Books History Irish Republican Journalism

Ruth Russell, An American Journalist In Revolutionary Ireland

In early 1919 the pioneering woman journalist, Ruth Russell, visited Ireland to report on the brewing republican revolution for the Chicago Herald newspaper. She subsequently wrote a short book chronicling her time in the country, published in 1920 by the Devin-Adair Company under the title What’s the Matter with Ireland?. This edition included a fulsome introduction by Éamon de Valera, the then President of Dáil Éireann, and was something of a best-seller in the United States as the burgeoning conflict in north-western Europe continued to hit the headlines.

Russell’s account of her visit to Ireland is notable for its intimate and sympathetic style, with no sign of the phonetic “stage Irish” accents and racist caricatures which were so beloved by the press in Britain. It includes this description of her time with an impoverished family in a Dublin slum:

Widow Hannan was my hostess. The widow is a strong, black-haired young woman who took an active part in the rebellion of 1916, and whose husband was killed fighting under James Connolly. We slept in the first floor front. In with the widow lay her three children, and in the cot catty-corner from the bed I was bunked. Just when the night air was thinning to gray there was a shattering rap on the ground-level window. The half-dressed young factory daughter clambered over the others and ripped down the rain coat that served as a night-time window curtain. Against the square-paned window was hunched a forward-shouldered woman.

…as lodger I was given the only chair at the breakfast-table. The mother and girl sat at a plank bench and supped their tea from their saucerless cups. As there was no place else to sit, the children took their bread and jam as they perched on the bed, and when they finished, surreptitiously wiped their fingers on the brown-covered hay mattress.

Her indignation at the economic exploitation of the island by its colonial rulers is evident throughout:

The recent vice-regal milk commission noted the lack of milk for the poor in Ireland. Why? The town of Naas tells one reason. Naas is in the midst of a grazing country, but Naas babies have died for want of milk, because Naas cattle are raised for beef exportation.

And as you might expect, some famous historical figures make an appearance:

Into College Green a brute of a tank had cruised.

Over the city, against the silver-rimmed, Irish gray clouds, aeroplanes—there were sixteen in one formation—buzzed insistently. Between the little stone columns of the roof railing of Trinity College, machine guns poked out their cold snouts.

“Smoke bombs were dropped over Mount Street Bridge today,” said Harry Boland with a shrug of his shoulders when I arrived at Sinn Fein headquarters to ask if the reception would still be held. “What can we do against a force like theirs?”

Below is the full text of the book by Ruth Russell, which can also be found here (I’ve included a digitised copy of the 1920 original publication as well). Returning to the US, the journalist went on to have a long career with the Illinois press, becoming the feature editor for the Chicago Daily News.

What’s the Matter with Ireland?

By Ruth Russell


New York

The Devin-Adair Co.














January 29, 1920.

Miss Ruth Russell,

Chicago, Illinois.

Dear Miss Russell:

I have read the advance copy of your book, “What’s the Matter with
Ireland?“, with much interest.

I congratulate you on the rapidity with which you succeeded in understanding Irish conditions and grasped the Irish viewpoint.

I hope your book will be widely read. Your first chapter will be instructive to those who have been deceived by the recent cry of Irish prosperity. Cries of this sort are echoed without thought as to their truth, and gain credence as they pass from mouth to mouth. I hope we shall have many more impartial investigators, such as you, who will take the trouble to see things for themselves first hand, and who will not be imposed upon by half-truths.

Having visited Ireland, I feel you cannot doubt that the poet was right—

“There never was a nation yet

Could rule another well.”

I imagine, too, that having seen the character of British rule there, you must realize better than before what it was your American patriots of ’76 hastened to rid themselves of. In a country with such natural resources as Ireland, can you believe it possible that if government by the people obtained there could be such conditions of unemployment and misery as you found?

Do you not think that if the elected Government of the Republic were left unhampered by foreign usurpation, we might in the coming years hope to rival the boast of Lord Clare in 1798:

“There is not a nation on the face of the habitable globe which has
advanced in cultivation, in manufactures, with the same rapidity in
the same period as Ireland—from 1782 to 1798.”

and that progress like this, with the present social outlook in Ireland, would mean the peace, contentment and happiness of millions of human beings?

Yours very truly,




“And tell us what is the matter with Ireland.”

This was the last injunction a fellow journalist, propagandized into testy impatience with Ireland, gave me before I sailed for that bit of Europe which lies closest to America.

It became perfectly obvious that Ireland was poor; poor to ignorance, poor to starvation, poor to insanity and death. And that the cause of her poverty is her exploitation by the world capitalist next door to her.

In Ireland there is no disagreement as to the cause of her poverty. There is very little difference as to the best remedy—three-fourths of Ireland have expressed their belief that the country can live only as a republic. Even the two great forces in Ireland that are said to be for the status quo, I found in active sympathy with the republican cause. In the Catholic Church the young priests are eager workers for Sinn Fein, and in Ulster the laborers are backing their leaders in a plea for self-determination. But there are, of course, those who say that a republic is not enough. In the cities where poverty is blackest, there are those who state that the new republic must be a workers’ republic. In the villages and country places where the co-operative movement is growing strong, there are those who believe that the new republic must be a co-operative commonwealth.


Is Ireland poor? I decided to base my answer to that question on personal investigation. I dressed myself as a working girl—it is to the working class that seven-eighths of the Irish people belong—and in a week in the slums of Dublin I found that lack of employment is continually driving the people to migration, low-wage slavery, or acceptance of charity.

At the woman’s employment bureau of the ministry of munitions, I discovered that 50,000 Irish boys and girls are annually sent to the English harvests, and that during the war there were 80,000 placements in the English munition factories.

“But I don’t want to leave home,” I heard a little ex-fusemaker say as we stood in queues at the chicken-wire hatch in the big bare room turned over by the ministry of munitions for the replacement of women who had worked on army supplies. Her voice trembled with the uncertainty of one who knew she could not dictate.

“Then you’ve got to be a servant,” said the direct young woman at the hatch. “There’s nothing left in Ireland but domestic jobs.”

“Isn’t—you told me there might be something in Belfast?”

“Linen mills are on part time now—no chance. There’s only one place for good jobs now—that’s across the channel.”

The little girl bit her lip. She shook her head and went out the rear exit provided for ex-war workers. Together we splashed into the broken-bricked alley that was sloppy with melting spring sleet.

“Maybe she doesn’t know everything,” said the little girl, fingering a religious medal that shone beneath her brown muffler. “Maybe some one’s dropped out. Let’s say a prayer.”

Through the cutting sleet we bent our way to Dublin’s largest factory—a plant where 1,000 girls are employed at what are the best woman’s wages in Dublin, $4.50 to $10 a week.

“You gotta be pretty brassy to ask for work here,” said the little girl. “Everybody wants to work here. But you can’t get anything unless you’re b-brassy, can you?”

We entered a big-windowed, red-bricked factory, and in response to our timid application, a black-clad woman shook her head wearily. Down a puddly, straw-strewn lane we were blown to one of the factories next in size—a fifty to 100 hand factory is considered big in Dublin. The sign on the door was scrawled:

“No Hands Wanted.”

But in the courage of companionship we mounted the black, narrow-treaded wooden stairs to a box-littered room where white-aproned girls were nailing candy containers together. While we waited for the manager to come out, we stood with bowed heads so that the sleet could pool off our hats, and through a big crack in the plank floor we could see hard red candies swirling below. Suddenly we heard a voice and looked up to see the ticking-aproned manager spluttering:

“Well, can’t you read?”

Up in a loft-like, saw-dusty room where girls were stuffing dolls and daubing red paint on china cheeks, an excited manager declared he was losing his own job. The new woman’s trade union league wanted him to pay more than one dollar a week to his girls. He would show the union his books. Wasn’t it better to have some job than none at all?

Down the wet street, now glinting blindingly in the late sun, we walked into a grubby little tea shop for a sixpenny pot of tea between us. Out of my pocket I pulled a wage list of well-paying, imagination-stirring jobs in England. There were all sorts of jobs from toy-making at $8.25 a week to glass-blowing at $20. On the face of the little girl as she told me that she would meet me at the ministry of munitions the next morning there was a look of worried indecision.

That night along Gloucester street, past the Georgian mansion houses built before the union of Ireland and England—great, flat-faced, uprising structures behind whose verdigrised knockers and shattered door fans comes the murmur of tenements—I walked till I came to a much polished brass plate lettered “St. Anthony’s Working Girls’ Home.”

“Why don’t you go to England?” was the first question the matron put to me when I told her that I could get no factory work. “All the girls are going.”

In the stone-flagged cellar the girls were cooking their individual dinners at a stove deep set in the stone wall. A big, curly-haired girl was holding bread on a fork above the red coals.

“Last time I got lonesome,” she was admitting. “But the best parlor maid job here is $60 a year. And over at Basingstoke in England I’ve one waiting for me at $150 a year. If you want to live nowadays I suppose you’ve gotta be lonesome.”

Next day at the alley of the employment bureau, I met the little girl of the day before. She said a little dully:

“Well, I took—shirt-making—Edinburgh.”

Instead of migrating, a girl may marry. But her husband in most cases can’t make enough money to support a family. To keep an average family of five, just going, on food alone, costs $370 a year. Some farm hands get only $100. An average unskilled worker obtains $260 a year. An organized unskilled worker receives $367, and an organized skilled worker, $539. Therefore, if a girl marries, she has not only to bear children but to go out to work beside. Their constant toil makes the women of Ireland something less than well-cared-for slaves.

Take the mother in Dublin. In Dublin there have long been too many casual laborers. One-third of Dublin’s population of 300,000 are in this class. Now, while wages for some sorts of casual labor like dock work increased during the war, it has become almost impossible for Dublin laborers to get a day’s job. For the unemployed are flocking for the good wages from the four fields of Ireland. On the days the man is out of work the woman must go out to wash or “char.” I understood these conditions better after I spent a night in a typical one-room home in the dockers’ quarters near the Liffey.

Widow Hannan was my hostess. The widow is a strong, black-haired young woman who took an active part in the rebellion of 1916, and whose husband was killed fighting under James Connolly. We slept in the first floor front. In with the widow lay her three children, and in the cot catty-corner from the bed I was bunked. Just when the night air was thinning to gray there was a shattering rap on the ground-level window. The half-dressed young factory daughter clambered over the others and ripped down the rain coat that served as a night-time window curtain. Against the square-paned window was hunched a forward-shouldered woman.

As she was being beckoned to the door, I rose, and to do my hair had to wedge myself in between the breakfast-table and the filmy mirror that hung among the half-tone pictures of the rebels of 1916. On the iron mantel, gray with coal dust, there was a family comb.

“God save all here,” said the neighbor entering. “Mary, himself’s had no work for four days. Keep the young ones out of the grate for me. I’ve got to go out washing.”

“My sister-in-law has a husband and seven children to support,” said the widow in explanation to me. “During the war, he could do with her going out just once in a while—now it’s all the time.” Then to the sister-in-law: “I’ve a wash myself today.”

The big shoes that must once have belonged to the visitor’s man, hit the floor loosely as she walked slowly out. Then as lodger I was given the only chair at the breakfast-table. The mother and girl sat at a plank bench and supped their tea from their saucerless cups. As there was no place else to sit, the children took their bread and jam as they perched on the bed, and when they finished, surreptitiously wiped their fingers on the brown-covered hay mattress. Before we were through, they had run to the street and back to warm their cold legs inside the fender till the floor was tracked with mud from the street, ashes from the grate, and bits of crumbled bread.

In the evening I heard the murmur of revolution. With the shawled mothers who line the lane on a pleasant evening, I stood between the widow and a twenty-year-old girl who held her tiny blind baby in her arms. Across the narrow street with its water-filled gutters, barefoot children in holey sweaters or with burlap tied about their shoulders, slapped their feet as they jigged, or jumped at hop-scotch. Back of them in typical Dublin decay rose the stables of an anciently prosperous shipping concern; in the v dip of the roofless walls, spiky grass grew and through the barred windows the wet gray sky was slotted. Suddenly the girl-mother spoke:

“Why, there’s himself coming back, Mary. See him turning up from the timber on the quay. There was sorrow in his eyes like the submarine times when he came to tell me no boat docked this morning. Baby or no baby, I’ll have to get work for myself, for he’s not given me a farthing for a fortnight.”

A big Danish-looking chap was homing towards the door. Without meeting the girl’s eyes, he slunk into the doorway. His broad shoulders sagged under his sun-faded coat, and he blocked the light from the glassless window on the staircase as he disappeared. When he slouched out again his hand dropped from his hip pocket.

“It’s to drill he’s going,” The young mother snugged her shawl in more tightly about her baby. Then she said with a little break in her voice: “Oh, it’s very pleasant, just this, with the girls jigging and rattling their legs of a spring evening.”

A girl’s voice defiantly telling a soldier that if he didn’t wear his civvies when he came to call he needn’t come at all, rose clearly from a dark doorway. A lamplighter streaked yellow flame into the square lamp hanging from the stone shell opposite. A jarvey, hugging a bundle of hay, drove his horse clankingly over the cobblestones. Then grimly came the whisper of the widow of the rebellion close to my ear:

“Oh, we’ll have enough in the army this time.”

Difficult as the Irish worker’s fight is, the able person is loath to give up and accept charity. But whether she wants to or not, if she can’t find work she must go to the poorhouse. Before the war it was estimated that over one-half the inmates of the Irish workhouses were employable. During the war, when there were more jobs than usual to be had, there was a great exodus from the hated poorhouse; there was a drop in workhouse wards from 400,000 to 250,000. But now jobs are getting less again and there is a melancholy return back over the hills to the poorhouse.

Night refuges, I found, are the last stage in this journey. There, with every day out of work, women become more unemployable—clothes and constitutions wear out; minds lose hope in effort and rely on luck. As I sat with a tableful of charwomen and general housework girls in a refuge in Dublin, I read two ads from the paper. One offered a job for a general servant with wages at $50 a year. The other ran: “Wanted: a strong humble general housework girl to live out; $1.25 a week.” I put the choice up to the table.

“If you haven’t anybody of your own to live with,” advised a husky-voiced, mufflered girl next me as she warmed her fingers about her mug of tea and regarded me from under her cotton velvet hat with some suspicion, “you should get the job living with the family. It takes five dollars a week to live by yourself.” Then forestalling a protest she added: “You’ll get two early evenings off—at eight o’clock.”

“Whatever you get, don’t let it go.” A bird-faced woman leaned over the table so that the green black plume of her charity bonnet wagged across the center of the table. With her little warning eyes still on my face she settled back impressively. As she extracted a half sheet of newspaper from under her beaded cape and furtively wrapped up one of the two “hunks” of bread that each refugee got, she continued: “Once I gave up a place because they let me have just potatoes and onions for dinner. No, hold on to whatever you get—whatever.” And after we had night prayers that were so long drawn out that someone moaned: “Do they want to scourge us with praying?”, the old charwoman repeated the hopeless words: “Hold on to whatever you get—whatever.”

In the pale gold light that flooded through the windows of the sixty-bed dormitory, the women turned down the mussed toweling sheets from the bolsters across the reddish gray spreads.

“My clothes dried on me after the rain, and I do be coughing till my chest is sore,” said the girl who had sat next me at the table and was next me in the sleeping room. “There was too many at the dispensary to wait.”

Out of a sagging pocket in her creased mackintosh she took a clothes brush. She slipped her skirt from under her coat and with her blue-cold hand passed the flat brush back and forth over the muddy hem.

“If I had a bit o’ black for my shoes now—with your clothes I could get me a housemaid’s job easy,” Her muffler covered the fact that she had no shirtwaist. Then she added encouragingly: “You’d better get a job quick. There’s only one blanket on these beds and clothes run down using them for covers at night.”

Opposite us a gray-cheeked mother was wrapping a black petticoat about the legs of a small child. She tucked the little girl in the narrow bed they were both to sleep in, and babbled softly to the drowsy child:

“No place yet. My heart do be falling out o’ me. Well, I’m not to blame because it’s you that keeps me from getting it. You—” she bent over the bed and ended sharply: “Oh, my darling, shall we die in Dublin?”

Through the dusk, above the sound of coughing and canvas stretching as the women settled themselves for the night, there rose the soft voices of two women telling welcome fairy stories to each other:

“It was a wild night,” said one. “She was going along the Liffey, and the wind coming up from the sea blew the cape about her face and she half fell into the water. He caught her, they kept company for seven years and then he married her. Who do you suppose he turned out to be? Why, a wealthy London baker. Och, God send us all fortune.”

There was silence, then the whisper of the mother:

“Look up to the windows, darling. There’s just a taste of daylight left.”

Gradually it grew dark and quiet in this vault of human misery. Then, far away from some remote chapel in the house, there floated the triumphant words of the practising choir:

“Alleluia! Alleluia!”


What do emigration and low wages do to Irish health? Social conditions result in an extraordinary percentage of tuberculosis and lunacy, and in a baby shortage in Ireland. Individual propensities to sexual excess or common crime are, incidentally, responsible for little of the ill health in Ireland.

Ireland’s tuberculosis rate is higher than that of most of the countries in the “civilized” world. Through Sir William Thompson, registrar-general of Ireland, I was given much material about tuberculosis in Ireland. An international pre-war chart showed Ireland fourth on the tuberculosis list—it was exceeded only by Austria, Hungary, and Servia.[1] During the war, Ireland’s tuberculosis mortality rate showed a tendency to increase; in 1913, her death list from tuberculosis was 9,387 and in 1917 it was 9,680.[2]

Emigration is heat to the tuberculosis thermometer. Why? Sir Robert Matheson, ex-registrar-general of Ireland, explained at a meeting of the Woman’s National Health Association. The more fit, he said, emigrate, and the less fit stay home and propagate weak children. Besides, emigrants who contract the disease elsewhere come home to die. Many so return from the United States. Numbers of the 50,000 annual migrants from the west coast of Ireland to the English harvests return to nurse the tuberculosis they contracted across the channel. Dr. Birmingham, of the Westport Union, is quoted as saying that in September a disease known locally as the “English cold” is prevalent among the young men who have been harvesting in England. Sometimes it is simple bronchitis. Mostly it is incipent phthisis. It is easily traced to the wretched sleeping places called “Paddy houses” in which Irish laborers are permitted to be housed in England. These “Paddy houses” are often death traps—crowded, dark, unventilated barns in which the men have to sleep on coarse bags on the floor.[3]

The Irish wage causes tuberculosis to mount higher. Dr. Andrew Trimble, chief tuberculosis officer for Belfast, comments on the fact that the sex affected proves that economic conditions are to blame. Under conditions of poverty, women become ill more quickly than men. Dr. Trimble writes: “In Belfast and in Ireland generally more females suffer from tuberculosis than males. In Great Britain, however, the reverse is the case…. In former years, however, they had much the same experience as we have in Ireland … and it would be necessary to go back over twenty-five years to come to a point where the mortality from tuberculosis among women equalled that now obtaining with us. It would seem that the hardships associated with poor economic conditions—insufficient wages, bad housing and want of fresh air, good food and sufficient clothing—tell more heavily on the female than on the male, and with the march of progress and better conditions of living … tuberculosis amongst women is automatically reduced.”[4]

The Irish wage must choose a tuberculosis incubator for a home. Ireland is a one-room-home country. In the great “rural slum” districts, the one-room cabin prevails. Country slums exist where homes cannot be supported by the land they are built on—they occur, for instance, in the rocky fields of Galway and Donegal and in the stripped bog lands of Sligo. Galway and Donegal cabins are made of stones wrested from the ground; in Mayo, the walls are piled sod—mud cabins. Roofing these western homes is the “skin o’ th’ soil” or sod with the grass roots in it. Through the homemade roofs or barrel chimneys the wet Atlantic winds often pour streams of water that puddle on the earthen floors. At one end of the cabin is a smoky dent that indicates the fireplace; and at the other there may be a stall or two. The small, deep-set windows are, as a rule, “fixed.” Rural slums are rivaled by city slums. Even in the capital of Ireland the poor are housed as badly as in the west of Ireland. Looking down on the city of Dublin from the tower of St. Patrick’s cathedral, one can see roofs so smashed in that they look as if some giant had walked over them; great areas so packed with buildings that there are only darts of passageways for light and air. In ancient plaster cabins, in high old edifices with pointed Huguenot roofs, in Georgian mansion tenements, there are 25,000 families whose homes are one-room homes. Dublin’s proportion of those who live more than two to a room is higher than that of any other city in the British Isles—London has 16.8; Edinburgh, 31.1; Dublin, 37.9.[5] In one-room homes tuberculosis breeds fast. A table from the dispensary for tuberculosis patients, an institution built in Dublin as a memorial to the American, P.F. Collier, shows that out of 1,176 cases 676 came from one-room homes.[6] As a type case, the report instances this: “Nine members of the W—— family were found living in one room together in a condition bordering on starvation. Both parents were very tubercular. The father had left the Sanatorium of the South Dublin Union on hearing of the mother’s delicacy. He hoped to earn a little to support the family that had been driven to such a state through illness that, houseless, it had had to sleep on stairs. The only regular income was $1.12 a week earned by the eldest girl, aged 16, in a factory. Owing to want of food and unhealthy surroundings, she was in so run down a condition that it seemed certain she would become tubercular if not at once removed.”

The Irish wage can’t buy the “good old diet.” Milk and stirabout and potatoes once grew rosy-cheeked children. But bread and tea is the general diet now. War rations? Ireland was not put on war rations. To regulate the amount of butter and bacon per family would have been superfluous labor. Few families got even war rations.[7] Charitable organizations doubt if they should give relief to families who are able to have an occasional meal of potatoes in addition to their bread and tea. In a recent pamphlet[8] the St. Vincent de Paul Society said: “A widow … who after paying the rent of her room, has a shilling a day to feed herself and two, three, four or even more children, is considered a doubtful case by the society. Yet a shilling a day will only give the family bread and tea for every meal, with an occasional dish of potatoes. By strict economy a little margarine may be purchased, but by no process of reasoning may it be said that the family has enough to eat, or suitable food.” The Irish wage would have to be a high wage to buy the old diet. For that is not supplied by Ireland for Ireland any more. When Ireland became a cow lot, cereal and vegetable crops became few. But milk should be plentiful? The recent vice-regal milk commission noted the lack of milk for the poor in Ireland. Why? The town of Naas tells one reason. Naas is in the midst of a grazing country, but Naas babies have died for want of milk, because Naas cattle are raised for beef exportation. The town of Ennis tells another reason. Ennis is also in the center of a grazing country. Until the Woman’s National Health Association established a depot, Ennis poor could not get retailed pitchersful of milk, for Ennis cows are raised to supply wholesale cansful to creameries which make the supply into dairy products for exportation.[9]

Bread-and-tea, and bread-and-tealess families get on the calling list of tuberculosis nurses. “The nurses often found,” writes the Woman’s National Health Association, “that a large number of cases committed to their care were in an advanced stage of the disease … in a number of cases families have been found entirely without food. This chronic state of lack of nourishment … accounts in part for the fact that there are two and sometimes three persons affected in the same family.”[10]

Has mental as well as physical health been affected? Lunacy is extraordinarily prevalent in Ireland. In the lunacy inspectors’ office in Dublin castle, I was given the last comparison they had published of the insanity rates in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland. English and Welsh insanity per 10,000 people was 40.8; Scottish, 45.4; Irish, 56.2. The Irish rate for 1916 showed an increase to 57.1.[11]

Emigration, remark lunacy experts, fostered lunacy. Whole families withdrew from certain districts. Consanguineous marriages became more frequent. Weak-minded cousins wedded to bring forth weaker-minded children.

And Irish living conditions are a nemesis. They affect those who go as well as those who stay. Commenting on the fact that the Irish contribute the highest proportion of the white foreign-born population to the American hospitals for the insane, as well as filling their own asylums, the lunacy inspectors write: “As to why this should be, we can offer no reasoned explanation: but just as the Irish famine was, apart from its direct effects, responsible for so much physical and mental distress in the country, so it would seem not improbable that the innutritious dietary and other deprivations of the majority of the population of Ireland must, when acting over many generations, have led to impaired nutrition of the nervous system, and in this way have developed in the race those neuropathic and psychopathic tendencies which are precursors of insanity.”[12]

Babies don’t like mentally and physically worn-out parents. Babies used to be thought to have special predilection for Ireland. But as a matter of fact, they come to the island less and less. Ireland has for some time produced fewer babies to the thousand people than Scotland. During the decade 1907-1916 Scotland’s annual average to every thousand people was 25.9;[13] Ireland’s was 22.8. From 1907 to 1917 Ireland’s total number of babies fell from 101,742 to 86,370.[14]

But as was said in the beginning, it is not to individual excess that most of the ill health in Ireland is due. It was not until recently that venereal disease as a factor in Irish ill health has been a factor worth mentioning. In 1906 a lunacy report read: “The statistics show that general paralysis of the insane—a disease now almost unknown in Ireland—is increasing in the more populous urban districts. At the same time the disease is still much less prevalent than in other countries, and in the rural districts it is practically non-existent. This is to a large extent due to the high standard of sexual morality that prevails all over Ireland.”[15]

Nor do the Irish suffer from the violence that accompanies common crime—for there is little crime under the most crime-provoking conditions. As the Countess of Aberdeen said: “In the past annual report by Sir Charles Cameron, the medical officer of health for Dublin, there are again some figures that tell a strange tale of poverty so widespread, of destitution so complete, of housing so unsanitary, of unemployment so little heeded, that one is amazed by the fact that no combined effort on the part of more fortunate citizens has been made toward bringing about a wholesome change, and this amazement is only lessened by the extraordinary freedom we in Dublin enjoy from robberies, peculations, from crimes of violence and other misdeeds that would sharpen our perception of miseries now borne with a fortitude and a self-restraint that cannot but appeal strongly to any who, either from personal experience or philanthropic reading, know how crime and vice are associated elsewhere with conditions not more distressing and often less long-lived than ours.”[16]


There’s small chance for the Irish to better their condition through education. Many Irish children don’t go to school. It is estimated that out of 500,000 school children, 150,000 do not attend school. Why not? Here are two reasons advanced by the Vice-Regal Committee on Primary Education, Ireland, in its report published by His Majesty’s Stationers, Dublin, 1919:

Many families are too poor.

England does not encourage Irish education.

Irish poverty is recognized in the school laws; the Irish Education act passed by Parliament in 1892 is full of excuses for children who must go to work instead of to school. Thousands of Irish youngsters must avail themselves of these excuses. Ireland has 64,000 children under the age of 14 at work. But Scotland with virtually the same population has only 37,500.[17]

Eight-year-old Michael Mallin drags kelp out of a rush basket and packs it down for fertilizer between the brown ridges of the little hand-spaded field in Donegal.

“Is there no school to be going to, Michael?”

“There do be a school, but to help my da’ there is no one home but me.”

The act says that the following is a “reasonable excuse for the non-attendance of a child, namely, … being engaged in necessary operations of husbandry.”[18]

Ten-year-old Margaret Duncan can be found sitting hunched up on a doorstep in a back street in Belfast. Her skirt and the step are webbed with threads clipped from machine-embroidered linen, or pulled from handkerchiefs for hemstitching. A few doors away little Helen Keefe, all elbows, is scrubbing her front steps.

“But school’s on.”

“Aye,” responds Margaret, “but our mothers need us.”

The act plainly states that another reasonable excuse is “domestic necessity or other work requiring to be done at a particular time or season.”[19]

William Brady has a twelve-hour day in Dublin. He’s out in the morning at 5:30 to deliver papers. He’s at school until three. He runs errands for the sweet shop till seven.

“You get too tired for school work. How does your teacher like that?”

“Ash! She can’t do anything.”

Intuitively he knows that he can protect himself behind the fortress of words in the school attendance act: “A person shall not be deemed to have taken a child into his employment in contravention of this act if it is proved that the employment by reason of being during the hours when school is not in session does not interfere with the efficient elementary instruction of the child.”[20]

Nine-year-old Patrick Gallagher may go to the Letterkenny Hiring Fair and sell his baby services to a farmer. Some one may say to Paddy:

“Why aren’t you at school?”

“Surely, I live over two miles away from school.”

The law thinks two miles are too far for him to walk. So he may be hired to work instead. Reads the education act: “A person shall not be deemed to have taken a child into his employment in contravention of this act if it is proved to the satisfaction of the court that during the employment there is not within two miles … from the residence of the child any … school which the child can attend.”[21]

Incidentally England does not encourage Irish education. England does not provide enough money to erect the best schools nor to attract the best teachers. But England agreed to an Irish education grant.[22] She established a central board of education in Ireland, and promised that through this board she would pay two-thirds of the school building bill and teachers’ salaries to any one who was zealous enough to erect a school. Does England come through with the funds? Not, says the vice-regal committee, unless she feels like it. In 1900 she agreed with Ireland that Ireland’s teachers should be paid higher salaries, but stipulated that the increase in salaries would not mean an immediate increase in grants.

New building grants were suspended altogether for a time. In 1902, an annual grant of £185,000 was diverted from Irish primary education and used for quite extraneous purposes. And when England does give money for Irish education, she pays no heed to the requirements stated by the Irish commissioners of education.[23] Instead she says: “This amount I happen to be giving to English education; I will grant a proportionate amount to Irish education.”

“If English primary education happens to require financial aid from the Treasury, Irish primary education is to get some and in proportion thereto,” writes the committee. “If England happens not to require any, then, of course, neither does Ireland. A starving man is to be fed only if some one else is hungry…. It seems to us extraordinary that Irish primary education should be financed on lines that have little relation to the needs of the case.”[24]

So there are not enough schools to go to. Belfast teachers testified before the committee that in their city alone there were 15,000 children without school accommodations. Some of the number are on the streets. Others are packed into educational holes of Calcutta. New schools, said the teachers, are needed not only for these pupils but also for those incarcerated in unsuitable schools—unheated schools or schools in whose dark rooms gas must burn daily. On the point of unsuitability, the testimony of a special investigator named F.H. Dale was quoted. He said:

“I have no hesitation in reporting that both in point of convenience for teachers and in the requirements necessary for the health of teachers and scholars, the average school buildings in Dublin and Belfast are markedly inferior to the average school buildings now in use in English cities of corresponding size.”

So if unsuitable schools were removed, Belfast would have to provide for some thousands of school children beyond the estimate of 15,000, and other localities according to their similar great need.[25]

Live, interesting primary teachers are few in Ireland. The low pay does not begin to compensate Irish school teachers for the great sacrifices they must make. Women teachers in Ireland begin at $405 a year; men at $500. If it were not for the fact that there are very few openings for educated young men and women in a grazing country there would probably be even greater scarcity.[26] Since three-fourths of the schools are rural those who determine to teach must resign themselves to social and professional hermitage. What is the result of these factors on the teaching morale? The 1918 report at the education office shows 13,258 teachers, and only 3,820 of these are marked highly efficient.[27]

Thus the committee of the lord lieutenant.

[Footnote 1: “Ireland’s Crusade Against Tuberculosis.” Edited by Countess of Aberdeen. Maunsel and Company. Dublin. 1908. P. 32.]

[Footnote 2: “Marriages, Births, and Deaths in Ireland, 1917.” His
Majesty’s Stationery Office. Dublin. 1918. P. IX.]

[Footnote 3: “Ireland’s Crusade Against Tuberculosis.” P. 34-35.]

[Footnote 4: “Report of Chief Tuberculosis Officer of Belfast for the Three
Years Ended 31 March, 1917.” Hugh Adair. Belfast. 1917. P. 25.]

[Footnote 5: “Appendix Report Housing Conditions of Dublin.” Alex Thorn.
Dublin. 1914. P. 154.]

[Footnote 6: “First Annual Report P.F. Collier Memorial Dispensary.”
Dollard. Dublin. 1913. P. 24.]

[Footnote 7: “Starvation in Dublin.” By Lionel Gordon-Smith and Cruise O’Brien. Wood Printing Works. Dublin. 1917. P. 14.]

[Footnote 8: “The Poor in Dublin.” Pamphlet. St. Vincent de Paul Society.]

[Footnote 9: “How Local Milk Depots in Ireland Are Worked.” Dollard.
Dublin. 1915. P. 3-15.]

[Footnote 10: “Second Annual Report of the Woman’s National Health
Association.” Waller and Company. Dublin. 1909. P. 143.]

[Footnote 11: “Supplement Fifty-fourth Report Inspectors of Lunacy.” Alex Thorn. Dublin. 1906. P. VII.]

[Footnote 12: Ibid. P. XXVII.]

[Footnote 13: “Sixty-second Annual Report of the Registrar General for Scotland, 1916.” His Majesty’s Stationery Office. Edinburgh. 1918. P. LXVII.]

[Footnote 14: “Marriages, Births, and Deaths in Ireland, 1917.” P. XII.]

[Footnote 15: “Supplement Fifty-fourth Report Inspectors of Lunacy.” P. XXXII.]

[Footnote 16: “The Woman’s National Health Association and Infant Welfare.” The Child. June, 1911. P. 10.]

[Footnote 17: Figures supplied by H.C. Ferguson, Superintendent of Charity Organization Society, Belfast, 1919.]

[Footnote 18: “Irish Education Act, 1892.” (55 & 56 Vict.) Chap. 42. P. 1.]

[Footnote 19: Ibid. P. 1.]

[Footnote 20: Ibid. P. 4.]

[Footnote 21: Ibid. P. 3.]

[Footnote 22: Ibid. P. 8 et al.]

[Footnote 23. “Vice-regal Committee of Enquiry into Primary Education, Ireland, 1918.” His Majesty’s Stationery Office. Dublin. 1919. P. 22.]

[Footnote 24: Ibid. P. 22.]

[Footnote 25: Ibid. Martin Reservation. P. 27-30.]

[Footnote 26: Ibid. P. 8.]

[Footnote 27: Ibid. P. 39.]


“Eamonn De Valera, the President of the Irish Republic, who has been in hiding since his escape from Lincoln jail, will be welcomed back to Dublin by a public reception. Tomorrow evening at seven o’clock he will be met at the Mount street bridge by Lawrence O’Neill, Lord Mayor of Dublin….”

The news note was in the morning papers. In small type it was hidden on the back pages—the Irish papers have a curious habit of six-pointing articles in which the people are vitally interested and putting three-column heads on such stuff as: “Do Dublin Girls Rouge?” That day the concern of the people was unquestionably not rouge but republics. For the question that sibilated in Grafton street cafes and at the tram change at Nelson pillar was: “Will Dublin Castle permit?”

Orders and gun enforcement. The empire did not deviate from the usual program of empires—action without discussion. In the crises that are always occurring between organized revolt and the empire, there is never any consideration of the physical agony that goads the people to revolt. There wasn’t now. By early afternoon, the answer, on great, black-lettered posters, was swabbed to the sides of buildings all over town:

That was the headline, and after instructions warning the people not to take part in the ceremony, the government order ended:

How would the revolutionaries reply? Rumors ran riot. The Sinn Fein volunteers would pit themselves against His Majesty’s troops. The streets would be red again. The belief that the meeting would be held in spite of the proclamation was supported by a statement on green-lettered posters that appeared later next the British dictum:

This plea was followed by a paragraph asking that the people attending the reception would not allow themselves to be provoked into disorder by the British military. Then there was the concluding exclamation:

On my way to the Sinn Fein headquarters in Harcourt street, I passed the Mansion House of the Lord Mayor and found two long-coated Dublin Military Police stripping the new wet poster from the yellow walls. When I arrived at Number 6, Harcourt street, I saw black-clad Mrs. Sheehy-Sheffington, in somewhat agitated absorption of thought, coming down the worn steps of the old Georgian house. In the upper back room, earnest young secretaries worked in swift silence. One of them, a curly-haired girl with her mouth o-ed about a cigarette, puffed unceasingly. At last Harry Boland, secretary of Sinn Fein, entered.

“The council decides tonight,” he admitted. His eyes were bright and faraway like one whose mind is on a coming crisis. When I told him I would drop in again to hear the decision, he protested that they would be at it till late. On my counter protest that time made no difference to me, he promised that if I would not come he would send me word at eleven that night. “But I think,” he added, “we won’t know till morning.”

At ten that night, Boots knocked at my door. I concluded that there had been a stampeded decision. But on going out I discovered the Associated Press correspondent there. He told me that he heard that I was to receive the news and that he did not believe that there was any necessity of bothering the Sinn Feiners twice for the same decision.

“I think the reception is quite likely,” he volunteered. “This afternoon a good many of the Sinn Fein army were at University chapel at confession. At the girls’ hostels of National University—which is regarded as a sort of adolescent Sinn Fein headquarters—there have been strict orders that the girls are to remain indoors tomorrow night.”

When the messenger arrived at eleven to say that no decision had been reached, I made an appointment for an interview on the following day with DeValera.

Electricity was in the air by morning. There were all sorts of sparks. Young men in civilian clothes ran for trams with their hands over their hip pockets. A delightful girl whom I had met, boarded my car with a heavy parcel in her hands. As the British officer next me rose to give her his seat, her cheeks became very pink. Sometime later she told me that, like the rest of the Sinn Fein volunteers, she had received her mobilization orders, and that the parcel the officer had relented for was—her rifle.

At that time, her division of the woman’s section of the Sinn Fein volunteers was pressing a plan for the holding of the reception. In order, however, that no needed fighters would be killed, the girls had asked that they should be first to meet the president. Then, when the machine guns commenced, “only girls” would fall.

Into College Green a brute of a tank had cruised. The man in charge was inviting people to have a look. Inside there were red-lipped munition boxes, provender cases, and through the skewer-sized sight-holes next the jutting guns, there were glimpses of shoppers emerging from Grafton street into the Green. Over the city, against the silver-rimmed, Irish gray clouds, aeroplanes—there were sixteen in one formation—buzzed insistently. Between the little stone columns of the roof railing of Trinity College, machine guns poked out their cold snouts.

“Smoke bombs were dropped over Mount street bridge today,” said Harry Boland with a shrug of his shoulders when I arrived at Sinn Fein headquarters to ask if the reception would still be held. “What can we do against a force like theirs?”

But there was a strained feeling at headquarters as if the decision had been made after a hard fight. Alderman Thomas Kelly, one of the oldest of the Sinn Feiners, told me that he had backed DeValera in his refusal to countenance a needless loss of life, and that it was only after a good struggle that their point had won.

“DeValera’s just beyond the town,” whispered Harry Boland to me when he decided that we would leave to see the president at seven—the hour the executive was due to appear at the bridge. “They’re searching all the cars that cross the canal bridges. If there is any trouble as we pass just say that you are an American citizen—that’d get you through anywhere.”

Knots of still expectant people were gathered at the Mount street bridge. Squads of long-coated military police patrolled the place. Children called at games. The starlight dripped into the canal. At Portobello bridge we made our crossing. Nothing happened. The constables did not even punch the cushions of our car as they did with others to see if munitions were concealed therein. We swooped down curving roads between white walls hung with masses of dark laurel. We stopped dead on a road arched with trees. We got out, clicked the car door softly shut, turned a corner, and walked some distance in the cool night. As we walked I made I forget what request in regard to the interview from young Mr. Boland, and with the reverent regard and complete obedience to DeValera’s wishes that is characteristic in the young Sinn Feiners—a state of mind that does not, however, prevent calling the president “Dev”—he said simply: “But I must do what he tells me.” At the door of a modestly comfortable home whose steps we mounted, a thick-set man blocked my way for a moment.

“You won’t,” he asked, “say where you came?”

“I’m sure,” I returned, “I haven’t an idea where I am.”

DeValera was giving rapid, almost breathless, orders in Irish to some one as I entered his room. His thin frame towered above a dark plush-covered table. A fire behind him surrounded him with a soft yellow aura. His white, ascetic, young—he is thirty-seven—face was lined with determination. Doors and windows were hung with thick, dark-red portières, and the walls were almost as white as DeValera’s face.

“Pardon us for speaking Irish,” he apologized. “We forget. Now first of all, we will go over the questions you sent me. I have written the answers. They must appear as I have put them down. That is the condition on which the interview takes place.”

Did Sinn Fein plan immediate revolution? The president ran a fountain pen under the small, finely written lines as he remarked in an aside that he was not a writer but a mathematician. No. The sudden set of the president’s jaw indicated that this man who had fought in the 1916 rebellion till even his enemies had praised him, was the man who had decided there would be no reception at the bridge. No. There would be no armed revolt till all peaceable methods had failed.

If Sinn Fein succeeded in getting separation, would it establish a bolshevistic government? DeValera returned that he was not sure what bolshevism is. As far as he understood bolshevism, Sinn Fein was not bolshevistic. But perhaps, by the way, bolshevism had been as misrepresented in the American press as Sinn Fein. Right there, I took exception and said that from his own point of view I did not see what good slurring the American press would do his cause. Immediately he answered as if only the principal phase of the matter had occurred to him: “But it’s true.” Then he continued: The worker is unfairly treated. Whether it is bolshevistic or not, Sinn Fein hopes to bring about a government in which there will be juster conditions for the laboring classes.


The empire does not consider the cause of revolt.[1] But the republic is interested not only in the cause but also in the remedy.

Relief, the republic has said, must come through Sinn Fein—ourselves. Neither the Sinn Fein leaders nor the people believe in the power of the Irish vote in the British House of Commons. At the last general elections the Sinn Fein party pledged that if its members were elected they would not go to the British parliament, but would remain at home to form the Irish parliament, the governing body of the Irish republic. Dodgers explaining why Sinn Fein had decided to forego the House of Commons were widely distributed. These read: “What good has parliamentarianism been? For thirty-three years England has been considering Home Rule while Irish members pleaded for it. But in three weeks the English parliament passed a conscriptive act for Ireland, though the Irish party was solid against it.” On this platform, Sinn Fein won seventy-three out of 105 seats.

If Sinn Fein is to relieve the social conditions in Ireland, it must, say
Sinn Feiners, find out the cause. So they have pondered on this question:
What is the cause of the unemployment in Ireland today? The answer to that question was the one point that the sharp-mustached, sardonic little Arthur Griffith, founder of Sinn Fein, wanted the American delegates from the Philadelphia Race Convention to carry back to America.

It was revealed at a meeting of the Irish parliament specially called for the delegates. Cards were difficult to get for that meeting, and as each one passed through the long dreary ante-room of the circular assembly hall of the Mansion House, he was subjected to close scrutiny by the two dozen Irish volunteers on guard. In the civilian audience there was a sprinkling of American and Australian officers. Up on the platform was the throne of the Lord Mayor, in front of which sat the delegates—Frank Walsh, Edward F. Dunne, and Michael Ryan. In a roped-off semi-circle below the platform were deep upholstered chairs wherein rested the members of the Irish parliament. Countess Markewicz was, of course, the only woman there. White-haired, trembling-handed Laurence Ginnel, who is given long jail terms because he refuses to take his hat off in a British court, sat forward on his chair. The rich young Protestant named Robert Barton regarded the crowd through his shining eyeglasses. Keen, boyish Michael Collins, minister of finance, fingered the paper he was going to read. The last two men had recently escaped from prison and were wanted by the police—both, as they say in Ireland, were “on the run.”

“England kills Irish industry,” said the succinct Arthur Griffith as he rose from the right hand of DeValera to address the delegates. “Early in the nineteenth century, England wanted a cheap meat supply center. She therefore made it more profitable for the landowners in Ireland to grow cattle instead of crops. Only a few herders are required in cattle care. So literally millions of Irish, tillers of the soil and millers of grain, were thrown out of employment, and from 1841 to 1911 the population fell from 8,000,000 to 4,400,000. Today, Ireland, capable of supporting 16,000,000, cannot maintain 4,000,000.”[2]

What is the Sinn Fein remedy for unemployment? Industry. Plans were then under way for DeValera to make his escape to America to obtain American capital to back Irish industry. But money was not to be his sole business. He was to work for the recognition of Irish consuls and Irish mercantile marine. And inside Ireland the movement to establish industry on a sound basis was going on. Irish banks, Irish courts, Irish schools are to sustain the movement. At present the English-controlled Irish banks handicap Irish entrepreneurs by charging them one per cent more interest than English banks charge English borrowers; therefore, a national bank is regarded as an imperative need. Decisions of British judges in Irish courts may hamper Irish industry; so in parts of the country perfectly legal courts of arbitration manned by Irishmen have been established. School children under the present system of education are trained neither to commerce nor to love of the development of their native land; accordingly a Sinn Fein school fund is now being collected so that the Irish parliament may soon be able to take over national education.

Sinn Fein could develop industry more easily if Ireland were free.[3] There is hope. It lies in Ireland’s very lack of jobs. British labor does not like the competition of the cheap labor market next door. It rather welcomes the party that would push Irish industry. For with Irish industry developed Irish labor would become scarce and high. Already the British labor party has declared in favor of the self-determination of Ireland, and it is expected that with its accession to power there may be a final granting of self-determination to Ireland.

As we were leaving the Mansion House—to which some of us were invited to return to a reception for the delegates that evening—I found intense reaction to the speakers of the day. I asked a young American non-commissioned officer how he liked DeValera. He seemed to be as stirred by the name as the young members of DeValera’s regiment who besiege Mrs. DeValera for some little valueless possession of the “chief’s.” The boy drew in his breath, and I expected him to let it out again in a flow of praise, but emotion seemed to get the better of him, and all he could manage was a fervent: “Oh, gee!” Then I came across young Sylvia Pankhurst, disowned by her family for her communist sympathies, and in Dublin for the purpose of persuading the Irish parliament to become soviet. The Irish speakers, she told me, were much to be preferred to the Americans. They used more figures and less figures of speech. And when I repeated her remark to Desmond Fitzgerald, a pink and fastidious member of parliament, he smilingly commented: “Well, we Irish are more sophisticated, aren’t we?”


In the afternoon the curtain went up on a matinee performance of The Mailed Fist.

The first act was in the home of Madame Gonne-McBride. It was, properly, an exposition of the power of the enemy.

With Madame Gonne-McBride, once called the most beautiful woman in Europe, Sylvia Pankhurst, and the sister, of Robert Barton, I entered the big house on Stephen’s Green. Modern splashily vivid wall coloring. Japanese screens. Ancient carved madonnas. Two big Airedales thudded up and down in greeting to their mistress. I spoke of their unusual size.

Madame Gonne-McBride, taking the head of one of them between her hands: “They won’t let any one arrest me again, will they?”

She is tall and slim in her deep mourning—her husband was killed in the rebellion of 1916. Her widow’s bonnet is a soft silky guipure lace placed on her head like a Red Cross worker’s coif. On the breast of her black gown there hangs a large dull silver cross. Beggars and flower-sellers greet her by name. It is said that a large part of her popularity is due to her work in obtaining free school lunches. Anyway, there was great grief among the people when she was thrown into jail for supposed complicity in the unproved German plot. The arrest, she said, came one Sunday night. She was walking unconcernedly from one of George Russell’s weekly gatherings, when five husky constables blocked the bridge road and hurried her off to jail. At last, on account of her ill health, she was released from prison—very weak and very pale.

Enter seventeen-year-old Sean McBride. Places back against the door. Blue eyes wide. Breathlessly: “They’re after Bob Barton and Michael Collins. They’ve surrounded the Mansion House.”

Hatless we raced across Stephen’s Green—that little handkerchief of a park that never seemed so embroidered with turns and bridges and bandstands and duck ponds before. Through the crowd that had already gathered we edged our way till we came to the double line of bayonets and batons that guarded the entrance to Dawson street. Over the broad, blue shoulder of the policeman directly in front of me, I glimpsed a wicked-looking little whippet tank with two very conscious British officers just head and shoulders out. Still further down were three covered motor lorries that had been used to convey the soldiers.

Sean, for the especial benefit of constable just ahead: “Wars for democracy and small nations! And that’s the only way they can keep us in the British empire. Brute force. Nice exhibition for the American journalists in town.”

Constable stalked Sean back to edge of crowd. Sean looked at him steadily with slight twinkle in his eye. Miss Barton, Miss Pankhurst, and I climbed up a low stone wall that commanded the guarded street, and clung to the iron paling on top. Sean came and stood beneath.

Miss Pankhurst, regarding crowd in puzzled manner: “Why do you all smile? When the suffragists were arrested we used to become furious.”

Sean looking up at her in kindly manner in which old rebel might glance at impatient young rebel: “You forget. We’re very used to this.”

Miss Pankhurst made an unexpected jump from her place. She wedged her way to the line of soldiers. As she talked to two young Tommies they blushed and fiddled with their bayonets like girls with their first bouquets of flowers. Twice a British major admonished them.

Miss Pankhurst, returning: “Welsh boys. Just babies. I asked them why they came out armed to kill fellow workers. They said they had enlisted for the war. If they had known they were to be sent to Ireland they would have refused to go. I told them it was not too late to act. They could take off their uniforms. But they? They’re weak—weak.”

As dusk fell, party capes and tulle mists of head dresses began to appear between the drab or tattered suits of the bystanders. Among the coming reception guests was Susan Mitchell, co-editor with George Russell on The Irish Homestead.

Susan Mitchell, of constable: “Can’t I go through? No? But there’s to be a party, and the tea will get all cold.”

In the courage of the crowd, the people began to sing The Soldiers’ Song. It took courage. It was shortly after John O’Sheehan had been sentenced for two years for caroling another seditious lyric. A surge of sound brought out the words: “The west’s awake!” Dying yokes. And a sudden right-about-face movement of the throng.

Crowd shouting: “Up the Americans!”

With Sinn Fein and American flags flying, the delegates’ car rolled up to the outskirts of the crowd. A sharp order. The crowd-fearing bayonets lunged forward. Frank Walsh, looking through his tortoise-rim glasses at the steel fence, got out of his car. He walked up to the pointing bayonets, and asked for the man in charge.

Frank Walsh: “What’s the row?”

The casualness of the question must have disarmed Lieutenant-Colonel Johnstone of the Dublin Military Police. He laughed. Then conferred. While the confab was on, the Countess Markewicz slipped from Mr. Walsh’s car to our paling. She was, as usual, dressed in a “prepared” style. She had on her green tweed suit with biscuits in the pockets, “so if anything happened.”

Countess Markewicz, rubbing her hands: “Excellent propaganda! Excellent propaganda!”

The motor lorries chugged. Soldiers broke line, and climbed in. The people screamed, jumped, waved their hands, and hurrahed for Walsh. Mr. Walsh returned to his car. And in the path made by the heartily boohed motor lorries, the American’s machine commenced its victorious passage to the Mansion House. In order to get through the crowd to the reception we sprang to the rear of the motor. Clinging to the dusty mudguard, I remarked to Miss Pankhurst that we would not look very partified. And she, pushed about by the tattered people, said she did not mind. Long ago she had decided she would never wear evening dresses because poor people never have them.

Last act. Turkish-rugged and velvet-portièred reception room of the Mansion House. Assorted people shaking hands with the delegates. Delegates filled with boyish glee at the stagey turn of events.

Frank Walsh: “Look! There’s Bob Barton talking to his sister. Out there by the portrait of Queen Victoria—see that man in a green uniform. That’s Michael Collins of the Irish Volunteers and minister of finance of the Irish Republic. The very men they’re after.

“Is this a play? Or a dream?”

[Footnote 1. British propaganda, on the contrary, states that the Irish are not in the physical agony of extreme poverty. They are prosperous. They made money on munitions, and their exports increased enormously during the war. “You could eat shell as easily as make it,” was one of the first parliamentary rebuffs received by Irishmen asking the establishment of national munition factories at the beginning of the war, according to Edward J. Riordan. Mr. Riordan is secretary of the National Industrial Development Association. This is a non-political organization of which the Countess of Desart, the Earl of Carrick, and Colonel Sir Nugent Everard are some of the executive members. It was not until 1916 that Ireland secured consideration of her rights to a share in the war expenditure. In that year, an all-Ireland committee called on Lloyd George. He said: “It is fair that Ireland, contributing as she does not only in money but in flesh and blood, should have her fair share of expenditure…. I should be prepared to utilize whatever opportunities we can to utilize the opportunity this gives you to develop Ireland industrially.” After persistent effort, however, all that the all-Ireland committee was able to get was five small munition factories. The insignificance of these plants may be realized from the fact that at the time the armistice was declared there were only 2,250 workers in them.

As to trade increase:—when I was in Ireland in 1919, the last export statistics given out by the government were for 1916. In 1914 exports were valued at $386,000,000; in 1916, at $535,000,000. But, according to the Board of Trade, prices had doubled in that time, so that if exports had remained stationary, their value should have doubled to $772,000,000.]

[Footnote 2. That England controls this industrial situation was made clear during the war. Then ship tonnage was scarce, and England’s regular resources of agricultural supply were cut off. So England called on Ireland to revert to agriculture. Ireland’s tillage acreage jumped from 2,300,000 in 1914 to 3,280,000 in 1918. This change in policy brought prosperity to some of the farmers, and Ireland’s bank deposits rose from $310,000,000 in 1913 to $455,000,000 in 1917. But England is reestablishing her former agricultural trade connections. According to F.A. Smiddy, professor of economics at University college, Cork, a return to grazing has already commenced in Ireland, and “prosperity” will last at most only two post-war years.]

[Footnote 3. British taxation saps Irish capital. The 1916 imperial annual tax took $125,000,000 put of Ireland and put back $65,000,000 into Irish administration. Irishmen argue that the excess might better go to the development of Ireland. Figures supplied Department of Agriculture, 1919.]


In the sputtering flare of the arc lamp in front of Liberty hall stood squads of boys. Some of them wore brass-buttoned, green woolen waists, and some, ordinary cotton shirts. Some of them had on uniform knickers, and some, long, unpressed trousers. On the opposite side of the street were blocked similar squads of serious-eyed, high-chinned girls. Some of them were in green tweed suits, and others as they had come from work. They were companies of the Citizens’ Army recruited by the Irish Labor party, and assembled in honor of the return of the Countess Markewicz from jail.

“Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,

We’ll keep the red flag flying here.”

Young voices, impatient of the interim of waiting, sang the socialist song. The burden was taken up by the laborers, whose constant movement to keep a good view was attested by the hollow sound of their wooden-soled boots on the stone walks. And the refrain was hummed by the shawled, frayed-skirted creatures who were coming up from Talbot street, Gloucester street, Peterson’s lane, and all the family-to-a-room districts in Dublin. On the skeletonish railroad crossing suspended over the Liffey, tin-hatted and bayonet-carrying British soldiers were silhouetted against the moon-whitened sky. Up to them floated the last oath of “The Red Flag”:

“With heads uncovered swear we all,

To bear it onward till we fall.

Come dungeon dark or gallows grim,

This song shall be our parting hymn.”

Clattered over the bridge the horse-dragged brake. In the light of a search lamp played on it from an automobile behind, a small figure in a slouch hat and a big black coat waved a bouquet of narcissus. There was a surge of the block-long crowds and people who could not see lifted their hands and shouted: “Up the countess!”

As we waited in the light of the dim yellow bulbs threaded from the ceiling of the big bare upper front room of Liberty Hall, Susan Mitchell told me of “the chivalrous woman.” The countess is a daughter of the Gore-Booth family which owned its Sligo estate before America was discovered. As a girl the countess used to ride fast horses like mad along the rocky western coast. Then she became a three-feathered débutante bowing at Dublin Castle. Later she painted pictures in Paris and married her handsome Pole. But one day some one put an Irish history in her hands. In a sudden whole-hearted conversion to the cause of the people, the countess turned to aid the Irish labor organizers. She drilled boy scouts for the Citizens’ Army. She fed starving strikers during the labor troubles of 1913 with sheep sent daily from her Sligo estate. In the rebellion of 1916 she fought and killed under Michael Mallin of the Citizens’ Army. She was hardly out of jail for participation in the rebellion when she was clapped in again for alleged complicity in the never-to-be-proved German plot. While she was in jail, she was elected the first woman member of parliament.

White from imprisonment, her small round steel-rimmed glasses dropping away from her blue eyes, and her curly brown hair wisping out from under her black felt hat, the countess embraced a few of the women in the room and exchanged handclasps with the men. Below the crowd was clamoring for her appearance at the window.

“Fellow rebels!” she began as she leaned out into the mellow night. Then with the apparent desire to say everything at once that makes her public speech stuttery, she continued: “It’s good to come out of jail to this. It is good to come out again to work for a republic. Let us all join hands to make the new republic a workers’ republic. A change of flags is not enough!”

Two oil flares with orange flame throwing off red sparks on the crowd, were fastened to the brake below. It was the brake that was to carry “Madame” on her triumphal tour of Dublin. The boys of the Citizens’ Army made a human rope about the conveyance. In it I climbed with the countess, the plump little Mrs. James Connolly, the magisterial Countess Plunkett, Commandant O’Neill of the Citizens’ Army, Sean Milroy, who escaped from Lincoln jail with DeValera, and two or three others. Rows of constables were backed against the walls at irregular intervals. I asked Sean Milroy if he were not afraid that he would be re-taken, and he responded comfortably that the “peelers” would never attempt to take a political prisoner out of a gathering like that. As we neared the poverty-smelling Coombe district, the countess remarked that this, St. Patrick’s, was her constituency. At the shaft of St. James fountain, the brake was halted. Shedding her long coat, and standing straight in her green tweed suit, with the plush seat of the brake for her floor, the countess told the cheering workers that she was going to come down to live in the Coombe. Heated with the energy of talking and throwing her body about so that her voice would carry over the crowd that circled her, the countess sank down on the seat. As the brake drove on, motherly little Mrs. Connolly tried to slip the big coat over the countess. But the countess, in one of those sudden meditative silences during which she seems to retain only a subconsciousness of her surroundings, refused the offer of warmth with a shrug of her shoulders. Then, emerging from her pre-occupation, she demanded of Sean Milroy:

“What have you planned for your constituency? I’m going to have a soviet.”


Like the countess, the Irish Labor party wants a workers’ republic. But it wants a republic first.

The Irish Labor party has been accused of accepting Russian roubles, of hiding bags of bolshevik gold in the basement of Liberty Hall. Whether it has taken Russian gold or not, it is frankly desirous of possessing the Russian form of government. James Connolly, who is largely responsible for the present Labor party in Ireland, was, like Lenin and Trotsky, a Marxian socialist, and worked for government by the proletariat. The Irish Labor party celebrated the Russian revolution by calling a “bolshevik” meeting and cheering under a red flag in the assembly room of the Mansion House. And in its last congress, it reaffirmed its “adherence to the principles of freedom, democracy, and peace enunciated in the Russian revolution.”

How strong are the revolutionaries? The Irish Labor party is new but it already contains about 300,000 members.[1] It plans to include every worker from the “white collar” to the “muffler” labor. And the laborers alone make up seven-eighths of the population. For while there are just 252,000 members of the professional and commercial classes, there are 4,137,000 who are in agricultural, industrial and indefinite classes[2]—most of the farmers are held to be laborers because outside the great estates, holdings average at thirty acres and are worked by the holders themselves.[3]

There’s the revolutionary rub. The Irish farmers make up the largest body of workers in Ireland. The Irish farmer sweated and bled for his land. Would he yield it now for nationalization? I put the question up to William O’Brien, the lame, never-smiling tailor who is secretary of the Irish Labor party. He said that the farm hand should be taken into consideration.

The farm hand would profit by nationalization. At present he is condemned to slavery. At a hiring fair—called a “slave market” by the labor unions—he stands between the mooing cows and snorting pigs and offers his services for sale for as little as $100 a year. He may wish to get more money. But his employer is also very often his landlord. What happens? In the spring of 1919, 35,000 farm hands went on strike. Lord Bellew of Ballyragget and Lord Powerscourt of Enniskerry used the eviction threat to get the men back to work, and in Rhode, evictions actually took place.

The small farmer on bad land would profit by re-distribution. Many such live in the west and northwest of Ireland. Take a farmer of Donegal. There there’s stony, boggy land. Fires must be built about the stones so that the soil will lose its grip upon them and they may be hauled away to help make fences. Immovable boulders are frequent, so frequent that the soil cannot be ploughed but must be spaded by hand. Seaweed for fertilizer must be plucked from the rocks in the sea, carried up the mountain side and laid black and thick in the sterile brown furrows. Near Dungloe in Donegal, one holding of 600 acres was recently valued at $10.50, and another of 400 at $3.70. So the Labor party is confident of bringing over the farmers to its point of view.

On the whole, it is said, the way of the labor propagandist is easy, for capital in Ireland is very weak. First, there is very little of it. In 1917 the total income tax of the British Isles was £300,000,000; Ireland with one-tenth the population contributed only one-fortieth of the tax. In the same year, the total excess profits tax was £290,000,000 and Ireland’s proportion was slightly less than for the income tax.[4] Second, what capital there is, is not effectively organized. The first national commercial association is just forming in Dublin.

Whether the future prove the numerical strength of labor or not, the leaders are determined that labor will be organically strong. It is developing a pyramid form of government. Irish labor fosters the “one big union.” In some towns all the labor, from teachers to dock-workers, have already coalesced. These unions select their district heads. The district heads are subsidiary to the general head in Dublin. When each union inside the big union is ready to take over its industry, and their district and general heads are ready to take over government there will be a general strike for this end. The strike will be supported by the army—the Citizens’ Army of the workers.

“There you have,” said James Connolly, who promoted the one big union, “not only the most effective combination for industrial warfare, but also for the social administration of the future.”[5]

“Certainly we mean to take over industry by force if necessary,” affirmed Thomas Johnson, treasurer of the Irish Labor party. He is a big-browed man with thick, pompadoured, gray hair, and the aspect of a live professor. Some people call him the coming leader of Ireland. In answer to my statement that it wouldn’t be a very hard job to take over Irish industry, he smiled and said: “That’s why we welcome the entrance of outside capital into Ireland. The more industry is developed, the less we will have to do afterward.”


Labor agrees with Sinn Fein not only that Irish industry must be developed but also that Ireland must have independence. After the national war, the class war must come. First freedom from exploitation by capitalistic nations, and then freedom from capitalistic individuals. Many socialists, it is said, do not understand why Ireland should not plunge at once into the class war. It was a matter of regret to James Connolly that many of his fellow socialists the world over would never understand his participation in the rebellion of 1916. Nora Connolly, the smiling boy-like girl who smokes and works by a grate in Liberty Hall, says that on the eve of his execution, when he lay in bed with his leg shattered by a gun wound, her father said to her: “The socialists will never understand why I am here. They all forget I am an Irishman.”

But James Connolly’s fellow socialists in Ireland understand “why he was there,” They back his participation in the national war. And they know every Irishman will. So they go to the workers and say: “Jim Connolly died to make Ireland free.” Then while the workers cheer, they swiftly show why Connolly advocated the class war, too: “Jim Connolly lived to make Ireland free. He believed that the world is for the man who works in it, but in Ireland he saw seven-eighths of the people in the working class, and he knew that to these people life means crowded one-room homes, endless Fridays, no schools or virtually none, and churches where resignation is preached to them. So his life was a dangerous fight to organize workers that they might become strong enough to take what is theirs.” At Liberty Hall, one is told that the martyr’s name is magnetizing the masses into the Irish Labor party. And, in order to propagate his ideas, the people are contributing their coppers towards a fund for the permanent establishment of the James Connolly Labor College.

So labor fights for a republic first. At the last general elections it withdrew all its labor party candidates that the Sinn Fein candidates might have a clear field to demonstrate to the world how unified is Irish sentiment in favor of a republic. And at the International Labor and Socialist conference held in Berne in 1919, Cathal O’Shannon, the bright young labor leader who goes about with his small frame swallowed up in an overcoat too big for him, made this declaration:

“Irish labor reaffirms its declaration in favor of free and absolute self-determination of each and every people, the Irish included, in choosing the sovereignty and form of government under which it shall live. It rejoices that this self-determination has now been assured to the Jugo-Slavs, Czecho-Slovaks, Alsatians and Lorrainers, as well as to the Finns, Poles, Ukrainians, and now to the Arabs. This is not enough and it is not impartial. To be one and the other, this principle must also be applied in the same sense and under the same conditions to the peoples of Ireland, India, Egypt, and to such other people as have not yet secured the exercise of the inherent right…. Irish labor claims no more and no less for Ireland than for the others.”

After the republic, a workers’ republic? After Sinn Fein, the Labor party? Madame Markewicz is high in the councils of both Sinn Fein and Labor. One day, lost in one of her trance-like meditations in which she states her intuitions with absolute disregard of expediency, she said to me:

“Labor will swamp Sinn Fein.”

[Footnote 1. Figures supplied by William O’Brien, secretary Irish Labor party and Trade Union congress, 1919.]

[Footnote 2. Census of 1911.]

[Footnote 3. Figures supplied by Department of Agriculture of Ireland, 1919.]

[Footnote 4. Figures read by Thomas Lough, M.P., in House of Commons, May 14, 1918.]

[Footnote 5. “Reconquest of Ireland,” By James Connolly. Maunsel and Company. 1917. P. 328.]


It was very dark. I could not find the number. The flat-faced little row of houses was set far back on the green. But at last I mounted some lofty steps, and entered a brown linoleum-covered hallway. In the front parlor sat the hostess. She was like some family portrait with her hair parted and drawn over her ears, with her black taffeta gown surmounted by a cameo-pinned lace collar. She poured tea. In a back parlor whose walls were hung with unframed paintings, a big brown-bearded man was passing teacups to women who were lounging in chairs and to men who stood black against the red glow of the grate. The big man was George Russell, the famous AE, poet, painter and philosopher, the “north star of Ireland.”

At last he sat down on the edge of a chair—his blue eyes atwinkle as if he knew some good secret of the happy end of human struggling and was only waiting the proper moment to tell. This much he did reveal as he gestured with the pipe that was more often in his hand than in his mouth: it is his belief that all acts purposed for good work out towards good. He gives ear to all sincere radicals, Sinn Feiners and “Reds.” But he states that he believes he is the only living pacifist, and disputes the value of bloody methods. He advocates the peaceful revolution of co-operation. His powerfully gentle personality has an undoubted effect on the revolutionaries, and while neither element wants to embrace pacifism, both want AE’s revolution to go forward with theirs.

His gaiety at the little Sunday evenings which he holds quite regularly, goes far, I am told, towards easing the strain on the taut nerves of the Sinn Fein intellectuals who attend them. On the Sunday evening I was present the subject of jail journals was broached. Darrell Figgis had just written one. In a dim corner of the room was miniatured the ivory face and the red gold beard of the much imprisoned Figgis.

“Why write a jail journal?” queried AE, smiling towards the corner. “The rare book, the book that bibliophiles will pray to find twenty years from now, will be written by an Irishman who never went to jail.”

Some one, I think that it was “Jimmy” Stephens, author of “The Crock of Gold,” who sat cross-legged on the end of a worn wicker chaise longue and talked with all the facility with which he writes, mentioned the countess’s plan of living in the Coombe district. AE returned that as far as he knew the countess was the only member of parliament who felt called upon to live with her constituency.

Then suddenly the whole room seemed to join a chorus of protest against President Wilson. At the Peace Conference all power was his. He was backed by the richest, greatest nation in the world. But he failed to keep his promise of gaining the self-determination of small nations. Was he yielding to the anti-Irish sentiment brought about by English control of the cables and English propaganda in the United States—was he to let his great republic be intellectually dependent on the ancient monarchy?

“Perhaps,” said AE to me after a few meditative puffs of his pipe, “you feel like the American who was with us on a similar occasion a few weeks ago. At last he burst out with: ‘It’s no conception which Americans have of their president that he should take the place and the duties of God Omnipotent in the world,'”

One day I went to discuss Irish labor with AE. I climbed up to that most curious of all magazine offices—the Irish Homestead office up under the roof of Plunkett House. It is a semi-circular room whose walls are covered with the lavender and purple people of AE’s brush. AE was ambushed behind piles of newspapers, and behind him in a grate filled with smouldering peat blocks sat the black tea kettle. As a reporter, one of the few things for which I am allowed to retain respect is the editorial dead line. So I assured AE that I would be glad to return when he had finished writing. But with a courtesy that is evidently founded on an inversion of the American rule that business should always come before people, he assured me that he could sit down at the fire with me at once.

Now I knew that he had great sympathy with laborers. I recalled his terrible letter against Dublin employers in the great strike of 1913 when he foretold that the success of the employers in starving the Dublin poor would necessarily lead to “red ruin and the breaking up of laws…. The men whose manhood you have broken will loathe you, and will always be brooding and seeking to strike a new blow. The children will be taught to curse you. The infant being moulded in the womb will have breathed into its starved body the vitality of hate. It is not they—it is you who are pulling down the pillars of the social order.”[1] But I knew, too, that he was opposed to violence, so I wondered what he would say to this:

“A labor leader just told me that it was his belief that industrial revolution would take place in Ireland in two or three years. Labor waits only till it has secured greater unity between the north and south. Then it will take over industry and government by force.”

“I had hoped—I am trying to convince the labor leaders here,” he said finally, “of the value of the Italian plan for the taking over of industry. The Italian seaman’s union co-operatively purchased and ran boats on which they formerly had been merely workers.”

Russia he spoke of for a moment. People shortly over from Russia told him, as he had felt, that the soviet was not the dreadful thing it was made out to be. But a dictatorship of the workers he would not like. He wanted, he said with an upward movement of his big arms, he wanted to be free.

“Now I am for the building of a co-operative commonwealth on co-operative societies. Ireland can and is developing her own industries through co-operation. She is developing them without aid from England and in the face of opposition in Ireland.

“England, you see, is used to dealing with problems of empire—with nations and great metropolises. When we bring her plans that mean life or death to just villages, the matter is too small to discuss. She is bored.

“Ireland offers opposition in the person of the ‘gombeen man.’ He is the local trader and money lender. And co-operative buying and selling takes away his monopoly of business.

“Paddy Gallagher up in Dungloe in the Rosses will give you an idea of the poverty of the Irish countryside, of the extent that the poverty is due to the gombeen men, ‘the bosses of the Rosses,’ and of the ability of the co-operative society to develop and create industry even in such a locality.

“Societies like Paddy Gallagher’s are springing up all over Ireland. The rapid growth may be estimated from the fact that in 1902 their trade turnover was $7,500,000, and in 1918, $50,000,000. These little units do not merely develop industry; they also bind up the economic and social interests of the people.

“In a few years these new societies and others to be created will have dominated their districts, and political power will follow, and we will have new political ideals based on a democratic control of agriculture and industry, and states and people will move harmoniously to a given end.

“Ireland might attain, by orderly evolution, to a co-operative commonwealth in fifty to two hundred years.

“But these are dangerous times for prophecy.”


From the dark niche under the gray boulder where the violets grow, a
Donegal fairy flew to the mountain cabin to bring a birthday wish to
Patrick Gallagher. The fairy designed not that great good would come to Paddy, but that great good would come to his people through him. At least when Paddy grew up, he slew the child-eating giant, Poverty, who lived in Donegal.

Paddy began to fight poverty when he could scarcely toddle. With his father, whose back was laden with a great rush basket, he used to pad in his bare feet down the mountainside to the Dungloe harbor—down where the hills give the ocean a black embrace. Father and son would wade into the ocean that was pink and lavender in the sunset. Above them, the white curlews swooped and curved and opened their pine wood beaks to squawk a prayer for dead fish. But the workers did not stop to watch. Their food also was in question. They must pluck the black seaweed to fertilize their field.

When the early sun bronzed the bog, and streaked the dark pool below with gold, Paddy and his father began to feed the dried wavy strands of kelp between the hungry brown furrow lips. They packed the long groove near the stone fence; they rounded past the big boulder that could not be budged; last of all, they filled the short far row in the strangely shaped little field. At noon, Paddy’s mother appeared at the half door of the cabin and called in the general direction of the field—it was difficult to see them, for their frieze suits had been dyed in bog water and she could not at once distinguish them from the brown earth. They were glad to come in to eat their sugarless and creamless oatmeal.

In the evening Paddy ran over the road to his cousin’s. Western clouds were blackening and his little cousin was pulling the pig into the cabin as a man puts other sort of treasure out of danger into a safe. Paddy listened a moment. He could hear the castanets of the tweed weaver’s loom and the hum of his uncle’s deep voice as he sang at his work. He ran to the rear of the cabin and up the stone steps to the little addition. A lantern filled the room he entered with black, harp-like shadows of the loom. While the uncle stopped treadling and held the blue-tailed shuttle in his hand, the breathless little boy told him that the field was finished.

“God grant,” said the uncle with a solemnity that put fear into the heart of Paddy, “there may be a harvest for you.”

Paddy watched his mother work ceaselessly to aid in the fight that his father and he were making against poverty. During the month her needles would click unending wool into socks, and then on Saturday she would trudge—often in a stiff Atlantic gale—sixteen miles to the market in Strabane. There she sold the socks at a penny a pair.

In spite of combined hopes, the potato plants were floppily yellow that year. Their stems felt like a dead man’s fingers. No potatoes to eat. None to exchange for meal. What were they to do?

The gombeen man told them. As member of the county council, he said, he would secure money for the repair of the roads. All those who worked on the road would get paid in meal.

“Let your da’ not worry,” said the fat gombeen man pompously to Paddy. Paddy had brought the ticket that his father had obtained by a week’s work to exchange for twenty-eight pounds of corn meal. “I’ll keep famine from the parish. Charity’s not dead yet.”

When Paddy lugged the meal into the cabin, he found his mother lying on the bed with her face averted from the bowl of milk that some less hungry neighbor had brought in. His father’s gaunt frame was hunched over the peat blocks on the flat hearth. Paddy, full of desire to banish the brooding discouragement from the room, hastened to repeat the words of the gombeen man. But he felt that he had failed when his father, regarding the two stone sack, said hollowly:

“Charity? Small pay to the men who keep the roads open for his vans.”

In the spring, Paddy was nine, and had to go out in the world to fight poverty alone. His father had confided to him that they were in great debt to the gombeen man. Paddy could help them get out. There was to be a hiring fair in Strabane. Paddy swung along the road to Strabane pretending he was a man—he was to be hired out just like one. But when he arrived at the hiring field he shrank back. All the farm hands, big and little, stood herded together in between the cattle pens. A man? A beast. One overseer for a big estate came up to dicker for the boy, and said he would give him fifteen dollars for six months’ work. Paddy was just about to muster up courage to put the price up a bit, when a friend of the overseer came up with the prearranged remark: “A fine boy! Well worth twelve dollars the six months!”

“What do you want to know for?” asked the gombeen man, when at the end of Paddy’s back-breaking six months, Paddy and his father brought him the fifteen dollars and asked how much they still owed. The gombeen man refuses accounts to everyone but the priest, magistrate, doctor and teacher. “What do you want to know how much you owe for? Unless you want to pay me all off?”

When Paddy was seventeen he made a still bigger fight against debt. With the sons of other “tied” men, he went to work in the Scottish harvests. His family was not as badly off as those of some of the boys. Some had run so far behind that the gombeen man had served writs on them, obtained judgment against their holdings, and could evict them at pleasure.

When Paddy married and settled down in Dungloe he found the reason for the unpayableness of the debt. One day he and his father shopped at the gombeen store together. They bought the same amount of meal. The father paid cash—seventeen shillings. Forty-four days later, Paddy brought his money. But the gombeen man presented him with a bill for twenty-one shillings and three pence. It did no good to say how much the father had paid for the same amount of meal. The gombeen man insisted that Paddy’s father had given eighteen shillings, and Paddy was being charged just three shillings and three pence interest. Or only 144 per cent per annum!

“Why do we buy from him? Why don’t we get together and do our own buying?” asked the insurgent Paddy. After much reflection he had decided on the tactics of his campaign against poverty and the recruiting for his army commenced that night as the neighbors visited about his turf fire. There was doubt on the faces of those tied to the gombeen man. But Paddy continued: “Let’s try it out in a small way, say with fertilizer. That stuff he’s selling us isn’t as good as kelp, and he won’t tell us what it’s made of.”

The recruits fell in. They scraped up enough money to buy a twenty-ton load of rich manure from a neighboring co-operative society. The little deal saved them $200 and brought them heavy crops. They organized. They needed a store. Up in a rocky boreen on his little farm, Paddy had an empty shed. Again the neighbors explored the toes of their money stockings, and found enough to pay for filling the shed with flour, tea, sugar and meal. Then, if they were “free” men, they came boldly to shop on the nights the store was open—moonlight or no moonlight. But if they were “tied” men, they crept fearsomely tip the rocks on dark nights only. The recruits recruited. Financial and social returns began to come in. At the end of the first year there was a clear profit of over $500. In three years the society was recognized as one of the most efficient in Ireland and presented by the Pembroke fund with a fine stucco hall. Jigs. Dances. Lectures.

But the gombeen man wasn’t “taking it lying down.” He called on his political and religious friends to aid. First on the magistrate. When Paddy became the political rival of the gombeen man for the county council, there was a joint debate. Paddy used reduced prices as his argument. Questions were hurled at him by the reddening trader.

“Wait till I get through,” said Paddy. “Then I’ll attend to you.”

That, said the trader, was a physical threat! So the gombeener’s friend, the magistrate, threw Paddy into jail. Paddy went to prison full of fear that dissension might be sown in the society’s ranks. But on coming out he discovered not only that he had won the election but that a committee was waiting to present him with a gorgeous French gilt clock, and that fires, just as on St. John’s eve, were blazing on the mountains.

But the trader took another friend of his aside. This time it was the village priest. Bad dances, he said, were going on of nights in Templecrone hall. What was Paddy’s surprise on a Sunday in the windswept chapel by the sea to hear his beloved hall denounced as a place of sin. Paddy knew the people would not come any more.

Then, the great inspiration. Paddy remembered how his mother used to try to help with her knitting. He saw girls at spinning wheels or looms working full eight hours a day and earning only $1.25 to $1.50 a week. So with permission of the society, Paddy had two long tables placed in the entertainment hall, and along the edges of the tables he had the latest type of knitting machines screwed. Soon there were about 300 girls working on a seven and a half hour day. They were paid by the piece, and it was not long before they were getting wages that ran from $17.50 to $5.25 a week. Incidentally, Mr. Gallagher, as manager, gave himself only $10.00 a week.

When I saw Patrick Gallagher in Dungloe, he was dressed in a blue suit and a soft gray cap, and looked not unlike the keen sort of business men one sees on an ocean liner. And indeed he gave the impression that if he had not been a co-operationist for Ireland, he might well have been a capitalist in America. He took me up the main street of Dungloe into easily the busiest of the white plastered shops. He made plain the hints of growing industry. The bacon cured in Dungloe. The egg-weighing—since weighing was introduced the farmers worked to increase the size of the eggs and the first year increased their sales $15,000 worth. The rentable farm machines.

“Come out into this old cabin and meet our baker,” Paddy continued when we went out the rear of the store. “We began to get bread from Londonderry, but the old Lough Swilly road is too uncertain. See the ancient Scotch oven—the coals are placed in the oven part and when they are still hot they are scooped out and the bread is put in their place. Interesting, isn’t it? But we are going to get a modern slide oven.”

After viewing the orchard and the beehives beneath the trees, I remarked on the size of the plant, and its suitability for his purpose. He said: “It used to belong to the gombeen man.”

The sea wind was blowing through the open windows of the mill. Barefoot girls—it’s only on Sunday that Donegal country girls wear shoes and then they put them on only when they are quite near church—silently needled khaki-worsted over the shining wire prongs. Others spindled wool for new work. As they stood or sat at their work, the shy colleens told of an extra room added to a cabin, or a plump sum to a dowry through the money earned at the mill. None of them was planning, as their older sisters had had to plan, to go to Scotland or America.

“As the parents of most of the girls are members in the society they want the best working conditions possible for them,” said Mr. Gallagher as he took me out the back entrance of the knitting mill. “So we’re building this new factory. See that hole where we blasted for granite; we got enough for the entire mill in one blast. That motor is for the electricity to be used in the plant.

“Northern sky lights in the new building—the evenest light comes from the north. Cement floor—good for cleaning but bad for the girls, so we are to have cork matting for them to stand on. Slide-in seats under the tables—that’s so that a girl may stand or sit at her work.”

“Soon the hall will be free for entertainments again,” I suggested. “Won’t the old cry be raised against it once more?”

“No. We’re too strong for that now.”

At the Gallaghers’ home, a sort of store-like place on the main street, Mrs. Gallagher with a soft shawl about her shoulders was waiting to introduce me to Miss Hester. Miss Hester was brought to Dungloe by the co-operative society to care for the mothers at child-birth. She is the first nurse who ever came to work in Donegal.

But Mr. Gallagher wanted to talk more of Dungloe’s attainment and ambition. He compared the trade turnover of $5,045 for the first year of the society with $375,000 for 1918. But there were more things to be done. The finest herring in the world swim the Donegal coast. Scots catch it. Irish buy it. Dungloe men wanted to fish, but the gombeen man would never lend money to promote industry. Other plans for the development of Dungloe were discussed, but the expense of the cartage of surplus products on the toy Lough Swilly road, and the impossibility of getting freight boats into the undredged harbor, were lead to rising ambition.

“Parliament is not interested in public improvements for Dungloe,” smiled Mr. Gallagher. “I suppose if I were a British member of parliament I would not want to hand out funds for the projection of a harbor in a faraway place like this. Irish transportation will not be taken in hand until Ireland can control her own economic policy.”

As the darkness closed in about our little fire the talk turned somehow to tales of the fairies of Donegal, and Mr. Gallagher chuckled:

“Some persons about here still believe in the good people.”

Then gentle Mrs. Gallagher, conscious of a benevolent force close at hand, began simply:

“Well, don’t you think perhaps—”

[Footnote 1. “To the Masters of Dublin—An Open Letter.” By AE. The
Irish Times, Oct. 17, 1913.]


A soviet supported by the Catholic Church—that was the singular spectacle I found when I broke through the military cordon about the proclaimed city of Limerick.

The city had been proclaimed for this reason: Robert Byrne, son of a Limerick business man, had been imprisoned for political reasons. He fell ill from the effects of a hunger strike,[1] and was sent to the hospital in the Limerick workhouse. A “rescue party” was formed. In the mêlée that followed, Robert Byrne and a constable were killed. Then according to a military order, Limerick was proclaimed because of “the attack by armed men on police constables and the brutal murder of one of them.”

At Limerick Junction we were locked in our compartments. There were few on the train. Two or three school boys with their initialed school caps. Two or three women drinking tea from the wicker train baskets supplied at the junction. In the yards of the Limerick station, the train came to a dead stop. Then the conductor unlocked compartments, while a kilted Scotch officer, with three bayonet-carrying soldiers behind him, asked for permits. At last we were pulled into the station filled with empty freight trucks and its guard of soldiers. Through the dusk beyond the rain was slithering.

“Sorry. No cab, miss,” said a constable. “The whole city’s on strike.”

That explained my inability to get Limerick on the wire. From Kildare I had been trying all morning to reach Limerick on the telephone. All the Limerick shops I passed were blinded or shuttered. In the gray light, black lines of people moved desolately up and down, not allowed to congregate and apparently not wanting to remain in homes they were weary of. A few candles flickered in windows. After leaving my suitcase at a hotel, I left for the strike headquarters. On my way I neared Sarsfield bridge. Between it and me, there loomed a great black mass. Close to it, I found it was a tank, stenciled with the name of Scotch-and-Soda, and surrounded by massed barbed wire inside a wooden fence. On the bridge, the guards paraded up and down and called to the people:

“Step to the road!”

At the door of a river street house, I mounted gritty stone steps. A red-badged man opened the door part way. As soon as I told him I was an American journalist, the suspicious look on his face vanished. With much cordiality he invited me to come upstairs. While he knocked on a consultation door, he bade me wait. In the wavering hall light, the knots in the worn wooden floor threw blots of shadow. On an invitation to come in, I entered a badly lit room where workingmen sat at a long black scratched table. In the empty chair at the end of the table opposite the chairman, I was invited to sit down. As I asked my questions, every head was turned down towards me as if the strike committee was having its picture taken and everybody wanted to get in it.

“Yes, this is a soviet,” said John Cronin, the carpenter who was father of the baby soviet. “Why did we form it? Why do we pit people’s rule against military rule? Of course, as workers, we are against all military. But our particular grievance against the British military is this: when the town was unjustly proclaimed, the cordon was drawn to leave out a factory part of town that lies beyond the bridges. We had to ask the soldiers for permits to earn our daily bread.

“You have seen how we have thrown the crank into production. But some activities are permitted to continue. Bakers are working under our orders. The kept press is killed, but we have substituted our own paper.” He held up a small sheet which said in large letters: The Workers’ Bulletin Issued by the Limerick Proletariat.

“We’ve distributed food and slashed prices. The farmers send us their produce. The food committee has been able to cut down prices: eggs, for instance, are down from a dollar to sixty-six cents a dozen and milk from fourteen to six cents a quart.

“In a few days we will engrave our own money. Beside there will be an influx of money from England. About half the workers are affiliated to English unions and entitled to strike pay. We have, by the way, felt the sympathy of the union men in the army sent to guard us. A whole Scotch regiment had to be sent home because it was letting workers go back and forth without passes.

“And—we have told no one else—the national executive council of the Irish Labor party and Trade Union congress will change its headquarters from Dublin to Limerick. Then if military rule isn’t abrogated, a general strike of the entire country will be called.”

Just here a boy with imaginative brown eyes, who was, I discovered later, the editor of the Workers’ Bulletin, said suddenly:

“There! Isn’t that enough to tell the young lady? How do we know that she is not from Scotland Yard?”

In order to send my wire on the all-Ireland strike, I stumbled along dark streets till I came to the postoffice. Lantern light was streaming from a hatchway open in the big iron door in the rear. “Who comes?” challenged the guards. While I was giving a most conversational reply, a dashing officer ran up and told me the password to the night telegraph room. Streets were deserted when I attempted to find my way back to the hotel. At last I saw a cloaked figure separate itself from the column post box against which it was standing. I asked my way and discovered I was talking to a member of the Black Watch. Limerick is the only town in the British Isles that retains the ancient custom of a civilian night guard. While the strike was on, there were, during the day, 600 special Royal Irish constables on duty in Limerick. But, at night, in spite of unlit streets, the 600 constables gave place to the sixty men of the Black Watch.

“Priests preached sermons Sunday urging the people to withstand the enemy with the same spirit they did in the time of Sarsfield,” said young Alphonsus O’Mara, the mayor of Limerick, whom I met at breakfast. His Sinn Fein beliefs had imprisoned him in his hotel, for his home was beyond the town and he would not ask the British military for a pass. Opposite the breakfast room we could see the drawn blue shades of Limerick’s dry goods store. A woman staggered by with a burlap bag of coal on her shoulders. A donkey cart with a movie poster reading: “Working Under Order of the Strike Committee: GOD AND MAN,” rolled past. A child hugging a pot of Easter lilies shuffled by. “There’s no idea that the people want communism. There can’t be. The people here are Catholics.”

But a little incident of the strike impressed me with the fact that there were communists among these fervent Catholics. In order to pictorialize the predicament of the Limerick workers to the world through the journalists who were gathered in Limerick waiting the hoped-for arrival of the first transatlantic plane, the national executive council devised this plan. One bright spring afternoon, the amusement committee placed poster announcements of a hurling match that was to be held just outside of Limerick at Caherdavin. About one thousand people, mostly Irish boys and girls, left town. At sunset, two by two, girls with yellow primroses at their waists, and boys with their hurling sticks in their hands, marched down the white-walled Caherdavin road towards the bridge. The bridge guard hooped his arm towards the boat house occupied by the military. Soldiers, strapping on cartridge belts, double-quicked to his aid. A machine gun sniffed the air from the upper story of the boat house. Scotch-and-Soda veered heavily bridgewards. A squad of fifty helmeted constables marched to the bridge, and marked time. But the boys and girls merely asked if they might go home, and when they were refused, turned about again and kept up a circling tramp, requesting admission. Down near the Broken Treaty Stone, in St. Munchin’s Temperance hall, in a room half-filled with potatoes and eggs and milk, women who were to care for the exiles during their temporary banishment, were working. A few of the workers’ red-badged guards came to herald the approach of the workers, and then sat down on a settle outside the hall.

St. Munchin’s chapel bell struck the Angelus.

The red-badged guards rose and blessed themselves.


Possibly, I thought, the clergymen of Limerick were hurried into support of red labor. What was the attitude of those who had a perspective on the situation towards communism?

Just outside Limerick, in the town of Ennis in the county of Clare—Clare as well as Kerry has the reputation of shooting down informers at sight—there dwells the most loved bishop in Ireland. The Lenten pastoral of the Right Reverend Michael Fogarty, bishop of Killaloe, was so fervently national that when it was twice mailed to the Friends of Irish Freedom in America it was twice refused carriage by the British government. There was no doubt that he was for Sinn Fein. But how did he stand towards labor?

Past an ancient Norman castle on which was whitewashed the legend “Up De Valera!” into the low-built little town of Ennis, I drove up to the modest colonial home that is called the “episcopal palace,” Bishop Fogarty invited me to take off my “wet, cold, ugly coat,” and to sit at a linen-covered spot at the long plush-hung library table. As he rang a bell, he told me I must be hungry after my drive. Then a maid brought in a piping-hot dinner of delicious Irish stew. I sat down quite frankly hungry, but from a rather resentful glance which the maid gave me, I have since suspicioned that I ate the bishop’s dinner.

First I told the bishop that I am a Catholic. Then I said I was informed that there was a reaction against the Church in Ireland, against being what American Protestants call “priest-ridden.” The first reason of the reaction, I was told, was the fact that the people felt that the hierarchy was not in favor of a republic. Indeed I had it from an Irish-American priest in Dublin that many of the Irish bishops were in a bad way, because neither the English government nor the people trusted them.

“Priest-ridden?” The bishop smiled. “Priest-ridden? England would like us to control these people for her today. We couldn’t if we would. Priest-ridden? Perhaps the other way about.”

The second reason, it was said, is due to the fact that the workers feel that the Church is standing with the capitalists. A Dublin Catholic, wife of an American correspondent stationed in that city, told me that socialism is so strong in the very poor parish of St. Mary’s pro-cathedral in Dublin that out of 40,000 members, there were 16,000 who were not practising their religion.

“A lie!” exclaimed the bishop as his jaw shot out and his great muscular frame straightened as if to meet physical combat on the score. “It is simply not true. The loyalty of the Irish to the Catholic Church is unquestionable.”

And anyway, he indicated, if the people desired a communistic government there is no essential opposition in the Catholic Church.

In the past, said the bishop, the Church in Ireland had thrived under common ownership. When in the fifth century Patrick evangelized Ireland, the ancient Irish were practising a kind of socialism. There was a common ownership of land. Each freeman had a right to use a certain acreage. But the land of every man, from the king down, might be taken away by the state. There was an elected king, and assemblies of nobles and freemen. There were arbitration courts where the lawgivers decided on penalties, and whose decisions were enforced by the assemblies. One of the reasons, the bishop said, that England had found it difficult to rule the Irish, was that she attempted to force a feudal government on a socialistic people.

Recently—to illustrate that the Irish still retain their instinct for common ownership—there had been, as the bishop mentioned, a successful socialistic experiment in Clare. On looking up this fact at a later time, I discovered that the experiment had points of resemblance to the ancient state.[2] In 1823 the English socialist, Robert Owen, visited Ireland. His outline of the possibilities of co-operation on socialistic lines inspired the foundation of the Hibernian Philanthropic Society. It was in 1831 that Arthur Vandeleur, one of the members of the society, decided he would establish a socialist colony on his estate in Ralahine, Clare county. A large tract of land was to be possessed and developed by a group of tenants. This property was not, incidentally, a gift, but was to be held by Mr. Vandeleur until the tenants were able to pay for it. An elected committee of nine, and a general assembly of all men and women members of the society, were the government. The committee’s decision against an offending member of society could be enforced or not by the members. The success of the society is acknowledged. Through it was introduced the first reaping machine into Ireland. By it the condition of the toiler was much raised, and might have been more greatly elevated but for the fact that the community had to pay a very heavy annual rental in kind to Mr. Vandeleur. The experiment came to a premature end, however, because of the passing of the estate out of the hands of Mr. Vandeleur, and the non-recognition of the right of such a community to hold a lease or to act as tenants under the land laws of Great Britain.

“Why should there not be a modernized form of the ancient Gaelic state?” asked the bishop.

When I spoke of the Russian soviet, and stated that I heard that the Roman Catholic church had spread in eight dioceses under the new government, the bishop nodded his head. The Church, he said, had nothing to fear from the soviet.

“Certainly not from the Limerick soviet,” I suggested. “It was there that I saw a red-badged guard rise to say the Angelus.”

“Isn’t it well,” smiled the bishop, “that communism is to be

[Footnote 1: Notice was given by the General Prison Board of Ireland on November 24, 1919, that no prisoner on hunger strike would obtain release. It was stated that the hunger-striker alone would be responsible for the consequences of his refusal to take food.]

[Footnote 2: “Labour in Irish History.” By James Connolly. Maunsel and Company. 1917. P. 122.]


The H.C. of L. has done an extraordinary thing. It is the high cost of living that has caused the sickness and death of Carsonism. Carsonism is a synonym for the division of the Ulsterites by political and religious cries—there are 690,000 Catholics and 888,000 non-Catholics.[1]

The good work began during the war. Driven by the war cost of living, Unionist and Protestant organized with Sinn Fein and Catholic workers, and together they obtained increased pay. Now they no longer want division. For they believe what the labor leaders have long preached: “Carsonism with its continuance of the ancient cries of ‘No Popery!’ and ‘No Home Rule!’ operates for the good of the rich mill owners and against the good of the workers. If the workers allow themselves to be divided on these scores, they can neither keep a union to get better wages nor elect men intent on securing industrial legislation. If the workers are really wise they will lay the Carson ghost by working with the south of Ireland towards a settlement of the political question. Why not? The workers of the north and south are bound by the tie of a common poverty.”

“All my life,” said Dawson Gordon, the Protestant president of the Irish Textile Federation, as we talked in the dark little union headquarters where shawled spinners and weavers were coming in with their big copper dues, “I have heard stories that were so much fuel on the prejudice pile. When I was small, I believed anything I was told about the Catholics. I remember this tale that my mother repeated to me as she said her grandmother had told it to her: ‘A neighbor of grandmother’s was alone in her cabin one night. There was a knock at the door. A Catholic woman begged for shelter. The neighbor could not bear to turn her back into the night. Then as there was only one bed, the two women shared it. Next morning grandmother heard a moaning in the cabin. On entering, she saw the neighbor lying alone on the bed, stabbed in the back. The neighbor’s last words were: “Never trust a Catholic!”‘ As I grew a little older I found two other Protestant friends whose grandmothers had had the same experience. And since I have been a labor organizer, I have run across Catholics who told the same story turned about. So I began to think that there was a hell of a lot of great-grandmothers with stabbed friends—almost too many for belief.

“But hysterical as they were, such stories served their purpose of division.”

From a schoolish-looking cupboard in the back of the room, Mr. Gordon extracted a much-thumbed pamphlet on the linen and jute industry, published after extended investigation by the United States in 1913. Mr. Gordon turned to a certain page, and pointed a finger at a significant line which ran:

“The wages of the linen workers in Ireland are the lowest received in any mills in the United Kingdom.”

Then Mr. Gordon added:

“Another pre-war report by Dr. H. W. Bailie, chief medical officer of Belfast, commented on the low wage of the sweated home worker—the report has since been suppressed. I remember one woman he told about. She embroidered 300 dots for a penny. By working continuously all week she could just make $1.50.[2]

“Pay’s not the only thing,” continued Mr. Gordon. “Working condition’s another. Go to the mills and see the wet spinners. The air of the room they work in is heavy with humidity. There are the women, waists open at the throat, sleeves rolled up, hair pulled back to prevent the irritation of loose ends on damp skins, bare feet on the cement floor. At noon they snatch up their shawls and rush home for a hurried lunch. It’s not surprising that Dr. Bailie reported that poor working conditions were responsible for many premature births and many delicate children. Nor that the low pay of the workers made them easy prey to tuberculosis. He wrote that, as in previous years, consumption was most prevalent among the poor.[3]

“Why such pay and such working conditions?” asked Mr. Gordon. “Because before the war there were only 400 of us organized. Labor organizer after labor organizer fought for the unity of the working people. But no sooner would such a speaker rise oft a platform than there would be calls from all parts of the house: ‘Are ye a Sinn Feiner?’, ‘What’s yer religion?’ or ‘Do ye vote unionist?’ There was no way out. He had to declare himself. Then one or the other half of his audience would rise and leave. With low wages, of course, the workers could not get a perspective on their battle. They were prisoners in Belfast. They never had money enough even for the two-hour trip to Dublin. Rail rates are high. Excursions almost unknown. Then came the war. At that time wages were:

“Spinners and preparers, $3.00 a week.

“Weavers and winders, $3.08 a week.

“General laborers, $4.00 a week.

“But how much did it cost to feed a family of five? Seven dollars a week. The workers had to get the difference. They couldn’t without organization. With hunger at their heels, they forgot prejudices. Catholics began to go to meetings in Orange halls. Protestants attended similar meetings in Hibernian assembly rooms; at a small town near Belfast there was a recent labor procession in which one-half of the band was Orange and the other half Hibernian, and yet there was perfect harmony. Other unions than ours were at work. For instance, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ union began to gather men under the motto chosen from one of Thomas Davis’ songs:

“Then let the orange lily be a badge, my patriot brother,
The orange for you, the green for me, and each for one another.’

“What happened? Take our union for example. From 400 in 1914, the membership mounted to 40,000 in 1919—that is the number represented today in the Irish Textile Federation. With the growth in strength the federation made out its cost-of-living budget, and presented its case to the Linen Trade Employers. At last the federation succeeded in obtaining this rate:

“Spinners and preparers, $7.50 a week.

“Weavers and winders, $7.50 a week.

“General laborers, $10.00 a week.”

But, say the leaders, there will always be chance of disunion until the political question is settled. Ulster labor decided to assist in that settlement. So it killed Carsonism. And now it is trying to lay the Carsonistic ghost.

This is the way labor killed Carsonism. I saw it done. I was in at the death. There was a parliamentary seat vacant in East Antrim. Carson, whose choice had hitherto been law, backed a Canadian named Major Moore. But labor put up a sort of Bull Moose candidate named Hanna. The Carsonists realized the issue. During the campaign they reiterated that Carsonism was to live or die by that vote. The dodgers for Major Moore ran:

East Antrim Election
The Enemies of Unionism
The Return of Hanna

Because as The Freeman’s Journal of May 10,
1919, states:

Are YOU going to be the one to bring this

and show our enemies

At the meetings the Carsonists continually stressed the point that this election meant more than the election or defeat of Moore. It meant the election or defeat of Carson and his ally, God.

“God in His goodness,” declared a woman advocate at a meeting held for Moore at Carrickfergus, “has spared Sir Edward Carson to us, but the day may come when we will see ourselves without him, and I want to be sure that no one in Ulster will have caused him one pain or sorrow.”[4]

“It is owing to Sir Edward Carson under Almighty God,” stated D.M. Wilson, K.C., M.P., at a meeting at Whitehead, “that we have been saved from Home Rule, and the man that knows these things would rather that his right arm were paralyzed than be guilty of any act that would tend to weaken the work of Sir Edward Carson.”[5]

“I am fully persuaded,” added William Coote, M.P., at the same meeting, “that the great country of the gun running will never be false to its great leader.”[6]

One evening near a stuccoed golf club at a cross roads in Upper Green Isle, with the v of the Belfast Lough shining in the distance, I waited to hear Major Moore address a crowd of workers. As the buzzing little audience gathered, boys climbed up telegraph poles with the stickers “We Want Hanna,” and a small, pale-faced man with a protruding jaw was the center of a political argument for Hanna. At last the brake arrived. The major, a tall, personable man, stood up in the cart. But all the good old Ulster rallying cries he used, seemed to miss fire.

“Sir Edward Carson’s for me—”

“Stand on your own feet, Major Muir,” interrupted a worker.

“Heart and soul, I’ll fight Home Rule—”

“What aboot Canada, Major Muir?” The major did not reply as he had at a previous meeting at Carrickfergus that he hoped that the time would come when there would be a “truly imperial parliament in London—one that would represent not only the three kingdoms but the whole empire.”[7] Instead he went on:

“The Unionist party stands for improved social legislation.”

“What aboot old age pensions?” and “Why didn’t the Unionist party vote for working-men’s compensation, Major Muir?”

As he was preparing to drive away from the booing crowd, one of his supporters began to distribute dodgers. I had two in my hand when the small, pale-faced man with the jaw applied a match to them, and cried out as they flared in my hand:

“That’s what we do with trash.”

Who won? When the election returns were made public in June, they read:

Major Moore, 7,549; Hanna, 8,714.

Laying the ghost of Carsonism by the permanent settlement of the Irish political question was attempted last spring. It was then that Ulster labor backed the rest of the Irish Labor party at Berne when it asked for the “free and absolute self-determination of each and every people in choosing the sovereignty under which they shall live.”


The pacific endeavors of the high cost of living are greatly aided by the natural kindliness of the people. I think I have never met simpler charity to strangers. For instance, in the little matter of appealing for street directions, I found the shawled women and the pale men would go far out of their ways to put me on the right path. Even when I inquired for the home of Dennis McCullough, they looked at me quickly, said: “Oh, you mean the big Sinn Feiner”? and readily directed me to his home.

In the red brick home in the red brick row on the outskirts of the red brick town of Belfast, Mrs. Dennis McCullough, daughter of the south of Ireland, gave testimony that the goodheartedness of her neighbors prevails over their prejudice even in time of crisis. Her husband, a piano merchant, has been in some seven prisons for his political activities. He had told of plank beds, of food he could not eat, of the quelling of prison outbreaks by hosing the prisoners and then letting them lie in their wet clothes on cold floors. He had spoken of evading prison at one time by availing himself of the ancient privilege of “taking sanctuary”: he went to the famous pilgrimage center of Lough Derg, and though no sanctuary law prevails, the military did not care or dare to violate the religious feelings of the inhabitants by seizing him there. And then he had told of the last time: before his last arrest he had taken great care not to provoke the authorities because Mrs. McCullough was about to give birth to her first child; but one evening when the couple and friends were seated about a quiet Sunday evening tea table, six constables entered and hurried him off to jail without even presenting a warrant. It was at this point that Mrs. McCullough gave her testimony:

“Our house is just a little island of Sinn Fein in this district. The neighbors knew my husband had been arrested. The papers told them that the arrests had been made in connection with that Jules Verne German submarine plot. But when my baby was born, my neighbors forgot everything but the fact that I was a human being who needed help. One neighbor came in to bake my bread; another to sweep my house; another to cook my meals. They were very good.

“Often at five o’clock, I watch the girls coming home from the mills. At six o’clock they eat supper. At seven the boys and girls walk out together, two by two.” Mrs. McCullough laughed. “You know, I think that’s all I have against the Ulsterites—there’s nothing queer about them.”

By the grate, Dennis McCullough held the baby in his arms with all the care one uses towards a treasure long withheld. His drawn white face was close to the dimpled cheeks.

The rank and file of the Belfastians, then, are joining the priests, co-operationists, labor unionists and Sinn Feiners in their fight for self-determination. For it is believed that as long as the Irish people, Irish or Scotch-Irish, remain under the domination of England, they will continue to suffer under exploitation by her capitalists. And the people of the north and the south are unanimous that English exploitation is what’s the matter with Ireland.

[Footnote 1: Census of 1911.]

[Footnote 2: England passed an order in 1919 regulating the wages of sweated women workers so that the minimum wage of a girl 18 working a 48-hour week amounts to $6.72. But the order concludes: “This order shall have effect in all districts of Great Britain but not in Ireland.” (Ministry of Labor. Statutory Rules and Orders. 1919. No. 357.)]

[Footnote 3: “Report Chief Medical Inspector, Belfast, 1909.”]

[Footnote 4: Belfast Telegraph, May 15, 1919.]

[Footnote 5: Northern Whig, Belfast, May 17, 1919.]

[Footnote 6: Ibid.]

[Footnote 7: Belfast Telegraph, May 15, 1919.]

1 comment on “Ruth Russell, An American Journalist In Revolutionary Ireland

  1. ar an sliabh

    Great article! This was a time where there apparently were still real journalists, not just propaganda hacks. Very nice!


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