both sides. I never saw worse. I wonder if they mean to shoot straight.”
Bob’s men, I think, were doing their best; but they were certainly making very bad practice. It did not seem to me that during the first twenty minutes they hit a single living thing except the five dragoon horses. The walls of the houses on both sides of the street were filled with bullet marks. A curious kind of shallow furrow appeared about halfway down the street. At first it seemed a mere line drawn on the ground. Then it deepened into a little trench with a ridge of dust beyond it.
“There must be a ton or two of good bullets buried there,” said Bland. “They haven’t sighted for the distance.
“I don’t blame the volunteers,” I said, “but the soldiers really ought to shoot better. A lot of money is spent on that army every year, and if they can’t hit a single enemy at that distance – ”
“I rather think,” said Bland, “that the soldiers are firing up into the air on purpose. That bullet which came through our window is the only one which hit anything. It’s shocking waste of ammunition.”
The door of the reading-room opened behind me. I turned and saw Sir Samuel Clithering. He staggered into the room and looked deadly white. For a moment I thought he must be blind. He plunged straight into a table which stood in the middle of the room in front of him.
“My God! My God!” he cried.
Then he was violently sick. He must have got into the club somehow from the back. I went over to him, intending to get him out of the room before he was sick again. He clutched my arm and held me tight.
“Stop it,” he said. “Stop it. Promise them anything, anything at all; only get them to stop.”
I did not quite know what Clithering wanted me to do. It seemed absurd to go down to Bob Power and offer, on behalf of the Government, to introduce amendments in the Home Rule Bill. Yet something of the sort must have been in Clithering’s mind when he urged me to promise anything. He probably had some vague idea of consulting the wishes of the electorate. That is the sort of thing Clithering would think of doing in an emergency.
“It’s horrible, too horrible,” he said. “Oh God! Bloodshed! Bloodshed!”
“Cheer up,” I said, “I don’t think a single man on either side has been hit yet.”
“I say,” said Bland from the window, “did the soldiers get orders to fire over the people’s heads?”
“Yes,” said Clithering. “Strict orders. The Cabinet was unanimous. The Prime Minister telegraphed this morning.”
“Rather rough on the peaceable inhabitants of the town,” said Bland, “the men who have kept out of the battle. I suppose you forgot that bullets come down again somewhere.”
“I was in one of the back streets,” wailed Clithering, “far away – ”
“Exactly,” said Bland, “it’s just in back streets that those things happen.”
“It was a woman,” said Clithering, “a girl with a baby in her arms. I did not know what had happened. I ran over to her. She and the baby – both of them. I shall never forget it. Oh!”
Then he was sick again. Clithering is a highly civilized men. I suppose one must be highly civilized if one is to keep pace with the changing fashions in stockings. It was out of what is called “Fancy Hosiery” that Clithering made most of his money. I felt very sorry for him, but his performances were making me feel sick too. I joined Bland again at the window.
“They’ve got a machine gun,” said Bland. “Things will get brisker now.”
I looked out anxiously and saw with a sense of relief that it was Bob’s side which had got the new gun. McConkey and his assistants had turned up from somewhere and were dragging their weapon into position under the window of a larger jeweller’s shop on the left flank of Bob’s firing line. This was bad enough. In street fighting at close quarters a gun of this kind is very murderous and ought to do a terrible amount of destruction. But things would have been much worse if the soldiers had had it. They, I suppose, would have known how to use it. I doubted McConkey’s skill in spite of his practice on the slob lands below Shore Road.
“The soldiers will have to shoot in earnest now,” said Bland. “If that fellow can handle his gun he’ll simply mow them down.”
It looked at first, I am bound to say, as if McConkey had really mastered his new trade. He got his weapon into position and adjusted a belt of cartridges, working as coolly as if he were arranging the machinery of the Green Loaney Scutching Mill. He seemed to find a horrible satisfaction in what he was doing. Twice I saw him pat the muzzle of the thing as if to give it encouragement. I dare say he talked to it.
“He’s damned cool,” said Bland. “I’ve seen fellows who’d been fighting for months not half so – ”
Then McConkey started his infernal machine. The effect was most surprising. Two tramcars, which were standing close to the far end of the street, simply disappeared. There was a kind of eruption of splintered wood, shattered glass and small fragments of metal. When that subsided there was no sign of there ever having been tramcars in that particular spot. McConkey evidently noticed that he had not aimed his pet quite straight. He stopped it at once.
An officer – I think it was Bob’s friend Henderson – sprang to his feet at the far end of the street and ran along the line of soldiers shouting an order.
“They’ll begin in earnest now,” said Bland. “Why doesn’t he rattle them again with the gun?”
McConkey had the best will in the world, but something had gone wrong with the gun; it was a complicated machine, and he had evidently jammed some part of it. I saw him working frenziedly with a large iron spanner in his hand; but nothing he could do produced the least effect. It would not go off.
In the meantime Henderson’s soldiers stood up and stopped firing. The volunteers stopped firing too. The soldiers formed a line. There was silence in the street for a moment, dead silence. I could hear McConkey’s spanner ringing against the iron of his gun. Then Bob Power shouted.
“They’re going to charge us. Up, boys, and come on! We’ll meet them halfway.”
“They’re all gone mad together,” said Bland. “You can’t charge down magazine rifles. It’s impossible.”
“It seems to me,” I said, “that if the battle is ever finished at all they’ll have to get at each other with their fists. So far weapons have been a total failure.”
Clithering crawled across the room while we were speaking and clutched me by the legs. I do not think it was fear of the bullets which made him crawl. He had been so very sick that he was too weak to walk.
“What’s happening?” he said. “For God’s sake tell me. Are there many killed?”
“No one yet on this side,” I said. “There may be a few soldiers hit, but I don’t suppose you mind about them. There’s just going to be a charge. Get up and you’ll be able to see it.”
Clithering caught the end of the window-sash and dragged himself to his feet. He was just in time to see Bob’s men rush along the street. They did not charge in any sort of order. They simply spread out and ran as fast as they could, as fast as I ever saw men run. Some of them took their rifles with them. Others, evidently agreeing with me that they would do more destruction with their fists, left their rifles behind. They covered fifty or sixty yards, and were still going fast when they discovered that the soldiers were not waiting for them. Henderson walked alongside the leading men of the column with his ridiculously long sword in his hand. Two mounted officers brought up the rear. The men, with their rifles sloped over their shoulders, marched briskly across the end of the street. In the middle of the column were eight stretchers carried along. Bob’s men, in spite of their bad shooting, had wounded that number of their enemies. I found out afterwards that they had killed three others outright. The discipline of the British army must be remarkably good. In spite of their heavy loss the soldiers obeyed orders, and steadily refrained from trying to kill Bob’s men. Their final disappearance was a crowning proof of their obedience. I watched this body of infantry march out of sight into the next street. They were not running away. They were not even retreating. They gave me the impression of having stopped the battle in a way that was quite customary because it was time for them to do something else – get some dinner perhaps.
This performance produced, as might be expected, a most disconcerting effect upon Bob’s warriors. They stopped running and stared at their departing foes. Then they turned round and gaped at each other. Then they applied to Bob Power for information. They wanted to know, apparently, whether they had gained a great and glorious victory, or were to regard the departure of the enemy as some subtle kind of strategy. Bob seemed as much puzzled as everyone else. Even Bland, in spite of his experience of battles in two great wars, was taken aback.
|“Well, I’m damned,” he said.
“Thank God, thank God!” said Clithering.
Then he crumpled up and fainted. He meant, I think, to express the relief he felt at the cessation of hostilities. He had no heard, or if he heard, had not heeded, Bland’s remark. Clithering is not the type of man to thank God for any one’s damnation, and he had no special dislike of Bland.
“I’m damned,” said Bland again.
“I suppose,” I said, “that it’s rather unusual in battles to do that sort of thing – march off, I mean – without giving some sort of notice to the other side. It strikes me as rather bad form. There ought to be a rule against it.”
Ulster Volunteers in 1912
|Bob’s men returned, sheepishly and dejectedly, to their original posts.
Crossan was arguing with McConkey about the condition of the machine
gun. The young man who had taken off his coat before the battle picked
it up from the ground, brushed it carefully, and put it on. Bob Power
walked along the street with a note-book in his hands. He appeared to
be writing down the names of the shopkeepers whose windows were broken.
He is a young man of active and energetic disposition. I suppose he
felt he must do something.
Bland stared through the window for some time. He hoped, I dare say, that the soldiers would come back, with reinforcements, perhaps with artillery. At last he gave up this idea.
“Let’s have a drink,” he said. “We want one.”
He turned abruptly and stumbled over Clithering, who had fallen just beside him. I got hold of a waiter, the only one left in the club, and made him bring us whisky and soda. Bland squirted the syphon into Clithering’s face, and I poured some quantities of whisky into his mouth. Clithering is a rigid teetotaller, and has for years been supporting every Bill for the suppression of public houses which has been brought before Parliament. The whisky which he swallowed revived him in the most amazing way.
“Have they gone?” he asked.
“If you mean the soldiers,” said Bland, “they have. I can’t imagine why, but they have.”
“I telegraphed to the Prime Minister,” said Clithering. “It was hours and hours ago. Or was it yesterday? It was just before I saw the woman shot. I told him that – that the soldiers – they were only mean to overawe the people – not to kill them – I said the soldiers must be withdrawn to barracks – I said they must not be allowed – ”
I do not know whether it was the exhaustion after nervous strain or the whisky which affected Clithering. Whisky – and he had swallowed nearly a glassful – does produce striking effects upon teetotallers; so it may have been the whisky. Clithering turned slowly over on his side and went sound asleep. Bland and I carried him upstairs to a bedroom on the top storey of the club. There were, Bland said, three bullets buried in the mattress, so it was fortunate that we had not carried Clithering up earlier in the day.
“Let’s get the waiter,” said Bland, “if he hasn’t gone away, and tell him to undress this fool!”
“It’s hardly necessary to undress him, is it?”
“Better to,” said Bland, “and take away his clothes. Then he’ll have to stay there, and won’t be able to send any more telegrams.”
“It’s rather a good thing he sent that last one,” I said. “If he hadn’t, somebody would have certainly have been killed in the charge.”
“I suppose that telegram accounts for it,” said Bland. “I mean for the behaviour of the soldiers. Orders sent straight from Downing Street. I say, what a frightful temper the Commanding Officer must be in this minute! I wonder if I could get an interview with him.”
He looked questioningly at me. I fancy he hoped that I would give him a letter of introduction to the General in command of the district.
“His language,” said Bland, “would be a tremendous scoop for me. Could you – ?”
“No,” I said, “I couldn’t. I don’t know him, and even if I did – ”
“Oh, well,” said Bland, “it can’t be helped. And, any way, I dare say I shouldn’t have been able to get my telegram through. The wires are sure to be blocked.”