Desmond Greaves Journal Vol.11,1953-4, 1956
(a) 17 Nov. 1953 – 8 Sept. 1954 (b) 2 March 1956 – 14 August 1956
Themes: Research on James Connolly – Captain Monteith and Donal Nevin – Paul O’Higgins, Justin Keating, Roy Johnston, Mrs May Keating – Anti-Partition campaigning in Nottingham, Glasgow and London – Cathal MacLiam shares Greaves’s flat in London – “Catholic Standard” attacks on the Connolly Association – Political contacts in Cork: Jim O’Regan, Norman Letchford and Cal O’Herlihy of UCC – Growth of the Connolly Association on the basis of its anti-Partitionist and anti-Unionist policy embodied in its new Constitution adopted in 1955
November 17 1953 Tuesday (Liverpool): I am writing this as the “Leinster” jolts her way, with more hesitation and bumping than is usual, out of Prince’s Dock and into the Mersey. The man opposite tells me he came in dense fog from Bolton to within three miles of the City, but that is no cause of it. It has been clear here all day.
Yesterday I came from Manchester after the Connolly Association conference had wound up with one of the most inspiring meetings I saw for many years. I have often thought of noting down a bit more about these times, my memory not being quite what it was, but the constant work and disappointment, mingled with many an advance, in the last few years, and culminating with the death of AEG [his mother] on September 11th, rather daunted my vigour. The bringing to a certain point of success of this last campaign emboldened me, or rather enlivened me to take the plunge, and also I have a fortnight’s holiday at last. Not that I have the money for it. But now the engines are vibrating like a cake-walk, I must pause.
The thought occurred to me three weeks ago when I went with Ina Connolly to visit old Captain Monteith [Robert Monteith, 1879-1956, Protestant British army soldier who joined the Irish Volunteers, accompanied Roger Casement to Ireland in 1916, was influenced by James Connolly and was involved in radical circles in the USA in the 1930s]. We seemed to be talking about nothing but memoirs, her memoirs, William O’Brien’s memoirs, Cathal O’Shannon’s memoirs – neither of them will give her any material for hers, and I suppose she won’t tell them anything. By the look of it, three contradictory books will be published at about the same time, unless the old men die in the attempt, and what posterity will have to go on will be, I suppose, what it always has to go on.
All the time we were talking with Monteith, his wife – aged 86, I’m told – kept chipping in and interrupting with irrelevancies. He is a firm rugged old man, much like a retired engineer – has a working class appearance and manner. A Dublin brogue is not so soft as that of O’Casey or Seamus McGowan. He wears a brown golf-jacket, a wooly cardigan and lives in a small house like any working class home but containing a few unexpected curios, trophies of his past battles.
“Connolly is the one man of 1916 we must never allow to be forgotten,” he declared with absolute conviction. And 1907, when the Orange “twalfth” utterly failed in the face of Larkin’s campaign. He advised Ina to use the name “Connolly” and forget “Herron.” He remembered Fr O’Flanagan – took the chair for him in New York when he spoke on Spain [Fr Michael O’Flanagan, Republican priest who said the prayers at the opening of the first Dáil Eireann in January 1919]. If this is the speech I have a copy of, then no wonder Monteith considered himself a bold man – but next week there were dozens anxious to shake the hand of the Republican priest. Why is he going to America? [Captain Monteith and his wife returned to the USA, where he died in 1956, having spent a few years in Ireland in the late 1940s and early 1950s]. “I thought I knew Ireland,” he said, “but if I had not seen it, I would never have believed there could be so much back-sliding in the course of thirty years.” That his wife had better organised allies to assist her to have him converted to Catholicism if he remained in Dublin, so he must escape, is Ina Connolly’s account of it. I don’t know however that this is the sole cause. Ina seems excessively sensitive as regards the wife, with whom she gets on very badly. But undoubtedly Monteith’s left opinions – he was at the unemployed meeting last week – do not suit in Dublin – or Detroit. But I suspect the real thing is that the thirty years have estranged him from Ireland. There is nothing to be done, for him at all events, and his children are in America.
November 18 Wednesday (Dublin): This is the day Phyllis is going out, and staying out – AEG’s birthday, which we have celebrated every year, myself mostly visiting her from London, bringing a bottle of wine for the occasion. Although the first intensity of grief has passed for me – less for her of course, who lives among the objects which stir memories every day – I am not sorry to be in Dublin.
I lunched with Donal Nevin. The reverberations of Dr Browne’s sudden decision to join Fianna Fail are already quietening. He doubts if Labour would ever have won him, and his friends who will not follow him into De Valera’s party, are either cranks who could be won by Labour or cranks who could not. Nevin is very active, has filled out politically in the last few years, and is full of optimism and plans for the future.
Paul O’Higgins, with whom I am staying, has started to study law, to fill in time. After having accepted his money for a final year’s course in medicine, Trinity College applied a regulation which they usually waive, to the effect that those who failed more than a certain number of times are not permitted to try again. Requests, visits and threats by his father, protests and appeals to higher authority, had no effect, though the money was not refunded. It was not concealed that political motives were involved, but even his staunchest supporters would not deny Paul “asked for it”. Mrs Keating [May Keating, radical political activist, mother of Justin Keating and wife to Sean Keating RHA] wrote to me asking why I did not “use my influence with Paul” to keep him to his studies. She is afraid for Justin who, however, is interested in his work and will not be diverted from it – even if his pretty and intelligent wife Loretta would let him be. Paul, on the contrary, hates the sight of blood, and one also wonders what sort of a barrister he will make. Probably he ought to have become a lecturer and research worker in history.
Roy Johnston came in, with David Jenkinson, talking of emigrating to Canada. Roy – also much developed – is at the Institute of Cosmic Physics, his wife Mairín is there too, and there is one person, at any rate, who seems to have a chance of remaining in Dublin. Paul has written a book on Marx and Engels’s connections with Ireland, which should be very useful.
November 19 Thursday: I rang up Mrs Elliot (formerly Mary Nelson, Fr O’Flanagan’s secretary) but had a very hostile reception. I told her I was anxious to publish a memoir. “I don’t think this is the right time to do it, or that you are the right person to do it,” she said in a deep resonant “Catholic” voice – the time might be opportune for a discussion on the influence of environment on the voice where, as in Dublin, this denotes less class than creed. She explained she was ill but hoped to be better tomorrow. What did I want? It must be understood nothing I published must use her name. I must have reassured her too effectively. Didn’t I know she was with Fr O’Flanagan for seven years. Yes, Ina Connolly had told me nobody in Dublin knew about him as much as she did. “Ina Connolly? She didn’t know him.” She finally grudgingly invited me to her house. But I decided I would get nothing but the possibility of a disagreeable discussion and no information. The Republicans keep the corpses of their heroes as closely to themselves as Isabella kept her pot of basil. The National Library, after ringing the Irish Press, got me some of the information I wanted in their customary obliging way. It is a pity the British Museum does not emulate their tradition of service to scholars.
November 20 Friday: After a rather unproductive morning at the National Library, I had lunch with Roy and Mairín Johnston at their flat in Rathgar. If places reflect people’s characters as exactly as Roy’s and Paul’s do theirs, I shudder at the conclusions that would be drawn by anybody who cared to reflect upon No.6 Cockpit Chambers [his own flat in London]. In Paul’s there is order neither in space nor time. He and Rachel discuss each morning the food they will buy for the day. David Jenkinson brings in tools and timber and “knocks them up” a bedstead. Books on every imaginable subject, especially subjects they are not studying, are scattered on all sides, and new ones appear with vertiginous rapidity. At Roy’s there is order and economy, a supply of food enough to last a week, and bottles of wine and cointreau on the side-board, half-empty as if a tribute to the Gods of self-control. Roy’s place is cold because he puts the fire on only if he needs it, Paul’s is cold because he leaves the door open every time he goes out. They both get through a deal of work; Paul because he is absorbed in what interests him, Roy because he brings equal application to everything he does.
I had a more profitable afternoon and evening in the Library and met Eoin O’Mahony [1904-1970, barrister, raconteur and genealogist who campaigned in 1948 for the release of Irish Republican prisoners in British jails], fatter, untidier and coarser than ever before; a great pity, and a victim to the vice of complete indiscipline. He told me that Mrs Yeats had a letter from Australia from the relatives of the descendants of William Blake, and that it favours the theory of Blake’s Irish origin which has been the subject of Mrs O’Higgins’s work. She gave this letter to a young lecturer in English in UCD. I told Paul about this.
November 21 Saturday: In the morning I worked in the Library, in the afternoon did some shopping for the few days walking in Wicklow I promise myself. David Jenkinson was coming for the first day, but his brother Donald in hospital is worse, so he cannot. I met Seán Mulready in the bookshop in Pearse Street [ie. the Irish Workers League bookshop], and he told me he was going to sell the Workers’ Voice round the pubs in the evening [ie. the Irish Workers League newspaper]. I was interested to see this, so offered to accompany him. From 8.15 pm. to 9.35 we sold 52 between us. A very few growled, “Fuck off out of here”. Some said, “You ought to be hung selling that paper”; the vast majority were indifferent, though there were a few disapproving poker faces. I had supper at Seán’s, met Mick Kearney once again, and heard them all complain about the custom recently introduced of saying the rosary in factories after the end of the day’s work – it is even done on building jobs. It will end up in discrediting religion. Seán told the amusing story of his “family rosary” in Mullingar. The father would roll the fine liturgical phrases solemnly off his tongue; the children would be sitting behind him, nodding and nudging and admiring the dog and cat, both of whom were trained to sit on their haunches and place their paws together as if praying. Seán is to have an article on Irish in the next “Times Annual Review,” which he promises will displease the more narrow-minded enthusiasts. He has worked out a very sensible approach based on teaching in the language of the home – which I always advocated.
November 25 Wednesday: Talk about irritations and nuisances! On Sunday I set off for a few days walking in Wicklow, the weather mild to the point of balminess, the palms in Rathgar swaying in a soft breeze Paul none the less thought portentous of change. I took the bus to Blessington, and set off for Donard, the wind increasing, but the day still warm, and the copper-coloured dead leaves of the beeches showing finely against the bright greens and blues of fields and mountains. I was trying to follow a route marked on Roy’s map, followed a long bog road to the top of a mountain, found myself in mist, but plodded on expecting to reach Church Mountain. But in fact I was a half mile east, on another ridge. When the light failed I descended to a stream, found it to my surprise flowing North instead of South, fortunately descried trees and a farmhouse just before dark – and so had to walk all the way back to within two miles of Blessington – in the rain!
So I stayed the night at Balteboys Youth Hostel. A group of Dubliners were there – a mixed crowd, not by any means “hikers” – rather a busload out for a day’s sky-larking. Just before the Valleymount bus drew up at the door one of them came in and started poking round in every corner, saying he had lost a ten-shilling note. He left without finding it. Next morning I found my wallet had gone, which meant the loss of £5, return ticket to Liverpool and cards of various organisations. I went on to Donard – but what rain! There I rang Roy who promised to send me £1 which arrived next morning. All day Wednesday I went back to Blessington, in wintry cold weather, and spent the intervening day keeping a fire alight drying my clothes! I had thought of spending Wednesday night at Balteboys, but the absence of supplies of wood, and the unpleasant associations of the place plus the attractions of the City when the weather is cold, decided me against. So back I came to Rathgar, cold, tired, angry and broke – and found a fine welcome from Paul and Rachel; which did what could be done to soften the effect of the numerous blows. Rachel went to bed early with a cold – and listened to the radio. Meanwhile the problem(!) remains [presumably the loss of his boat ticket].
November 26 Thursday: Whether it will work or not I don’t know, but I wrote to the shipping company in Liverpool telling them of the theft of my return ticket and asking for a free pass for next Monday. I anticipate they will graciously decline but indicate the method and conditions of a claim of refund. We’ll see. For the rest I went to the National Library and found plenty of material on Father 0’Flanagan – it is quite surprising that nobody has written anything about him. The world presumably has his secretary to thank.
November 29 Sunday: I called three times at the house of Rosamond Jacob since Thursday but was never lucky enough to find her in [Rosamond Jacob,1888-1960, novelist, suffragette, republican and socialist; her diaries in the National Library of Ireland are a valuable source on the period]. But as often happens I found the main source of material on Fr. O’Flanagan in An Phoblacht, just as I was leaving. Being held down to these damn dates of coming and going has lost me more time and money than I care to think of. Pat Bond responded to my appeal with a telegraph money order for £5, so but for next Tuesday’s meeting I could remain here a few days. However, I’ll be back.
This morning David Jenkinson called with a suggestion we should go for a walk. I agreed – though not sanguine of the weather which has turned cold and dry. I was very glad I did agree. We went to Enniskerry and climbed the Sugar Loaf behind Bray on a warm and exceptionally clear afternoon. We found a bed of petasitis fragrans already in flower, and filling the air with scent, but just above it the surviving flowers of white yarrow, red geranium (Robert’s), and autumn furze. It struck me that there is a special relationship between the two species of ulex – as if the spring flowering one was the original but coming westwards into the milder climate it had taken to flowering in the autumn and thus became a new species, much as Lysenko’s rye was produced from wheat. In the gardens there is a blaze of dahlias, antirrhinums, marigolds, Brompton stocks – an exceptionally productive autumn, to which we are entitled, for though last winter was not so abominable here as it was in England, it was seemingly interminable here also.
The great experience was the sight of the whole stretch of Wales, from the Great Orme to the southern shores of Cardigan Bay – I’d say to about Abereyron clearly, and hazily beyond. Every peak stood out like a silhouette. Snowden dominated all from the lower ground (presumably on the sea level at Greystones) but from the top Carnedd Dafydd and Carnedd Llewelyn seemed about his equal. There was only a single drift, on the east side of Snowden, but Moel Siafod and (I would judge) Aran and Cader Idris were white with snow. Anglesey was as invisible as if it was not there. I remember seeing the Wicklow Mountains as the sun slipped behind them when I was staying with Phyllis at Rhos Hirwaun in Lleyn in 1941, but I never saw a sight like this. Neither had Dave Jenkinson who frequently climbs this hill. The sea was blue and glassy, the nearer country was bright and every tree could be picked out; only in the North, probably because of the haze over Dublin in the very light wind, we could scarcely distinguish Carlingford Mountain and Slieve Donard was invisible.
I read Paul’s MS. in the evening, and though it is a little discursive and he has succumbed to the temptation to put too much into it because it interests him, it is an extremely valuable compilation and should do good if it is published.
November 30 Monday: This last day of my holiday in Dublin was also marred by accident – while in the lavatory of the National Library, combing my hair, I dislodged my glasses from my nose and broke a lens. Dixon Hempenstalls – who have to maintain tall, dark-clothed aristocratic young men with Rathgar accents behind the counter – charged me 25/- for repairs. Last time my glasses broke was in Birmingham. That time it was frames as well – in 1952 during one of our summer campaigns, or just after it as I was leaving for Manchester. The largest oculist informed me that it would be “un-ethical” to supply a lens without an order from a doctor. Would it be ethical if I walked under a bus? However I rang Roscoe Clarke [Birmingham left-wing surgeon with whom Greaves was friendly]. He was about to go into his operating theatre but gave me somebody’s name. That person rang the oculists. When I went there again – certainly, Sir, wait for five minutes, and there was the lens. I took out my cheque book prepared for £5 – for I saw he held new frames. “Perhaps you would accept these with our compliments” – which I did!
I had lunch with May Keating. She had written me a letter saying surely I could have exerted enough influence on Paul O’Higgins to prevent his making a mess of his academic career. Also what about her Justin? I replied that Paul had neglected his medicine because he had no interest in it; Justin would not neglect his veterinary science because he was interested in it. Today we discussed the same subject. She thinks Paul a trifle weak – sees his mother in him, a great soul, able to abstract herself entirely from the affairs of this wicked world, sweet and innocent, as so is Paul. She is a little shocked at the way he gaily spends the sums lavished on him by Leo. As we sat, a middle-aged woman came to the next table. She was the girl Joseph Plunkett had married in jail in 1916. “She was a sprightly thing! Looking at her reminds me of how time passes.” May Keating has, like most Dubliners (even the importations) shrewd things to say about everybody and likes assessing people rather than understanding situations. Donal Nevin appeared [1924-2012, Trade union researcher and committed Labour activist], and they set to about Dr Browne.
May thought that Browne had little alternative. When she and I and Donal Nevin discussed the matter in that same cafe six weeks ago I suggested that Browne might join the Labour Party if an attempt was made to attract him. Would he like to, asked Donal. He certainly would, says she, but would they accept him. “He could join a local branch and they would surely not refuse him.” However May thought this a very lukewarm reception to offer a man. He would only join the Labour Party if there was a certainty of no coalition with Fine Gael. But if there was to be a coalition with Fianna Fail in order to draw it left, why not join that and do that from the inside? She described the little meeting of his supporters when he dropped the bombshell. One half screamed murder for an hour. They had been “led up the garden”. The others said it was the most sensible thing he had done in two years. She and one other kept quiet. Why the silence? asked the others. “It will take me a year to know if this is a good day’s work or a bad one,” says she. Donal Nevin then blames it all on Hartnett – Hartnett has joined too [Noel Hartnett, former Clann na Poblachta politician and colleague of Noel Browne’s]. Oh! No – only to show there was no split. Hartnett was in hospital for three months, very perturbed and resentful (the sentimental thing) that Browne had not been to see him. His wife had had a son; while in hospital he had made his peace with the faith of his fathers from which he had been straying – No doubt (says Paul) they made out his illness was worse than it was. May asserts that it was probably a “psychological illness” anyway, close to a desire to avoid responsibilities for a while. Anyway, says Donal, there is a reason: he is to be in charge of sponsored programmes on Radio Eireann. May stoutly denies all charges of bribery and suggests that it is political bias which has removed Donal from his own programme on Radio Eireann where he was becoming very much a radio personality. But he denies this. We agree (Donal and I) that Browne’s career is surely finished, except perhaps as a Fianna Fail vote, that he is “awkward”, will surely quarrel with them and leave politics altogether. After which May Keating asks if I think they talk too much, and I reply that it is necessary to go on talking till you know what to do. Then it can be dispensed with more easily.
The B.and I. [British and Irish Steam Packet Company] wrote to me saying that it was not their practice to give credits for lost tickets, but that they would be prepared to consider mine as a “special case” without prejudice. This was very charming. I caught the evening boat, in the bunk of which I am now writing. Who should be on it but the young lad Daly who came into the “King and Queen” [public house on Paddington Green, London, where the West London Connolly Association held its branch meeting at the time] once or twice in the summer. He is on leave from the RAF. He is only 18 – I had taken him to be much older. Of a family of eleven, only one daughter remains with the old mother. He wants to cry when he goes home. But he has never seen any other part of Ireland than Dublin. He sees old women carrying heavy sacks, children asking for a penny (not what it was in 1939, I assured him) and he is doing his military service so as to be able to settle permanently in Britain where he has lived two years. He is open to transfer his national allegiance entirely, feels strongly about conscription, but not in any way on national grounds. Those who emigrate at a later age, he thinks, have more Irish tradition in them. An interesting light on emigration.
A letter from Phyllis said probate is granted, so we will not have much duty to pay [ie. for their mother’s will]. AEG had a much tougher passage, which is unfair, as she had so much more need of sympathetic help. However Harry Greaves [her uncle] did it for her – he advised Phyllis and myself.
I read Paul O’Higgins’s manuscript and advised him on certain points which might shorten and condense it without losing force – indeed to its advantage. It will be a useful publication if we can get Lawrence and Wishart [CPGB book publishers in London] to spare a glance for Ireland.
December 1 Tuesday (Liverpool): I arrived in Liverpool this morning to find Phyllis in bed with a cold. She has however secured probate and is busy trying to settle up AEG’s affairs, which I must say were left in excellent order. She is inclined to stay in the house and doesn’t feel like having anybody to live with her, and it is hard to advise her one way or the other. While she should not prejudice any long-term prospects for the sake of present sentiment, that sentiment has its place, and she would not find a home readymade elsewhere.
I reached London about 6 o’clock, in time to attend a meeting.
December 2 Wednesday (London): Accepting an invitation of Margot Parrish [CPGB activist], Cathal MacLiam and I went to her flat in Hornsey to meet Wallace Johnson [British West African workers’ leader, journalist and politician]. Maurice was there too – his plans of learning the trade of journalism have been wrecked on the rock of colour-prejudice. He was editor of a Kikuyu paper; now he is a railway porter. Wallace Johnson is a huge man, a born humorist, a wit and a character with a fund of stories – whether embellished or exact, the embellishment, if any, has not worsened them. Between Margot’s issues of gins and limes, he kept us well entertained with stories of evading the police across frontiers, colour bar experiences, and the movement in Africa.
December 3 Thursday: TA Jackson spoke to the Connolly Association this evening [TA Jackson, 1879-1955, historian and lecturer, one of the founders of the CPGB, English authority on Irish history]; but as Clancy said, he’s not the man he was in 1942 when he used to climb the six flights of Premier House cursing us all to hell for inhabiting a lighthouse. His talk on Parnell was an uncritical panegyric, most of those present thought. Claire Madden quite bitterly opposed him; others accused him of hero-worship; but he was the only man present who had ever seen Parnell – sitting on his father’s shoulders, and may also reflect something real in the mood of the people in those days. Parnell may have been the symbol; the feelings of the crowd the motive force. He must be hard up. He talks of selling his Library. For my own part, though I can’t altogether support his view of Parnell, I kept silent. He’s written his view down; it is deserving of careful consideration; it is up to those who disagree to write theirs down. He has been a very good friend to us, over many years.
December 4 Friday: A letter from HM Customs told me first that duty and extra postage were due on my microfilms from New York, and second that their importation was prohibited. The letter was addressed “Irish Democrat”, re “films.” I went to one office at Tower Hill. They referred me to another in Islington. There they told me films were dutiable but microfilms not so; also that since it was not a trade importation it was neither prohibited nor dutiable. I must write them a letter, which I did.
December 6 Sunday: We held a meeting in Hyde Park, at which Paddy Clancy and I spoke. We were protesting against the imprisonment of Liam Kelly [A Northern Ireland republican who had his own group separate from the IRA]. Needless to say we had no opposition from the Irish – or for that matter from the English either. We met an old IWW [Industrial Workers of the World, the “Wobblies”, leftwing American trade unionists] man who did ten years in the U.S.A. (1917-27) for “criminal syndicalism”. He explained how in 1916 the atmosphere in the USA changed overnight, from patriotic neutralism to reactionary war-fever. He told us how he was in Australia and called on MacAlpine, one of Larkin’s lieutenants in the early twenties. He was news editor of the Sydney Evening Herald (I think he said “Sydney” but am not sure).
“You’ve fallen pretty low,” said your man.
“Och! I’ve forgotten all about those days.”
December 7 Monday: The microfilm arrived – clearly labelled microfilm and addressed to me personally. The British Customs presumably can’t react.
Flann [ie. Flann Campbell, temporary “Irish Democrat” editor] has made a terrible mess of the December issue. All the good stuff sent him has been rejected and quite apart from his leftwing headlines and pictures of Stalin, he has reverted to a lay-out pattern I abandoned several years ago. The paper is a monstrous atavism – but for that I am glad there was anybody to edit it at all.
December 9 Wednesday: Some of us went to the House of Commons to lobby MPs about the imprisonment of Liam Kelly, who was elected for mid-Tyrone. There seemed to be a hoodoo on my “green cards“[Requests to meet MPs who might be present in the House] – no Donnelly, no Stokes, no anybody. But Stella Bond captured Driberg [Labour MP Tom Driberg], who said Kenya was more important – later on we saw him speaking to an Anglo-Catholic priest who had waited patiently for nearly two hours for him. Then Arthur Reynolds [journalist, later editor of the “Irish Skipper”] caught Hugh Delargy [1908-1976, Labour MP who had led the Friends of Ireland group of Labour MPs in opposition to the 1949 Ireland Act]. I recognised him as they walked away – but only just. I remember how he used to call in at Clancy’s and Elsie O’Dowling’s looking for a night’s lodging when he had just become an MP. I remember him asking us to prevent Sam Wilde standing against him in Miles Platting [an inner district of Manchester] – his bringing the girl to whom he was not married to Elsie’s and telling his woe-begone story. I then remember him at the Allenby Club at one of our socials, dressed as an officer (the war had not ended) and getting into a drunken quarrel with Sean Mulgrew who accused him of being “bourgeois”. Hugh danced with indignation and kept repeating, “Me pore mother! me pore mother!”, after which he went to sit at one of the long tables with Elsie [Elsie O’Dowling, neé Timbey, Connolly Association activist], shook his head sadly and commented, “Look round! Look round! Isn’t it terrible! I’m the only person in sight who has any intelligence.”
Well, the pudding is now being eaten. Later he was more Catholic than the Pope, going round the House telling MPs not to buy the Irish Democrat; threatening, so it was said, to use Solly’s marital difficulties against him in Thurrock (Solly asked me for Delargy’s!) – and now tonight, tall, pink and black, a political whore, putting on a corporation behind his striped trousers and waistcoat; his cheeks filled out like a horse with good living. He told Arthur he would see about it – ask the Home Secretary, and to beware of contempt of court or he might be in jail himself. Later, when Molly Downes sent in for him he wasn’t there, but she espied him through the St Andrew’s door; she tracked him down and found him conversing with Dr Robinson who also “wasn’t there” to her.
Before Dr Morgan came out and was very friendly and helpful to Flann, Griffiths had a very uncomfortable ten minutes with about thirty people, many of them coloureds, on the subject of Kenya. They clustered round him and plied him with awkward questions; it was with difficulty that he made his escape. Morgan was very friendly and promised to ask a question. He also spent nearly an hour with the Kenya people. Victor Yates spoke with Eamon MacLaughlin [Connolly Association activist, General Secretary in the late 1950s] and that was all. As I remarked to Mary Campbell as we came away: anybody can see these people are not the rulers of the country at all, but a rather uninteresting set of inconsequential puppets.
December 10 Thursday: Wallace Johnson addressed the Connolly Association this evening but was rather disappointing. He seems to lack any kind of political, or more properly said, intellectual fulcrum, and his general democratic eclecticism shows in his address – as it shows in the African Standard. His stories were not always told the same way. Last week he first met the Irish Democrat by picking it up in a Manchester train; this week it was on a London ‘bus. The one interesting thing was his assertion that the “stage Irishman” is well-known to the Africans – being taught in the schools.
December 13 Sunday (Nottingham): Because I had stayed up late talking with Cathal MacLiam (who lives in the historic flat No.1, occupied successively – I almost forget the order – by Price, Phillips and Kirkpatrick, Joe Monks, Ciaran 0’Lenehan, Peter Robson, and the oddities with whom Cathal shares it), I awoke at 9.25 am. to catch the train at St Pancras at 10. I succeeded. Breakfast on the train, specially laid on for me, cost 5/6. I addressed the Nottingham “Cosmopolitan Debating Society,” said to be one of the oldest of its kind, on the “Partition of Ireland”. I had been told how a line of hardened secularists fills the front row, with sceptical questions that occupy the time. They were there – the Pope had a field day, and of course the drunken Irishman was so much in evidence that you’d think the Englishman hadn’t even a mouth. The chairman, Mr Taylor, told me he was in lodgings where James Connolly used to stay in Liverpool around 1912. He even went out poaching rabbits with him one night in the Wirrall. Connolly, says he, liked poaching. He returned next morning and kept the rabbits behind his overcoat. “Where have you been?” asked his wife. He teased her by not telling her. She went behind his chair and shook him. “Tell me now – if the Government is afraid of you, I’m not!” He had given a man a £1 and was told he had bought drink with it. He said, “No bloody wonder!; the job that man has would drive anybody to it.” He was more of a Socialist than an Irish Nationalist in Liverpool, said Taylor. As I have a photo of the 1911 strike with Connolly in it, this was probably the period. He may not have been working for the Transport Union then.
Who was there but Bannister. Joe Whelan, Pat MacLaughlin and I ran into him in a Lyons’ cafe afterwards. He seems a weak character, and I heard later that there are good reasons for hesitation in accepting his offer of help. He was very active in the Peace Movement in Dublin and went to Warsaw with Armstrong and others two or three years ago. He was going to come back to a meeting we then held in the City Square but did not arrive. It was an excellent meeting, but I was ashamed to be selling the appalling December issue of the Irish Democrat which Flann Campbell got out for me. It will do more harm than a regiment of cavalry. I stayed the night with Joe Whelan whose three children have whooping cough.
December 14 Monday (Liverpool): I went to Manchester and saw Joe Deighan in the Public Library, had a chat about things and then went on to Liverpool. By good fortune Phyllis was very much better and said as much. She intends coming to London just after Christmas – if the threatened rail strike does not materialise.
December 15 Tuesday (London): I went to Birmingham. Just after we left Stafford thick fog descended on us and the train shuffled along the more crowded lines with the aid of detonators. I was trying to get hold of Dr Swift. Imagine my surprise when on boarding the London train I heard a voice hail me from behind – that’s who it was. He was very proud of his sister’s success in “The Rosenbergs” at Unity Theatre but did not mention Jim Prendergast at all. He told me the inside story of the Blackpool conference of the Labour Party. He was a member at the time and a delegate. Seán Dunne, Roddy Connolly and Peggy or Patricia Rushton were delegates from Dublin [Sean Dunne 1918-1961, trade unionist and Irish Labour Party TD]. It was proposed to make a demonstration and fifty Liverpool Irish were coming down to swell the ranks. Seán Dunne went into a bar, and after a few drinks blabbed out the plot while playing the “big fellow” to a Labour MP who was also a KC. This very proper individual announced it was his solemn duty to report it to the Standing Orders Committee unless Seán faithfully promised to call it off. This the obliging Seán did. As Swift drove the three of them back to their hotel Patricia mentioned the arrangements.
“It’s called off,” said Seán. “By whom?” “By me” – and he told them the story.
“But what about us?” Before they reached the hotel he had agreed to put it on again, but insisted that he was in honour bound to go and inform the MP. Seán drove to the MP’s hotel but he could not be found. Next morning, showing how much the MP was “in honour bound”, the conference was stiff with policemen. So it was decided to call off the demonstration once more – much to the chagrin of the Irish Independent photographer who had been “in the know” from the start and was prepared to start off the international headlines. “This’ll be worth a thousand votes to me in Dublin,” said the public-spirited Seán when the plan was first mooted. It was decided to postpone the effort till the Friday. It was indeed attempted. But though the men in blue had gone the plainclothes men remained – and two of these arrested Seán and escorted him from the building as he called, “I protest!”
December 17 Thursday: Pat Clancy gave a report on the Connolly Association conference tonight. He was a trifle general and inclined to expound principles rather than lay down objectives. Hardly had he sat down when Pat Maloney plunged into a continuation of the line of thought he and Smullen (aided by O’Shea) [Fred O’Shea, CPGB member who was opposed to Greaves’s nationalist line on Ireland] had introduced into the conference, and Smullen was soon backing him up. These lads have only recently joined the C.A. Recently somebody – I can’t remember who – met one of them in a public house and was told that instead of sniping from the outside they intended to join the CA and “raise their differences inside it” [This in fact occurred during the 1953-58 period]. Clancy is always good at questions and his reply was excellent. He stood on the conference decisions, declared they must be carried out now they were adopted, and answered the “leftist” demands of the young lads to link with the Irish Workers League, make the Connolly Association a communist organisation, and God knows what! Still a night was lost in point of time.
December 18 Friday: Cathal MacLiam has been suffering from toothache all week. So he asked me to accompany him to the Dental Hospital; they would not accept him without a companion. The institutional air of these places seems to have undergone an improvement, though perhaps as Cathal said, people lavish more sympathy on dental patients than on any others. Their malady is so palpable and, intermittently, so universal. He had taken a drink or two last night and was not too well – not that the amount he had would have affected a person in normal condition. Consequently the anaesthetic left him badly shaken and he had to rest quite a while before leaving. The nurse muttered something about “own fault” (I suppose she doesn’t possess a mouth) and later a student doctor or student dentist came to ask him with a mixture of toneless reproof and badly concealed envy, “Were you out on the booze last night?” A sister held the view he had been drinking “to kill the pain”. But they were all very kind and the hard glitter of former days seemed banished. Not however that I do not prefer my own dentist, Toogood, who “never hurts you”, which he doesn’t, and treats you like a Lord! Although he was so ill in the morning he recovered with all the resilience of youth by afternoon and took the 4.30 to Liverpool en route for Galway in the fog.
I received a letter from Paul O’Higgins saying he had come out first in his terminal law exam. This must be (I mean his telling me must be) the result of my ticking him off for failing on his medical work.
December 20 Sunday: Eamonn MacLaughlin came in the evening after Gerard Curran had left. Eamonn is courting Gerard’s younger sister. It was one of those instances of “love at first sight” and by all accounts, though 32 years old, he has written to her daily since September and will not on any account leave the house on a Friday night when she rings him up from Dublin!
December 21 Monday: Alec Digges and Abe Caplan called with a bottle of wine. I think Alec, who is of Dublin upbringing and ancestry, though born in London, is a descendant of the famous Sir Dudley Digges – of the Parliament which presented the petition of right to Charles 1.
December 22 Tuesday: Leaving the flat like a pigstye I went off for the Christmas holiday to Liverpool. Phyllis is in much better form, though gets tired, and moody when she is tired. Letters awaited me from Mary Greaves [his aunt] – she is still very upset about AEG [her sister-in-law]and RMG [her brother in America], two sudden deaths in as many weeks. She was 78 herself yesterday and corrected herself this way in a letter to Phyllis: “We’re getting old; I should say, we are old” – and of course though she was often unnecessarily brisk and overbearing to AEG, whose temperament was gentle and kindly, she misses her all the more for that.
December 23 Wednesday: I learned from Phyllis that the redoubtable “County Jenny” – René’s husband’s mother – has died recently and left them a lot of money. Whalley, the husband, formerly – that is in 1929 – staunchly Labour, is now a “successful man”, made so, as are so many others, by the post-war building boom which enables him to pursue his profession of architect or draughtsman for the LCC [London County Council] in the evening, and “on the side”.
I listened to the “Messiah” on the radio in the evening. Of course I know it backwards. AEG used always to comment that “Worthy is the Lamb” was the last thing my father conducted – and I never turned it on in her presence. It must be many years since I heard it through. What strikes me now, taking it as a whole, is that the first or “prophetic” part has more power today than the second, the “passion”, or the “apocalyptic” third. The prophecies relate so obviously to this world – even later we are told the “kingdom of this world, is become. . . “, and if some contemporary statesmen were prepared to “speak peace unto the heathen” – without wanting to determine which side is heathen – we might all be the safer from being blown up. The power of the Messiah must lie in this prophetic first part, with its demand for social change. But Nonconformism had the peculiar ability to pose social discontents and capture the emotions around Christianity and distil them into “faith”. I am somewhat inclined to think Archibald Robertson’s theory of a “proletarian and a Messianic division” within Christianity as a whole is supported by this.
December 25 Friday: Phyllis and I spent the evening at Dorothy’s place. Young Gerald, now 24, has another girl, quite a nice wee thing, with good manners and quite a tolerable education. But her hair is cropped as short as a convict’s. What was the reason? Apparently she was training to be a teacher and went to the Catholic Training College at Hull. From the general conversation I gathered she is Catholic – Phyllis, probably less able to judge than I on this where evidence is slender, does not think so, but I thought I detected the somewhat stiff and well-trained polish of the convent, which in any case I don’t disapprove of in all ways. She described operating a dishwashing machine for 180 students, being allowed out of the premises for about four hours a week; climbing over the wall to go to a dance at the University; discipline of extraordinary strictness, followed by a nervous breakdown. Now apparently as a result of the breakdown all her hair fell out, or at the best, simply refused to grow. Gerald has his examination soon, and to celebrate it, his firm has given him notice to quit! He needs a man’s wages now.
December 26 Saturday: We went for a short drive in the afternoon. Still the mild weather holds – though I have known it break many a year at this very time. There was winter heliobore at Dibbinsdale, the gorse or furze (which, I could not see as we passed) full and yellow, leaves on the brambles and elders, not even yellow or brown, and a soft South Westerly wind blowing the typical “warm sector” clouds over us. When we called on Elsie we noted the chrysanthemums and geraniums. Phyllis has a huge red carnation out in the garden, and though in years gone by I used to try to bring Tropaeolums though the winter, the fact that they are lumpy and healthy, with bright leaves though no flowers, shows there has not yet been a ground frost of any mark. The grass is greener than I saw it in years.
Elsie’s family is an illustration of how the tragedies of one generation are healed in the next, as fast as fresh ones appear elsewhere – if I may use such loose expressions! She has three very nice children, all girls, aged 14,10 and 8 – very lively, very pretty, quite accomplished, well-mannered. The husband, Will Pemberton, a Liverpool pharmacist, is easy-going and harmonious in the house, steady and industrious at work.
My uncle, the eldest of the family, was the most fortunate to begin with. William Greaves was a master tailor, his wife of farming stock [William Greaves,1872-1920, was the eldest of the eight children of Desmond Greaves’s paternal grandparents, William Greaves, 1841-1918, and Anna Bellis, 1847-1916]. The eldest boy got some education, took a job with Greens, the canners, and when the owner died and left all his property to his staff, he became rich very quickly. He was extremely active in the musical world, sang, I believe, in the Philharmonic Sunday’s chorus and also, I think, that of the Phillips opera company. He was unlike the rest of the family in appearance, had not the Greaves “cat-face”, as I call it, but resembled his mother’s people more. His mother, my grandmother, I still just remember teaching me to count in Welsh when I visited them during the 1914-18 war. She was the sweetest and most generous soul on earth and died of cancer; her strong heart and iron constitution preserving her through months of pain. I remember my uncle William dressing up as Father Xmas at a children’s party and giving us all presents. I suppose the children there would be May, his eldest daughter, Elsie, and Harley Greaves and myself. The old people died during the War. That is why Richard and Fred never returned from America. Then in about 1922 or 1923 William Greaves took cancer and died. In the meantime his wife, Alice, who had had several miscarriages with male children, had given birth to Leslie, who was there tonight, a man of 36 with the brain of a child of seven, hale, hearty and strong of limb.
Willie’s death left Alice a rich woman, but she took it very badly. I remember how for years afterwards, or so it seemed to us, she would break down and weep whenever she visited us. She had been very pretty in her youth, was of Welsh extraction, I believe, but had no special training for responsibility. While continually asking advice on the investing of her money, she was always sure people were giving her bad advice with an eye to laying their hands on some of it. Having no notion of what it was safe to do with it, she became extremely economical in her management and boasted after a few years that she had doubled the principal of her own share in it. This would be by sheer saving. The two girls were sent to quite good schools. It was however usually ascribed to her parsimony that May took tuberculosis and died in about 1927 or thereabouts. This may not be true but was consistent with her character as it was known.
This second blow probably hit Alice harder than the first, but she gave less sign of it. Her parsimony and suspiciousness increased. In 1925 Mary Greaves went to live in Portsmouth with U. Bert Wiltshire whom she had married in about 1924, and Alice took Elsie and Leslie periodically to spend a holiday there. During this time she was persuaded to try to give Leslie some kind of training. She sent him to psychologists and every kind of expert who offered no hope. According to what Elsie told Phyllis tonight she even contemplated putting him in a home, but on seeing how the unfortunate children were treated there could not bring herself to part with him.
It was around some series of disagreements which I think involved Leslie’s future that she and Mary Greaves quarrelled, and Alice shut herself up even more in her house and family. She was house-proud beyond measure; this was something she understood and she did it well. She bought the excellent house we visited tonight and a car which Elsie drove. But after quarreling with Mary Greaves, since Portsmouth was the only place she ever went to for a holiday, she continued to go there, to stay at a hotel, and to make periodical reconciliations with Mary, which always ended in an ever more violent quarrel. It was after the blitz of 1940 that she began to show symptoms of mental instability herself. The house was seriously damaged. To her husband and daughter were added the tale of the “poor blitzed house,” and her indecisiveness completely overmastered her. She could not decide whether to try to get it repaired or to lease it, and lived there in one room, during which period Elsie got married to Will Pemberton and went to live in Liverpool. She was alone with Leslie, and this did not improve her. She conceived a violent antipathy to Pemberton from the start. He was not going to have her money! How could he be prevented, asked the ever practical Mary Greaves. She would leave it to Leslie. But who but Pemberton would have the managing of Leslie? This conundrum baffled her. But she was still alive. When they asked her to lend Pemberton the money to buy a business he was offered she refused. They were living over the shop, overcrowded, overworked. Elsie took tuberculosis, and then two of her children. Alice began to fail and shrivel; she still lived in the one room with Leslie; her memory degenerated; she went to stay with Elsie two days and returned to say she had been there a fortnight. Elsie was in and out of sanatoria. In the middle forties – probably just after the war ended and this slaughter of the innocent that seems still to go on, and I suppose will not now end, began, with the simultaneous death of UCB and AMM – when Elsie and the two children were in hospital she suffered a complete collapse, was moved to Clatterbridge, and was then moved to some kind of mental hospital or hospital for the aged in central Cheshire. The journey proved too much for her and she died, at 70, of what Elsie called “premature senility”.
But then everything took up. Elsie and the two children made a complete recovery. They abandoned the flat in Liverpool and occupied “Rosemalia”. Though not cutting any dash, they were short of nothing that could ease the burden of living. They have two cars, a piano, television set – and the house seems well stocked with books. Elsie is by no means an unintelligent woman. She no longer looks young at all. She stoops and must retire early. It is said that tuberculous people have good tempers. I don’t know. But here is the next generation growing up without one obvious scar; the misfortunes and miseries of 30 years have left them unscathed, and are visiting elsewhere.
Leslie is staying with an aunt. The children are now a little afraid of him, and a little impatient of him. The wee girl wants her father, the old “grandfather”(no relation but a family friend) or myself to lift her up – she is not a bit shy even with strangers. But not Leslie. I suspect Elsie does not want her brother near the children. It is as it should be. The younger generation must be sacred. The mentality of Leslie is interesting in ways. Its content is a caricature of Alice’s views, insofar as she had views. Mary Greaves used to call him a “little parrot” – whatever Alice said he said. He keeps telling you the same thing over and over again. He likes Charlie Chaplin; he likes going to church every Sunday, especially hearing the organ; he will not visit them tomorrow because he must go to church; he speaks of AEG, how she was “kind” and “made them laugh” – and then asked me if I went to the funeral and wanted to know where it started, the exact route it followed, indeed had me doing the whole thing over again, after starting and abandoning the same performance with Phyllis, so that only my sense of humour came to the rescue or I would have told him to shut up – which I did in a manner of speaking when he got on to the Queen and New Zealand. Yet he has a pleasant disposition, if only he had the intellectual development to express it, and I suppose that years of experience must add something even to such as he. In a way, when I spoke to him, or to be more precise listened to him, I seemed to be taken back to the olden days. He has preserved something of the tastes and inclinations of our grandparents and the feelings and prejudices we have lost. Even the words he uses, simple as they are, are full of the odours and associations of pre-1914 days! Here is the tablet too soft to write on, which therefore preserves more of its original form when it was first made
December 27 Sunday (London): I returned to London and made ready to receive Phyllis on Tuesday.
December 29 Tuesday: Phyllis arrived last night so as to be able to attend a couple of lectures on percussion bands in schools.
December 30 Wednesday: Both Phyllis and myself went out to Paddington to see Victor Taylor, E.Taylor and the children, our cousins. I was quite surprised, considering that he was if not born, at any rate reared in China, that Aubrey is quite conscious of being Irish! ET’s people are from Co. Kildare. The second son, Derek, is of less personality, a rather effeminate youth as one would judge from having a “salesman’s manner”, deferential over nothing, with a marked contempt for jazz (his younger brother’s cross) which is replaced by a somewhat Victorian taste. He sings. He plays the piano – but his fingers run lightly over the keys (very lightly – when I played I felt I was banging!) without attack or decisiveness. When one considers that Victor gave them no education to speak of, the children seem to have turned out very well – except the jazzy young bank clerk John, who goes “on the booze”. Of course the eternal television was wasting time here also. If there is not a nation of morons it is not through lack of the attempt!
December 31 Thursday: There was a great New Year’s Eve social at the Connolly Association tonight – or should I say last night – of which all that can be said is the less that the guests remembered, then presumably the better time they had.
January 1 1954 FrIday: New Year resolutions are no more than New Year wishes – for a year free from personal trouble, loss or bereavement, for reasonable financial prosperity, for health, good relations with all those likeminded, for success in work done, enlarged interests, new friendships and better luck than the situation deserves. 1953 was a horror – 1954 may be better!
January 9 Saturday: What happens at the end of December during that fatal week 25-31 I do not know – the weather turns cold in it with almost monotonous regularity. So I have had to try to keep warm, instead of writing. Of course the local supplies of coalite must run out (I wrote to the manufacturers – Eric Brown ran me round the shops in his van; till one of them explained that the distributors also deal in coal and that more energetically). So I have to buy logs at 3d a time, a very expensive method of heating the place. But to reinforce the external with internal heat, when I got to Kilburn and met Eamon MacLaughlin, he told me that Desmond Logan [another Connolly Association activist] had called to see me on Xmas Eve, and produced for me what he had bought – a bottle of whiskey! Very acceptable.
January 10 Sunday: Before meeting Arthur Reynolds at Kilburn [to go on a run selling the Irish Democrat] I called down to Michael Regan who used to do our sports page in 1945 or 1946. He is a free-lance, does two features a week for the Daily Mirror. However he may have “riz” in the journalistic world – evidenced by the relish with which he threw open a side-board cover to show the great selection of drinks, for all the world like Mrs Monteith assuring Ina Connolly and me that all her children in Detroit had bars in their cellars, he is going to do me a monthly piece.
January 11 Monday: Cathal invited me down to his flat and we talked till 12.20. Then the lunatic who lives above began to knock on the floor. A most extraordinary display of virtuosity followed, as if she were playing the floor like a trio of kettledrums. When I left at 12.40 it was in full swing!
January 12 Tuesday: Cathal told me the sequel to last night’s performance. Her ladyship was “cleaning her room” – as loudly as possible – until “your man” (Gilbert) held a consultation with “the Indian” and then went upstairs to remonstrate. Next morning he told Cathal, who is his tenant, to vacate the room. So he will occupy my spare room till he finds another place. Gilbert – what a character. About forty years of age, he was very active in the political movement in the thirties, had no parents alive, suffered very acutely in the slump, and was reduced to starvation because his curiously reserved, sensitive, neurotic nature was too proud to ask anybody for a sixpence. Later, after the war, this centering of everything on himself began to warp him. He developed a morbid fear of another slump, of losing his job. Not being much of a one for women he did not marry, but secured the famous basement flat, No. 1, which had previously housed the egregious Price, then Joe Monks, Ciaran O’Lenihan, Phillips, Kirkpatrick, who went to China taking photographs and fell out there, finally Peter Robson and “your man”. There he took in “lodgers”, or sub-tenants – Bloomsbury-looking students and floating kidneys of the body politic. I went down the stairs once and saw him go in. I followed a few minutes later – I forget what for. He was sitting at a typewriter, typing like a fury. On the desk were several sheets filled with typing.
“What ever is all the hurry about?” I asked. “You look so serious that I’d say you were typing somebody’s death-sentence!”
“You don’t understand,” he said, “This is serious! I’m typing my symptoms!”
Of course I said pull-yourself-together and snap-out-of-it. But he hasn’t yet.
January 13 Wednesday: Cathal was up with me when Patrick Joseph Kearney came in and told us of his previous marvellous landlady and the villainies of his brother “Ginger”, who is a “bit of a hard case”. Ginger and his two drinking companions decided to have a party in the flat of the man on the second floor while he was out. When “Ginger” was going to get additional supplies the others felt impelled to relieve themselves of the first instalment, and not knowing the location of the WC and fearing to intrude on somebody lying peacefully in bed and being taken for burglars, they pumped ship in a water jug.
The next thing was to empty its contents through the window. This operation was begun just as Ginger walked up the stairs of this very presentable house in a respectable neighbourhood carrying the reinforcements.
“Hi!” shouted Ginger, “What are you doing there?”
Though he himself escaped the obscene draught his voice so startled the man above that he dropped the jug on the path.
Ginger looked for a moment at the pieces and putting down his load of Guinness bottles started to pick up the remains as if they were the precious relics of an incomparably pure saint.
“Look what you’ve done!” he whispered up at them. The landlady, crippled with arthritis and hearing the unwonted voices, struggled to the window and beheld the remarkable scene of Ginger, dancing and gesticulating in the moonlight, embellishing one of the fragments and speaking half to himself, half to the accomplices above.
“Oh. That’s a terrible thing to have done. That jug’s antique! The landlady’s son brought it all the way back from China. That’s worth pounds. It’s absolutely irreplaceable.”
“Now, Ginger, don’t tell us. We know her son was never half-way to China.”
“He was, and Australia as well.”
“It’s not a Chinese bowl anyway.”
“It’s a jug.”
“We know, but not Chinese!”
“What do you know about it,” shouted Ginger, for a moment forgetting himself, “you pig-ignorant pair of bastards.”
The pig-ignorant ones held an emergency meeting. “That’s no way for Ginger to be talking to us,” said one. “I’ll fix him,” said the other. So he took out an electric lamp from its socket and hurled it just behind where Ginger was performing his elaborate voodoo with the pieces on the path, gathering them up like pearls and making a little pile on the grass. The report startled him out of his life. The last the landlady – to whom we are largely indebted for the account of this edifying episode – saw of him was his scooping and kicking the antique relics off the pathway in every direction, accompanying each action with “the pig-ignorant bastards! I’ll fix ’em when I go up there.”
January 15 Friday: Having seen a review of Charles Duff’s “Handbook of Hanging” I wrote to him and he invited me to his flat in Swiss Cottage this evening [Charles Duff, 1894-1966, Northern Ireland author]. I had met his wife at Flann Campbell’s at a party – I think the one where Leslie Daiken either came from or went to some place or other [Leslie Daiken, 1912-1964, Irish Jewish socialist journalist and poet, authority on children’s books and toys]. Daiken by the way has lost the few manners he ever had and cannot even be civil on the telephone today. Duff I had not met. He is a genial old fellow, in his sixties, I would say, wears a green corduroy jacket and separate Donegal tweed trousers, as becomes a writer and a barrister at home. He is of an Enniskillen Unionist family, but his mother’s people were Catholic. He was educated in the South – TCD, I imagine – and was twenty years a Foreign Office official [He resigned because of the failure of the British Government to support the Republican side in the Spanish civil war]. He told me that the civil servants so to speak make books on how long it will take them to tame each new Foreign Secretary. Apparently the only one they never completely tamed was Henderson. He began by presenting them with a written memorandum, saying, “That’s my policy; now you carry it out.” Bevin was the easiest – he lasted exactly 14 days. This might well be true. He does not think there is much intolerance in the Six Counties outside of Belfast, and thinks the Catholic side as much to blame as the Protestant.
Last summer he travelled from Belfast to Enniskillen with Cahir Healy [1877-1970, leading Nationalist MP in the Stormont Parliament for decades] who he says is personally a very nice decent old fellow. “Did you ever reflect,” he asked Healy,” that if the border was to be abolished, in five years the North would be running the country?”
“That”, said Healy ” has been one of my unconfessed nightmares for thirty years.”
Tonight Cathal installed himself. His own background is interesting.
January 22 Friday: For the first few days he was with me he was full of reminiscence. His name was originally Noel Williamson, and Charles for luck. His father and mother both came from Dublin, the mother of republican family – indeed Cathal Goulding, recently jailed for the arms theft in Essex, is his cousin, though he never met him. The father, with whom he did not agree too well, was strongly pro-British, and from his being formerly a freemason, it may be speculated that he was Protestant. Justin remarked what appears to have been the overmastering desire of young Cathal – to overcome the isolation occasioned by his name and parentage. For in Galway even Dubliners are inclined to be regarded as strangers. He learned Irish very assiduously, though deprived of the facilities possessed by those who could speak it in their homes. Then he tells the most appalling stories of bullying and brutality on the part of his schoolteachers – not I think directed against him specifically – which ended in his being moved to a Jesuit college where conditions were better. At Galway University College he decided to study physics, without having learned a scrap of it at school. Here his desire to be “one of the boys” led him to persuade himself that he enjoyed the round of sport, drink, card-playing and examination failure. After his failure he left home, cycled to Dublin, sold his bicycle, and got to Liverpool, which he hates because he starved there. He got a job on a farm at Chester which he likes because his fortunes changed there. Then the son of a dentist in easy circumstances reached Birmingham and took a job as a railway shunter. Here he learned what it was to have no money to buy a new lace for his shoes. But he saved money there and bought a new bicycle, which he brought to London. Here he attended Connolly Association meetings in the Bull Ring [ie. in Birmingham]. In London he worked first at Lyons, and then at Birkbeck College as laboratory assistant – where he is now. A rather cool introverted character, I would say, but with a great sense of justice in social questions. He can write very well despite a certain lack of energy, but for some mysterious reason not to be questioned feels impelled to study Physics. But one evening I discovered the reason for his long school reminiscences – he would like to be a teacher.
[Editor’s Note: Cathal MacLiam read this entry in 2019 and pointed out that some of the details regarding himself are wrong and the sequence of events given is not quite accurate. He made the point that his name in English was originally “Charles Noel Wilson” but that he had used the form “Cathal” – a family name on his mother’s side – from the age of 12. His father was “provocatively” rather than “strongly” pro-British, partly to needle his wife and from his being associated with freemasons rather than being one himself.]
[A two–week gap in the Journal occurs here – Ed.]
February 9 Tuesday: We had quite an exciting discussion tonight, but the result was satisfactory. Some of our people have been bitten with the bug of “leftism” and want socialism in Ireland before it’s independent enough to have anything. But that was thoroughly replied to.
February 10 Wednesday: Justin and Loretta [ie.Justin Keating and his wife Loretta Wine]came in the evening to a little celebration. I had a couple of bottles of wine. They brought one with them – and then Cathal must contribute two, though he was not in till late. Loretta and I got talking music. She practices seven hours a day on her piano, is under a teacher who is vastly increasing her range and technique, but like so many executants she knows little of the history of what she is playing. I think authors must have little effect on performance. The performers must read on only those parts which mention their names. So though the association of themes with content is a commonplace of criticism, Loretta was sceptical of it. I had said I thought the “chimes” in Brahms’s first [? The number in the original is unclear] symphony (and the chords eleven times repeated in the last movement of Bethoven’s Sonata in Ab Op.110) represented time, in the latter case the striking of the eleventh hour. But she held strongly that the secret of successful performance was the selection of the significant, and for that reason was prepared to consider criteria by which this could be decided. She is a game wee thing, well matched with Justin. He will of course reach the first rank in whatever he does. What he will do is not yet certain. Loretta is of the Jewish family of Wine (formerly Wein no doubt) and to some extent, owing to her worldly family’s former strong opposition to her marrying Justin, inclined to dismiss her Jewish tradition, which is a mistake. I was interested in her account of the arrival of the “reformed” synagogue in Dublin. I understand it has penetrated British Jewry peacefully and that the services annually approach nearer to those of the Church of England. But there is only one such in Dublin, and its supporters were as good as told they were not Jews, denied burial in the Jewish cemetery, and compelled finally to secure from the Dublin Corporation their own private burial ground.
February 13 Saturday (Liverpool): I travelled to Liverpool this morning and am at present on board the “Ulster Monarch”, somewhere among the buoys. I saw Phyllis for a few hours. She has had a bad cold. The weather, which was cold enough in London from about January 22 to February 7th but fairly free from snow, seems to have done its worst in Liverpool. But in morale she is far better and is getting her affairs well organised. Gerry Wiltshire, our cousin, is still unemployed; his father is still not yet operated on for cataract, so Dorothy is worried out of her mind.
[There is a gap of four months here, with no entries – Ed.]
June 27 Sunday 9London): I went out from London to Luton with Gerry Curran and Eamonn Lyons – had a very good meeting but that we let an Anglican-Catholic priest get on the platform as a result of a mix-up! He claimed we had stolen his pitch but offered to let it be if we lent him our platform. The interesting item was that an old Monaghan man kept declaring we were a communist organisation and even threatened to organize a squad to wreck our platform if we ventured there again. But he mentioned that he came from where James Connolly was born and the walls of his house were still standing. Where was it? His manner became quite different. He was quite friendly while he told me it was Analore, two miles from Clones – but then he became hostile again. James Connolly was communist and the only good thing he did for Ireland was to die for it.
[A two-week gap occurs here – Ed.]
July 15 Thursday (London): I may write this book a little more regularly now, as Cathal has gone to Dublin, and though I enjoyed having him here, his presence did rob me of time and privacy and I must now catch up on things. I see the Monaghan County Council and many notabilities are preparing to erect a life-size statue of Connolly in Analore – this must be how the Luton man came by his information. A bogus birthplace will no doubt be accompanied by a bogus teaching. However, the interest that is being aroused necessitates my getting on with my book. If what Clancy says Nolan [Sean Nolan of the Irish Workers League in Dublin] told him is correct, the Irish political scene is at its blackest, clerical reaction has consolidated itself on all sides on every issue. It is difficult to believe that Connolly is being honoured for a good purpose.
Clancy said that Dooley [Pat Dooley, former Irish Democrat editor, who had gone to work in Prague] had written to Nolan a long apologia. He is still a socialist. His experiences in Eastern Europe were very trying. He feels a man of 70 – in health, and not long for this world. Steve Farrelly recently saw him, drawn of features and blue in the lips, a terrible change in that formerly vigorous, vital, bouncing character. I would never wish it on him, despite our endless wrangles and disagreements that used to make me so angry.
The news from Manchester is good. Deighan is cock-a-hoop. The Manchester City Council referred back the Parks Committee decision to ban the display of flags and banners in Platt Fields. Deighan took in the Tricolour; but what a scene of colour presented itself. Everybody had taken advantage of the relaxation to bring in emblems of all kinds. The Park keeper told Deighan to take the Tricolour down. Deighan requested him to “bugger off” – later he apologised. And there was Rochford (incidentally I heard the rumour that he was dead) with a Union Jack, and a peace demonstration with the flags of all nations. Kilroy has even been proofed against the articles of “The Standard” on me [attacks on the Connolly Association as being “communist” in the “Catholic Standard”, Dublin]. They even bought time on Radio Eireann to denounce the Connolly Association. But nobody has so far turned a hair. In Birmingham last Sunday week there were great threats from the “Catholic Action”. The Standard had announced its forthcoming “exposures”. But though we prepared our reply thoroughly, there were only whimpers and we got good support. Cathal writes that all over Dublin are posters announcing the “truth about the Connolly Clubs”. The Standard’s circulation is 64,000, so the publicity is good providing there is no such thing as bad publicity. He, by the way, is staying with Roy [ie. Roy Johnston].
July 16 Friday: In the evening Pat Bán [Connolly Association activist Patrick Bond] and I had a session of writing to people asking them to sell the Democrat, in the midst of which Claire Madden rang up to tell us of the “Standard’s” second attack. Apparently the wandering scholar who acts as their “special representative” called at the Midlands CP office saying he wanted to join the Connolly Association. He alleges that Green gave him Johnny Griffins’ address. Just then there came in somebody who knew him and he ran helter skelter down the stairs. But now Roy is in it too. He had asked a photographer in Waterford to send me a picture direct, which he did, with a letter saying he was happy to accept our “usual rates”. The photographer saw the Standard and wrote in a letter which the Standard published, giving Roy’s address, hinting that there might be no such address at all, and adding that had he known he was doing business with a “communist paper” he would never have sent his photograph. So in due time no doubt Roy will feature in the columns of the “Old Woman’s Weekly” and the citizens of Dublin will be invited to ask who is this anti-Christ who is studying cosmic rays at the public expense! We are all looking for an opportunity to get after the Standard for libel and it is to be hoped they make a slip.
July 20 Tuesday: I am writing in the restaurant of Bletchley station – of all places. How I got here was by cycling from Coventry, where I spent last night. I came through Rugby, Northampton and Newport Pagnall. Curiously enough I was in Newport Pagnall before – about 37 years ago – when my father was stationed there in the army before going to France and my poor mother was terrified out of her wits when little myself ran into the road in front of a pony and trap and nearly caused a multiple accident. I’ll swear today I recognized the very spot outside a huge white hotel – the street cannot have changed much and the only curious thing is that my recollection of it is that it was somewhat narrower. However CEG was soon away to France and till today that was the last we saw of Newport Pagnall. I came to Bletchley next when I tried to cycle from Liverpool to London in a day and gave it up at Bletchley – I suppose 1932!
I cycled yesterday from Nottingham to Coventry. This year’s weather has been so incredibly bad that I have scarcely been out of doors, but the miracle of two fine days in succession gave a welcome break. A man in Coventry was busy blaming the hydrogen bomb for the weather. I can recall it being the bombs – before that the gas – at other times newly invented radio. Surely these television pictures being sent “through the air” must affect the weather! But the good weather the Russians and Americans are having is being attributed (I suppose) to nothing more than good luck!
The open-air meeting in Nottingham was very successful. It is a great city for politics, indeed in a number of ways one of the most attractive cities in Britain. Leicester is quite a substantial place, but is just less than a provincial capital. The Irish boys lean on the traffic rails lining the main road, or crowd round the solitary “hot-dog” bar that is open till they can tolerate going into their “digs”. In Nottingham there is plenty of open space, a splendid city square, and restaurants that are open late. It never seems “dead”. Coventry of course is a horror. Like Corby it shows how the growth of suburbia has finally led to its conquest of the very centres of cities. At the same time the new buildings that are going up are extreme of their type and the city centre is at worst a bottleneck, at best a conscious experiment. However, the City Council is giving a very good account of itself in the political field, and its members, after defying the Ministry’s instruction to spend useless money on “Civil Defence”, are strutting around wearing the haloes of minor Lansburys [from George Lansbury, former Labour Party leader]. There is even talk of building 2000 houses in defiance of another Ministry.
I reached London at 11 pm. – many is the time I cursed the last Birmingham train for crawling through Blisworth and stopping at Bletchley and Leighton Buzzard – now I appreciated its usefulness!
July 21 Wednesday: Although nobody could say it was warm today, at least it was the third fair day running and not so cold – and yet it manages to become thoroughly chilly in the evening at Hyde Park, where Pat Bond gave a talk. A tall, loose-built, thin, isoceles-triangle-faced greyish but not very old Belfast man was there, with an occasional interruption. He attends every meeting, was once bitterly hostile and is now, “You’ll never do it!” What he comes for Heaven knows.
Still no effect from “The Standard”. Perhaps we’ll have it on Sunday. Apparently I’m the villain of the piece, as Dooley was ten years ago. Next week they talk about London. Eamonn Lyons [Connolly Association member and General Secretary for a period, who was on holiday in Ireland] had seen Seán MacBride [Clann na Poblachta TD, former Irish Foreign Minister] and asked how Radio Eireann sold time to attack a political organisation. He “had not heard” the broadcast. MacBride now sits himself near to the ministerial benches and when a Fine Gael TD gets stuck gives him his aid in an audible whisper – that at any rate was what Eamonn saw. The whole of Dublin is in arms at the Labour betrayal of the Health Bill and if there were a new election tomorrow Labour would be eliminated. They think they have three years to live it down! Three years also to get into a worse pickle. Fianna Fail, God help us, now appears as the party of the extreme Left!
July 22 Thursday: On the way back from Paddington Paddy Clancy and I ran into Eddie Connell. I am always shocked when I meet him. I recall visiting him in Parkhurst Prison once or twice [when Greaves visited the IRA prisoners on the Isle of Wight during the campaign to get them released following the end of World War 2]. Though never like Jim 0’Regan, he was near to us. I published a photograph his mother sent me, taken I suppose when he would be about 18-19, returning as I suppose he was after a cycle ride, young, fresh, unruffled. Then in prison, despite the worsening effects there was some refinement. When he came out he went drinking, and coarseness became rougher and the refinement became a kind of half-submerged effeminacy. The whole personality rang with a false timbre. Now he is trying to be a journalist in London, “bored stiff”, a romantic Republican still, with no political sense but absurd personal loyalties which are all he has left. He has grown a moustache to hide a cut on the face caused by his spectacles being rammed into his cheek during a fight!
July 23 Friday: I heard from Cathal. Things are not too well with him and he may perforce have to take a job on the buses, which means shifts and heaven knows what inconvenience. We held a meeting in Hyde Park in the evening. The “Commissionaire” Belfast convert, formerly a naked Orangeman, tried to break it up. His usual tactic is to hold another meeting immediately alongside. “Now come along here, Irishmen and women, come away from Communism! I’ll tell you all about that man who’s speaking over there. . . ” But his eloquence is rapidly exhausted, so little harm comes of it. No sign of any “Standard” result yet, but from what I hear there has been a rare attack this week. Stephen Lally, who has resigned from the Connolly Association, is to tell the “inside story” next week. Smullen always swore he was a police agent and resented us tolerating him. Some ex-British policeman or detective interned in the Curragh with them told that Lally was an “agent”. People were said to have been arrested shortly after visiting him. Yet I’ve my doubts. As Clancy said when he called, “it must have been in a very minor way.” His childish antics, posturing and romanticising – he would martyr himself to lay a wreath or carry a flag – all point to a deficiency in positive or shall I say aggressive cunning. A rogue rather than a scoundrel, I think. Now he is suffering from a stroke paralysing one side of his body, and a pious wife paralysing most of his brain, and no doubt short of money and in fear of hell fire, he salved his conscience and replenished his pocket at one stroke.
July 24 Saturday: Desmond Logan and I “did the pubs” with the Irish Democrat. In certain bars there is what we term an “anti-political” atmosphere – in such bars Knights of Columbanus take their sups. Now even in these bars there seemed to be no sign of fierce antipathy. It must be that the “Standard” has for so long cried “wolf” that people think one more wolf is a small matter.
Yesterday I was in Transport House [British Labour Party headquarters] for the first time. A young Labour League of Youth lad in Nottingham told us about a campaign to curtail military service. I went to see Clements, editor of the Socialist Advance, a lanky youth of twenty-two or thereabouts, susceptible to blarney because a trifle bumptious, yet more the type determined to “get on” than essentially ill-disposed to progress. He probably dreams of himself as editor of the Daily Herald. However I got the interview. The place has about seven floors; loads of box-files pass continuously up and down the lifts; the men who work there wear flannels and sportscoats; the Commissionaire looks at you not from the standpoint of “what will you take away” but of “what have you brought”, calls you son, and there is a green ruin of a bombed church outside the door, with large trees spreading through its structure, so that there is even hope for Transport House.
[A one month gap follows – Ed.]
August 28 Saturday (Birmingham): What a thing. The first leisure for over a month – after midnight at Roscoe Clarke’s after a day of paper-selling with Desmond Logan in Coventry and Birmingham – record sales, by the way, even for us! It is hard to contend with the events of such a spell. First there was the campaign in Nottingham. I stayed with Chris Maguire. All houses have certain characteristics which express the personality of their owners. At 47 Cromwell Rd. it is the Donnelly’s skinless sausage that makes the world go round, and Chris’s own very able management of a flat without a sink – bucket, water storage and what not. He is looking for another place.
Then I entrained for Sheffield, cycled to Haworth and saw the Brontes’ place – the local people know they came from Ireland – stayed the night there and then took the train from Keighley to Glasgow. Cathal MacLiam could not meet me. He left word that he was on late shift. Actually he saw me on the corner of North Street and Sauchiehall Street and startled his passengers by shouting to me, but “Never a look!” said he when I saw him at night. So I had to postpone everything for a week. He left the trams at the end of the first week [this refers to a week’s campaigning on the Irish question in Glasgow]. On the whole it was a successful fortnight and I returned to London last Wednesday after a meeting on the Monday which Hugh MacDiarmid spoke at [1892-1978, Scottish poet and leftwing nationalist]. He struck me as a man of force, imagination and integrity – refused his expenses, and made a very able speech. Scots Nationalism is his main interest. He is also an opponent of conscription and I met his son, who refused to go into the army and did six months for it. He is now a journalist in central Scotland, Clackmannan I think. He must have some character, but on a first impression he has a touch of arrogance. Of course people say MacDiarmid is arrogant. I liked him. I also met Harris, the young editor of Forward, in the “garden” with Andrew Hood, leader of the Labour Party. They talked freely of imposing a left line on the Labour Party. But while Harris’s manners were perfect and young MacDiarmid’s were not, Harris was too much of the university socialist for me. The other lad had more knuckles because he had more bone.
When I was back in London I learned Clancy had been beaten up by hoodlums. He had been in Hyde Part sitting by the Serpentine with three Jewish people, discussing Oriental customs, when three Irishmen, seemingly from the Falls Road, threatened him and began to punch him The Jews discretely withdrew and Clancy walked slowly to the gate where he threatened to call a policeman, but did not do so. They left. Back in Oxford Street, which was crowded with people, four others, “red Kiltimaghs” and degenerate types – wearing Sacred Heart badges and using the filthiest language – started to jostle him. “You red bastard”, they said, “You were cutting turf in Ireland but now you’ve read a few communist books and you’re an Irish intellectual!” He managed to protect his face from the blows they then rained on him, but he received powerful thumps between the lungs. “It’s usual,” he remonstrated,” for Irishmen to have one to one, not four. That’s foul play. ” “You red rat”, they replied, “you don’t deserve fair play.” The street was crowded. But the English walked by with scarcely a look – they had heard the Irish voices. Then they told him they were going to “get” us all, one by one. Clancy went to the police on Digges’s advice after drinking half a bottle of whiskey he had in the house. Next morning he spat blood, but fortunately only from a burst blood vessel in the neck. So we must be very careful.
August 29 Saturday (Nottingham): Back to 47 Cromwell Road and to Chris – now with Tom Connolly, back from Longford with him. Tom is the most prolific blasphemer that ever lived. Chris has his own manners. Anybody who claims to be somebody of importance is a “la-di-da”. So I was told that some “la-di-das” in my meeting were sniggering when I used the word “antediluvian” twice! It shows how careful one could be! Chris told me of a stupid disagreement he had with the deputy at his new pit where he works only at night. He was drilling a hole and the sides partly fell in, so he put the drill in for a moment to clear it. “Take it out! Take it out! ” yelled the deputy. “I’m not deaf or stupid,” said Chris, “I don’t need to be told five times. You fellows judge other people’s intelligence by your own. I don’t know how you get to be deputies. If brains were a disease you’d live for ever!” – and more.
August 30 Monday (Clun): Having a free couple of days at last, I went to Birmingham, collected the bicycle and went to Clun [In Shropshire]. The weather though cloudy was warm and like September. Later in the day however, the sky cleared, and gave one of the finest evenings of the year – not that much would be needed for that.
August 31 Tuesday (Wandon): I cycled through Shrewsbury and Stafford to Wandon in Stafford County, near Rugeley. This was a really superb day. There may be a hot late summer and warm autumn – not a very good augury for the winter, I fear.
September 1 Wednesday (Nottingham): I cycled to Burton-on Trent, then just missing Derby to Ripley [where the Irish Democrat was printed each month]. The printer had lost a layout sheet and omitted to have the cartoon block made. But I got some sort of an edition out for the meeting tonight in Nottingham, and that was what was immediately needed.
September 2 Thursday (London): I came back to London on the train to Marylebone. The meeting at West London was very good, very good new lads coming in. The disappearance of some of the Irish Workers League boys has proved no loss because of their intense sectarianism. Probably Dublin is a place where the right and the inactive are the same. Loretta Keating was there. Justin Keating is going for a PhD but has no job. I am not by any means sure he has taken the right step, but there you are. She wants him to be a Doctor and so three more years must be wasted.
September 4 Saturday: To my surprise Phyllis rang up – she was in London. Later I found her letter under a mass of debris! Apparently Allison has a wee baby who is to be christened, and as AEG [his mother] had been hoped to be the godmother, they have asked Phyllis, who came to London to take part in the ceremony. I thought Phyllis looked very small, light and thin, and I think living alone has not helped her, though she has many invitations to go out. Of course everybody is telling me for several years I am “putting on weight”, but weighing myself in Glasgow I found I had only 9 stone against Cathal’s 10! But she would scarcely have 7. When after CEG’s death [their father] she had a nervous breakdown, like Muriel MacSwiney she went on to a diet of dried fruit and Heaven knows what as long as it had no body in it. She says she is amazed at Mary Greaves’s energy as an old woman of 78 [his paternal aunt]. She thinks U.B. Willshire has cancer of the bowel and it is only a matter of time – but Mary eats something of a square meal.
September 5 Sunday: I was just about to go to Euston to see Phyllis off on the midnight train when Desmond MacGimpsey rang. Eamon MacLaughlin whom he was to stay with was out. Desmond had missed the train and was late. So he had to wait at Tottenham Court Road while I saw Phyllis away and then he came to me. He thinks the Northern Ireland Government will climb down on the flag Bill [banning the flying of the Irish tricolour under the Stormont Flags and Emblems Act], which is very unpopular and unenforceable. Liam Kelly he thinks an ascetic nervous-minded very Catholic tee-total non-smoking young man, but quite genuine according to his lights. Hardly the man to fight sectarianism, though.
September 6 Monday: I am afraid that Clancy’s little contretemps has put him in an evil mood with Ireland and the world, plunged him into one of his sloughs of pessimism. He thinks German rearmament a certainty, war very probable, Ireland lost and hopeless! The Catholic Church is the main enemy he thinks – imperialism nowhere. So how long will it take for the pendulum to swing back?
September 8 Wednesday: The TUC being in progress at Brighton, and Ben Owens [one of the founders of the Connolly Club in the late 1930s]. being there too, I decided to pay a visit. Of course I could not spare the time. The weather has not quite returned to its earlier vileness but is very cool again. Brighton was bedraggled and more tawdry than usual, has all the repulsive vulgarity of London, without its noise. Every shop has a sale. Every cafe was empty, but as poor in service and quality as is usual in a seaside town which lives by fleecing the temporary sheep. The TUC did not meet in the “Indian Pavilion” but near enough for the effect of that monstrosity to be seen between sessions. TUC officials on the door say “mate” as they separate sheep from goats. The array of portly bellies when the starvelings rose for lunch or dinner would do credit to any board of directors, but for all that there were stormy sessions this time. Young men of serious mien, the picture of trying to get on in the world, tried to look important and “mix” with the delegates; some had the air of Ruskin College. But of course there were many people I knew as well as those who crowded round the Daily Herald display to see how their photographs had “come out”.
Ben Owens was telling me about Callaghan, who speaks in Hyde Park [a private operator who held large meetings every Sunday afternoon, which many Irish people attended at the time]. His first appearance in London, before the War, was as a watchdog to warn the barrow-boys of when the police were coming. Then he got a barrow himself. After a while, mixing with these circles, he learned how to hold a crowd by talking (this has some name) as he sold them articles they didn’t want. After that he joined the British Army and on his return spoke on one political platform after another getting experience. Quinn, who wanted to hurt the Connolly Association, advised him on getting our platform attacked by hooligans in 1950. Quinn, by the way, is now dead. His real name was MacCulloch, a Dublin man with an insane thirst for intrigue. And as for Callaghan’s present pretensions as a political leader, the least said of them the better.
All is not smooth in the Callaghan household. The bad summer hit him hard. He invested some hundreds of pounds in a café on the promenade for his eldest son. Throughout the season employing four girls, he did not take enough money to pay their wages in any week. Now the boy has run away, leaving him to get out of his difficulties as best he can. So that is what he got for starting his children in business, or using them to extend his interests (however you look at it).
* * *
[There follows a gap of nearly a year and half until the journal is resumed in the same hardback notebook, Volume.11 – Ed.]
March 2 Friday: I’m beginning to forget the day – and no wonder since it is nearly over! The labour of writing this journal – as a lad I was so full of myself I wanted to write everything down I was doing – is becoming a duty. The historical research I am doing imposes on me more and more the need to preserve archives. I have met some of the last people linking us with the early days of the movement and have the duty to record their impressions as well as my own.
Since last I wrote there has been a month’s severe weather – just finished so I can breathe again!
Last July Cathal MacLiam married Helga and I was “best man”. His mother is a little perturbed, especially at the Registry Office despite its consummation in a Roman Catholic Church. His father is reconciled. Cathal himself has lunch here three days a week, has drawn Helga into activity, but is not very much nearer his intermediate BSc.
Bert Wiltshire died in the summer, and Mary Greaves is now over 80. AH Taylor’s husband, Mr Crotty, died and she is to take a holiday in England [Hilda Taylor, a maternal aunt who had gone to Australia]. After a desperate time with the Democrat we put the price up to 6d and if the impending slump holds off we may level financial matters out. Holborn proposed me for the party EC [ie. the CPGB Executive, for which the Holborn Banch to which he belonged proposed him] and though for reasons relating to the Connolly Association I am declining to stand, I would prefer to be able to do so.
March 3 Saturday: I was out in Kilburn with Michael Brennan, a Sligo man who recently joined us. He was brought up a couple of miles from the sea at Ballysodare, and so is a not far distant neighbour of Paddy Clancy. We did not do well. It was exceptionally mild and a very wetting drizzle kept up all evening. Cardinal D’Alton denounced the Connolly Association in his Lenten pastoral and this certainly had more effect than any previous attack. Added to this Michael, who had a touch of TB at one time, was unwell. He is working away out at Beaconsfield and finds it tiring but intends to keep it up.
March 4 Sunday: At the meeting in Hyde Park there was liveliness and plenty of questions. Cathal took the chair, and Gerry Curran, myself and Eamonn Lyons spoke. When it was over, after some of us had a cup of tea, I went back to the Park and was told by Pat Kearney how some of the hoodlums who attacked our platform in 1950 (or ’48 was it?) had constituted themselves a “Young Ireland” movement and were planning to make a further attack next week, which they were careless enough to be bragging about before they had done it.
[There is a month’s gap here – Ed.]
April 4 Wednesday: It seems that I can only catch up with writing when I am on the boat – as in reading when on the train. This is being written in the Mersey once more. I was with Phyllis most of the afternoon. Mary Greaves is staying with her, and they will go to Southsea tomorrow. Mary Greaves is an amazing old woman. Her vigour seems undiminished and her mind is as acute as ever, and she has developed no oddities apart from the oddities she always had, which are rather signs of strength than of weakness of character. Phyllis drove us round Wirrall in her new car, while I now proceed to Dublin.
Last night we had a “Standing Committee” meeting. The situation has improved amazingly in the past few years [The Connolly Association had adopted a new Constitution in 1955, emphasizing its anti-Unionist and anti-Partitionist character]. Of course we have had to raise the price of the paper to 6d, but we are actually paying off debts. Clancy is less active, indeed is developing some of the traits of an “elder statesman”, though younger than I am. Eamon Lyons had a bad time in Nottingham and was pessimistic. Eamon MacLaughlin was unable to be present to cure all laziness with his own incorrigible optimism, but Gerry Curran has grown up and can be leaned on instead of having to be held up. I want now to get my “Life of Connolly” out and follow it up with others and then see what chances there are of settling in Ireland. I was with Roy for a week a month ago, but called on nobody, though I met Paul [Paul O’Higgins] and Justin [Justin Keating]. Loretta is having a baby – may indeed have had it. Roy and I went to Bray and walked across the head and up the little Sugar Loaf on the Sunday. His father, whom I met in TCD, is in good form [Joseph Johnston was Professor of Economics at TCD and one of the College Senators] “Are they bankrupt in England yet?” he asked. I said that one of them was.
[There is a two-week gap here – Ed.]
April 17 Tuesday: Once more on board ship – we have just sailed down the Suir and are entering the open sea from the mouth of Waterford Harbour. I cycled into Waterford from Roches Point where I spent last night, but had only fifteen minutes to catch the boat, so could not see Peter O’Connor [1912-1999, Waterford leftwinger who had been in the Spanish Civil War], which is a pity – after six years, or four at least. The boat was late to make it more annoying. Bullocks were being driven in with shouts, semaphorings and various pokes, jabs and ash-plant blows. They keep the ashplants ready in a box on the wharf for the next drove of unfortunate animals. Yet a little alteration of the gangway, an attempt perhaps to camouflage the dark forbidding hold, even a bale of straw, and they’d have them on in no time, instead of having them turn and all but counter-stampede away from the quay. A clergyman’s wife read the story of the “Princess Maud” (which it is!) as a troopship. “I hope they treated the troops better than they did the cows,” said the lady. Apart from the sex, the principle was sound. No wonder the beef is tough in England.
I stayed the weekend with Jim O’Regan [Cork leftwing Republican who had fought in the International Brigade in the Spanish civil war and was later imprisoned in England during World War 2 for IRA activities. After the War the Connolly Association and others campaigned successfully for the release of these IRA prisoners]. Leaving Dublin on Saturday I made a quick descent on Limerick, looking for a paper in the Library, and thence hit Cork in the evening. It was my first experience of diesel traction on a main line. It is noisier than steam, and also there is vibration. Electric traction, of course, is deafening – on the conductor rail system. What diesel would be like at high speeds on the narrower British gauge is not so easy to judge.
When I arrived (a day early) I was told Letchford [Norman Letchford, English-born Cork Unemployed Workers Movement activist, street photographer, author of the pamphlet “Lives, Loves and Liberties” ] and O’Herlihy wanted to see me, and that O’Herlihy knew me [Callaghan St J. O’Herlihy was a student of statistics at University College Cork from 1954 to 1957, became active in the local Unemployed Workers movement, joined the Irish Workers League and helped establish the Padraig O Conaire university student branch of the Irish Labour Party, of which his fellow students Michael O’Leary, Barry Desmond and Anthony Coughlan were members. He moved to London in 1957. The following year, 1958, he introduced Anthony Coughlan to the Connolly Association when the latter emigrated to live in London for three years. He later dropped out of politics, having established a marketing consultancy business]. I had no notion who on earth he could be! But it seems that a short time ago one of the students at UCC – which is slightly more liberal since O’Rahilly[former College President Alfred O’Rahilly,1884-1969, polymath and Catholic apologist] left to be a priest attached to a West Africa diocese, encardinated on the understanding that he never set foot in it – talked Socialism loud and long, so much so that the authorities decided to have a debate.
They put up their biggest name, Bastible [Dr James Bastible, Catholic canon and Dean of Students at UCC], to oppose O’Herlihy’s motion that “Socialism is the only solution to Ireland’s ills.” Nobody could be found courageous enough to second it. But Letchford – now a snapshot-you-in-the-street man – agreed, and indeed they say he was not bad. There was great sarcasm at his expense. He was in the West London Connolly Association because he thought if he found out all about Ireland an Irish nurse would marry him. But she went back home to Kilmallock. He followed her there and she said he wasn’t Catholic. He asked the Bishop of Limerick to make him one, but he told him to go back to his own bishop. Finally, despairing of qualifying in this way, perhaps through lacking the conviction, he decided to give up his job, draw his superannuation, and having sold all up, go to Limerick, and lay everything at the feet of his lady love. He was last seen by Justin Keating taking off hopefully, thumbing lifts on the Blessington Road and – since he had Claire Madden’s map in his rucksack, which shows the locations of all the Irish clans, and which she values more than life itself – we wondered if he ever arrived. He went to Galway. He went to Youghal, where he worked in a factory. But falling out of work he left in a hurry, and the map stayed behind as security to his landlady, together with other effects. Then he worked for a photographer in Cork, finally setting up on his own, and carefully practising the Corkonian brand of the linguo-dental “d” which he tastefully combined with his la-de-da English “public school” lisp. “We’ve heard of people going the Inisfallen way,” said Bastible, “But this gentleman seems to have come the Inisfallen way.” The centre of the attack, apart from personalities, was religion. O’Herlihy made a dignified reply, trimmed his sail somewhat to the wind and wisely so, and lost the debate in a dignified way.
I went to Kinsale on Sunday – or to be exact about three parts of the way there – to prepare in my mind a lecture O’Regan had arranged for me to give that night. I was back a little late. Letchford sprang to the door. Liam Flavin was there too – and one of the three bus conductors who had so impressed us during last summer when they attended the West London Branch of the CA [The three student bus conductors who attended the Connolly Association branch meeting in the summer of 1955 were Michael O’Leary, later leader of the Irish Labour Party and Tanaiste, Barry Desmond, later Irish Minister for Health and Cal O’Herlihy]. This was O’Herlihy. I knew him well – he had been using another name in England and will be back again in June. I saw Jim Savage [Cork leftwing republican activist who had been interned in the Curragh in the early 1940s] and had a very successful lecture. Jim O’Regan’s father’s aunt is living with them now, and she’s the wife of the O’Shea with whom Connolly used to lodge while in Cork. Curiously enough Jim acquired his republicanism through visiting his uncle at the same house. [Jim O’Regan was a personal friend of Greaves’s in Cork for decades. He never married and Greaves used stay with him and his mother whenever he visited Cork. He was also a friend of the editor of this Journal]. His mother is a most genuine and likeable woman, but a little pro-British if anything. Her father was an Englishman, named Parker, from Barnstaple in Devon. Among others I saw on Monday was Bernard Kennedy [a Labour Party activist in Cork]. So I saw many old friends and greatly enjoyed the weekend.
In Dublin I had stayed with Justin [ie. Justin Keating], as Roy was in Kerry. I was there about two days when Loretta was whisked off to a nursery home and presented him with a baby girl. Mairín Johnston [ie. Roy Johnston’s wife], incidentally, is likely to be up to the same trick. But thereafter began the comedy of the two grandmothers, May Keating and Mrs Wine, dodging Justin and invigilating over daughter and child. “It’s a very Jewish-looking baby!” said May. “Not very good-looking at all,” says Justin. “Taken after its father,” said Loretta. However, not being in a nursing home ourselves, Justin and I disposed of the fairly substantial remains of a bottle of brandy and wished the child good luck.
[There is a two-month gap here – Ed.]
July 27 1956 Friday (London): Last night there was an unusually representative gathering at West London. Pat Dooley spoke on George Bernard Shaw. Sean Dowling poured the cold water of scepticism on Dooley’s extravagant admiration, but Dooley, looking well and fit and showing no traces of his heart complaint, brushed them aside with tact and verve! Muriel MacSwiney was there, looking very old and white and tired. She disagrees with me for not attacking the Catholic Church in the Democrat, so gave no more than a smile of recognition. Cal O’Herlihy is staying with me, and his father at present in London on holiday was there too. It reminded him of the old Sinn Fein and Gaelic League where all the decent people gathered together to discuss freeing Ireland in small rooms. Flann Campbell and Mary came. But for having to go to Birmingham Anne Kelly [Pat Dooley’s wife] would have been there too. Revenants like Molly O’Leary, grey, rosy and very fat appeared from the night, very solidly it is true, and of course with them were the younger people. Gerry Curran and Eamonn Lyons came from Hyde Park after a meeting. We have been holding them every evening for a while now.
I have had a week of travelling. On Monday I went to Portsmouth as it was just a year after Bert Willshire died and Mary Greaves needs support. She looks well and shows ever more her wonderful resilience. However she keeps talking obliquely of being at the end of her days. But her head is absolutely perfect. Not a trace of senility. Then on Tuesday I was off to Manchester and had a meeting with the branch – quite impressive too. Joe Deighan has (perhaps with Kilroy’s aid [Pat Kilroy, Connolly Association activist]) brought in a number of young country lads and the gathering numbered about 20. Thence I went to the printers – after staying overnight with Kilroy. Next door to him an impossibilist Scot has settled. His main stock-in-trade is SLP [Socialist Labour Party] iconoclasm. But he has befriended Kilroy and knocked the corners off him. Indeed Kilroy now regards his militant atheism as a huge entertainment. I saw Chris Maguire in Nottingham. He was friendly enough, wanted political discussion but thinks nobody is “revolutionary” enough for him. Some Trotskyist ass has been indoctrinating some of them with the idea that the stronger the slogan, the harder the fight. Words the master instead of the servant!
And then to return – the motor dustcarts at six, the hand dust-carts at seven, the return of the motors at eight, then some enemy of society bought the “slut girl” next door a tin-whistle; and now the organist across the way who used to render “light music” from nine to five is apparently installing a banjo-stop, and about twice a day makes tuning-up sounds, after which all is silence, but silence in which broods the spirit of cacophony to come.
Tonight I spoke in Hyde Park myself. Slow-spoken pawky-humoured Corkman Chris O’Sullivan was chairman, and we had Nasser and Suez for dinner [referring to the Anglo-French-Israeli attack on Egypt over Col. Nasser’s nationalisation of the Suez canal]. The Irish boys persuaded the solitary interrupter to depart. There is now a solid phalanx of support, which is an immense transformation in a few years.
July 28 Saturday: Another of those spectacular thunderstorms which seem such a feature of this summer took place about 2.15 am. The roof began to leak and having to shift my bed, I decided to get up and take some coffee. By 3 am. it seemed all over. A policeman plodded down the street meeting two “Teddy boys” who sprang from nowhere, and though the moon high in the South was still obscured but for an odd light patch here and there, a long narrow rift in the clouds, now moving from the West, revealed the red Polyphemus eye of the planet Mars.
[Another two-week gap here – Ed.]
August 14 Tuesday: After a stormy day it is a very clear and not too cold night – so clear indeed that I can see Fomalhaut through the window, neatly boxed by the buildings to the right and the left. In twelve years I never spotted it before! I returned from Liverpool last afternoon (it is now 1.30 am.) after spending a week there. Joe Deighan, Pat Kearney and (yesterday) Eamonn Lyons were there and despite petty exhibitions of chauvinism over Egypt, we were quite successful. The Connolly Association branch there is however rent by personal frictions and a more eccentric and cross-grained combination it would be hard to find!
(Volume 11 ends here and the Journal resumes a month later in Volume 12 on 12 September 1956 – Ed.]
(c. 19,000 words)
Desmond Greaves Journal, Vol.11, Index
(a) 17 Nov. 1953 – 8 Sept. 1954 (b) 2 March 1956 – 14 August 1956
– Aesthetics and verse: 11.26
– Aim of settling in Ireland: 4.4
– Amusing reminiscence: 12.9, 1.12-13
– Assessments of others: 11.20, 12.3, 12.6, 12.9, 12.13, 12.26,
12.30,1.12, 2.10, 7.16, 7.23, 8.28, 9.5, 7.27
– Book projects/articles: 7.1
– Britain and British society: 12.9, 1.15
– Connolly Association/Irish Democrat: 11.17, 12.3, 12.9, 12.17, 12.30,
7.15-16, 8.28, 9.8, 7.27
– Connolly research: 11.17, 12.4, 12.13, 6.27, 7.15, 4.4
– Emigration: 11.30
– Family relations: 11.17-18, 12.22, 12.25-26, 12.30, 7.20, 3.2, 9.4
– Holidays/cycling trips and tours: 11.25, 11.29
– Journal: 11.17, 3.2
– Ireland, assessments of trends:11.21, 7.16, 7.21
– Irish Republicanism and Republicans: 11.19
– Music: 12.23
– National question: 12.17
– Political development: 7.27
– Religion/Church: 11.21, 12.23
Organisation and Journal Names
Catholic Standard newspaper: 7.15-16, 7.21, 8.28
Communist Party of Great Britain: 3.2
Irish Workers League: 12.17, 9.2
National Library of Ireland: 11.19
Transport House (Labour Party HQ): 7.24
Bond, Patrick: 7.16
Bond, Stella: 12.9
Brennan, Michael: 3.3
Browne, Dr Noel: 11.18, 11.30
Callaghan (Hyde Park speaker): 9.8
Campbell, Flann: 12.7, 12.9, 12.13, 12.15
Clancy, Patrick: 12.3, 12.6, 12.9, 12.17, 7.23, 8.28, 9.6, 4.4
Clarke, Roscoe: 8.28
Connell, Eddie: 7.22
Connolly, Ina: 11.17, 1.10,
Connolly, James: 11.17,12.13, 7.15
Curran, Gerard: 4.4
Daiken, Leslie: 1.15
D’Alton, Cardinal: 3.2
Deighan, Joseph: 12.14, 7.15,7.27, 8.14
Delargy, Hugh MP: 12.9
Digges, Alec: 12.21, 8.28
Dooley, JL (Pat): 7.15, 7.27
Dowling, Sean: 7.27
Duff, Charles: 1.15
Dunne, Sean: 12.15
Flavin, Liam: 4.17
Goulding, Cathal: 1.22
Greaves, Phyllis: 11.18, 9.4
Healy, Cahir MP: 1.15
Jacob, Rosamond: 11.29
Jackson, Thomas Alfred: 12.3
Jenkinson, David: 11.18, 11.29
Johnson, Wallace: 12.2, 12.10
Johnston, Roy: 11.18, 11.20, 7.16, 4.4
Kearney, Pat: 1.13, 9.4, 8.14
Keating, Justin: 11.18, 2.10, 9.2, 4.4, 4.17
Keating, Loretta (Wine): 9.2, 2.10, 4.17
Kelly, Liam: 9.5
Kennedy, Bernard: 4.17
Kilroy, Pat: 7.2
Lally, Stephen: 7.23
Letchford, Norman: 4.17
Logan, Desmond: 1.9, 7.24
Lyons, Eamon: 7.21, 9.4, 8.14
Madden, Claire: 12.3, 7.16
Maguire, Chris: 8.28, 7.27
McDiarmaid, Hugh: 8.28-29
MacGimpsey, Desmond: 9.5
MacLaughlin, Eamon: 12.9,1.9, 4.4
MacLiam, Cathal: 12.2, 12.13, 12.18, 1.11-12, 1.22, 7.15, 7.23, 9.4, 3.2
McSwiney, Muriel (Mrs Terence): 7.27, 9.4
Monteith, Captain Robert: 11.17
Mulgrew, Sean: 12.9
Mulready, Sean: 11.21
Nevin, Donal: 11.18, 11.30
Nolan, Sean 7.15
O’Flanagan, Fr. Michael: 11.17, 11.19, 11.26
O’Herlihy, Callaghan: 4.17, 7.17
O’Higgins, Paul: 11.18, 11.20, 11.25, 11.29-11.30, 12.1, 12.18
O’Mahony, Eoin “the Pope”: 11.20
O’Regan, Jim: 7.22, 4.17
O’Shea: Fred: 12.17
O’Sullivan, Chris: 7.27
Owens, Ben: 9.8
Parrish, Margot: 12.2
Reynolds, Arthur: 12.9, 1.10
Savage, Jim: 4.17
Smullen, Eamon: 12.17
Whelan, Joe: 12.13