Desmond Greaves Journal, Vol.12, 1956-7
12 September 1956 – 10 June 1957
Main Themes: Establishing the facts of James Connolly’s birthplace and British army service – A renewed commitment to maintaining a daily record: “My historical researches have convinced me that not enough is recorded of the stuff that makes the Labour Movement”(12 September entry) – Interview with Tom Johnson – Reminiscence of James Connolly by Danny MacDevitt, Mr and Mrs Grimley and George MacBride – A political approach from Peadar O’Donnell – Hostelling in Scotland: Glen Nevis, Inveralligan, Kishorn, Fort William – Cathal and Helga Mac Liam return to Ireland – Justin and Loretta Keating – Ina and Nora Connolly – Discussing genetics with Professor Alan G. Morton – The story of Neil Gould Verschoyle – Political reactions to the Anglo-French assault on Suez, the Russian intervention in Hungary and Khruchev’s revelations on the Stalin period – Tensions over the issue of national independence and socialism between the CPNI, the Irish Workers League and the Connolly Association – Anna Munro on bringing her family shoes to James Connolly to be mended – Mrs Muriel MacSwiney – Visits to Dublin, Belfast, Kerry and Cork – Cal O’Herlihy and Norman Letchford in UCC – Political dissension over Hungary at the 1957 CPGB Congress – The story of the 1950 “Battle of Hyde Park” assault on the Connolly Association – Reminiscence of James Connolly by John Mullery
September 12 Wednesday: I am writing in bed at Roy Johnston’s house in Sandymount [a South-side suburb of Dublin where physicist Dr RHW Johnston lived]. Roy has warned me to shut out the noise of cars passing down Beach Road late at night. But having spent last night on the boat and the previous one in London, it seems as peaceful as arcady. Only the brilliant skyline of lights, lighthouses and lightships betrays the presence of a great city and port.
What a journey I had. For some time past I have used the Liverpool route. Having met Grove-White, now an Independent-Labour squire exploiting his entailed Anglesey estate by establishing a caravan site on his ancestral lands, I was prevailed on to try the 5.35 pm. from Euston to Holyhead. It so happens that the Glyndebourne Opera is in Liverpool, so Phyllis [his sister] will probably not be at home in the evening. So I presented myself at Euston, in haste and afraid not to get a seat. But there was no train. The “Midlander” (5.50 pm.) was there, the “Ulsterman” (6.5 pm.), the “Mancunian” (5.55 pm.), the “Merseysider” (6.10 pm.) all came in and pulled out on time while a shunting engine drew up in a siding and choked us with smoke and fumes. Eventually the “Emerald Isle” came in and departed an hour late. It galloped into the platform like a donkey and pulled up short and sudden. More time was lost getting it right in. And then it lost another hour and a half by “crawling”. The Dining Car men were exasperated, cut out the first dinner and served no tea, and were somewhat short with the passengers. I secured a cabin however and had five hours sleep, which was better than nothing.
The sun shone for a few minutes as I cycled from Dun Laoire to Sandymount. It still seemed summer in Ireland. The freshness of the Irish colouring and the tiny topographical surprises which save Ireland from the drabness of so much of England, delighted me as it always does. But the clouds were soon over again. This evening the horizon was pink and saffron over which huge rough air-ships of dark grey were chasing each other. It tried to rain all day. Then the wind started howling in the telegraph wires. It grew warm – with the Christmassy warmth of late October, and the leaves swirled into the hay as Roy and I came back from a local bar where we took a drink. Mairín looks well. She has ceased working and is doing maternity exercises in expectation of her first child, soon after Christmas I imagine. Opposite me now is the photograph of Roy as a baby of two sitting on the steps of the house where he was born in Drogheda. This used to adorn the walls of his father’s room at 39, TCD [Joseph Johnston, Professor of Economics at Trinity College Dublin and University Senator]. The mixture of prudish independence and winsome delight at being the centre of attention made clear very well that the child is father of the man. But marriage and maturity have added much to Roy and at 27 he is very much filled out.
We discussed Cathal [Cathal MacLiam, friend of Greaves’s, who had been living in London for some years and shared Greaves’s flat for a period] who wants to come back next month but has no job to come to. At the Institute for Advanced Studies a programme which could use his services awaits financial sanction from its American patrons, and this may not arrive till after the election. So Eisenhower [US President] has his hand on Cathal’s throat. We thought of Watson of TCD and also of Helga [Cathal Mac Liam’s wife] practising as a physiotherapist. Justin [Justin Keating, friend of both, then practising as a vet] might help. But he is getting up at 4 am. each morning and touring Leinster combatting swine-fever without receiving an extra penny piece for his pains. His hands are full just now.
The letter on the current Workers’ Voice [newsletter of the Irish Workers’ League, the Republic of Ireland’s communist party] criticising the failure of that paper to attribute a share of Ireland’s economic difficulties to Partition, was written by Roy. There was recently an “extended Executive Committee meeting” to discuss the economic situation. The first was abandoned as only five members attended. The second drew 25 out of the 5O members in Dublin, and it was made clear that such expressions as “nationwide” meant the 26 Counties and that unification must not be discussed. It had been deliberately excluded. O’Riordan [Michael O’Riordan, Irish Workers League General Secretary and leading southern communist] directed most of his fire against Justin.
But now I must turn to the objects which are the reason for this writing. For years I kept a journal, increasingly intermittent. Especially for the eighteen months Cathal was with me and we used to talk well into the night, I had no convenient spare time. In any case the personal diary that I wrote as a youth no longer exercises me. I tore them all up and burned them. But my historical researches have convinced me that not enough is recorded of the stuff that makes the Labour Movement. History cannot be written from newspaper cuttings or official reports. Circumstances which governed events may have been so well known that no record was made. Those who knew took the secret with them. In preparing the Life of Connolly I have come across so much fact and so many people that I decided to make a rough record of my discoveries as I go along, and “if I am fit to do it” as De Valera said, I will keep it up. I will have to fit in the old with the new, as a film shows “flash-backs”.
My object in coming to Dublin is to spend the first few days of a month’s holiday opening enquiries into the ISRP [Irish Socialist Republican Party] period of Connolly’s life. I was here in March and again in April, staying with Justin the whole time, and then went through files of the Evening Herald and goodness knows what else. I went on to Cork and stayed with Jim O’ Regan [Left-wing Republican who had fought in the Spanish Civil War and was imprisoned in Britain during World War 2 for IRA activities]. I discovered that his father’s aunt was married to O’Shea who kept the hotel where Connolly stayed, and that it was as a result of O’Shea’s influence that O’Regan became the Socialist Republican that he is. Then I cycled to Waterford and took the boat to Fishguard.
Today I wanted to see if I could trace survivors of this period among the Trade Unionists, so called on Jim Collins of the Trades Council. He it was who secured me an opportunity to address the executive of the Trades Council on the subject of the Irish in Britain two years ago. He is eighty years of age and has lived in Dublin for many years, though he is, I believe, a Monaghan man. He himself knew nothing of the period, but he showed me the minute-books of the Trades Council which go back to 1896 or thereabout. I found a record of Connolly supporting a resolution and may pay another visit later.
Collins is an amusing clear-headed and vigorous man for his years, an old Larkinite who has “no time for Nationalism”. Yet he freely acknowledged that Larkin’s failure in 1923 was his own fault. He wanted to “ram what he thought down your throat”. He greatly admired PT Daly, whom he described as a brilliant man. He particularly admired his handling of the conference at which the CIU [Congress of Irish Unions, a split in the Irish Trade Union movement] broke away. When Roberts and others left the hall Daly who was in the chair continued the conference as if nothing had happened. O’Brien he called a “bad, treacherous character”[William O’Brien, leader of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union and political opponent of James Larkin]. Tom Johnson he respects, but thinks he lacks the power of presentation comparable with his intellectual ability [Tom Johnson, Irish Labour Party leader after 1916].
I then called to Ned Tucker, whose father, Joseph Tucker, was representative of the Irish Printers on the Trades Council in 1901 Ned had given me strong support at the EC, indeed embarrassing support as he is well known as a leftwinger. When I spoke to the Dublin Central Labour Party in 1946 he procured me a pound of butter and went to great pains to get it to me. However I realised how unwise it is to make enemies. He suggested Swift – we printed an erroneous report about his library in, I think, 1948 [John Swift, leader of the Bakers Union, who established a library and cultural centre for his members. The report was carried in the Irish Democrat, London]. We corrected it, but the approach is made that much more difficult. Sean O’Casey – I had seen him but he hates Connolly and will hear no good of him. Barney Conway – a good possibility, if too much under Jim Larkin’s thumb. Helena Moloney – unwell, recently in a mental home, but now much improved.
Of course we talked of other things too, of the destruction of the archives of the Trades Council when the Capel Street Trades Hall was sold for £300 odd, to be resold for £22,000; of the letters of solidarity from schoolchildren saving their coppers for the Dublin workers on strike in 1913 – all destroyed; of how Tom Johnson was made to carry the blame for others’ misdeeds; of Jim Larkin’s (the present one’s) doctrine [”Young Jim”, son of James Larkin of 1913 Lockout fame and then leader of the Workers Union of Ireland] that “nothing can be done in Ireland” but accept things as they are, emigration taking the young and vigorous out of the country; the lassitude in the Labour Movement so great that he feared it would never rise again. Here was another Larkinite. He also used to sell pamphlets round Connolly’s meetings in Phoenix Park as a boy of nine or ten and used to sit in the visitors’ gallery of the Trades Council – the “gallery” was the back of the room, cut off from the chamber by a brass pole and a piece of cord.
The old militant spirit still lives, in these older men at any rate. But they are lost in the present situation. The Labour movement has abandoned the attempt to lead the national movement, and nobody else is able to do it. Each is beating on a wall of a prison – opposite walls.
September 13 Thursday: I left my bicycle in the “park” at Townsend St. where last night an unfortunate man paid out £3-11-3. His son had left it in and then gone to England. Home on holiday last week he kindly told his father where his bicycle was, since last November. “He’s charged me the full amount!” he kept repeating. The day was warm and bright, almost as if the weather was repenting. But I found it difficult to decide what to do. Ultimately I decided to try to trace Tom Lyng, brother of JJ Lyng of the ISRP who was described in the Irish Times of May 12th as still living. Jim Collins had told me that he worked at Jacksons in Dame St., so I went there. The manager, O’Reilly, had known him well. He worked there for 27 years and an account of him had appeared in the Irish Press in May. His daughter had called in the early part of the year and his grandson worked at a photographer’s or optician’s in Stephen’s Green. The daughter indeed had been born in Dame Street, as Lyng used to act as caretaker and had a flat on the upper floor. The firm was from Stockport and specialised in hats at 3/9 and boots at 10/6, all one price. All their publicity was connected with hats and Lyng knew off by heart the hundreds of ingenious rhymes which spread the fame of these commodities far and wide. Lyng was extremely tall and suffered for many years from a limp. He liked his drop and had fallen off a tram after a celebration. But he was a man of great skill in his trade. When the manager, whose business connection with the clergy was substantial, was told by some of them of Lyng’s exploits as a speaker in Phoenix Park, he refused to dismiss him and kept his business just the same. But after a change of management in 1932 Lyng was not sartorially presentable enough for the new conditions and since he was growing older and beginning to miss days, a reason was found for dismissing him and he was given a lump sum.
Such was O’Reilly’s story. He mentioned an article in the Evening Press which I procured. Its value apart from confirmation of what O’Reilly said, was that it disclosed the identity of Gerald O’Connor, who wrote a pamphlet on Connolly many years ago. He is MacGiollarnath, a solicitor in Galway, who is still alive. Then I went to the optician’s. The grandson was away on holidays but after some delay I was given the daughter’s address in Rathfarnham.
I went to Gardiner Street and met Jim Collins as he was leaving. He had an Executive meeting at eight, to arrange a deputation to the CIE (or Great Southern and Western as he called it). Their “temporary” employees who only work with them for forty years get no pensions and are dismissed at once if they fall sick with tuberculosis. He had approached the Labour Minister, Corish, without avail. “Do you agree with these Labour men being in the Fine Gael Government?” I asked. “I do not; the biggest mistake they ever made” he replied [A Fine Gael-Labour Coalition Government being then in office, from 1954 to 1957].
Finally I had supper with Ina Connolly [one of James Connolly’s daughters]. She was worried about the possible war in Egypt [following Col.Nasser’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal] and felt I had been too hopeful when we met a few weeks ago in London. She said the Irish Labour Party was a disgrace and was angry at not being able to find out the issue in the Prescott expulsion in Dundrum which is the subject of a meeting tonight.
She had already told me of lending her flat to WP and Zelda Coates while she was in London. Before leaving Dublin she had told Coates about our work and said he was delighted. But when she returned he merely advised her to return the key and vouchsafed the information that he had paid several visits to Bill O’Brien, whom he had not spoken to since the split [the O’Brien-Larkin split in the Irish Trade Union Movement] but thanks to the reunification felt himself entitled to see once again. He was going to see Conroy of the CIU, and then was spending the evening with Bill O’Brien, none of which pleased Ina a little bit.
She believed that JJ Lyng was still in the USA and was blind, but his niece, whom she remembered, would know. We then fell to discussing my project for the Life of Connolly and hers for the “Complete Works”. The Birth Certificate I brought her in June has caused much heartburning in the family. The story is a fairly long one. When in 1950 I decided to try to trace Connolly’s connections in Edinburgh I did not expect to find much. The Librarian at Marx House was Morgan and he knew of Connolly from having lived in Scotland and meeting members of the Socialist Labour Party. I went to Glasgow in December and can recall to this day bicycling up and down its hills in the snow and slush. I spent a few days in Edinburgh also, at Mrs Forrest’s, and made a bus journey to see Len Cotton, secretary of what was left of the SLP [Socialist Labour Party; it was one of the constituent parties that had founded the CPGB in 1920], an Englishman, who called the SLP “The Party” and regarded the communists as scoundrels who had deserted its principles and broken it up. But he was an honest man. He told me Connolly did not have a brother and I returned to Glasgow under the belief that the name John in the City records which I examined within the strong room at the City Chambers, was an error. But a telegram recalled me to Edinburgh and Cotton sent me to see Geddes, not thank heaven at Soutra but at Barnton. Geddes was in Edinburgh when Connolly was chairman of the SLP inaugural conference. He took me to see Conlon and he confirmed the existence of the brother John whose special friend he was.
“Did you ever hear where James Connolly was born?” asked Conlon, an old man of about 75 in a top-floor tenement, who had liked his drop and had an air of mischief about him.
“Ballybay, Co Monaghan”, said I.
“Did you ever hear he was born in Cork?”
“I did, but took no account of it.”
Conlon stopped speaking to me and turned to Geddes. “He was born in the Coogate,” he said. “That’s what you call the Cowgate,” said Geddes. Then Conlon said even more mischievously, “Did you hear he was in the army?” He explained that John Connolly joined under the name of John Reid, but could not remember what name James took. The regiment was the King’s Liverpool. “But you can check the birth at the Registry Office,” he declared.
“This is quite different from the accepted story,” I demurred.
“Ay, indeed. There was some fellow over writing a book about Connolly. But we didn’t like the look of him so we told him nothing.”
I returned to London in a mood of scepticism. I did not yet know that the method of historical research is to follow every clue. But after some hesitation I decided 3/- was not an excessive sum to spend on settling a matter of such importance. The birth certificate duly came, correcting date as well as birth place. I decided there might be something in the army story too, but there was no means of checking. My article in the Irish Democrat of March 1951 was completely ignored, a fact which surprised Desmond Ryan as he told me himself [The article gave the facts of Connolly’s birthplace]. Bill O’Brien said, “I’m not surprised.” Bob Stewart [veteran CPGB activist] said these important new facts should be made known. James Klugman [leading CPGB organiser] said how foolish it was when I was trying to win Irishmen, to tell the world Connolly was born in Scotland. Then I went to live in Mayo [in 1951] and dropped the matter for a while. It was several years before I met Ina Connolly and learned of her efforts to collect her father’s works.
The issue came up again when the National Memorials Committee decided to erect a memorial to Connolly in Co. Monaghan. Nobody knew where to put it up. They believed Connolly was born in Anlore. Justin and I went there in May Keating’s car [Justin Keating’s mother] and discovered enough to satisfy ourselves that the James Connolly of local tradition was not the same man, but a Ribbonman [19th century agrarian agitators]. The committee pressed on and appealed to Michael Quill of the New York Transport Union for a donation. He replied with the statement that Connolly was born in Edinburgh. Ina was appealed to. She wrote to me asking could I supply the birth certificate. I was in Liverpool at the time and it was convenient for other reasons to go North. In Edinburgh I lunched with Mr H.A.Scott, friend of John Leslie [Scottish socialist leader], and having procured the birth certificate went to Glasgow and then took the night boat to Dublin – a delightful sail in which I stayed on deck watching the Cambria’s trails till we had passed Ailsa Craig. I gave Ina the certificate that morning and she showed me some letters which strengthened the impression we both had that the army story was correct. I returned to London that night, once again enjoying a superb crossing in which it was possible to see simultaneously Wicklow, Carlingford, Wales and Man, something I never knew before.
Now Ina tells me of the scepticism of Nora [another one of James Connolly’s daughters] and Roddy[James Connolly’s son and prominent Irish Labour Party member] who have by all appearances returned to the bosom of the Church. When shown the birth certificate Nora declared that it was “Communist propaganda”. Asked how a birth certificate could be that, she replied that it would “help the Communists anyway”. Roddy has not stirred himself to visit Ina to look at her material. Years ago he did much research himself, but his project fell through.
We then discussed the army service question. She is convinced that James met Lillie [his wife, Lillie Reynolds] while in the British army in Dublin. Indeed on a previous occasion she spoke of his being at Portobello Barracks. I well recall her start of surprise when a few years ago I asked her if she had ever heard he was in the army. Monteith [Captain Monteith, friend of Roger Casement] had told her that the King’s Liverpool was the only likely regiment when she enquired of him. Now I asked her point blank, “Have you any direct evidence that he was at Portobello Barracks?” She was silent and thought for several minutes. Exactly what the sentence meant I can’t say. “Mother told us nothing,” she said. It was merely her conjecture that that was where James would be. Did the Wilsons with whom she was in personal service live near there? She didn’t know. The Wilsons were stockbrokers, a wealthy Protestant family who took them in after Mona [another one of Connolly’s daughters, who died in a fire accident] was burned in 1904. But she had a cousin on her mother’s side still alive who might know. Margaret Reynolds was said by Maire to have died in childbirth in England – more likely Scotland, I thought. Her sole reliance as far as army service evidence was concerned was a conversation at Arklow with Bill O’Brien and her mother. They told her that the fact that James was in the army was suppressed for fear the Sinn Fein would not trust him. She could not understand this, since the Fenians were in it. I thought more likely it was his way of leaving what he wished suppressed and not on account of the Sinn Fein.
The final point related to George Bernard Shaw replying to a letter in the Observer written by a man called Rogers to refute Taylor’s claim that Shaw was excessively mean. St John Ervine records that Shaw gave him money for the maintenance of James Connolly’s family and offered more if need be. This may be, thought Ina, the explanation of Lily Reynolds sending Ina and Maire to Kiltimagh Convent for education. Ina was born in 1896 and would thus be about 19 at the time.
Of course we discussed publication. Ina wants my book out first and talks of publishing hers afterwards when the outcry has aroused interest. I thought it wise to make a suggestion here, namely that she should write an introduction to mine. To a certain degree of my surprise she consented most readily, and this was by far the most satisfactory conclusion of the evening, for I can see that she reads it first.
September 14 Friday: Once again the day dawned bright and clear, though it quickly clouded over. I went to see Tom Johnson at the bungalow in Mount Prospect Road which Larkin so thoroughly trounced him for building allegedly with non-Union labour. He has aged since I saw him last, growing more slow, heavy and leonine, his hair very white and his gait less steady. But his faculties are as clear as ever. Even more remarkable is his wife, who is wrinkled for her seventy odd years but has the figure and the sprightliness of a girl. She professes to be more of a revolutionary than Tom, to whom she has been married 58 years. He began talking about his youth in Liverpool where he first met Larkin then active on the docks. He was connected with the Clarion and went to Manchester to support the candidature of Dr Pankhurst, who was speaking at Boggart Holt Clough during a by-election, I think. He recalls the Clarion Scouts, the group of somewhat Bohemian socialists, founded he believes by Manson, the “lone Scout”. They had two groups, the “pezzers” whose “razzle” in Wirrall was a late-night walk followed by a hot-pot supper, with visits to graveyards thrown in, and the optimists or “harmonious wholers”. Such were the fanciful names they accepted.
He was somewhat apologetic about his own record. He had been criticised for his failure in the National field. “But”, he said a little wearily, “I had not that background. According to the principles I had, I did what I thought was right.” I have of course personally no doubt that he was made a culprit for the sins of others. I told him I thought history would have no harder words to say than had been said already and indeed many kinder ones. He was very pleased at that.
He urged me to find a way to open up relations with Bill O’Brien and thought his unwillingness to collaborate with people was as much from irritation at being constantly pestered as anything else. However I doubt that. I had, however, apart from Ina’s efforts, intended at an appropriate stage to get him reading the Manuscript, if he will do it. Johnson thought that if I could consult him on some specific point that might be the means of entry. He told me that JD Clarkson has a man called Emmet Larkin working in a life of James Larkin and expressed the desire to have a copy of Clarkson’s “Labour and Nationality in Ireland” [properly “Labour and Nationalism”]. I promised to send him one of the two that Clarkson gave me. He himself has a copy of Leslie’s Present position of the Irish Question but he could not lay hands on it.
Mrs Johnson was connected with Connolly in Belfast, in the textile workers union he formed after the mill girls struck. She showed me several letters, one written at the time of the Clonmel conference [ie. The foundation conference of the Irish Labour Party in 1912]. Both agreed that Nora Connolly’s facts were unreliable; she was a woman of brilliant imagination but lacking in realism; and that Ina was closest to her father. The story of Connolly’s death and the last hours was not as was told generally. Ina was not present and they did not know just why. Ina told me of course that she never recalled James going to church and did not believe he received absolution. The Johnsons took a rather more detached view, as Protestants. Much is yet to be learned and sifted upon that period.
When I was in Edinburgh recently HA Scott told me of a letter he had received from Bill McKie (I think) of Chicago. He described coming to Edinburgh and meeting John Leslie in 1916. He found him in tears, over the death of Connolly. On being asked why he was so upset he replied that he himself had sent Connolly to his death. Apparently James had left Ireland in disgust at the slow growth of the movement and Leslie had advised him to return and try again, saying some such words as “perhaps you’ll find a niche in the temple of fame.” James returned and became involved in the sequence of events that is well known. I had mentally put down this period as shortly before he went to Belfast. Nora says in her book she went to Belfast, but Johnson says James took her there. One of the letters Mrs Johnson showed me is a request from the SPI for funds to be paid direct to Connolly in Belfast, so in May 1911 he was still SPI organiser. “Did you ever hear that Connolly at one time was thinking of quitting Ireland and giving up and going to England?” asked Johnson. I told him the story that Scott gave me. He thought it very likely to be true. Mrs Johnson then confirmed he was in Liverpool. So I am inclined to wonder if after the failure of the SPI to keep him going he may have gone to Belfast hoping for another job, but when it failed crossing to Liverpool, taking part in the strike, and then perhaps being persuaded by Leslie to return to Ireland as Larkin’s lieutenant. It may have been the big industrial battles developing in England which momentarily attracted him. Another thing Johnson said was that he recalls some dispute in the Stockport ILP [Independent Labour Party], perhaps in Clarion, regarding Connolly’s lectures around 1902. This may have been Salford. After I took my leave I lunched with Justin Keating who told me he had been to Wexford and had seen Gabriel Lalor in New Ross. Peter O’Connor [Waterford communist, former International Brigader in Spain] was very upset at the Stalin revelations [USSR leader Kruschev’s condemnation of the Stalin purges in 1956]. “Because he has no sense of humour,” said Gabriel. But I do not propose to go down there.
Later I saw Jim Collins again. He is an Antrim man, though he was a furniture Trades Union organiser covering the Monaghan area, of which he has a poor opinion. He is 78. I went through some of the Trades Council minutes for 1911, 1912 and found letters had been received from Connolly and the SPI. Then Mr Eager of the packing case union came in and we went for a drink. Eager like Ned Tucker was full of pessimism and gloom. Tucker is not too popular with Collins, keeps voting against him! They both complain of manoeuvring pettymindedness on all sides. “To keep it going” is their only hope, and aim.
September 15 Saturday: It rained heavily in the night but I hoped to take advantage of a moist grey respite it seemed to be giving us. But when I was opposite “MacHugh Himself” the heavens opened and my trousers were wet in the brief helter-skelter to Amiens St. Station, despite the plastic macintosh I wore. Then to make matters worse I did something I never did before in my life – slipped on the steps getting on to the train. Maybe it was the rain, or the subtle advancement of years. I was glad not to be on the line, and felt rather like the Greek general who relinquished his project when he stumbled during embarkation.
However I reached Clones without further mishap. As Clancy [Patrick Clancy, London Connolly Association activist] had said, the trains were full of returned emigrants and conversation revolved round television and the Hammersmith Palais (a dance hall I think). I went straight to the Library and met Mr McCabe and Mr MacNamara. They had secured a birth certificate for themselves but I had to persuade MacNamara (a local man very interested in local history) with additional facts. They showed me a reply to a letter they had sent Roddy Connolly. His evidence for the Clones birthplace, or such as he chose to give, was based on the activities of a Conor Quigley who had undertaken enquiries at the request of General Eoin O’Duffy (“one of our leaders” said McCabe elliptically), who expressed the opinion that he was distantly related to the Connolly family [Eoin O’Duffy, chief of police under the Cumann na nGael Government and Blueshirt leader in the 1930s]. Roddy had visited Monaghan and failed to discover anything.
After lunch I visited a number of people in company with MacNamara. His wife is living in Drogheda while he tries to get a new house. He was born at Bo Coill (Boohill, he pronounces it) a few miles out of Clones, seven to be precise. Before we parted he told me that Clones had suffered heavily from the border. Economically it was a Fermanagh town – and incidentally that may explain how it is so much less “starchy” than Ballybay or even Castleblaney. There is even a touch of Connaught in it. He had been trying to get it scheduled as a depressed area. Emigration had reached unprecedented peaks and land for miles around was let in conacre. He promised to send me his memorandum for the paper. He was firmly of the opinion that Partition was to blame.
Captain O’Grady who keeps a draper’s had offered to finance the memorial. “Keep going” was his sound but not very informative slogan. Mrs Courtney told us that her parents had told her that Connolly’s father had stood sponsor for a child in her family. We estimated the year as 1870. The document was not available but she thought the sponsor’s name was James Connolly. It should have been John. The place she spoke of was near Anlore. The walls of the house remain, but little enough of them. The Tourist Board guide to Cavan and Monaghan refers to a triangular field, “Connolly’s Field”. But MacNamara says it is certainly not called Connolly’s Field today. Mrs Courtney recommended us to an old traditional fiddler, McPhillips, aged about 90. He told us that he had lived at this very place since he was aged four and no Connolly had been born there during that time. He thought the Connollys who had lived near to there were nothing to do with James, but they might be connected with Jack Connolly the Ribbonman. MacNamara said he thought he had found a reference which dated the hanging of this Connolly in the Diamond. It was in the local paper in the early years of the century. The date of the execution was 1801. He told me the name of a man in the record office who might trace it. So we must try him. They also mentioned Tom O’Neill of the National Library, who is a distant relative of MacCabe’s. They were interested that I knew him. There seems to be growing up a generation of serious scholars of local history and it is very satisfactory that that should be so. I told him about the grandmother’s name, “Markey” being an important indicator, and they promised to look into that. It was clear that local tradition is very vague and there is much wishful thinking. Yet when the committee began to work the local clergy warned against the “Connolly Clubs” [the original name of the Connolly Association in Britain] and gradually the sponsors began to back out. All the same, MacNamara is anxious to have the story of my visit published in the local paper (Protestant) and this may bring fresh information for us.
There is a historical society in the district, but it is for the diocese of Clogher. Protestants are joining slowly and as a result it may become in due course non-sectarian. MacNamara, by the way, was at school with Peadar Ward of The Standard and spoke of his editorship as a boy trying to do a man’s job and criticised his attacks on O’Casey [“The Standard” was an Irish Catholic weekly which had also attacked the Connolly Association].
Before I left the two Librarians promised to follow up the research. They would try to trace back the occupation of the land through the landowners’ records. They would follow up the connection of the Ribbonman who they thought was also known as “Eoin” Connolly, to whom the song refers. They would try to trace the Markeys.
As a final surprise when I changed at Dundalk so as to enter the restaurant car, who should be sitting there but Tom O’Neill [of the National Library, later biographer of Eamon de Valera]. “I’m travelling first class,” he said, “at the expense of the BBC.”
September 16 Sunday: Roy and I went cycling and had a too eventful day. We went to Bray, then to Newtown Mount Kennedy, walked a few miles on the hills, then returned to Bray. There, after tea, as I was going down the steep hill on the Dublin Road, I pulled on the front brake too sharply and was thrown off, sustaining “bruises and abrasions” as the solicitors call them to my left knee and thigh, right shin, left elbow, left shoulder and both wrists. Fortunately nothing seemed broken. But then as we moved on to Dublin the “simplex” gear turned over and pulled out a few spokes. We returned to Sandymount from Bray Railway station, and I spent the evening bathing my wounds with “Dettol” and playing the piano while Mairín did her “painless childbirth” exercises!
September 17 Monday: I seemed little the worse for my accident, though a little stiff and bruised, and had the bicycle repaired, taking it to Larry Farrells in the front of a taxi. Not that that journey was without the spice of adventure. As we passed over a crossing with the green light shining bravely ahead of us, a large car drove steadily upon our flank, did not decelerate or even recognise our existence, and passed just behind us thanks to the presence of mind of the taximan. Such a place for undisciplined driving as Dublin would be hard to find. Also a man who is driving somebody in Holy Orders considers himself to possess a right of way, against pedestrians at least. The effects of sectarianism are widely dispersed. In the Belfast train on Saturday I observed the embarrassment with which a young lad received my query as to which part of Belfast he came from. Then there was a young woman sipping whiskey in the restaurant car who reared up like an outraged pussy as she watched a priest walk through the carriage, only returning to her whiskey when he had left.
Justin [ie.Justin Keating] called at Roy’s at 7 and we chatted as he drove round Dublin and Dun Laoire delivering the invitations to the next Irish Workers League meeting – a quite unnecessarily laborious method of notification, he thinks. But on the way back I called on Mrs Elson, daughter of Thomas Lyng, in Rathfarnham. She confirmed that the family lived behind Jacksons in Dame Lane. She was also able to give me John J. Lyng’s address and to tell me that Carolan was there too – in the Bronx of New York. Her uncle hates corresponding, so I must ask Moloney to pay a visit for me. She is still in touch with William O’Brien, whom she thinks a “wonderful man”, and he in turn corresponds with Lyng in New York. Her father died in St Kevin’s, her mother is still alive in an asylum and by all accounts it is the breaking up of his home life through his wife’s insanity which is to blame for Lyng’s excessive addition to drink in his middle and later years. The Elsons are seemingly quite comfortably off, with a new and well-kept house, chinese carpets and a car in the drive. The optician son is twenty two and there is another of nineteen. The husband, with perhaps the air of an optician himself, not so much the black-coated worker as the tweed-suited petty-professional man, very spruce, with greying hair curling over a clean ruddy complexion. One other thing she told me was that Mark Deering is not very long dead, died also in the Union [ie. the Poor Law Union workhouse] and has left a daughter. She promised to write to her uncle. Her father had worked in another hatters of the name of “Tracy” but she had never heard of Dorman.
September 18 Tuesday: I called to see Jim Collins in the morning. “What are you doing tonight?” he asked. He invited me to attend the special meeting of the Trades Council to discuss the Government’s economy campaign which is causing progressive unemployment among tradesmen. The resolution was introduced by Charles Dunne, who wanted the Council to call on the Government to “take constructive steps”. Merrigan [Matt Merrigan, 1922-2000, Dublin leftwing trade unionist], a friend of Sheehy-Skeffington [Owen Sheehy-Skeffington, Lecturer in French at Trinity College and son of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, pacifist murdered in 1916] and a simon-pure anti-communist socialist, seconded in a speech which gave nothing to any communist in its attacks on capitalism. Then the woodworkers got up and wanted an addendum, calling for a protest meeting and an approach to the CIU Council to participate [Congress of Irish Unions, one of the two divisions of the then divided trade union movement]. For a while the Council rocked hither and thither on points of order; but finally Dunne agreed to accept the addendum and the Council to allow the consolidated resolution to become the motion, and after that all was plain sailing. The mover of the amendment, addendum, or whatever it was judged to be (unanimity being lacking), was Liam O’Meara, a strong and vigorous young man with prematurely grey hair. There followed proposals by John Byrne of the Bakers Union to refer the matter back. His speech was one of mealy-mouthed obstruction and the calculated raising of side-issues, the principal ones being the Fianna Fail bogey and the reputation of the noble-hearted leaders of Labour who had seats in the Cabinet that was robbing the workers. Mr Mangan said the same thing more bluntly and was judged to have cast aspersions on the dignity of the Council, which he was asked to withdraw but refused. He was as big and bluff as Byrne was restrained and mousy.
Then the storm got underway. The farmers had let the country down by not increasing production. No Government had done its duty in 35 years. Another John Byrne (WUI) [Workers Union of Ireland, James Larkin’s union] was as stormily for as his namesake was against the motion, but the proceedings were handled quietly and firmly by a chairman who seemed a model of tact and patience. Our old friends Cormac Kenny and Ned Tucker spoke more out of principle than to present any new aspect of policy. They throve on the struggle against Bill O’Brien and the days of rapprochement are strange to them. Freeney, the plasterer who was chairman, finally put the issue of reference back, when Byrne the baker insisted on explaining that he had not really meant any harm by proposing it. “Are you withdrawing it?” asked the Chairman quietly but quickly. “Well, provided I can have an assurance. . .” His words were drowned in shouts of “No”. “Are you withdrawing it?” the chairman repeated. “No”, replied your man, and secured his own and the seconder’s votes. He did not then vote against the resolution. The extreme right were isolated. But who were in control of the positive men?
I tried to ascertain this in the Palace bar. Charles Dunne said this was the beginning of a reawakening. But he felt sore because his own union had taken him to task because his resolution was not strong enough. Had they any concrete suggestions to make, I asked? He looked puzzled. Perhaps they were holding them back for the opportune moment? He assented with haste, relief lighting up his features. The trouble, he said, was that the country was run by Maynooth, and Mangan and Byrne were Catholic action men. Collins was pleased with the development and also thought it was a turning point.
At the street corner I met Packy Early [Irish Workers League member, formerly in the Connolly Association in Britain] and Liam O’Meara. Packy told me that his branch had summoned the special meeting to compel Dunne to carry out its wishes. He had failed to include the sense of the members in the resolution. The much-debated device of an addendum had been used to save his face. He was quite untrustworthy, they said, but was now responding to the feelings of the members who wanted action. A number of the delegates had been influenced by Hugh Delargy’s [Labour MP] articles in Reynolds [Reynolds News, British leftwing paper]. So now we know who is making policy for the Irish workers. The lack of a Communist programme stared from every blank wall.
Another thing Packy told me was that he had criticised the tendency in the Workers League to criticise the Connolly Association – “Let the Standard do that,” said he,” but not us.” He thought that the young lads from the League who had gone to England were making their attacks largely in order to avoid the necessity of doing anything [former Irish Workers League members who had joined the CPGB and the Connolly Association North London Branch and were attacking the nationalist policy line of the Association in both organisations]. Meanwhile Merrigan the Trotskyist seconds the resolutions and Early just holds his place.
September 19 Wednesday: I went to the Trades Council office, wrote a story which I had Collins read, and then posted it to Gerry Curran who is getting out the Democrat, or rather finishing it, in my absence. In the bar to which we then repaired, Collins was busy with his anecdotes when two bottles of stout appeared from nowhere. We traced the generous donor who proved to be Pat Malone, organiser of the Musicians’ Union (Irish). He claimed relationship to Lillie Reynolds and thus indirectly to Connolly. He was hail-fellow-well-met, hearty and slap-on-the-back, with a word for everything and a ready wit. He had spent yesterday in bed, so he said, from sheer exhaustion. “The machinery of the working class is lubricated with the blood of Trade Union organisers” he declared. “Don’t kill yourself,” says Collins, “You’ll get no thanks. After 25 years I got a pension of £3 a week.”
Then I tried to find Danny McDevitt in Rathfarnham. He was out, but I met his wife. She said Connolly stayed with them three months in Belfast after his return from America. Her husband then secured a house for him.
That evening I went seeking Mrs Farrell whom I found, bedridden, aged 89, but full of bounce and faculties for ruling her admiring family! She told me that Connolly had indeed lived at 55 Pimlico. She had the front room, he the back on the same landing. He lived in dire poverty, did not work, though he went out “doing things that we didn’t know about”. She did not recall any rent arrears in “Park Street” but recalled him parading the quays with a picture of Queen Victoria draped in a black cloth. The landlady of his tenement was a Protestant, “Rebecca”, but whenever a child was born she brought up a chicken and a pint of whiskey. Mrs Farrell remembers Roddy’s birth in the same house. He was registered in the chapel round in Meath Street. James was surprised at having a boy and gruffly rejected the name of George. Not for three months did he decide upon Roderick James. One of the daughters became a Doctor and when Mrs Farrell was in hospital she ventured to remind her that she had nursed her. From that time on she did not enter the ward again. This, by the way, links with what Mrs McDevitt told me, “I was very fond of James Connolly but I’ve no time for any of his family. They have no spark of nationality in them – only what they could get out of it, and they got plenty.”
Not that Mrs Farrell was without her sensitive side. She says that when Mrs Connolly went to America a subscription was taken up for her among some of the neighbours. The burning incident took place, she thinks, at Lyng’s house in Drumcondra [where Connolly’s eldest daughter Mona was burned to death in an accident]. She was very hurt that Lillie sent no word to say she had arrived in USA and when James returned at first refused to take him through the door. But he overbore her. A cable had gone to the USA telling of the delayed start. “Were you surprised that Nora had gone?” asked Mrs Farrell. “I was and I wasn’t,” he said, “when the cable arrived I knew something must be amiss.” The visit to the USA had depended on some cheap fares which were then available.
Mrs Farrell recalls the visit of Maud Gonne [MacBride, Republican activist, loved by WB Yeats] to Pimlico but knew nothing about the Kerry visit. She was opposed to the sending of the Dublin children away to England during the transport strike and says she was arrested at a demonstration at Kingsbridge Station which she took part in very much against the wishes of her husband who was a strong Larkin man. James Connolly offered to bail her out and provide a solicitor for the four who were arrested. Her husband would not speak to her for weeks.
Only a space remains where Connolly’s house stood. As it was demolished this spring Mrs Farrell lay weeping. “There! Listen to that,” she would say to her daughter. “There’s another brick gone.” In the end the daughter yielded to her entreaties and went over to ask the workmen for a brick. For Mrs Farrell was born in the house in 1867. “That’s a very historic building you’re knocking down,” said the daughter. “James Connolly lived there.” The workmen gave her the brick laughing. “We didn’t think there’d be anybody about who’d remember those days,” they said. Yet Mrs Farrell was older than Connolly!
September 20 Thursday: Stimulated by my good fortune in tracing associates of Connolly in Dublin I decided to go to Edinburgh on Sunday and see if I could find Swan, the man whom Forrest told me of, who proposed him for the Council in 1894. Forrest knew Connolly’s nephews who worked in Younger’s brewery and has also traced their sister. I left the nephews’ address in London, so wrote to Cathal [ie. Cathal MacLiam in Dublin] asking him to send it to Forrest’s in Edinburgh for me.
In the meantime I made for Danny McDevitt in Rathfarnham, whom I had failed to find at home yesterday. I found a vigorous well-preserved man of 88, spruce, ruddy-complexioned and full of fight and energy – good for another ten years seemingly, light on his feet, and slim. I was quite surprised. He has some of the loquacity of age, but I believe he had not to wait for age before having that. He began by deploring the state of the labour movement and blaming the church. In the short cul-de-sac where he lived were petty civil servants and Guinness workers who had been given a good part of their mortgages by the firms they worked for, and who were so pious that Danny could only speak with the sprinkling of Protestants that were there. They, however, made it their practice to take no part in anything.
I told him I had his address from Tom Johnson. He commented that Johnson had joined the ILP in Liverpool, came to Belfast as a commercial traveller and was sent all over Ireland, but afterwards victimised. It was to him that Larkin was sent by the Liverpool ILP. Connolly on the other hand did not trust Johnson, whom he regarded as “an Englishman, on the make in Ireland”. On the other hand McDevitt was confident that Johnson was perfectly honest and genuine as far as his knowledge of Ireland took him. On the other hand it was not certain that Connolly entirely trusted O’Brien. When he was in jail in 1913 he sent to Belfast for McDevitt to visit him. He did so, extremely surprised at being summoned so far. Connolly asked him to collect a small bag from Moran’s Hotel, pay his bill, and take the bag away to Belfast. McDevitt guessed that if O’Brien had opened the bag, which had a key sticking out of its lock, inviting the enquiring, he would have learned of the low wages paid in the Belfast office of the ITGWU. O’Brien was a tailor, a member of a skilled trade, and Connolly did not want him to know.
It was not till later that Johnson was victimised for attending an anti-conscription meeting in Dublin. Though Johnson brought Larkin to McDevitt when Larkin arrived in Belfast, years later there was a slight rift between Larkin and McDevitt over Johnson. Larkin published an attack on Johnson in the paper Honesty. Johnson took the Editor up for libel and was awarded £350 and costs which were £350 on £350. McDevitt was in court and Larkin suspected him of complicity with Johnson. The Editor of Honesty was financially ruined. McDevitt advised him to go and see Johnson, who forewent all his damages and agreed to claim only his out-of-pocket expenses. The Editor of Honesty, he thought, was Joe Stanley of Drogheda.
On the subject of the rift between Larkin and O’Brien he said that Emmet Larkin who is writing the Life of Larkin has a detached and intimate grasp of it. O’Brien was the cleverer man. Larkin was a tyrant but had to be a tyrant to lead the people he was working with. His impact on Belfast was revolutionary. It transformed the city. To have Orange and Catholic bands parading together down the Falls and Shankill roads was almost magical. Of course it couldn’t last, but it was done! O’Brien was also a tyrant. You could see Larkin’s tyranny coming, and when you got him indoors, manage him. O’Brien was cunning, intriguing and diplomatic. Larkin would break the Bank of Ireland in a day and think nothing of it. O’Brien would not spend a 1/2d. on a stamp without writing it down. Each made the other worse. Later those who surrounded O’Brien kept the rift going for their own ends. Robins hoped to succeed O’Brien in the ITGWU. While McDevitt was still friendly with O’Brien, he saw little of him now. He thought the quarrel should have been buried at Larkin’s death. But again others helped to keep it going. He recalls saying to O’Brien, “At least Larkin had character.” Robins interrupted, “You can see McDevitt’s a Larkin man.” O’Brien must have sensed the insincerity of Robins and said, “McDevitt knows Larkin as well as anybody in Dublin.” But then when somebody made some incorrect statement in the Irish Times about Larkin’s “mission” to America, O’Brien kept the correspondence up for days and bought sets of cuttings to give away to people. It was in this situation that men like Norton had their opportunity [William Norton, leader of the Irish Labour Party, then in a coalition government with Fine Gael]. But first Johnson must be frozen out. He was elevated to the Senate and pushed into the cold. He likes being consulted on the olden days because these days he feels “out of it”.
Connolly thought Larkin irresponsible. In 1914 McDevitt came to Dublin and going upstairs in Liberty Hall found Larkin pacing the room outside a meeting which was in progress. “They’re deciding whether to let me go to America or not,” said Larkin. The meeting was of some sub-committee of the TUC. Later Connolly came out and told McDevitt that Larkin would not be bound by any discipline, would say what he pleased and would probably involve the TUC in all manner of embarrassments.
When Connolly returned from America, said McDevitt, he came to Dublin and prepared his two books for the press. He was offered a job organising the SPI at £2 a week, but early in 1911 it was clear that the funds available were not sufficient. The Spring-Rice family had been contributing. They and others fell out. He was unable to find work for his daughters in Dublin and visited Belfast to make arrangements for Nora’s settling there. Nora was living there before him, but he had arranged it. As a matter of interest the conversation with McDevitt which she records in her book never took place and is sheer imagination [Nora Connolly O’Brien’s book “Portrait of a Rebel Father”]. In Belfast it looked more possible to support Connolly, as such people as the old Irish radicals, Montgomerys of Grey Abbey, were making donations. Connolly however refused to develop the contact with the middle class. He felt that the working class was never so strong as when it stood alone. He was an extraordinarily pig-headed man and if he decided on something which was quite foolish he would carry it through despite all opposition. He began working with the mill girls, trying to organise them, but made very little headway. To some extent the opposition was religious. While passing a chapel one day in a tram, McDevitt pulled his leg about not raising his hat. Next time they passed it he saw Connolly raise his hat and scratch his head. He told McDevitt that he had long discarded religion himself, but that he would “lay down his life for the Irish papist”, who was the finest material on earth. The raising of the hat indicated that he felt the need to conform because he was making so little headway. McDevitt thought that possibly at this time he may have gone to see Leslie – HA Scott told me how the Chicago Bill McKie told him that Leslie regretted advising Connolly to return to Ireland.
It was later in the same year that Larkin appointed him Ulster organiser of the Union. A dispute had arisen in relation to the deep-sea dockers who were mostly Catholics, the employment being less regular than the coastline work. Larkin sent a telegram asking him to represent the ITGWU and its address was “Connolly or McDevitt”. McDevitt opened it. It contained a first two weeks salary. Connolly, when he saw it, asked McDevitt “if he opened other people’s telegrams”. Yet before he had done so he had been looking for Connolly all day. He thinks Connolly had read the address as “Connolly c/o McDevitt” and told Winifred Carney. She in turn spoke to Connolly but he did not apologise. That was not his way.
When Connolly moved to Belfast he had not the pound required to pay the furniture deliverer. McDevitt sent one of his men out with his gold watch to pawn it. The man met somebody on the way and must have been a half-hour. Meanwhile the furniture was at the door and the man would not deliver it. Connolly paced the room ceaselessly, then out of a fob pocket, American style, he took a splendid gold watch, and said, “That man must be making that money!” McDevitt was extremely annoyed and told him he had pawned his watch.
McDevitt claimed that Mrs Johnson was never really in Connolly’s office. She claims that he paid her only 5/- a week, but Connolly didn’t want her. She had said she wanted no wages, but Connolly gave her 5/- for her tram fares as she had a long distance to travel. Winifred Carney took her place when she was ill and remained his secretary.
While Connolly was still in Dublin a Professor offered to review Labour in Irish History at a meeting. McDevitt judged that Connolly would wish to know this and wrote to him. He announced that he would be present but to say nothing till the day. When the lecturer learned Connolly was to be there he declined to proceed but was ultimately persuaded to do so. His main criticism was directed against Connolly’s treatment of O’Connell [Daniel O’Connell, 19thcentury constitutional politician]. Connolly rose after he had spoken and gave O’Connell three times what he had given him in the book.
Connolly was harder to work with than Larkin, says McDevitt, but you noticed it less!
In 1912 John Connolly from Edinburgh visited Belfast. McDevitt had long talks with him. He told him James was born in Edinburgh and that their youth was spent in extremely hard conditions. McDevitt was not surprised that Connolly was in the Army. He thought John had said so, but Peadar O’Donnell who had also toyed with the idea of writing a life of Connolly had definitely told him as much. Perhaps O’Donnell secured his information from William O’Brien. It is surprising how many have shied from demolishing the legend! McDevitt commented upon Connolly’s “soldierly neatness”, his military walk, always straight as a poker despite a slight bandyness of the legs. He was equally methodical in his work. He certainly gave the impression of a man who had military training.
Two interesting circumstances related to the imprisonment during the strike. He went on hunger-strike and was released. It is not generally known that he was driven to the house of the Countess Markievicz in the Vice-Regal car. The Lord Lieutenant must have personally intervened. Probably the Aberdeens were afraid that the intransigence of the employers was going to wreck British rule in Ireland. The other is that before he returned to Belfast he wired Mrs Grimley, in Belfast, to hire a band and have it ready at the station to meet him. He was a believer in such demonstrative touches.
Mr and Mrs Grimley are still alive and McDevitt advised me to call upon them in Charlemont Street. Mrs Grimley was the woman writer Nellie Gordon.
Was Connolly in the IRB? [Irish Republican Brotherhood] McDevitt doubts it. When he arrived in Belfast it was just after a tram-driver had approached McDevitt to join the IRB, seemingly on the suggestion of Denis MacCullogh [President of the IRB]. Connolly expressed the desire to meet MacCullogh and McDevitt arranged it. “I want to tell you”, said McDevitt to Connolly, “that I’m not an IRB man. I’m a socialist. I hate secrecy and I wouldn’t be in it.” At this Connolly explained that he was not in it either, “nor wouldn’t be.” Connolly had declared he would take the Citizen Army out alone and the IRB was simply compelled to take him into their confidence. He recalled that the IRB scarcely held a meeting in Belfast that the police did not know about immediately afterwards, but great promises of reform were made before he was asked to join.
Bulmer Hobson had a conversation with Connolly on the subject of the proposed Rising. McDevitt thought O’Brien quite right in saying that Connolly’s last words to him on Easter Monday were, “We’re going out to be slaughtered.” Connolly knew no fear of anything. What was his aim? He told Bulmer Hobson that the seizure of Dublin would be striking a match to a powder keg. “You’ll be pushing a match into a bog!” Hobson told him. Hobson stated the Fianna and Countess Markievicz got the credit through coming to the rescue when they could not pay for the room.
McDevitt told me that he well recalls Michael Davitt standing up against the Church, but nobody will do so today. He himself was presented with a clock by the Newtownards branch of the Tailoring Union, of which only one man was a Catholic and most of them Orangemen. A man called O’Boyle is writing a history of the Labour movement in Belfast.
After tea I went to see the Grimleys in Charlemont Street. Mrs Grimley is a true housewife and small shopkeeper, plump, matronly, stately, with long hair that was red in her youth. She told me that her interest in politics was never intense, that she became associated with Connolly during the strike of the York Street mill-girls. She had some kind of supervisory job there, the only Catholic among Protestants seemingly in that department. Connolly put it to her when the union was started – the Belfast Trades Council was extremely critical of his attempts to organise the mill-girls during this strike – that she should devote all her time to this work. She was one of them. She became a speaker who could make the crowd laugh or cry, but she realised she would never tell them anything important. The reason Connolly made so little headway was the extreme disorderliness of the girls, not religion. When Countess Markievicz came to speak they pelted her with snowballs, and merely laughed. Connolly used to organise readings at the mill gates. He could not bear to let an opportunity slip. On one occasion he decided at five minutes to six to go to a mill gate. Both she and Winifred Carney were relieved when a diversion of traffic delayed them until it was too late. She and Winifred, who like Mrs Johnson had come from the women’s suffrage movement, thought men knew much more than women till a man came and asked for an “Eternity Form”. The union had registered under the Health Insurance Act for the sake of the regular income. “Tell him to go to the Salvation Army,” said Connolly, who then added – “You and your men who know everything!” As they passed a sandwichman he said, “Two shillings a day and his board”.
When Jim Grimley, the husband, came in, rather more definite information was forthcoming. Of course he repeated much of what McDevitt had told me. He also began by saying what a state the Labour Movement had fallen into, and blamed Norton and the Church. He had been present at the Connolly Commemoration meeting where Tom Johnson had made the admission that he was largely responsible for setting the Irish Labour Movement on the wrong track [ie. by failing to participate in the 1918 general election and thereby ceding leadership of the national independence movement to Sinn Fein]. “Pity he didn’t admit it years ago,” said Grimley. He also thought Johnson entirely honest, and Mrs Grimley expressed kind feelings for him. Grimley himself is a dour dark Belfast man, somewhat like Johnny Griffin [Connolly Association activist in Birmingham], serious but not without a dry wit on occasion. His son is at Rotax in Park Royal this last month and was a friend of Flann Campbell [former editor of the Irish Democrat and son of the poet Joseph Campbell]. Joseph Campbell, by the way, was a member of the SPI [Socialist Party of Ireland] in Belfast. The other son, just married, came in for a moment. He speaks with a Dublin accent and would be about 32 or 33 years of age.
Grimley said he recalled Connolly’s first visit to Belfast to speak at the Custom House steps for the SPI. He was invited by two brothers Orr of the Belfast Ethical Society who were strong Marxists and had read The Harp. Connolly was introduced as the “Irish American orator” and an advert was placed in the Evening Telegraph on the Saturday night. The meeting was at 3 pm., but at 8 pm. Connolly held another meeting at the place where two persons had lost their lives during the 1907 strike. They were shot at the corner of Albert Street and Carlingford Road. Later Connolly started the Belfast Branch of the SPI at the Tara Hall, York Street. Lecture Secretary and Literature Secretary was Sean McEntee (TD today!) [and Minister in several Fianna Fail governments]. He was distributing Erin’s Hope. Grimley had the impression that Connolly printed “Labour, Nationality and Religion” at his own expense as there were thousands (?) of copies lying in the rooms. Mrs Grimley was at first very shocked at them but got over it. Grimley himself says the first edition included the statement that there were simultaneously three Popes in Rome, but this was cut out of the Transport Union edition. It would be in 1912 that Winifred Carney replaced Mrs Johnson. Her husband, George MacBride, was at Whitehall Crescent, Shore Road, Belfast and still alive.
Connolly seized every opportunity to conduct propaganda. He spoke for the North Belfast Branch of the ILP and at the Custom House steps whenever possible – even keeping up the meetings in 1914 when it was not “possible”. In the War period when a meeting was broken up on a Monday night he came himself the next Monday, but there was no disturbance. He was entirely fearless. At the same time he had no talk for men, and would easily “get into a huff”. On one occasion he refused to speak in Dublin because Jim Larkin had been blowing his trumpet over something, despite the fact that one man he had known in America had come all the way from Cork to hear him (Check out Lynch). No entreaties would move him. The occasion of the quelling of a riot above referred to arose from a manifesto issued to the electors of Reading by Connolly and Larkin when Sir Rufus Isaacs stood as a Liberal. It was published in George Lansbury’s Daily Herald. The report of this aroused Home Rule elements against the Belfast Socialists. But Connolly himself had held great meetings in favour of Home Rule as a step forward. He was very angry when Devlin and Redmond agreed to the exclusion of Ulster [ie. from the Liberal Government’s Home Rule Bill in 1914]. He faced the crowd fearlessly at all times. He held anti-war meetings outside the Belfast Telegraph office. During the Dock Ward election when a cordon of police was put across the path of his march from one Catholic district to another, he cried, “March on boys” and broke thorough the police cordon successfully. During this election most of his work was done in the Catholic areas. He was very interested in women’s suffrage and gave lectures on the women in the Land League. He pronounced the word “woman” as “weeman”.
If an eviction took place he would go to the place and address the crowd. He made great use of street marches, the Belfast Trades Council looking very askance at his Women Textile Workers Union’s activities. The Union would never have survived but for the social club at which he refused to allow English dancing and taught Irish dancing. He took an interest in the Irish language. McDevitt told me that he asked him to send him some Gaelic books into Mountjoy. When O’Brien saw them he said, “Hm! Crazy-Ulster!” It was while he was organiser of the ITGWU that he went to Liverpool during the dock strike. He did not think he stayed there long. On one occasion he refused to speak with Sexton [British trade union leader and Labour politician].
During the strike a number of children were transferred to Belfast. A priest called on Grimley and complained they were being sent to Protestant homes. Grimley said he would not call him a liar but he would say he was not telling the truth. All but two were in Catholic homes, the Catholics being mostly the only people who would take them. The two exceptions were with Dr Campbell, Secretary of the Trades Council, who was a member of the SPI or ILPI as it was later renamed. William Walker was an ILP man but he resisted the formation of an Ireland-as-a-unit political party. This was the practical policy issue involved in the controversy [ie. between Connolly and Walker over Labour policy on national independence].
It was Connolly who gave Cathal O’Shannon a job when he was victimised. He had been working in a shipping office. Connolly had him doing the accounts. Connolly transferred his SPI activities to Belfast in January 1911 as he held a meeting in the Tara Hall in the wintertime. In Dublin Cousins, Carpenter and Dora Montefiore were in his party. In Belfast Sam Hazlett, Dr Campbell, Whately (a printer), Joe Hayes, Joe Mitchell and Sandy Hanna. These put their hands in their pockets to keep Connolly going. It was Carpenter who was responsible for his becoming organiser for the spell in Dublin. Later he was prevailed on to allow some English dancing as the tickets did not go too well. He lived at Glenalina Terrace, Falls Road.
At the time of the O’Donovan Rossa funeral Connolly addressed the students in Rutland Square. A student said he had brought a new philosophy into the University. Connolly replied the only thing he ever took into a University was a bag of cement – on his back.
Grimley recalled the strike at the British Aluminium Company’s works at Larne Harbour, at the beginning of 1912. They were out three weeks and all of them Orangemen. Connolly returned to Belfast and raised sufficient sums to enable them to carry on. But though these men never attended Church except on the Sunday before or the Sunday after the 12th of July[commemoration day of the Battle of the Boyne by Unionists and Orangemen], when Connolly got back to Larne he found that a Protestant clergyman had visited them and got them to a service where he preached a sermon to the effect that the ITGWU was Fenian. They had returned to work. Connolly was in Larne three weeks but kept in touch with the Belfast office.
Connolly’s address in Dublin was 76 Charlemont Street.
I must keep the amusing story to the end. Liam Travers, who nearly broke up my meeting in Glasgow, called on McDevitt and presented him with a photograph of himself with his magnificent Karl Marx beard. He fixed it to the wall personally and was very proud of its appearance. He then went to the house of Professor O’Neill. Next time he came he complained that Mrs McDevitt had taken down the photograph and had substituted Kipling’s “If”, which was “Imperialist”. McDevitt would not yield and Travers has not written since. Last week O’Neill told McDevitt that he had to throw Travers out of the house for becoming insulting because of his “bourgeois ideas”.
September 21 Friday: Today I did little but work on my notes, which would have got entirely out of hand if I had not tackled them. Three quarters of my trouble is the fact that the British Museum Irish and provincial papers are not available. This means that I have to traipse round the country for local files. The National Library has not got the Belfast Telegraph. That means a trip to Belfast, unless it is in Glasgow. Then there is Dundee. Perhaps that will be in Glasgow or Edinburgh, but I doubt it. The time and expense, for which we have the British Government’s educational parsimony to thank, is lost quite unnecessarily as everything is in the vaults at Hendon [where the British Library’s newspaper collection was then kept]. Since I’m supposed to be having a holiday I do not relish the thought of a journey to Dundee on top of the Edinburgh trip though I may have to do it if I am to get the book completed within a reasonable time. However, I booked a 2nd class passage and berth to Glasgow for tomorrow night.
September 25 Tuesday (Dublin, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth, Kingussie): I spent most of Saturday preparing to take my departure from Dublin, where I had been quite successful for so short a time. Roy spent the afternoon gardening and cursing the two kittens his cat has produced, which were continually climbing the apple tree and jumping down on his beans. There is a fat black one with white markings and a tabby somewhat leaner. They have grown even while I was there, and more interestingly showed marked differentiation of character. The black one will eat anything, is fat and trusting. But the tabby was a most nervous kitten. The two would play interminably with each other, the mother watching with slit eyes but not moving. There was a gradual evolution in their play. If you found them too distracting and separated them by lifting the little fat black one, “Pudding”, as Mairín called him, would let you take him anywhere. So would the leaner one but his nervousness was striking. You could feel his little heart thumping wildly and he would scamper off the moment you put him down. Yesterday the tabby hissed at Mairín for the first time. “I gave him a kick in the backside,” said she. Now today the little black one started squealing and we saw the two of them on each side of the door, the black one with its little head on one side looking so lost and pitiful, the other looking a little unsure of what had happened. A repetition of Mairin’s medicine sent it flying for cover. “We must give that one away as soon as possible,” said Roy. However, a few minutes later they were playing again merrily.
I secured a berth on the steerage of the “Irish Coast” and left for Glasgow at half-six. The night was mild but cloudy with a hint of rain in the air. It was possible to see the coast of Howth and as far as Lambay. Then darkness came down. The eating arrangements on the second class are most unsatisfactory. A voice over the loudspeaker announced that the last supper would be served in ten minutes time. I went in immediately only to see the young waiters whisking the cloths off the table in front of the newcomers’ noses. Nothing could prevail upon them to serve another supper. Most people accepted with a grumble. I did not. I saw the Purser and was duly escorted into the First Class, where apparently a half hour’s extra grace is given.
When I reached Glasgow it was still mild but the heavens opened. I did not cycle to Edinburgh therefore. But as the train went through Polmont we ran into dry weather. I met Peter Forrest with his old mother. He told me he has suffered from his “nerves” since a breakdown due to excessive political work a few years ago. He is unemployed now. He is fifty four, but I would not say he looks it, for all that. We went to see old Mr Swan (I think the first name is Charles), who may be the man who signed Connolly’s nomination papers in 1894. He is 89 but thinks he was younger than Connolly, though that could not have been so. He does not remember the details of the election as he was living in South Edinburgh at the time. He was a master gardener, and possibly it was necessary to find a ratepayer for the nomination. Unfortunately, he having been extremely ill last year, his memory is failing. He recalls the cobbler’s shop in Buccleuch St. and thinks that the party assisted Connolly to set it up. But he was not on the Committee which looked after it. Questioned, he could not guarantee that there was any special Committee for that purpose. He recalled Connolly speaking at an open-air meeting, possibly in 1893, at Spital St. near the Usher Hall. “I’m a bit of a Socialist myself,” called out a heckler. “I think you’re a bit of a liar,” said Connolly. Meetings used to he held at many street corners.
When Connolly went to the USA he was presented with an enlarged photograph of himself, which according to his belief is the one used on the pamphlets. This was a substantial thing and apparently a number of copies were made and printed as was the custom in those days. While in Edinburgh he lodged with a man called Coburn. A few years later when Coburn read of Connolly’s final break with De Leon (about the time of the publication of The Harp) he took a knife and slashed the photograph down the middle! [Daniel De Leon, American socialist leader]. Connolly’s book“Labour in Irish History” was read by almost every member of the SLP in Edinburgh. The Socialistwas printed in “Middle Arthur Place”. They could not get a printer in Edinburgh to undertake the job. Finally Gerald Crawford got them a press. Swan did not remember Connolly’s father. He thought his views were not inclined towards socialism. He recalled a meeting at which a heckler had shouted, “You didn’t treat your old father right”, which he believed was intended to refer to his abandonment of religion and the Church. The “United Irishman” [the contemporary Sinn Fein paper] was read by many people in Edinburgh, said Swan. The only other recollection he had was of a meeting at the Meadows Bandstand in 1913 which was officially called by the Trades Council, at which Connolly spoke. At that time members of the Trades Council went round the barrel organs collecting money for the Dublin strikers. He thought Mrs Despard [British-born suffragist and radical Sinn Fein activist]spoke there too. His son, an architect, said he recalled being present as a very young lad.
I then took a walk to the meadows. The bandstand is in the West meadows, but near the centre. Swan’s daughter mentioned “the devil’s half acre”, though Forrest had never heard the term. We decided it must be on the extreme east corner of the meadows, and not in the centre where occasionally an open-air meeting is held by the Scotch nationalists even today. Evidently the bandstand, now but a few stumps of old iron in a foundation, was used only for important meetings. I went to the Mound, but there was no political meeting there. A few groups were dispersing after listening to a couple of cranks. Then I caught a train to Dundee and stayed at the Youth Hostel. I had intended to go and see Connolly’s nephew, and at my request, Cathal, always reliable in everything, wired me the address. But it showed signs of drizzling and Forrest assured me that James was in the army too long and knew nothing.
Next morning I went to Dundee Library. I wanted to find out what strike James was referring to in his letter to Lily in April 1890 – if indeed it materialised – and also whether the date 1888 altered to 1889 in the earlier letter is one or the other. I found so many strikes in 1890 that it would be difficult to say one thing or another, but the scavengers were out for shorter hours, or possibly the Trades Council had not yet agreed to come in on the eight-hour-day demonstration, thus changing the May Day to the Sunday. No definite conclusion is possible just yet. I made some notes of the events and can pursue the matter further. The other question was easier. The letter refers to a murder “across the road” in St Mary’s St., Lochie Road. When I told the Assistant I was looking for a murder in April 1888 or 1889 she said, “You’ll never manage to trace the one you want. There were murders every day at that time.” I doubted this but it seems possible I had two to choose from in 1889. One was in St Mary’s St: an Irishman named Redmond of 24 St Mary’s St. stabbed his wife with a knife and was later found insane and unfit to plead. The voters list showed a Boyle at No.9; Connolly’s landlady was named O’Boyle in his letter, but that will mean little enough. I saw the party organiser[ie. of the CPGB], who provided me with lunch and then posted away my heavy jacket and long trousers to Cathal as my research is finished for a while and I decided to cycle to Perth and begin the holiday. I did however ride up Lochie Road to St. Mary’s St. I found No. 9 had been demolished – before the war, as there were air-raid shelters there. But No.13, only a few yards away, is exactly opposite No.24, so we need not doubt that we have found the correct year and place.
I had to ride a good part of the way in the dark which was unpleasant, since the motor cars have never the good manners to dim their lights. But I reached Perth by 8.3O pm. and stayed at the Youth Hostel. Next morning was drizzle and damp. I cycled up the North Road, but after I had passed Dunkeld the sky cleared, but for the very top of the Grampians and one of the best days of this dismal year came. I didn’t hurry but took occasion to stroll in woods near Killiecrankie and was rewarded by seeing the most magnificent red squirrel you could wish for – and at the other extreme, Phallus, the stinkhorn [a mushroom-like fungus], which I never found growing before. The wind was blowing from the south-east and hurried me up the pass of Drumochter and down to Kingussie. I had had in mind the possibility of going on to Inverness but the last forty miles is very heavy. There is no more reason for me to go to one place than another, so I decided to stay where I was and possibly see the highland moors tomorrow.
September 26 Wednesday (Kintail, Kishorn): No day could have dawned better, so rather than delay looking at museums I set out Westwards. I had travelled this road before, if I remember aright in 1944. I recall travelling from King’s Cross to Edinburgh in a guard’s van, because the train was crowded with refugees from the “Little Blitz” of that year. It would be August. I made for Fothergill and so on to Fort William. But I had forgotten how bleak the road to Spean Bridge is. Perhaps the six weeks made all the difference, or there may have been deforestation. A shower came on which cleared off, and signs being fair, I pushed on to Tomdoun but there let myself in for a cold wet evening after dark. This road is of course no longer deserted at night as it was, but I was glad enough to reach Ratagan and see the same kilted warden I had seen years ago, still presiding over the Youth Hostel. Scotland is alive with Australians these years, and they spend every evening writing copious notes of what they have seen, comparing photographs, reading maps, talking the most superficial tourist cant – as if countries only existed to be looked at by travellers passing through them! – and of course sending picture postcards home. The warden did not encourage this last practice, as a shrewd Scot. “They only throw them away,” he said.
September 27 Thursday: I rode on and reached Kishorn, after another day which promised well at the start and then degenerated sadly. Since I was there last one woman has stopped keeping cows, though she said, “I still sell eggs.” I rang up Phyllis [his sister in Birkenhead] in the evening as it is my forty-third birthday and she would want to send me a wire if she knew where I was. Jessie Gordon, the warden, was still there. She had just been to Achnashellach with the intention of staying the night. But the leaking roof, inefficient stove, which kept the large draughty crude hut scarcely above freezing point, proved too much for her and she returned after some hard words with the warden, bringing one of the men with her. Let’s grant she has no dislike for men.
September 28 Friday (Inveralligan): I cycled to Inveralligan. Here the same process of external decay is visible once more. The woman from whom I used to get milk and crowdie cheese is keeping cows no more. There is no crowdie in Inveralligan. The warden, MacDonald, who was crippled with rheumatism last year, however, is completely cured, and walking about like a new man. He was going into hospital the day I left a year ago, and I congratulated him on the success of the treatment. “The treatment was good, no doubt,” he said, “but it didn’t cure me.” I asked then how he came to be perfectly well again. ” I went to an osteopath,” said he “and he put me right in two seconds like this.” He made a motion of setting bones in the back. There is no doubt of the cure, or of his capacity to ascribe it to the right cause. He is an extremely intelligent man, postmaster, shopkeeper, ferryman and general advisor to the village, as well as warden of the Youth Hostel. Without MacDonald there would be no Inveralligan. Not, of course, that there will anyway. Day by day these communities are dying, ceasing even to fulfil the function of provision producers for a generation of tourists reared in the cities, far removed from islands and naked mountains.
October 1 Monday (Kishorn, Kintail): I returned to Kishorn without stopping at Inveralligan. Jessie Gordon opened the hostel specially for me. She told me about Achnashellach. The warden there is a friend of one of the leaders of the SYHA [Scottish Youth Hostel Association] with whom he went to some public school. Having apparently encountered social or economic difficulties of some kind, he was provided with this job for the summer. The old military gentleman who was there last year has had to give up. The new man has brought with him the black coat and striped trousers of proper gentility and is to be found most of the time drinking with the local quality, that is when he is not in the hostel drinking by himself! Drink seems to be a widespread solace in these parts. Today the proprietor of the Lochcarron Hotel, said Jessie, was taken in an ambulance to Inverness suffering from the effects of two bottles of gin per day since he came out of the same hospital after the same disease three months or more ago. The other solace is religion. In a dying community what else? As for the Ratagan warden his name is Carpaldi, and he is Glasgow born but Italian for such purposes as military service [still in force in Britain in 1956]. He has been there for twenty years with a brief intermission. Each winter he tours the continent. His skill as a warden is only matched by his ability to make ends meet and perhaps even tie a knot in them. A “very cute man,” says Jessie, who wonders at the fact that he is keeping Ratagan open till the end of November. “Does he do well?” she asks.
October 2 Tuesday: After the appalling wet, wind and cold of yesterday – to call the continuous highland gale wind is to pay it a compliment – today dawned bright and clear. But by midday it had returned to normal. It was tippling merrily by the time I reached Ratagan. I took occasion to observe Carpaldi more closely. I noted the number of forestry workers who came in to buy cigarettes from his store. When I learned he was receiving no wages for staying open during October I balanced this against his retail trade. There was an Australian there who was as boring as only an overseas tourist can be – wanting to see everything she had ever heard of and with not a grain of understanding of what she was doing.
October 3 Wednesday: Today there was no attempt to wrap a cold wet day up in matutinal gladrags! I reached Glen Nevis wet through and very cold. The snow had covered the mountains in the night and was down to a thousand feet on some of the slopes. Everybody but myself and two Glasgow boys was German or Australian. There were however two English cyclists who kept very much to themselves and talked about gears and chains and trials and how often you drink glucose when you are riding. The Scotch boys talked about hostels. The Germans were students and laughed at nothing and of course said nothing to laugh at. The Australians talked about all the countries they had been in and made the most astonishingly superficial comparisons which are not worth recording.
October 4 Thursday (Fort William, Ardgarten): The snow had crept lower and it was colder than ever. I took the train from Fort William to Tarbert and cycled to Ardgartan, near Arrochar. There was snow in Co.Argyll also, but at about 2000 feet and I felt my haste to the South justified.
October 5 Friday (Glasgow, Dublin): Today was brilliantly sunny, with no showers. I cycled to Glasgow and consider it worthy of note, on the now it is day principle, that it was warm at Helensburgh. But I gave Scotland no more chances and was aboard the Dublin boat by 4.30 pm., steaming down the Clyde by 5.30 and having a good dinner by 6.30 pm. However superficial Australian hitch-hikers may be, they could never plumb the depths of utter stupidity of middle-class Americans. Somebody mentioned emigration from Ireland. The American at the table told how one Irish girl came to San Francisco and one by one the rest of the family came. She thought that showed such family affection and was so “marvellous”. The idea that people might expect a country to support its people, which we explained, was a notion so foreign to her that she changed the subject. The last I saw of her was about 9.30, demanding extra blankets from the stewards – so she was not devoid of some sense for creature comforts, so we must not be too hard on her. It was very cold again.
October 6 Saturday (Dublin, Thurles): I had breakfast with Roy and Mairín and then took the train to Thurles and cycled to Ballydavid wood. Throughout, the weather had lost the sharp edge that was there in Scotland, and it was dry.
October 7 Sunday (Killarney): I would have preferred to have used the train, but since there was not one, I cycled to Killarney. At the hostel this time it was all New Zealanders. They seem to be much the same as the Australians though their English has less of the west and more Lancashire in it. I imagine many Lancashire people emigrated there during the slump.
October 8 Monday (Sneem): My reason for coming to Kerry was to try and trace evidence of Connolly’s visit there in 1898. I guessed he may have visited Sneem because in 1946 when I stayed at Hurley-O’Connors, the wife told many stories of her mother who was a great old republican in her time. Liam O’Flaherty [leftwing Irish writer] used to stay at the house. However, before going there it occurred to me to call on Michael Fleming and see if he knew anybody in the neighbourhood of Caherciveen. After some time I located the chemist’s shop in Heron Street. I was surprised to find it locked, but still more surprised to see a notice on the door to the effect that owing to the death of Mr Fleming the shop was closed and the funeral was at 1 pm. I felt inclined to go, but blazer and shorts are not very seemly attire for such occasions, so I went on to Kenmare and Sneem. Later I learned that Fleming died a few days ago in London and the body was brought home for burial by way of Cork.
When a trip starts wrong it often continues so! At Sneem, which I reached at dusk, I got off expectantly at Hurley-O’Connors only to find that they no longer provided bed and breakfast. So I stayed at the “Green House” with Mrs. Fitzgerald and must admit to being extremely comfortable. This same “Green House” Mrs. Hurley-O’Connor used to inveigh against. The Cyclists Touring Club is very strong in Kerry, and has a “consul” at Cork to direct the parties of tourists. Hudson, a big Lancashire man who used to frequent Connolly Association functions dressed in tweed “knickerbockers”, was “consul” in 1946 and used to send all his parties to the “Green House”; so Mrs Hurley-O’Connor’s enemy Hudson may be “consul” no longer, though he still lives in Cork. “He’s nothing to me,” said Mrs. Fitzgerald.
October 9 Tuesday (Releagh,Co Kerry): I took the trouble to ring up Caherdaniel Post Office before going to Derrynane [Home of the 19th century Irish leader Daniel O’Connell]. They told me that the house was open. Accordingly I secured a lift on Peter O’Sullivan’s mail van. This cheery individual plies between Killarney and Ballinskelligs every day, giving lifts every part of his twelve-hour day. Among those who shared the convenience was an old lady of 100. I did not get her name. While I was waiting Jack Sullivan, formerly in London, and Danny Sullivan’s first cousin, who had recognised me while looking through the window of his butcher’s shop, came out to exchange greetings. But Derrynane was closed after all and the sour old creature who was in charge of it refused to make any exception. My third line proving fruitless, I decided to abandon the attempt and have a holiday. The stars were not propitious, so I went to Releagh.
October 12 Friday: I remained at Releagh three days. On Wednesday I walked up the Sneem River valley to just under the Eagle’s Nest. Yesterday I cycled to Kenmare, along the coast a few miles, and back over a rough mountain road. Then today I cycled through Barraduff and Mallow to “Mountain Lodge”, near Burncourt, Co. Tipperary. After ten years away from Kerry what strikes me is the distribution of “Calor Gas” everywhere and the improvement in the roads. I am less surprised at the frequent cars and tractors on seemingly small farms, as I have seen the same development elsewhere. The weather of the past few days, apart from cold evenings, has been worthy of May.
October 13 Saturday (Waterford): I cycled from Burncourt to Waterford on a brilliantly sunny day – till just as I was passing through Mooncoin, down came the fog and there followed a damp, depressing evening. I spent the earlier part of it with Peter O’Connor [Irish Workers League member and former International Brigader]. Seamus Behan and another Dublin boy are staying with him at the moment. Seamus is the younger brother of Brendan [the playwright] who is “profiled” in the Irish Times today, and Brian who is over here [that is, in London, where he was active in leftwing circles]. Neither Peter nor I have much time for the other brother, Dominic, who has the pretensions without the abilities of the others. Romping round the room was little Emmet [Emmet O’Connor, later a well-known academic historian], not yet two years old and the apple of Peter’s eye. Peter himself I found somewhat depressed. There was never so low an ebb in Labour matters, he said. When he joined the Workers Revolutionary Groups in 1932, Sean Murray [Irish communist and left republican leader] came to address an open-air meeting on the Mall. That would be unthinkable today. He would be stoned. Why? Any Labour speaker would be called a Communist. Why stone a Communist? Because he was out to destroy religion. All this, says Peter, has grown up throughout the Cold War period. At the same time emigration was steadily removing the most energetic people; now whole families were leaving for England. Most of the local industry employed only female and young labour. The building trade was in a state of severe depression. Men who had built their houses with Government aid were being forced to break up their homes and get on the boat. And some of the best members of the Labour movement were included in the efflux. There was now a widespread lack of faith in the future of Ireland. But the people were paralysed with pessimism, not stimulated to act. The narcotic of religion had destroyed the impulse of self-preservation.
Peter himself was suffering in his insurance business from the emigration of his clients. Bridget’s shop was but a shadow of its former self. Apparently Bridget [Peter O’Connor’s wife] ran for the City Council and the political campaign against her was joined with an economic boycott! She is anxious to move to Dublin and open an apartment house or small hotel. They are anxious to save young Emmet the mental conflict of breaking free from religion. Even now, says Peter, he cannot really believe there is not a God. But his God is on the side of the working man. If they lived in some place where they were not known, they would send the boy to a non-denominational school. If this was done in Waterford there would be an outcry.
He was critical of Nolan [Sean Nolan, manager of the Irish Workers League bookshop in Pearse Street, Dublin] and O’Riordan [Michael O’Riordan, Irish Workers League general secretary] for not visiting Waterford. But Letchford [Norman Letchford, Irish Workers League activist in Cork] had come from Cork once and would have come again, but mistaking the day when the Rosslare train ran, he had to hitch-hike and could not get beyond Dungarvan. He had taken up my enquiry about Lawrence C. Stronge, whose name I found in the “Labour Leader” and whom I suspected might be Connolly’s supporter in Waterford, with eighty year old Tom Dunne. He had replied in a letter which explained that Stronge was a leading solicitor, who had some Labour sympathies but was not reputedly a socialist. He defended the strikers who were arrested in the bacon strike of 1897 or 1898. In 1899 he became Mayor of Waterford. Dunne was present at Keir Hardie’ meeting in 1894, at the age of 16, and remembers Cashin and Wyse who were later elected to the City Council. He has no recollection of a branch of the ISRP [Irish Socialist Republican Party, founded by Connolly in 1896] or of the ILP [Independent Labour Party] but there was a Trades and Labour Union which performed some of the functions of a Trade Council.
Peter wanted me to stay till Tuesday, but since I have been away so long I caught the 8.30 pm. train to Rosslare and boarded the Fishguard boat.
October 14 Sunday (London): I left Fishguard at 6.45 am. and reached Paddington at 3 pm., as long and boring a journey as could be imagined. Then I went to Hyde Park. Lyons was speaking [Eamon Lyons, activist in the Connolly Association, which held regular Sunday afternoon public meetings at Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner] and since the day was so fine everybody seemed to be there, Kearney, Charlie Gallagher, Declan Mulholland, Sean O’Dowling, Jane Tate, Cathal and Helga and, though I missed him, Gerry Curran, who has made quite a good job of the October issue [ie. of the Irish Democrat]. Callaghan the demagogue was there for the first time for some months. He used to hold large meetings under some trees; then the “marathon speaker” Sheehy joined him and he later shared in that gentleman’s disgrace, though they had quarrelled in the meantime. Since Callaghan was taken up for some minor infraction of Hyde Park speakers’ rules he had not appeared till today.
October 15 Monday: I learned today that Muriel MacSwiney [widow of Cork Lord Mayor Terence McSwiney, who was leftist and anti-Catholic in her views] is very perturbed at our not attacking the Catholic Church in the Irish Democrat. The last straw was our obituary of Cardinal Griffin and the fact that we found a good word to say for him. She was put out when I would not sponsor her visit to Manchester to “tell the Irish the truth”. Pat Clancy is just as bad and ascribes her hatred of the Catholic Church to the kidnapping of her daughter by Mary McSwiney [sister of Terence MacSwiney]. Elsie O’Dowling is also as bad but “doesn’t know much about it” and so she goes on. May Keating, Justin’s mother, recently met the kidnapped daughter married to Cathal Brugha’s useless son Liam [properly Rory Brugha] and finally arranged a meeting at which some kind of reconciliation took place. The daughter told her the “kidnapping” was not a move that was entirely without merit [This refers to the incident in which Muriel McSwiney’s daughter left her leftwing and anti-Catholic mother in Germany with the help of emissaries from her aunt Mary MacSwiney and went to live in Ireland]. Yet Muriel is a charming old thing, all the same!
October 16 Tuesday: Today Pat Bond, or Pat Bán as Cathal first mistakenly and then playfully dubbed him, joined with Kearney to move the Connolly Association effects from Rosoman St. to an office in Victoria, which is an adjunct to one being shortly vacated by the Union of Democratic Control. For my own part I had not the heart to go and see the destruction which was wreaked by the child hooligans of Clerkenwell, who wrecked the place while I was away. I let them carry out their plan and if they resent getting no help, I can’t help it. I spent the evening with Cathal and Helga [MacLiam; Helga MacLiam, née Böhmer, was German. Desmond Greaves had been best man at their wedding in London the year before. Cathal MacLiam was now returning to Dublin, conscription papers having been served on him in London]. She is going to live with Oona Cregan while Cathal looks for a job in Dublin. Half the packing is done and some of the trunks will remain in Cathal’s room at my place till Helga goes over. She probably has better opportunities than he but must give a month’s notice and also visit her mother back in Germany who is getting old and wants to meet her husband. Cathal of course is reaping the reward for not concentrating on his studies, having this dilemma so sharply before him, but what is the use of saying anything! Gerry Curran called in and left me £l that Cal O’Herlihy [Cork university student who had joined the Connolly Association while on a working student summer in London that year] owed me and left with him. He was using my room while I was away and wrote to me a few days ago from Ballingeary where he had a few days holiday before resuming his studies at University College Cork.
Last night Neil Gould was on the war path at the North London Branch [of the Connolly Association]. His history is incredible, except on the basis that nothing that is silly enough to be thought of is too silly to be done. An elder son of the aristocratic House of Verschoyle in Dunkineely, Donegal, and sent to Oxford and other high class establishments, he became a Communist in Dublin in the thirties and was sent to the “Lenin School” in Moscow. There he proved unsuccessful as a student, though why I don’t know, and was sent home. He seemed to have embraced Communism as a religion rather than a practical political platform and in due time fanaticism became monomania. When his surviving parent died he refused his inheritance, but to make matters worse refused to sign any documents and thus deprived his brothers and sister of theirs. They considered having him certified insane but hesitated to take the extreme step. His wild exploits as a propagandist for the peculiarly inflexible brand of leftism he had evolved would fill a book. He lived in the slums to be “near the workers”, wore old clothes, trousers tied with string at the loose – Heaven knows what folly. But at the same time he exacted his tribute of admiration from those he had elected to join and everybody admired what he had “given up”. When the Irish Workers League was started I suggested to Denis Walshe that they try to persuade Gould to give them the money. The meeting took place at Roy’s [ie. Roy Johnston’s] rooms in Trinity College. Walshe was sent out to ask me specially not to come into the meeting as my presence might deter Gould from handing over the money, though I had never met him in my life. So what precise arrangements were come to I do not know. It was stated that he refused to give it to the IWL but would give it to trustees provided they included Sean Murray. With the money they bought the Pembroke Road premises, but six months later Gould had followed some canard with a stirring manifesto, or defied the Committee on some other issue, and was expelled from the League. He was instrumental in starting a peace committee and was in the thick of the forays when Gardai had to fire shots to protect the signature-collectors from an infuriated mob. About a year ago he came to England and started producing manifestoes here. I published a letter of his with a sharp rejoinder. He produced a sixteen-page “critique” of my pamphlet [ie. Greaves’s pamphlet on Partition]. Today through the post arrived his “Vindication of Joseph Stalin”, which argues his thesis that present trends in Russia and the socialist countries of Eastern Europe constitute a “counter-revolution that is sweeping Europe”. It was duplicated and bore the imprint of “Proletarian Publications, London and Dublin”. Last night he indignantly attacked Curran for having no policy and secured the passing of a resolution to the effect that when they return to Ireland they will all support the “workers’ party”. This was passed and voted for by people who were some of them never IN Ireland! What the “Workers Party” may be, is also confusing. I suppose it will come to me in due course and I will have to provide reasons for non-publication.
October 18 Thursday: Cathal came in to lunch for the last time before he returns to Ireland. I bought a bottle of Graves to celebrate the occasion. At the meeting tonight [ie. the West London Connolly Association branch meeting] Charlie Gallagher as Chairman wished him and Helga success. But, thoughtless creature that he is, he did not respond, and left poor Charlie slip deeper into embarrassment. It would not occur to him that he should wish the Chairman the same in return! However, it was of small moment. He is extremely popular. Rev. Amphlett-Michelwright was there, the ex-Unitarian who turned Anglo-Catholic, identified himself with Labour and was refused a living. A great antiquarian, he started to work on the preservation of ancient churches and was thence led to discover the income the diocese of London was deriving from the sale of redundant churches. He suspected irregularities, found them and “broke” his discovery in Reynolds News. Now he has Marcus Lipton [Labour MP for Brixton] and other MPs trying to get material for questions from him. The “Freethinker” has accused the Bishop of London of gross mismanagement and a marked registered copy will be delivered as a challenge to him tomorrow. All this unchristian-like political behaviour Amphlett-Micklewright revels in like the true man of the world he in reality is! Tonight he was minus his crimson waistcoat but plus a beard – of indolence I imagine rather than style – and we listened to a young man from the Kensington Labour Party pose as a “left” and defend colonialism, differential rents and the treatment of communists as enemies of Britain. He probably wants to be an MP and certainly if he got on a soap box and shouted out his peroration tonight he would, as the General said, “get a crowd around him” [ In the 1940s General Hubert Gough asked Greaves over lunch whether, if he read from a soapbox an anti-Partition manifesto which the General had written, he would not “get a crowd around him”].
October 19 Friday: I went to Luton today, originally with the intention of getting the story of the victimisation of Sullivan on the Wimpey’s site, but found on arrival that the strike was over, and the general agreement, which seemed somewhat unfair, was that O’Sullivan should go to Newport Pagnall. That place incidentally is associated with an incident of my early youth which I still remember. CEG [Charles Edward Greaves, Desmond Greaves’s father] joined the army in 1916, before Phyllis was born, because if he had not volunteered he would lose his “bonus”. He worked in the Post Office. I remember him coming home on leave covered with shamrocks, relating to the 16th Division which was supposed to be Irish. He was popular because as a teetotaller he handed his rum ration over. Before going to France he was stationed at Newport Pagnall and AEG [Amy Elisabeth née Taylor, Desmond Greaves’s mother] went there to stay a few days, taking myself. I can still recall her cry of horror when I darted into the road, as two-year-olds will, under the legs of a pony whose driver brought beast and trap to a sudden and skilful stop, thus preserving yours truly for what he has been up to since. It is the last time I remember my mother as a young woman. She would then be about 31, but the war had its effect on everybody. But so much for Newport Pagnall.
I met Arthur Utting who told me that Chris Lambert and Pat O’Neill were working as electricians’ mates on the Vauxhall job where Cassidy is the Federation steward. O’Neill is in some kind of internal party dispute with some other man [They were members of both the CPGB and Connolly Association and had formerly been in the Irish Workers League in Dublin], but Utting believes the issue is mainly personal. More interesting is that Fred Copeman is a shop steward there for the CEU [Construction Engineering Union]. I remember his efforts to bulldoze himself on to the Central Committee [ie. of the CPGB] at the Birmingham Congress. He had a good if dictatorial record in Spain, but since then dabbled in “Moral Rearmament” and other unsavoury movements. When Dave Campbell blotted his copybook by muddling the accounts of the Birmingham area, Copeman, on the CEU Executive, assisted the Catholic activist Connell to make the most of it, and they dislodged Campbell.
After making some arrangements with Utting I cycled to St. Albans and stayed overnight with Alan Morton [Professor of Botany and CDG’s oldest friend]. They always kill the fatted calf when I arrive. John, my godchild, is as tall as Freda [Mrs Morton], has lost much of his nervousness and gained self-confidence of a gently exhibitionist kind. David, a sturdy, stubborn, truculent little boy, is more stable but I think has less physical stamina, though I may be wrong. The wee girl, Alisoun, is still touchy from the after-effects of scarlatina. They have had a year of illness and Alan is only recovering from influenza. Alan told me a thing I didn’t know about EP Thompson, publisher of the “Reasoner” [Magazine established by CPGB members critical of the then party line and leadership, especially on the Stalin revelations and Soviet policy on Hungary. He is the brother of Frank Thompson, who died in Yugoslavia, became a hero, and then after the Cominform was started was dishonoured as a villain and is now, I suppose, rehabilitated again. It is probably this which makes him so obdurate about his “Reasoner”, though how any political party could encourage the production of unofficial papers dealing with its affairs is difficult to see. Still, it shows the way past errors return to plague us. If only we knew how to avoid them! Ah!
I asked Alan how he felt about his book “Soviet Genetics”. He said he was fortunately able to say he had not to shift his ground. He had scrupulously held to facts and the facts were still facts. The Morgan-Mendelist position had recently approximated to the Michurinist. He also had the impression that the Michurinists had moved. “Crossing-Over” had been discovered in bacteria which possess no chromosomes. Vegetative hybrids seemed to be confirmed by some Japanese work. But he doubted very much the interspecific transmutation of wheat into rye and suspected a “concealed hybrid”. I asked what kind of a man was Lysenko [Soviet agronomist who advocated the inheritance of acquired characteristics in plants]. He had not met him. Lysenko was ill when Alan was in the USSR and their proposed meeting did not materialise. Freda thought him “slightly touched” from looking at his photograph. Alan thought him an enthusiast who thought all his ideas must be good and was caught up in the Stalin cult because it happened to coincide with his mode of thought rather than his self-interest. He thought political activity in this country at its lowest ebb in the whole of his recollection.
On the general field of scientific progress he thought the discovery that de-oxyribonucleic acid was a spiral structure which it was believed could reproduce itself of no great consequence. I was surprised at this, because I thought it provided an important new principle, namely the existence of a structure which was manifestly self-regenerative. He thought the particular amino-acid of no great physiological importance, but I replied that surely the existence of any self-regenerative chemical structure was of the greatest importance. Maybe it was only one stage from a catalyst which increases in quantity as a reaction proceeds, but it was a stage distinct, and an important one. So we left it there.
October 20 Saturday: I cycled into London again. In the evening I went to the Connolly Association social which Kearney the barber had organised in his typical slapdash way, but which was a success just the same. I was pleased that Danny Sullivan was there, and Michael Brennan. Tony Morrison and a young friend, Ambrose Collins, slightly lame, had arrived from Dublin [Irish Workers League members]. I thought Morrison heftier, more staid than when I saw him in Coventry. There was a little speech of appreciation of Cathal and Helga and this time Cathal could not avoid replying, and made quite an effective speech, his quite calm transparent sincerity producing a silence in the midst of the fumes of drink, that was very noticeable, and beyond all the powers of the MC [Master of ceremonies] vocal or otherwise. Pat Clancy was there with the Secretary of the King’s Cross AEU[Amalgamated Engineering Union], but having had a touch or a threat of influenza, he was more sociable to the whisky than the company. Among the visitors, May Malone, Desmond Logan and Albert French were there, all just as they always were, and after it was all over Gerard Curran came to my flat with Cathal and Helga for a cup of coffee [in Cockpit Chambers, Northington Street, Holborn]. Eamon Lyons was at a wedding – and presumably unable to come.
October 21 Sunday: I said a few words at Hyde Park in the afternoon, with Gerard Curran and Eamon Lyons, but my voice was not in good trim. The reception given by the audience was excellent. After having a similar reception while selling the paper with PJ Kearney in Kilburn. I called in to Alec Digges [former member of the International Brigade in Spain] but his wife told me he was in bed with a cold. This disappointed me as I had written to him asking if he would become Literary Editor [of the Irish Democrat] now that Cathal is away to Dublin. However, there was nothing to be done about it but return home and write him a letter. There was one advantage in this arrangement. I would not catch his cold.
October 22 Monday: Cathal has taken one of my trunks, mended it, and filled it full of his books and household effects. At last the Customs told him he could import everything without paying duty. He intended to go to Liverpool on Helga’s “scooter”, but now the miserable machine has broken down on him, so he is delayed. He brought in all his wineglasses, which are too fragile to transport.
October 23 Tuesday: I got on so well with the paper that I had five pages posted off by 9 pm. and have not spent the full day at it. The morning was broken into by shopping, and Cathal came again in the afternoon bringing me papers, pamphlets and wood. His machine will be mended in the morning. Manchester has agreed to postponing the conference till February and will, I think, come to London [for the Connolly Association’s annual conference]. Maurice Cornforth [of Lawrence and Wishart, the CPGB publishing house for which Greaves was writing his biography of Connolly] is asking when my book will be ready. And finally Alec Digges rang up and said he had received my letter and would become Literary Editor as requested. Add to this the splendour of the late October weather – and I went out and bought a half bottle of white claret, to drink with some pork I have marinated in yoghourt and crushed garlic. I must close, the rice will be done! And what’s more – I have solved the problem of how to include the story of Partree Brae in my new poem. A good day! Derry Curran, Gerry’s younger brother, called in. He is a Civil Engineer, aged about 26, but immature like so many ex-students in their 20s. He worked for a year in Dublin after leaving UCD and had considerable responsibility in a firm that went bankrupt. Engaged by a firm of consultants in London he found himself competing with men of larger and wider experience altogether and developed “nerves”. They are, of course, a “nervy” family. The next brother, a fiddler I think, the one with whom Gerry went youth hostelling last summer, developed “nerves” after he was dismissed from Radio Eireann [When the late Gerard Curran was shown this entry by the Editor in 2011 he pointed out that Greaves was mistaken here, that his brother had never worked for Radio Eireann but for the ESB and had left that to become a professional viola player with the Baroque Players, who performed in Europe and the USA]. He is now back at accountancy, his first profession. Derry has been somewhat summarily dismissed, but the AESD [the Engineering Draughtsmens Union] has persuaded them to let him resign. Now, would he take a job offered him with Finsbury Borough Council, or hold on hoping for something in the aircraft industry? He showed some signs of strain. I let him talk on. That was all that was needed. You cannot solve peoples’ problems, but listening to them helps.
October 24 Wednesday: In the evening Cathal appeared again, with fresh woe. The cost of repairing his “scooter” will be over £20 and it will not be ready till Friday or even Saturday. I invited him and Helga to come here on Friday, as they vacate their flat on Saturday, when Helga goes to stay with Oona Cregan. He was to have left his boxes there but the owner, who agreed at first, now objects. “It would be immoral to charge you a rent for leaving them in a cellar,” he said. Cathal did not at once grasp that if a rent was immoral a tip would be highly acceptable. Next day the mind had been changed. So Cathal is now sending his property by goods train. I hope it is not ruined in transit.
October 25 Thursday: “What’s the latest news?” asked 75 year old Frank Jackson [British communist veteran] when I went in to see him. I showed him the Evening News with the account of the fall of Gero in Hungary [Hungarian communist leader who supported the 1956 Russian intervention]. “We’ll get the truth when the smoke and stink has drifted away,” he commented. Then in response to a further remark of mine he said, “This all comes from that bloody gink Khruschoff’s handling of the Stalin business. Whatever you say about Joe, he didn’t allow this. You see, Joe will be rehabilitated! Just wait.”
At the meeting in Paddington in the evening Amphlett-Micklewright was there, but not alone. Another bearded old gentleman with silver topped cane and flowing cloak like a Balzac character was there, I presume a parson as well. Micklewright is still preaching in Paddington while the “Freethinker” publishes the attacks he has inspired on the Bishop of London. But he leaves next week when “the balloon will go up” and Sir Leslie Plummer will ask a question in the House. He is an enlarged edition of Letchford [ie. Norman Letchford in Cork]. It is amusing how character and mannerism reproduces itself in people. Dooley [Pat Dooley, former editor of the Irish Democrat]always reminded me of what I had heard of old Jim Larkin. JG Bennett [a business superior of Greaves’s when he worked in the chemical industry] often reminded me of RP Dutt [Rajani Palme Dutt, British communist theoretician]. Micklewright has also been busy pursuing Cahir Healy [Northern Ireland Nationalist Party MP]. He says the Fascists are quoting him and making him appear to be their expert on Ireland. So he rang them up pretending to be somebody else and now has all the files of “The European” [a Fascist journal: Sir Oswald Mosley was advocating European Union at this time]. Clancy was angry with him, not for this, but for a little thing. He is buying a twelve-roomed house but sits in the public house taking drinks off everybody but never buying one himself.
I went home with Paddy Clancy, who is usually one to take the gloomiest view. I was not surprised when he declared that events in Eastern Europe have “set the Communist movement back for years”. He thought basically the trouble was that “communism was imposed” on these countries. He took the opposite view to that of Jackson. He thought Stalinism should never be returned to and declared civil rights to be an indestructible plank of any Socialist platform. He thought that old men like Frank Jackson were unable to reorientate their thinking but was equally suspicious of Gomulka’s “limited return to private enterprise” [Polish communist leader].
October 26 Friday: I had intended to work on my book all day but not a thing did I accomplish. I couldn’t even start on it. The telephone rang. Peadar O’Donnell [Irish socialist republican activist and novelist] on the line. Would I have lunch with him. Since I had not met him for every bit of ten years, if not more, and he has been far from friendly since he refused to become president of the Connolly Association, I was surprised. At the time we were talking about a “Workers Republic” and he declined to become president unless we declared for “The Republic”[echoing the controversy between advocates of a “Republic” and a “Workers Republic”: that divided the 1934 Republican Congress which Peadar O’Donnell and Sean Murray had helped found]. We declined. Then O’Casey [Sean O’Casey, playwright, then living in Devon] refused to be President unless we recognised that Larkin, not Connolly, was the founder of the modern Irish Labour Movement. So we had no distinguished President, but O’Donnell never forgave us for it. However, I met him in the foyer of the Russell Hotel – after puzzling a while over his purpose. Was it an offer of “peace”? Was it Eastern Europe? The Democrat? My book on Connolly? I always regarded Peadar O’Donnell as Fianna Fail’s unofficial voluntary ambassador at large, a man with considerable powers of intrigue who never accomplished anything but blocked every other attempt. With a touch of “divilment” I decided to wear an open-necked shirt when I went to the Russell to meet him.
I found him whiter, in hair and skin, darker in dress, older in manner. He showed no particular pleasure at seeing me. I could indeed feel the chill of his concealed antagonism. When we sat down he began, “Things are bad in Eastern Europe. Face the fact. There was a revolution in those countries and the people did not make it.” But this was not his subject. “I’m going to write a book, ‘Connolly in Irish history’.” I told him about mine and it was immediately apparent he knew already. He enquired about Connolly’s birthplace, what regiment of the British army he was in, and conducted a regular cross-examination in his way. I was frank with him. Why not? He said that some of Connolly’s opponents in Dublin used to shout after him and call him the “bandy-legged militiaman”. Bill O’Brien knew he was in the army. Connolly told him he was, although sensitive about it. But why should he be? But when I said he enlisted under a false name, he swung round with, “Then there is no documentary evidence of his having been in the army?” From then on he was all for suppressing every word of it, and added that he strongly advised me not to have Ina Connolly write an introduction. But I fear that if no member of the Connolly family were to support my views – resting as they do on documents in Ina’s possession – he and his Fianna Fail friends would launch the most vicious attack on the book.
O’Donnell then asked if the Connolly Association was still in existence – as if he could be in any doubt. He also asked me who was the secretary of the British Communist Party, hinted that Pollitt was a back number, and asked if its failure to grow was due to internal causes. I simply said it would probably bear comparison with other things of like nature in similar circumstances. Then he said he did not agree with the existence of the Connolly Association. “All exiles politics are phoney. The politics of prisons are the same. Irishmen here should simply join the Trade Unions.” He grew quite angry at my attempt to explain that we were not engaged in “exile” but British politics. The IRA, he said, got all its money from America but the Americans had not even a seat on the committee. What you should do, he had told Sean Murray, was disband everything else and “the lot of you” start a weekly paper like An Phoblacht in Belfast. “The difficulty would be getting an Editor,” said he meaningfully. I did not bite. I could well imagine myself being promised an Editorship which never materialised in order to entice me to give up the one I have got. Anthony Cronin who was with him on The Bell was now editor of Time and Tide. So it was not peace, I thought, but wasn’t sure what the old man was bent on. He then said that Sean Murray had told him that they would probably find an Editor in Belfast. “What about yourself?” I asked. “Ah I might, but I’m too lazy.” So now we must await the next move. If “what can’t be squared must be squashed” is his slogan there may be further attacks on us from unexpected quarters. On the other hand, if it is “what can’t be squashed must be squared”, there may be further feelers.
I saw Pat Devine [Daily Worker journalist who wrote a “World Comment|” column on international affairs for the Irish Democrat] after that. He thought that there were certainly people who were worried about the Connolly Association or O’Donnell would not have come. He said too that as an illustration of the wild rumours that were flying round, a man in the Daily Worker Library had told him that the Association had been disbanded as a result of the East European crisis. He strongly advised me to disregard his advice about Ina Connolly. Perhaps pressure might be brought on her anyway.
Cathal came later in the afternoon. He must leave his lodgings tonight, so will stay two nights with me. He and Helga spent the evening here.
October 27 Saturday: Cathal appeared in the afternoon once more. His machine is repaired and cost only £12, a great cause for rejoicing. Gerry Curran and I went to Kilburn [selling the Irish Democrat in the Irish pubs] and he was telling me of the apathy and disillusionment in his branch in Islington [ie. of the CPGB]. News had come through of a very regrettable turn of events in Hungary, and it was extremely difficult for people to know what was happening. He told me how he went into the Daily Worker Library and saw Claire Madden with two pictures of Stalin. “Which is the nicer?” she asked and he indicated one [The late Gerard Curran pointed out to the Editor that in this entry Greaves is confusing him with someone else and that in fact he was never in the Daily Worker Library and never met Claire Madden]. She said she was going to display it on her wall and added that she had been doing great research on Khruschev and disapproved of him, whereas she thought Beria had a good record. She was a strong “Stalinist”. That was clear enough, but otherwise she seemed extremely conciliatory.
October 28 Sunday: After Cathal had left to meet Helga at Oona Cregan’s I went to Hyde Park. There was Pat Clancy, a picture of dejection. When Gerry Curran took too long as Chairman he was grumbling. When he spoke himself he refused to take questions and incurred one or two boos from an otherwise sympathetic crowd. The man who had shouted “stick to Ireland” when he had mentioned Egypt wanted him to talk about Hungary [The Franco-British-Israeli attack on Suez occurred simultaneously with the Russian intervention in Hungary in 1956, arising from policy differences with the Hungarian communist government]. But ill-humour, not fear of questions, was his reason for withdrawing. “The situation is as bad as it can be,” he said to me, “there’s civil war in that country.”
I spoke to the man who runs the Communist Party meetings. There was none today or last week. His hair was greyer, so it seemed. Certainly his face was grey. I was sorry for him. “Our party in Hungary has separated itself from the people. This has lessons for us!” he kept repeating while I tried to cheer him up. Nobody could do less. To make matters worse, the heavens opened, and I got thoroughly wet returning home with Gerry Curran. But Cathal returned at about ten, with a speck of dust to remove from his eye, so we celebrated the joint misfortune with the remaining bottle of wine and swore to practice economy ever after as he returned to his old room for his last night in England, at any rate for some time.
October 29 Monday: I went to waken Cathal but found him already awake. I told him it was after eight. “Jay!” he said, “I was awake a long time … I’d forgotten I was going away today. I was thinking of the affairs of the world, instead of my own affairs.” But we hadn’t time to discuss what he was thinking. After a speedy breakfast he set off for Liverpool. I took the train to Derby and the printers at Ripley.
I returned in the evening and called in to Alec Digges [former International Brigader], as Cathal had not had time to visit him. I found him in a mood of great perturbation, “trying to maintain my sanity” as he somewhat exaggeratedly put it. The Red Army had been brought to the point of firing on the workers. His wife had said the cause of communism was thrown back for a generation and perhaps under her influence he strongly criticised the present leadership in Britain and said he had come across similar points of view among others. Yet what could be done? It might well prove, said he, in two years that Khruschev was the villain of the piece, not Stalin or Beria. So this is the kind of reaction which must be fairly widespread now. The first impact of a sudden reverse is of course different from the mature reaction. He mentioned another reaction, which was to plunge into practical activity in the industrial field and ignore all developments abroad – Peter Kerrigan [leading CPGB official] had said “It’s about time we did some work!” And of course it might be!
He told me a story about O’Donnell calling on him when he was Literary Editor of the Democrat and telling him to have nothing to do with the Connolly Association. He told him that there was a group in Dublin which wanted reviews of films shown in London before they reached Dublin and that they would pay for this. “You must have had some interesting experiences,” said O’Donnell. “Why don’t you write them in the Bell [Magazine edited by Peadar O’Donnell in the 1940s]. Alec said he would prefer not to appear in the same journal as some of the Fascists who were writing in the Bell. This must have been the period when Paul O’Higgins [Leftwing Trinity College undergraduate] attacked the Bell’s article on Frank Ryan [Republican Congress leader and International Brigader in Spain who was sent to Germany during the war following imprisonment by Franco] under the heading “For whom does the Bell toll?” Nolan was furious [Sean Nolan, manager of the Irish Workers League bookshop in Pearse Street, Dublin]. I came from Mayo to Dublin and saw Desmond Ryan who told me of O’Donnell’s complaining about the attack. He blamed it on me. “I don’t think Desmond Greaves likes me,” said O’Donnell. “But he’s in Mayo,” said Ryan. So poor Peadar was more mystified than satisfied.
October 30 Tuesday: A telephone call came from Kay Beauchamp [CPGB activist]. Apologetically she explained that “this Furlong business” was “still on”. On St. Patrick’s night at a Connolly Association Social, Furlong, a former member of the Irish Workers League, and one of the Dublin group who have refused to cooperate with the CA, was forcibly ejected on the instructions of Eamon Lyons [Connolly Association branch secretary], for refusing to obey his ruling that the Irish Workers Voice [ie. the Irish Workers League paper] should not be sold in a non-political dance. The ejection was followed by a disturbance in the lobby, after which the manager brought in the police. Furlong prepared a long complaint and tried to shift responsibility on to me. I replied I was nothing to do with it. So now Kay wanted to “investigate” to decide who was right. I told her there was no means of doing it. Had I any objection to Clancy being called in? If she was going ahead with it, I said, and had nothing better to occupy her time, I could supply a list of 50 more for her to take evidence from. But the matter was within the jurisdiction of another organisation, and it would be best not to interfere. “Oh, but he’ll bring it up at District Congress [of the CPGB] and say we refused to investigate.” I refused to credit this. But if he did, all she has to say is that she was not empowered to interfere.
I saw Lily Harris in the afternoon to try to find out why Central Books [CPGB bookshop on Grays Inn Road] order for the Democrat had fallen to 570. She said everything had fallen. World News was down to 10,000. There was a feeling of frustration abroad, and this was serious for her as over 50% of the income of Central Books was derived from periodicals. This surprised me as I would have expected them to display more energy in this field, that being the case. She told me the Holborn branch returns at its meeting to the “Reasoner” like Micawber to King Charles’s head. Collets sold 1000 copies and Larmour is the man who runs it. She was shocked when I said no organisation could tolerate locally produced national discussion sheets. Judith Todd, on the other hand, had “held that view all along”. Unfortunately, alongside the “Reasoning” that is going on, there is a practical man’s current of opinion which says, “out with the intellectuals. Let’s not think at all.” Yet it’s an ill wind that blows no good at all. Eamon Lyons rang me up and said that events in Eastern Europe had stimulated Bill Goulding [CA activist in BIrmingham] because he felt that Irish nationalism was more justified than he had thought previously!
October 31 Wednesday (Birmimgham): I caught the “Midlander” in the evening [to Birmingham] and found Bill Goulding, Danny Lloyd and Cormac Kerr having a glass of beer in lieu of a meeting, since nobody else had turned up. Bill was full of justification for Hungary turning out the Russian troops and leaving the Warsaw Pact. Cormac held the view that counter-revolution was in full swing. Where rights are equal, force alone decides, thought I to myself. For they both had perfect arguments. However, we steered the discussion off the more stuck rocks and they are now planning activities for the future. I stayed the night with Roscoe Clarke [Birmingham left-wing surgeon]. Avis [Mrs Clarke] was busy with emergency meetings of her Peace Committee. She had issued a manifesto in which the withdrawal of British troops from Suez was linked with the withdrawal of Russian ones from Hungary. But what was more interesting was her firm belief that America was behind it all the time. Many people in the British Labour Movement are convinced that every villainy Britain does is inspired by the USA but every good deed comes from its own heart. Roscoe was going to bed, and since he gets up early in the morning I had no more than a few words of greeting with him. He is a human dynamo if ever there was one. Science, medicine, law and politics troop like the spirits of Greek drama through this extraordinary house, and now Alan, the eldest boy, wants to be an actor, so one more muse is let in – but not to repose.
November 1 Thursday: I went to Coventry to see Joe Massey [CA activist there]. I found him on the edge of Nuneaton, living in a caravan at the edge of a huge pool caused by mining subsidence. Four of them inhabit this tiny abode. They have calor gas, electricity, a dangerous-looking enclosed coal stove, and have to walk 100 yards to a lavatory which serves 50 caravans. The local Council will not allow a new drain to be erected for fear of admitting the caravan site will be permanent. Meanwhile it does next to nothing to provide alternative accommodation. So time goes on. The caravan dwellers have gradually domesticated the rough patches of cinders round their little homes, and nasturtiums, or potatoes, foot by foot begins to yield its crop.
Joe told me one thing that surprised me. Séan McKeown has left the party after a rumpus with Eddy Parry. The second part would not surprise me. I doubt if they ever hit it off. Parry strikes me as less than frank in his dealings, while I would say Séan was more than frank. Séan joined shortly after the War and struck the headlines of the Daily Worker for the number of members he recruited. He did not strike the headlines when they all left again. But some jealousy expressed locally was not quietened by the claims Séan had never asked for, proving inordinate. The crux of serious disgreement was the “way the Stalin business was handled”[ie. Khruschev’s revelations in 1956 about Stalin’s purges, introducing a more liberal period in the USSR and causing disquiet and division in various communist parties].
I caught a train through to Leamington in time for the Inter-City, and so reached Paddington. Amphlett-Micklewright was bemoaning the fact that Eden’s altered Suez adventure had interrupted his plan of unseating the Bishop of London. Pat Clancy adroitly made him buy a drink for Helga MacLiam and than nobody bought him one, so retribution came in the two halves at each other’s heels, so to speak. Clancy expounded the view that there was naked counter-revolution in Hungary. He also doubted the wisdom of Gollan and Pollitt calling on the CPSU to convene an international conference. However, the air is too thick with war plans, I fear, for conferences to prove practicable, wise or unwise. He had been with Kay Beauchamp who had asked him to meet Furlong. He had told her that he thought she should not interfere in the first place, that it would be useless for him to see Furlong as Furlong would be as antagonistic to him as to me, and in the third place that he would do so if she insisted. So she said she would have to tell Furlong that nothing could be done about it, and certainly she does not relish having to do this. Helga told me that Cathal arrived safely, and may soon be leaving Roy’s to stay with Paul [O’Higgins] as Mairín’s baby is expected metaphorically speaking any minute.
November 2 Friday: I received a letter from Joe Deighan [leader of the Manchester Branch of the Connolly Association] always (or nearly always) sanguine and busy. Mick Weaver has been refused an Irish passport by the Department of External Affairs, and no reason is given. He is unwilling to do as Aherne and others did, that is to obtain a British one.
In order to cheer Helga up while Cathal is away I invited her and Cathal Gallagher and Gerry Curran to my flat for a meal.
November 3 Saturday: I was going out to do some shopping when a voice hailed me in Northington St. I seldom meet anybody I know right on my doorstep. It was Mick Jenkins [CPGB activist]. Then whom do I see but Phil Bolsover, Malcolm McKeown and Wainwright. Bolsover stopped a minute. “There’s a terrible row going on in there,” he said, “They’ve called for the resignation of the entire leadership.” “And quite right too,” said McKeown. He had a newspaper in his hand reporting Russian troops invading Hungary. I suggested they hold their horses. “When in doubt, say nowt” was a good principle. “Then when you speak you can stand by it.” “I disagree,” says Bolsover. “Anyway they’ve proposed a resolution welcoming the Russian action,” said McKeown. Apparently there was an extended meeting of the Executive Committee [ie.of the CPGB]in the Holborn Assembly rooms. Then I saw Abbott and Gadian and others returning from a break, all with faces as long as Lurgan spades. Mick Bennett could hardly reply to a greeting, but then he is not notorious for grace and charm even when sailing is smooth. At Kay Beauchamp’s, where I sought particulars of the Suez protest marches tomorrow, I received the impression she had washed her hands of everything this weekend. I could get no satisfaction on who was organising the marches and on Clancy’s advice cancelled our participation. Clancy himself was more in the dumps than ever. He thought the Party was going to be split from top to bottom, that there were no prospects for communism in Britain for years, and that some kind of educational organisation within the Labour party was the best that could be achieved. Josy, his wife, took an extremely different view, though no less pessimistic. “Everything went wrong when Stalin died,” she said much as my Aunt Maggie (WG’s cousin) used to say, “Poor old Queen Victoria would never have allowed this” when war broke out in 1939 and bombs began to fall. “Pooh”, said Paddy, “all those crimes couldn’t have been invented.” But Josy was immovable, even by the palpable evidence of Mrs Bone, newly released in Hungary, whom both of them knew well as a member of the CP in Finsbury. Clancy was very scathing about the present leadership. Pollitt [CPGB General Secretary] who travelled the world and “knew nothing” about Eastern Europe, though Dooley had told him and been advised to “keep his nose clean” [Pat Dooley worked for some years in Prague after ceasing to be Irish Democrat editor]. As for Dutt [R.Palme Dutt, leading CPGB theoretician], he said, he reminded him of a Dominican, so careful in his expressions that every word had to be surrounded by a bodyguard of twenty others to protect its meaning.
I went selling the paper in Kilburn with Chris O’Sullivan and that curious pathetic Kerstin, a Dublin-educated man who is intensely class-conscious though unable to present any arguments about anything, so that you would wonder how he chose the Marxists. O’Sullivan is a Cork lad, about 25 years of age I would guess, formerly a seaman. He learned socialism from an old Citizen Army man he worked with on a Canadian lumber camp. He was all for the Russians occupying Hungary “to prevent a reactionary Government”. Kearney and I had a record sale outside the Blarney afterwards [Irish dance club in Kilburn], and indeed everywhere the public indignation with the Tories brought sympathy to our side. This is the astonishing aspect of the whole picture – the demoralization of the “left” while the thing the “left” has worked for years, the end of bipartisan foreign policy, is accomplished to the sound of millions of protesting feet [The Labour Party opposed the Conservative Eden Government’s Suez policy]. PJ Kearney did not think the Russians would impose any terms on Hungary, though they were sealing the Western border and playing for time to win over the “left” elements among the Hungarian rebels, after which they would probably accept neutrality. He displayed more sanity than most of those I spoke to, and recalled that a customer who works in the Post Office had told him of overtime being worked franking thousands upon thousands of emigré letters to Poland.
November 4 Sunday: I went up to Islington Market to buy some caustic soda for a blocked drain which had chosen an inconvenient day for its tantrums. There I saw a bedraggled old woman standing on a platform as shabby as herself proclaiming Mosley’s “Union” [British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, then calling for European Union]. Just beside was a party man, one of the old type. He was apologetic that he was holding no meeting. “But there’s such a split on this Hungary business that we decided not to. If they said Russia was right to ‘go in’ people would say, ‘Yeh, tell me the old old story’”. If they said she was wrong, it might well prove tomorrow that she had ample justification. But of course all the “Left” is hypnotised by Hungary while everybody else is concerned with Suez. Eden, thought I, should have a monument erected to him in every City Square in Europe. He had contrived to split the “West” just when they had their supreme and probably last opportunity!
When I entered the passage of “Cockpit Chambers” [the flats in Northington Street, Holborn, where Greaves lived] I noticed Mrs Ilewood cleaning the windows and washing the stairway, a task I would have imagined beneath her ladylike dignity. She is the one who put a small carpet outside her door, and grew geraniums on the window sill. She would dart downstairs if anybody dropped a pin after midnight and demand immediate silence. Once when Kearney was leaving my flat at 1 a.m with a barrage of valedictions, she threatened to fetch the police. I offered her the use of my telephone to call them. But I taught her a lesson. Some time afterwards she knocked on the door. “Oh, Mr. Greaves, come quick?” “What’s the matter?” Oh, quick! My lavatory cistern is …” and she darted up the stairs to pull the chain, and was then down again appealing to me.
It took me quite a time to understand the nature of the difficulty, and she had to go upstairs and pull the chain twice as I walked up the short flight as slowly as a man could drag his steps. Then I phoned the Water Board for her and she seemed to know from then on that sometimes you need the services of your neighbours. Her sister, even more bitchy than herself, was the means of Cathal being thrown out of his room in the “Bas Fond”. Alan Gilbert, the fathom-high oddity whose experience of unemployment in the thirties has led him to keep every room of his condemned flatlet occupied by lodgers, was intimidated by this good lady’s knocking on the ceiling when Cathal and I would occasionally make a cup of tea at night. That is how Cathal came to live with me. I recalled however that this last few weeks the passages have been cleaned on a Sunday, and incidentally, cleaned very well.
“Wasn’t it sad about Mrs. Fitzgerald?” she asked.
“What happened to her?”
She had died while I was away, at the age of seventy-three, and I was quite sorry too as she was a kindly enough old woman, not over-inclined to gossip, and certainly not intolerant. She was here when I came in 1944, and if Ashton has left – I never see him – I am now the oldest tenant of the “Cockpit”. In 1945 every single person in the flats voted Communist. There was Petlock, a Jew who would tell you some local bit of scandal and comment, “That’s capitalism!” “Blondie”, who lived where Mrs Fitzgerald died, married to but separated from an Italian, Rivaldi, stopped on the stairs with the news that “he had dropped down dead” on her, and Petlock’s daughter, Mrs. Morris, in the shop round the corner had said, “Do you know those women in your flats, they are … Well, they are … Well … they are … Well.” However that may be, I had no complaint of them. The Petlocks moved and the Connollys came. They were from Enniskillen and Sligo, and the only people into whose flat I ever went in all those years, except for the bas-fond which contained at various times Joe Monks, Ciaran O’Lenihan, Kirkpatrick, Peter Robson and in later times Gilbert and Cathal. Now Mrs. Morris is dead two years and the shop is closed. Bessy, the miser’s daughter, has proved unable to stand the strain of doing three peoples’ work and is, I presume, in hospital again. So very little is left of the 1944 structure of “these parts”.
At two I left for Trafalgar Square. To my surprise I witnessed a brief scuffle between a Tribune seller and a passing Tory. But this was exceptional – indeed may have been the only one. The crowd was enormous – the greatest I remember. As the dockers marched in a solitary “Young Tory” shouted “Traitors!” But even he melted at the sight of a cartoon of a resigned Minister which bore the caption, “Nothing Doing!” Light music was played over the loudspeakers and the assembly had that peculiarly English gala spirit which the Labour Party was able to create. And the array of banners from Labour parties was impressive. “I didn’t know they had them,” said Bert Baker I chanced to encounter. “But there’s one thing missing,” he said sadly. Just then an Irish voice was heard chanting, “Eden must go”, and Declan Mulholland and his friend Clarke were seen carrying in the St. Pancras CP banner. “Thank God” said Baker, though there were only six behind it. Des Logan was there and sold Democrats. Phil Piratin, surly and self-possessed, was trying to organise Daily Worker sales. Maurice Cornforth ambled gently in, a donnish figure, polite but cold. Bevan [Aneurin Bevan, Labour politician, former Minister of Health] made a great oration, but I had to go to Hyde Park and missed the sequel.
At the Trafalgar Square false platform [ie. the Nelson Column plinth] I met old Bob Stewart [veteran CPGB activist], the healthiest octogenarian in the world and a man shrewd and kindly, with sharp penetration, a contemptuous distaste for humbug, unbreakable loyalty and integrity, and wit that would spear a swallow in mid-air. “We’ve been meeting all week-end”, he said. “There’s a deal of division in the Party. There’s opposition from people who think that force should not be used in any circumstances. But we’ve decided to support the new Government in Hungary and we’re issuing a statement. Fortunately, its programme is such that we can anyway,” he went on. “There’s no elected Government in Hungary, so we have as much right to start one as anybody else. The question is to save what’s left of the Communist movement in Hungary.” At the Park we held a successful meeting. Gerry Curran was very upset by the “Russian action” and disinclined to wait to hear their side. PJ Kearney lined up on the class issue and supported the “Russian action” as a means to avert Fascism in Hungary. Late at night after our sale in Kilburn, the Daily Worker seller got very hot and heavy when we asked him if there was any fresh news, and his colleague wanted to give us a political address. So I gathered they had been the targets of much hostile comment and felt a little aggrieved.
The Sinn Fein boys had been in Trafalgar Square and were delighted at Bevan’s reference to the Black and Tans. One Belfast lad said he had never seen the British people display so much guts [ie. in opposing the Suez venture]. When an attempt was made to prevent them going to Downing Street members of the crowd surged past the police, and when they charged knocked one off his horse with a banner pole. “If there had been guns there,” said one, “there would have been revolution”. Of course these people were young and had no experience, even of the nineteen thirties. But there was a new receptiveness for our teaching of working class politics. The British working class today rose to the moral leadership of the peoples of the capitalist world and if they keep it, above all if it is crowned with success, the fifties may yet surpass the thirties. For the thirties were fighting years, but years of retreat. The next ones will not be.
We ended the evening at the “Chicken Inn”. Vera Lee told us she had seen the latest charge in Whitehall. What was entirely new to her as a waitress hearing the conversation of many hundreds of people, was that everybody was talking politics. Even the young boys and girls from the dance club next door, who had never before risen above “Rock and Roll” (one of the latest dance crazes) were talking about Suez. And to crown it all, about fourteen students of music who had brought in their fiddles, cellos and double bases, while they took coffee, were prevailed on to give a performance. One of them started conducting and they played Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” right through from start to finish, and played the minuet again when loud applause from the customers demanded an encore. “I think the revolution’s after starting,” said Kearney, very delighted with the sentiment and the unusual atmosphere of this new and spontaneous London.
November 5 Monday: We had the Irish Committee [ie. a CPGB advisory committee on Irish affairs, consisting of London Irish party members] in the evening. The dissidents, Furlong and Lambert, did not arrive, a circumstance which I suspected betokened some shift of policy in Dublin. Opinion was steady on the Hungarian question, though Paddy Clancy claimed to have “gone through hell” in the previous twenty-four hours. Curran told me he had sent a protest to the Soviet Embassy in despite of all of my arguments to “hold his horses”, but that he now regretted it. He had been in the same frame of mind as when he wrote his notorious sarcastic letter to Paddy Clancy which led to Clancy offering his resignation. It was very hard to find suitable face-savers then, but this time it was not necessary. Alec Digges no longer wants to serve on the Committee. He is disillusioned with the leadership because of their vacillations in the long-standing dispute with Dublin [over the relation between national independence and socialism and the appropriate policy for an Irish organisation in Britain], but this is only part of it. Hungarian developments have sadly distressed him, and his wife, pleasant enough but terribly destructive, is indulging the old woman’s trick of disparaging her husband’s former associations in order to keep him at home watching the baby. Add to this his disappointment at the collapse of the International Brigade Association into which he put such trojan work. It was one of Peter Kerrigan’s myopias that the IBA was destined to survive and the Connolly Association to expire. When Nan Green went to China he could not bear the thought of the IBA falling through. Alec Digges was treasurer of the Connolly Association but took over from Nan Green when I took over the Democrat. Thus I was handicapped from the start, especially as Prendergast[Jim Prendergast, former International Brigader and CPGB member] launched his attack on me almost immediately. Alec feels he received bad advice, and also is hurt that he was allowed to return to commercial employment without anybody asking if he would consider another full-time job. He is embittered against Maggie Mynott, the humourless manager of Central Books who harries him for the unpaid rent of his office there and told Elsie O’Dowling that he was only becoming Literary Editor of the Irish Democrat out of his regard for me personally, since he would find the work very tiresome and a burden.
November 6 Tuesday: This is the monthly week of continuous meetings. At the Irish Committee in the evening Idris Cox [leading CPGB intellectual] showed me a letter he had received from O’Riordan in Dublin in which he announced that he would not be coming to London next Sunday. A couple of months back he and Nolan had urged that at every EC which one from Dublin attends, they should contrive to have a joint meeting of the Irish Committee and themselves. They wished to urge the sale of the Irish Workers Voice and refused to entertain being prevented from upending the Irish Democrat by competing with the Connolly Association sales. It was agreed to keep November 11th clear of all other commitments in order to enable them to bring a written set of proposals. Cox was not unnaturally a little put out at the bland announcement by someone who had been so vigorously urging discussion that he had been in Poland in September [ie. Irish Workers League secretary Michael O’Riordan] and was too busy now. Why Nolan could not come in his place was not explained. After the meeting Kay Beauchamp told me that Gabriel and Malcolm McKeown had resigned from the Daily Worker, and Peter Fryer had left the Party altogether, a tragedy as he is a good lad if a trifle romantic, a bit of a poet, able if not inspired, and a promising theoretician, as JR Campbell [leading CPGB figure] once confided to me in one of those moments of pride in which he becomes more human than usual. Kay herself, in the elation after a lively discussion, and possibly after the two glasses of beer she took, lost her school-marmishness, and freed from her Cockney inhibitions, showed us the brave little enthusiast she really is.
November 7 Wednesday: I received three letters from Dublin, no less. The first was from Roy Johnston enclosing the text of a speech by Geary [Professor Roy Geary of the Statistical Society of Ireland] on agriculture. The next was from Ina – each came by a different post – in which she told me of useful new discoveries. She had had to “pump” her sister Norah, and had also received a letter from San Francisco which made possible contact with the McGinn branch of Connolly’s family. The third was from Cathal [Cathal MacLiam]. He has got a job – the first he applied for, but is finding it hard to get suitable accommodation. He took my introduction to Nolan and after he read it there was dead silence. “It seems to me that I might well be an agent with some sinister mission for returning to Ireland,” he wrote. “Returning to Ireland? – I feel like an emigrant from England. It just never happens, it seems, that people return to Ireland to live and work! Gosh, no! – it must be for something else. . .” At the meeting somebody talked about getting new members. Yet I was not asked to join, and after a suitable lapse of time I asked about it. But it appears there is no method of joining. Whether or not I am considered a member or not [ie. of the Irish Workers League], I do not know!”
“But lest you should think this includes everybody, let me say that both Roy and Justin have been wonderful. Especially Roy with whom I stayed, as he has his own problems to look after. Justin is helping me to get my luggage stored and is using his car for the purpose of transporting it.”
In the evening Helga, Oona Cregan and Gerry Curran came. He had been with me giving out leaflets outside Lena Jeger’s [Labour MP for St Pancras and Greaves’s constituency MP] meeting at St. Pancras Town Hall. John Moss was there selling Challenge, a very fine lad, though I don’t agree with all he and his colleagues do. He told me Peter Lardner, the Kenya officer who resigned his commission rather than carry out massacres of Kikuyus, had left and joined the Labour Party. In Nottingham Terry Gallogley was worse than sour. Trotskyism was in full swing. One man who took a leaflet said, “Egypt? Why don’t you say something about Hungary?” But most simply took them and put them in their pockets. Oona and Helga had arrived at Trafalgar Square and going down to Downing St. Helga had yelled, “Eden must go” till she was hoarse. She was particularly incensed at the police whose bosses are held up as such heroes by the Irish Times and had written Cathal an account of her adventures. According to Gerry Curran Maggie Mynott had been thrown into a state of depression by the Hungarian events which was outdone only by Barbara Ruhemann, that most melancholy Cassandra who ever prophesied ruin! As Mick Barrett said to me in the lift of the Daily Worker today, “The world’s in a terrible state of chassis.” I subsequently saw Pat Devine, and the tall Liverpudlian whose brother takes photographs for the Daily Worker, strolling down Farringdon Road, Pat somewhat ruefully reflecting on the lively scenes they had encountered when 400 people listened to their meeting at Spa Fields!
November 8 Thursday: I got through precious little today. These times of crisis are not conducive to steady work. I went to the London District Colonial Committee to open a discussion on “The British Road to Socialism” [ie. the CPGB party programme], and found Molly Mudd, stout, motherly and Lancastrian, roped in by Kay Beauchamp whom she is living with. Why she left Manchester I didn’t ask. At the West London Connolly Association meeting which I went on to, Joe O’Connor whispered to me that a mob of hoodlums had attacked 16A Pearse St.[The Irish Workers League bookshop in Dublin, attacked because of the Hungarian events], (exactly when I do not know) and done considerable damage to the shop. I presume that Nolan will get compensation from the municipality. Apparently police guarded it after a first attack, but the mob returned two hours later when they had relaxed their vigilance. This will set in train a new series of problems of course. Whether there will be the slightest tendency to see the lesson as the necessity of linking Socialism with Nationalism remains to be seen. The screaming headlines of the Irish papers these past few days, the Irish speech at UNO, must have created an atmosphere not to be imagined over here where the Englishman would have to fight himself if he demanded a war. The fact that, according to the newspapers, Dublin Trades Council passed a resolution condemning Russia and rejected one condemning British action in Suez as “Communist”, indicates the wild hysteria that must prevail.
At the same time the misgivings of the members of the party here are real. Amphlett-Micklewright, who belongs to the Labour Party, says simply, “What is best in the cause of world peace? A Fascist or a Communist Hungary?” No heart-wrenchings or introspection for him. “That Mindszenty fellow told me what it was all about” he declared. “Secret agent of America” [Cardinal Mindszenty, Primate of Hungary, who had been imprisoned by the Communist regime there]. Joe O’Connor was far from certain. Clancy had the Listener. He asked for it but handed it back when he found it was not the Reasoner. Jack Dribben whom I accompanied to Cambridge Circus on the bus was also talking about it. He, indeed, seemed in a state of panic. “There are a terrible lot of police about,” he said – it’s true there were. I understand there were still some demonstrations. But the atmosphere was nothing like so tense as in the weeks preceding the war of 1939, or even of Munich. Then Clancy himself declared that “These were times that tried men’s souls” and quoted Lenin and Robespierre as well. Yet the whole difficulty lies in the situation being completely unprecedented. This indeed is the real half-way house of world history we are coming to now. I always felt with Dean Swift that journalists had given up saying “these present days” and had taken to talking of “these critical days”. But as the balance of world power draws level with its fulcrum, and the see-saw goes over, the real danger point is passed, and the question is will it be peace. “I am afraid I can’t see this thing settled without World War No.3,” said Micklewright. That thought several times crossed my mind. That issue is still uncertain as events have their own momentum and sheer chance plays its part.
November 10 Saturday: Bill Goulding arrived from Birmingham about midday and told about some stormy discussions in the Midlands. His Trade Union Branch he could do nothing with. The party meeting was lively, and it was noticeable how the working class members were growing impatient with the reservations of the middle class whom they felt were trying to split them. The best people in the latter category like Roscoe Clarke were prevented from speaking by an incompetent chairman. Bill and Cormac were somewhat at loggerheads but Bill now believes that Cormac was more upset about Hungary than he was himself. In the evening Desmond Logan and I went round Kilburn [selling the Irish Democrat]. Contrary to all gloomy prognostications we had no opposition at all.
November 11 Sunday: The Irish Democrat conference took place in the Holborn Hall in the morning and considering the circumstances to gather 40 people was an achievement worth having. Last night Bill called on Gerry Curran at Central Books and found him sitting behind a barricade armed with buckets of water to put out paraffin bombs. Guards were placed on all left-wing premises. The Hungarian emigrés were to hold a meeting in the afternoon and gloomy Pat Clancy wanted us to follow the example of the Communist Party, Ex-service Movement for Peace and others, by withdrawing discreetly. Lyons was opposed to retreat, and since the majority agreed with him, we all went along (bar cautious Paddy) and were surprised that the Hungarians had such a large crowd and so small a procession. There was no great feeling. We saw a man being beaten up and then arrested. We learned later it was Ogilvie, who had apparently chosen the occasion for a violent attack on the Hungarians, after which students stormed his platform and police arrested not them but him. A seller of Russia Today was attacked. But the Young Conservatives in the Hungarian crowd were favourable to Partition [ie.of Ireland]. Their interruptions were easily quieted and our hundred or so regular supporters were solid as a rock. So we came out with flying colours. Helga came round in the evening after Bill Goulding had gone.
November 12 Monday: I get little enough done these days on the book – a few letters, that is all. This evening Gerry Curran came in and put paid to my work. He had been at a staff meeting of Central Books discussing Hungary and though the result was favourable the meeting was stormy. He needed relaxation, so we had to have it. So many people are thinking in terms of abstract principles just now that reason has become a rare commodity!
He was telling me of the extraordinary way the Doyles behave. Jim Doyle is 40 at least but to his father is still a little boy. An aunt in Dublin spread the rumour that there was something irregular in his marriage. Now Mrs Doyle was after a divorce but since her first marriage was in a Registry Office, according to Canon Law it was not a marriage at all. The father, heeding the aunt, wrote asking Jim to send over his marriage certificate. “We’ll have to do it,” says Jim. But naturally enough the wife objected. It happened that they had pretended they were married a month earlier. The odd solution discovered by Jim was not to write to tell his father to mind his own business, or to send the aunt a solicitor’s letter, but to write to the effect that he was retaining the certificate as there was something in relation to it which they wished to conceal! Her two boys are growing up, the eldest is a super-pious Holy Joe, the younger something of a wild scapegrace. The parents find it hard to manage them, especially as everybody pulls a different way.
November 13 Tuesday: This evening I went to the Central London CP meeting at the Holborn Hall. I arrived at 7.25 and found a queue outside the small Hall and had to push my way in. Around the door were intellectual looking people selling the “Reasoner” alongside Trotskyites whose impudence was greater than I ever saw before. It was clear from the start that there was an ugly situation. Jim Jeffery disclosed himself next to me – I had been chatting to Alec Digges and Isabel Brown and had not noticed him. “How are you?” I asked. “Under the weather,” he replied, “For the first time in 25 years Nora and I are on opposite sides in a political matter. The only thing we could do was to agree to differ.” I remember the two of them coming to Liverpool in 1934 or 35. They were teachers, he straight from Cambridge. The work he did was gigantic. He would cycle round Birkenhead pushing letters through doors, speak at meetings, print, duplicate and never tire. I think he went into the army after that. She became women’s organiser and was for a long time on the EC[ie. The Executive Committee of the CPGB] both in Manchester and London. I got on fairly well with them. They were two or three years older than me. They were like me impatient of the schoolteacher who dominated the Birkenhead branch, a somewhat temperamental schoolmaster separated from a gloriously impossible French wife. He lives in Woolwich, but had possibly come to hear James Klugman whom all the Cambridge students held in deep awe [Klugman had influenced many Cambridge University students to go communist in the 1930s].
Where was John Edge [friend and flatmate of Desmond Greaves in 1936-7, see Vol.4], he asked. I had been told he was vacillating in some tower of retirement and passed the news on. But it speedily become clear that Jeffery was worse himself. When every petty detail proposed by the Chairman was immediately challenged Jeffery showed such sympathy that one would think it was democracy. Eleanor Burns wore a face like a widow’s. Even Sam Aaronovitch was startled out of his usual cocksure complacency. Klugman was nervous as a kitten and I tried to cheer him up by telling him he was putting on weight. But he would lose it tonight. True he was given a fair hearing. But what he had to hear must have thoroughly alarmed him. A young Belfastman, who must have been an Orange sidesman, shouted slogans at him from my left. Jim Jeffery muttered “hypocrisy” and “democracy” every few minutes. There was an air of hysteria at the back, and that curious emotional revulsion with which, I suppose, a husband hurts a wife he is really very fond of. No Hyde Park crowd could have been so intractable. The sense of unity of purpose seemed to have disappeared and replaced by a frustrated distrust of all leadership. Ischel and I were as partisan as everybody, though of course we did not interject, and clapped only those who supported the EC resolution. Somebody raised the question of Peter Fryer’s despatches from Budapest. The Chairman foolishly asked if JR Campbell were present and brought him limping from the back to declare that a paper cannot be edited from the backseat. He was wise to be firm. Unlike James [i.e. Klugman], he played his strong cards first, and when Malcolm McKeown got up to make an impassioned attack with a ring of ice and a shrillness of demagogy in it, he could only hint that Campbell ought to be replaced. Yet he described the Kader Government as the best obtainable under the existing circumstances. By what mysterious skill the Chairman found so many students to speak I cannot say, maybe there were a large number there, but the la-di-da’s were very much in evidence, with their bullet-headed cocksureness and their hard vulgar university accents. Not of course that this applied to all.
Finally a vote was taken at a quarter to eleven. Alec Digges was in favour, I was glad to note, Declan Mulholland too. Elsie O’Dowling and I made a rush for the “Yorkshire Gray” and secured a glass of draught bass before tapstop. Paddy Clancy was discovered sitting sadder and more disconsolate than ever at the back, but the vote was a victory 160 to 100 even if the minority was very substantial. Certainly in all the years I have been in the CP I never attended a meeting which resembled it. This morning the Guardian carried a story of splits in the Communist Party. One or two notable defections were announced in the evening papers. It may well be appreciated that the Russians considered it wiser to defend their frontiers with their own troops, rather than leave their security to the tender mercies of some who were vocal tonight.
November 14 Wednesday: After a day of coming hither and going thither, in which Helga came to clean my flat (unsolicited, but she insisted) we had an Editorial meeting [ie. of the Irish Democrat]. We secured agreement on the way to treat the Hungarian issue – I had already seen Pat Devine and convinced him of the necessity for it [in his “World Comment” column], and though Eamon Lyons thought we were perhaps a little kind to Russia, he acquiesced readily enough. If no serious stroke of bad luck intervenes in a situation which is coming more and more to resemble a maelstrom every day, we will preserve our own little Irish movement, as Paddy Clancy put it, from the convulsions which are shaking some of the others. Lyons was very proud of the fact that so far we have not been touched by the storm – though I wonder what will be the position in self-opinionated Manchester. Gerry Curran, who has reversed his previous stand against Russian intervention, was inclined to start justifying it, when it was unnecessary to do so. But all went well.
When the others had left I had the opportunity of a chat with Paddy Clancy. He had voted against the resolution last night. But he based his position on the resolution of the EC giving direct support for Russian intervention. This, he said, was unjustified under any circumstances whatsoever. He discounted fascism which he said was a bogey-word brought in to sway people’s emotions. The resolution put last night was based on the essential direction of the EC policy rather than on the wording of the EC resolution – a circumstance which may have favoured the “Ayes”. Clancy is more than worried. He is always a pessimist. Now he believes communism is set back a generation in Western Europe, a third World War is imminent, and little hope remains. He thinks Pollitt and Campbell are “stuck in the mud” and consider themselves the interpreters of Moscow rather than the voice of the British people. But the reason he was late at last night’s meeting was that he had spent the time persuading two members in Finsbury not to leave the movement.
November 15 Thursday: I called in to Alec Digges before making for West London in the evening. His wife, Hannah, is still very anti-leadership and cynical in the extreme. Alec has rallied in the stress of alternatives.
At West London [Connolly Association branch meeting] Micklewright was as gay and confidential as ever. “Is the Communist Party broken up?” he asked “It would be a terrible disaster for the Labour ‘Left’. We’d have nothing to frighten the ‘Right’ with.” He then described the latest stage of his feud with the Bishop of London. He has lost his parish in Paddington, but is doing odd Sundays in Deptford (“I get the usual fees, you know”). He had once done a locum in Paddington and was amazed at the Catholic priests who sat back and laughed at violent Protestant dissensions (“I wanted a holiday, and I’ll tell you I had a damn good one”). So being a stopgap was not new to him. He had heard from Marcus Lipton [Labour MP for Brixton] how the Bishop’s secretary had supplied him with another balance sheet differing from the published one. As for the Freethinker, the Editor had made another attack in which he used the word swindling, “And”, said Micklewright,”he printed it, went home, lit his pipe and waited for the writ to arrive – It didn’t.”
November 16 Friday: I saw Idris Cox in the afternoon. Muriel [Muriel MacSwiney, widow of Terence MacSwiney] had been ringing him up. I had invited her to the Irish Committee [of the CPGB]. She had not replied. Now she rang Idris who suggested a meeting of herself, myself, Tom Durkin and Kay Beauchamp. She didn’t want to meet me. “Her love for you seems to be exhausted,” he said. So he invited her to see him on Monday. “I’m sorry I can’t even pretend to feel concerned about the change,” said I, knowing well she will reduce him to nervous prostration within an hour. “Well,” said he, using his favourite phrase, “rightly or wrongly” – “I’m in a position where I have to listen patiently to everybody.” So I wished him joy of her. She is a very sincere, genuine, old lady, but how confused. She told Idris that if the Hungarian party had only educated people to understand the villainies of the Catholic Church, there would have been no trouble there. Clancy, incidentally, had delivered himself of the odd suspicion that the sudden interest of Mahon [John Mahon, leading official in the London CPGB district], Durkin and Kay Beauchamp in Irish affairs was due to a sneaking desire to find a scapegoat in Hungary in the person of the Catholic Cardinal Mindszenty. Then Idris wanted to talk about the situation in the Party – most unusual for him. I told him what I thought. He is not so lacking in independence as I first thought him. “I would think,” he said, “if I’m going to lean over one way, it will be in the direction of international solidarity.”
In the evening Helga, Maire Sheridan (Cathal’s sister), Elsie [O’Dowling, sometimes referred to in the Journal by her maiden name, Elsie Timbey] and Desmond Logan came. Apart from preventing Helga from being lonely, which I promised Cathal, I think these little social evenings help to cement our organisation in days when centrifugal forces can be at work. Logan showed me a letter from Mairin Langan indicating disgust with the CP but a desire to be in the Connolly Association. Terry Gallogly left the YCL and later applied for readmission which was unanimously rejected. “Des Logan didn’t agree with me,” she wrote, “but then he is one of the old brigade.” So any kind of cement is good just now. We had a great evening, talking, eating and drinking. Maire has trouble with her mother. Not content with having secretly taken the children aside and told them about “sin” (whatever that is!) and kept them awake at night, she has now suggested they spend a holiday in Galway, after which she will pay for their education. “If they go, I’ll never get them back again,”said she. She is bringing them up without religion. It is a remarkable thing that though they are married 10 or more years, it is only in the last few years that she and John knew that neither believes in religion – possibly about the time the eldest (now 8) had to go to school. When Cathal was living with them in Ealing in 1953 he and John used to “go to Mass” at the local pub. She used to go at another time and look at the shops. But Yorkshire is full of primitive Methodists. She is nominally (in Yorkshire) Church of Ireland, but never attends. The vicar on the other hand visits them frequently and as good as admits his agnosticism. “I’ve a good job,” he said, “£750 a year, a house, and I only have to work one day a week. I mean to keep it until I die.” Her mother sent the local Catholic priest to see her. He was shocked that “such a nice Irish girl” should not go to Mass. “I’m not a Catholic,” she said. “Yes, you are,” said he. “You were and you always will be.”
We fell to discussing Cathal. “A desperate man to sell paper with,” said Des Logan. “If you dared to make a suggestion!” “Well, that’s not surprising,” said Maire. “He had four sisters and his father treated him very badly. I remember when he was about eight his father beating him with a tennis racket till the handle broke. It shocked me. But if he would never be told he could always be reasoned with. I remember when he was 15 and turned against my father, he wanted to go away and join the Merchant Navy. I told him to get his school leaving certificate first and then he could please himself. He saw that and did as I suggested. That was the year he at last succeeded in persuading my father to let him away for a biking holiday with a friend. Then he discovered he was serving behind the bar in a pub in Connemara. That didn’t please him, but that is how they got the money for their travels.” She said what Cathal never told me, her grandfather was a strong farmer who lived in Co.Fermanagh. Possibly, he didn’t know it. He said he suspected his father was a convert, and so the name would suggest [MacLiam is Irish for Wilson]. In his early youth he recalled the freemason friends who used to come to the house. But that was long ago, and Maire, a few years older (her husband is 32) would remember the earlier days. Maire is here because one of the children is attending hospital. She will be here a week and at the end of that time Helga will go to Dublin for an interview.
November 17 Saturday (Birmimngham): I caught the 4.35 pm. to Birmingham and met Bill Goulding in the Bull Ring [where open-air meetings were then held]. We went to Aston [to sell the Irish Democrat] but not before we had encountered strong hostility from the bartender and patrons in the pub at Dale End. Dale End bookshop [belonging to the Birmingham CPGB] has installed strong steel shuttering which should withstand the force of the Hungarian demonstration reported to be arranged for tomorrow. However, as we moved on we found there was very little hostility. An occasional individual here and there, but no general feeling.
I went to stay with Roscoe Clarke afterwards. Avis was in bed. Roscoe himself, bouncing with nervous energy as usual, was as sound as you please on the difficult questions which exist today. He expressed the opinion that some of the professional people who vacillate before any difficulty do so because their professions are not “active” and that they have never to take any responsibility for deciding anything which will be tested in practice. I thought this idea sound. The historians and teachers are disgracing themselves, and the scientists as usual showing the clearest heads. Avis on the other hand has been very worried; her position as secretary of the powerful Birmingham Peace Committee has been a little difficult, but the strong personal ties built over some years have proved more durable than she fears. Roscoe is a little contemptuous of some of his scientific policy colleagues. Claude Porter is “not a great brain”. Perhaps he has reason. His own work has made the Birmingham Accident Hospital famous. And if he doesn’t smoke himself to death with the cigarettes, he will make it more so. I asked was he not afraid of cancer of the lung – he replied the soothing effects of the smoke seemed worth the possible shortening of his life. So there was little more to be said.
November 18 Sunday: I went to Coventry and met Joe Massey who was suffering from a heavy cold. He had encountered some hostility last night, but nothing too extreme. The meeting [Connolly Association branch meeting] was not a success. Nobody turned up. I came back to Birmingham and met Bill Goulding again, and Danny Lloyd appeared en route for Dublin, carrying a suitcase as big as himself. He returns in a week, after which he goes to Cardiff. I gave him Roy’s, Justin’s and Cathal’s addresses. We held the meeting. It was a little tricky to begin with and needed all the tub-thumper’s art to keep it under control [a Connolly Association open-air meeting in the Bull Ring]. I abandoned the attempt at a normal address and took questions. I had a curious feeling as the meeting wore on – the Irish boys were not going to allow the issue of Hungary to be raised! They were afraid it would split them. The Belfast lads who joined us in July had since been swept into Eden’s fold [ie by supporting the Eden Government’s position on Hungary]. Others began hostile and came round later. On the whole the meeting was a great success. The CP had not dared to come. “You’re sticking your neck out,” said Bert Pearce [Birmingham CPGB organiser] to Bill. But it was not chopped off and we retired to the Crown with Danny O’Halloran, who thinks the CP is put back for 30 years by the Russian action in Hungary. I saw an old and trusted member in the crowd who looked a little shocked at my expressing the confidence that Hungary would eventually get its national freedom. He expected me to take the line that it hadn’t – that it must seem to have it as well!
November 19 Monday (London): Roscoe made another acute observation before I left. He thought that there was among liberals a rather curious notion of what constitutes personal integrity. It consists of establishing to one’s own satisfaction the purity of one’s motives, and then dissociating oneself from the consequences of any action then taken. He was bubbling over with plans and prospects; but he will wear himself out unless he is careful.
When I reached London I was immediately telephoned by PJ Kearney. There had been a strong meeting in Hyde Park. Some of the hoodlums who attacked us in 1950 had reappeared. One Murphy, dubbed by our members “Fishface”, had attacked the little Cypriot who sells Soviet Weekly”, though he is over 70, and scattered his papers. Robert Rossiter, a young friend of Kearneys, went to his rescue. Thereupon Murphy began screeching at the top of his voice “They’re Communists! Kick them to pieces! Kill them!” He attacked Ceannt [Robert (Bobby) Rossiter’s original name] knocked his papers into the road, but was surprised when Ceannt, being 21 not 70, set about him and gave him some very lusty blows, only retrieving the papers when he had driven him off. A crowd of a thousand had gathered by then – the News Chronicle in a very inaccurate report, said 2000! – and Kearney had difficulty in getting near his friend. The somewhat battered “Fishface” then concentrated on screaming at the old man until a police inspector who had watched Ceannt belabour him without great interest grew angry and told him “Bugger off! Make yourself scare now, before I run you in.” “Fishface” took the policeman’s advice but, his blood still unsatisfied, came to the meeting inside. We had only Socialist meetings in the Park. I heard that the CP had intended to be there but were short of a Chairman. Dr Soper, the Methodist pacifist, was silenced by a mob, and this left all the gangster element free to concentrate on us. “Fishface” organised a group who infiltrated under the platform and kept chanting, “Are you a Communist?” up at Gerry Curran, till the poor lad had to get down. Lyons stepped up, shouted over them till he lost his voice, and then, just as somebody suggested to follow it to Moscow, recovered it suddenly and spoke for two hours, concluding with the sound of applause ringing sweetly and incongruously in his ears! Gerry Curran came in the evening and confirmed the story.
There had been a strong meeting at North London [the North London branch of the Connolly Association]. Gould, who had been standing with a large poster advertising the Vindication of Joseph Stalin while the old man and Ceannt were involved in the schemozzle, had drawn the conclusion that if we had all vindicated Stalin we would never have been touched. It did not strike him that the roughly pencilled poster he used had not been observed. So he launched a violent attack on the leaders of the Connolly Association for “sitting on the fence”, opposed every practical proposal and so infuriated Gerry Curran that he stomped out of the room, and came to me to get the matter off his chest. Meanwhile, I received a letter of “protest” from Gould for not allowing him to propose his resolution (all about the villainies of Krouschoff) [ie. Nikita Khruschev] last Sunday week.
November 20 Tuesday: Idris Cox telephoned to say Muriel had spent an hour with him yesterday. “She tends to wander all over the place,” said he, but he was convinced that she was right in objecting to the “appreciation” of Cardinal Griffin in our September issue. He took occasion to confirm that he had “not seen” it. He would have no objection to the life history if it had not been called an “appreciation”. I told him for God’s sake not to jump on that bandwagon [ie. that the Hungarian crisis was due to the Catholicism of many people there]. Clancy had suggested that Mindszenty was going to be the great scapegoat and the slowness of the Hungarian people to accept Socialism was going to be blamed on their Catholic upbringing. I dismissed this at the time as “Clancian” pessimism.
More serious was what Eamonn Lyons told me. Flann Campbell has resigned from the party as he “no longer believes in the dictatorship of the proletariat”. Actually he never knew what it was. He is going to write another book, so his wife will make a man of him yet. As for Paddy Clancy, whom Eamon Lyons also called on, he is deeper than ever in the dumps and Eamon fears he will resign also[ie. from the CPGB], though he is not a member himself! Des Logan, Helga and Maire Sheridan came in, but I chased them away as I had work to do.
November 21 Wednesday: I worked on the paper all day but called on Alec Digges in the morning to take him some layout paper. I told him how annoyed I was with Cox, who had once more performed his favourite trick of fighting a case in the absence of the defendant, thus leaving himself ample room for manoeuvre. Digges has a very poor opinion of him, formed during the differences with Prendergast in 1952. As for that shady character, he was at a recent meeting and commented to Alec, “This leadership are feeling the breeze”, as if to imply much more. Digges claimed credit for the stability of the Holborn Branch [of the CPGB], and I dare say he is entitled to it. But he expresses the view that the present leadership have brought many of their difficulties on themselves, and that Cox might have some foundation. It is naturally easy to bring difficulties on oneself when the situation bristles with them, and that’s the way it is. But Elsie was too gloomy about him.
I heard from Cathal that Roy [ie. Roy Johnston] has found him a job in the Institute for Advanced Studies, which would give him a two-year contract. He has been cold shouldered by the Irish Workers League ever since he arrived, but intends to try again to join after Christmas. He is very worried about the Hungarian affair and asks, “Can any ends ever justify such means?” Justin Keating also wrote, adding in a footnote that the Dublin Labour movement has collapsed, including the Left. But he is as gloomy as Clancy these days, having been “frozen out” much like Cathal. Roy is closer to the IWL, having never lived in England. He can get nothing out of Nolan but, “We’re in for hard times.” The hoodlums who smashed the shop have been fined and made pay damages. As for the North, Roy’s acid Protestant wit came into full play. When Billy MacCullough [Northern trade unionist and CPNI leader] held an open air meeting Falls Road and Shankill Road hooligans combined to attack him. “Working class unity at last!” says Roy and adds that Billy shouted, “We condemn the Soviet attack on Hungary” as the combined forces swept him off the platform. But a letter from Jack Bennett, inviting me to stay with him in Belfast, said nothing of this [Belfast Telegraph journalist of Protestant background and friend of Greaves’s]. It may therefore be apocryphal; but Gerry Curran told me the Press [Irish Press, Fianna Fail newspaper] did report MacCullough as condemning the Soviet “attack” on Hungary.
November 22 Thursday: When I looked through the window at 9 am. there was hoar frost on the tarpaulin that covers the Holborn Council’s water dump. Though it disappeared later in the day, I must admit to some alarm. It is very early in the year, and the last two years have been so cold that one thinks of the succession 1879, 1880 and 1881 – when the famous frost occurred. I spoke to Phyllis on the phone at 7 pm. There were two degrees of frost then in Liverpool, and last night 11 in the Lake District. But the radio seems to be “playing down” cold weather – probably hoping it will not last till the oil runs out. I think I will keep all my old newspapers to burn if there is a freeze-up in February.
A letter from Justin arrived saying that Paul O’Higgins will be in London the week after next and will lend me his flat while I am in Dublin. He reports something of a moral collapse in the Irish Workers League leadership. However, that may improve as facts come out. I finished the “Democrat” and posted it off [to the printer’s in Ripley, Derbyshire], keeping my fingers crossed, since this time it is a delicate job. The meeting in the evening was not well attended – only 12. Two Africans came and requested our cooperation in freeing Africa from British Imperialism. They were from the African League and complained that Platts Mills [John Platts Mills, former CPGB MP] had put them out of Rosoman Street because he wanted them to accept “white leadership” in their organisation. I remember some scandal, but not that explanation. Maire Sheridan was there but Helga had left for Dublin for an interview. Micklewright told me that Hodgkins (if I’m right about the name) is now receiving insulting letters from readers of the Freethinker and his next expectation is that Guy Aldred will get on to it. The poor Bishop will surely be killed, as Aldred is such a scoundrel that nobody dares sue him for libel. To make matters more amusing for Micklewright, he has booked sermons for a number of Sundays, pockets the fees, and at the same time draws his pension. He is really a bit of an old villain and would have to be watched. But he did Alec a review at short notice and now scrupulously stands his round of drinks!
Lyons gave a good talk on the Fenians and showed a letter from Malin in Liverpool. That “odd bowsie”, as Deighan calls him [Joseph Deighan, leading activist in the Manchester CA branch], wants Lyons to write “businesslike not chatty letters”. As for me he says, “and tell Desmond Greaves not to write words like ‘Christ’ and ‘arse’ in his letters.” They’re good old words,” said Maire Sheridan.
November 23 Friday: All this time has gone since I returned from Ireland, thanks to the crisis I have not touched my book, and am almost ready to go away again. I went this afternoon to the Youth Hostel Association place to buy a couple of “sleeping bags” – one for myself, another to replace one I borrowed from Phyllis. Walking up Villiers St. I was hailed by a Liverpudlian voice which proved to belong to Whelan – I forget his first name; in those days we were still schoolboys and used surnames for everybody – whom I knew at the University. I first met him at a soireé of the joint Learned Societies of Liverpool and District, presided over by Marsbridge and Miss Ethel Warhust LlD – probably Irish from the way she sounded her “r”s. It was something of the 19th century but did powerful work among the young people by encouraging them to develop an interest in field studies. Nevertheless it may have directed many of them into biology, who suffered ferociously as a result. It was Whelan indeed, then a somewhat pasty looking youth with no great intellectual claims, who first introduced me to the YHA [Youth Hostel Association] at a time when I was somewhat contemptuous of such things. We went to Llyn Ogwen to look for Isoites, which grow under the water there. I used to see him making his way with the hordes of young cyclists who poured off the ferryboat at Woodside up the slipway and so to the road to Wales, when I would be crossing into the City on some political occasion. One side of his face was paralyzed, which gave him a somewhat curious expression. Once I took this amiss and commented on it and was sorry I had done so when he gave the reason. Today he is grey-haired and the inactivity of one eye and the immobility of one cheek more pronounced. But his manner is direct, firm and more self-confident. He told me he is now Chief Entomologist to the Government of Rhodesia, with his Liverpool University scarf rolled round his neck, and has lived there ten years, is married, and has a “wee boy” aged eight. He is satisfied with the place, thinks Salisbury a beautiful city, and intends to remain. “That is if the blacks don’t fuck you all out,” said I. He showed no animosity at this and admitted they might. He seemed full of vigour and on top of the world, on his way to an entomologists’ conference in Vienna. “But”, said he, “I”ll choose a hotel near the airport.” He said, as a matter of interest, that Rhodesia has few noxious insects, and that you stand a far better chance of being bitten in Scotland than in Salisbury. The deadly creatures are rare. What exactly they went an entomologist for is therefore obscure, but possibly insects that attack property are numerous and more seriously regarded than those which attack man.
In the evening Maire Sheridan and Maggie Larmour came, and afterwards Gerry Curran. He told me that Bernal [Professor Desmond Bernal, Irish-born left-wing scientist] had broken with us, which is a pity, and I am surprised. On the other hand, Haldane [Professor JBS Haldane, leading British scientist] has declared he will no longer live in a scoundrelly country like this and is moving to India. A point of curiosity for Roscoe Clarke.
November 24 Saturday: I made some preparations for my departure in the morning, wrote an article which I sent to World News [CPGB publication] in the afternoon and went to the Connolly Association social in the evening. Jerry Murphy was there, and Cassidy who swore he had known me well fifteen years ago and named the circumstances. He was active in the Gloucester branch of the Association when Musgrove was Editor of the paper. Maire was there, but not Des Logan or Joe O’Connor, both of whom had promised to attend. I spotted in the bar the “POUM” (e.g. Micklewright, Furlong, O’Shea, O’Neill, Venencia, the big Omadhaun (Brady) [Omadhaun: Irish for fool] plus the redoubtable Jim Prendergast [“POUM”: Trotskyist party in the Spanish Civil War]. Later we found what they had come for. They had decided to run a social in aid of Nolan’s bookshop – I think my circular which I sent to O’Shea gave them the notion. I had sent it in hopes they might respond and we would get a united effort. They utilised it to try to create a split. We announced their social, however. But they have cunningly used the opportunity to create a precedent.
Cassidy is a wild character. He was one of those whose hut was burned down in the fire that cost Pat MacLoughlin all his worldly possessions [a CA member in Liverpool]. “I put in a claim for £140”, he said, “though I hadn’t twopence ha’penny worth there. When I got back I saw my hut being bulldozed, so who could say I didn’t have a fortune there? I’m a man of many shirts.” Kearney’s brother, “Ginger” the barber (not so ginger now he is older), was with Cassidy – rolling drunk when I arrived. And the two of them continued to keep it up till closing time. At intervals “Ginger” would break into bars of maudlin song but Pat would frown and say “Shut up,” and the younger brother would dutifully obey.
November 25 Sunday: We held our Hyde Park meeting without the pleasure of the company of the hoodlums-dedicated, who had gone to Manchester. According to Joe Deighan (on the telephone) it was a bitter wintry day, not mild as it was in London, with merciless rain and no great company attended [i.e. the Manchester open-air Sunday afternoon meeting in Platts Fields]. Traynor [Sinn Fein activist] made an attack on the Connolly Association, and urged his hearers not to buy Irish Freedom [the pre-1945 name of the Irish Democrat] with characteristic Republican broadmindedness. Our own meeting was nonetheless stormy enough. The Communist Party was not there, nor indeed any other socialist platform. But by the same token the volume of support was very considerable. Everybody of political intelligence clusters around our platform. But there were others as well. The notorious Mr. Thomas Ashe, or Nash, as he is believed to be, was standing just before the platform. He behaved himself better than usual nonetheless. He is wizened like a monkey, completely depraved, and uses his wooden leg for eleemosynary purposes. “Give him a half-dollar and he’ll be a Communist himself!” shouted one of our Mayo supporters from the back of the rostrum. “Nobody’s going to offer him £1,000 for that” said I. “I wouldn’t,” said he, “not for £1,000 even”. “He wants more than one thousand!” said I, and so it went on. A few years ago the Catholic Evidence Guild conceived the notion of having a large crucifix attached to the top of their platform. “Khakie Joe”, who earns a few shillings storing and bringing speakers’ platforms to the park, and whose obscenity and cantankerousness excels even what Nash can offer, refused to accommodate them, and none of the speakers felt sufficiently evangelical to oblige. Accordingly Nash was given five shillings to perform the office and before doing so went into the nearest pub and drank Guinness. Recollecting his duty when he was after several glasses, including those he had “bummed”, he picked up his sacred burden and staggered into the Park, the huge six-foot crucifix standing twice as high as himself. He saw a crowd around a meeting and planted the stand alongside the speaker who was standing on a chair, only to realise that far from being the Catholic Evidence Guild, this was the Secular Society. Titters ran round the crowd, which goaded my bold Tommy into a rage. “There”, he shouted, “you atheistic bastards! Look at your fucking Saviour!” On another occasion he wanted to fight me because in the midst of a particularly rough meeting I had looked at him while I said, “I won’t be deterred from speaking by anybody or anything!” “Calling a bloody man a thing!” he said. But the crowd had no patience with him. “You can’t take it yourself” they shouted at him, and returned to their own heckling! [followed by a short sentence blotted out by a water stain in the manuscript Journal]
November 26 Monday (Manchester): I left London on the 10.15 am. for Derby and made straight for Ripley. After the first run of the paper I went to Nottingham and thence through Sheffield to Manchester. The only event of interest was the blowing out of the huge plate-glass window of a furniture shop in Ripley, when a customer left the door open. “Like a rocket”, said a by-stander who spent the next ten minutes describing the catastrophe to everybody who saw the littered glass, and a policewoman, who said, “What’s happened?” It amused me to see the placard now swaying in the breeze, “Let US furnish your home. Easy terms”. They had the policewoman there to see nobody took them at their word. On the train a woman bitterly complained to the dining car attendant that the cloths on the tables were pink – a new objection both to me and the staff, who work a 13 1/2 hour day.
Joe Deighan met me at the station. He seemed a little disheartened by events in Hungary, though I think I was able to encourage him out of his gloom. He told me that there had been no violence in the reaction of the party members in Manchester, though there have been resignations among the “intelligentsia”. Liverpool has been worse, as I would expect. But in Metropolitan Vickers a man who sells 72 copies of the Daily Worker every day had every single one given back to him – for three days. Then they started buying again. Danny Kilcommins is not coming to the meeting tomorrow. He still cannot forgive me for the cartoon of the “Italian Trumpet player” which he considered to be a satire on himself! Tommy Henry saw O’Riordan in Dublin and was inclined to repeat that gentleman’s criticisms of the Irish Democrat. “There are those in Dublin that don’t think much of it,” said he. The insistent opposition that comes from 16 Pearse Street [Irish Workers League bookshop in Dublin] nevertheless is gradually defeating its own object. Dorothy, Joe’s wife, came back from a branch meeting later. Wilf Charles now works full time in Rusholme Road [as Manchester CPGB organiser] but the staff is sadly depleted. Syd, Sol, and “Maxy” are still there and Vic Eddisford is doing “industrial” work.
November 27 Tuesday: I spent the morning in the Public Library getting out Connolly’s Salford speeches and ordering photostats. Then Joe Deighan and Mick Rabbitt called for me. Rabbitt is a great character, from Mayo, round-faced, weather-beaten, with shrewd eyes and playful lips over a solid lantern jaw, a steel-erector by trade. I had written to him criticising his taking up the standpoint that it as of no importance to resist discrimination against Irishmen. But since a local example had come to light the matter now required no argument. The meeting [of the Manchester CA branch] took place in the evening. PJ Kearney, Maire his wife, Barney Watters and quite a few were there, including the ebullient little Fintan O’Malley, who has a shrewd eye for social developments.
The Manchester Martyrs commemoration report engaged some attention. It was decided to write and ask if Traynor’s attack was “official” [ie.whether it had been approved by the Sinn Fein leadership in Dublin].
November 28 Wednesday: The morning I spent with Joe Deighan, and in the afternoon went to Liverpool, arriving just before Phyllis [his sister, who continued to live in the Greaves family home in Prenton, Birkenhead, following their mother’s death] came in. She was feeling pleased with herself. She has just been appointed Headmistress of a Secondary-Modern school and though she was already earning more than the headmistress’s salary for a school for young children, this will bring her a substantial increase, since after a certain age the children count as “two each” in determining their teachers’ salaries. She was a little regretful that this prosperity had not begun while AEG [their mother] was alive, but if every person’s work came to fruition while his parents were still alive, then either they would live forever, or nobody would ever achieve anything! She is now considering keeping the house and wants to buy my share of it. But there is no hurry.
I took the Belfast boat at 9.30 pm., had dinner with a sporting man and dance-band proprietor Mick Callaghan, who was prepared to deliver strong anticlerical views, possibly feeling himself safe to do so in my company. He knew the Irish Democrat as he had lived in London. He said that when a private individual opened a dance-hall too near a chapel, the priests complained that it gave rise to immorality. When it closed down they took it over. However, it was an exceptionally stormy night. I declined to stay drinking with him and went to my cabin and slept very well.
November 29 Thursday (Belfast): Jack Bennett met me on the Quay. The boat was an hour and a half late owing to the gale, but though it was now colder and the weather milder, there were traces of snow and hail still melting in the streets, and Cave Hill was under a thick blanket. We went to Glengormley for breakfast, and then, after a long conversation about old and new times met Cathal MacCrystal for a drink before lunch. I took to MacCrystal. He is an old mentor of Joe Deighan, and has a slight air of paternal amusement when he mentions him. He knew Joe when he was much younger, of course. He is a man of about 50 and like Jack Bennett completely clear in his mind about Central European affairs. Indeed Jack is inclined to probe too little and does not understand – or did not – that many things must be very thoroughly re-assessed for our future safety and success. MacCrystal is a quick soft-spoken grey-haired man, with a “flat” Belfast accent, and grey hair surrounding a “baby-face”. He is a printer on the Telegraph where Jack Bennett works, and according to Joe Deighan is also a bit of a hypnotist. He is chairman of the Gaelic League, but having opposed any action in relation to Hungary on the grounds that the League has never yet taken a political stance on anything, he apprehends losing his official position. He advised me to see George MacBride and Dan MacAlistair of the ITGWU, who might have the books of the earliest period. MacAlistair is however an enthusiastic Catholic actionist who goes to Mass every day, so on reflection I decided to think of another means of access.
While I was with Peadar O’Donnell he told me with great glee how Tony Cronin, who was his protege on The Bell, had now a good job editing “Tide” or “Time” or some such journal’s London edition. I now heard more of his proclivities. It was O’Donnell who secured Cronin’s inclusion in the Irish party which went to Russia. When Cronin arrived there it was cold. So he refused to get out of bed, declined even to allow the hotel staff to clean his room. “I’m used to an equable climate,” he said, “Send up plenty of drink.” He disgraced the party, said MacCrystal. But that did not prevent him writing articles for the Irish Times in which, though he said little that was derogatory to Russia for a man with sound social values, a note of sneering and superciliousness was extraneously present. His failure to give a detailed account of the country was explicable on the grounds that he saw nothing of it! O’Donnell, however, to whom all is forgiven barring independence from himself, ventures to rejoice in the young man’s good fortune.
I spent the afternoon in the house with Jack Bennett, after a good lunch, if expensive, at the Grand Central, where we were served by a waiter for some parts. He was short and stocky, incompletely shaven, or perhaps was one of those whose stiffly recalcitrant beards defy all razors can do. We gathered he was Catholic after he had guessed we took the Nationalist standpoint. But his cynicism in politics would have done credit to a Frenchman. “If there was a job for everybody in Northern Ireland,” said he, “there’d still be unemployment!”. He had been a serviceman for fifteen years but had decided to seek the lean fleshpots of security as a waiter. He was very interested in Brendan Behan whose “Quare Fellow” is now at the “Group” [ie.the Group Theatre in London].
We went to see George MacBride and, luckily, found him at home. He is a big lumbering man in his late sixties with 5000 books littered throughout a quite small house. They surround the walls and are heaped on the floors. They have invaded one room after another till now he can scarcely make a cup of tea for them. He is the widower of Winifred Carney, James Connolly’s secretary, who died of tuberculosis some years ago. He told me he had five letters from Connolly written in the USA soliciting quite small sums of money in order to keep going. He also has a file of the Shan Van Vochtwhich he bought at an auction for £2 about fifteen years ago. We arranged to call again on Saturday so that I could read them. (This meant not going to Dublin till Sunday and I had arranged with Sean Murray [Irish communist and republican leader, prominent in the 1930s] to accompany him. Murray had expressed the view that we must “Insulate ourselves against these things in Europe. If our policy for Ireland or England is right, well and good.” He was going to Dublin for a meeting on Sunday morning. MacCullough had speedily repented of his condemnation of Russia when the significance of Mindszenty’s appearance was borne in on him. And indeed the “Orange” left was perfectly firm on the Hungarian crisis since they were able to blame it all on the Catholic Church. On the other side, said Jack Bennett, Pat Quinn and others had found nobody would speak to them in their factories, despite their being shop stewards, but as soon as an industrial dispute arose the old relations began to re-establish themselves.
The suppressed religious sectarianism showed itself even now. While “not caring what we were”, MacBride wanted to know. “It makes it simpler.” When he found we were Protestants like himself he opened up frankly and freely. (There was a recent case in a census in which religion was recorded where an atheist was asked if he would write “Protestant atheist” or “Catholic atheist”.) So the room was full of “Protestant atheists”. Emmet Larkin, who is writing the life of Jim Larkin for Heinemann in London, though an American, did not pass muster. MacBride did not take to him, I suspect, possibly because of the religious colouring. It is not sectarianism; it is the reflection of generations of sectarianism which has inbred into the two communities certain habits of mind and thought which became completely ingrained in the older generation. They feel more at ease with “their own”. MacBride was most insistent that I must not diminish the stature of Larkin by one whit. He feared that Emmet Larkin was going to produce an anti-Connolly book. That is why he refused to give him copies of the letters. Apart from that he “didn’t appear to have the weight for the job. It needs a man with experience in the Labour movement.” Emmet Larkin had come up to see him late, “as an afterthought just fitting him in” and he “didn’t take to him.” Emmet Larkin is, I think, one of Clarkson’s students [Professor JD Clarkson, author of “Labour and Nationalism in Ireland”] and about 30 years of age. MacBride blamed Bill O’Brien for the anaemic nature of the labour movement today, but thought he had been the first to create an efficiently organised Trade Union, something Larkin was not capable of. He thought Tom Johnson “sat on the fence” and was outraged that Monteith should have to leave Ireland to escape those who were trying “to change his religion” (from Protestant atheist to Catholic atheist!). He knew the Democrat well, but had no time for the Communist Party of Northern Ireland: “Whenever I see them they are either coming out of the Duke of York, or going into it.”
November 30 Friday: The Linenhall Library assistant told me there were no files of the Belfast Telegraph in her charge. They had been given to the Telegraph to replace blitzed copies. But “Albert” in charge of the Telegraph library denied they had ever received any, or indeed that any had been blitzed. “That was to get rid of you,” he said. However, I spent all day reading the Telegraphcopies, though some were missing. They have no central room for bound copies. Jack has had a lively time with his colleagues, though the generally Protestant staff refuses to take Mindszenty’s part. Thus they have no policy for Hungary and only one for the Hungarian refugees. One of the most reactionary came over specially to torment Jack Bennett from another department, but on being told he was a “po-head who needed it emptying every morning” he retreated in a speechless rage and people were asking Jack what he had said to him. Needless to say, the vulgarity appealed to them considerably and softened the antagonism very amicably. Everybody likes a man who can defend his point.
Before returning to Glengormley we met two young fellows, one, Harold Winter, a convert, who works on the Telegraph, the other, Robinson, a Catholic by birth. Both of them recognised me, having listened to me in Hyde Park. They were quite a bit romantic, thinking of physical force as a “means in itself”. But when I explained how force cannot be a substitute for policy they understood my argument well enough. At any rate, Robinson wanted a subscription to the Irish Democrat. Here moreover were Nationalists whose interest in Ireland means that others went on about “Hungary” while their own went on the boat.
December 1 Saturday: I traced the Telegraph files I lacked to the Donegall Road library, just above Sandy Row, and spent the day there. Then I went to MacBride’s, where Jack Bennett joined me. He showed us the Shan Van Vocht and the account book of the Women Workers’ Textile Union, but could not trace the letters. However, he thinks he gave copies to Ina, whom he likes. He gave me a manifesto of his Union, and asked me to publish it. I know that he wants his wife’s name mentioned and am only too pleased to afford him this pleasure and her memory this stimulation. We also examined a book of photographs of the 1907 strike. He hates RM Fox [author of an early biography of James Connolly]. Apparently some reference in Fox’s obituary of his wife annoyed him when he was upset after the death. Certain “nil nisi” is a sound rule for obituary writers. “He’s a little Cockney rat,” says MacBride, “and though he says his grandfather was an Irish poet, nobody ever heard of him.” On the other hand he mellowed later and gave Fox great credit for preserving the memory of Connolly and others in his books, “bad as they are”. He says Fox has a reputation for being “very mean with his material”. This is of course true. It was only through the chance of Peadar Noonan sending me the “Monitor” from New York that I learned about Quinlan’s inaccurate articles being the basis for the American chapters of his book. When I asked him his authority for the “Ballybay” birthplace he merely quoted Nora Connolly. As for “Penny Readings” he told me that what were referred to were penny pamphlets on political subjects, till I identified them as the component parts of the “Cabinet of Irish Literature”, a copy of which was in my grandfather’s library, along with the writings of Bradlaugh and Darwin. One interesting suggestion he made was to try to get some living artist (such as Rothenstein) to give his recollections of Connolly’s physical characteristics as clearly as possible.
December 2 Sunday (Dublin): I left Belfast and Jack and Anna [Jack Bennett’s wife] and went to Dublin. Cathal was waiting for me at Amiens St. and had arranged for us to go out to Justin’s [ie. Justin and Loretta Keating’s] for lunch. Both Cathal and Justin have been worried over Central Europe. The atmosphere differs from that of Belfast. But their position is sound enough. Their only difficulty is political isolation over here. Justin told me the leadership of the Irish Workers League was equally divided and all activity had stopped. Nolan was sound, O’Riordan wavering, Carmody and Sam Nolan enthusiastic admirers of Tito. Mulready had begun violently anti-Russian but had been convinced of his error by Minsdzenty. It is a pity I did not have a chance for a talk with Murray [Sean Murray], as I presume he had been called in to mediate between the disputants. Jeffares was also clear in his mind. Justin had been very suspicious of him but was beginning to take a different view. Then Dick Stringer and his wife came and drove Cathal and me to Rathgar where we had another meal, secured the key of Paul’s [ie. Paul O’Higgins] 12 by 7 flat, and then called on Mulready. He was in a good mood, though in the midst of painting his house. He expressed his curiosity as to what the “wild wild geese” were saying. I said nothing. As long as they don’t say it near me, they are at liberty to express themselves as they choose. The farther away the better. But he thought that Venencia was an “extreme Stalinist” [North London Connolly Association branch member]. He probably read the “Vindication of Joseph Stalin” at the bottom of a glass of Guinness. Cathal told me he has a job in the development Laboratory at Pye Telecommunications. Firms are setting up such departments in Ireland, where the work costs less. Half of his colleagues are English. “Are you Catholic?” said one. “No”, said Cathal (who is a Catholic atheist). “Oh, so you are one of us,” said he. But despite all his entreaties Cathal obstinately refuses to call on the low Protestant vicar. To make the situation even more odd, this English Church of Ireland man is a firm believer in poltergeists and swears that one threw a glass of water at him. “If one did that to me,” said Cathal, “I’d kick his arse for him”.
Cathal is of course very pleased with Roy and Justin, but thinks Roy is very “worldly”. “I suppose you think that we’re as mean as muck,” said Roy to him when he put margarine on the table. Roy constantly clings on in the movement and is prepared to stick by it despite the frustrations, but is all the time, at least half of his time, considering the bawbees.
There was a letter awaiting me from Jim O’Regan [Cork left republican, former International Brigader, imprisoned in Britain during the World War for IRA activity]. He thinks the Labour Movement in Western Europe is put back for a decade. He himself stands where he did but, “it’s frightful that a noble cause has to suffer for something that it did not cause or support.” … “An insurmountable barrier has been created, and created coldly and deliberately by twelve years domination of a brutal bureaucracy, vicious secret police (whose main achievement seems to have been the murder of the best elements in Hungary) and a group of leaders who appear to have been totally divorced from the masses.” Letchford’s photography business is not doing too well at this time of year. Cal O’Herlihy [UCC student] is anxious I should stay at his house, but I would prefer to stay at O’Regans, since Cal is not the master of the house.
December 3 Monday: I spent the morning writing and went to see Ina in the afternoon. She showed me a letter from a second cousin in the USA who had written to the CIU trying to trace the family. She was the daughter of Captain McGinn (who seems to have called himself McGenn, perhaps from being born in Glasgow?), a Scottish-born man of great ability who worked his way up from cabin boy to Captain in the P and O Line. He was of a hard and cantankerous disposition and lived apart from his wife. Nevertheless the second cousin, Isabella McGenn (a widow living with her mother, now 88), recalls that he visited her mother Mary McGenn (same spelling) in Scotland shortly before she died. The name of the mother of the two McGinns was Boyle, so it seems that Captain McGinn must have been a nephew of Mary McGinn, who was James Connolly’s mother, that is to say her brother’s son. She said Connolly visited them in California in 1904, though she did not herself remember him until 1908 or 1909, when her father brought their “Uncle Jim” to see her sister and herself who were at a convent in Oregon. Ina recalls his telling of his visit to relatives in California after his return to New York.
I asked her then about the aged relatives on her mother’s side whom she had intended to contact to try to find proof of the theory that Connolly met Lily Reynolds while in the army in Dublin. She said there was no such person and that I had misunderstood the conversation. I think this unlikely, though it is not impossible. She relied on rather tenuous evidence. Her father had told Mrs. Farrell of the Coombe not to buy her son out of the army. Good men had learned the use of arms there and put their knowledge to better use. She also thought Desmond Ryan’s account of the kidnapping entirely wrong, and referred to his statement that he had “walked miles” [a reference to the supposed abduction of Connolly by the IRB leaders on the eve of the Easter Rising]. She thought he had been at the Curragh which he knew and that this visit was connected with the Rising. But the way rumours grow can be illustrated, for Mrs. Tom Johnson had been to see her and had said Connolly was in the army and that he had told her. Actually I had told her, and at the time she was surprised. Now I wonder if Ina has guessed that Mrs Johnson had the story from me and is pretending Connolly told her in order to exaggerate her own intimacy with him, and Ina now refuses to follow up this other line for fear I would pass it on to somebody else. On the other hand, she will not correct the American letter because I alone can get HA Scott to look (illegally) at the Connolly archives in Scotland! There is little desire in Dublin to have the story of a great Socialist faithfully told. Of Bill O’Brien she says he will not cooperate through old age and the feeling that somebody is writing the book he wants to write. “I wish to God he’d write it,” said I. “He won’t,” said she. Her plan is to collect all the material Connolly ever wrote, take it to him, and ask him to give her the first Workers Republic material, which he alone has. Unfortunately to enable her to do this I have to give her recent material I have discovered without any guarantee I will ever see hers, if she gets it. I do not think she is completely frank. She is not inexperienced and being a little forgetful she does not always have the same story. As Grimley said, “There are some things she doesn’t want other people to know.” She denied having received copies of the MacBride letters – I think for the same reason. She is anxious to “de-bunk” the “pure Nationalist” theory, and for that reason she is sympathetic to my efforts. She is angry with Nora and Roddy for returning to the bosom of the Catholic Church and says she never once recalls James Connolly taking them to Mass. She completely rejects the Fr Aloysius story of the last minute reconversion. But at the same time either she is anxious to avoid the publication of certain things or wishes her own book to disclose them for the first time (though she showed it to Carmody), or possibly wishes me to go into the fray first and see what kind of a reception is met with. For that reason I would be helped by her preface, and must collaborate! My best plan is to utilise the fact that probably I am the only person who can get her a publisher, and annotate her work.
After leaving her I went to Sandymount and found Cathal awaiting me with Roy. Mairín was in good form; the painless childbirth had been a success, much to the surprise of the nurse. I had of course to inspect the daughter who is so far “like” every other baby. Then Justin came. We learned that the Irish Workers League, up to the latest news, has suspended all meetings, closed the shop entirely on the grounds that opening it would militate against the renewal of the lease, and distributed free to the members most of the current issue of the Irish Workers Voice rather than sell it. When we called at Stringers to pick up and take Loretta [Loretta Wine, Justin Keating’s wife]home, she told us that the bazaar to raise funds for the Irish Workers Voice had been cancelled. In other words, complete capitulation.
December 4 Tuesday: I received a frantic letter from Pat Bond to the effect that Eamon Lyons thinks I have double-crossed him over the contents of the December paper, and refuses to sell it. He claims I have “referred slightingly” to emigrés and goodness knows what in favour of the Russians. So I wrote back and told him to come and examine the contents of the next issue before it goes to the printer.
December 5 Wednesday: I was buying tea in Rathmines Road when George Jeffares came into the shop. He told me his wife Marion had just gone down with phlebitis for the first time and he was anticipating a hard time. She has two children. Jeffares has a curious history. He was in the Navy when I first heard of him. I was at Sean O’Casey’s house in Totnes on New Year’s Day 1948 (or 1949 more likely – I forget precisely) and was told he was stationed at Dartmouth. His present wife was married to the secretary of the local CP branch, and their romantic affairs caused considerable controversy there. “He’s a dashing young Irishman,” said Bob Stewart. Then I remember Ivor Montague wanting a man who knew Russian and Spanish to go to China and Jeffares was the man. Nan Green had a high regard for him. But on the other hand he had indoctrinated her with an absurd respect for his London favourites, Brendan Behan and company, who regaled themselves in McDaid’s [a literary pub off Grafton Street, Dublin], and if a man was known by his company, I had not much regard for Jeffares. Now Justin tells me he has steadied somewhat. Returning to Dublin, his native city, he went into partnership in a car-hire business with a character who aroused Justin’s suspicion but may be harmless enough. Today he told me of efforts to pull round the Irish Workers League on the Hungarian issue. A cloud crossed his face when I said I had been in Belfast and he mentioned Seán Murray. He complains that a police guard was put on his house for a week after a poster was attached to his business address announcing that he and his partner would be “burnt alive”. He had to go to the highest officials of the “special branch” in order to have it removed. What he said seemed sound enough, especially that those who exhibit such touching faith in the Hungarian people that they want the Russians to keep out, show no comparable faith in the Irish people and do not want to test them! He invited me to go and see them as they are only a few hundred yards away at 34 Highfield Road.
In the evening Cathal came into the National Library and we had dinner together. He is more concerned with events in Eastern Europe than it would appear on the surface. Justin complains that Cathal does not say much to him, as he is shy except to those he knows extremely well. The position here is that the Daily Worker is not generally available. It was refused by Easons; then the railwaymen at Dun Laoire refused to handle it. The sea of antagonistic propaganda on which every socialist here floats (or tries to) is hardly appreciated without.
December 6 Thursday: After working most of the day in the National Library I called on Ina Connolly who had a friend with her – Maire. But oh!, what a depressed, disillusioned, politically putrified creature. She had been making a proof copy of a book by Takaiev which described life in Russia and which showed clearly the way in which the admissions made last winter [ie. Khruschev’s revelations about the Stalin period] have confirmed peoples’ worst fears and made them willing to believe anything about Russia. This woman described the sordid network of suspicion and espionage and added the statement that thirty million people had been killed in ten years! She added that the discoveries of medical science were to be regretted as they did not contribute to human happiness, and that just as the “flood” had destroyed life on the earth except for the animals Noah saved (in 1956!), so the hydrogen bombs would repeat a similar cycle. She also thought that the ice age had done the same. She had of course only the vaguest notions of the implications of what she was saying and seemed to care little. Her manner displayed lassitude and resignation, and she mentioned that the great comforts of modern times had made people lazy. I think Ina was a little surprised that I did not argue the point with her. This was the Catholic middle class at its most intellectually demoralised and I had no brush for that stable with me.
Then I went to see Jeffares. Marion was in bed, very much the English Communist with definite practical judgements and the hard efficient glossy surface of the older type. I think she is in a kind of permanent revolt. She told me she likes living here but thinks she will never understand Irish politics because personalities play so much part. Jeffares himself has I think steadied. He is still proud of the influential people he knows throughout the world. He has no clear proposals for the Irish Workers League and merely says they are weaker than they ever were. He accepts the typical Nolan arguments for retreat, and if they survive by it, then it will prove he was right! At the same time there is a slight note of exasperation. He was opposed to calling off the meetings in Abbey Street in 1950. But he seems to agree with losing £10 a week by closing the shop. The motto seems to be that all will “blow over” and after that all will be well. But he explains that nobody in Dublin has a tittle of resistance. So there’s the problem.
The new house he is buying is being decorated, indeed all but rebuilt, by a Yugoslav town-planner called Yantz (or some such name) who lives in the flat above Paul’s where I am staying. His is the gramophone which plays me up each morning, with Mozart’s Symphony No.40 on Monday, Beethoven’s 4th and 7th the next two days and (I think) Mozart’s Mass in C Minor or excerpts from it next. He was a big figure in the Yugoslav CP, knew Tito and Rankovitch well, but fell foul of some petty bureaucrat who knew more about town planning then he did and had him transferred to some obscure village. He protested without avail, then emigrated. He has been invited back, but refuses on the grounds that he can no longer contend with eighteen meetings a day.
December 7 Friday: I spent the day in the National Library, and in the evening Cathal came for dinner at Paul’s with Justin close behind him. We had a pleasant relaxed evening, indeed Cathal relaxed too much. He fell asleep while Justin and I were talking politics, and when he awoke after twenty minutes and Justin had gone was affected by a fit of laughing which put me in mind of Arthur Sion in the olden days. On the last big air-raid night of 1941 I went to Alice Loveman’s and Sid French, Sion and his first wife were there. By some means we always used to have a shrewd suspicion when a really major raid was coming because of the reduced air activity before it. The signs fell true. The warning blew at 6.30 pm. or soon after and a deputation was sent to the “Rose” to procure such liquor as its depleted stocks permitted. Beer was obtainable and “Portugese wine”. But Mrs. Sion had acquired some whiskey – I think her people were in the business. Sion himself I recall well calling in to me when I was the Woolwich CP secretary about a strike he was involved in as a cycle mechanic [Greaves worked for some months in Woolwich Arsenal at this time]. He was the most excitable and nervous person I ever met in my life, was then about 25, very slim and athletic having been a professional cyclist, though possibly got up for the “non-members” like a trade union leader. Whiskey had a powerful effect on him, but as the bombs crashed down and the house shook, guns banged and the incredible variety of air-raid noises continued, he got license to indulge. Who would stop a man on what might well be his last night on earth. We were playing the piano, singing and generally enjoying ourselves, as far as was possible considering what was going on outside. But the effect of the whiskey was more than we bargained for. Suddenly Sion lay down in the middle of the floor and began to laugh hysterically. He wouldn’t stop. At first it made us laugh. Then we grew tense and embarrassed. Several of those present were drunk. They tried to pour beer down his throat. Somebody gave him an umbrella which he put up while one of the young lads emptied beer bottles on to the cover. It was as crazy a sight as I ever saw. I stayed the night (what was left of it) and next day we all went on a hike to Boxhill and Dorking – none the worse for it. I well remember how the sun could not be seen for smoke through which tiny curled pieces of charred paper were falling. Out at Dorking there was brilliant May sunshine. I told Cathal this story and it made him laugh more. However, when a cup of tea was made he pulled himself together. It was so unlike him that I asked the reason. He answered that he did not want to laugh but that it was a reflex in his stomach. He then explained that he badly misses Helga, is finding Pye are not good employers after all, is stretched beyond his actual capacity as a scientist, and moreover is worried about getting a house. It was another example of the inner tensions which exist in reserved people.
December 8 Saturday: I have had a bad cold for the last few days – caught from Anna Bennett in Belfast, I’ll swear – so decided to do little work as a form of therapy possible until probably past the infectious stage. I took a copy of Clarkson’s book [ie. JD Clarkson, “Labour and Nationalism in Ireland”] up to Tom Johnson. I asked him where he got the phrase attributed to him by Clarkson: “Rome was not taken on rotten parsnips.” But he denied ever having used it. “It’s not the sort of thing I would say,” he replied. There is something a little pathetic about him, a genuine man who has been saddled with responsibility for a terrible political error [ie. by advocating Labour’s non-participation in the 1918 general election and its effective exclusion thereafter from a leading role in the national independence struggle], the consciousness of which weighs on him the more since he still can see no satisfactory alternative. He said he only in the last few years understood what Connolly was getting at. The central conception he had was that of the class struggle, as an antagonism of interest which affected every aspect of life. The Independent Labour Party, Blatchford, The Clarion, all avoided this. They feared to be accused of advocating class struggle. Johnson had only recently realised that it was there whether you advocated it or not.
“My difficulty was,” he want on, “that I was never able to convince other people of what I thought was the best policy”.
“You weren’t a leader,” said his wife.
“No. Yet I led,” he replied, adding “I hope to see a little new thought emerge before I go. I can’t last much longer now.”
They did not know that Jack Hedley was dead. They had known him when he came to Belfast in 1919. He had been involved in mutinies, sabotage and goodness knows what else in the navy. He told them he was born in Cork, and his real name was O’Hagan but that he adopted the name Hedley on going to England. But I told them he told me he was born in Whitehaven, and deserted from the British navy in Cobh after trying to give guns to the IRA, and then went to Belfast. There he was associated with an ultra-left group and found himself subsequently in Mountjoy. On his release he organised the “Soviet” creameries in Co. Limerick (I misremember the exact order of these events). But Mrs Johnson thought his name was “Fred” Hedley in Liverpool and that it was he and another prisoner from Belfast who started the hunger strike in Mountjoy. They refused to work in the woodyard and the IRA prisoners shortly followed their lead in a struggle for political prisoner treatment. They were convinced I was right over the name when I told them of knowing him in Liverpool where he acted as chairman for one of Sean Murray’s meetings and took up about an hour. People were interrupting him and heckling him to stop. Afterwards Murray told me he had a sore throat and had asked Hedley to take up as much time as possible.
Tom Johnson also told me about Robert Dorman, whom he said was an ex-naval man, of very kindly and lovable disposition, a good if not forceful speaker, but no organiser. He was an insurance official and they knew him in Limerick. Before going to Limerick he was in Waterford, and then went to Belfast. Their impression was that he was an Englishman. Bill O’Brien has the minute book of the Irish Socialist Republican Party and in it is to be found the record of the resolution Dorman proposed that the ISRP should be set up. He was something of a pacifist, like a Quaker but not one, and always in his speeches quoting “the good book”. He visited Dublin during the First World War and told Mrs Johnson he had seen Jim Connolly at the head of a column of Citizen Army men, “misleading the youth of Dublin”. But he retained his labour sympathies to the end of his life, and became a Senator in the Six Counties, probably because he was acceptable to all sections of Labour opinion. He would be 5 or 10 years older than Connolly.
I was then asked had we considered setting up a Connolly Association in Ireland and receiving a wider sale for the Democrat here. I replied we felt freer without the responsibility. There is, however, no reason why a circulation should not be built up, apart from the bitter jealousy of those who are at present in charge of the Irish Workers League – but I couldn’t tell him that!
I then went to see Ina. She had been to see PS O’Hegarty’s [nationalist publicist and civil servant] widow in hopes that there might be a file of the Workers Republic in his archives. There was not. Mrs. O’Hegarty has so far catalogued 6000 of his huge collection of books. She applauded him because he refused to have a priest when he died. He was a self-proclaimed atheist and brought up his children without religion. But Ina has sent her young son Brian to St.Jarlath’s in Tuam in the belief that the religious training will benefit him. Her eldest son is 34 and in the Irish Army. He does not go to Mass. But Ina is a bundle of contradictions, like the old ILP, which is her spiritual home. She thinks if the eldest lad leaves the Army and goes to Africa he will be “building” something. Something is the word. If he leaves it for years Africa will be built up, says she. She calls herself a “Communist” yet is treasurer of the Hungarian Children’s Relief fund. Yet she says if she went to Russia she would “write what they want” even if it was not what she saw! It is more than I would do. She thinks the finest thing that could happen to the Labour Party here is that it should be wiped out so that they could start afresh, yet she told Carmody that he could do more in the Labour Party than in the Workers League!
She had met William O’Brien accidentally, 76 years old and hale and hearty as could be. “His mother lived to be ninety,” said she. She asked him for help in the work of collecting her father’s writings, but he answered not one word. This upset her. But she told me he was saying Mrs O’Hegarty is asking for things he hadn’t got. “He hasn’t everything,” she explained. She told me how Cathal O’Shannon took a whole sackful of letters from the house in Belfast and gave them to O’Brien. Then O’Shannon was to write the life of Larkin and O’Brien lent him material which, after getting drunk on the publisher’s advance, he promptly lost, thus making a gap in O’Brien’s collection. Most serious of all was her suggestion that Roddy had ample material and that though he would not give it to her, he might give it to me if I approached him.
After leaving her I met Cathal in Roberts’s and went to see “Carmen” at the Gaiety Theatre. It was good for an amateur company and the work they do must be very valuable in bringing opera and musical practice to young people. The children of the chorus and cast formed part of the “crowd”. Cathal had heard from Helga. She wrote the letter on my typewriter as she was “doing something” in my flat. So I wonder if I will recognise the place when I get back! A letter came from Pat Bond to the effect that Stella [Mrs Bond] has had a baby girl – Patricia Sheila. Characteristic of Pat Bond to have the name ready to fit on the child the minute it was born. Justin was arguing and tossing hither and thither for three weeks!
December 9 Sunday: When I was waiting for Cathal at the GPO a red-clad figure rushed at me – it was Ina Connolly. She had been awake all night thinking over a magnificent new idea. She would go and ask De Valera [former Taoiseach, later President] to ask Bill O’Brien to lend her the copies of the Workers Republic, but first she wants the material I have. She thinks O’Brien would not give it to her now but would be immensely flattered if De Valera asked him. Then Cathal came and we went to Bray, walked over the head to Glen of the Downs and Windgates, had a very bad lunch at the Royal Hotel and then went to Roy’s. He had dropped Cathal a card. Thanks to some protest Roy had made at the “finance meeting” it had been decided to consider selling copies of the Irish Workers Voiceafter all, as the problem of paying the bill had arisen. So there is to be a general meeting following Roy’s informing them that some people were prepared to take a chance. They have called their child Oona Patricia – so there are two Patricias now. Cathal and I left Roy at about 9.30 pm. and went into the city but talked so long that he nearly missed his bus!
December 10 Monday: After spending most of the day in the Library I caught the 5 pm. train to Waterford where Peter O’Connor was waiting for me. The young lad Emmet speaks more each time you see him. He is atrociously spoiled, but soon Biddy is to have another, so that will end.
December 11 Tuesday: We found Jim Duggan at home and took him to look at Peter’s summer bungalow in Tramore. The notion was for a few of us to meet there tonight to be out of the way of Biddy’s mother, but in the end Biddy found a way to prevent her coming. She is a tough septuagenarian with a tart and vigorous tongue, very bitterly barbed against Peter’s politics and prepared to create a scene at the slightest provocation. We asked Duggan why on his recent visit to London he had not made contact with the Connolly Association. The explanation seemed a little unsatisfactory. In essence it was that Nolan had told him to make contact with Lambert, but that Lambert had not been very helpful to him. The suggestion was the old one of going to England to learn a trade, and then to come back, which is used as an excuse to keep up a fiction of Irish Workers League membership while people are in Britain.
The visitors arrived so late that Biddy was driven up in Peter’s car to tell her mother not to come down. The old lady was suspicious but could do nothing in the face of Biddy’s eloquent lies. Then Jim Duggan, Gabriel Lalor, Mrs Lalor, and several others appeared on the scene. They could not decide on an agenda and I sat tight. Then they decided to ask my opinion on Hungary, which I gave them. I took many examples from Irish history to illustrate the case and at one of them Gabriel (the most shaken by the Central European events) sat up. I had remarked that in 1922 the Republicans of Kilkenny forced the railway men to work at the point of the gun. “In Kilkenny?” he asked sharply. Afterwards I learned he was brought up in Kilkenny, though resident in New Ross for a long time. The discussion swayed this way and that. After it was over Seamus Behan came in and wanted to start another. Like other Dubliners (whom Cathal accuses of being the supreme egotists of the world, and this generation the “know-alls and do-nothings” of history) he wanted to be at the centre of the stage. I let him be. He has Furlong’s trick of twisting his mouth when he thinks he has made a point, and if I am not mistaken Dominic has the same. All, of course, would like to be as famous as Brendan. They may indeed have his brains, but lack his showmanship.
December 12 Wednesday (Cork): I caught the 9.25 to Cork. The weather has been cold since I set foot in Ireland – quite exceptionally so – but has now turned very wet and windy. I reached Jim O’Regan’s [in Sunday’s Well, Cork] before he had got home. My card announcing my arrival had not been seen, but I was made immediately welcome. News came through of the IRA raids in the North. “That’s not Pip’s boys,” said Mrs O’Regan [ie.Jim O’Regan’s mother] (they always call Jim “Pip”), “it is Liam Kelly” [a breakaway group from the IRA]. Later Jim himself came home. “I don’t like it” was his sole comment. I spent the evening with Cal O’Herlihy, who had spent the summer with us in Holborn; then we were to meet Jim at St. Patrick’s Bridge. He did not arrive.
December 13 Thursday: In the morning it was clear that Gough and Lenehan were indeed Cork Sinn Fein boys. Mrs. O’Regan told me that “Pip” knew nothing about the raid. He had been delayed because he was arguing against it in the Sinn Fein Club. He had also had a rumpus with them a few weeks previously, when he had told them the raiders were “knocking their heads against a brick wall”. He was now extremely incensed and upset.
I went up to Cal’s house for tea. His father had attended a Connolly Association meeting in London in August and was very impressed. It reminded him of the early days of Sinn Fein. He was pleased with the atmosphere of sincerity, though strongly disclaimed socialist tendencies. Mrs. O’Herlihy was a slighter character, rather afraid of her guest, though she softened later. The brother, aged 24, was there also. O’Herlihy himself was pleased with Cal’s progress as a student – he is still only 19 – but not entirely satisfied with the older boy, who is working at Dunlops and studying engineering. Gough, the youngest of the captured IRA lads, was a pupil at the school of which O’Herlihy is headmaster. He describes him as a quiet, personable, unassuming lad, the sole support of his widowed mother and six younger brothers and sisters. Mrs. O’Regan, whom I saw on my return, is very much against the raids. She is afraid Jim will be jailed again if they are “all rounded up” [Jim O’Regan, her son, had been imprisoned in Britain during World War 2 for IRA activities]. Also, her father having been English, from Barnstaple in Devon, “and a finer man you never met” she always adds, she has a sneaking regard for England which her son does not share.
Her husband’s aunt, Mrs O’Shea, also inhabits the house at the age of 93. She is the wife of O’Shea who kept the hotel at which Connolly used to stay when in Cork – on Pope’s Quay. Travers told me about it. But little did I know my old friend Jim O’Regan had learned his republicanism and socialism in that same house. Needless to say his mother wished it had never been built. Mrs. O’Shea remembers Con O’Lyhane (“a lovely man”) and James Connolly. She always asks after Travers whom Connolly found very hard to convince, she says. But she has a tendency to imagine that these people are either still alive, or well known to people fifty years younger than herself!
Norman Letchford came in and we tried to find Jim Savage [Cork republican and Irish Workers League member]. But he was out, so we went into town and had a drink. Letchford, as a matter of interest, is a bit of an anarchist, wore a bushy beard, and joined the Connolly Association in London about 1951 Clancy objected to the beard, and induced him to cut it off. He has mentioned children, is an artist and a writer, but is incurably the English romantic. He professed love for a Limerick colleen who was a nurse in a hospital where he was a clerk. When she returned home he gave up his job, followed her to Dublin, hitchhiked to Kilmallock, tried to persuade the Bishop of Limerick to turn him into a Catholic, which he declined to do, and after hopelessly troubadouring her windows, gave up hope of his ladylove and got a job in a factory in Youghal. There he left Claire Madden’s map, which she still worries me about! Then he moved to Cork city and started taking photographs on the street. He was accepted into Sinn Fein, spoke for them in the Six Counties, and was very popular until he decided to publish a pamphlet called something like the “Lives, Loves and Liberties of a Protestant Republican”. This was a re-hash of Connolly Association propaganda and proved too much for the Republicans. A Court of Three assessors came from Dublin, sat solemnly upon his heresies, and expelled him. He wandered in the wilderness till he met Cal O’Herlihy who was looking for a seconder in a debate on socialism in University College Cork [at a student society meeting]. Jim O’Regan attended the debate and thus came in touch with the two of them – both former Connolly Association members, and of the one branch, though they had never met before. Letchford’s only weakness is that he is a “bit of a bore”. He lived up to his reputation tonight and stayed till 1 am. Cathal once had him there – when he lived in No.6 Cockpit Chambers, before he came to me – had such a time and then thought of the desperate expedient of sending him up to me with a present of two leeks. I remember my puzzlement as I took them from him, and his embarrassment as he brought them. However when he got down again he found that that villain of a Cathal had closed the door and was fast asleep – or reading in bed.
Letchford is, of course, completely serious-minded, with not a spark of humour in him. Peter O’Connor does not scintillate with wit, but cannot forbear a laugh at some sudden or violent action, especially if it is against authority. O’Regan on the contrary has not only a sharp wit, but a streak of ‘divilment’, in which he resembles Cathal. His mother told me about Dermot O’Riordan [brother of Irish Workers League leader Michael O’Riordan, who was from Cork] having a great trick played on him the morning after Stalin died. Dermot is the respectable provision-merchant son to whom Mrs O’Riordan, cutting Michael out of the will, is going to leave her property. His shop is just off North Main Street, and it is his habit not to open it until about 11 am. On the morning in question he found a huge black-edged card hanging on the door bearing the legend “Closed, owing to the death of Marshal Stalin”. When the poor man arrived, after an unusually procrastinated rest, he found an astonished crowd round the door, complete with Gardai. “You’ve not contracted your brother’s politics, Mr O’Riordan?” said a Guard. “I have not,” he said, “only that blackguard of a Jim Savage is putting it on me.” It was vain for Savage to deny it. “If I could prove it with witnesses, I’d put him in court,” said Dermot to Jim O’Regan. “And you’d be quite right,” said Jim, who had put it there himself in the middle of the night on the way home from the Club [ie. The Cork Sinn Fein club in the Thomas Ashe Hall].
December 14 Friday: The rain came and gales continued unabated. I saw Donal and Maire Sheehan at lunchtime [Cork Irish Workers League members]. “Will you have fish?” she asked apologetically. “We would eat meat, but the neighbours would smell it.” She told me that there is little uncertainty from Hungarian events, though Cal and Latchford had some “heart-burnings”. I am not really surprised at Cal, since he entered the movement from a kind of romantic admiration for the achievements of Russia, without having much acquaintance with the workings of Irish capitalism. There is great tenacity in him, but no touch of personal rebelliousness. His dress, food and social habits are orthodoxy itself. Letchford on the other hand is all romanticism, and he moved to the left because it seems the nearest to the practical realisation of his ideal that could be come across in an unsympathetic world. He is therefore quite prepared to accept the stuff and nonsense of Ireland, the cloak which partial rebellion wore to excuse simultaneously its moderations and its excesses, and one has the feeling that if the whole country were suddenly to dissolve into a rollicking farce, Letchford would immediately recognise history in the making.
For the remainder, mostly at work or unemployed, realities were harsher and more impervious. They told me the Workers Voice is difficult to sell. I suggested it should be more national in form. Maire agreed and said that some of the most active of the Dublin members were “theoreticians” without much knowledge of the ordinary man. I think she refers to Carmody, who has been to Cork. O’Riordan is wild at my doing the book on Connolly as he wants Carmody to do it. That gentleman, as well as reading Ina’s manuscript and using her material, went to Belfast and read my earlier MS at Murray’s home [a draft history of the Irish working class which Greaves began and then set aside]. He then vehemently attacked me for it all over Dublin. But forgetting what was in it, he then tried to borrow it for a series of classes, making the point to me that he did not propose to disclose the source of his information. Although my work has been generally known to be in preparation for many years, this did not prevent Carmody stepping in, and I would not put it past O’Donnell [Peadar O’ Donnell] to be acting in his interest.
In the afternoon I saw Cal and Letchford, and finally after collecting my luggage went to the quay. Although the ship was not the “Inisfallen” but the “Irish Coast”, it kept up the most incontinent screeching all the time it was in motion and nobody could get a wink of sleep. However it rode the gale most steadily, so that is something to be thankful for.
December 15 Saturday: The slow dragging train finally pulled into Paddington at 3.35 pm. I noted with relief that there had been no great changes since I left. Helga and Pat Bond rang up. There was a letter from Goulding alleging that in one factory shop-stewards and management came to an agreement under which Irish workers were not included in the “first in, last out” agreement, even though they were members of the union. Elsie O’Dowling and Alec Digges called before I left for Kilburn. Alec is getting busy on the book page but is still very critical of the party leadership. Then Pat Bond rang up. He told me that the “POUM” ran a social to raise funds for the construction of Nolan’s shop. Only a few came to it. They had no music. Fred O’Shea brought a record player which in the presence of all the electricians he plugged in to the wrong current and blew it up. Then O’Neill started vociferously denouncing the Connolly Association for not attending. PJ Kearney replied that they had held a social last week and had already contributed towards the shop, and to his surprise he found that a number of those present backed him up.
December 16 Thursday: I received a telephone call from Eamonn Smullen [An Irish CPGB member] to the effect that he had had his wallet stolen while spending the night in a Salvation Army hostel. Would I lend him some money? I would have had good grounds for refusing. A year or two ago when Gollan and I went to Dublin to attend a “Joint Council” of the CPNI and IWL, it was announced early in the proceedings that a “subcommittee” should be set up to discuss one or two things which were unsuitable for general discussion. This was agreed. Paul O’Higgins had contrived to tell me the day before what was in the wind. Among other things I was to be suddenly challenged with a statement that Smullen had made an attack on the CA for doing nothing about Kenya and a number of other matters. “But it’s none their business,” I protested. “Why doesn’t Smullen make his complaint where it belongs?” Paul explained that the sole object was to annoy me and embarrass me if it could be done, and that there was so little genuine desire to rectify something allegedly wrong that he regarded it as a trick and was for that reason forewarning me. All happened as he predicted, except that of course I was not taken by surprise. They also trotted out an arrangement they had come to with George Thomson of Birmingham [Professor of Greek at Birmingham University and Irish scholar]for representation on the Irish Committee in London and a number of other things they have since pursued further. Unfortunately none of this ever comes into the light of day where commonsense can be brought to bear on it. At this time I simply said I would pass on their views, and that was that. But now, here was Smullen looking for money. After a consultation with Pat Bond, I decided that Nolan should have the pleasure of paying for his protégé, so I met Smullen at Hyde Park, and lent him £1 on my own account, and £2 which had been sent in late as a contribution to the bookshop [ie.for the reconstruction of the Workers League bookshop in Dublin]. In any case the insurance has now paid up, and Nolan’s difficulties arise from other causes. He can have it when Smullen pays back – which (whatever his faults) I am quite sure he will. He had only 2/- to take him through the week.
I was about to leave my flat to meet Pat Bond when two people called who had been given my address at Hyde Park, I suspect by PJ Kearney, the impossible villain! Doherty complained that two of his children had been removed from his possession by local authorities, that when in arguing his case he lost his temper he had been assaulted, certified insane and manhandled into a hospital for mental illness and had since been refused his full national health benefit. His wife, also present, declared that the authorities were antagonistic because he was Irish. There was nothing to enable one to form a firm judgement on the facts of the case. I will enquire.
An interesting sidelight on conversations in Waterford came from Charlie Gallagher. He is a pallid jet-blackhaired Donegalman of about 24, possibly less. At the age of 16 he was found spitting blood in the toilets and sent to a Tuberculosis Hospital in Dublin. Who should he meet there but Peter Lalor, brother of Gabriel, who gave him the Democrat, then being sold in Dublin. He returned to Donegal, but immediately he came to London he joined up with us. He was always quiet, restrained, shy, almost disinterested. He did not believe he could live long. But recently his inactive lung seems to have shown signs of activity, which though it can never fully take up again, pleased him. He told me that Peter Lalor referred to an uncle in Kilkenny whose ruthlessness on behalf of the IRA gave rise to much criticism. This must have caused Lalor’s excitement when I referred to the railwaymen in Kilkenny in 1922.
December 17 Monday: I was busy on the book all day. It is going to be a murderous job to have it finished by Easter, even if I do nothing else.
December 18 Tuesday: Again I was busy on the Connolly book. Helga and Eamonn Lyons came in the evening. Eamonn said nothing about his disagreements with the last issue of the Democrat, so I said nothing. Whether they will now be “forgotten all about” is another matter. I am told that since the Hungarian events he has ceased to read the Daily Worker – just at the very time he should be reading the other side. Helga told me that she and Cathal are going to Germany on Saturday morning. She is involved in some law-suit arising from the will of her father. But her reason for the visit is rather that her mother is pretty old, did not want her to marry outside Germany and wants to see Cathal. She never has seen him.
December 19 Wednesday: After the continuous rain over the weekend, the fog has come and it is cold. But December has been so mild that nobody need grumble. It is almost as if the weather grew milder as winter advanced. Perhaps this is because the cold fronts come suddenly, while the warmer weather comes slowly. So for most of the time it appears to be improving. It must be hard for me to recall the number of years the weather grew cold between Christmas and the New Year. Let us hope it is not doing so prematurely.
However that may be, I found my way to Oona Cregan’s for a Christmas party with Eamon Lyons, Gerry Curran, Des Logan, Helga (who is living with her till the end of the week), Eamon MacLaughlin and his wife. There was drink, and there was conversation, and I missed the last tube. Apart from that there is little to be said.
December 20 Thursday: Pat Bond (Pat Bán as Cathal christened him) called in, and we had a drink together before parting for the festive season. We did not meet at West London as his wife’s mother is with them and he has to do the honours of the occasion. Grandmothers are hard to put off. I was talking with Mickelwright who was delighted that he had defeated the Bishop of London. The poor fellow had been told by the Treasury that he must reduce the diocesan bank overdraft or he would be prosecuted. How would be do it? By cancelling all the grants he had made for the repair of churches. When I told Micklewright that I was an atheist and my grandfather before me, he was not unduly shaken but said that he was for many years a member of the Rationalist Press Association. I asked him whether he thought a man like Stanley Evans believed in religion at all, and he replied that “no doubt he evolved through the process of time” and though he had not enquired of his theological position, “one gradually approximated to philosophical monism.” So I could make of that what I chose.
I went home with Paddy Clancy. He told me that Flann Campbell and his wife had resigned from the CP definitely. He himself would wait till after the conference in April, but he was prepared to contemplate resignation. I see Krishna Menon’s [Defence Minister of India, whom Greaves knew in London in the 1940s] offering his resignation on the grounds that people are criticising him for being too Russian! Perhaps, therefore, I need not be surprised that Flann Campbell has told me that I embody the “Stalin” tradition and would chop all their heads off at one blow if they even deviated an inch. Flann’s father was Joseph Campbell, the poet, and he and Ewart Milne and one or two more used to share a mad bohemian house in the Wicklow Hills. You can do that sort of thing before you are 3O, and while you thank God you no longer want to, you can nostalgically sympathise with their folly! Well I remember Esther Henrotte, when her daughter aged 17 returned from a youth hostelling weekend with her legs scratched from ankle to knee, and loved it – “There’s youth! Trying to get more out of life than there is in it!” I was 27. I didn’t then realise that there were any limits to what there was in life! Flann Campbell, brought up thus, with Mary as big or a bigger romantic, though for all that shrewd and calculating as they are in all worldly matters, still lives in the world he was brought up in. As for Krishna, I thought worse of him. I remember well when, an obscure member of St Pancras Labour Party, willing to be a communist from time to time, he used to dine at the Dildar in Leicester Street. I used to go there with Shelvankar and join the party, which consisted of female admirers of Krishna’s outstanding wit and personality. No matter what he said, it was clever. Then I remember him trying to trick Michael Caritt out of his position in the India League and the time he annoyed me so much asking for Dooley [Pat Dooley, former Irish Democrat editor] on the phone that I hung it up on him – all that, and he is not so bad after all.
December 21 Friday: At lunchtime Gerry Curran appeared bringing a bottle of wine. At 8 pm. Desmond Logan appeared, with a bottle of whiskey, and Helga. We set to and had a good dinner. Desmond used to suffer from stomach ulcer. Now he has given up smoking and he is cured, has put on 28lbs of weight and looks the picture of health. His story is worth a novel. He ran away from home in Ballyshannon when his father remarried and took to drink. This was in the freezing winter of 1940! He was then about 14. He was taken up, admitted to an industrial school where he met Brendan Behan, and was discharged when about 18. He tramped throughout Ireland, did three months twice for burglary, and finally led a strike in the turf camps which brought him into the Labour movement. He emigrated to Birmingham in 1949 and joined the YCL [Young Communist League]. I was put in touch with him by Desmond McGimpsey of Belfast (who has now dropped out of things; Jack Bennett thinks him a fool, but I doubt it) and he joined the Connolly Association. He did little through his health, though his intentions were good. I quickly realised that beneath the sometimes awkward exterior was a very sensitive and genuine nature, and so, when he came to London, he dropped in quite often to see me and we have been selling together.
December 22 Saturday: I was working on the paper when a knock came to the door at about 1.30 p.m. It was Cathal. “I thought you were in Germany,” I said. He had planned to catch the boat train to Dover this morning, but the Irish mail was six hours late, no less, and Helga must have gone on. He was tired and irritable, ticked off the Enquiry Office at Victoria so strongly that the clerk hung up the receiver on him but (Cathal-like) refused to admit his arrangements had not been made with the utmost foresight, though this was undeniable. We tried to contact Helga by radio-telephone, then called Ostend. At midnight news came that the telegram had not been delivered. So Cathal went to bed. He seems to be doing very well in his job in Dublin. He has developed an aptitude for handling electrical gadgets, which is often found in people who have no great capacity for theory. Possibly if he had ever been taught science at school he might have had the critical ability, but he is not able to master it now.
He told me an amusing thing about the place where he is staying. A Garda is a lodger there, a Cavan man. He told Cathal about the unemployed struggles and asserted that the leaders were men with criminal records. “But it’s not those we are afraid of”, said the policeman, “it is those who have been trained in the Connolly Association in England and sent back here to cause trouble.”
December 23 Sunday: Part of the day I spent on the paper [ie. editing the following month’s issue]. But though I have a severe cold, when Kearney came in the evening I went to Dagenham with him, for which I was repaid by his keeping me up till about 2.15 am. drinking whiskey like a fish. He has that kind of thirst that afflicts Pat Devine – the slaking seems to quicken the lime, till at the end he cannot bear to stop. This must be the secret of drunkenness. I cannot understand it only because I enjoy the first glass best, and further glasses lead to an aversion.
He told me about the POUM social. Prendergast was there. It was Andy O’Neill who made the speech attacking the CA, saying that it had tried to do all that was possible to obstruct the holding of the social. Sean Furlong was discerned wringing his hands at this crude friendliness, but Lambert was chortling “Hear Hear”. He told Kearney that there would never be unity among the Irish till myself, Clancy and Lyons were out of the movement. So the hierarchy of Beelzebub has three, not two, members according to the latest census accredited in Heaven.
December 24 Monday: I spent a busy morning buying Phyllis [his sister] a chinese teapot, Mary Greaves [his aunt] a pot of Stilton Cheese, Christmas cards, odds and ends of food – and then met Phyllis at Euston. She had lunch with me and we went to Portsmouth where Mary Greaves has been looking forward to the occasion for a month or two. I still had a cold, so did not stay up too late. Nevertheless there were some exchanges of family news. It is strange to hear it these days. The first year we were at Bristol Road [ie. in Portsmouth] would be 1929, I suspect, and thereafter four of Mary Greaves’s nephews and nieces would be there, usually all at once. She asked no payment, she placed no limit on the time one stayed. True, she had her idiosyncracies, but these were a cause of anything between mirth and irritation to youth, and tolerance to the older generation. Sometimes our parents would be there as well. It was a great youthful centre. I used to cycle down every year, at first stopping a night at Worcester, then lengthening my stops to Banbury, Oxford and finally (in 1932) London. We would first play in the house with Basil Wiltshire, her husband’s, nephews and nieces, then as Phyllis and her aunt grew a little estranged, I would come alone and cycle round the South Downs, play chess in the Portsmouth Chess Club, and stay and work. Being at the university I had a longer holiday, and I came when the others had left. Later Phyllis, driving the car, grew closer to Mary Greaves than any, while Elsie Greaves’s rift with the family lasted until Basil Wiltshire died, but recovered after his death. Now, after all the years, CEG [his father] is dead, in 1947, AEG [his mother] in 1953, Basil Wiltshire in 1954; Enid’s first husband, Richard from America; Alfred, the boy I used to walk with, a great student of history, who died when he was 24 and I about 27, very cocksure in the consciousness of my own health. Harry Greaves [his uncle] is dangerously ill, Doris, his second wife somewhat estranged from Mary; Harley [his cousin, son of Harry Greaves] tied to his chemist’s shop in Bournemouth, Enid with her firm in Norwich – not one but Phyllis and Elsie remain in Liverpool where we all began! Mary herself is 81 and can’t believe it. Her hearing is perfect and her eyes, her mind as exact and penetrating as ever, and her strong character sparkling and sharp, angular and indefatigable. Yet Phyllis, who has an eye for such things, feels that she has a greater sense of her age than she had last summer. She will not leave the house except for necessary shopping.
The breakup of the family began in 1947. I recall Christmas 1946 when we all assembled at Harry Greaves’s house in Birkenhead. CEG had had pneumonia. Then he had had a perforated stomach ulcer and poor AEG had to travel to Lancaster Hospital to see him, for he had been taken ill while cycling, the petrol rationing having deprived him of his car? But I had ignored these signs. I was shocked however when he and Harry went to sing their old party piece, the duet “Flow Gently Deva” – they could not sing it. “My singing days are over,” said CEG, always a realist underneath the incorrigibility. “I’d sing it,” said Harry, “but I haven’t my glasses and I’d have to hold the copy too far away.” Some kind of imp seemed to urge CEG to dare his failing strength. He continued to use his car for the “hospital service” – admittedly partly so as to get extra petrol, and was for ever walking or cycling in the wet weather when even I would not be tempted out. He fell ill again while I was in London, but wrote to me laughing at the possibility of its being a serious matter. While I was in Ireland over Easter he became worse. A telegram reached me in Dublin. Then at Holyhead another awaited me saying a major operation had been performed. I visited the hospital. He was recovering. Then on 24th April (while I was at the International Committee discussing the circular sent out by McCullough criticising us behind our backs, and delayed because of a sudden and extraordinary thirst), he died from a pulmonary embolism. I heard next morning and went to Liverpool at once. A few days after the funeral Basil Wiltshire, Mary’s husband, went into hospital with the first development of cancer of the bowel. AEG used to say that if anything happened to him she would look after Mary Greaves. She was the one for whom everyone forecast the ripe old age. Yet she died in 1953 without a grey hair on her head at the age of 68 – nearly 69 – with only an hour’s illness between her and perfect health. There is something in Lear’s saying that “But that thy strong mutations make us hate thee, Life would not yield to age.” The present wear upon Mary Greaves is due to anxiety for Harry; the plucking of each ripe nut shakes the bough, and loosens the next.
December 25 Tuesday: I did not get up till about noon, and felt better for the rest. But Mary Greaves and Phyllis were out and about. It was a great pleasure for Mary to play a game of cards with us in the evening – something I am quite unpractised at, and thus easy game for the two of them! Mary was the second eldest of her family. Her father William Greaves was a master tailor, we think from that same Derbyshire family of Greaves’s whose early representative in the Long Parliament stood with Cromwell against Charles 1. The family is well spread now, from Sheffield to Northern Ireland. I do not think that it is the Scottish family Grieves, or Grieve, though it may be both are the same. His cousin Joseph left Liverpool for the middle west of America and sent back a series of fascinating letters which would be complete but for Mary lending one to Richard, which his daughter refused to return. Joseph was also a tailor. But he was given the job of driving the cattle. The covered wagons were driven across the USA hauled by bullocks. When a bullock died there was a general jettisoning of chattels, and what was permitted to each family was stored in one of the remaining wagons. As each wagon overtook the jettison greed was apt to overcome caution. The discarded goods were loaded on the wagons once more – and so their bullocks died. A guard had to be mounted till the last wagon had passed. Since he was not able to look after his own, because of his duties supervising the cattle of all, Joseph Greaves (the son of John and of James born 1792) was favourably treated in the jettisoning and was allowed to keep his original trunk which Mary has seen in Salt Lake City, where the family settled and were converted to Mormonism. It must have been around the turn of the century that Joseph returned to Liverpool to look for his family. All his efforts were fruitless. He stood one day on the Landing Stage wondering whether to return to the USA. Something told him, said Mary Greaves, “Try Birkenhead”, where he found my grandfather, who must have been the sole person of that name in the entire Liverpool district. After that two sons, Harley and Amiel visited England. Harley Greaves [his cousin] was called after one of them, and only AEG’s firm resistance saved me from the other. AEG would have an Irish name and that was that. She named her sister’s children and gave them Irish names too – till the younger members of the family got out of hand and substituted for sensible names like Brian, silly ones like Pamela and Valerie. The upshot of the Harley and Amiel visit was that Mary Greaves visited the USA in 1912 and lived in the middle west till 1915. Richard, the third oldest, followed, but soon moved to California, and Fred, the youngest, went direct to the West Coast. He still lives in Fresno.
Mary Greaves gives many interesting details of social conditions in Utah in the early years of this century. She tells how the Mormons lived widely dispersed and would invite a preacher to some isolated but centrally situated farmhouse, to which those from many miles would converge. One of the family was a Bishop, and she accompanied him 40 miles in midwinter on a sleigh equipped with bells and drawn by horses. Each family would bring its own food. There would be a service in the morning and a Study School for children in the afternoon. Mary recalls how part of the route was through ravines whose position was all but obliterated by snow. “I’m leaving it to the horses,” said the Bishop, “are you scared?” “I’m not,” said Mary, “because if it was dangerous you would be”. Fear has never been a dictator to her. She also described how when a death took place a man would be buried in a white suit, and a woman in full dress. Neighbours would come in to help sew the regalia, which included a head-dress which covered the body down to the waist. “What a morbid occupation,” said Phyllis. “Not a bit of it,” said Mary, “It was very interesting to see their customs.” She has photographs of the women who belonged to the exclusive “Friends Club”, and it was interesting to note the full peasant lines of the buxom Lady Mayoress. In this picture, taken in 1912, Mary looks extremely young, yet she must have been about 38. Although they sometimes grumbled about her, and also feared her, the brothers idolized her. CEG would not hear a word said against his sister, though AEG, the gentlest person alive, said many a one. For AEG was too intelligent to be domineered, but too sensitive to hit back on the spot. Her spirit was entirely artistic, that of Mary hard, realistic and scientific. They were strong characters in entirely different ways. But Mary Greaves was well able to keep her head up in this new and quite unfamiliar society. She returned only to make another visit after her parents died in or around 1916. I recall both William Greaves [paternal grandfather] and Anna Greaves [paternal grandmother, neé Bellis] who predeceased him. She, indeed, taught me to count in Welsh before I could do it in English. Phyllis, on the other hand, who was born in 1916, can remember neither. William Greaves was blind. When people used to remember he was 70 and shout at him he would say, “I’m blind, but I’m not deaf.” I remember looking forward to his visits because of the delicious “blackcurrant ovals” he used to bring me. I could never understand what being “blind” was and would keep asking him to look at this or that. He would reply wearily, “It’s no use, sonny, I can’t see.” I have a clearer recollection of him than I have of AEG’s father, the radical Parnellite I am supposed to “take after”. He had no time for children and that he took me to his allotment was a matter for great amusement and the slightly envious comment that I was “Amy’s kid”. For AEG was the eldest and ran the house.
Mary Greaves described the Saturday routine at Thompson St. Each child had a job to do. When all were finished, Anna Greaves [paternal grandmother] would make 12 lbs of flour into a loaf and Mary would take it to the bakery to be baked for 1d. One of them would bring a 14 lb. “Gourn” of Welsh butter from Prestatyn which had been delivered to Rock Ferry Station. While the children went with sandwiches to Raby Mere, halting at Stourton Quarry, the grandmother would prepare the evening meal, which included cockles which the grandfather would get from the market. The meal of home baked bread, farm butter and cockles seemed to the children the summit of prandial bliss.
There was a report in the paper of a man drowned on the Dee Marshes. “Many a time I crossed those to Buckley,” said Mary. She and her father would take the train to Ledsham, then they would cross to Shotton. William Greaves loved walking and would time his speed to 4 miles an hour by his watch – this must have been where CEG acquired the same trick. He had vast respect for his father, as indeed they all had. AEG rather preferred grandmother Anna Greaves, whom she said was kindness incarnate. On the way back they would use the Jubilee bridge. Sometimes the train would leave Ledsham early and they would have to walk to Hooton. Sometimes too they would collect samphires as they leaped over the gulleys in the marshes and bring them home to pickle in big jars.
December 26 Wednesday: Again I rose late and though Phyllis went out for a short walk, I stayed in. The evening we spent the same way, but I noticed that Mary Greaves’s face was bright with enjoyment of our game, and I was very pleased to be able to stimulate her pleasure at this time. She has been well feted with gifts, but still recalls Basil Wiltshire, her husband, regretting that he is not still here – but not overmuch. She is a great realist. She told me what I had heard before, about Harry Greaves, now ill with a haemorrhage of the middle brain. She and Phyllis are going to see him in Bournemouth. He and CEG were very close friends, indeed like a couple of school boys even when in their sixties. Harry is deformed. While they were playing skittles in an upstairs room he tried to attract their attention and could not. He knocked on their door but could not be heard owing to the noise. He backed to the balustrade in order to run at the door, but a post gave way and he fell on his back on the stairs. Mary Greaves heard his scream and ran to pick him up. He was about six and slept in her room; she heard him crying at night and in due time all available medical attention was obtained. This retardation brought him more or less on a level with CEG, three years younger, and they went about together. Harry had a job in the Library at Monk Street, Birkenhead. He had a phenomenal memory and could pick out books and tickets without a moment’s hesitation. But a new librarian named Shepherd – I recall he still held the post in 1928 or thereabout – decided to be the new broom. He thought some more imposing figure should preside over entrances and exits. Harry was put to sweep dust off the books which were seldom disturbed. He was heartbroken and resigned. Then he and CEG went looking for jobs in Liverpool. CEG became a telegraph boy and started a career in the Post Office, which treated his widow scurvily enough. Harry applied for a clerkship in the Education Office and indeed succeeded and held it till his retirement in or about 1944. The women who cleaned the steps would say, “poor lad, he’ll not be long here!” – but he outlasted all his contemporaries, and last year still paid a visit to supervise examinations in shorthand and typewriting.
Of the family CEG [ie. Desmond Greaves’s father] was the most talented and unpredictable. His constitution was the weakest. He would pass his meat to the youngest child Alfred, a bouncing healthy lad. He went cycling in 1901 or thereabouts and caught pleurisy crossing the Honister Pass [in the Lake District]. He was always alarmed when I came in wet through, as his cousin John had died of tuberculosis which was believed to have originated that way. But I was always more careful of my health, circumstances or minor things apart, than he. I would neglect from indolence, but not take obvious risks. He was the reverse. William Greaves was the musician, the eldest son, William, of the same name inherited the gift plus a good business sense. CEG had the gift in double measure, but not the material ambition. Yet he is still remembered in Birkenhead. When I was there this summer, the telephone failed. I secured an engineer. I happened to mention that I was not an electrician – that was why I had called him in. “You’d be a musician,” said the young man, not more than 3O. “No”, I said, “badly out.” “Maybe not”, he replied, “but your father was.” So was AEG [his mother], but she seldom got the credit for it.
However, Mary had the piano tuned for me, and was delighted that I played it in spite of its stiff action which Amy used to abhor. Unfortunately, since last summer I had suffered from a slight stiffness of the third and fourth fingers of the right hand, which I put down either to holding bicycle handlebars without gloves in the cold weather of September, which I had not foreseen, or possibly cramp due to too much writing on this book I am doing. In either event I am not likely to be a pianist for a while yet.
December 27 Thursday: I caught the 11.24 am. to Waterloo – on that uncomfortable rattling swaying electric line – and reached London in time to invite Gerry Curran in for the evening. He had not gone home for Christmas, and he and his young brother, Dermot, (very similar to himself but fairly successful as a draughtsman, with high-falutin ambitions he is too fond of ease and women to achieve) sat with Mrs Doyle and the children, eating turkey overcooked from awaiting Jim’s return, and drinking wine out of cups. Jim Doyle had met his brother and returned two hours late in a fair state of intoxication. Mrs Doyle refuses to return to Dublin simply because she is already married to the branches of Jim’s family as well as himself, but there she would be yoked to the rest and Frank into the bargain. Jim himself listened to the ensuing lecture with suitable remorse, while the two lodgers waited for re-opening time.
Desmond Ryan wrote to me saying there was nothing in the “Night at the Mendicity” article in the Workers Republic to show Connolly’s connection with Ballybay. He was convinced that Monaghan was a false trail. But he added that the article in question “had to be suppressed” because it was not Connolly at his best. I also had a letter from the Registrar-General of Scotland. I had asked for the death certificate of Mary MacGinn, the sister of Captain McGinn that Ina Connolly told me about. She had said Glasgow was the location; but there was no mention of it in the letter, only Scotland. She had assumed it was Glasgow. I noticed that the mother’s maiden name was Boyle, and I knew Connolly lodged with Mrs Boyle in Dundee. Of course Boyle was the maiden name, but Connolly could have been related to her husband. So I wrote suggesting a search relating to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee – and we found the entry in Dundee. Mary McGinn was a jute-worker; her father was James McGinn, a gas worker. So I may be on the point of proving that when Connolly left the army he went to live with his mother’s brother’s wife’s brother. Of course the relationship has yet to be proved.
Justin and Loretta are in London and rang up, but are too busy satiating
themselves with concerts and shows to be able to visit anybody. I may see them in Dublin later.
December 28 Friday: I spent all day on the book. I have thirteen chapters to do in thirteen weeks, and many other things as well. But I permitted myself the relaxation of visiting Alec Digges in the evening. There was no special news. I got my part of the Democrat off yesterday; his went today. I was pleased that Dr Mackey of Fitzwilliam Square sent me a Xmas gift of his book on Casement.
December 29 Saturday: In the afternoon I went to the British Museum to extract from Maud Gonne’s book. Then I worked steadily till 2.45 am. – I must have spent 13 hours on the job today, and finished Chapter No. 7.
December 30 Sunday: The cold weather broke, but in torrential rain. There has been a SE tendency in the wind for some time, quite unlike the NW flow of air for the last six years, or near it. This is the week we hold our breath. The snow over Christmas did not affect either Portsmouth or London, but was heavy in the North, I am told. I read how Leslie Wallace and his wife were missing on Ben More above Cromleach, but after spending the night in a gully, walked gaily into Pier Hotel and demanded a meal. He is 45. Yet last week three boys of 20 lost their lives on Ben Nevis, partly because they did not ascend to the observatory Nevis, and partly because they wore light drill clothing, one of them shirts! In matters of emergency age can survive as well as youth, so we must not despair. Where youth survives is when no skill avails, and heart, wind, limb and energy alone remain.
Admittedly, Wallace always looked young for his years. At Liverpool he called himself Alan Wallace, had lost both his parents while young, and was a prodigy of a student. He fell madly in love with Phyllis Mercer, quite a personable young lady of literary interests, born in Belfast while Mercer and her mother were in the Labour Party there. I came across a reference to Mercer in one of the old papers. His wife, however, achieved the fame. She was the ideal ILP member. While he gave speeches studded with sound politics, that was fine. When she attended a meeting to deputise for him and poured out a torrent of pity and emotion, that was superfine. He was never asked to speak again. She got all the invitations. So he solaced himself with beer, passed on to women, and I recall him towards the end of his career shocking young Iver’s [Mercer’s son. See Volume 1 of the Journal]sensitive nature by being caught buying silk stocking (no nylons then) for flappers and making the boy a little less sensitive. In the meantime Mrs Mercer became Birkenhead’s first Labour Mayor. She was some family connection of ours through WfG, Harry Greaves’s first wife. The old lady, her mother, WfG’s aunt, I think, since her name was Davies if I’m not mistaken, was blind, but quite the opposite of Mary. She asked me once if I believed in a life after death. Without reckoning that it would pain anybody if I said the wrong thing, I immediately said I did not. Mrs Mercer demurred. Religiosity was her political stock-in-trade though she was completely honest in her own heart – I will not say her mind; it entered into the matter too little. Old Mrs. Davies replied scornfully, “Well I say he’s right. I think when you’re dead, you’re dead.” And she must be now, for that was over 20 years ago and she was 75 then. Mrs Mercer was a martyr to arthritis. But she died, I think of cancer, just after the war. Iver joined the party, but later married a girl who did not strike me as possessing much to encourage him. I know he joined the army and I think settled abroad. Phyllis Mercer seemed the only one able to rise above the rather depressing family background of shamefaced Labour opportunism and paternal waywardness. She was friendly with GWD Wright, a stocky Cheshireman who, entering my class at school when two years older than me, robbed me of my just laurels, and rather disgusted me with work. I was not one to like academic honours that were not easily won. For that reason I rather despised Wallace as a serious hardworking student at a time I was in a state of permanent rebellion against authority of every kind.
When a funny, rabbity, tweedy young Southerner came to teach in Birkenhead – Warner was his name – I introduced him to Ingram Knowles. Ingram’s wife Molly was an inveterate matchmaker. We were all very awe-struck at the famous students of Cambridge, where John Cornford and James Klugman had all but created a revolution. Warner could drawl in the real Cambridge way. He was going to write a book called “The Road to Life” and could make this sound as if the Bible was going to be completely superseded. But he told none of us what was going to be in it, and it did not occur to us to ask. Molly Knowles noticed that Phyllis and Warner were interested in each other, and said so to me. I incautiously repeated this to Iver, yielding to the temptation to letting it be thought that I had noticed it myself, and that I had helped to bring it about. The upshot was a violent reaction from Phyllis, who said she was not going to be tricked and coerced and bludgeoned into marrying the man I prescribed for her. I was very surprised as I had forgotten my own little white lie. Then next week she announced her engagement to Warner. Alan Wallace was desperately upset. He was about 22 and threatened to commit suicide. Of course he didn’t. And the experience did not entirely cure me of interfering in other people’s affairs, but perhaps it may be said to have started the cure. Of course Molly Knowles loved it. Romance was ever flickering before her eyes. Phyllis married Warner and emigrated to South Africa and left the party; Wallace joined it. To a brilliant doctorate he added a lectureship at the Herriot Watt Technichal College in Edinburgh. He married there and decided from then on to be a Scotsman and used his second name Leslie. I met him when I made my first visit to Geddes and Conlon, in 1951 I think. A man called Kennan, also from Liverpool, was there, and the two friends used to spend their weekends drinking in the Highlands. I know that Wallace used to drag Phyllis Mercer across North Wales in the olden days; they had climbed Moel Llyfnant, the only one I had not scaled myself. I recall being struck with the way in which Wallace had maintained precisely the type of life he had begun in his youth; working in a college, mountaineering at weekends. He had retained his youthful appearance, and time had laid a very light finger on him. And the first time he ever hit the headlines was when his usual skill deserted him and he had to spend a night in a gully in the slopes of Ben More. At the same time, credit where due; he has proved the only solid person in all that circle and was the only one I never treated seriously at all.
December 31 Monday: In the morning Phyllis came from Portsmouth. She had visited Harry Greaves. who is very frail. His sickness was due to a thrombosis of the middle brain which affected his breathing. All the same he has made another amazing recovery, though there is a cylinder of oxygen beside his bed, and Mary Greaves has no great longterm hopes. Phyllis is very imaginative and is very sorry for the older generation. I made her two good meals, and went with her to buy a vacuum cleaner at Gamages. Then she went shop-gazing, and shop-buying as well. There is some mystical property in a hat, all the world knows, that delights the heart of any woman. Apparently she had tried many of these on, but the fatal choice is to be made tomorrow morning. And so ended the best year, on the whole, since before the war.
January 1 Tuesday: I saw Phyllis to Oxford Street in the morning, and just before she caught her train to Liverpool she rang me up to tell me of all the bargains she had bought at the sales. So she seems to have enjoyed herself.
Talk about “revenants”! A few days ago I received a letter from a Veronica Quinn who said she was a niece of Billy Barr in Birmingham. He was one of the two ill-balanced pillars of the Connolly Association in that city, and I recall meeting him first around 1941 when the Birmingham people came to London to argue on conscription. He was opposed to us even allowing it was permissible for an Irishman to join the British army. His younger brother, Victor, was victimised on the issue. We wanted no conscription of the Irish, but no refusal of individuals to join up if conscripted, except on the basis of return to Ireland, or of course transfer to “essential work”. After holding out and working up a grand campaign, he had a talk with Sam Blackwell and without consulting anybody, “registered” himself and wrecked the Connolly Association. He was a most erratic individual. He drove a horse and cart for the railway. He lived in what is often known as “sin” with May Barr in Aston – whose niece Veronica Quinn actually is. May had been married before and could not marry Billy. She kept an Irish lodging house, of which Billy was a kind of “patron” and strongarm-man. He would arrange to deliver goods in Aston at 11 am. and May would have a hot cup of coffee, or a plate of steaming soup for him. The patient horse would wait outside the door while he finished his “elevenses” and then they would trot away. The other luminary of the CA was Johnny Griffin, the most powerful character ever born, lean where Billy was stout, short while he was big, and (I think) Catholic where Billy was Protestant. Griffin had far more horse-sense. It was while Griffin was in the army – and two weeks of camp life cured him of a stomach ulcer which never recurred – that Barr made his incalculable blunders, too extensive to relate. I remember one weekend in October 1944 or more likely ’45, when a weekend in the country was a boon, I went to Wolverhampton, cycled to Ludlow, and turned down an invitation to go to Shrewsbury next day, in order to go into Birmingham to address a meeting Barr had arranged. I could not even find anybody who had heard of the road, let alone find my bold Billy.
This was because he had fallen in love with a widow, and the usual complications had ensued. Nothing would satisfy Billy but he must marry her. He asked Sam Blackwell, who tactfully tried to dissuade him. “But it’s the decent thing,” he said. Then he came to London, unconcerned at his having on more than one occasion brought me to Birmingham for nothing. He asked my advice. “Don’t marry her,” I said. He asked Dooley, who told him the same. What he came to London for remains a mystery. Perhaps he hoped to find somebody who would persuade him. “Well”, he said finally, “I tell you. Even if it was to lead to disahster (as a Belfast man his a’s were long) I’d do it.” So there was nothing more to be said.
The marriage took place on a Saturday. On Monday he went out with his horse and cart. He could scarcely draw up at May’s. She was in a state of utter prostration. He called the morning “deliveries” off. At lunch time he stopped horse and cart outside the widow’s house. No answer. He took his lunch at a transport cafe. At the tea time he went “home”. “What do you want here?” asked his wife. He was taken aback, asked her if she didn’t want him, was told that she didn’t, and had to go away with his tail between his legs back to May Barr. I was in Birmingham at the time and May Barr approached me to “do something”. I said I’d told him not to be a fool, and didn’t we all know what would happen, and that was all. For in the meantime he had found the amusement of the lodgers more than he could face, and gave up his job and went to London. I recall Barr having a drink and wishing me good health. The next day I was laid up with acute arthritis which a fool Indian doctor diagnosed as gout and could not cure till I got Roth to tell me to take phosphomolybdate tests and had some teeth extracted.
In the illogical way one does I associated the Barr family with ill-health, wasted time, and damned nonsense. When I was in Birmingham a couple of months ago Pat Kearney, an Irish-American, even madder than Billy Barr – for long he believed he had tuberculosis, then he believed he had cured himself of it by eating black puddings – told me May Barr was dead. I think it was cancer. So this letter from Veronica Quinn was to the effect that May was indeed dead and that she was liable to be “put on the street” if she could not trace Billy Barr.
I inserted an advertisement in the agony column of the Daily Worker and sure enough the big Belfastman saw it and called in to see me. He is soft-hearted, honest and generous, if unpractical. He told me the house was in his name. So we concocted a plan to keep the landlord talking until Veronica gets alternative accommodation – the best plan we could think of granted all the circumstances, and that was Billy Barr, like a visitation of Halley’s comet once in so many years, and always a furore over it.
January 2 Wednesday: I went to Ripley to check the proofs. There was fog over Derby and I missed the return train. I had no food (except a cup of tea) from noon till 11.15 when the slower late train drew in. When I reached home I found Cathal and Helga compressed into the small bed in Cathal’s room; they were unable to get into the inner part of the flat since, not knowing they were coming, I had taken the key with me. Cathal had brought me a coffee grinder and a bottle of wine. Helga had knitted me a fine pullover – making two with the handsome one Phyllis bought me! And both of them green. Cathal got up, but Helga was not too well. I got out the dregs of whiskey that had escaped the attentions of PJ Kearney (whose alcoholic remorse prompted him to ring up and apologise for his gluttony) and since they were both exhausted, after a quick drink, we retired. But he did tell me that her family in Eslohe [in Sauerland in the Rheinland] welcomed him with open arms and that he was interested in, if not elated by, his journey across Europe. In Germany the snow is inches deep, though it is dry and crisp. Helga was delighted to see it again. As long as it does not come to London, said I. If it does it will be bad, for we have turned into January without getting continental winds. At the same time the weather map looks very hopeful, with a bit of 1947 about it. I think the heavy snowfall of that winter was “accidental”, a boundary phenomenon.
January 3 Thursday: Cathal and Helga busied themselves with packing. Helga had left her trunks with me till they returned from Germany. She went to meet Oona Cregan at Piccadilly and returned with presents of blankets to add to the linen she had brought as part of her dowry. Cathal had quite enjoyed his sleepless journeys across Europe. It is grand to be young! You think you can defy gravitation, let alone the second law of thermodynamics! Though indeed he is 25 now, and Helga must be 28 or 29. She told me all her nephews, lads between 15 and 21 were delighted with him. His playfulness captivated them entirely. So all was well. Now they return to Dublin and want me to go and stay there as soon as they have a spare bed and room arranged. Cathal of course has the notion of travelling via Liverpool, third class all the way, sans food, sans drink, and at no exhaustion on expense. But Helga has a cough. Like many people without great experience Cathal has considerable stubbornness in things that require no great skill, but rather savoir faire. Savoir faire is incommensurable and incommunicable. But Helga was womanly ready for him. “We’ll have a meal, don’t worry,” she said to me, “But I let him talk, I have experience now.” She is a great girl, very generous, completely loyal, sensible and practical. He has made a “find”. Though for that matter so has she.
In the evening Pat Bond told me that we have no office after all. The man who was going to let to us has abandoned his lease and the superior landlord will not let. It places us in a predicament. I did a few hours work on the book, but at 6 pm. Alan Morton arrived. He has been suffering from his stomach and would scarcely take Cathal’s wine. Freda and the children have all been ill. The usual fantastic absurdities are going on at ICI [Imperial Chemical Industries], and for him 1956 is well out of the way. His mother, now 79, is ill, with hypertension. He goes to Liverpool from time to time to see her, and though she may have a long time yet, he is not too sanguine. I recall when his father died. It must have been 1938. He was living in a flat in Abbey Rd, as I was either in East Ham or Wimbledon, full of romantic nonsense, but doing or beginning to do useful work. Looking back one is glad to be rid of the rubbish of youth. He was very upset not knowing, as youth do not, what “attitude” to take up. Then he made that fantastic journey to Budapest for the sake of a German girl to replace the one who jilted him. And now, of course, after the years have gone by, he has a family growing up rapidly, and his mother is still alive. The many problems arising from the situation are brought at least nearer solution by a good salary. His integrity is complete. His amour propre is felt rather than practised. He edits the SCR [Society for Cultural Relations with the USSR] science bulletin, which at last is readable, but never quite escapes from the limitations of his professional respectability, even though mentally he is the most realistic of men.
After Alan had gone Clancy came. He brought a bottle of whiskey Des Logan had sent me. He sent the compliments of the season. He must have forgotten he sent me them before! Or he is so flahooloch [Irish word for generous] that he doesn’t care? Clancy said he had great difficulty keeping Kearney’s fingers off it. That shows how much his repentence is worth, said I, as I told him the story. “Desmond’s not a whiskey drinker,” Kearney kept saying (which is true) but Clancy said, “I’ve been given this to take to him, and that’s where it is going.” Clancy is a most amiable man. Brought up on the poorest of poor Leitrim hill farms, he joined the IRA at the age of 15, and became Intelligence Officer. An uncle who had been in the USA dispelled his religious notions. When he asked his mother why the Gore-Booths had the wonderful estate while he was barefoot till he was 15, she would say, “It is God’s will”. So he disliked God. Coming to England he roughed it like most Irish boys, then came into the Connolly Association when it was founded, went “on the loose ” during the blitz, then came back while Pat Dooley and I were running it, around 1942 or 43. He learned to speak. He educated himself. He acquired a huge library. He started persistent research into aspects of history that interested him. Now he is slowly ploughing through some memoirs relating to Hoche, though he doesn’t know a word of French, with the aid of a dictionary, word by word! He told me he heard the IRA is split from top to bottom on the issue of raids. I don’t wonder. He heard this casually, so does not vouch for its truth. Of course we know what will happen, unless we can use greater skill than formerly, there will be another generation do 20 years, only to emerge disillusioned.
January 4 Friday: I worked on my book most of the day, and finished Chapter 8 all but a couple of hours work. The magnificent mildness of the weather – the temperature reading about 58 I would say – means so much less physical strain that I can stay up late and do twice as much as if it were cold.
January 5 Saturday: I went selling with Des Logan. We sold out in Willesden, came to my place for more papers and finished after a complete new record of 266. The next highest was in Glasgow, Justin [Keating] and myself in the Gallowgate. The third was 249, Des Logan and myself in Birmingham (South); the highest in London for two persons was, I think, 218, also Logan and myself in Kilburn. There were very few people about. But all were anxious to know what we said about the IRA. We never sold so quickly. Desmond told me that Justin Keating had not called to see me when in London because I sound “cross” on the phone. I wrote to him, explaining I was ill and he got me out of bed. He had stayed with Stella Jackson [daughter of leading communist intellectual Thomas AlfredJackson, author of “Ireland Her Own” and other books] who had written congratulating me on the article in Thursday’s Daily Worker. At the time of the Arborfield raid [a raid for arms by the IRA in England] she and Ewart Milne urged that we should “support Sinn Fein”. Paddy Clancy was very alarmed at the suggestion, and a feud developed between them, each making the other worse. Gerry Curran took Stella’s side and wrote Clancy a most insulting letter which made him offer his resignation as president. Then he suspected Stella was “behind it” and withdrew his resignation “on principle”. In other words he had never intended to resign. I went through the forms of dissuading him, however. However, it led to a complete break between myself and Milne, who wrote me some hysterical letters of incredible egotism, which I could not publish anyway because to do so could mean alienating Paddy Clancy. Oh! What a tangle it was! Apparently however Stella (whose letter I did publish) merely had it in for Clancy. She told Justin that my speech at her father’s memorial meeting was “like Tommy at his best”. The strange thing is that I had appreciated her sister’s word of thanks as she came out with Leslie Porter, and thought Stella’s silence had some sinister meaning. It would be about the time of some of those strains between her and Clancy. She had just announced that she had “inherited Ireland” along with her father’s magnificent library! So what were we to do in the face of the heir?
January 6 Sunday: At Hyde Park hundreds of Irish were waiting for us, and we had a lively meeting with massive sympathy. Chris Sullivan, a Cork lad who learned socialism from a Citizen Army man he met while working on a lumber camp in Canada, went to Willesden with me and we disposed of our 15O – I think a record for Sunday. Later I met Pat Kearney, Gerry Curran, Eamon Lyons, Charlie Gallagher, Declan, Walter O’Neill – indeed everybody was at the Park. I think our weekend sales have topped 1500.
January 7 Monday: I went to Ben Bradley’s funeral. He died very suddenly last week, and having known him many years, I felt inclined to lose the time otherwise spent on the book. I remember him in 1939 and 41; we used to have the Colonial Information Bureau in Southampton Place – I think it was in Theobald’s Road [Holborn, London] next to the Connolly Association and the International Brigade at first. In that anxious lull before the German attack on Russia we walked down Theobald’s Road and had a drink with Jimmy Shields, Arthur Clegg, Hillel Woddis and a few more. Without being political dynamite Ben Bradley was honest, conscientious and easy-going, without pretentiousness or impatience. He would meet anybody. I used to get irritated at his not “seeing” things, as I sometimes do with Cox now. But men of slow mental process are as essential in organisations as brakes are on vehicles. And he was by no means all brake.
After it was over I travelled into town with Hilda Vernon. Zak was with her. I had not met him before. Jimmy Shields didn’t like him, but I don’t know the rights and wrongs of it. Then I met by accident Bill Hamling [MP for Woolwich West] at Charing Cross – just where I met Whelan. He used to be the leader of the Labour group in Liverpool whom I ousted from the leadership of the Socialist Society. He seems to hold no grudge now’! Actually I doubt if we did wisely [See Volumes 2 of the Journal]. But that is twenty two years ago. He has been out of London some time, fighting a bye-election in Devonshire. He is only a year older than me, but his hair is absolutely white. (I am getting old enough to be proud of not showing my age!) His two children were with him.
January 8 Tuesday: I received a letter from Desmond Ryan telling me that the “night in the Mendicity” article by Connolly in the first “Workers Republic” which was supposed to give support to his “Ballybay” birthplace, gave no kind of autobiographical information at all. It was a rather sentimental story of the young man from Monaghan dying in the Mendicity while his mother, in a little cabin where the road for Keady struck over the hills into Ballybay, sat dreaming of his success. It was below Connolly’s usual standard and “had to be suppressed”. I recall being told by Ryan in the National Library how he had published in his selections everything of importance that Connolly wrote. I can scarcely conceive it, unless the “Workers Republic” changed its contents much less frequently than I think. TA Jackson told me the centre pages remained the same while the outer pages were changed. But there are only about a quarter of the issues drawn upon at all. But I recall Ryan’s sheepish look when I asked the question. I suspect Connolly’s attacks on Labour opportunism have also been “suppressed”. Ina says O’Brien gave Ryan £1000 for the editing of the selections.
At the same time Ryan is no scoundrel. He is a careful scholar, like most, contemptuous of Fox [ie. RM Fox], who is a litterateur. He told me that around 1920 he had a nervous breakdown – he was quite likely upset by the death of Pearse whose pupil he was at St.Enda’s. His father had collected notes for a life of Connolly, and gave it to Desmond to work on while he completed some other book. Not long afterwards his father died. Desmond could not have been more than 22 or at most 24 when he completed it. I suspect it was WP Ryan whom the Edinburgh Socialists refused to speak to. They would never stomach a ‘bourgeois’ Gaelic Leaguer like that.
January 10 Thursday: Kay Beauchamp came to lunch with me. She is feeling disgusted with Flann Campbell and Paddy Clancy. Flann told her he “no longer believes in the dictatorship of the proletariat”. “What about the preservation of peace?” “Oh”, says he, “the Russians are strong enough to do that.” So while the Russians keep his breeches on his bottom, he denounces them over Hungary. As for Paddy Clancy he renews his card with the disconsolate observation, “Well, I suppose I may as well stay in it a little longer”, as he moves to a more comfortable position to survey his library. Flann’s trouble is social pretensions; Paddy’s is sheer laziness. The theory is only self-justification.
January 11 Friday: Simultaneously with a letter from HA Scott reporting failure to trace Peter McBride in the deaths register in Edinburgh, came a letter from the Scottish Registrar General enclosing the marriage certificate of James McGinn, who is proved as expected to be Mary’s brother and Connolly’s uncle. He married a Bridget Boyle. So at last documentary proof of the origin of one part of the family is discovered. What is fascinating is that both he and his wife were born in Co. Monaghan. So at last documentary proof of the origin of one part of the family is discovered. Still more exciting, two other Boyles were witnesses. All lived at the same address so they were probably her brothers. One of them was Owen Boyle – the name of the hawker of St. Mary’s St., Dundee; and in view of the fact that James’s daughter, Mary, died in Dundee, I imagine that they represent one person. This would mean James met his cousin McGinn in Dundee while staying at the house of the uncle’s wife’s brother and his wife.
In the evening I went out with Elsie O’Dowling and Eamonn Lyons to Pat Bond’s where he had arranged a little party. Unfortunately I am developing a cold. The weather has become cold once more – not freezing, fortunately, but not much above it.
January 13 Sunday: This Sunday the meeting at Hyde Park was less unruly and though the young Sinn Feiners were there in force they behaved themselves well. They are apt to be provoked into argument. One of them told Kearney that they held a meeting today – when I do not know – and there was great discussion of a reference to them in the Democrat, which could be interpreted as meaning they held meetings in Hyde Park. Apparently they claim that Callaghan [an independent Hyde Park speaker on Irish matters] has nothing to do with them. I was out with Des Logan in the evening. Again we did very well with the papers. But, from telephone reports, this is peculiar to London, there is nothing comparable in Manchester.
January 16 Wednesday: I have had a cold the last few days. This morning a letter arrived from the Registrar General in Dublin whom I had requested to try to trace the birth entry of the McGinn family. He told me civil registration was not begun in Ireland till 1864. I wonder if the census of 1851 is available. I can hardly hike round Monaghan looking at parish registers.
January 23 Wednesday: Another week gone by, this time with me hard at the February issue. I have done little on the book. Scott wrote me from Edinburgh and from his information Owen Boyle, who married in Glasgow in 1855, could be the hawker with whose wife Connolly stayed in Dundee in 1889. Scott told me that the reference to Monaghan in the marriage cert. which I obtained was due to an interesting circumstance. When civil registration first began a very ambitious scheme was intended. The questions asked and entered were fuller than they are now. But the scheme proved impracticable and was abandoned after a year’s trial. So the chance of finding a marriage in 1855 proved the Monaghan connection.
January 26 Saturday (Birmingham): Desmond Logan came in the evening and stayed last night. Then this morning we went to Coventry, collected the papers which had been left there and disposed of them. Then we went on to Birmingham and met Bill Goulding. We disposed of the remainder except for a very few. Logan went to stay with Cree, and I came up to Roscoe Clarke’s. He is a supporter of the “minority” view in the controversy on “fraternal association” which is at present going on. So am I [perhaps referring to the relation of different communist parties in the British Empire/Commonwealth].
January 27 Sunday: There was a good attendance at the Connolly Association EC but Paddy Clancy (as often happens) did not arrive. This placed Joe Deighan in the chair, with all his liberal inhibitions and willingness to waste an afternoon provided there is a “good discussion” and everybody speaks. Lyons gave a fair report. Then Maguire, who has gone to the bad in Nottingham, trotted out the “Socialist Appeal”, the Trotsky organ in which Owen Sheehy-Skeffington accused me of “suppressing” a letter attacking the Irish Communists. I pleaded guilty and proud of it, which did not please Maguire. Malin, the epileptic Glaswegian who presides over the Liverpool branch, gave another display of tantrums. He wanted the C.A. to adopt the manifesto of the CPNI [Communist Party of Northern Ireland] and the Workers League’s “existence” as the future basis of its policy and ignore its own constitution. Young Terry Gallogley, also involved in the Nottingham Trotsky group, sent a letter complaining that Cathal and I had not seemed enthusiastic about his rejoining after having announced his intention to concentrate on his self-appointed task of splitting the YCL. So there was more argument, Pat Kearney, Des Logan and Eamon MacLaughlin, with Gerry Curran, standing firm and the others inclined to waver, because of the uncertainty communicated by the Chairman. B.Galvin said nothing, but was with us. Young Joe Massey, a fine lad from Dublin with a streak of leadership which I hope will not degenerate into self-esteem, was there. He had been looking for his papers in Coventry but the Railway had lost them. After the meeting was over, Pat Bond took all but Eamon Lyons back in his car. Then we held a brief meeting in the Bull Ring followed by an indoor meeting at the Digbeth Institute. About a dozen people we did not know came along. Deighan made a very good speech and showed a firmness he cannot achieve in committee. He came into the movement late in life, when about 39 years of age.
January 28 Monday (Manchester): I went to Ripley [the town in Derbyshire where the Irish Democrat was printed] to check the proofs and make up the paper, but had to leave early as there was a lightning bus strike. I could not get into Nottingham so took the early train from Derby. I stayed overnight with Joe Deighan and his wife, Dorothy (née Hilton), who has at last become “accepted” by his Falls Road family despite being both English and Protestant.
January 29 Tuesday: I went to Rusholme Road in the morning [Manchester District CPGB offices].To my surprise I found the building had been gutted by a fire started by Hungarian hoodlums, probably while I was in Ireland. They were engaged in repairing it. Moxy Drake’s job had fallen a victim to the consequent economies. I had a rumpus with Sol Gulian who thought I should have made strong criticisms of the IRA and had somewhat indoctrinated Abbott with this view. Wilf Charles [Manchester CPGB organizer] who supported me came out and had a drink. I think Gulian (who is otherwise an excellent man) was glad to “sweeten” me by sending out Charles!
That evening after dinner with Dorothy and Joe Deighan I addressed the Manchester Connolly Association branch. Neither Kilcommins nor Watters were there. Kilcommins is a big-eared, big-headed cocky carpenter who is the world’s greatest egotist and soundest Trade Unionist. When he wrote his life story in the Democrat I accompanied it with an illustration of a man playing a cornet. The article was to be one of a series. But Danny took the matter seriously to heart saying I had “attacked” him by publishing a “cartoon” of Danny as an “Italian trumpeter”. There was dreadful significance in the word “Italian”. When the Democrat misreported his wedding it was too much for him and he decided he could not face me. So we are like the man and the woman in the old “Barometers” – when I am in, he is out. I think Watters feels much the same, though he is a much more adult individual. Though we formally “made it up” he has always felt he was “treated like a Trotskyist” at the Connolly Association Conference of 1947. But quite enough were there and the meeting was a success. Joe Deighan is slowly recovering from his confusions over Hungary.
January 30 Wednesday (Liverpool): I went to Liverpool in the afternoon and at 5 pm. Phyllis came in. Her new job [as a School Headmistress] has proved very interesting. She is bubbling over with it, and her slightly tired, defeatist attitude has been corrected by the stimulus of responsibility. I was very pleased indeed to see the change. She is no longer “tired out” at 9 pm. though she has much more work to do. Such is the encouragement of success. Her predecessor was one of those incompetent people who will never take any decisions but insists that all decisions must be in her hands, a born waverer and dog-in-the-manger. She let discipline go to the devil while incessantly complaining. Phyllis has adopted the plan of being the “devil incarnate” for the first year and has put the fear of Jesus into the lot of them. The staff has responded favourably to a strong authority that will back them up. Phyllis was trained the “hard way” in the slum schools of Birmingham, teaching boys twice as big as herself, and knows all the arts of dictatorship. I entirely agree she should stand no nonsense.
We discussed some business matters, including CEG’s [his father’s] stamp collection which I am proposing to sell. He left it for AEG [their mother] should she be short of funds, but she was not. Phyllis wants me to have it as compensation for the allowance I made to AEG when she was alive. With the big stamp album was the smaller one I had as a boy, and a smaller one still which had belonged to a man famous as a traveller, Bramwell Evans, whose caravan is preserved as a museum in Manchester. He was at the Liverpool Technical College with Harry Greaves [his uncle] and the book is inscribed “From Bram to Harry, Jan. 8, 1897, with love.” Harry had apparently used the book till 1905, when his notes in the cover ceased. Possibly he then gave it to CEG. Bramwell Evans’s address was written in ink – his name spelled Evens (with two e’s, and the address was delivered a little flamboyantly as “59, Errol St., Aigburgh Rd., St. Michaels in Hamlet, Liverpool, England, Europe.” A number of notes on the leaves are in CEG’s very neat handwriting. AEG suggested to Phyllis that the album should be given to the Bramwell Evans Museum if they care to accept it.
In the Senf album there is a note from V.T. [Victor Taylor, maternal uncle]. Apparently a covering letter with some stamps from Cairo and the Far East, possibly sent in 1924 or thereabout when Taylor settled temporarily in Shanghai. I think he worked for Levers. He was the only brother my mother had, and was the second child. Now he lives in Addiscombe, Surrey, and must be nearing 70. When he joined the army in the First World War, and was posted to India, he sent CEG some stamps. CEG was in the 16th Irish Division (Signals) and used to come home covered with shamrocks till, while he was on one leave, I think because of AEG’s mother’s death, the Irish Division which had been placed in an exposed position, was wiped out. AEG put the stamps “in a safe place” where they were never found, since she forgot where it was, and CEG used to speak of it twenty – indeed nearly thirty – years afterwards, his rancour very slowly indeed turning to fun. Poor AEG was tired hearing about those stamps. The covering note from V.Taylor expresses the hope that these will not meet the same fate of the last.
Phyllis is thinking of leaving 124 Mount Road if she can find a bungalow.
January 31 Thursday: Returning to London I saw Pat Bond who estimated the value of the stamps as between £100 and £200 but thought it would be hard to realise. Among the books and boxes are a set of 4O sheets of Japanese stamps given to CEG by Mrs. Worthington. The story of his connection with her is of interest. Extremely superstitious, and a firm believer in “luck” she used to insist on a great party at New Year’s Eve. At a minute to twelve the entire company would leave the house, and after the hooters, buzzers, whistles and ships sirens on the Mersey had died down, and it was definitely “next year” the company would return, but the first to cross the threshold was to be a dark-haired man. Otherwise the whole year’s “luck” would be ruined. I think the Worthingtons used to live next door to William Greaves [his Grandfather] in Thompson St. When the two families moved the old man William who had usually officiated could hardly continue, especially as his blindness confined him. So the office descended to the sons, and rested with CEG, who was the youngest still in England. My mother did not like these parties, accused Mrs. Worthington of using margarine on her sandwiches, and strongly disliked the annual visit. CEG also tried to escape, but on being cornered would always give in for the sake of Auld Lang Syne and the memory of his father, for whom he had had great respect. When he missed one year, the following year Mrs. Worthington brought him a list of the deaths and misfortunes that had ensued; he was caught again, often to stay till 2 am. listening to her recital of the events of the past year. It was in some recompense for this that she gave him the Japanese stamps, which she thought were valuable, but he knew were not. I think she died shortly after the war ended, and though of a younger generation he did not long survive her.
February 1 Friday: I had company in the evening, Eamonn MacLaughlin and Barbara, and Jim Duggan of Waterford. Peter O’Connor has high hopes of this lad, but he seems to lack fire, like so many whose apprenticehip has been through the Labour Party in Ireland.
February 2 Saturday: With Des Logan I went to Kilburn in the evening where we disposed of the record number of 275 copies of the Democrat. The reception was better than ever.
February 3 Sunday: I went to Hyde Park. Eamon Lyons acquitted himself well on the platform. Hecklers are now unknown. We have been helped by the most unusual spell of mild weather. Though there was a touch of cold in November which alarmed me, this must be the first winter in London with no snow though there has been snow in the country. The result has been to enable us to continue meetings in weather more pleasant than most times last summer.
February 4 Monday: At about 10 am. I had a telephone call from Idris Cox. Nolan was here and wanted to see me. Was it possible? I know there has been a change brewing, so I invited him up, gave him a drink of the whiskey left over from Xmas, and provided him with a good lunch. He remained till 4 pm. At about 2 pm. he explained the Workers Voice had “folded up”. They had made no statement on Hungary. They had made no statement on the IRA, as if they had they would have been critical. The problem now was whether it would be possible to preserve the bookshop. Six months would tell. He had asked Cox if it was agreeable to him to arrange to collect money here to keep it going. Cox said he could see no objection (it would not endanger his wages) but referred him to me. I asked how would it be organised. He replied that a collector or two would be appointed, presumably among the “P.O.U.M.” [Leftist members of the Connolly Association’s North London branch]. I felt that the matter was not dangerous but said nothing either way. Later I saw Cox, who had understood it to refer to ex-members of the Irish Workers League. Cox is enormously improved but I do not quickly forgive him for the dreadful damage he did when he first took the job over.
February 5 Tuesday: An extraordinary meeting (not a meeting extraordinary) of the International Committee took place tonight on the subject of the ” British Road to Socialism”. How Dutt kept his patience will be a mystery forever, for Barbara Ruhemann was talking the most thoroughgoing, consistent, teutonic nonsense ever heard, and Kit Meredith was popping in with an amendment at every line, with Andrew Rothstein, precise and stately, just behind him. Get a word in edgeways? It couldn’t be done. I went for a drink with Kay Beauchamp and Pafkos afterwards. It was badly needed, and to make matters worse they have decided on another next week. There were no deep disagreements, but the committee was far too large for such a job.
February 6 Wednesday: I did a little work on the book. But it is going very slowly. At last the Customs informed me that my microfilms had arrived from the USA but started their usual nonsense about “Import Licenses”.
February 7 Thursday: There was a good attendance at West London [the West London Connolly Association branch] where MacLaughlin at last got together a committee. He gave an excellent report last week.
February 8 Friday: I spent practically the whole day on the book. But I am afraid I am going to be delayed very much now that a General Election is announced in Ireland.
February 9 Saturday: Gerry Curran came in the afternoon and we addressed 100 letters to MP’s enclosing a copy of my pamphlet [The Irish Case Against Partition, Connolly Publications,1956]. Thanks to Pat Kearney’s stimulus, it is now selling very well, and the situation favours it. Even “Tribune” is talking about the Irish Question, with that twenty stone scoundrel Andrew Boyd writing from Belfast to boost the “Irish Labour Party”. I remember his coming to London, and taking up a sharply critical attitude till I agreed to print something he wrote. It was during the time Prendergast was losing no opportunity to embarrass us. Boyd then turned against Prendergast. Later he spread a rumour that Billy McCullough and Betty Sinclair were in league with the RUC, left the party, and became the NCLC [National Council of Labour Colleges] organiser in Belfast, a job previously held by another renegade, Pollock, who professed the Orange Labour ticket and went to Edinburgh. Patricia Rushton is also busy. I remember going to her house once in Berkeley Rd., Dublin. She held a “salon” every Sunday evening, frequented by journalists, talkative small-time artists and general gasbags. They were gossiping very wittily about people I did not know and who did not even appear interesting. There was not one breath of serious intention, but such ostentatious brilliance in saying nothing that solid content would seem “de trop”. I remember her well in the Labour Party rooms in Molesworth St. Harry Craig flew over and came in to see her. She was posting thousands of copies of the Labour weekly throughout Ireland and even asking if they would soon be paid for. After she came to England – the paper collapsed and nearly ruined the printer – she prevented the Connolly Association securing affiliation to the Movement for Colonial Freedom. Her great spiritual mentor, Christie Ferguson, died a day or two ago and this provided Larkin with an excuse for retiring from politics, closely followed by Keyes. I would not put it past her to try to start a counter-movement to us. Fortunately she is not over-competent.
February 10 Sunday: Another splendid meeting at Hyde Park, at which we persuaded that arch-sceptic Paddy Clancy to speak. And very well he spoke, too, giving his best “parish-priest’s” pursuit of Imperialism, which he denounced more effectively than any Bishop come to grips with “sin”. Charlie Gallagher is developing qualities as an outdoor speaker though he has but one lung. He was found coughing up blood in a field in Donegal and rushed to a sanatorium. In the next bed was Peter Lawlor, brother of Gabriel, who taught him politics. Lyons spoke, and I spoke myself – Sean Dowling took the photograph [pasted this entry in the manuscript Journal], but since he exposed the same film a second time I had to cut out the small part which survived. Chris Sullivan complained that a policeman moved him from outside the Garryowen [dance hall] last night. The same happened to an excellent lad, Sean Ryan, the week before. I had a few words to say about that. In the evening Des Logan and I went to the Elephant [Elephant and Castle district in South London], afterwards meeting Pat Kearney at the Blarney Dance Hall in Tottenham Court Road. Lyons and Chris Sullivan were away to sell in Hammersmith, so there is plenty of activity.
February 11 Monday: There was a brief meeting of the CA Standing Committee in the evening, at which arrangements were made for the Conference and meetings.
February 13 Wednesday: Last night the International Committee held its ‘special’ meeting to finish the discussion of amendments to resolutions. It is the most hilarious that could be imagined. Barbara Ruhemann as consistently wild as she can be. MacWhinnie on the other hand enjoyed it! He is very sensitive to developments in Eastern Europe and has been reading Koestler’s autobiography, which gives an account of how he was suddenly taken up as a spy or enemy agent, and others accused with him swore he had attempted to recruit them for espionage. The story is of small moment, but that (says MacWhinnie) “Ruhemann, a British scientist” is named as one of the accusers who himself confessed to espionage. That would presumably be her husband, from whom she is separated, a very clever and very temperamental character I met up at “Petrocarbon” when Parker and I were visiting it from Powell Duffryn.
February 14 Thursday: Last night we all went lobbying MPs [at the House of Commons]. I had a long talk with Lena Jeger [Labour MP for St Pancras]. Then Amphlett-Micklewright spotted SO Davies and we had a chat with him. SO Davies was annoyed that he had not been asked to speak in the Carmarthen by-election. He ascribes the failure as due to his left-wing tendencies. He remembers Larkin speaking in Merthyr. Paddy Clancy saw Victor Collins, one of the most sensible of them; he thought Labour would lose in Lewisham. That was last night. Tonight Pat Kearney rang up to say they had won.
February 15 Friday: Roy arrived in the evening. He had been in Bristol and had visited Hanwell on his way into town. He told me about the unemployed movement in which Sam Nolan is a leading figure. That two-faced scoundrel Peadar O’Donnell is intriguing with them [The word “Mis-understanding” was written by Greaves beside this passage later]. A few days ago he let it be known that he would be in the Shelbourne Hotel at a certain time and that if they cared to send a deputation to seek his advice, he would be prepared to receive it. The deputation went. He advised them to reduce their demands to one, the demand for work. Then he suggested that they put up an “unemployed” candidate in South Central Dublin constituency, where Sinn Fein might well rob Fianna Fail of many votes. The boys demurred. Where was the money to come from? Peadar assured them the money would be available. “From Fianna Fail”? I asked Roy, for I know that O’Donnell was De Valera’s envoy to Irish emigrant workers in the last war. Roy had not thought of that. £300 from nowhere, for nothing! Not likely. Gerry Curran came later and we had a pleasant convivial evening.
February 16 Saturday: Bob Stewart’s 80th birthday party took place at King Street [CPGB headquarters] this evening. I met many people I had not seen for years – Robson, for example, and Aileen Palmer who was friendly with Jimmy Shields. Idris Cox’s wife was there, whom I had not seen since just after I returned from Ireland to take over the Democrat, and found her son a job for the summer in Powell Duffryn. I cycled from Cardiff to London that day – it would be in 1951 I would say. R. Palme Dutt was there but did not stay long. He is a bad “mixer”. Wal Hannington [Unemployed Workers Movement leader in the 1930s] sang a song, and at a crucial point in the proceedings after Harry Pollitt had pronounced encomia, Bob was set beside the table to cut his cake. He did it as the camera clicked. Then Harry insisted on his cutting it again, with Harry standing by his side. But twice did he cut, and twice did the flash-bulb fail to light, so the attempt was abandoned! I thought it served him right. But it must be said it didn’t cast him down. He was in the best of spirits all night!
February 17 Sunday: The weather has turned colder at last – not desperately cold, but quite cool, around 40’F I would imagine, possibly 42’ in the afternoon. We had another good meeting though I imagined the excitement of the raids has given place to a more sober frame of mind [ie.The IRA’s border raids in Northern Ireland, which had recently commenced]. Roy was there. He had been to Pat Bond’s for lunch. We did nothing in the evening. I have not been too well for the past two days. I think a cold is coming on.
February 18 Monday: Roy left early in the morning. He has to go to Bristol whence he flies to Dublin. Des Logan came in the evening to discuss West London of which he is secretary now. Then afterwards I set to work on the stamps. My own album which CEG consolidated into his is here, and going through it brought many an incident to my mind of the olden days. The large number of South American stamps there arose from the fact that after a visit (in 1929 I think) H.A.Taylor [maternal aunt] (who later married a man called Cregan and “turned” Catholic) sent me a huge box of stamps. She worked with a firm who dealt with South America. There were so many that I used to seal them up in packets and did a roaring trade at school selling them to my schoolfellows! It would be a while before this that AEG was having the house papered – though not much before it. We lived at 7A Rockville Street, in Rockferry, and my parents had bought the house of Mrs Browne who had had it built with another, on the grounds of her orchard. Hence a profusion of gooseberries, black currants and apple trees which bore no fruit. I remember CEG sawing down the last survivor in disgust. When work was to be done you either brought in “Bob MacPherson” (who put up the trellis fence for CEG’s rambler roses) or Mr Humphries, who would repair walls, and paint and paper. I had the room formerly known as the “music room” in the days when the house contained three pianos, and this room contained not only one of the pianos but a violin and a flute. I took it over in 1928 I imagine. I did not enjoy it long as we moved to Mount Road in 1931. Be that as it may, the stamp album reposed on a bookshelf which still held my grandfather’s library, or what had survived of it. There it was that I found the “Origin of Species” and other “secularist” literature he had collected. AEG had not much respect for him. He was a “clever man wasted” whose unbalanced business ventures broke himself and his wife and family. The younger ones felt she was too hard on him. When I returned from school I found my room had been redecorated, and if I remember aright the electric wiring had been altered. A young electrician had been working there, an apprentice about 16 years old. I would be 14 or 15. I took down the stamp album and noticed that a number of the stamps were missing. I told AEG who told Humphries and a few minutes later a red-faced apprentice took them out of his overalls pocket. I think they gave him another chance. Humphries was not a hard man. Now some of those very stamps are here now. There was one I particularly treasured which CEG gave me as a special gift. But I must have forgotten what it is, or it is no longer on any of the sheets.
Alec Digges rang up in great indignation tonight. Maggie Mynott, manageress of Central Books, had told him to remove all the International Brigade papers out of the premises which she vacates on Friday, or have them thrown into the street. He is talking of moving them to his own place. I suggested Amphlett- Micklewright’s cellar which is dry and which he offered me in case we wanted to do any storing. We are in the same boat. If we cannot find a room by Friday, we will have to publish the Irish Democrat without an address.
February 19 Tuesday: The threatened cold came after all, not an acute one yet, but quite uncomfortable enough. I worked on the paper all day, and classified all the loose stamps by evening. The Board of Trade now swear that I must get an import license for the microfilm I have imported from the USA. They now read the regulations in the exact opposite sense to that in which they read them three years ago. They declare that no Library ever imports a microfilm without one. This country is mad enough, so it may well be so. I also received letters from the LSE and London University Libraries, who have some of the copies of the “International Socialist Review” which I require. Others are (of all places) in Sheffield! I also had a letter from Pat Durcan in Tubbercurry who thinks the Bradshaw Paddy Clancy knew in Sligo is indeed the Bradshaw who managed Connolly’s Workers Republic in Dublin in the early days [The word “No” was inserted after this by CDG in the manuscript Journal]. This seems quite a promising line of enquiry, as he was Town Clerk of Sligo at a certain time – I imagine in the thirties, and Durcan says the Catholic clergy were extremely resentful of the appointment. If I remember aright, also, he had some connexion with one of the Sligo papers. But we have yet to prove it was the same man.
February 22 Friday: I went to the LSE Library to read their files of the International SocialistReview but found it very imperfect. There is another file in Sheffield, but even that does not cover the period I want.
A letter from Pat Durkin in Sligo said that he thought the Bradshaw Clancy used to know of in Sligo was WJ Bradshaw who used to be the business manager of the Workers Republic. So that is an interesting lead. I had suspected this and written to him.
February 23 Saturday: The cooler weather has given place to continuous rain. All those who blamed last year’s cold winter, and last year’s wet summer, and the year before’s dry summer on the Hydrogen bomb, are blaming this year’s wet warm winter on the same thing. I met Dougal Egger, Alec Digges’s friend. On Wednesday Gerry Curran came. I helped Alec to move his goods and chattels from Pastor St. and I had expected to see him there. He is 63 or so and is learning shorthand for four years! He is quite sure the bombs have ruined the weather. I remember as a child in the 1914-18 war hearing people blaming the guns; then they blamed the radio; then the bombs. Of course the fact is that the weather has never been anything else than abominable. It requires no excuse, and while nobody could rule out an influence of dust and radio-active particles on the behaviour of the atmosphere, it is most improbable that the lay experts now pronouncing on the subject have detected any signs of it. The weather maps this winter have differed so much from the last six as to rule out any effect on general configurations. I met Eamon MacLaughlin who has the CA minute book (West London) for 1950. We are trying to gather together and centralise the records, which have been somewhat carelessly kept.
February 24 Sunday: Although it rained all night and all morning, and then again all evening, it cleared for about an hour and a half, for our meeting in Hyde Park. It was a more stormy one than for a while. Perhaps injudiciously, before looking round to see which of the professional interrupters were present, I admitted to having written an article on the Daily Worker. I judged since the weather was bad no interrupters would be present. I was listened to myself with great attention but the minute Eamon Lyons got up, a little pallid grinning Dublin know-all started to question him on the subject matter of my remarks. Then the Catholic Front man appeared, and a big omadhaun [Irish word for idiot] who planted himself right in front of the platform. Things were not going too well when the big fellow announced an affection for the Union Jack, which destroyed his effectiveness as an interrupter. Finally however I returned to the platform and informed them that I would write in the “Devil’s own weekly” without asking their permission, and got applause for it. After the meeting Eamon Lyons came in for supper.
February 25 Monday: I went to Derby and Ripley. Curiously enough the machine-man, one of the Reynolds brothers [who ran Ripley Printers] had been in Hyde Park a few weeks ago when the mad commissionaire, a Belfast Orangeman who “turned papish” and took all his bigotry with him, started a meeting at the edge of ours in his usual way. “Now come along here now, Irish men and women; come away from Communism!” He had the impression that a Hyde Park orator’s life was not a happy one. Neither is an Editor’s. The cartoon had disappeared on the way to the blockmakers.
February 26 Tuesday: Who should walk in this morning when I was cleaning the flat but Margaret Byrne of Glasgow. She was on an old-aged pensioners deputation to the House of Commons – at the age of 34! She told me that Jim Hunter, with whom Cathal stayed in Glasgow, has to give up work for six months though illness. His wife Margaret is not unwell – despite her chronic illness, unbelievable in so handsome a woman. Jim Hunter used to say I had “no soul” because I was not a great one for cleaning my bicycle! He used to tickle Cathal till he rolled in a heap on the carpet. It must have been last year but one that he lost his two parents within a week. He suffered from tuberculosis as a lad, and I suspect this and other strains have brought it on again. A pity, as he is naturally a lively playful character. Margaret came back in the evening and Des Logan came. We had a meal and then took her to Euston.
February 27 Wednesday: A telephone call from Pat Bond told me that we have failed to secure an office for the CA. Apparently as soon as we say it is an Irish organisation the landlord reaches for a bucket of water to put out the bombs.
At last I have the microfilms. The Board of Trade declared I must have an import license, and kindly issued me one “without prejudice to subsequent applications” (whatever that may mean!). Perhaps next time they will go back to their earlier position that none is needed. However with eight fat reels to read I have to solve the problem of projection. The film man Harry Browne told me a “still projector” is what I want, and I had a look at some in a shop in Southampton Road.
March 3 Sunday (Manchester/Dublin): I travelled overnight from London [to Manchester] and knocked up Joe Deighan early in the morning. Things have not been going as well as formerly. This is in part due to accidents beyond control, and also in part due to Joe’s tendency to placate backsliders, thus allowing them to occupy his attention rather than the securing of new people. PJ Kearney is somewhat upset at my publishing the CPNI’s [Communist Party of Northern Ireland]statement on the IRA but also (since this opposed it) the friendliness of my criticism of Sinn Fein! He also objects to references to discrimination, so that if he had his way I think the paper would consist of eight blank pages! Danny Kilcommins of course can still not forget the “Italian trumpet player”, but now he has other and more serious troubles. His wife, Lena, a very nice girl, more stable than himself, is in hospital, and leukaemia has been diagnosed, a horrible disease. McKee at BCURA [British Coal Utilisation Research Association] had it after I had left Powell-Duffryn, and I always had it on my conscience that despite George Weil’s urging I did not write to him – but what can you say to somebody with an incurable disease who is informed enough to know it? So Joe is thrown back on nervous little enthusiastic Fintan O’Malley, a very good boy, but extremely young.
Sitting on a chair in Joe’s room was a spool wound with the film “Dawn” [an early Irish film on the War of Independence] sent without a word to him by Malin of Liverpool. When he told me in Birmingham that it had been given to them I said it was ours at the time and Malin was so indignant that he refused to lend it to us in London. However, when he came in the afternoon he explained that he had discovered I was right. The film had been in Joe O’Toole’s cupboard in Preston for sixteen years, and he had it from Madge Carroll – “after the meeting which I addressed, when it was shown,” said I.
I remember the meeting well. The film took up most of the time. It would be in the year 1942 or possibly 1943 (nearly fulyl 16 years ago) but Angus MacPherson took the chair. It was in the Picton Hall [in Liverpool]. I think it was the first time that I met him, though I got to know him well after that. He was at the University then. He had never been a contemporary of mine of course, and as a medical student starting in 1937 he would be about finishing then. He joined the army, was invalided out with tuberculosis after a spell in Malaya, and I used to visit him at the Brompton Chest Clinic. He married the heiress to the Symons brewing millions, so I understand, but like so many people of the upper middle class with Marxian sympathies, could never solve the problem of what to devote his life to and spent years of frustration trying to find a vocation in a world that didn’t have one for him. As for the others present, one was Madge Carroll, a sufferer from chronic sympathy with communism who kept herself out of the Communist Party by means of quibbling indignations, one worn each day and changed according to the season of the year. She had a young brother in Sinn Fein; Malin told me he is dead. At the funeral the CP and Sinn Fein members (he belonged to both) came to blows and there was nearly another funeral. “The Connolly Association is a lost cause,” said Madge to Malin. She said the same to me a good ten years ago. The truth is she is a lost warrior, a pity, as she has some kind of cantankerous integrity.
Barney Watters was at the meeting, and Kath MacLaughlin. It was not very well attended but I guess it had its value, though no more than guess. After a meal in the Indian restaurant whose proprietor is in jail, I caught the 7.30 pm. to Chester and so to Holyhead. What a train journey!
March 4 Monday (Dublin): After calling in to Roy Johnston and leaving my luggage, I went in to see Jim Collins at the Dublin Trades Council. He was wrapped in gloom. Labour was in for a trouncing, yet “if there’s any good been done for the country, Norton [William Norton, Irish Labour Party leader] has done it.” He exhibits a queer mixture of loyalty and exasperation towards the Labour leaders. Of the Trade Unionists he says Byrne is a director of Irish Shipping, Rory Roberts of the GNR [Great Northern Railway], somebody else of the GSR [Great Southern Railway] – “and how can you be on both sides at once?” What has happened of course is that since the principle of the class struggle has been thrown overboard, the way is open to every kind of opportunism and corruption. Of Larkin [“Young” Jim Larkin, the 1913 leader’s son, then leading his father’s union, the Workers Union of Ireland] he regretted as all others do, that he has no desire to lead in politics. But so much of the aura still hangs round these names that nobody dares to say, “the son is a lazy opportunist trading on a name.” His brains and ability is incontestable. But as Devine said last week, “He inherited a union”, and as Machavelli said, kingdoms are kept through the means of which they were first acquired. This was not fighting a principle.
I felt tired after travelling and did little in the afternoon. But in the evening I went to Fine Gael’s small crowd in O’Connell St., and heard young Cosgrave talking about youth (forty year old youth), then to De Valera’s big meeting in the College Green, and finally to the Unemployed meeting in the Coombe. As I planted myself in front of the platform Packy Early spotted me and waved gaily. Sam Nolan was chairman. If the candidate got a chance to speak it was not through any fault of the chairman, who delivered a speech of his own in introducing the other speakers. Steve Mooney said a few words, and Liam O’Meara delivered a powerful appeal, waving his arms like old Jim Larkin, while the crowd stood mostly undemonstrative but weighing things up.
March 5 Tuesday: This was polling day. I had lunch with Justin, wasted most of the afternoon trying to find Desmond Ryan’s place in Rathmines, and saw little of the election because there was little to see.
March 6 Wednesday: I lunched with Paul O’Higgins, the cheery prophet of political woe. He thinks it is the intention of the Irish Workers League leaders to close their organisation down but under the guise of “reorganising”. Nolan is thinking of acquiring a non-political bookshop after some months. The real reason why they made no statement on Hungary or the IRA was that to make any statement at all would injure O’Riordan’s position and prospects in the Trade Union. In the evening I saw Cathal, Helga, Justin and Loretta [Loretta Wine, Justin Keating’s wife].
March 19 Tuesday: A telephone call came from Mary Greaves [his aunt] just as I was sealing up a letter to her. Harry Greaves [his uncle and her brother] died at midday today, peacefully and in the presence of Doris. WHG [Harley, his son] had seen him and had been told, “I think this is the finish of me.” I told Mary I would go to the funeral on Saturday and rang Phyllis. She had just had a call from H. Welfare, Doris’s nephew, so she knew already. She wisely decided against travelling. I then rang Harry’s wife and told her I was coming, though it means leaving Waterloo at 5.40 am.
March 23 Saturday: I had to rise before 5 am. so as to catch the 5.40 to Bournemouth. Harley Greaves was at the station with his car. After breakfast we went, with his wife and two children to Harry’s, where Doris was in an extremely distressed state which did not prevent her from irritating Mary by what she calls “bragging”. Actually it is Doris’s form of small talk. Whereas a houseproud woman will talk about her curtains, her cutlery and her carpets, a woman in “Public Life” will talk about all the committees she is on. Like the man in “The Relapse”, she “knows more “Lards” than she is able to count, but it is all quite amiable and harmless.
The cortege wound its way through miles of dreary suburbs to a Wesleyan or Methodist church to which Harry belonged. To my surprise I saw the name “Wesley D. Massey”. There was only a handful there. Mary Greaves had to refer to the crowded church and great display at CEG’s funeral [his father’s] – not mentioning the much more surprising full house for AEG [his mother] whose character rather than her works and public activities had claimed esteem. Of course they had not long settled. The parsons in these Non-Conformist establishments now wear grand robes, an improvement I would say, as there is no need to pretend it is a mechanical or rational ceremony. This man Massey I referred to was a parson at “Wesley Church”, Tranmere, which contains the brass plate commemorating CEG’s musical activities with the “Free Church” Choral Societies, and he was there around 1927-33 (I imagine) when Harry’s mother died. Having doubted the validity of religion from an extremely early age, especially on learning that all my mother’s family were atheists, and seeing old William Taylor’s agnostic books lying round the house (I always felt CEG was a sceptic but said nothing, for once when he tried to argue with me he pulled in his horns astonishingly early in the debate), I had put my foot down and was not unduly pressed. CEG was interested in the music. He could conduct choirs, run an orchestra, and this he enjoyed. So I had little to do with Massey and yet, seeing how little he had changed, it struck me he would recognise me also. I think that he was taking some course at the university contemporaneously with me, and this may have led him to recognise me. Also, I did what I always do on such occasions, namely, just sit there. When I went to Mass in Dublin and Manchester I did not pretend to take part in the proceedings, which I can see no value in apart from the satisfaction they give those who believe them efficacious. Probably he spotted me and put two and two together. He mentioned my father, which delighted Mary, and I must admit that his panegyric was unsentimental, businesslike and quite what a speaker at a Rotary Club dinner would say about their lamented president or secretary. It was far better than any flights of fantasy. It is always in the best taste to keep the emotional tone at its lowest. I gave him credit for that. At the cemetery the proceedings were equally calm and unemotional. Enid [his cousin] was there, a woman of forty now. “I haven’t seen you for 25 years,” she cried. She has not changed a bit, and has turned into a stylish woman with a marked and very attractive manner and personality, very far from a fool.
At the house, the guests assembled. Mary Greaves was still spitting at Doris. “Let her be,” said I, but it was no use. People take out their own grief on others who are suffering as well as themselves. Very few who know their minds are unbalanced a little can exercise the will to tip them back a little. Then Massey came. “When I heard of you last you were a violent socialist,” said he. “Have you grown out of that?”
“I have grown very much worse by your standards,” I replied, not wishing to round on him too quickly and treating it as a joke. Somebody had told him I was writing a book.
“Will it be Marxism,” said he “or will it be written from an unbiased standpoint?” He did a little more sneering, until I grew a little tired of him. I don’t recall whether he ever secured his PhD. I doubt it, as he would have it on the advertisement outside the church. “Dr. Massey,” I said, “I think since you are interested in the standpoint of this book you should receive a copy.” They all listened, I had spoken loudly. “And then”, I continued, knowing the Methodist hatred of Rome, “you could write on the fly-leaf Nihil Obstat”. The joke was that (though they laughed) only he appreciated the full force of the quip. His face fell. Perhaps he had had visions of a free copy. But a few minutes later he was over at my side trying to make pleasant conversation and rectify his blunders. I wondered how the others would take my snubbing their parson. Curiously enough they all seemed quite pleased. There must be anticlericalism among Methodists too.
It would be sheer hypocrisy on my part to pretend I was seriously upset at Harry Greaves’s death. I was sorry. I always got on well with him, but then I had little to do with him. AEG did not get on too well with him at all. But then perhaps when CEG was in the army – I remember him coming home on leave covered with shamrocks and other emblems – she expected more of him than he was able to give. I can well understand now the influence he had on CEG. It was CEG who inherited the music and talent of their father, so that he became better known in later life. Harry, on the other hand, deprived through his accident of the normal sports of boyhood, started collecting butterflies and moths, stamps, became a great fisherman, and found innumerable outlets which showed the natural liveliness of his mind. He in turn passed this on to CEG on the one hand, the next brother, and Harley Greaves, the son. CEG was never a hand at manual work and did not take to butterfly collecting. But he did take to the open air and participated fully in the fashion of cycling around the turn of the century. Harley not only took up butterfly collecting, but started where the father left off, and surpassed him, especially in the scientific knowledge of the subject. He continued until Doris, the second wife, took over and threw the whole collection in the bin, lock, stock and barrel. Harley was not advancing in his studies. He was induced to stay with Mary Greaves who isolated him from all outside influences and this resulted in his marrying a girl in Brighton and settling in the South of England. His children are pleasant and well behaved but would not have great brains. Enid’s on the other hand are wild and self-willed and want to be writers and actors and things like that. It was as a result of Harley’s settling in Bournemouth that his father decided to move there after CEG died. As for Harley’s butterflies, since we were the same age and played together as children I had to try my hand at it, but could never compete, something which irked me, as I was always far cleverer at everything else. I myself decided not to try. Thanks to AEG’s keeping the house stocked with popular and juvenile books on all branches of science, beginning with astronomy, I ran the gamut till I reached Botany, and here Harley was not up to me – there was more theory, and less “know how” so we each had our speciality. He showed me colour photographs he had taken of “Red Admirals” recently. He has two chemists shops, and a half share in a third. I imagine he works hard enough, and would be a good businessman in his way, with an eye for a penny to be made and some skill in getting to know the people with whom he would make it. He was never mean, nor was he ever unsociable. He pressed me to stay there over the weekend, but I had too much work to do. I caught the evening train back to London, arriving about 9.0 o’clock at Waterloo, very tired indeed, and more sorry for Mary Greaves than anybody else.
[A three-week gap in the Journal occurs here]
April 15 Monday: To say I have been busy for the past month would be to put things so mildly as to amount to a disappearing trick. In addition, I must have caught a chill at the funeral. I had intended to go to Scotland, but instead I stayed in London and tried to coddle myself, not with much success. I am only today better of an abominable cold. Roy came for a few days last week. On my suggestion they pressed for a resumption of meetings and were successful. Cathal has been attending them and criticising their proclivities for talk without action. He returned £5 he borrowed from me through Roy. But he does not write. This does not surprise me, as he never did. He would allow arrears of correspondence to pile up for weeks. Then he would retire to his room with the tense expression of one who was about to kill the sacred goose and spend a whole night at it. Roy is worried about Justin, who he thinks is slipping into the complacent ways of the upper middle class, putting on weight atrociously and living the good life his privileged position provides him with, with little thought for the movement. The cold-shouldering he got on his return completely dampened his enthusiasm and his reaction is, “They don’t care, why should I?”
As for the unemployed, he tells me Sam Nolan, Seán Mooney and one other have instituted themselves a little “inner circle” in the committee to discuss “Socialist policy” with Murphy the new TD [Elected to the Dáil asan independent candidate of the Dublin Unemployed Movement]. The capacity of the Dublin people to form groups within groups, like a nest of boxes, is beyond belief. I learned it without pleasure since it appears more likely to immobilise Murphy at a time when he should be following up his success with a campaign throughout the country.
I received a letter from HA Scott this morning. He had searched the registers from 1855 to 1891 and found six men called Owen Boyle, but only one whose wife was Mary Boyle. The parents were such as to show he was the brother of Bridget Boyle who married James McGinn, so all fits in, and it is clear that Connolly went to Dundee to a brother of an aunt by marriage. On the other hand all our efforts to trace the father’s family have met with no success at all.
April 16 Tuesday: I succeeded in despatching the May issue today, a week early, and with only three days’ work – long days, from early morning to late night – hot days. The weather has turned warm again after a cold week. But since contrary to my early expectations there has been no winter at all – quite the mildest year I recall; London has not seen a flake of snow – we are a little unprepared for the summer. It seems that we do not instinctively relax as spring develops, because there is nothing to relax from. This year there was no winter. Last year there was no summer. It has been almost level for twelve months!
Interesting developments have taken place among the P.O.U.M., as I call them. These boys were in the Irish Workers League in Dublin, but on arriving in Britain took up the most astonishingly antagonistic attitude to the CA and to myself and Paddy Clancy in particular. Later they added Lyons to the people they “weren’t speaking to”. The first symptoms were in 1951 while I was in Mayo and Prendergast [former International Brigader and CPGB member], losing his job in Leeds, came to London and started two crusades. One resulted in the formation of North London Branch which was to have none of the defects of the West. If I had not gone down country and developed branches in the provinces it would have gone ill. But he proved unable to stand the strain of the persistent work needed to build it up and dropped out. We took it over and made something of it. Gerry Curran is mostly responsible for that. At this time Prendergast was hoping to defeat me elsewhere [presumably in the CPGB], and I suspect from what I am told his aim was to be Editor of the paper. There were many at that time who thought there was money available. Those influenced were Sean Mooney and Fitzgerald [Jim Fitzgerald, actor and producer], who went back to Dublin and forgot all about it, and Charles Lambert and O’Neill. In the second place there was non-cooperation coupled with open political expression. Many of the Irish Workers League boys emigrated in this period. The theory was that the national question meant nothing in Ireland. In this period O’Neill became intensely bitter. When Furlong came he joined in with them and the underlying antagonism came to the surface in a number of ways. The issue then changed. The demand was to distribute the Irish Workers Voice instead of the Democrat in London. Our resistance to this led to feelings becoming more strained still. The conflict on policy disappeared into the background. There was non-cooperation with no reason given. But last November O’Donnell approached me. I sensed changes were brewing. Betty O’Shea told me last Thursday that Peadar O’Donnell has waged a most bitter and protracted campaign of vilification against us over years. No doubt he influenced Murray and Nolan. Be that as it may, soon things altered for the better. There were some friendlier gestures. Markey told Kearney in a pub that they thought they had made mistakes. Last week Prendergast rang me up – sweet as a dove; he has only two stops on his organ – and asked about a discrimination case. But I heard no more of it. Then I was amused to see Furlong and Lambert not only walk into the North London Branch but offer to sell papers. Lambert, formerly the most embittered of all except O’Neill, took six to Swansea with him. The last was a letter from Joseph Cole offering a short story, referring to a “vendetta” against the Democrat and telling a lot of pretentious story-writer’s trash which shows the egotism and worthlessness of this literary freche. Milne or Galvin could have written the same letter. So today I wrote to Furlong and invited him and Lambert to contribute. If it’s peace, it’s peace.
April 22 Monday: For the past four days I have been attending the CP Congress at Hammersmith Town Hall, and a most interesting experience it was – quite unlike any of the others. Firstly there were no visitors and the stewards checked cards with eyes of hawks. But secondly, unlike that of past congresses into which people walked in almost unchallenged, the atmosphere was most informal. People who two or three years ago would have entered (unchallenged) on tiptoe, walked about the room freely, kept up a faint buzz of conversation except when a speaker was just interesting enough and not challenging enough, and as I remarked to Elsie O’Dowling, it was less of a church and more of a market place. Now this was because the delegates had lost their awe of their leaders. These were being challenged on a number of points, and were palpably divided on one. There were frequent interruptions, and at the beginning a thornbush of points of order. Pollitt was in the chair and was determined to be as exemplary as was possible. At the end, when all had gone well, he stiffened somewhat. The debates centred on clear-cut issues around which great heat and sharp disagreement had been engendered. The political resolution was fairly agreeable even to dissidents who had planted themselves (accidentally or as birds of a feather) in little knots here and there, and showed their presence, volubly or through applause, while the more enthusiastic of the majority replied in kind according to the provocation. Then came the debate on the programme.
For some time past it was known that R.Palme Dutt and Emil Burns were theoreticians of contrary policies. What was not so generally known was that some who supported Burns were far out-Burning him in their opinions. The opinion of Gollan and Matthews was that after Socialism was established in Britain the British investments in the colonies should remain the property of the British working class, ie. of the British Government. Dutt dissented, as did a number of others. Burns, whether he intended it or not I don’t know, then proposed the establishment of an organisation of States centring on Britain which would replace the Empire. It was to be a “Voluntary fraternal Association”. Dutt opposed this, though he had not done so openly before. The commission to draw up the programme was narrowly divided but Burns had the rejoinder. Both sides had their views published and proceeded to polemics. George Hardy, Kay Beauchamp and myself wrote articles supporting the minority, which had formulated a looser conception of “fraternal relations”. The Manchester Guardian could not see the difference, but as a Malayan sitting next to me remarked, the difference was about three thousand million pounds. We were all therefore very interested.
Quite apart from the general issue I had myself made proposals that the Six Counties should be handed over to Dublin and no nonsense – Paddy Clancy was shocked at putting men into a “priest-ridden state” but I persisted in the villainy – and the conception of an association of ex-colonies was matched by that of a federation with Ireland. The SDF [Social Democratic Federation] in 1884 had much the same conceptions. So that was another point.
George Matthews took the rostrum and gave the report a general treatment in which it was plain that polemics were not for him. Then it was as if the stage was cleared for two great gladiators. Dutt, tall, somewhat pallid and sallow, with the slight hunch-back took the floor. Previously I have always known him lecture. This time he fought like a Kilkenny cat. He remarked that the Commission’s majority was obtained by the use of two votes from people who had never attended. He said only three members of the International Committee could be found to support it. Not a single colonial communist party gave its assent. Then came a devastating analysis of the proposal and Dutt sat down apparently well pleased with himself.
Burns then spoke. Since I didn’t agree with him I could not do him justice. The Malayan next to me was making comments. Two Americans were directly in front; Claudia Jones was dissenting on the right, and there was no enthusiasm from Jack Cohen behind. We were all annoyed to hear Burns talk as if Dutt wanted his own formulation just “to give him pleasure”. Burns had moreover signified his intention of retiring from the Executive Committee and was to that extent also at a disadvantage. Still, those who were out for the majority’s blood on the main resolution and everything else where they were right, changed sides for this and applauded him. Aaronovitch then supported Dutt. Syd Foster from Liverpool, an able speaker but no more, supported Burns. The discussion was then to be closed. But somebody objected that six intending speakers were not heard. Then to everybody’s surprise, for it seemed on the balance the minority was losing by default, Dutt was on his feet, “like a Tammany Hall politician” said Pat Devine appreciatively, hesitating to question the competence of the arrangements committee but marvelling at the absence of a colonial speaker. Des Logan was on his feet. Hadn’t he tried to get in all day. “What about the Irish?” shouted Joe O’Connor and worked himself up into such a state of excitement that he gave a whoop and bawled, “Up the Republic!” Pollitt very politely indicated that Dutt could go to the arrangements committee like everybody else, but he didn’t move. But meanwhile almost every colonial and Irish in the hall had stormed the place. Logan refused to budge out of it and “of course I had every sympathy,” said George Hardy to me afterwards. So they were not quelled with a very determined hand.
So next morning HB Lim made a rousing speech, and Claudia Jones [Black political activist in the USA and Britain] made what was the speech of the Congress, a most clever piece of work, carrying all before it. The tables were now turned. Those who were only mildly critical of the EC saw Palme Dutt as a “respectable” dissident, behind whom they could safely express a modest level of revolt, without shaking the bough. Those who thought he was the grise éminence responsible for “Stalinism” and worse were no longer repelled by his intellectuality when the independence of his mind was made so clearly manifest. And those who moved over from the majority to the minority position tilted the balance.
Frantic searches were made for a colonial who would support Burns. “Are your boys all right?” HB Lim asked me anxiously. I assured him they were completely all right. Claudia meanwhile passed a note behind to the Malayan and me to the effect that she was refused the opportunity to speak until she declared she would stand on the floor of the congress and say she was silenced. Then, she said, they wanted to censure her speech. But she said she would treat such an attempt the same way.
All in all the majority were in a fix. I don’t know whether it was because of the pickle they were in that Mathews did not reply, but JR Campbell. He was in one sense an unfortunate choice since the Daily Worker has come in for so much criticism, and it further cemented the mild critics behind Dutt. He himself may have been nervous. Roth Zak and Devine were astonished that an old stager should make two such elementary mistakes. After a mere glance at the issues that took up the time he launched out into a thirty minute attack on the minority position. He scored cheap debating points. He said the absent commission members had voted Dutt, while RPD solemnly shook his head on the platform. For a time I think Dutt was afraid. “No wonder we can’t get anything into the Worker,” said the Malayan. After this has gone on half an hour an Englishman got up and protested. Was there nothing else to debate? “Anyway he’s no better than ‘Sarky Sam’,” said Fred O’Shea.
Campbell then showed his keenness in irritation. “Surely”, he said,”an EC which has been criticised all day is entitled to reply for half an hour.” By this ill-chosen observation he exonerated Dutt from every charge that was levelled against the EC as a whole, of course quite unintentionally and quite incorrectly because insofar as the charges were worth levelling at all the responsibility was collective. This gathered all the strands of opposition into one – leaving the “revisionists” and the remains of the faithful, all in one camp. When the hands went up the Malayan looked round with joy. “Look”, he said, “get ready to clap! Anti-imperialism is breaking through!” It was clear we had won. And when our 298 was measured against their 21O, there was thunderous applause, Joe O’Connor once more demonstrating his vocal prowess.
This defeat of the EC provided the moderate huntsmen with just the amount of blood they could stomach. The EC became bowled batsmen who had sportingly accepted defeat. It was notable how little ill-feeling was generated. The decision was, in other words, a real one. The principal weapon in the hands of those who wanted to abolish democratic centralism was knocked away. The “immoveable EC” had just been defeated. What more did they want? – and the joke was they had been defeated on an issue the revisionists supported them on. Burns left the platform and took a seat at the back next to his wife. He seemed sad and disappointed and looked old. Those who want to make him the villain of many pieces may crow now. But the roles of the actors are not too clear till the play is ended. Whether he misdirected or provided others with the arguments of misdirection cannot be said. His work of translation remains as a monument to his diligence and that was a contribution.
The election of the EC was taken in a secret session. Brian Behan made an eloquent defence of himself [brother of the playwright Brendan; he was on the CPGB Executive but resigned over Hungary and became a Trotskyist]. Elsie said, “Didn’t we know it all along”, and when Joe O’Connor commented that no Irishman had been in the discussion Fred O’Shea spat on the ground and said, “You don’t call that an Irishman do you?” “What’s the meaning of this?” Des Logan asked me. “The pygmies dance round the giant’s corpse,” I said, “when he’s been killed by an elephant.” According to O’Connor, who had it from Ahern, Behan has been lately in personal contact with Trotskyist groups. But that may be his conjecture. I think young people are often given a swelled head by honours unearned, and then those who hoped for much are disappointed.
I had to speak in Hyde Park, so missed the fireworks from Levy – but I knew it was “all over bar the shouting” from what had occurred before. Malcolm McKeown was ill and could not “flag the Taoiseach”, as Gilbert Lynch used to boast he had done when he was in the Dáil. Some said the sickness was diplomatic. I walked partway home with Joe O’Connor who told me what inconsequential trifles had kept him out of activity lately. I formed the opinion that he is genuine and has the “heart in the right place” but has the excessive sensitivity that goes with an intellect which is untrained from being fostered too late in life.
In the evening Gerry Curran came. Sean Mulready had been telling him that we are “opportunists” in adopting a “friendly attitude” to the IRA, which he alleges we are doing. This policy is being “imposed” by me, he asserts. Jeffares told Roy something similar, without the attack on myself. As for what they are doing, Mulready thinks that nothing remains but becoming Trade Unionists pure and simple, and he himself is contemplating emigration to Birmingham where, of course, for all his honesty, he will fit like a hand into the glove of the worst sectarianism that can be found.
April 23 Tuesday: After a not very satisfactory day spent clearing up and trying to find people who were not in, I decided to go to Hampstead Heath to look for the comet which is exciting attention just now. But though the sky was clear enough there was no sign of the thing. It has been boosted as an unforgettable spectacle but has displayed remarkable coyness so far. Nobody I know has seen it yet.
Roy was telling me how “Maggie” (Mairín’s mother) recalled Halley’s comet, and remembered that it had to be looked at through smoked glass! Well do I remember the 1927 total eclipse. I learnt that it was coming as quite a small boy, in 1920, and looked forward to seeing it for seven years. I would be nearly 14 when the great day came, and remember the excitement, since Liverpool was in the narrow zone of totality, and the brisk sale of “eclipse goggles” – smoked glass was not good business. We had an exceptionally good Physics teacher at school, a keen amateur astronomer and lecturer for the Royal Astronomical Society. We were well taught, though I scarcely required it, CEG having provided books on the subject years ago, and William Taylor [his maternal grandfather]having in that devil’s library of his along with the Origin of Species, Bull’s Story of the Heavens.
It was great getting up at 5 am. on a grey morning and cycling around the town before we all repaired to Mersey Park which faced South-East over the river. There were crowds – perhaps five hundred or a thousand, not many when I look back, but I thought it many then. One group was listening sceptically to a “smart Alec” who was pounding his palm all the way up the hill and declaring a mistake had been made. “It’s 1928,” he said, “it wasn’t 1927 at all”. How only he had got the right date he didn’t explain. But the moon quickly disproved his thesis, and put out the sun very impressively. There was a narrow crack in the clouds but we did not see the corona. Still we saw it go dark, and become light again, and were impressed with the brilliant orange of the chromosphere as it did so. A few minutes only, and the cloud-gap would have been just right. The majority of people however were not bothering about refinements like coronas. “Did you see the ee-clipse?” everybody asked all day, and they were able to say they had. Then I remember looking for the great meteor swarm due in 1932, and seeing hardly a one. Still, judging by current developments, we might witness the spectacle of the military men blowing the earth up, so we must not lose faith in astronomy!
On the way back I called to see Alec Digges. He is still very dissatisfied and his wife is no great help in the matter. It would be mistaken to think that the congress will have an easy sequel.
April 24 Wednesday: I received a letter from Paddy Clancy to the effect that he had resigned from the CP because his differences with the leaders had grown more acute since the congress. They would destroy it, only give them time, he declared, and he considered the speeches of Pollitt, Mathews, Stewart and Loughlin to incorporate the “worst features of Stalin’s period”. It was later pointed out to me that those who were not present at the Congress thought it was like others, and took their account of it from the capitalist press. The sense of novelty was suppressed. I wrote to Clancy and regretted his action, at the same time trusting that he would continue to keep in touch with us. Kay Beauchamp rang up. She had received a letter in almost identical terms. She was for “having a discussion” with him, there and then. She “had a discussion” with Flann Campbell and cut the painter altogether. But there is no stopping these middle-aged enthusiasts for whom the days for learning are past.
April 25 Thursday: Clancy was at West London Connolly Association and I walked from King’s Cross with him. He was pleased with my letter, and promises to continue to work with the CA. Unfortunately he is liable after a time to break with us on the coercion of Ulster, which like the Russian intervention in Hungary he regards as an unwarrantable coercion. So I do not think we will hold him indefinitely. He is at heart a Trade Unionist pure and simple. Now he talks of joining the Labour Party. He disagrees that nothing can be done to defeat the rightwing leadership, but he does not apply that argument to the party he has just left. He points to the great achievements of Lawrence and Tollerton in St. Pancras Borough Council, oblivious of the fact that the Connolly Association could point to many equivalent successes on a scale as small. But his criticisms cover the entire international situation when it is a matter of the CP.
What is Clancy’s fatal weakness has found him out. He capitulates before difficulties, he collapses in the face of a defeat. I learned this most sharply in the year 1950 in “The battle of Hyde Park”. One week around mid-summer I met Alec Digges who was then the treasurer. “Some of the boys tell me there was a bit of trouble in the Park,” he said. He said something about organised interruption. “Pooh”, said I, “I’ll go along myself next week. They’ll not interrupt me.” We were speaking on the grass then, and Callaghan’s “United Irishman” (the foundation of which by O’Brien and his subsequent expulsion is a story in itself) were under the big trees. When I got there not only was I interrupted but I could hardly make myself heard. Swarms of young Belfast boys, together with some from the South, stood in front of the platform yelling, “Take down that flag. Put up the red flag.” There was no physical violence but the situation was unpleasant. At that time the Association was at the nadir of its strength and influence. Dooley’s attacks on the Bishop of Galway and Cardinal Mindszenty, forced into the paper against my editorial opposition, may have got him contracts to write books for the Embassy; they very nearly wrecked the paper. Fred O’Shea had a pint of beer thrown over him. Bob Doyle who used to get excited on the platform and attack the church, was cornered by four roughs at Hammersmith. “Very well”, said Bob, “If that’s all you know. Do your worst. Show your ignorance. I’ll not lift a finger.” The solid street sense of the Dublin slum boy prevailed. After a few minutes they took themselves off. We had many personal enemies too. Jimmy Quinn, the corrupt slanderer and sex maniac (whose real name was McCulloch) had been expelled from the CA and was roaming Hyde Park denouncing me and Dooley saying, “It’s a case for the gun!” – not that he would himself use a pea-shooter. And to make matters worse the Irish Workers League had had its meetings smashed up by hooligans in Abbey Street and there were those who would like to repeat the performance in London. Apart from all this, our tendency had been to theorise over the national question, out of a realisation that Anti-Partition League propaganda was sheer demagogy.
I saw Clancy after the meeting and told him of the trouble. He was sceptical as I had been. “I’ll go there myself,” said he “they’ll not interrupt me”. “Hm,” said I, I said that last week.” He was also sceptical when I told him that there were rumours afoot of a serious attempt next week to break our meeting up. On the Thursday, probably on the way to West London, I met Seán Daly, then only arrived from Dublin a week or two, then quite a decent lad, and not the poor drunken creature (for all that with heart in its right place) that he subsequently became. He had been involved in the Abbey St. fighting and had all but lost the sight of one eye. Eamonn Quinn was with him; he had also been there. An ex-member of Sinn Fein he had joined the Workers League and he and Daly were probably as responsible as anybody for handling hecklers somewhat roughly. There was some degree of provocation it is certain, and I was long suspicious of the two of them, Daly a huge big fellow, Quinn as small as a wren, and as chirpy. I saw them both last week. Daly had broken his foot in a motor accident, being knocked down while drunk. He had lost all chance of compensation by striking the driver. Quinn was coming out of the Blarney Club and told us almost tearfully that he was ashamed to talk to us after having got into some trouble and being expelled from the party! When I saw them that evening in 1950 they told me that Khaki Joe was going to bring our platform late, to delay us till our sympathisers had gone. The police had been bribed and would keep away. Then the platform was to be assaulted by hoodlums and we were to be beaten up.
I did not quite believe it, even then. But I spread around the word. It was as well to have as many there as possible. The ground was very dry and we met on the grass. Callaghan, the Charleville ex-waiter, ex-barrow boy and ex-British Army sergeant, was under the trees. A hostile crowd gathered around us at once, including many I had never seen before. They let Jack Judge speak. Then Alec Digges got up and the shouts began. Bill Burke grew blazingly angry when a little Belfast lad kicked him in the calf. Rushes were made for the platform. Sean Hagan knocked one man out. His companions picked him up, somewhat dazed, and said, “Now hit him again, while we’re here.” “I’ve hit him enough,” said Sean, and with right and left he laid out the two of them. They all set on him and later I saw him with blood streaming down his face. A big fellow was knocked out by one of our boys after that. He used to distribute Holy Pictures. He was not hurt. He had fallen on his backside, but he said to me, “What a thing to do to me and I only after coming out of hospital with appendicitis.” “It’s a pity you didn’t remember that before you came,” I replied unsympathetically. Fred O’Shea and I were standing at the front of the platform with Clancy, Hogan, Fitzgerald, Bill Burke, the Mooneys and others further dispersed. Stantún, the Gaelic writer shouted, “Shut up” to a heckler, and got the surprise of his life when he was threatened physically. He made off. But then he wasn’t a member. All the members stood firm.
Finally our assailants thought of the trick of going behind the platform to topple it forward. O’Shea and I had to jump aside to avoid being crushed. Alec seized the flagpole, much as a drowning man clutches a straw. It broke in his hand. But the other hand seized the wrist of one of our attackers who did not jump away in time. He was a rough little countryman we called the “fuzzy-haired bastard”. Alec’s artificial leg came off but he sped over the ground like a lion and brought down the pole well and truly on his head. “Take that, you little cunt, take that!” I heard him say. For a moment all was pandemonium, but the boys rallied. Hogan sped a few more. He was a Dublin slum boy who would fight till he was torn to pieces. Mrs Mooney smashed her handbag on another thick skull. Bill Burke tried to eke revenge on the “wee cunt” who in later years became a very decent lad and sold Democrats for us one night. But the platform would no longer bear Alec’s weight. Only Eamonn Quinn was light enough. As he went up we saw emissaries despatched to Callaghan’s platform. A few moments later Blucher came to Wellington’s aid. Big heavy countrymen who knew the hoodlum business pushed their way through the crowd, overcame our tired warriors, overturned the platform, and smashed it to bits. I saw little at a distance after that. My glasses had been knocked off, but I got them into my pocket. Possibly the “disguise” saved me. I did not seem to receive a blow. All round people were rushing, trampling and fighting. Sean O’Faolain’s sister was there and appealed to the crowd to “let them speak – if it was the divil himself.”
But it had gone too far. Two young policemen arrived. Alec indignantly complained at the disturbance. “You should control your meeting,” they said, and I thought they would arrest him. But suddenly they were bowled off their feet and Hyde Park was treated to the delectable spectacle of London policemen being bounced on their bottoms on the grass. Alec was saved by the prompt action of his enemies. Hundreds of police then appeared. We carried the remains of the platform through a crowd thousands strong, held back by two rows of policemen. It was a tense and alarming situation. Then some witty Mayo man broke the spell. “Is that the coffin?” he shouted. “Have ye got Joe Stalin in that?” There was a slight laugh. We took the platform to a bomb site in Edgware Road. Even the steel was twisted beyond repair. O’Faolain’s sister had jumped on a chair immediately we left and denounced the outrage. Cunningham had been beaten up for defending us, and the Holy Picture man had pointed out a barrow boy as one of us and got him a beating. He himself was by way of recompense “done up” the following Wednesday. All our lads were full of fight. There was talk of getting a new platform. Bill Burke and I were up half the night duplicating a statement in 2000 copies which we sent to speakers, factories and Trade Unions. Even Bonar Thompson [famous Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner orator] spoke to me most sympathetically on the phone. But Clancy, in the hour of emergency, could only say, “We must retreat”. He wanted us to give up meetings in the Park. We did not take his advice. We got a new platform and stuck it out thirteen weeks till finally we could hold a meeting without more than normal heckling. This was the turning point in the history of the Association. That was the time it was to have breathed its last. And that it survived, and therefore the paper survived, and from being as we were then reduced to London and Birmingham (where antagonism to us was always unknown) we were able to expand to above our former highest level, may yet prove to have been a climacteric turn in Irish Labour history.
April 28 Sunday: In the afternoon Robbie Rossiter who sells at Hyde Park rang me up. The police had moved him on most unceremoniously and told him a new order had been issued forbidding the sale of literature outside Hyde Park. I rang up the Marylebone Police Station and the officer in charge told me there was no new order but that the Westminster City Council had complained of obstruction. I suggested that he might not wish to enforce the law too strictly and he answered that he did not, but when I reached Hyde Park I found that if anything the young policemen were showing zeal to reach evangelical proportions. I said a few words about the subject on the platform and arrangements were made for a deputation to visit the City Council next Thursday.
April 30 Tuesday: I received a letter from Cathal saying that Helga was doing very well in her job and had had her salary raised. But though he had done nothing to upset anybody, he had had it intimated to him that his own might not survive June, when the probationary period came to an end. The Workers League was still alive, but it was doing nothing, although its members were growing old together. Nevertheless the meetings were very lively as there was a controversy on the National Question. One luminary had declared that he didn’t know what was meant by it. But the controversy was slowly having an educational effect.
May 1 Wednesday: I have been steadily working on the book and am getting down to the American chapters. The difficulty is that everything is so far away, and it is so tiresome, reading microfilms. The readers are so badly designed. But the period is beginning to sort itself out.
A letter came from Lyons saying he was ill with arthritis and expected to be in hospital for a while.
May 2 Thursday: I met Salisbury and one other to go on a deputation to the Town Clerk of Westminster. Salisbury had not thought it necessary to dress himself decently, but appeared in railway porter’s uniform. His resolution was scribbled on a scrap of paper, in pencil. He lost the letter he had sewn in the pockets of his garments. For a man in politics for years the lack of savoir faire was astonishing.
When we reached the offices we observed policemen outside. Salisbury told one of the flunkeys in uniform what we wanted, and a dark-suited concierge appeared. The others took him for an important person, why I don’t know. He told Salisbury the Town Clerk would not see us, which we knew already. Salisbury then started arguing with him and got the worst of it. It was a pitiful display, all courage and no sense. Then the concierge called in the police, while he explained that while the Council did not admit they were responsible for moving literature sellers outside Hyde Park, they did not admit that they weren’t. Of course this man was afraid to make any statement at all, especially when he learned I was from the Press. Three policemen came in, two baby-faced young creatures squaring themselves for a pleasurable job. But though they tried to provoke Salisbury he had the sense to leave, and thus baulked the defenders of democracy of their anticipated entertainment. At lunch-time I wired Sydney Silverman [Labour MP for Nelson and Colne] and met him at the House of Commons at 5 pm. He held the Home Secretary to blame and promised to put down a question to that gentleman.
May 15 Wednesday: I had lunch with Anna Munro. Some time back Willis Paul told me she knew Connolly and helped in his election in 1894. He thought she lived in London. I wrote to Sylvia Pankhurst in Addis Ababa, but presume the ship went round the Cape. I had no reply yet. Then Mollie Mandel found the name of Ian Clark, and I traced her to Reading. She is a great old Suffragette, with the Daily Worker in her bag. We went to Beguinots, which has become fantastically expensive. She told me things I did not know. Apparently she was a schoolgirl. She and her sister had latchkeys since their mother was dead, and did much exploring of the City together [ie. Edinburgh]. One day she saw a meeting under a tree near the main road, at the centre of the East Meadows. Connolly was speaking. He had a stammer, and to make it worse used such long words she thought he had swallowed a dictionary. And he didn’t always pronounce them aright. She was very impressed by the message of no more poverty, no more trouble. John, his brother, who looked after the rooms at Drummond St. where the members had rented a flat and knocked two rooms into one by hand, for meetings, was a better speaker. But Leslie was brilliant [John Leslie, Scottish socialist]. He was witty, and a poet. John went on the booze and it was then James took over the rooms and subsequently lived there. She took all the shoes to his cobbler’s shop. When she got them back they couldn’t wear them. This was why the shop failed. No drink was allowed in the SSF [Scottish Socialist Federation] rooms. Later it combined with the English SDF [Social Democratic Federation]. She joined with her sister. They must have thought them dreadful nuisances, but never said a rough word in front of them. Enid Stacey [early women’s rights campaigner] and Caroline Martyn [early Fabian socialist] were from Dundee and spoke there. Her father, Munro, a Celtic Scholar at Watson’s College, who knew Manx, Scotch Gaelic, Irish, Welsh and Breton, addressed Connolly’s election address envelopes for him. Anna Munro said that Connolly was not a practising Catholic and the priest used to come and put pressure on his wife, who was. I doubt this. It may have been the children he was interested in, though they were very very small. She remembers Connolly’s father, a little old man, a very nice old man, who had had an accident and could not work. He used to sit about the town on the public seats but more often “on his hunkers”(haunches). He occasionally came to the meetings, she thinks. Dickenson was quite a young man, with a most beautiful sister. He died of tuberculosis after getting on to the school board. The lectures in the operetta house were well attended; it was situated in Chambers Street and among those who visited it was Maud Gonne. Connolly looked “exactly the same” as in l916 with his black moustache and round head. Gilray she remembers, and Meillet [Leo Meillet, French communard]. He was a wonderful man and a great orator. They were tremendously proud of their Communard. When Connolly was unemployed he looked after the rooms and “They gave him what they could.”
In the evening Jim Healy of the Australian Waterside Workers’ Union came to Hyde Park and Des Logan, Pat Bond and I had a drink with him afterwards. He is a big bluff character with a good sense of humour, a Manchester man by birth, but of Irish extraction. He told me the Australian CP lost only 30 members out of 10,000 over the Hungarian crisis. So the “lefts” seem fairly stable! In New Zealand, on the other hand, there was dreadful trouble. He knows Henry well, who was over in 1947, but he is more or less invalided now. Comerford [Jim Comerford, Australian trade unionist] is a great friend of his, and so is Sharkey [Lance Sharkey, Australian communist leader]. I had lunch with him last week, but tonight he wanted to “meet some of the boys”.
May 21 Tuesday (Manchester): I went to Ripley, read the proofs of the Democrat and then proceeded to Manchester, where I addressed the Connolly Association branch and spent the night with Joe Deighan. There was quite a good turn-out, with Maire Redmond and Malachy Boyle, but NOT Danny Kilcommins!
May 23 Thursday: Yesterday, after spending some time with Wilf Charles, I went to Liverpool and crossed over the Dublin. I had a few brief words also with Sol Gulian. They told me about Nettleton, and about the uneasiness and hesitations of Tom Rowlandson [CPGB members]. On the whole they have had a difficult time and I think Abbott has been under considerable strain. I rang Phyllis up several times at Liverpool but she was not in.
This morning Cathal and Helga met me at the North Wall and, with the aid of their tiny Ford car, transported me to their house in Finglas. They have all that is necessary to comfort, and though Cathal is still afraid he may not keep his job, I think he is safe enough. I went looking for Eamon Lyons at his house in Crumlin. He was out, but I saw his mother. Cathal had driven them both through the mountains last Sunday. Helga said that Eamonn was still stiff but was recovering. So I wrote him a letter. In the evening Roy and Mairín called suggesting I should accompany them to see Paddy Mooney, an old CA member (her brother) who had requested a tete-a-tete with Roy, but I declined. I have troubles of my own! Cathal on the other hand told me that I am not to escape. He has invited Justin Keating, Loretta, Roy, Mairín and a Belfast man called Cyril Murray, Jeffares’s heir, who is extremely anxious to meet me.
May 24 Friday: I was crossing that fatal spot, O’Connell Bridge, not looking where I was going, when I almost collided with Ina Connolly. Then I went to the National Library, had lunch with Justin, and worked through steadily for the rest of the day, finding very little of use!
May 25 Saturday: I called up to Steve Mooney at the Unemployed Committee rooms in the morning. He was fussing about outside. A deputation had come from Gardiner Street to see Murphy[Jack Murphy, the Unemployed Workers Movement TD], who had not arrived. They announced that they were going to march on the Dail on Monday, and this time would not be stopped at the gates, police or no police, and would take no contradiction from Murphy. “The control of the movement will pass out of our hands,” said poor Steve. Nothing would satisfy him but to go round and see young Sam Nolan who was mending a door in an adjacent house, being, like those “youths of fifty” the Times noted at Berlin, one of the employed unemployed. “We shouldn’t stop them,” said Sammy, while I listened in astonishment. Finally I said if there was a committee why not call it? Then we went back to the premises. The wild men had seen Murphy, who had arrived (I took a picture of him) and he had told them not to be fools and they had promised they wouldn’t be, and all was now well. The incident shows me very clearly the inexperience of the leadership of this movement. Nolan told Steve confidentially (in my presence) how after a resolution had been sent to the Archbishop of Dublin, McQuaid had summoned Murphy to his presence for a quiet talk and told him he was shortly conferring with the heads of the Government with a view to alleviating the lot of the unemployed. Murphy painted as dangerous a picture of the mood of the people as was possible, and left His Grace sadly perturbed. “Don’t do anything for a week,” said the Archbishop. Politics in Dublin goes this way – half secret, half public, or perhaps more like an iceberg with the business end submerged. They can think in no other terms at the present. They can be turned from some quite simple and feasible plan by almost any absurd intrigue. We left Murphy and went to Gardiner St. to take pictures of slums. But the inhabitants all wanted to have their photographs taken and the slums came into it only in the chinks between the children. Then the camera flash attachment broke down and I had to give up.
In the evening Roy and Mairín appeared, then Cyril Murray and his English wife Rita. He is a young man, about 30 years old, vigorous, with a strident personality and considerable directness of approach, very much the hard-headed Ulster man. He told me that he had heard me attacked and criticised so much by Nolan, Jeffares and the leaders of the Irish Workers League that he was curious to meet me. The gravamen of the current criticism was that when I came to Dublin I did not go into Nolan’s shop. I replied first that I was busy, secondly that its hours of opening were extremely erratic and timewasting, and thirdly that I was busy on other work. But I associated only with ex-CA people. I replied that this was natural and applied to Nolan when he went to London. But, I said, anybody with half an eye could see long-standing differences between the two organisations [ie. the Irish Workers League and the Connolly Association] and they were nothing to do with who paid visits to whom. What they said when they got there was more important. The CA believed that the national struggle was an essential part of the Irish road to socialism. The IWL believed that only socialism could bring about the end of partition, which meant that the solution of the social question took precedence over the solution of the national question, which I believed was an unscientific opinion. I said I would be happy to meet anybody anywhere and debate the subject at any time. He then said he held the same view as myself on the national question, but I later realised that he saw it in terms of the so-called “Republican” movement, and it is precisely because they have allowed the Republican movement to claim a monopoly of the national question that the others see it in precisely the same way, but draw the opposite conclusion. At the same time, the conversation was interesting.
May 26 Sunday: Cathal was going to drive me to Dundalk today, but his car broke down. However he rang Murray, who has a fleet of cars and his own aeroplane into the bargain, and he lent us a Morris Minor for the day. Cathal drove us through Slane and Ardee to Knockbridge where we found the lame farmer, Paddy Byrne, in the townland of Grange. After a meal he brought us to the border where I took some pictures, then into Dundalk where we met a tailor who said he thought Connolly had held meetings in Cooley in 1911. So we trekked off to Carlingford and met a Sinn Fein man who used to buy Soviet literature because Britain was against Russia; he had never heard Connolly was there, but there was a man in Greenore who would know. Away we went to Greenore and our man assured us that if Connolly was in Louth it was in Dundalk, not the country. So we went to Omeath and Jenkinstown, and back to Knockbridge, returning so to speak empty-handed down the main road through Drogheda.
May 27 Monday: Apart from working in the Library I saw Ina Connolly. She told me John Mulray, to whom Connolly wrote the letters I got from George MacBride, is living in Liverpool. So a visit there is certainly indicated. William O’Brien is in London. Jim Collins told me he had lent him a volume of the Trades Council minutes for writing his memoirs. “He’s not writing his memoirs,” said Ina, “Desmond Ryan is doing it for him.” We discussed more about Connolly being in the Army. I am still convinced she is holding something back. There is an elaborate game of chess being played between the two of us, and I think she prefers that my book should come out first. She has seen DeValera twice lately and he is to write a preface to hers. She is quite pleased about Norah becoming a Senator [on Taoiseach Eamon De Valera’s nomination] – Mulray disclosed his presence in Liverpool by sending her a congratulatory telegram. She told me that Seamus Reader, a Scotch lad, was working as one of the clerks in the Dail, and that he told her how they smuggled in arms from Scotland. He used to bring it in suitcases. On one occasion they missed the Dublin boat and went to Belfast. They missed the people they were looking for, as they were at Mass, it being a Sunday, and finally lugged up the cases to Glenalina Terrace where the Connolly family lived. Fortunately they had it away before the house was searched. But they lost it. It seems that these arms were for the Citizen Army, rather than the Volunteers. Ina disbelieves the story of the kidnapping [James Connolly’s supposed kidnapping by the IRB before the 1916 Rising] and I think she knows something more than she will say. She thinks Connolly went to the Curragh, possibly (from knowing it) to judge the strength of British forces there. She refers to Piaras Beaslai’s articles in the Independent as appearing to her very sound.
May 28 Tuesday: I was reading in the Library when I heard the shouts of a demonstration. I immediately guessed it was the Gardiner Street wild men who had decided to defy Jack Murphy. Everybody rushed out to see the fun. But it turned out to be about 80 students who brought up posters bearing such admirable legends as “Disband the Special Branch” and “Independent Judiciary, Moryah”[Irish word for “supposedly”] in Irish and then proceeded to sit down in Kildare Street and sing Kevin Barry (or as much of it as they could remember the words of) as the police watched and waited for them to tire of it. They struck me as mostly country lads, very well dressed (not like the impoverished students of my young days), doctors’ and substantial farmers’ sons with a priest in the family. The authorities have denied them every channel for political expression, and so their quota of the current of discontent now stirring in this country, is taking the form of extreme and vociferous republicanism. They had marched from the Four Courts where some Republicans are on trial [for IRA-related offences]. They went away peacefully enough. I then had lunch with Roy and Cyril Murray. He had intended to bring Jeffares along, but he declined to come. He had invited Nolan, who had first accepted, and then telephoned changing his mind. I was rather amused at the seriousness with which he was throwing himself into the task of effecting rapprochment.
May 29 Wednesday: After lunch I called into Nolan’s bookshop, despite the loss of time from my work. He received me courteously enough. Obviously he had been influenced by Murray’s activities, which I trust will not prove an embarrassment before we are through. I spied Joseph Cole in the back of the shop, but he did not come out. That I was not surprised at. He has started sending me short stories again, accompanied by the most fantastic blurbs.
May 30 Thursday: As I was sitting at lunch, Cyril Murray stalked in full of confidence. I was with Roy, but later we got a table all three together. I told him I had seen Nolan and he was quite surprised. In the afternoon I went to the Trades Council and went through the Minute books, taking some of them home to finish in the evening, which I did.
May 31 Friday: I did not have such a satisfactory day, today. I saw Nolan again in the afternoon, then called on Ina. She promised to get me Mulray’s address [His name is given as “John Mullery” in Greaves’s Connolly biography]. She mentioned Cassidy and Brady, one of whom was a “drummer boy” and may have been in the army with Connolly. After leaving her I saw Desmond Ryan who told me that Larkin had announced that Connolly was in the army at the ILP Summer school in 1944. Michael Price had warned her it was true and to be careful. When John Leslie wrote to William O’Brien about Connolly’s early life he said, “There is one episode in Connolly’s life which though not discreditable is likely to be misunderstood and therefore I will say nothing about it.” He told me how Deering gave his name to the puff in the Weekly People which fixed Connolly’s birthplace as Clones, Co. Monaghan. The puff was written by Murtagh Lyng. Connolly was angry and asked why he had invented it. “Well”, said Lyng, “Anybody going to America to represent the Irish must have a good Irish birthplace.” Yet the amazing thing is that Ryan knew this for years and never questioned the Irish birthplace. He was born in London himself, he told me, and says many a time he chastises the “arrogance of the native-born Irish. All their best men were born abroad.” About the army service he says he got it from William O’Brien who had it from Lillie Reynolds [James Connolly’s wife] that Connolly had been in the army. Now Ina tells the story about being at Bray with her mother and O’Brien and hearing her mother ask O’Brien if he knew it. Ryan is far the most open and helpful of those who knew Connolly well – Tom Johnson of course is the same, but knows less about the subject. He told me O’Brien secured the Matheson correspondence in Scotland.
June 1 Saturday: In the afternoon I called to Ina Connolly again and she gave me Mulray’s address. She obtained it from Nora’s husband, O’Brien. It is 32 Exmouth St., Everton – though she was given “Ehmouth” street. ‘H’ and ‘X’ are not however very different on the telephone – especially if O’Brien pronounces it “ecsh” – though the proclitic “h” is usual in Ireland. Walter Dwyer used to argue half the night with me that the letter was spelled haitch! And I suppose logically it would be better if it was. Ina also mentioned again Seamus Reader, whom she had been to see again. She told me that Oscar Traynor [Fianna Fail TD and Minister for Defence] had said that her father was in the army during a lecture to a branch of Cumann na mBan. I imagine it was fairly general knowledge among the earliest socialists but was deliberately suppressed by writers and pushed into the background. Yet it is very important to find out the details and circumstances.
June 2 Sunday: It was a fine warm day, and I cycled to Killiney, Bray, Greystones, pushed the machine along the railway line below Kilcoole, and so reached Rathnew and Wicklow, returning through Kilmacanogue and Enniskerry and getting thoroughly sunburnt. Cathal and Helga went to Kilrush with Mrs. Murray and four of her six children. They found so many hundred motorcars lining the beach that they retreated to Malahide where it was not quite so bad. The children were being entertained at Finglas when I returned, some running round the house, others pushing the lawn mower, and one up the sole tree worthy of his attention. Murray was driving Sam Nolan and Jack Murphy (the TD) to Cork to speak at a meeting.
June 3 Monday: After a day in the Library I went to the Workers League meeting, Murray picking up Cathal and Helga and me. Helga however decided not to come as she was unwell. When we arrived there Sean Mulready and Jeffares were there, and Palmer, Lily O’Rourke, Carmody and others came. Cathal said there were 15 there. I doubt it. However Carmody took the chair and announced that as O’Riordan could not come and Nolan was ill, it was proposed to adjourn the meeting as the subject was important. Murray opposed this vigorously, and made the mistake of saying he “wouldn’t bother his arse” to come next time (to be fair, he made it “backside” for the occasion) if there was no certainty that the meeting would be held. Jeffares declared indignantly that this was a “bourgeois attitude” on his part, and that he should not consider his “personal convenience”. Cathal also joined in rather testily, but when the vote was taken it was decided to adjourn after all. Murray then suggested that rather than disband with nothing done, they should invite me to speak, which I did. I told them what we were doing, and made a “modest appeal” for unity among all Irish socialists based on agreement reached by free and open discussion. I was very pleased at the response.
June 5 Wednesday: I had lunch with Murray and he told me they had 3000 at their meeting in Cork on Saturday. But they did not pass any resolution or make any declaration of policy, which was a regrettable omission.
June 6 Thursday: Since I could not get a berth for tomorrow’s Liverpool sailing, I decided to remain in Dublin till Saturday. I called in to Sean Nolan and found him extremely affable. I never knew him like it. The lad I met a few years ago in Shotts (Lanark) came in and told me that Jim Roche in Leeds has been giving the party there terrible trouble. Not that half of these things surprise me.
June 7 Friday: I spent the day in the Library, then in the evening Cathal drove me out to Justin’s. Loretta was in bed, but came down later in a deep crimson dressing gown and sat under Sean Keating’s extraordinary picture of an Aran man with his back to the sea [Sean Keating the painter, Justin Keating’s father]. They hope to have their house out beyond Templeogue in about a year’s time. Justin thinks that during the last six months, the Irish Workers League leaders have been growing more amenable to new ideas, as the shocks and excitements shook them out of their old ways and made them realise it was possible for them to be mistaken, or for there to be two ways about anything. I myself considered O’Donnell’s visit last November as a significant move. Incidentally, that gentleman has now dropped the unemployed like a hot brick – possibly through laziness, possibly through pride of the inaugurator who does not follow up, or possibly because he cannot control it. But I didn’t come without something to tell them, for I had an unexpected encounter. I came into the Library a little later than usual, when I saw an old lady with white hair stepping cautiously from the reading room. Suddenly I realised it was Muriel MacSwiney and was struck by how old she had gone to look. I walked to the bottom of Kildare St. with her, as she was holding a most intimate conversation at the top of her voice. She told me that she had a heart attack in Paris, possibly brought on by the news of the attack on Nolan’s shop. This was why she could not come to London to pursue her accusations that Paddy Clancy and I are “helping the Church”, which she has more on her brain than ever.
June 8 Saturday: In the morning Cathal and Helga set off for Fethard (Wexford) in the rain, notwithstanding Helga’s misgivings. After lunch I called on Seán Mulready. He told me that he thought that Cathal was unduly under the influence of Murray, and that he was very “malleable”. He said Murray had “put him up to” selling pamphlets at the Connolly parade and that he had tackled them about it. It would endanger his job, and he only sold about nine anyway. He himself refused to undertake any public activity as he would certainly lose his job. The only possible way for Irish Communists to work was to find some kind of body like the Unemployed Movement – and much more like that. On the other hand to give him due, he did not think that any extraneous matters should be brought into such movements. He told me Ned Stapleton is in England, and Denis Walshe. Their numbers are very depleted by emigration and there are no new young people coming along to fill the gaps that are created. I caught the Liverpool boat at the North Wall.
June 9 Sunday: The crossing was quiet, as has been usual so far this year, though the good weather seemed to have gone. A grey northerly wind was blowing the smoke across the Mersey, now ringed with cooling towers, and quite full of shipping. I went to 124 Mount Road [his family home in Birkenhead] after ascertaining that Phyllis was there. She has suffered some dislocation of her arrangements to go for a holiday and was still at home, and well. In the afternoon I went to Everton seeking Mulray. I found his house, but though I returned twice, could not find him in.
June 10 Monday: It was a wild showery morning, bright in the intervals, but with a cold wind. On the way up to Everton I saw a lorry decked from end to end with red, white and blue rosettes, carrying a standing load of women and children. I heard faint cheering, damped by the downpour, and then as it passed me caught the defiant strains of the “Sash my father wore”. But I found Mulray. He has a regular appointment visiting a daughter in a home every Sunday. The people opposite who had told me he “went for walks” which lasted two hours, knew nothing about him. The people next door did.
He proved to be a much older man than I anticipated, I imagine about 80 or even 82, very well preserved, somewhat deaf, but in full possession of his faculties, not straight as a poker and sprucely dressed like Danny McDevitt, nor so talkative, but slightly stooping, and sad, as somebody who has lived alone in an old house full of memories for many years, as time slowly ticked on, and the past, still the sole object in view, grew smaller and smaller. He seemed very pleased to see me. He had not been able to read my handwriting – I had used one of those abominable “biro” pens – but knew it was somebody who was interested in Connolly. I began to ask about Connolly in the USA.
He was delighted to talk, told me Connolly was born in Edinburgh, and that when he started the ISRP he held a meeting at St.James’s fountain where he was pelted with cabbage stalks and had to retreat. “You’re not an Irishman,” said one interrupter who heard his Scotch accent. On this occasion he lost his temper. “No”, he shouted, “I’d be ashamed to be one.” There was fury let loose. But he explained that the shame was Pickwickian in some sense and so survived the occasion. This would not be the cabbage stalk day.
Did I ever know how Connolly met his wife? He was in uniform at the time … Suddenly I realised I was in the presence of somebody who knew Connolly more intimately than anybody else, and whose knowledge stretched further back, and dropped the subject of America … He ran for a tram for Kingstown or Blackrock at the corner of Merrion Square [presumably the same corner bus-stop where James Joyce first met his wife]. The conductor did not stop, so he and an attractive young girl missed it together. That started the relationship, since they fell talking. There was never a cross word between them, but sometimes they would jokingly say, “That tram!” The conductor had not seen them, he supposed. In those days the trams would stop anywhere they were hailed.
I said I knew he was in the army. He told me that Connolly often spoke to him about it, in New York. Mulray was a tailor’s apprentice in the floor of 67 Lower Abbey St., below where the first ISRP[Irish Socialist Republican Party] office was opened. He used to see Connolly coming in and out. This finally led his talking with Connolly and joining the ISRP, possibly in 1897. William O’Brien did not join till later when the party was established. The most prominent figure would be Tom Lyng. He was very tall. Mulray later realised that he had been brought up alongside him in York St. The party was very hard to establish and a local paper described it as having “more syllables than members and (being) composed of a long boy and a Scotto-Hibernian”. When the ISRP was discussing its municipal propaganda or manifesto, somebody suggested, “No jobs for ex-members of HM Forces.” “I’ll resign if you put that in,” said Connolly.
Mulray then told me about the “coffin” incident [a demonstration on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1898 in which Connolly threw a coffin symbolising the British Empire into the Liffey from O’Connell’s Bridge] and Connolly’s foundation of the Rank and File ’98 Club. Maud Gonne [MacBride] used to go to Connolly’s house. But Mulray felt that Yeats in one of his writings sneered at Connolly. The Rank & File delegates were Connolly and Dan O’Brien. Bill O’Brien joined as a result of going along with the others. Tom O’Brien was a brilliant scholar who was “fond of the horizontal position”. James Connolly “ticked off” Maud Gonne for allowing herself to be used by the postparnellian factions in the ’98 commemoration. They laid the foundation stone of a memorial to Tone and then forgot all about him. Over 67 Abbey St. Connolly put a streamer to the effect that that was the office from which the original “Irish Press” published. Yeats made an invention when he said he came across Maud Gonne with Connolly very “annoyed”. Yeats had “got the measure of Connolly’s tongue” and Connolly knew how to lash. Mulray thought Yeats bore Connolly a grudge and recorded Maud Gonne’s “But I’m not a Socialist” with an eye to pretence that Connolly thought she should be one.
On the day of the ’98 Commemoration Tom Lyng spent every hour selling the paper to the crowds. He was a splendid worker, could sell papers like nobody else, but had little political understanding. An indefatigable worker. Mulray knew nothing of Connolly’s visit to Kerry, but thought Carolan would. Carolan was unemployed, and he and Mulray went swimming together. Carolan spent most of his time in the party rooms. They bathed at the Bull Wall.
When they were in New York a letter from Maud Gonne arrived. Connolly was living with Mulray. He had written asking him to find him a bed, and he would be responsible for the food. Connolly was standing in his shirt and was so anxious to read the letter that he did not dress. “She’d laugh to see how you received the letter,” said Mulray. The letter told of divorce proceedings. “I hope that now you will be Maud Gonne again,” said Connolly. He believed she had been misled by the more “respectable” elements around MacBride [ie. John MacBride, Mud Gonne’s husband].
The most startling thing Mulray told me related to Connolly’s army life. “He was at Spike Island – that affair about Myles Joyce. They were on trial, didn’t understand English and were all hanged. Connolly told me –
‘I was on guard that night.’ My God! I was sorry for them.”
I was a little confused about Spike Island as the matter rang a bell, yet seemed not quite right. “Which Spike Island do you mean?” I hazarded. “Oh! There’s only one. Don’t you know – near Queenstown”. So I was to gather Connolly was stationed at Cobh. Unfortunately my mind began so quickly to unravel, ravel and re-ravel many historical estimates, and I did not question him further. For here was the possibility of an entirely new date, filling the biggest gap of all.
Connolly used to go to the house of Jack Brady, a man of no political importance, but a pleasant person, something of a crank, and very suspicious of everybody and everything. He had a large family. Connolly would have tea there and used to say his family was getting nearly as big. “I only want a boy now. When I have a boy, my family will be complete.” Brady used to query the accounts and get mad when he couldn’t understand them.
Of himself Mulray said, he went to USA in 1904 and left in 1907, returning to Dublin. He settled in Liverpool 32 years ago. His wife died about 12 years ago. His mother appears to have been a Liverpool woman and lived for some time at New Brighton. He recalled places and streets she mentioned and only when he came to Liverpool and heard them pronounced in the local way, did he realise how they were spelled and recall her speaking of them.
I asked about Dorman. “Dorman held sway before Connolly arrived.” He died at the age of 80. He returned to Ireland (or Dublin) in 1910 and was a very good speaker. He was criticised because when he went to Limerick he was asked to do something in connection with some meeting but failed to do so. He could scarcely be blamed.
Arnott was an Englishman who had lived many years in Paris, and turned up in 1899 or 1900, a photographer. A photographer, and something of an orator who would not forget to refer to “my friend, John Burns,” he wore a flowing tie of French style and was taken to task by Connolly for the anti-Semitism of accusing Jews of assuming names like Murphy, and “O’Mores”(? This example is doubtful.) He went to Bodenstown and Maud Gonne snubbed him and referred somewhat slightingly in her publication to the Englishman who had dared to address her. His shop was in Camden Street and he made much money out of “stickybacking”. The more he earned the meaner he got and later could barely be induced to contribute to the funds. An employee of his set up in opposition. He took a legal action against him, lost, was ruined and returned to England.
Bradshaw came in before Mulray. Like Tom O’Brien he showed he was a revolutionary by the length of his hair. Dan O’Brien also tried letting it grow, but since it went up rather than down he had to cut it off. Dan was a more energetic type of young man, though Tom ended as a professor of languages in France. When Mulray said something he thought likely to be questioned to Tom, Tom said nothing. “That’s because he’d be too lazy to contradict you,” said Connolly. Bradshaw was a “Toff”, a clerk when clerks got 7/6 a week and contrived to look spruce on it, and had to blackleg in strikes in order to keep their jobs. When he went canvassing in some noisome tenements, he took a sniff at one corridor and said to Mulray, “YOU do this one”. He lived on Bryanston (Branston?) Road. He was dismissed in due time, and unemployed a very long time, finally leaving for London, reappearing in Dublin some years later with a beard and a top hat. He was still alive in 1945, in London.
Connolly had a proof-reader’s job, part time, on a Dublin paper. This helped to keep him going. This was about two days a week. At one stage he was invited to be secretary of the Builders Labourers Union.
Having come to this point, I judged it opportune to ask about Connolly’s first visit to the USA and what caused the break up of the ISRP. He told me that the party moved from 67 Abbey St. to 148 Upper Abbey St. in premises where there was a licensed bar. This was at the instance of MacLaughlin. He had been a boxer, and a comedian on the stage, and had been in London. He could annoy people with impunity thanks to his trade and prowess. He “knocked around Capel St.” and though he only drank lemonade, could never stay out of a pub. He it was who persuaded them to take the bar. There was no paid secretary while James Connolly was away, nor proper finance. Connolly was sending cash over, and some of it was going on drink. Not that anybody deliberately embezzled it. Lyng had no head for organisational matters. The taking of the bar was the worst thing ever done.
What of Stewart? He was a great wit and raconteur, very good company, and could laugh at other people’s misfortunes. He became very touchy if anybody made light reference to his own. He could become a bitter enemy. He was always waving a newspaper as he spoke. He was secretary at the time porter was being sold while the ISRP was bankrupt. He was on the Trades Council, “The grave of many a good man”. When Connolly got back from the USA, the party was in chaos.
I asked about Connolly’s resignation. For the first time Mulray grew reserved. “I don’t like to talk of it,” he said. With an obvious effort he told me how when Connolly offered his resignation “somebody” (I wonder if it was himself) immediately called, “I move we accept it” and it was carried. EW Stewart then wrote to Connolly asking if he had not tendered it in the heat of the moment. Connolly replied abruptly. But at the next meeting he made an appeal and won a section of the meeting to his standpoint. Then followed “the split”, which had nothing political in it though those who broke away were called “Kangaroos”. After the breakup Connolly went away. Later Stewart sank to the gutter.
He encountered Connolly again one Saturday in New York. Saturday was a working day like any other. He was suddenly seized with an urge to stop work, which he did and went into the street. Suddenly he saw Connolly. They were not on speaking terms. But now they forgot their differences. Connolly was in from Troy for the day. He was speaking of bringing his family over. At that time there was a price war between the Cunard and White Star Lines, and the price of a passage had come down from £5 or £5.10 to as low as 7/- or 8/-. Connolly saw the chance of bringing his family over and seized it. Otherwise they might have been separated for life! Apparently he was in New York to meet them. He arrived on the Saturday. They were to arrive on the Sunday. Mulray was living with an aunt, but she was extremely mean and he could not bring him to her house. But he found another place for him.
At this point Mulray picked up a set of typed letters which I quite quickly realised were similar to those which MacBride said he had from William O’Brien. He showed me the first, Connolly had sent to his eldest daughter. He did not feel like writing. The letter was dated 29-9-1904. He asked for his regards to be passed on to George Lyng and his sister. Mrs Connolly had said that the Socialists in Dublin had shown great sympathy in her trouble. “I am glad old-time relations are not entirely blotted out,” he said.
In another letter from Fingalls Avenue (6 December 1904) he says, “Before I write I have not yet found an exploiter.” He would like to go to New York and have a look round. Could Mulray get him a bed somewhere till he could get an exploiter. He asked Mulray to write by return.
In April 1905 Connolly wrote again, apologising for bothering Mulray again and asking the loan of $4-38c to clear his old account and the sum required for his bond. He had the opportunity of a new job in a general agency for the sick. I then mentioned something about New Jersey as Mulray turned up the next letter. The address was Newark and I said something about Elizabeth or vice versa. Whether I had touched on another sore spot I do not know. Suddenly suspicion clouded the old man’s eyes and he said, picking up the letters, “I’d like to help you but I don’t know who you are or anything about you.”
Up to then he had been as open as a June sky. I told him I was the Editor of the Irish Democrat. “I couldn’t read your signature,” he declared. “Are you anything to do with the Connolly Association?” I told him I was. “Well, that’s a useless organisation. They ought to be doing that in Ireland, not England. A man tells me he heard one of them at Pier Head say Connolly spoke there. Anybody knows meetings were never held at Pier Head until of recent years.”
So I took matters calmly till his desire to talk overcame his other feelings. “I must find out how much of this should be published. I was giving those to the National Library, but I think I’ll talk it over with the Connolly family. I sent that information about the army to Bill O’Brien. But he’s a very funny man. He never answers your letters. He writes a reply. But he never answers.”
“But”, he concluded, “here’s something you can have. This has been on my conscience. At a meeting in 1913 the SPI [Socialist Party of Ireland ] passed a resolution requesting the AOH[Ancient Order of Hibernians] who had paid speakers not to attack Socialism. William O’Brien was not there. He was at a committee of the Dublin Trades Council. But here’s my point. This may be unearthed from the records of the AOH some day. Well, I want you to put this in your book. I disagreed. But I was too disgusted to speak. But Connolly was NOT THERE. He was not there – he was in Belfast.”
The letters which Connolly wrote him were signed mostly “Yours fraternally” and sometimes “Yours affectionately”. He became very intimate with Connolly, the relation being rather that between brothers separated in age somewhat, or father and son of not so separated age.
I left Mulray [his name was properly Mullery, see Greaves’s Connolly biography] in the afternoon, caught the evening train to London, with my head buzzing with the implications of this mass of fresh detail.
[c. 78,000 words in Volume 12]
GREAVES JOURNAL, VOLUME 12, INDEX, 1956-57
– Aesthetics and verse: 10.23
– Assessments of others: 9.12,11.19, 12.6,12.20, 12.30, 1.3, 1.7, 3.3, 3.4, 3.23, 4.22, 4.24-25, 5.25, 6.10
– Boyhood and schooldays: 12.1, 2.18, 3.23, 4.23
– Britain, public attitudes and assessments of trends in: 4.23, 4.25
– Childhood: 10.19,1.31, 2.23
– Civil rights campaign on Northern Ireland: 2.9, 2.14
– Communism: 6.8
– Connolly research: 9.12-14, 9.19-21, 9.25, 11.7,11.29,12.1,12.3,
12.8, 12.13, 12.27, 1.8, 1.11, 1.16, 1.23, 2.19, 4.15, 5.15, 5.26-
27, 5.30-31, 6.1, 6.10
– Family relations:10.19,11.28,12.1,12.20,12.24-25,1.30-31,2.18, 3.23
– Holidays/cycling tours: Scotland and Ireland 9.25 et seq., 6.2
– Hungarian events and Stalin revelations,1956:4.22, 4.24,10.19, 10.25, 10.28-29, 10.31, 11.1, 11.3, 11.7, 11.13, 11.34,
11.8, 11.11-13, 11.18,11.21, 11.29,12.11,12.20
– Ireland, public attitudes and assessments of trends in: 9.14, 10.13, 12.5, 12.14, 5.28, 6.8
– Irish Democrat: 9.19, 10.23, 10.30,11.5-6,11.11,11.14,11.22,12.4, 12.8, 1.5, 2.16, 2.18, 3.34, 4.25
– Journal: 9.12
– Living arrangements: 11.4
– Music: 12.8
– National question: 4.22, 4.25, 4.28, 5.25
– Public speaking: 10.14,10.21,4.25, 4.28, 5.2,
– Science: 10.19, 3.23
– Self-assessments: 12.8, 12.20, 12.30, 1.3,
– Student days/University: 11.23,12.30
– Suez events: 11.4,11.7
– World War 2 years: 12.7
– Anti-Partition League: 4.25
– Communist Party of Great Britain(CPGB):10.30, 11.1, 11.3, 11.5,11.13, 12.16, 2.5, 2.13, 4.22
– Communist Party of Northern Ireland: 11.29, 12.16
-Connolly Association:9.18,10.14,10.16,10.18,10.30,11.11,11.14, 11.16,11.19,11.25,11.27,12.3, 12.8, 12.15, 1.3, 1.27, 1.29, 2.9, 2.27, 4.16, 4.22, 4.25, 5.25, 6.3
– Dublin Trades Council: 9.12, 9.18,11.8, 6.10
– Irish Committee (of the CPGB): 11.5-6, 12.16
– Irish Labour Party: 9.12, 2.1, 2.9, 3.4
– Irish Republican Army (IRA): 12.12-13, 1.3, 4.22
– Irish Socialist Republican Party (of James Connolly): 6.10
– Irish Workers League: 9.12, 9.18, 10.16,10.30,11.5-8, 11.21-22,11.24, 11.26,12.2-3,12.6,12.8-9,12.11,12.14-16,2.4,3.6, 4.15-16, 4.25, 4.28, 5.25, 5.28-29, 6.3, 6.7-8
– Unemployed Workers Movement, Ireland (1956-7): 2.15, 3.4, 4.15, 5.25, 5.28, 6.2, 6.5, 6.7-8
Amphlett-Michelwright,Rev.:10.18,10.25,11.1, 11.8, 11.15,11.22, 12.20
Barr, Billy: 1.1
Beauchamp, Kay: 10.30, 11.3, 11.6, 1.10, 2.5, 4.24, 4.16
Bennett, Jack: 11.29-30
Bernal, Desmond: 11.23
Bond, Patrick: 10.16, 12.4, 12.8, 12.15,12.20
Bond, Stella: 12.8
Boyd, Andrew: 2.9
Bradley, Ben: 1.7
Burns, Emil: 4.22
Campbell, Flann: 11.20, 12.20, 1.10
Campbell, JR: 11.13, 4.22
Carmody, Patrick: 12.2, 12.14
Carrol, Madge: 3.3
Clancy, Patrick: 9.15, 10.20, 10.25, 10.28, 11.1,11.3-4, 11.8,11.13-14, 11.20, 12.20, 1.3, 1.5, 1.10, 2.10, 4.24-25
Clark, Roscoe: 10.31, 11.17
Connolly, Ina: 9.13, 10.26, 11.7, 12.3, 12.8-9, 5.27
Connolly, James: see Greaves (Connolly research)
Cornford, John: 12.30
Cornforth, Maurice: 10.23, 11.4
Cox, Idris: 11.6, 11.16, 11.20-21,1.7, 2.4
Cronin, Anthony: 11.29
Curran, Gerard: 10.20-21,10.23,10.27-28,11.4, 11.11-12, 11.14, 12.27, 1.5, 2.9, 4.16
Deighan, Joseph: 11.2, 11.25-26, 1.27
De Valera, Eamon: 12.9, 5.27
Digges, Alec: 10.21,10.23,10.29,11.5,11.13,11.15,11.21,12.15,2.18, 4.23, 4.25
Dooley, Pat: 4.25
Doyle, Bob: 4.25
Dutt, R.Palme: 11.3, 2.5, 2.16, 4.22
Early, Packie: 3.4
Fox, RM.: 12.1, 1.8
Gollan, John: 4.22
Gough, General Sir Hubert: 10.18
Gould-Verschoyle, Neil: 10.16, 11.19
Griffin, Johnny: 1.1
Hamling, William MP: 1.7
Hannington, Wal: 2.16
Healy, Jim: 5.15
Henrotte, Esther: 12.20
Jackson, Stella: 1.5
Jackson, Thomas Alfred: 1.5, 1.8
Jeffares, George: 12.2, 12.5-6,
Jeffares, Marion: 12.6
Jeffery, Jim: 11.13,
Jeffery, Nora: 11.13
Johnson, Thomas: 9.12, 9.14, 9.20, 12.8
Johnston, Mairín: 9.12, 9.16, 12.3, 12.3
Johnston, Roy: 9.12, 11.21, 12.2, 12.9, 4.15
Jones, Claudia: 4.22
Judge, Jack: 4.25
Kearney, Patrick: 11.3,12.23, 3.3
Keating, Justin: 9.12, 9.17, 12.2, 12 7, 12.27, 1.5, 4.15, 6.7
Kilcommins, Danny: 11.26,1.29, 3.3, 4.21
Klugman, James: 11.13, 12.30
Larkin, James: 9.12, 9.20, 2.9, 5.31
Larkin, James (Jim) Junior: 9.12, 3.4
Letchford, Norman: 12.13-14
Logan, Desmond: 10.20, 11.4, 11.10, 12.21
Lyons, Eamon: 10.14,10.30,11.11,11.14, 11.19-20, 12.4, 12.18, 2.24, 5.23
MacBride, Maud Gonne: 9.19, 5.15, 6.10
MacCullough, William: 11.29, 12.24, 2.9
MacLiam, Cathal: 9.12, 9.25, 10.16, 10.18,10.20,10.22-24,10.28-29, 11.4,11.7,11.16,11.21,12.2,12.7,12.22,1.2-3, 4.15, 5.23, 6.1
McLiam, Helga: 10.16,11.7,11.14,11.16,12.8,12.13,12.21,1.2-3,
MacLoughlin, Eamon: 12.19, 2.23
MacPherson, Angus: 3.3
MacSwiney, Muriel: 10.15, 11.16, 6.7
Mackey, Dr Herbert O.: 12.28
Mathews, George: 4.22
Menon, Krishna: 12.20
Milne, Ewart: 12.20, 1.5, 4.16
Morton, Professor Alan G.: 10.19, 1.3
Mullery, John (also Mulray): 5.27, 6.1, 6.10
Mulready, Sean: 4.23,6.8
Munro, Anna: 5.15
Murphy, Jack TD: 5.25, 5.28
Murray, Cyril: 5.23, 5.25-6, 6.3, 6.5
Murray, Sean: 11.29, 12.2, 4.16
Nolan, Sam: 12.2, 2.15, 3.4, 4.15-16, 5.25, 6.6
Nolan, Sean: 10.13,10.29, 11.7, 2.4, 3.6, 5.25, 5.27
Norton, William: 9.20,
O’Brien, William: 9.13-14, 9.20,11.29, 12.8,1.8, 5.27, 5.31, 6.10
O’Casey, Sean: 10.26, 12.5
O’Connor, Peter: 10.13, 12.10
O’Donnell, Peadar: 9.20,10.26,10.29,11.29, 12.14-15, 2.15, 4.16, 6.7
O’Dowling, Elsie, née Timbey: 4.22
O’Herlihy, Callaghan (Cal): 10.16,12.2, 12.12-14
O’Higgins, Paul: 10.29,11.22, 12.16, 3.6
O’Neill, Andy: 12.23, 4.16
O’Neill, Patsy: 4.16
O’Neill, Professor Thomas P.: 9.15
O’Regan, Jim: 9.12,12.2, 12.2, 12.12-13
O’Riordan, Michael: 9.12,11.6,11.26, 12.13-15, 3.6
O’Shea, Fred: 4.22, 4.25
O’Sullivan, Chris: 11.3,1.6, 2.10
Pollitt, Harry: 2.16, 4.22
Prendergast, Jim: 11.5, 11.21, 11.24, 12.23, 2.9, 4.16
Quinn, Jimmy: 4.25
Rossiter, Robert (Bobby), original name Ceannt: 11.19, 4.28
Rushton, Patricia: 2.9
Ryan, Desmond: 9.13, 10.29, 12.27, 1.8, 5.27, 5.31
Savage, Jim: 12.13
Shaw, George Bernard: 9.13
Sheehy-Skeffington, Owen: 1.27
Shields, Jimmy: 1.7
Sinclair, Elizabeth (Betty): 2.9
Smullen, Eamon: 12.16
Stapleton, Ned: 6.8, 1.30
Stewart, Bob: 11.4, 2.16
Stringer, Dick: 12.2-3
Thompson, E.P.: 10.19
Yeats, W.B.: 6.10