Desmond Greaves Journal, Vol. 8, 1946
17 May – 30 September 1946
Themes: Lecture to Trinity College Dublin Fabian Society – Publication of first book of verse – Chemical research at BCURA/Delanium/Powell Duffryn, with some theosophical encounters – Cycle tour of the West and South of Ireland, retracing some of the path of his 1939 tour
May 17 1946 Friday (London-Dublin): I went to the B.O.A.C. terminal at Victoria at about 10 am. A porter sprang to open the door of the taxi and my rucksack was whisked away, as I later found to be weighed. I went to the central desk where a young man behind a notice “Reception” informed me that I should go to stage 1, then to 4, to have my luggage labelled and to receive my ticket, show passport, and so on. All this I did. After that you sit on one of the seats and wait for the loudspeaker to announce your departure.
It was a fine day, but large cumulus clouds reared their piles in the sky. It was ten years since I was in a plane and it would be foolish, or at least incorrect, to say that I was entirely free from trepidation, the more so as Budden, who has flown the Atlantic several times, took it upon himself to tell me dreadful stories about icing and other perils of the air. On the bus to Croydon I looked anxiously at the sky. This feeling did not evaporate till we had passed through the various stages of examination, had entered the plane, and it had definitely taken off. Then, the sight of its steady aluminium wings on either side of us, with the slight play as they adjusted themselves to the minor stresses of flight, was a highly reassuring thing, and I settled down to look through the window at the country below.
The last place I indentified was Kew and I thought we were going west, then I imagined I recognized the Chilterns, but without much certainty. It was not until the captain passed down a bulletin with Aer Lingus inscribed on it that I realised we were going North-West, had reached Coventry, and as the bulletin stated were bound for Liverpool. Even then I recognised little. I did see we were following the main LMS line as I saw the brown coaches. Then we were over some low hills with coal black stunted trees on them, as it seemed, and a few minutes later we were over a country pitted with innumerable little lakes – I immediately said “Cheshire,” and I was right. But though the country grew more picturesque, it was too hazy to recognize anything till simultaneously with the next message, “Dee on left, Liverpool and Birkenhead on right”, we swung into clear sunlight, and soon flew down the entire course of the Dee estuary and out into Liverpool bay. The sun was brilliant on the coast, and the Irish sea was bright blue-green, and as we flew along the North coast of Anglesey and Holyhead I had my first sight of these places. We were scarcely out of sight of land behind (we would of course have been able to see the high mountains all the time) when the Wicklow mountains appeared before us, also gleaming in the sun, and the next Bulletin said “Howth to starboard, Dun Laoghaire to port” and a few minutes later we swooped down over Dublin, right over O’Connell Bridge and then, with engines ticking over we swung round North of the city and landed at Collinstown. The customs examination was highly perfunctory, and soon we were in the ‘bus, travelling through Drumcondra to O’Connell Street.
Beatrice Browne [an activist in the Irish Labour Party] was there waiting for me, and we had lunch together. She told me that good preparations had been made for the evening meeting, but did not expect many there. She told me that the Dublin Central Branch of the Labour Party was the only active one. It was built up largely by John Ireland [John de Courcy Ireland, 1911-2006, maritime historian and leftwing political activist. He and various members of the Communist Party of Ireland, established in 1933, who lived in the neutral South joined the Labour Party in 1941, while the Northern members formed the Communist Party of Northern Ireland and supported the British war effort there. The former group worked mostly in the Central Branch of the Labour Party, which was not territorially based, during the war years. A number of these were expelled from the Labour Party in 1948 at the start of the Cold War and formed the Irish Workers League. This body united with the CPNI in 1970 to form the contemporary Communist Party of Ireland.]
Now certain reactionary elements wanted to break it up on the ground that it was not on a territorial basis. But their stronghold was non-territorial also. I suggested that if they felt strong enough they might let it be divided and thus influence everybody. The shops were full in Dublin, with vast quantities of meat in the butchers, cakes of pre-war kinds in the confectioners, and many difficultly obtainable books, cameras, films and so on. Sweets were not plentiful, and butter was not served with lunches in restaurants. The food was however good and plentiful.
When Beatrice Browne left me I went into the Woolworth’s Cafeteria which John Lancaster and I used to frequent [on his previous visit in July 1939, see Vol 5], completed my notes, and then walked to Trinity College. The secretary, Keating, a rather weedy young man with an incredibly long thin wispy beard which seemed like a crop struggling on infantile soil, was waiting for me. We walked across the large quadrangle and then John Ireland shouted and beckoned to us from the rear. This was the first time we had met. The first impression he made on me was mixed. He was friendly but slightly unnatural. Possibly this was due to his knowing that insufficient preparation had been made for the meeting. This was certainly so, for it was late starting and only about 12 were there. He explained that he was engaged all weekend, could not put me up, and could meet me merely at Monday lunch. But he expressed profound interest in my remarks, and I imagine his attitude improved somewhat.
One of the students, slightly older than the others, was called Foster. He asked questions in a sensible way instead of making futile speeches in a debating society mock parliamentary manner purporting to be a vote of thanks. He went to tea with me and he said he was nearly 25, but had been at work till the age of 21 after leaving school. He came with me to the Pillar where we met Beatrice Browne and he came then to the Bakers’ Hall; where a packed hall awaited me – about 120 present, and among them old Connolly Association members from London. I had a most enthusiastic meeting. John Ireland’s wife was present [Mrs Betty Ireland]. The questions were excellent and the discussion very good. It was clear that the Connolly Association is in the highest esteem here, and that the influence we have had is all to the good. I became a little dubious of the wisdom of forming a Communist Party. After the meeting I had supper with Beatrice Browne and the president of the Trades Council, who had been in the chair. He was most anxious for me to bring food back to England with me and promised to get me a pound of butter.
May 18 Saturday (Dublin): I returned to the St. Georges Hotel, a place at which many country people stay, so they told me, and went to bed. I was awakened at about 1 p.m. by heavy footsteps on the stairs and a gruff voice saying, “Be Jasus! Where is it at all?”, and then silence.
At breakfast a man of late middle age sat at my table. He was poorly dressed in a threadbare suit and was agitated about having missed his train to Limerick. “There’s one to Cork at 9.45,” he observed. “I must catch that.” He then unfolded himself over the bacon and eggs and said, “I’ve wasted an hour this morning looking for my false teeth! I’ve not swallowed till this minute! Right under the bed! Goodness knows how they got there! But you see, I’m getting an old man, and I’m fond of the drink, fond of the women, fond of everything. There’s no fool as bad as an old fool! But, now, I’m a member of the house here.”
“Which house?” I thought he meant some local hostelry.
“I mean the Dáil. I’m a deputy.”
“Do you know Mr Keyes?”
“I do. I often have a drink with him.”
And so I was introduced to Fianna Fail. It looks as if this type of fellow would have been on a parish council, but now that the county councils are closed down, he can only sit for the Dáil. He hadn’t a political idea in his head, as far as I could judge. When he had gone I asked the waitress who he was. “Oh! – that’s Mr Ryan. He’s always coming in at 1 in the morning, with the drink in him. He’s not so old, you know, but he’s a character!” She had been in London, and was hoping to go back. “At least you have your hours there – not 15 hours a day like it is here.”
I then went to see Sean Nolan [Leading Irish communist; at that time in the Labour Party Central Branch]. I had met him last night at the meeting. McInerney, now a reporter on the Irish Times, was also there. He sent in a four-page report of the meeting, but the paper would not publish it. Eleanor O’Brien was there also, and I had lunch with McInerney [Michael McInerney, first editor of “Irish Freedom” in London, later political correspondent for the “Irish Times”]. He was rather puzzled over the collapse in the North and had written to Jimmy Shields about it. I went to the ATGWU [Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union, the largest British-based trade union in Ireland] but missed Lynch who was at a meeting. In the evening I went to the opera and saw Il Trovatore. I was going to see McInerney again, but he was delayed at Dun Laoghaire. I spoke to members of a nationalist organization, Glún na Buaidhe, who were criticising the tactics of McCaughey’s IRA supporters [radical nationalist Irish language movement in 1940s Ireland]
May 19 Sunday: I did little in the morning but drink coffee in restaurants. In the afternoon I went to see RN Tweedy [RN Tweedy,1875-1956, English electrical engineer who settled in Ireland, pioneer of turf technology, founder member of the CPI in 1933] in Carrickmines near Dun Laoghaire. He is a very distinguished old man, with a sharp tongue and a very good understanding of things in general. I was very struck by him. He has been trying to induce the Government to do something about peat, but believes they are too much in the pockets of the coal importers. His wife is English and they regaled me on soup with “double-baked” bread and then with toast made from double-baked bread. “We’re treating you to a rock-hard meal,” said Tweedy who found it a trifle indigestible himself. “It’s quite easy to chew,” said his wife. “No, it’s not,” he said. “Well the meal’s very poor, and we also don’t think the bread-boy’s hands are always perfectly clean,” she explained. It is a humorous household, a bungalow at the foot of the mountains, with plenty of books, a piano, and all prerequisites for a contented old age. Tweedy looks after his garden, and writes the notes on bee-keeping for the local newspaper. I enjoyed myself enormously there. Mrs Tweedy is treasurer of the Irish-Soviet Society, which now has 120 members and can hold meetings in the Mansion House. Tweedy is an engineer, who was brought up technically in Staffordshire. He still speaks with a rather upper middle class English accent.
May 20 Monday: This was another day of feverish activity. I began it by interviewing the secretary of Glún na Buaidhe, and incidentally also of the Gaelic League into whose offices I wandered by mistake. The office contained a woman speaking soft mellifluous Irish into the telephone. The Glún na Buaidhe (Generation of Victory) strongly objected that they were not Fascist, and I came away with the impression that they were rather confused and ready to go any way which seemed capable of leading to something. I also went into the Post Office and asked for a directory so as to find out where the Youth Hostel Association was. But the boy behind the counter was wearing the badge and I got the address from him, and called there. A pretty young girl was running the office. The permanent secretary had left and they awaited the arrival of a new one. She was a very good enthusiastic girl. Then I saw Lynch and Kyle. Before Lynch could say anything, Kyle [Sam Kyle,1884-1962, Belfast-born Protestant trade union leader, secretary of the ATGWU in1932; Labour member of the Irish Senate] had started – “Well there’s not much here. I’m tired. I tell you frankly. I’m tired. I’ve been over here 27 years now and I’m sixty in September, and I’m getting out. It is this damnable lack of moral courage which I can’t stand. Physical courage! Yes. Plenty of that. But – mind I’m a member of the Church – the priest wags a finger, and they take their orders at once. No. I’m tired.” Lynch [Gilbert Lynch, 1892-1969, born in Stockport, took part in the 1916 Easter Rising, Labour TD for Galway, ITGWU official] was meantime silent and uncomfortable. He changed the subject. “You know Keyes [Michael Keyes 1886-1959, Labour TD and Minister] and I were accused of flirting with the Communists for speaking on your platform! They say the Connolly Association is only a concealed form of Communist Party.” But then Kyle said they called you anything, and Lynch continued, “Now they had a by-election in Cork, and that was just after De Valera had attacked me. Now I suppose I’m as good a platform figure as anyone…” He looked at Kyle who was quite unresponsive, “But instead of getting me down to speak they were scared! They put up somebody or other – I forget. But I flayed An Taoiseach in the press afterwards!”
When Lynch had gone Kyle told me how O’Brien [William O’Brien,1881-1968, ITGWU leader and Labour politician; opponent of James Larkin and his Workers Union of Ireland in the Irish Labour movement] was not without wit! “At the Galway conference O’Brien said, ‘Now there’s somebody at the back of the hall; who’s near the pillar and is feeling very uneasy! ‘”
“I’m not uneasy!” says Gilbert.
“Why I never mentioned your name,” says O’Brien. But Gilbert got up later and said, “When Jim Connolly was outside in 1916 and said, ‘Let’s start the rebellion, you took good care to get out of the way. But I walked into the Post Office with him!’ And he did! Oh! He did. He came from Stockport specially. But I’m going to get out. I’m tired. I’ve been here 27 years. I’m a Senator, but even now – you see I was brought up in Liverpool – I’m still ‘that bloody Englishman!’ – even though I haven’t got a drop of English blood in my veins. I’ve got a house in Suffolk. That’s where I was born, and my family are there. So I’m going there. I’ll be active in the movement there.”
I left him then and went up to St Patrick’s Cathedral through the streets reeking with turf smoke which gave an odour of incense to everything. John Ireland teaches at the Grammar school. I stood at the door of a furniture shop opposite the Cathedral.
“Now that’s one of the oldest Libraries in the world,” said the furniture dealer to his assistant. “Yes. And one of the finest buildings in the country.”
“Yes. Dean Swift started that fucking Library,” he explained [ie. Marsh’s Library].
Then John Ireland came out and we went to Robertson’s Cafe. We had only a few minutes discussion. He is very hard-up, earning only about £250 a year. That is why he finds it difficult to contemplate going to England. When I left him I returned to the bookshop where I saw Nolan, McInerney and Watters. McInerney could spend the whole morning with Watters, and John Ireland could put him up! And who should come as well but Prendergast [Jim Prendergast, born 1914, former International Brigader, a political opponent of Greaves’s in the CPGB] and Walsh (late of Reddlich and now a seaman). I collected some books and then I strolled towards Aer Lingus, down O’Connell St. It was perishing cold all the week-end, but now it began to drizzle, then to rain heavily. Beatrice Browne was waiting for me with the 1 lb. of butter, and after the final salutations I took the ‘bus to the airport. As I sat in the airy, rather chilly modern lounge and drank coffee, an official came to speak to the pilot. We were to travel on a British plane, which for unaccountable reasons had a French tricolour on it. It was moreover only capable of taking four passengers.
The official said, “Cloud base 1500+ ft. most of the way. Like this. But thunderstorms at Holyhead!” The pilot raised his eyebrows. “You’ll be all right,” said the official reassuringly.
So off we went, rather more to the North this time. I could distinguish the edge of the rain-belt, and behind it showed the bases of the Carlingford and Mourne mountains. At times the plane rocked unpredictably and on one occasion we were startled by a flash of lighting which seemed to be all round us. We then came to Holyhead, and saw Anglesey bathed in sunshine. We made rather more to the South, crossed Bangor town, and the pilot having apparently decided to save time went over Llanllechid and Carnedd Llewelyn. It was a fine sight to see “Snowdonia” from the air. But as we descended over Llanrwst, a black cloud appeared in front of us, the plane began to rock violently, and a rainbow appeared in our path. Immediately the pilot banked, and turned North, until we were over Ruthen, then turning across [name unclear] just south of Denbigh, and then right over the summit of Moel Fannau, avoiding another rainbow-heralded storm, and so over the line of Cilcain and along Hope Hills to Gresford, where we followed the Dee valley to Ellesmere. After that we went through Wem to Stafford, and so back through Coventry. The weather was dry and clear after we passed Gresford, and I recognized far more than I had done on the way out.
Also, being far more to the West for some time, and starting from the West, more landmarks were available as one saw them recede as recognized things rather than announce themselves anonymously. The customs examination was perfunctory. We were an hour late, thanks to the East wind across the Irish sea, and South wind afterwards, but it was good to feel the warmth of London, after the chilly turf-ridden, though pleasantly fragrant, air of Dublin. Of course the typical smell of London is petrol, that of Dublin turf, that of Liverpool the sea, of Sheffield smoke. I was home by about 9.30, having left Dublin about 6 pm., and as we landed the sun made one last effort and flooded everywhere with bright coppery red.
Then Weil rang me up, and said that he and Atkins and Orchard had received notes from JG Bennett to say that the contract which they had been engaged to work upon had now been cancelled and that their services were not required. [Greaves was working as a research chemist with Delanium, a research company set up by De La Rue Plastics and Messrs Powell Duffryn to research oil and carbon products]. I did not think much of this. Probably it was an excuse, Bennett etc. having changed their minds again. But I promised to find out. Later again, Pat Clancy called. The Connolly Association are having a trip to Brighton tomorrow, and there seems to be a general political awakening among the Irish.
May 21 Tuesday (London): I received a telephone call from Bennett in the morning to the effect that suddenly out of the blue the Ministry of Supplies contract was cancelled. DB Foster had already drawn up an alternative budget asking me if I wanted to keep Parker, Samuel, Wolstonecroft and so on. He proposed keeping only those and three juniors and disposing of the services of DB Smith, Smith, Marsh, Perla, Howland, Miss Solomon and Bloomfield to go to development. I said they must keep DB Smith, who is a clever young fellow. Wolstonecroft wants to go back to the university where his family will pay for him, and even maintain his wife into the bargain. Miss Solomon also wants to be half-time. But then I had the problem of how to save the others, and this will certainly exercise my ingenuity. I began talking of the need for long notice, say 3 months. But then there is the loss of half the Battersea laboratory, which also I have to retrieve in some way. If I can keep the staff long enough to produce a carrot for the directors, then all may yet be well. Parker and Bloomfield are talking of leaving, and it is certain that very shaky prospects are ahead.
May 22 Wednesday: In the afternoon Bennett came out to Walthamstowe and told a gathering of the blow that had fallen. It was generally agreed (by all except Philpotts, to whom Bennett appeared to have no human attributes at all) that he had been severely shaken. I then told them all to do what they liked until we could concoct an interim programme. “I know what I’d do,” said Bethune, “I’d make the stuff, and put it on the market. I’d sink ’em.” But this procedure did not from its intrinsic feasibility commend itself to anybody else, and Bethune would have been sincerely anxious if it had done so.
May 23 Thursday: No farther developments took place. I came home with Perla. He does not know Italian, and wishes he could, so as to be able to read Dante. He is on the committee of a Catholic Club attached to the church, for spiritual aims, though he would willingly get out of that as it prevents him going to concerts. The Catholic ideology is so removed from ours that it is difficult to say whether his ideas are even his own, or whether they are common currency in the church. When we discussed Milton’s sympathy with the church in Paradise Lost, he seemed somewhat excited, whether because he thought the subject very serious or because he had his doubts, I don’t know.
May 24 Friday: I saw Flann Campbell [Flann Campbell 1919-1994, educationist and historian, Greaves’s predecessor as editor of the “Irish Democrat” in 1948] in the morning, with Ewart Milne [Ewart Milne, 1903-1987, poet and writer,was a civilian ambulance driver in the Spanish civil war]. Flann’s latest proposal is to engage an organiser, and as if to illustrate the way journalism makes people, or to illustrate Pat Dooley’s considerable influence behind the scenes, he has found the organiser – Maitland – with whom he hatched the plot to sink the Irish Committee [ie.of Irish members of the CPGB]. I said I would prefer to think about it.
At long last the quotation from the Clockhouse Press came. They want £75 for doing our book. Alan Morton rang me up and we agreed that we would be prepared to pay that sum for it. I also had a letter from Bloor saying that Westmore seemed liable to drop out of politics. I dare say. He is living in a flat above his wife’s parents, and is also apparently enjoying married life. Bloor says he will try to get him interested in cultural affairs – which talking about, Geoffrey is now responsible for this work in the party, and Alan Morton is writing for the Modern Quarterly through Lewis, to whom he sent a criticism of Parker-Rhodes’s article. Lewis has also asked him to write up his study of Goethe.
May 25 Saturday: I did little today, but attend a meeting at Battersea where they deprived me of my office and cut down my lab-space to one half, which I got amended to 3/4.
May 26 Sunday: Very little happened. In the evening Bill Grove-White called [a friend of Greaves’s, educated at Trinity College Dublin, was a civilan scientist with Bomber Command during World War 2]. I told him of my Dublin experiences. He advised me to apply for a job with the Turf Board [ie. the Irish Turf Board, Bórd na Móna]. But this would mean getting myself thoroughly identified with Science, and God knows every year I stick at it makes me more heartily sick of it, and even the bait of £1000 a year scarcely tempts me. He hopes to return to Dublin himself as soon as he has secured his divorce.
May 27 Monday: The general air of uncertainty persisted at Walthamstowe. I worked out another scheme for keeping everybody but Marsh, and took it along to Bennett late at night. There was to have been an Irish Committee meeting, but it failed owing to a misunderstanding with the caretaker.
May 28 Tuesday: The Board committee meeting took place, and cuts were insisted on. I tried to keep the graduates, all except Marsh – not that he is anything but a very good lad, but I was in the unhappy position of having to sacrifice somebody. As for the non-qualified, there has been a slaughter of the innocents. Perla goes over to Samuel, Bloomfield to Budden, but Smith and DB Smith remain. Howland goes to Budden with Bloomfield, nominally at least. Wolstonecroft is trying to get into the university. I spoke at a meeting in Ilford, but was ill in the middle of it.
May 29 Wednesday: I was told that Howland also must go, much to my regret. This is because Bennett insists on keeping Miss Petroff, the White-Russian “ceramist” discovered by his wife. In the evening I went to Woolwich with Maitland and spoke at a small meeting organised by Packie Early [of the Connolly Association].
May 30 Thursday: It is quite surprising to find Bennett so crestfallen. Philpotts insists on not seeing it. Bethune is convinced that he will get some more money from somebody else. But his main difficulty is that he has no basis of independence from his Board and will not pursue a sound policy. When Budden discovered that Carbon was used in a certain type of military projectile, Bennett immediately circularized the directors to this effect. He is looking for a deus ex machina. In the evening the International Affairs Committee met [ie. of the CPGB].
May 31 Friday: Today Bennett gave notice to Marsh, Howland, Miss Solomon, the three boys Pitts, Hughes, Sewell – unaccountably sparing Knott – and there was a meeting in the afternoon. The Board is quite willing to spend a small amount over a long period in research, but does not like semi-technical work. I told them that their plan of making motor-brushes would not put them on their feet, and decided to try to influence policy in our common interest. Bennett is like a skilful salmon on a line, but still on a line! I completed my poem in the evening.
June 1 Saturday (Portsmouth): I took the train to Farnham and then cycled through Alton and Cockhampton to Fairham and Portsmouth against a heavy wind. When I arrived Mary Greaves[his aunt],Bert Wiltshire [her husband] , CEG and AEG [his parents] were there, having come from Bournemouth in the morning, where they stayed with Harley Greaves [his first cousin]. He has a very comfortable place and a good business. “He is always buying and selling!” says Bert. They are rather displeased that he spends money on a grand piano, of which he has two, when he owes them money. The four of them were in Devon. I went a walk with CEG who told me that during the week both Mary Greaves and UB Wiltshire showed signs of testiness, and were quarrelling mildly, and sometimes Mary who is normally most genial, became quite spiteful. “I think she is very upset at finding she is over 70, and is annoyed that other people are not 70.” Also they said that they were going to America [to visit relations there]. Mary had looked forward to going with them, for the last time, and she is disappointed that they do not want her to accompany them. I did detect a certain strain in Mary, but it appeared only at times. We played a game of cards later on, and Bert Wiltshire, who likes cards, delivered more of his epigrams. He was dealt some kings and queens. “There you are. No use – just like all those other kings and queens! They’re all right while you’re waving the flag, but see what they do for you if you want help!”
June 2 Sunday (Portsmouth/London): I went a walk with AEG and CEG and saw all the nonsense of the barracks. It is incredible that in 1946 grown men walk out dressed in leopard skins, with sticks, drums and trumpets, march about like automata, and then when rain falls, wait till it washes the pipe-clay off their white hats, and then on an officer’s word, scurry for shelter. The row of fishermen at Eastney, not one with a fish in his basket, were the extreme of sanity in comparison. The capacity of men to absorb their surroundings and adopt the criteria current in them is a thing which has always amazed me. A little tacit resistance on the part of the officers would modify the army, as it has doubtless modified the American one, but all officers aim to become their type, just as professors wear dark sober clothes, chemists are untidy, poets have long hair and colourful dress, and engineers always choose suits of most revolting pattern and shade! I find myself doing it, in hundred of little ways.
After lunch I went another short walk with CEG and returned just in time for tea, after which I cycled through Petersfield to Farnham. In the train was a young cyclist who was training to be a chef. He said it was the aim of himself and his colleagues to rid the country of foreign chefs and continental food. He also said he would be a manager. So I asked him to tell me the name of his hotel so that I could avoid it, something which amused him but scarcely shook him!
June 3 Monday: I saw the Walthamstowe people today. I was quite shocked at the degree to which Howland was upset by losing his job, and felt very uneasy about it. Ought I have let Perla go instead? But I kept him against Miss Solomon, and the two intern people to do analysis. This does not entirely suit him, and he also cannot see why he should stay and Howland go. Marsh is more cheerful. But morale has sunk very low. Parker and Bloomfield are away on holidays, but Samuel came back as the weather was too bad for him.
The Irish Committee took place in the evening. Paddy Clancy and Maitland came, but Elsie Timbey was away, Flann Campbell decided to write a pamphlet, which it had been agreed he was not yet to write. I am afraid Flann has got some of Dooley’s desire to steal a march on other people and make a career for himself. But this may not be so. Maitland is now full-time organiser. He lives with Flann Campbell.
June 4 Tuesday: In the evening I went to see Alan Morton and Freda. They had a pleasant if cool holiday at Lavenham. They are very depressed by having to live in their miserable dark, stuffy, damp basement flat, and Alan cannot write because he has no books and is thinking of buying a house rather than live like this. He is planning a grand work, but gets no desire to do it. We decided to accept the Clockhouse tender.
June 5 Wednesday: In the morning Philpotts, Budden and I went to Farnborough where we met Bill Grove-White. Philpotts had not met him for years, though his sisters were at Trinity [ie. Trinity College, Dublin] simultaneously with him. We then went to Power Jets. The naval man we had arranged to see was not there, but his assistant, a quiet young man, dealt with our business. We were about to go when we learned that no transport was available for “twenty-minutes.” We were asked if we would like to see the plant. It would have been more reasonable if we had been asked if we would like to hear it. It was quite deafening and quite too loud to be looked at. Our ears were ringing afterwards although I for one had held two handkerchiefs firmly pressed one to each, to keep the noise out. As the transport did not turn up we decided to walk to Fleet. We arrived in time to see the train go out, and walked into Fleet village and had tea before catching the next.
June 6 Thursday (Liverpool): I left Friars Watch, had lunch at Williamsons where I dined off jugged Hare out of season, then made for Euston, where I booked a ticket to Belfast and took the Liverpool train. I felt sleepy and tired, but waking up at Rugby, I began to have stomach-ache which rapidly grew worse. I was quite unable to ascertain the cause or to alleviate it, and since whenever I am ill I always think I am dying, I began to fear appendicitis or worse. I reached 124 Mount Road with feelings of more than relish. Phyllis was there, as AEG and CEG had not yet left for Southsea, and she immediately guessed food poisoning and advised hot water. This I drank, and five minutes later brought up the jugged hare, and as I have found before, was immediately perfectly right.
There was not a great deal of news Phyllis had to give me. CEG is still moody and goodness alone knows the source of his absurd antipathy to Phyllis. If anything happened to AEG he would be quite dependent on her, and I am afraid that he would be no more amiable then and would give her a hell of a life. I hope that in the event of such a deplorable eventuality she would have the courage to break with him, for he is a silly old man, in that direction at any rate. It may of course be merely that he resents AEG’s divided attention, but one would expect him to resent my presence from time to time, but he doesn’t appear to. If I were living there it might be different. AEG and CEG are oddly contrasted. She is intensely nervous, but I think physically strong, and black hair at 61 1/2 is not usual, showing physiological youth. He is phlegmatic in first appearance, but is not really so, is inclined to worry, has never been physically strong, but has enormous nervous energy. And Phyllis is rather a blend of them.
June 7 Friday (Ingleton): I crossed – or to be more accurate rode – through the tunnel to Exchange and took the train to Preston. I met Jones (I forget his initial – he was at the University of Cambridge, then did education at Liverpool in 1936, was “taken up” by FB, and called up. He knows Bloor but he was taking the next train to Blackpool. From Preston I cycled via Longridge to Clitheroe and across the hilly road to Settle (direct). I travelled from Settle with a Yorkshireman who was going camping at Clipton. He was a knowledgeable fellow about 32 years of age, but looking less, who showed me the variable well at Giggleswick and the lake at Clapham.
I stayed at the Ingleton Hostel and found it easily the best conducted one I have been to. The warden pays personal attention to everything, gets up on time, and puts it through with the competence of clockwork. In the evening some of us went up the hill and a member of the “British Speleological Association” showed us a “pot-hole” into which we descended until it grew too wet, gloomy and forbidding to entice us any further.
June 8 Saturday (Lancaster/Liverpool/Belfast): I left Ingleton quite early and cycled to Kendal by the A65. The weather which was delightful yesterday grew cloudy and there were occasional light showers. For this reason I did not cycle back to Preston, but went to Annside and Silverdale, and took the train from Lancaster back to Liverpool. It rained while I was on the train but cleared at 8 pm. when I entered the long slowly moving queue and finally got aboard the Belfast boat. I had reserved a first-class berth, and had a very comfortable night. I greatly enjoyed going down the Mersey seeing the rockets over New Brighton and West Kirby, and the bonfire at Prestatyn and the old familiar line of buoys out to the bar light-ship.
June 9 Sunday (Belfast, Banbridge): I rode round Belfast a while, then cycled South via Ballynahinch to Newcastle. The weather was fine till then and the Mournes looked superb. I passed the old cromlech we hired a jaunting car to visit, in 1928, but the tillage drive had overtaken it, and it stands incongruously surrounded with a thick crop of corn. Newcastle had scarcely changed since 1930. The same advertisements were on the walls, the same old sheds here and there, everything unaltered. But it began to rain and I had lunch with an agricultural labourer from Dungannon, who had come on a day trip. He said, “the working man hasn’t a chance” and blamed the Jews of Belfast! The election was three days ago. Little’s propaganda was painted on the roads, “Vote for Little, the friend of the people! No Pope here!” Brown described himself as the “Farmers, Fishermens and Industrialists independent candidate.” He did not get in either. Donnelly [the Nationalist Party candidate]. backed by Delargy etc., was for pari passu with the British Labour Government, and to hell with the border so as to be out of its jurisdiction. This supreme effort of syncretism also did not succeed in winning votes. The official Unionist Mullan seemed to make no propaganda, and it was presumably understood that he proposed to do nothing, and this was regarded as the least evil of the four.
I cycled on from Newcastle to Annalong and Kilkeel, where I had tea. It rained all day from that time on. I had intended to go to Castleblaney but the strong SE wind dissuaded me. I went to Newry, and so to Banbridge. and was just riding into the town when my tire gave up the ghost, so I stayed the night there.
June 10 Monday (Banbridge): It was not “Bank Holiday” here beyond the banks having a holiday. Factories were working, and in Banbridge there was the annual fair. It is a rather odd little town with a great hill in the middle with crossroads on the top. But to avoid this hill the crossroads are tunnelled under by the central portion of the main road. Through the tunnel a continuous succession of horses, cattle, even sheep, donkeys and calves were driven with a slowness which reminded me of the rise of a tide, accumulating without any obvious motion, and the air was thick with lowings, neighings and bellowings. Groups of weather-beaten buyers stood round and the often-recorded tactics of the horse-fare were enacted in front of my eyes. If an offer was turned down the buyer would put on an exaggeratedly determined air and walk away. “Come here, mon!” the seller would call after him. Then another offer would be made, with a clap of the hands. There was an old farmer, a tall thin man with grey hair, and a resigned, slightly contemptuous expression on his face who stood in the tunnel with three miserable draggled calves without an offer all morning. He merely stood and pulled on his large pipe. No doubt he had seen it all before. A boy drove up a pony on which a small girl of about 6 years of age was sitting. He could not have been above 16 years of age, but he bargained over that pony as capably as any of the dealers and, to the delight of the crowd which surrounded him, sold it for what they informed me was a good price.
Having got my tire mended I went to Dromore, Hillsborough, Comber and Newtownards, and then back to Belfast where I took the boat back to Liverpool.
June 11 Tuesday (Liverpool, London): I arrived in Liverpool at about 7 am. and took the 8.15 am. to London. Little happened.
June 12 Wednesday: I went to Woolwich in the evening to speak to the Connolly Association Branch.
June 13 Thursday: I went to West London to address that branch of the Connolly Association. There was quite a gathering of the clans. Flann Campbell, Paddy Clancy were with Maitland, and Pat Dooley came. He seems slightly mellowed by success, which is a decided improvement. I told them the facts about Dublin and they (Paddy Clancy included) didn’t like them, and accused me of anti-Irish prejudice when I threw doubt on the quality of the Fianna Fail TDs. Bridget Malone was there and in the tube she said, “Well now, I’m 68. And I’ve lived to see a Labour Government in Britain! And I only hope I live to see them kicked out again. I think they are the greatest blackguards in the world! So there, now.”
June 14 Friday: I received a visit from Alan Morton in the evening. Freda is away with John having a holiday in Liverpool. We discussed further the publication of our “immortal works”, which we are bringing out in September.
June 15 Saturday: I saw Flann Campbell, Paddy Clancy and Maitland in the afternoon. The evening I spent writing.
June 16 Sunday: I was asked to go to Farnborough to see Bill Grove-White who was in trouble, so I met him at Farnham, and we walked to Hindhead – for the greater part of the way in heavy rain. He told me of the present state of his matrimonial dispute. He has to wait till October to begin divorce proceedings, but in the meantime his wife is trying to get possession of the children who are with his parents in Dublin. Seifert has fobbed her off, but now her solicitors are going to proceed. He showed me a letter which his wife had addressed to me, in which the most damaging admissions were made. However, a temporary reconciliation being reached in the meantime, this was not sent. Now there were many references to John Ireland and I was very much opposed to the case being fought in Dublin. I therefore advised him to spike their guns by bringing them over here until October “for a holiday” and then once proceedings were in swing in a British court – all will be well. Unfortunately his wife has now gone religious and in any Irish court she would merely swear that her folly was committed under communist influence and then get off scot free.
June 17 Monday: I had a discussion with Jimmy Shields today on the Irish position. He agrees with me – Dublin is all at sea.
June 18 Tuesday: There was a visit from JA Reavell and his son, of Kestners, today, and apparently the proposition to make chemical ware is proceeding well. They were suitably impressed by the well-prepared show.
June 19 Wednesday: This evening I met Pat Clancy at Holborn, and soon appeared Flann Campbell, Pat Dooley and Sid Maitland. We were going to the Heath Row Camp Site to be a brains trust. We waited for Elsie O’Dowling (Elsie Timbey) and she arrived – to our surprise – twenty minutes late, having not as we thought, caught stage fright, but been on a tube failure. We went to Hounslow where we were met by a canary-coloured wagon which jolted us painfully to the site, where I met a man who had been at my Labour Party meeting in Dublin. The “brains trust” was held in a crowded wooden assembly hall. Paddy Clancy could not answer a single question. Of the entire two teams I was the only one who answered everything I was asked, and part of what others were asked, too. This was admittedly partly good luck. Then we played double or quits for questions and I, Dooley and Flann Campbell won 4/- apiece which we donated to the Irish Democrat fighting fund. It was quite good publicity on the whole.
June 20 Thursday: I am busy writing a long poem, and I have no time for anything else. This evening however I did attend the International Affairs Committee.
June 21 Friday: The Friday meeting took place with the usual bunkum. Today we told them about our new process of making an artificial coal by condensing pitch with sulphuric acid.
June 22 Saturday: I spent all afternoon and evening on the poem.
June 23 Sunday: I spent all day on the poem.
June 24 Monday: Howland and Marsh have now gone. Howland is getting a job with the Gas Research Association of which JG King is director. Marsh is unemployed. None of Bennett’s promises have been carried out, to give them a bonus, or longer than a month’s notice, or holiday pay, or anything else. This has led to a fairly general feeling of disillusionment about his directorial self. The evening I spent on the poem.
June 25 Tuesday: I saw Alan Morton in the evening. He has decided to go and see the Clockhouse on Sunday, and I gave him a cheque to take with him.
June 26 Wednesday: At the Johnson Mathey exhibition I saw Atkins and Orchard. Weil is on holiday.
June 27 Thursday: I kept going on the poem all evening, and have forgotten what happened in the day, except that I sent Howland’s testimonial to JG King.
June 28 Friday: There was a meeting today, but since Bennett has injured himself playing squash he was not there and DB Foster presided. I could hardly contain myself on hearing the pedantic nonsense talked by Elliot, the physicist, and Budden. The situation is that with these two being on the spot they are getting themselves thoroughly established, and for that reason it will be as well when we move to Battersea also. Even then it will take some time to restore the balance of power, especially with my laboratory having to move again. I can however use the upset as a weapon, but it is rather a negative one. In the afternoon I saw Foster. I think it will be possible to “suborn” him from the Budden-Elliot allegiance! He is an old friend of Howland.
June 29 Saturday: I went to FW in the morning. RH Smith has succeeded in depositing Boron on Carbon by a process of electrolysis. Foster was there. As for Perla I have been learning more about him. His parents were born in Italy, he in Britain. They scarcely talk English; he knows no Italian. They are small shopkeepers in Brixton and have not had a very easy economic life. His young brother works in the shop – dairy, greengrocery and general stores. He is on the committee of the Catholic Club and takes the leading part in the dramatic society where they are performing “Shadow and Substance”. He is not very energetic in the Laboratory. But now that he is working under Samuel, there is less stimulus, and Samuel though an excellent fellow has no ability to stimulate his assistants.
June 30 Sunday: I did some work on the poem, but had to leave it for making preparations for an article which Michael Carritt has asked me to write for the Communist Review. Heaven knows why I consent to write articles and go to brains trusts and all that – I always hate doing them. But there you are. It is a great gift to have facility of writing. I haven’t it. I write and re-write, correct, alter and adjust till my brain reels!
July 1 Monday: Little enough happened today. I had a visit from Alan Morton however who has now found a house which he proposes to buy, in St Albans, where he can be near to his work. He saw Knight on Saturday. As soon as he saw the cheque he promised us delivery on the nail!
July 2 Tuesday: The weather is delightful. Warmth at last. It is 87’F in the shade. But how long will it last? I went on with the article.
July 3 Wednesday: I learned today that DB Smith has been looking for another job. Bloomfield is doing the same. The first is I think merely from feelings of general instability. The second is because Bloomfield is being gradually enticed on to the development side, and spends his time making motor brushes. This will get worse. Bill Parker thinks it would do JG Bennett no harm if people began to leave. It would strengthen the hands of those who remained as the newcomers would know nothing. But then Parker himself is “having a look round.” But he is in no hurry.
July 4 Thursday: I did not retire till it was light this morning. At last I finished Michael Carritt’s article, and took it to him.
In the evening there was a grand celebration, which was held at my suggestion, to mark the departure of Marsh and Howland. DB Smith was ill and could not go, but Samuel, Smith, Perla, Hughes, Derrick Walker, Parker, Bloomfield and myself were there. Today to my great satisfaction Perla showed his first sign of constructive scientific thought. I was most pleased at this, as I was sure he had brains, but being “mad on” music he does not always think about science. Smith goes in for portrait painting. The celebration will greatly cement relations in the laboratory and will be a protection against Yogism when we move to Battersea [A reference to managing director JG Bennett’s interest in the Ouspensky-Gurdjieff theosophical system]. I think Smith is most liable to be menaced by it.
Then at 10 pm. Gerard Curran came. I returned him his manuscripts and advised him to get experience of the movement while he was tied down to Holborn with his job, not to be afraid of a job in a factory if he could get experience there, to concentrate on learning and seeing for a while, practising writing all the time, and then to embark on a first novel as soon as he felt he could depersonalize himself sufficiently. We played Bach till late, but he finds the Protestant music a little foreign to him and is happier with Beethoven when he is mystical as in the Mass in D.
July 5 Friday: The usual Friday meeting took place and in the evening I went on with the poem.
July 7 Sunday: I spent the entire weekend struggling to get the poem done. It has turned out longer than I originally planned.
[Over a fortnight’s break in the Journal occurs here.]
July 26 Friday: It is now necessary for me to recapitulate and summarize the activities of the greater part of a very active month. The chief cause of my not keeping up with this book every day has been the poem “Interlude” finished about a week ago, and following that the preparation of a statement on Eire for the International Affairs Committee, which I gave to Jimmy Shields yesterday. I have also contrived to get an introduction to the Royal Statistical Society enabling me to use their library in connection with my book. Margaret Heinemann arranged this. She strikes me as very capable, very friendly, but very sad. She has never married and I think she never got over John Cornford’s death [Cambridge student and CP activist killed in the Spanish civil war fighting with the International Brigade. Margot Heinemann and he were intimate friends]. Regarding that I cut out his elegy from my poems in our joint collection. This is because it now appears to me sentimental. That of David Guest [also killed in Spain; Greaves had met both in the 1930s university student movement] is not. I did not know him so well, and he did not make such an impact on me as Cornford, but the poem is better, so there you are.
We duly sent them off, and Freda asked me why I had excluded the sonnet, and the other lyrics. “They are not much good,” I replied. “Surely you don’t really think that.” She was quite sure no artist could regard his own work with diffidence. And then they both apologized because on the cover Alan Morton’s name came first and explained that it was due to lay-out considerations, and again were surprised that it had occurred to me that of the two names one must come first or the other. In any case it would be foolish to allow the slightest scintilla of competition between us in a cooperative venture. The old man of the Clockhouse was very happy at receiving our cheques, and if he hastens himself proportionately, we should have the proofs in time. Now Alan has moved to St Albans where he has expended the dregs of his savings in buying a house. So I shall not be seeing so much of him.
I was rung up by Bill Grove-White early in the month. He told me the story of his children. When I had persuaded him that to fight out his case in Eire would be foolish, he saw Seiffert, and he said, “Whatever you do, do it at once.” He found out that there was a Liverpool sailing that afternoon, and secured a sailing ticket and was in Dublin next morning. As he drove along O’Connell St. he saw his wife’s father and her aunt walking along to their solicitors with very grim expressions on their faces. He collected the children, and his mother consented to come with him. His father’s position enabled him to get sailing tickets quickly and they reached Dun Laoghaire for the evening boat. But the children had no exit permit and the man on the gangway was suspicious that Irish children were being smuggled away. “These are British children!” he insisted, “they are on my passport.” Finally he saw the piermaster who said, “Take them on your own responsibility,” which he did, and here they are, for the moment safe from her ladyship’s intrigues. The elder one is delighted. He has never seen so many railway engines before in his life. The younger one is a little neurotic. Added to that his mother is ill. I heard this story in a public house where he was having a little liquid consolation.
At Delanium the moving to Battersea and consequent shift of the balance of power began last week. The period just closing has been anomalous because Budden is nominally research manager and has not been able to exercise that function because of his remoteness from Walthamstowe and ignorance of chemistry. DB Foster has been skipping round as usual like a cat, but Bethune’s solid reliable clockwork method has kept Philpotts in a state of stability. But though we have this spurious independence, our voice would not be heard in the councils of the great, else possibly Budden would never have had his position. My aim, to keep it nominal, was easy at Walthamstowe. Now it will be less easy. Accordingly whereas I formerly deprecated too much physics, now I try to get as much physical matter discussed as possible, to keep him occupied. Then I am contacting his physical and development staff seeking whom I can suborn. Elliot, the physicist, is a quite intelligent scientist with no knowledge of the world. He leans on Budden in science. He may lean on others in other things. He was very dubious whether to accept the job, since it was not “safe”. I worried him a little when I said we could not look ahead five years. He confided that he was a little disturbed at the way Gordon-Smith had been treated. He is still here, by the way. But there is now Baring, Westall’s nephew and Etonian, to watch JG Bennett, Miss Vallender to watch for Foster, Miss Petroff to watch me for Bennett, and now Bennett’s nephew to watch in Philpott’s department.
Of that Philpott said that Bethune is beginning to dictate. He was interested to learn that Budden was not. But that does not mean that Budden would not like to, but firstly I am there for longer than he and have wide previous contacts; and this makes him chary of fighting, hence I should show a willingness to fight early; second he knows no chemistry, and I have hoisted the banner of empiricism, which relieves me of the need of explaining things and contributing to his education. I did make the mistake of letting him know that Bloomfield would probably be on his budget. This led to his asking about Bloomfield’s programme. I covered it in vagueness, but I shall now see that Bloomfield gets some work to do for the paper Bennett intends to publish, this providing an alibi for six months. Then Budden suggested that one lab steward for all the labs is necessary – he wants his spy. But I think Parker could find the very man, who would be a friend of ours. So there is ample room for manoeuvring and learning what happens when one adopts this or that line of policy. But what I should have done wrong had I not learned so much from Marcello Pirani, I shudder to think of. My holiday is before Budden’s. So what he does in my absence, I can rectify in his!
Inside the laboratory Parker and DB Smith are on holiday. There is never any problem with Parker. He is politically advanced and hates capitalists and likes to fight them. Bloomfield is not so good. He likes a quiet life, not much responsibility, and has that pitiful self-misprision that sometimes occurs in people of moderate talents which merely enable them to visualize the advantage of greater. He has sold his violin as he will never be a player. He has given up sketching as he will never succeed – and so on. He is negative, and gives in to the last person he speaks to. Whereas Parker would think immediately of how not to do what Foster, Budden or Bennett told him. Derrick Walker is developing and has become friendly with DB Smith, but he is not so successful with him, because Smith has been to a public school and is not impecunious, and is moreover friendly with Moss, Budden’s boy, which enables them to borrow things from us. Moss is frightfully reactionary, and moreover a backward, stupid, grumbling type, really a chemist, but working as a physicist, and responsible for DB Smith looking for another job. I wish Moss would get one. RH Smith is getting more confident and less shy. His line of art is portrait-painting. Wolstonecroft has left and gone back to Cambridge, which in a way is a loss as he was very genuine and very active. Summers goes next week. I have started to try to influence Miss Petroff, as I think they have failed to make of her the thoroughgoing Yogi they hoped. On this question I managed to get a look at one of Ouspensky’s books which DB Foster had lent to Miss Vallander [Managing director JG Bennett was an enthusiast for the Gurdjieff Ouspensky theosophical system, which he later taught and wrote on extensively]. The preface was almost entirely occupied with attacks on the USSR although the book was written as late as 1931. Ouspensky called for direct intervention.
Both Bethune in an intellectual way as Llewelyn in his crude way are sympathetic with Fascism, whereas Llewelyn, I hear, reads Mein Kampf in the German. I am afraid DB Smith might be involved but he has a decent suspicion of JG Bennett and all his works. Perla is the one I am most interested in from one or two points of view. He has suddenly shown interest in science and has helped Samuel to make some useful inventions. I took him with me to TH Jones to look at Graphite, and he has a wide knowledge of many artistic matters. He is not profound. I think he plays cricket, but also takes a leading part in a play, “Shadow and Substance”, at his club. He talks of the Spanish mystic “St John of the Cross” – yet on social matters he is so free from snobbery and takes up so unconsciously the standpoint of the working class (as does RH Smith too) that one would think he was not Catholic. It will be hard for somebody no more skilful than Budden on his side, or Foster on his, to influence Perla or Smith, I think. As for lab boys, I am going to try to get Jimmy Shields’s boy a job.
Once or twice I have seen Gerard Curran. The first time it was shortly after one of the branch told me that his girl had left him and that he was not attending meetings. He appeared very mournful, and I told him to work in the branch. He did not mention the girl. Next time he came with a friend who lived with him, a Dubliner called Doran, a very shy young man of about 22 or 23 who had been with Curran in his last job – a mental institution where conditions were so appalling that Curran organised a Trade Union and made some attempt to secure redress. His colleagues who had been so bold in words completely collapsed in action. “They let him down,” said Doran, and he had to leave. Doran went with him. But tonight with a wry smile Curran said, “I’m going to leave the hospital,” meaning the present one. I said that this was surely of doubtful wisdom, when he had told me he hadn’t the faintest notion of what he would do next.
“He’s incomprehensible!” cried Doran, “I’m sure I’ll never understand him.” he said. “Admittedly the hospital is not much of a job, but it is a career, of a sort. At least you have some sort of trade. I’d like to see Gerry stay and take his certificate, then he could go somewhere else.” It was the cry of the man with one talent, amazed at the dictation which his colleague’s other four subjected him to.
“Well, it’s your fault,” said Curran, turning to me.
“I’m not a party to it,” I said.
“How English you are! You take me seriously. I can assure you I’ll never lean on you again, as I know the secret of your power.” So everybody grows up, and I remember FM Jones addressing me ten years ago in almost similar words. The only error was the assumption that he has discovered a secret, a part of which is the assumption that he has discovered my secret. The conversation went on till quite late, when they went away, Doran still doing his best to keep Gerry Curran in the hospital.
July 27 Saturday (Portsmouth/Warminster): I set off early and went by train to Southsea, taking my bicycle with me. There I met Phyllis, who has been staying there for two or three days, and Bert Wiltshire and Mary Greaves. I was only there for a short time, but received the impression that Bert was better in health, and that Mary was better in temper. I set off cycling with Phyllis and we took the train to Southampton, where I left my cape on the train. We then went up to Salisbury, via Dowton, and collected it. It was very showery indeed, but we were fortunate in finding shelter, and finished at Sutton Veny hostel. Phyllis told me that in her opinion the testiness which AEG and CEG found in Mary Greaves during their stay in Devon was not, as they believed, due to her discovery that she was 70 years of age. She has always veiled her age in a rosy vagueness and had perhaps contrived to forget it, but not so completely as all that. The fact was that she wanted to go to America with them, and they did not want to take her, holding that she had had her fling, and they now wanted theirs. So the struggle between youth and age is possible between sext- and septa-genarians! Phyllis told me that Enid Greaves had visited her, largely as a result of Harley Greaves’s [first cousins] intervention. Apparently the rift heals slowly, but Mary does not forgive her. It seems that the lengths to which Enid went and the subterfuges she descended to were particularly revolting. But they would certainly have been effective with anybody less attentive to detail than Mary.
It would be, I suppose, 1938, or possibly 1939, and probably in both, that a continuous deception was practised on her by Enid and Harley. When she and Bert Wiltshire went away for a holiday, Harley was strictly enjoined to allow no visitors in the house. As soon as they were away Enid, who was staying with a friend in Cheltenham, wrote to their holiday addresses saying her friend was ill, and that she was returning to Southsea. This she did, and a riotous time was enjoyed by all. But Harley left a letter lying about relating to a party, which Mary Greaves discovered on her return. Her suspicions aroused she made enquiries with a thoroughness which would have done credit to Sherlock Holmes and on Harley’s denying her accusations she produced the latter, several corks from the fireplace and the dustbin, and pointed to faint impressions left by glasses in the table cloth. Then she asked where Enid was. He replied that her friend having recovered she was back in Cheltenham, and showed a letter from her posted in Cheltenham on the previous day. Mary then showed him a letter from that same address declaring that Enid was not known there. Then he admitted she had gone to Germany with her future husband. Mary Greaves wrote to Harry Greaves [her brothe, and father to Enid and Harley] declaring this was indecent, and he wrote back saying that this was not unusual among girls in his office, and that he had given his consent. (Enid must have been over 21 at the time – perhaps I have not the chronology right). There was some hard hitting on both sides, but Mary was particularly irritated at finding a further letter which the state of her feelings seemed to entitle her to read, describing both her and Bert Wiltshire as “old-fashioned and narrow-minded”. The present position is that the husband expects to be sent abroad for Shell Mex and wants to take Enid with him. He also works at Ellesmere Port, but Daphne Greaves and Harry refused to let him stay with them. Now, making it clear how the modern tendency towards smaller families must reduce quarrels, Mary Greaves is also dissatisfied with Harry and Daphne because they visited her only for one day and spent the bulk of their holiday with the American consul, who has now retired and lives on Hayling Island.
Phyllis herself has been at the YHA [Youth Hostel Association] camp at Besancon in France. She enjoyed herself, but was glad of a square meal on her return to England. She does not appear to have learned much about the political situation, and now that she is nearly 30, I can see more clearly why Esther Henrotte said of her that she would never be a leader. She is intelligent, but is essentially a spectator, and has no real ambition, or if she has will not work for it. She talks about becoming a Youth Hostel Warden. But I don’t think there is much danger. The shade of HAT [Hilda Taylor, maternal aunt]may be powerful in her, but the more mercenary spirit of Mary Greaves is more powerful still, fortunately.
The regional secretary, a railway worker from Swindon, a man of about 24 years of age, was there. He is having difficulties with his three hostels, and the new Sutton Veny is not well enough known to have attracted many people. It is situated at Longbridge Deverill. Phyllis made a great impression with her international card, and French badges. She is cycling to Gloucester tomorrow, then returning to Liverpool, staying two days there and then going for a tour of the Highlands of Scotland. She will have spent six weeks travelling!
July 28 Sunday (Warminster/Portsmouth): I accompanied Phyllis to Warminster, and then set off Southwards again, over the hills to Hinton and Winton, Salisbury, Southampton and Portsmouth – as I intended cycling all the way and rain was threatening. However I had a puncture at Tichfield, managed to reach Fareham, and then took the train. Bert Wiltshire and I mended the puncture by 2 pm. but I decided to stay the night.
On Tuesday week they are going to Liverpool, whence they will go to Coniston for a week with CEG and AEG. For reasons best known to herself Mary Greaves wishes to travel on the Tuesday after Bank Holiday. “This is rather a crowded time,” I said as Phyllis had said. “Yes,” said she to Phyllis, “But don’t say that to your uncle. He wants to go on the Wednesday.” She told me the story of the great downpour on Friday, describing the rain pouring in “bucket-fulls” through the roof of Bulls, and the girls drenched to the skin (and having to go away and change) heroically struggling to remove bales of cloth. Phyllis told me that this story was still in process of growing. She had been there, and a few drops came through on to a roll (not a bale) of cloth and the girl had only wet her sleeves. But Mary declared that it had been the “worst rain ever”.
July 29 Monday (Portsmouth/London): I left Portsmouth early and reached London by 9 am. There was an Irish Committee meeting in the evening.
August 1 Thursday: I have now begun writing the second poem of my series of four long ones, “Evening and Morning,” and this is occupying my time on much the same scale as the last did. Either I have lost fluency, or am more critical –writing is much slower than it was years ago, though on the other hand, now I write and re-write often thirty times till it is night, whereas then I relied primarily on inspiration and let it lead me where it would.
August 2 Friday: I rang up CEG [his father] to find out the position over the Bank Holiday. He told me that Victor Taylor and his wife were staying with them, but Phyllis is away, touring North-West Scotland. I decided to go there, but to leave the actual journey till tomorrow. The weather does not augur well, and I must confess that my attempts to apply sunspot theories to this country in particular have not met with a resounding degree of success.
August 3 Saturday (Liverpool): I cycled from Crewe to Chester and took the train from Chester to Rock Ferry, taking the opportunity to cross the Peckforton hills, which I had not been on before – I saw them from the air, and did not recognize them, and no wonder as they are red sandstone scrub on top, but gentle wooded hills below. Then Victor Taylor and Edith his wife arrived. They have Edith Taylor’s mother living with them now. She had lived with Edith’s brother, but he is reported to have treated her very badly, confining her to one room in the house, and preventing her from going out. In the end she wired and asked Edith to take her away, which they did. Since then her son has not written to her. But now she is installed at Victor’s she refuses to go out, says she never wants to see Liverpool any more, and when they invited her to go a ride in the car she looks at them very suspiciously and says, “Hm! So you want to dump me somewhere!” Victor made a good impression on CEG. “Decent fellow, Vic!” said he, and then explained how he had brought him a dozen eggs, tomatoes, chocolate and goodness knows what. “He can come again!” said CEG with a smile. It is very amusing how delighted he is to get the food he likes given him. To receive a pound of sugar is a major joy. He has, I hear from AEG, been better lately, in health and in temper, though he still has brushes with Phyllis – for all that he proudly told all Prenton of her bold doings in France. AEG thought that Victor and Edith were uncertain of their reception, and ascribed that to RAT’s machinations. That lady has already unburdened herself to ADT. Having occupied 124 Mount Road in the flying bomb days and felt no gratitude, she spends her spare gossiping time blackening her benefactors. But when I arrived they were arranging the music, and soon Victor was playing his flute with AEG accompanying.
Then they told us of things in New Zealand. Ethel’s son is 16 years old and wants to be a chemist! Hilda Taylor is still in Australia, as is Bertha. Ethel records with perturbation in a letter to ADT that her hair is going grey, “Is yours?” she asks, and AEG [Amy Elisabeth Greaves, née Taylor, his mother], who is the eldest and best preserved. tries to hide a sneaking satisfaction that hers is only tinged with it here and there on the outside. Aubrey lives with them, is a male nurse, and married. The youngest son, John, aged 15, is in bed there three months with a strained heart, due, they think, to wild riding of his recently acquired bicycle – though I doubt it. I forget what they said had happened to Derek. Victor Taylor’s business has been doing well during the war, and his house is now well away from it, in Addington. Stewart Peachey lives above the shop, but he has a very expensive wife, and according to Victor, he is not to be relied upon, except, fortunately, for the rent.
August 4 Sunday: I read “I Promessi Sposi” and then Aragon’s “Aurelien” in the morning, and in the afternoon CEG drove me to West Kirby where we walked round the lake, watched the yachting and slipping on seaweed into the water, then drove on to Thurston where we climbed on the hill. It was very clear, with the Snowden range clearly defined. Coming back we could see Helsby and Rivington Pike, and anticipated rain. CEG observed that Mary Greaves had made a great point in her letter of “we’re coming on Tuesday. The crowds will have disappeared then.” CEG is conducting a big massed choirs event shortly in Birkenhead, but most of his attention is centred on his voyage to America next year. Victor Taylor and Edith went to see Harry McMath, their Uncle (who is even younger than AEH) and other relatives of Edith’s and friends of Victor in Bromborough. I used to think Edith Taylor brainless and feather-brained. But when one looks over her whole career, she has been a quite exceptionally good wife. She went to China, and then came back to serve in a fish-shop. She helped him to build up his business and was very popular among the customers, with whom her quiet, slow, capacious manner and patience was preferred to Victor Taylor’s stormier temperament, and if nature did not bestow intelligence, or a Catholic education now forgotten provide knowledge, years seem to have brought a certain level-headed wisdom, which is companionable and pleasant.
August 5 Monday (LIverpool/Northwich/Crewe/London): Today AEG and CEG took Tom Fisher and his wife out in the car. I left before they went and cycled through the tunnel to Widnes, across the suspension bridge, to Northwich, Holmes Chapel, and finally through Sandbach to Crewe, whence I entrained for London. For the first time since before the war I was on a train which took less than 4 hours between Liverpool and London. Moreover, it had taken only 40 minutes to Crewe. There was rain, but only a few showers.
August 7 Wednesday: A meeting of the Irish Committee was held. Paddy Clancy, Flann Campbell and Maitland were present.
August 8 Thursday: In the morning JG Bennett rang me up. He said he had been told by Miss Dowsett that the chemists were “sitting around doing nothing, and refusing to move things till they had labourers.” He said he could hardly believe it. I said it was an outrageous statement, and that it came oddly from somebody who had never been in the laboratory. I then went to see her and tackled her. She said Derrick Walker, Parker and DB Smith had spent 10 minutes outside the canteen talking one day. I replied that I had observed it on one occasion, that the muddle created by Bethune and Foster in moving a bit of each department’s goods instead of taking them one by one, had left them for the moment with nothing to do, and that I had arranged for tea to be brought into the lab. Then she admitted that the others she had seen belonged to Philpotts’ and Budden’s staff! But Baring also gives vent to ill-tempered criticisms. Yet everybody has been working like slaves – unpacking boxes, making benches, sawing timber, carrying benches, erecting shelves, all without manual workers to help. I wonder what is behind this whispering campaign.
August 9 Friday: I did not have time to wait for the Executive of the Connolly Association which began late. I met Beatrice Browne, in pouring torrents, who told me that the Dublin Central Labour Party is not expelled but disaffiliated on the grounds that it is non-residential [During World War 2 the communists in Southern Ireland worked through the Irish Labour Party and those in Dublin were in the non-territorial Dublin Central Branch of that party]. I said that it might be no harm to distribute its members round the other groups. But she criticises Nolan [Sean Nolan, leading Dublin communist], says that he refused to defend Celia Prendergast, who was “driven out of the party by Betty Sinclair“[Elizabeth (Betty) Sinclair, 1910-1981, leading Belfast communist, secretary of the Belfast Trades Council 1947-1975, founder member of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association,1967]. They are all fighting on personal issues. But now, she says, Nolan is forming a “Connolly Club.” I’m suspicious of it. Oddly enough both they and McCullough [William McCullough, Belfast communist trade union leader] tell Irishmen emigrating to England not to join the Connolly Association, but to work with the party. Irish consistency! For all that there is plenty of good material if only somebody would set himself the task of unifying it and giving it a common policy and organisation and – above all – tactics.
August 10 Saturday: I received a call from Alan Morton in the evening. He said that Freda had written Molly Marshall a letter advising her not to run away with this impossible René of hers, who, crazy youth (youth, I say, he is older than I am, I do believe!), is still in love with her, but to “think of the children”. The letter was quite cleverly constructed in the style of “Peg’s Paper,” for Alan thinks that Molly’s incurable romanticism responds to lavish melodrama. It did. Molly said that if Freda was not a very dear friend she would tell her to mind her own business. But for all that, they think she may listen. Alan thinks that the idea of romantic love lasting over years is a falsification of real human relationships. There is much in what he says. He thinks that people act in the way the romantic press prescribes for them, and that this explains much of the silliness that goes on. How far the one causes the other, is however, still capable of further ratiocination.
August 11 Sunday: I saw Paddy Clancy in the morning and spoke with him and Barr in Hyde Park in the afternoon. New hecklers are there, but we scattered them, and Quinn is busy causing mischief, but is too afraid to come near us! Barr gave up his real and morganatic marriages and came to London for love of a third lady who promptly jilted him. So he took a job in Southend, washing up plates in a cafe! The conditions were bad so he became an attendant at a fair ground. Again conditions were bad. He called a strike and all the men on the switchback were sacked on the spot. Again he started in a restaurant as a waiter. Then Flann Campbell found him a job opposite our works in Battersea, where I met him last week, repairing houses, as a builder’s labourer. He told the restaurant keeper he was leaving.
“Five pounds a week,” said his employer.
“What? You won’t take a ten bob rise?”
“The other job is clerical.”
“Oh! What kind? Oh! you know, noting stuff down as it comes in and goes out.”
“Well, Barr. Come with me. . . .Here’s the very job. I need a clerk. £6 a week. Now, Mr Barr, here’s your office.”
“I’d like it,” said Barr, “But the other man’s a friend of mine and I’ve promised.” “So”, adds Barr, “I now realize at 39 what most youngsters learn at 19, that bluff pays when dealing with capitalists.”
After that we went to Molly O’Leary’s social, and a dreary affair it was. All they did was to play guessing games out of a book, and dance the Siege of Ennis.
August 12 Monday: I happened to go into DB Foster’s office in the morning and saw Bethune himself, Baring and Miss Dowsett crowding along his table, and Budden standing at the end. All had serious and intent faces, and Budden was saying, “I don’t mind them coming in late if they go late”. . . and more of the like. “My old boss used to say,” said Foster, “that it couldn’t be unpunctuality, as they were all punctual at 5.30 pm!” General laughter.
“Well, I think they should clock on,” said Budden.
“Yes. Why not?” asked Foster and to me – “We’re talking about bad time-keeping among the juniorstaff.”
He gave the word junior a special stress, as I am in possession of a note saying that I am not expected to keep strict times – a very useful note!
“Why not?” echoed, or rather chimed, Bethune.
“It’s the only way,” said Miss Dowsett, thin-faced, thin-lipped, mousy and sharp.
“Well,” I said, “They’ll object to it.”
“Why should they?” asked Foster, “Clock on or sign on?”
“It’s a matter of status. If you put a book in the lab they would object less. But they won’t like it.”
“If you put a book in the lab you rely on their honesty,” said Miss Dowsett.
“You rely on that in any case,” I replied with a sly emphasis, “as to whether they do anything useful when they get here. Moreover if you forfeit their cooperation and goodwill, you lose more one way than the other.”
“Yes. I agree,” said Baring.
“Why should they object to clocking in?” asked Foster.
“You would,” somebody said, so they decided to “issue a warning”. Then Foster suggested “putting weekly people on the clock.” “That will affect Derrick Walker,” I said. “Oh. I’ll talk to him,” said Foster, meaning no doubt that he would tell him that he will go into the army. “For after all,” said he, “the worst that can happen is that they will all go and get other jobs.” Why this sudden feeling of independence?
In the evening I saw Drinkwater. He told me that John Lancaster is working at Aluminium Plant and Vessel Co. together with Brinsley. Ron Spencer is married and in the army in Germany. AMcTh is in India. Drinkwater works for ICI [Imperial Chemicals]. His brother was with him, asking me to introduce him to Pat Dooley who might help him to get a job. I wrote to Dooley, who having recently borrowed a pound off me, might be in a frame of mind to help.
Then late on Gerard Curran came. He is thinking of writing poetry. He has got a job as an invoice clerk. Doran cannot decide whether to leave also and go with him. But Doran is a strong Catholic and afraid of hell and purgatory.
August 13 Tuesday: I heard from Bloomfield about Miss Dowett’s indiscretion. When Summers the Lab. steward left she told him that there must be considerably greater reductions in expenditure, and that she had told JG Bennett that unless this was done she would resign, as the Board’s decisions were not being carried out. He promised to go into the matter again on his return. Her argument is that our lab is still overstaffed and that its personnel must be reduced to four. What is happening is that in order to finance mechanical and production work which the Board does not want, and to carry innumerable Yogi executives at huge salaries [A reference to JG Bennett’s interest in the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky theosophical system], the research money is being diverted, by a system of false costing. I told Miss Dowsett this, yesterday. She laughed, “So you’ve noticed it too!” So when I went in the office I said, “We saw Summers.”
“When is Mr Bennett coming back?”
“Oh. Yes – Yes – Summers said he’d had a talk with you.”
And then I went out leaving a very sheepish Miss Dowsett. I judged it a good scheme to begin a war of nerves, but the only thing I can think of is to abandon the permanent lab, sell the fittings and use the money using this one.
August 14 Wednesday: In the morning I was further informed by Bloomfield and others of the impossibility of doing any further work without equipment, and that though there had been an improvement this week, we still awaited necessities. I went down to tell Foster of this, and in his very cramped office whose table takes up almost all the room, leaving a space for him to squeeze himself into by the window, another space opposite where Miss Head sits with a drawing board always apparently about to slip off its easel on to her head, I espied him with her, and three others, sitting along the side of the table, almost pushed under it – Bethune, Baring, wearing his Etonian tie, and Miss Dowsett. They all looked so serious as to approach tears! Budden was standing by the easel gesticulating, an expression of Yankee determination on his horsy, slightly effeminate, slightly sophisticated, definitely aristocratic face as he said, “I don’t mind them coming in a few minutes late, but this kind of thing has got to stop.” Apparently, I guessed, my attacks on Miss Dowsett have borne fruit. She has admitted that it was Budden’s, not my, people who were “slack”.
“Come in, Greaves,” said Foster, “We’re just discussing the problem of timekeeping among the juniorstaff.” One could notice the special stress on junior.
“I think they should clock on,” said Budden.
“Yes! Why not?” said Foster as if the idea was new to him.
“Why not,” boomed Bethune, without conviction, feeling or surprise. His was no interrogative but a statement of fact which needed no rhetorical flourish to establish it.
“Why not?” squeaked Miss Dowsett, as if the hounds of hell were ready to tear her to pieces for this sacrilege. “Well,” said I, “I can tell you free of charge that they won’t like it.”
“I agree with Greaves,” said Baring smiling a little. “I think you’ll get some indignation on the subject.”
“Well, that may be,” said Budden impatiently, “But we’ve got to have a check. They must sign on or something.”
“Well,” said I, “that’s better. They’ll not like it. But if there was a book in the laboratory. . . “
“Oh. Yes,” said Miss Dowsett, “But then you are dependent on their honesty.”
“You are dependent on their honesty already if you only knew it,” I retorted, “among other things regarding whether they do any work when they get here. Again you are dependent on their good will and cooperation as to whether they do work of any value or quality. You are running the risk of forfeiting that cooperation.”
“I still think they should clock on,” said Budden.
“Why not!” Foster was rapidly reconverted after a moment’s wavering, “After all the worst that can happen is that they will all go away and get other jobs.”
“That’s just what they will do,” I informed him, “It’s a recipe for clearing the place.”
“That’s quite true,” said Baring, “there is supposed to be a stigma attached to it,”
“Well,” said Foster, “make the weekly staff clock on. That means the office girls, the typists – if you explained it to them would they object?” he asked Miss Dowsett.
“Of course not.”
“How would that be for you?” he asked me.
“It only affects one person – Walker.”
“Well, I’ll have a talk to him and see what he says.”
“I can tell you that now.”
“Well, you see, I’ll talk it over with him,”
That meant that he would threaten to withdraw his reservation and let him be put in the army.
Then I persuaded some labourers and mechanics out of them and I told Bloomfield and Parker what had happened. The present organisation resembles the Peruvian navy. There are plenty of admirals but no men. We have one director, and three managers, but only one labourer, one carpenter, and one electrician. The building is old and delapidated. Having originally been a laundry, and then been divided into three distinct factories, then recombined and subjected to interminable rearrangements, it is subdivided by innumerable internal walls, and its separate parts are re-integrated by means of passages and bridges from storey to storey. Where inside staircases would cause infringements on privacy fire-escapes were built, but in places they were removed again and doors gaped open to nothingness from twenty feet above ground level, and bolts and bars kept them rusted closed as soon as the fact was discovered. Through this labyrinth a continual stream of traffic comes through our laboratory. Baring assured us that this transit would not be allowed. Foster insisted on it. When more things are stolen than have gone already, no doubt a wave of compunction will sweep him the other way, and some new fantastic proposals will be made.
August 15 Thursday: In the morning I attacked Miss Dowsett again and told her that a great deal of dissatisfaction existed, and that some of the staff would soon be wishing to leave. This was due to the uncertainties, the dismissals and the erratic nature of the management. She said that in May arrangements were made to keep the present establishment. But people were retained in spite of this, with the result that further retrenchment still becomes necessary. I then told her I knew what she had told Summers and said I would have to talk to JG Bennett. Then I went away.
About five minutes later a phone call from Foster asked me to go and see him. As I went out DB Smith told me that he intended to give notice today. He told me timidly as if conscious of the weightiness of the decision. When I reached Foster he was seated with Miss Dowsett and Miss Head was in her place by the drawing board. Foster tried to be very managerial, but kept collapsing. I told him that indiscretions circulated as rumours. He said he was working on budgets and wanted a reorientation of the work to become more directly concerned with practical problems. But he feared that JG Bennett would insist on fundamental research being done. I then proposed that they should let the huge new laboratory they have furnished at great expense, but cannot use till the Board of Trade licenses the mending of its roof.
“It would break Bennett’s heart!” said Foster – so he like the dilettante he is spends a thousand pounds on a laboratory, and then cannot pay the people to work in it, but insists on having his toy.
In the afternoon I went to the Statistical Society and finished the 1901 census figures. On my return to Battersea Bloomfield informed me that Foster had virtually put him in charge of all motor-brush work. He also asked him if he was interested in it. “Well, it’s hardly my line of business.” “Well,” said Foster, quite irrelevantly if his last question had any significance, and he had listened to or cared about the reply, “There are three things, first we can use trial and error, second we can try to find out how other people do it, and third we can try to work out the theory and then at the end say, ‘That’s the way to do it.’ Now we intend to use the last method.” He then invited Bloomfield to go with them to Cramptons next Wednesday, and I asked him to delay them as much as possible, as I have an appointment with Jimmy Shields and want to get away unseen. I have however got Bloomfield some “Sigler firings” work and this is providing an alibi for some of the brush work.
All evening I spent on the statistics. I may observe that this month I have been almost completely free from arthritis, even in the foul weather we are having. I have also felt more energy. Perhaps I am getting over the war. But though I start my holiday next week, I feel, for the first time for years – since 1940 perhaps – that I could do without it if necessary. I shall enjoy it the more for that, no doubt. There is a strange knowledge the nervous system has, when the organism is functioning properly, and on the few occasions I still have a twinge, I feel a reaction against it which would only be possible when without knowing it I regard the pain as an intrusion.
August 16 Friday: Last night Foster was strangely affable. At midday Friday he saw me waiting to go and, slapping me on the back in great artificial bonhomie he called, “Well, now, Greaves old boy – can I give you a lift to town?” I accepted. Then he told me that he had various alternatives in his reorganization scheme which he does not expect Bennett to approve. One was to transfer my staff to projects, leaving me very little. Another was to dismiss them and engage new ones. A third was to close down the projects section and hand the extrusion and brushes to me, and the metallurgical and mechanical to Elliot. Some fundamental work would continue. The result of it would be, I reflected, to strengthen Budden by making him in fact the research manager, for he would have no laboratory of his own. On the other hand it would also strengthen me, as I could find out much about the engineering side which would be invaluable if I left Delanium, which I shall do before too long. So I said I agreed in principle. I know how to cheat Budden. But Foster has other things in mind which I await. One great joke, which shows how far from possessing the slightest knowledge of management he is, was enjoyed by everybody who saw a card in the rack labelled DB Foster. He is clocking himself in and out. Doubtless he thinks he will then be able to say, “Well, I do it, why can’t you?” But the very unilateral nature of the thing made people suspicious. It led to suspicions in quarters previously free from them, and not only where they have been entertained already. The physics department saw in it a cunning “thin end of the wedge” and Settler, one of Budden’s young men, came up to the chemical laboratory to enquire about membership of the AScW. Parker thinks they will probably all join.
I saw Ollernshaw at 2.0 pm. and he thinks that Central Books will distribute our stuff [ie. the book of vers,e “By the Clock ‘Tis Day”, written jointly with Alan Morton].
Then when I got back to Battersea Kramers from BCURA came in to see me. I was glad to see him. He is very fresh, simple and sensitive. He brought compliments from Marcello Pirani. Bingham is the great “director of research” there now, but Pirani is content as he does not like administration. They never see the director, Townsend, who seems a pretty worthless specimen on the whole. I told Kramers about the position here and allowed him to receive the impression that I was not too pleased with it all. Atkins is still there, as also Weil. RH Smith is with Thompson. McKee is married and his wife having a baby. Their laboratory, for eight of them, is no more than twice as big as my office. But then I have to have room for all the nonsense, which though invisible is there just the same, and occupies space.
I spent the evening again on the statistics.
August 17 Saturday (London/St Albans): I went to Battersea in the morning. I learned how DB Smith got his new job. “Have you had any experience of high pressure work?” he was asked. “Yes.” “What?” “Oh – Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Argon and so on” – he had actually screwed in the regulators and turned the valves of cylinders containing these gases. But he complains of the “jiggery-pokery” which goes on at Delanium! All’s fair in love and war. I got Foster thoroughly excited about pilfering, and he called in the gateman, ordered new locks and made a list of regulations, all of which, if they are not countermanded by Bennett, will be quickly forgotten. There is a portcullis under which lorries can be loaded, and this can be pulled up from the inside. This must now be locked. “But what about fire?” So we are to have keys in sealed glass cases which can be obtained by breaking the glass. But then they espied a large square parcel addressed by Samuel to somebody in North London. What was in it? Poor Samuel had to explain it contained AScW literature which he is sending to the new secretary. So now the gateman is to ask everybody what they have in their parcels. “But what of attache cases? You can’t examine those every day.” “From time to time.” Anything to block the fact that you do rely on people’s honesty, and then give them every inducement to be dishonest. But as I went I heard him talking with Payne about closing the door I want closed, so perhaps I may get my way, or failing it the onus is on him.
Leaving Battersea after lunch I went to St Albans to see Alan Morton. Freda expects a new child at Xmas. Young John is getting daily bigger and more articulate. He has learned the periphrastic past and future, and on one occasion used the first person singular.
In the early evening we went to see the Abbey Church of St Albans. “How peaceful it is!” said one of their friends as he looked at the wide lawn in front, the river Ver below, and the wooded hills beyond Verulanium. Yet it was for centuries the centre of the bitterest class struggle. The whole of the monastery was pulled down but for the gate. The place was stormed during the peasant revolt, John Ball himself being present. “And here’s another peaceful little spot!” said Alan showing me a disused graveyard full of yews, overgrown bushes and exotic cedars. There was a tablet on the door: “On this spot George Tankerfield was burned at the stake in the year 1555.” The burnt out volcanoes of class struggle retain the same picturesqueness as the extinct cones of Kilimanjaro or Vesuvius. We saw the fourteenth century houses and then returned through the park where John watches the trains for hours on end, and so back for dinner.
Freda told me that Ingram Knowles intends to get rid of Molly Marshall. She is too late to repent. Apparently he pays all expenses and allows her £40 per month. She is spending £60 from a joint banking account. Now he intends to start a separate account over which she will have no control, for he suspects her of financing her lover. René has been in a prisoner of war camp for 6 years, and the natural nostalgia for pre-war romance rudely broken off may explain her willingness to continue an absurd romantic liaison.
August 18 Sunday: In the morning, to the accompaniment of tears from John who did not want us to leave him, Alan and I went to Harpenden where I went over the experimental farm. I was very interested in the Broad Bank wilderness, a strip of land sown with wheat from 1839 to 1882, and then allowed to revert to woodland scrub. Near, there is a Roman temple, incompletely excavated. This must have been in the depths of the forest at that time, though possibly there were rides, or a clearing. Alan is studying leaf growth in sugar beet. He is very happy here and is free from the constant irritations of industrial life.
After lunch with Freda and John, we went to Verulanium, another extinct volcano, by the working of analogous law transformed into a recreation ground. It is a superb situation. One looks across the lake dotted with swans to the wooded hill above which the majestic square romanesque tower of the cathedral stands sharply defined, with its almost perceptible striation of Roman tiles. We looked at the wall, the site of the forum, and then went round the theatre, a most interesting monument, and well worth the visit. Then we visited the museum, and walking back crossed the grass where the drying out which takes place as summer progresses had revealed the lines of the buildings and streets. I expressed surprise at their long survival. Alan assured me however that many of these buildings were standing a hundred years ago, or at least 200, and that cartloads of the Roman bricks were taken away to build roads. It was the industrial revolution which severed the link between us and our history, and made British culture a purely bourgeois thing. Its destructiveness is unimaginable. These buildings lasted centuries, and it was felt that we were still essentially part of the same civilization. But the link is snapped now, and that is why we are interested to preserve, restore, and interpret. If the Germans possessed a thing like that theatre, we should never hear the end of it.
After dinner I went to the station, but after waiting till long after the train was due, I heard an announcement that the E27 had developed engine trouble. By good fortune the Glasgow-St Pancras express stops to set down only. They stopped long enough for us to board it. So all was well.
August 19 Monday: The general atmosphere of intrigue thickens at Delanium, and one could no doubt receive ghosts from Synthetic Oils, animate them, and take them for Baring, DB Foster, and so on. Samuel wants his ball mills set up. I tell Foster that they are essential for motor-brush mixes. He immediately sends a man to do the job. I go back to the lab. and meet Samuel in great excitement. Baring has told him that the air-raid shelters are to be let to BISRA whose chief physicist is – whom do you think? – Thring! (Perhaps Thring is living at Coombe [where managing director JG Bennett was starting a theosophical colony – Ed.] I think GC Philpotts is! ) So I went to Baring. He confirmed that Samuel’s stuff goes into King’s coal store. But I demand to see it. “Yes. It will do very well. But we must have a partition here and electric powers there.” “Oh! That is difficult; that will take time.”
“Oh Well – put it in the air-raid shelter temporarily.”
So Baring is willing to do temporarily what he will not do permanently, and Samuel is satisfied. The new laboratory we are to have is still empty, its furniture made but not installed. The roof has to be mended and the floor laid, and there is not yet even a license for mending the roof. Baring estimates January at least. But JG Bennett has promised our present accommodation to BISRA on September 1st. Heaven knows where we shall go next. It is proposed therefore to chase Budden out of a part of his present laboratory, and to place Thring in two rooms on either side of a carbon fabricating shop!
In the afternoon a meeting was held: Bennett, Foster, Bethune, Budden, Elliot, and Miss Dowsett. Bennett outlined the proposals to abolish Budden’s project department and to make Bloomfield responsible for brushes, Parker for extrusion, under me, and Fowler for metallurgical work, and Segler mechanical work under Elliot. We should then have each a small fundamental-research group, mine linked to Samuel and analysis, Elliot’s to testing.
“What do you think?” Bennett asked Elliot.
“I’d like to talk it over with Greaves and Budden.”
“Talk it over now.”
“Well what’s wrong with the present arrangement?”
“The projects are not progressing. Nobody is responsible for seeing the whole thing through.” He then asked me what I thought.
“I agree with it,” I replied, very slowly.
“Have you anything more than that?”
“Yes. When we come to talk of operating it.” So there was more talk, and we came to questions of operation.
“Do you think it is better?” asked Foster.
“Caelum non animam mutant qui trans mare currunt,” I replied. The staff went somewhere else but remained the same in number and quality. They all laughed, and Bennett in an effort to prove that something decisive had been done, drew a little diagram in which he showed Budden as research manager looking after two sections, mine and Elliott’s, which he called physics and chemistry. Then Bloomfield grew excited and said he objected to them being called physics and chemistry. “It is all projects!” he declared. “I want to abolish this specialization.” I quickly realised that here was not the harmless creature one might have thought him – not in intention anyway, and Elliott’s pathetic uneasiness, his enquiries as to whether it was a research company any more, and so on, became very understandable. Then it was proposed that Bloomfield should work for Elliott and Foster for me, and that Bloomfield should have four physicist assistants. Things began to look serious. I wondered whether to acquiesce now and manoeuvre afterwards, but quickly realized that if I did not fight now I should not be able to do so later. I must isolate Budden, and I must discover insuperable obstacles to this new arrangement. Budden was delighted at his prospects and expanded. I let Elliott fight him.
Then the question of pressing facilities came up. Budden demanded a complete set of independent ones. I then showed this would conflict with Bethune and Philpotts, now together. What of Philpotts’ research work? I saw Bethune begin to oppose the notion of Budden having control of furnaces and proposed the complete abolition of Philpott’s department. Foster and Budden took it up enthusiastically and Bennett, in favour of it, brought Philpotts into the meeting. I heard only two words from Bethune and became completely convinced of the justice of his cause, and thus there were two more besides Elliott ranged against the innovators. While Philpotts defended his rights very successfully I wrote down all the objections I could think of to the scheme, and arranged them according to their demagogic or diplomatic values: (1) The corpse of the research company was now being buried. This only worried Elliott. (2) Budden was proposing the abolition of the chemistry department. (3) The new arrangement would put chemists under physicists and vice versa and thus lead to confusion, discontent, and delay, more especially in the motor-brush programme. This last objection epitomised the others, so I said that I felt the time had come to state that the reorganisation scheme did not impress me one little bit. I then drew attention to Budden’s proposal to abolish the chemistry laboratory. He denied any such intention. “But you want to put chemists under physicists and vice versa.”
“I want to get away from this specialization,” he repeated. It was then that Phllpotts leaned forward to him and in a most caustic voice said, “Oh! Why? So as to get everything into your own hands?” The remark was ignored, but was received sympathetically by Bethune, and even Foster sensed a faint warning. I raised my tone to bold challenge, doubled my demands, because now Budden was completely isolated, for Bennett had to leave the room.
“It will do chemists no harm to learn a little physics!”
“We are not an educational establishment.”
“Well probably the logical thing is to sack some of the scientists and engage press operators,” said Budden, playing as he thought his trump card
“Well. If that is logical let us do it,” I said.
“It’s rather hard on the scientists,” said Budden.
“Oh really?” I said witheringly. “Many of them want to go as it is. Young Moss has bets on with DB Smith as to who will get away first. It would be best to sack them now, as there are plenty of jobs to go to.”
“What? Sack the scientists!” said Bennett, who now came in.
“No. Budden wants that,” I said. He looked quite sheepish as Bennett proved by enquiring whether we needed press operators and so on that this was a silly proposal. I then had Bennett away from him, and he had lost even his irritation and was realizing that he was out-manoeuvred. I got Foster to agree that Bloomfield stayed with me, but he insisted on the electrical testers being with him. Budden’s notion was that Bloomfield would spend much of his time in the physics laboratory. Elliott wanted the testers under him. But Bennett turning to Budden said, “You don’t mind if Bloomfield stays with Greaves?” Since he had agreed to it with Foster, he did not now object. And then he said that he thought the testers should stay with Elliott. So Budden finished in a minority of one, and stalked off, very dissatisfied. But now came the rub. Bennett decided to let the matter lie for a week – I shall then be away. Worse, Parker is away, and Bloomfield is weak as water. Foster told me privately that he thought I would get my way. He now agreed. I then told him that I would have told him how to make his motor-brushes, if I had been asked. Then I saw Philpotts. Parker some days ago told me that Philpotts was jealous of Budden and was saying, “Yes. He’s the blue-eyed boy, Dr Budden who can do no wrong, the most efficient member of the staff!” Now Philpotts said, “Anybody can see what he’s doing. Baring has seen through him. And wasn’t Bethune clever where he was asked if he minded Budden’s boys using his machine.”(Bethune had said, “Not in the least”, much to Budden’s disgust.) So I told Philpotts (knowing that he was a drainpipe carrying gossip direct to JG Bennett) of Gordon-Smith’s complaints, how Budden had prevented him from doing any work and deprived him of his job by refusing to delegate anything (Elliott is rather worried at Gordon-Smith’s experience). And I told Philpotts what Gordon-Smith had said, that Budden was an enthusiastic young man who made himself busy with a large number of things, all of which he did very superficially.
I was very pleased with this afternoon’s work whatever the ultimate result may be, because it is the first time at one of these meetings that I have played my cards in the proper order and according to plan. I can see more clearly now how Marcello Pirani got his own way. The secret is to lead them on in their own silly proposals until they become tied up in the very contradictions they have started. Today there was much talk of “horizontal” and “vertical” organization. It kept them busy for a long time, and helped Budden to talk nonsense on which he could be caught out. After the meeting Elliott wanted to talk with me, but I hadn’t time. I have a fear he was at Cambridge with Budden. But he wants a safe job and it would be easy to scare him into taking an anti-Budden line – or even leaving the job! But we must have him in the AScW first. I would certainly not put it past Budden to deal directly with Elliott’s projects men, and being a physicist himself, get rid of Elliott in the next “save money!” scare. It is not so easy for him to do this to me, because of my contacts and long establishment. But I have no doubt he would like to do so, and his schemes for virtual fusion and confusion of the laboratories aim at making himself the sole arbiter. I am very interested to know what happens when you do various things in this type of situation. The parvenu manager is a familiar problem, as he usually tries to get rid of all other powers capable of eclipsing his own.
In the evening Paddy Clancy called on me. Mrs Terence MacSweeney [Muriel MacSwiney, widow of the Lord Mayor of Cork who died on hunger strike during the Irish War of Indepencence; she had adopted radical leftwing views] has joined the Connolly Association, and addressed for a few minutes a meeting of Cork workers in Dagenham.
August 20 Tuesday: There was another “slant”, as the journalists say, on the re-organisation from Bloomfield. He tells me that Budden looks very worried. I ask him why he should be. The answer is that when the last motor-brush discussion was held DB Foster said, “Well. It can’t be worse than it is. Now look, I’m going to take it right out of your hands, Budden, and give it to Bloomfield.” But as so often happens, Budden’s incompetence leads to a strengthening of his administrative position. I am thinking of writing a novel of industrial life, and all this is an excellent field of study. Of course the ghosts of Synthetic Oils rise up and occupy the bodies of the living. But I am now in a better position to experiment!
I had a talk with GC Philpotts. He says that in his opinion “Budden is trying to run the whole show,” and the proposals that he should have a partial control of the presses etc. have infuriated both Philpotts and Bethune. Both Bethune and Miss Dowsett are of the same opinion, said Philpotts. Later Parker came to me. “There’s Philpotts,” he said, breathing fire and slaughter against Budden!”
August 21 Wednesday: I saw Elliot for a few minutes. He was bewailing the lack of definition. He fills his little notebooks with particulars of all that is said at each meeting, and since he records all, he gets every variety of decision linked, and then has the painful task of selection. “Why can’t people’s functions be clearly defined?” he asked. He is new to industry, and the expression of bewilderment natural to him at all times is exaggerated by the circumstances.
I went to see Jimmy Shields in the afternoon. We reached complete agreement. His son, young Jimmy, was there, and he is confident of getting matriculation. I will try to get him a job at Delanium. Then Shields asked, “Is Parker with you?”
“What like of a workman is he?”
“Oh. Good! He stood for Hornsey – rather sectarian. He’s a slow thinker, I should think.”
In the evening I went to see Leslie Daiken. He opened the door, as he always does with a deafening “Shsssh! – Baby’s asleep”, fit to waken the dead, let alone a child. Then I asked him what terms he had from Central Books, and let him, intermittently, for his cloak drops from time to time, play the successful author introducing the neophyte, and he gave me a signed copy of “Signatures of all Things”.” He and his wife bargain over cigarettes like peasants selling horses. “Give me a fag!” says he, “I’ve got none.” “Yes, you have.” “I’ve not.” “What! Smoked the lot. No wonder you’ve a headache! Haven’t you got one!”(firmly) “I’ve got one myself.” “Well, let’s break it in two and share it.”
“But, Christ! I must smoke.”
“You’ll get none of mine” – and she took out a full packet of 20 and helped herself.
“Oh! Hell,” said he, “I’ll have to smoke my own!” – which he then proceeded to do!
August 22 Thursday: In the morning I heard of Bloomfield’s visit to Chelmsford to meet Astbury and Co. All the way there Budden and Foster were discussing a big factory for making motor-brushes. “Idris Jones and Hanon want it in South Wales,” said Foster.
“Oh! Hell!,” says Budden, “I’ve been looking for sites in the Portsmouth District.” (Budden lives at Portsmouth, and goes there every weekend.)
“Well,” says Foster, “I have the Brighton district in mind.” And then they went to Cramptons and the man who tests the brushes refused to run the test they wanted because there was no reason to think they would make a successful brush. On the way back Budden was asking about the book which Bennett is writing.
“Is it Physics?” asked Budden.
“Well, in a sense.”
“In a sense.”
“Well. I don’t really know.” Bloomfield gathered that Bennett dislikes the conflict (as he conceives it) between wave and crepuscular theories. He believes that this contradiction is removed if one postulates a “tangible fifth dimension.” The title of the book is therefore “The Physics of the Fifth Dimension”.
“Are you interested in all this?” asked Foster, as Bloomfield, seized with curiosity, said he was, and no doubt he will soon be invited to the Yogi meetings [J.G.Bennett wrote several theosophical books].
Then Professor Riley disturbed our musings. He told me that he had just been expert witness in a river pollution case in the Derwent. “But in spite of the physical production of 54 dead trout, we managed to get away with it.”
“Very good!” said Bennett.
“You see, I happen to know the chairman of the bench.”
He then produced a piece of paper on which he got Miss Murphy to type “CHOICE DOE” in black and “TASTY RAREBIT” in red. Parker was asked to get a glass rod and Bennett looked at the black words through the rod. He then looked at the red ones and rubbed his eyes, “Well, I’m blowed!”
I looked at it. The black ones were legible, but the red appeared inverted. What was the explanation? I rejected at once all I could think of. “One’s reflected, the other refracted” said Bennett. “Different coloured light,” said Elliott. “Refraction” said Budden. “Colour,” said Parker. “Yes,” said Riley, sarcastically, “Red and black light!” Then he explained that all the black letters were the same when inverted. Both were inverted by the lens, but the black appeared unchanged. When we explained our sulphuric-acid pitch process, he said, “Now that stuff would be good as a rubber extrusion.”
“Really!” said Bennet, pleased.
“If you like I could get it tested at Washington.”
“Well, don’t trouble,” said Bennett, “I know the Rubber Reearch Association.”
Washington is a company operating some of Riley’s patents, and the next proposal would be that the Pitch should be supplied by them according to his patent. This time the white-haired professor scarcely pretended to be disinterested. I got Bennett to ask Riley’s opinion about motor-brushes, and he had the sense to say it was a chemical problem, thus making his own consultancy more secure and helping to keep Bloomfield in the chemical department.
Then Philpotts told me something funny. A few weeks ago Bennett was driving his car to the Athenaeum for lunch, when as is his wont he pulled out into the centre of the road and constituted himself a third line of traffic. A policeman stopped him. Usually he apologises and says “Damn me! I amso sorry! How could I have done that?” This time he said, “Can’t you see I’m in a hurry to get to lunch? Get away you meddling busybody!” The policeman left him alone. He did the same thing again, and another policeman stopped him. This one refused to be intimidated even by Mr Bennett in a temper. He demanded his license, covered with endorsements for speeding, dangerous driving and suchlike. Then to ruin everything, the first policeman strolled up. They compared notes, and now Bennett must face a complicated charge in the police-courts, which contains all but the actual words “insulting the police”.
August 23 Friday: The meeting which was held in the morning I was able to escape from, and to deliver Bloomfield to it. They are loading him with honours in the expectation of inducing him to join the Yogi society. This same society has (for the good of its souls) been putting JG Bennett’s house at Coombe Springs to rights. It must be a very labour-saving society to run. In the afternoon I went to the meeting, and Budden proposed that I prepare a programme (like Elliot). I protested as I realise the need to fight now so as to get the best balance vivendi. It was agreed to defer it, but since an interim programme came from the typists just in time, the whole thing was withdrawn.
I told Derrick Walker I had met Buck, my former assistant at Catalin, in the tube. He is now 18, and an apprentice. Apley is there. They work with Resorinos, and the colours of their resins are fading much to Apley’s disgust as he has to work on them. Shaw is still there and as sly as ever!
I then took the train to Liverpool after packing the minimum of clothes and maps into a rucksack, taking the bicycle.
August 24 Saturday (Liverpool, Dreen, Co Derry): I saw CEG, AEG, Mary Greaves, Bert Wiltshire and Phyllis, who is 30 today. They had had a holiday in the Lake District and Mary is sufficiently resigned to their going to America alone that she is lending them her trunk, and bringing it up at Xmas when she hopes to have a grand family reunion, her goodwill towards all men including even Harry Greaves and his wife, who are to be invited. Apparently they all went to tea there last week, and the rift is somewhat healed. Enid Greaves and her husband are going to Egypt, according to present theories.
I had a telephone conversation with Peggy Evans. She said that Mrs Gaskell had been to Dublin and came back “terribly disappointed with the Irish people”.
There was much gossip and mild scandalizing. Fred came in for criticism for always being late and the old story of himself and CEG at Carteret was told again. Fred stayed in the Post Office while CEG walked the length of an enormous quay. The boat was about to go, and he had to pretend to run and deliberately miss it, thanks to his brother’s lateness. This was then easily associated with his financial inability to come to Europe, and the fact that David is “only an engine driver”. Then Daphne Greaves’s fondness for uniforms – first WVS [Womern’s Voluntary Service, a civil defence organization in World War 2 Britain], then St John’s Ambulance, now Hospital Service. At the tea she spent all her time explaining how many things she could get free or cheap or when otherwise unobtainable, through her contacts. “I’d like to hear what the others say about her,” said Bert Wiltshire.
Then I went through the tunnel to Princes Dock and embarked. I was sufficiently familiar with the procedure to be able to get through with it quickly and examine the ship. I asked why the masts, and was informed that the present tendency was to dispense with them as unnecessary. They were made of riveted plates. Again the exhaust from the motors would require two 12 inch tubes, not two 10 ft. funnels. Then we went out of the dock, and by a complex process of warping got alongside the landing stage to wait for the London train, as usual late. I spent this period with a Secod Engineer from an oil tanker who had been blown into a duplex feed pump by an explosion at sea and lost a finger and become liable to lose more. He was at sea in war-time, but as this was not direct enemy action, he received only workmen’s compensation.
He was quite radical in his way. It seems to me that the people of Britain (he was from Belfast but illustrates it) are now thoroughly conscious of the existence of workers and capitalists and feel a steady resentment. Hence they voted Labour. But that is as far as they have gone. He was a great admirer of American methods, describing the cantilever gangways from quayside buildings in New York, hydraulically operated. He thinks Britain “finished”, and wants to emigrate to South Africa. I criticised the colour bar, but he was not against it. He spoke of the American tools, spanners etc., all made by workmen who drop their ideas into “suggestion boxes”. “Give us a sketch of it, we’ll make it,” they say, “and pay for it if it’s good.” Contrast this, said the engineer, with the LMS, who first accepted a man’s invention, and then when he asked payment summoned him for unlawfully using their time and materials to make an example of it. This man did three months and then left Crewe for South Africa. “What they want is skilled men.” He said new cars could be made at £65. but British motor manufacturers preferred a restrictive market to making the working man “uppish”. Then I invited him to have a drink. At the bar were two Englishmen from London who were so drunk that one of them mistook me for a Colonel (in shorts!) and stood us our drinks! Then after much persiflage they tipped the barman and staggered down to their cabin with arms full of bottles, Guinness, Bass and Worthington!
I reached Belfast at 8 am. breakfasted and cycled through Antrim, Toome, Maghera and Dungiven to the hostel at Dreen (Tamnagh lodge). The day was bright and fair with odd fracto-cumulus, not very warm, but just before a heavy shower became warm. When you reach Antrim you see the Sperrins behind Slieve Gullion in the distance. They appear rather bluish-green in the distance, but not so dark as the blue hills in the highlands of Scotland. When one crosses the Bann it is more like crossing the Shannon. On the far side, in Co. Derry, you might see a barefoot child at times, and there is bog and a smell of burning turf by each cottage. I tried to get food at Maghera. The time was 12.30 and the hotel told me that lunch was at 2 pm. They recommended the “Diamond Cafe”, where I went. They offered me tea in an indefinite time. I declined it. “There’s nobody here till later. Chapel cleans this place out every Sunday.” Then I passed one of the chapels on the road. Crowds of people were issuing from it, hanging about in groups or waiting along the roadsides for buses, and twos and threes dotted the roads for several miles, as they slowly made their way home to the more isolated farms. I sat down in a field and took out knife and bread and cheese. A tall old farming man came up to me, “Are you cooking?”
“Would ye not like something cooked?”
“Well. I would. But I can’t cook here. If I was indoors I might.”
“Well supposing you were indoors, eating a couple of nice eggs?”
Needless to say very soon I was. The farm house was old and dilapidated, with a broad chimney up which some turf smoke found its way, and down which much light filtered. His utensils were of the crudest and he put the potatoes in the turf ashes. But he farmed 40 acres. “But part of it’s rough.” He never went to Belfast. “The Russians are middling hard to please! – But perhaps they think they did their share of winning the war.” His clock said 12.30. “Is that the time?” – “Well, it is.” – “But surely it’s slow.” “It’s fast enough for us!”
They explained, “We keep to the old time. So do the Churches. It’s better for farming people.” So that was why lunch was at 2 pm. “It’s a drudging sort of life” he explained, “But at least they do give you some encouragement now, not like it was in the old days. Why then if you made any improvement they’d put your rent up.”
When I reached Tamnagh I saw the Sperrins at close hand. The warden was a neatly dressed man of about my own age, or perhaps 35, with a well-built house, furnished very well, like that of a middle-class English family. I asked him how much he farmed. “200 acres” he said proudly, his pride being obvious to anybody, “but a part of it’s rough.” He supplied unlimited eggs and milk. There were only two others, an electric welder from Harland and Wolf’s, Belfast, and his girl, a very nice couple with whom I walked up the col next to Sawel, till rain drove us back again. They were against the border technically, but feared Harland and Wolf’s would leave Belfast if the border went, since Britain would place no orders with them. They were strongly against religious bigotry, saying that when a Catholic married a Protestant the two families were liable to interfere, and then when one abandoned his religion his family refused to associate with him. I asked if the young people were more sensible. They said not. Harland and Wolf’s employed 30,000 during the war, but they were cutting to 15,000. The director had told them that he could do the same work with that number. The others were going to England – as the bureau directed them there, or at least indicated the desirability of their going. They thought the Labour Government a very good thing and said that Northern Irish people voted against Labour on religious grounds, the Catholics having supported Labour against Unionism. The girl had heard of the “Irish Democrat”.
August 26 Monday (Derry/Letterkenny/Creeslough/Tra-na-Rossdan, Co.Donegal): I cycled to Derry city, a horrid little town with only a fine bridge to redeem it. I went through the West gate and was astonished to find a vast number of second-hand clothes shops – 30 or 40 of them – from which the less opulent doubtless supply themselves. I had a meal there, then went on to Letterkenny, catching up a young student with his friend, from National University, Dublin. The student was a botanist also doing chemistry, intending to become a biochemist. His friend lived at Carrickmines and knew Tweedy [RN Tweedy,1875-1956, English electrician who settled in Ireland, interested in turf technology, was a founder member of the CPI in 1933]. “The Turf Board is only now doing what he recommended years ago.” This one, younger than the student, was either the son of [Name omitted] or his father knew, Kevin Barry. He had heard of the “Irish Democrat”. We made a deviation west of Letterkenny, but got back to Kilmacrenan, where they went on.
I went into a Garda station to get ration books. I gave my passport to the officer and he wrote out the words “Charles Desmond.”
“That name’ll do you while you’re here,” I waited a moment and said, “But that’s not my name.”
“Ah! That will be good enough – now you sign the book here as Charles Desmond. We’ll say you’re staying at a private house.” This was quite astonishing, especially as I could presumably go to another garda station and repeat the performance. I then went on at high speed to Creeslough, to Rosapenna, and Tra na Rossan youth hostel. I reached there late and was greeted by two tall ladies from Belfast who had an obvious regard for civilized habits. They had laid out a table with a cloth, but the others, two medical students from Belfast, a Dublin despatch clerk with bright red hair, so small that his shorts came halfway down his calves, and his friend a Dublin cinema transport representative so tall that his were halfway up his thighs, were rough and ready as is common in such places. Then there was “Mr Curran”, a tobacco business man (clerk? manager?) of Dundalk, a man of 50 always called “Mr”. He thought politics a “dirty-game”, said of Dr Ward that ” He was the one that was caught” and that “he was a fast worker since 1910” [Irish politician involved in a corruption scandal]. He said that the farmers in the big farm areas were prosperous but not so much in the subsistence areas. In any case one could not so easily tell here. He complained at the difficulty of getting supplies from Britain, and said that as no pounds or dollars were available they were running on their bonded stocks. Of the border he said it was ridiculous. I asked about the Federal solution. He said he was a hard-headed business man and that so was the northerner. Since he would have subsidies for flax etc. and also would have insurance benefits, he would think twice of severing the imperial connection. The loss of £15 X1O6 from Britain would be serious, and would mean a decline in living standards as well as hitting vested interests, in the civil service etc.
August 27 Tuesday (Tra-na-Rossan): I cycled to Creeslough. Halfway to Dunfanaghy I had a puncture. A garage man mended it. He was a Dubliner who had newly opened his garage and engaged one of the local boys. He had been in the British Merchant navy and knew Liverpool. The weather was bright with light clouds which gradually became heavier as the day went on. “You mightn’t see a day like this in twenty years,” a farmer observed to me. Unfortunately the hay harvest was not dry enough, and the corn is not usually harvested until September in this part of the country, so that the fine weather, while hastening ripening has not reduced the risks to which a predominantly bad August has exposed people.
I got back to Tra na Rossan without further mishap. They were there before me, and after a meal the Belfast students, the younger of which, Dick Gordon, expressed an interest in the Irish Democrat, and the Trinity girls climbed the hill behind the house, with me. The sky had become very threatening, though (worst of all signs) it cleared after dark, but the view was excellent. We were practically on the highest point of Melmore Head, below us a huge label “EIRE” was made in white stones for the benefit of airmen, and that this was the first land they would strike coming in from the West was the more believable from its bastion-like character, with long parallel ridges of hard jagged rock decending from the hill and like ribs strengthening the continental shelf which was submerged and whose existence was indicated only by the inlets of these ribs or the colour changes of the sea, which were continued far beyond all signs of rock.
Although the warden of this hostel is of a taciturnity which must be not heard to be believed, there are many excellent arrangements. The farm above supplied milk and eggs – though the sudden decision of the hens to lay no more is proving embarrassing – and when these are wanted there is no truck and bargaining; a whistle hangs at the back door. You blow it and in a few moments Seamas appears, a diminutive boy of 14, whom we know to be fourteen because his parents do not stop him smoking the cigarettes we gave him. The amount and kind of food required is shouted or semaphored up the hill, and then in due course he appears with your requirements. As we came down the hill we saw this little object baiting a tethered sheep by running up to it shouting “booh,” making feint attacks on it, until, to my intense surprise as I had never believed a sheep capable of it, the creature was goaded to fury and ran at him, when he retired beyond the length of the tether. “Now Seamas,” we asked, “what would happen if the tether didn’t hold?” “Sure, t’would murder me,” he replied, and then started baiting it again.
One of the local farmers was very indignant about the Kildare labourers’ strike. He said conditions were so far better there than they were 40 years ago that there was no excuse for striking, but that they knew they had the whip hand at harvest time. That was not his way of doing things.
At 11 pm. the students decided they wanted a midnight bathe, so after some discussion they set off, Curran (or Mr Curran as they all called him in deference to his years) accompanied them to preserve them from the worst follies. This left me with the two women from Belfast, aged 40 odd who gave the impression of a certain eliteness, though on what it was founded in their own estimation was hard to say. They spoke little, but had the loud decisive voices of middle-class people, had brought table-cloths and all kinds of things which their type think necessary. They were inveighing against Molotov [USSR Foreign Minister]. “He’ll say too much once too often,” said one of them.
“Why! He won’t agree to anything,” said the other, just a little naively. The others all came back safely, except that Leslie cut his foot on a rock, and we all retired. It was odd to see all but the Belfast students, even Curran, flop down on their knees before retiring, saying their prayers as all good Catholics should. They were so excited after their swim that they laughed and chattered halfway though the night.
August 28 Wednesday (Tra-na-Rossan): As the appearance of the sunset had given cause to fear, the weather today was appalling, with heavy rain impelled by a fierce northeasterly gale. We were like a colony marooned. The two Dublin boys walked to Downings for food for all of us, but as they were so long I decided to cycle to Farry’s Bay and try to get there one or two things the others had not thought themselves able to carry. I had to descend a steep sandy path from the tarred road, then cross stiles where there were any, and barbed wire. Finally I reached a well-stocked shop kept by a man who in the season of the years or to order made boats in an adjacent yard, and bought 2lbs jam, 1 lb of butter for which he demanded no coupons, and then after regaining the road I cycled back in the teeth of the gale, passing the Dubliners whose capes were blowing about like sheets in the wind, looking a very disconsolate spectacle, drenched to the hips.
The rest of the day was spent talking. The Belfast women sat and read, and one of them, disclosing the fact that she was an artist, fell to retouching her water-colours. “Why do you make the mountains that colour?” asked her daughter or niece. “Because I like that colour, and there is some of it there already.” The tall Dublin boy was a photographic representative and told her a method of recording a colour by means of the position of a point in a triangle formed out of the three primary colours. His friend was an invoice clerk, was very small, barely five feet, about 22, but looked older as a certain red-haired Dublin type can. He was also a member of the O’Brienite Union [The Irish Transport and General Workers Union, led by William O’Brien, from which James Larkin had broken away to form the Workers Union of Ireland, thus splitting the Irish Labour movement] and had belonged to the “National Democratic Party.” He was opposed to the split in the Trade Union movement. “It’s splitting the country, he said, and his attitude to the differences between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael was the same. “Why, they’re even at loggerheads in the army,” he said. He thought the teachers’ strike would “break” the Government. “They say they support education, and they do nothing to stop this. ” On the other hand he criticised the conception of equal pay for men and women. “They are spending too much on the language, too.” He had been compelled to learn book-keeping through and in Irish, much to his irritation. “That’s what I’m paid to teach you,” the teacher said. “I hated it,” he said. “They’ll never get people to speak it. By all means keep it up, but you’ll never have a Gaelic-speaking country.” He held the view that as the farmers were making money hand over fist and the workers knew it, no wonder they struck. “There’s a boom in farming. But we must forget all the old stuff,” he said, referring to 1916 and 1922. He thought Sean MacBride’s party [the recently formed strongly nationalist Clann na Poblachta party] would collapse in a month. The younger generation was against the IRA and believed in the ballot box. He thought Glún na Buaidhe was more sensible than such as the Republicans. The Irish in Britain appear to think those in Ireland still support them, but since Stephen Hayes, nobody does [Allegations that IRA leader Stephen Hayes was an informer had disillusioned many at the time].
The Belfast student, Gordon, had heard of Roscoe Clarke [medical doctor and friend of Greaves’s], and of the Dassieu researches on connective tissue. He did not know what he would do but thought the application of the National Health Scheme in 1948 would improve his chances. He considered that the farmers were well off in the 6 Counties because of subsidies.
I also conversed with Mr Curran. He works for the Sweet Afton people in Dundalk [A cigarette company], but could not tell me why they chose such a profoundly literary name, as neither of the partners have as much culture as a cabbage. He complained that tobacco formerly bought at 16 cents a lb. is now 56 cents. As their price is controlled by the Government they cannot buy U.S. tobacco and are running entirely on their bonded stocks. As this means selling prewar tobacco their cigarettes are in great demand and practically every embassy in London is buying them. The Swedish embassy, which had no allocation, actually made diplomatic representations to secure an increase in the permissible quota of distribution. Curran held that Eire was prosperous, but though financially wealthy she could not spend her sterling balances, or obtain dollar materials. He asked the reasons for coal nationalization. On the border question he was against the border, but regarded it as little more than an academic question. “It is ridiculous in so small a country.” But when asked whether De Valera’s federal solution might succeed, he replied that the Northerner, like himself, was a hard-headed business man. The Northern farmer was subsidized for his flax, his wheat, his tillage, he had widows’ pensions, health insurance, and 15 million pounds a year gratis from Britain, with the prospect of more to come. Would he give all this up, just for the sake of uniting the country? He doubted it. He thought Anglo-Irish relations better than they had ever been.
In the evening it stopped raining and I went for a walk past the strand and to the lower part of the hill we climbed last night. The sky looked even more threatening than last night. There was another midnight bathe, but no sooner had they got back into the hostel than the rain began again, but this time with a soft steady south-west wind. Almost everybody decided to depart tomorrow whatever the weather. Most were going to Bundoran, but I decided to move South.
August 29 Thursday (Carrigart, Milford, Letterkenny, Strabane (Omagh): It was raining when we got up, but stopped at 10 am, and I set off. The sky was cloudy, but specks of blue appeared. “It’s getting harder,” said a countryman. “Perhaps it’ll take up,” said the red-headed Dublin boy. I lunched at Milford after passing a row of derelict buildings near Rosapenna. I was told they were the remains of a coast-guard station burnt during the Troubles. The country here grows flax, which I take it goes across the border. The smell of the flax pits (‘lint’ they call it) is overpoweringly foul, and the men who wade waste deep in it, with waders, or even, as I saw once or twice without, deserve a small fortune. After being retted, it is spread on the fields and dried. It is reputed to impoverish the land more than any other crop. At lunch Belfast people were talking. “Will you have a sleep after lunch?” asked one. “Sleep!” said the other, “Not I. You’re a long time dead!” I reached Letterkenny readily enough, and was just passing the place where I met the Dublin student, when a terrific thunderclap led me to look round and I saw a squall-line following me. The wind was so strong from the west however that I reached Lifford before the rain began, and then, just as I descended into the town – another puncture. It was early closing day. I crossed into Strabane – it was early closing day there, but I induced a cycle dealer to come out of his house and help me to mend it. Then I cycled in heavy rain to Omagh. The rain having moderated I was just leaving for Enniskillen, when the front tire which had misbehaved at Creeslough repeated its performance. I therefore found a suitable hotel. This was kept up by “Betty”, who had run a chemist’s shop in Belfast for ten years. “I had to make some money,” she said, as if she had now risen to grace. The man responsible to the Northern Ireland Transport Board for tyres was there. He claimed to be able to detect the cause of excessive tyre wear by looking at the tyre. “This Molotov fellow is an awkward customer,” he said. “He won’t agree to anything. Somebody ought to get a gun and shoot him.”
“That’s what will happen,” said a young man of about 30, formerly a farm worker, now a garage hand. The tyre man said that the farmer subsidies had been reduced and that they were not doing so well now. Omagh is a garrison town and better supplied with shops than most towns in Northern Ireland, including the true capital of Tyrone, which they tell me is Cookstown. The tyre man was from Derry originally, and said he was born in a little lane between Dungiven and Feeny. This closeness to the soil is very marked in Ireland, and must exercise an enormous influence on the character of the people. What a contrast with my own family, with two parents and three grandparents, and five great-grandparents, all from the town, and four of the latter from Liverpool, as far as I know. And Buckley is scarcely a village.
August 30 Friday (Enniskillen, Belcoo): I got the puncture mended and cycled on through Fintona and Trillick to Ennisklillen, went to the hostel and Upper Lough McNean. The weather was nearly as bad as yesterday. “Well, the weather’s away,” said a man in Donegal yesterday. “Finished!” said another. Certainly it is wonderful how the rain keeps up, and I will need to review my sunspot theories! At Trillick there was much chalk on the road, the slogans including “No surrender!”, “Welcome” (at each end of the village) and “Long live England.” In Enniskillen a Dubliner said, “We work for nothing! – and by God they’re making money out of the visitors. They’re charging 10/- and 12/6 for Bed and Breakfast!”
I reached the hostel in the late afternoon, and was the only one there. The warden’s house was some distance up the road and I asked an old woman at the door of the cottage almost next door how I would find it. She was in no hurry to tell me till she had told me something else first. “The people who had this before were called Ellis, like those who have it now. Well, they were very pernickety people, do you see. And they left it all to these. Well, they’re with the Lord now, and they’ve to answer for all their accounts! But there are some people like that. Rather than let a number have a share of it!” The farmer, Ellis, drove a car and seemed a hard-faced type of character. His wife seemed possessed of a little more humanity, and there were farm boys ranging from 17 to 23 or 24.
I learned that there were others coming. They came at about 11 pm., seven of them from Belfast, and made an unconscionable row until two in the morning. One of them was from the Belfast executive [presumably of the Northern Ireland Communist Party].
August 31 Saturday (Manorhamilton, Sligo, Coollooney, Bellahy, Swwinford): I set off in the morning after ticking off the midnight roisterers and speaking to one of the farmer’s sons. They have 420 acres, and wasn’t he proud of it! It is divided among 4 or 5 farms. This is the significance of the others’ dissatisfaction. It is worked, mainly on a cattle farming basis, by the family and one paid servant. I was on an unapproved road, so found myself across the border without being examined, and so went on to Manorhamilton and Sligo. The rain went on intermittently all the time. I noted that Manorhamilton boasts a butter factory and a row of new houses for the workers. Sligo has creameries and a condensed milk factory making its own tins, by what I could see. As in Derry industry is distributed in the country and is not concentrated in cities. Collooney has flour mills (Ballysodare). I sheltered under a hedge with a small farmer cycling south from Sligo. “The weather’s going to take up tomorrow!” he said, “according to what I’m told.” His reason for delivering this report was that tomorrow is the first of September. I remarked on the goodness of Sligo land, which in parts even reminded me of Cheshire, though without the trees in the fields. “It is good land,” he said. He said that the small farmers had carried out the tillage order whereas the large ones had evaded it. “They would sooner raise the big bullocks and get the price for them.” If they did plough they did not do so properly and this caused waste. He did not wish for a big farm, and thought 6O acres would be a good average for the district. He was strong against the border and thought its abolition would lose some Belfast bureaucrats their jobs.
So I went on through Charlestown and Bellaghy to Swinford in Co. Mayo where I stayed at O’Connor’s Hotel, a freshly painted red edifice, alongside which was a very up-to-date American bar, where the young bartender was explaining to three customers, “Now if the beer’s cloudy at times, that’s a thing that happens. I’ll always be taking it back. It happens in the best of houses. It’s only last week I’m after sending two barrels back to Guinness’s. It was sour, indeed. But if at any time the drink’s not satisfactory, you can speak to me – you do be telling us! It happens in the best of houses.”
This was in such strong contrast to our British mode of sale and purchase that it deserves record as a pinch of 1938 in 1946!
September 1 Sunday (Swinford, Castlebar, Westport, Leenane, Oughterard): The weather was bad to begin with, not with heavy rain but with drizzle. I had never been in Mayo on a Sunday before, and seen the children with shoes on their feet for the morning, in the afternoon carrying them in their hands rather than wear them. There was a huge Church at Swinford, and bicycles were stacked round the entrance. A tall young man had erected a stall in the roadway outside and from it hung some bedraggled pieces of meat. I had never before seen this old, old combination of church and trade. As I rode along I saw a low large luxurious car approaching. It hooted and instantaneously all the peasants at the sides of the road jumped into the ditch to give it room. It was filled by a fat priest whom I took to be a bishop, fat-faced, fat-bellied and red and wrinkled, with a crown on his head. Then ten minutes later another car came along with an identical bishop in it. I was on the left. He hooted. I kept to my position. He hooted fiercely. I didn’t budge. As he passed he glared at me as if looks could kill.
At Castlebar I joined the route I followed with John Lancaster in 1939. It happens to all of us I suppose, to visit in company, and to revisit alone. I had lunch in Westport. A Lancashire man of Mayo parentage was staying at the hotel, together with an Englishman from Leicester who was here to carry out engineering repairs to the machinery of the local thread factory – the only one in Ireland, in Westport of all places. The old Lancashire man told him of the pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick. He was not on holiday and his interest seemed to be more casual for that reason. Then on the way to Leenane my front tyre blew off with a loud report, and it was fortunate that a Garda appeared and directed me to a Mr Kearns who would mend it at a local farm. I found him playing pitch and toss outside his cottage with four others. He willingly left his game and performed a near miracle, and I cycled on to Maam and Oughterard.
Here I had the best political discussion so far. My fellow guests were a Yorkshireman, his wife and daughter, and two brothers from Donegal, one about 38 or 40, the other 25 or 26. The proprietress was a Galway woman, her maid from Maynooth. The two men were from Inishowen. The discussion was too long to record in full. The Yorkshireman was a socialist and a supporter of the Labour Government. His main contention was that the people of Britain had never oppressed Ireland, which they agreed, and that exploitation by capitalists was the same in both countries, which they also agreed. The elder Irishman was on a turf scheme. He said he believed the Government was out to sabotage turf, as every obstacle was put in its way, and they were sold “Coal with heat in it”. He said Labour was popular in Eire as the Tories had oppressed Ireland. “But is there any danger of Labour going red?” He did not think the Tories were finished, as his brother did, and he wanted to know when the war on Russia would begin. “There’ll be another war!” he said confidently. He said Eire wished to be friendly with England, and in the future even some system of common government might be workable. Irish education was the worst in Europe. There was favouritism and nepotism. The schoolteacher would tip the inspector whom to give the scholarships to. For everyone given there were ten sold. In Inishowen, which is not a Gaelic area, a boy was refused a scholarship on the grounds that living in the Gaeltacht he had not learned Gaelic – but the Gaeltacht is nominally much wider than it is in fact. He had never learned it because it was never spoken. The land was in the hands of the Land Commission and farmers were by degrees buying their land. He agreed that the reverse was also taking place, that farms were often too small to be economic and the larger holders were buying the small ones. The small ones did not get their share of fertilisers, were overcharged and had neither the time nor the money to take proceedings. But (and he was indignant at this) farms were still far too large in the midlands, “and that’s why I’d like to shoot the Government in Dublin.”
He said that on the question of the border the Dublin Government was as much to blame as the Belfast. Fianna Fail were alright when they first got in, but since then they had grown flexible, and the country was back where it started. He had been for years an active member of Fianna Fail, but he had left it. Those who started it in the localities were now leaving it, though the same men stayed at the top. De Valera was the only man of ability in it and surrounded himself with stooges. Britain had beaten Germany, now she must attack Russia. He then came back to British politics (“Stalin’s very popular in England!” said the Yorkshireman). He was Catholic but he disagreed with those white-collar men who condemned swearing. “They’re making sins for the sake of having them,” he said. He was in favour of teaching Gaelic, but not teaching through it. “How will we understand England if we don’t know English?” On the farm question, he added, “But I shouldn’t talk. We had one, and we’ve got three now!”
His brother held the Tories were finished in England. He objected to Britain freezing Irish credits. He agreed that the Irish educational system was the worst in Europe. The son of a small farmer was condemned to be a labourer all his life. The son of a Garda would always get into the Guards, even with two inches of height less. He denied any danger of farming becoming concentrated, and wondered how, if this did happen and machinery was introduced, the unemployed would be absorbed. He did not believe in turf but supported water-power. He agreed with teaching through Gaelic. “In 50 years we’ll be an Irish-speaking country.” He agreed Fianna Fail was “slipping” and that if De Valera died tomorrow it would fall to pieces. He had an admiration for MacEntee (of all people!) [Sean MacEntee, Fianna Fail Government minister, conservative in his views and vehement in his politically partisan rhetoric].
Today was very fine after midday and I saw Connemara under ideal conditions. But the sunset was orange-red and I fear there will be little “taking-up”.
September 2 Monday (Oughterard, Galway, Limerick): I went to Galway, with a southeast wind and a steadily clouding sky. At Galway rain began to fall. I passed a pig-market in a field. Farmers were standing alongside their one or two pigs while hard-faced dealers went round inspecting them. “The dealers often take advantage of the farmers,” said a man passing on a bicycle. “They used to export these alive to Britain, but now they’re cured all over Ireland.” “Including Monaghan?” I asked. He laughed. “Dr Ward was the one who was caught! But he took advantage of the Government” [a reference to the Dr Ward corruption case].
After lunch I was cycling to have a look at the salmon leap when I had another blow-out, and decided to take the train to Limerick as I would not get a 26 by 1 1/4 tyre in the city. There was a great queue for tickets at the station but the arrangements for bicycle transport were far better than in Britain. I bought an “Irish Review” at Easons and saw in it my own article which I had asked them to suppress, and an editorial I strongly objected to. There were “no cigarettes” notices in the shops. The train was late starting, but there was for all that an hour’s wait for the Sligo train at Athenry. At last, I got to Limerick, covering less than 100 miles in 7 hours! I asked some loafers holding a pub wall up where I might get a bicycle mended. They put me on to a man who succeeded in working another miracle, and I paid him 1/6. He showed me a hotel. Then I saw the loafers and their only remark was, “This fellow Molotov’s getting a bit tough. When are you going in to wipe them all up?”
In the hotel a man who had been in the British army had brought his girl. He was talking about an Irish girl who had married a “Chink”. “What a terrible thing!” said the girl. “I believe he’s Catholic and a very good-living fellow, but just think how awful it must be to be married to a coloured man, and her an Irish girl.” This provincialism is typical. There was also staying a boy of 14 from Connemara who had won a scholarship and was attending a school at Ballyvourney in County Cork. I asked whether there was nothing nearer. He said it was full. Apparently he was not training to be a priest.
September 3 Tuesday (Limerick, Foynes, Listowel, Tralee): I left Limerick at 12 noon after at last securing a new tyre. Of course it began to rain, but as there was a strong N.E. wind I was blown rapidly to Foynes, and thence to Listowel and Tralee. I had at first thought of attempting to reach Castlemaine, but went in to a restaurant for a meal first. There I met a Dublin commercial traveller who told me of the splendid holiday he had just had at Enniscorthy. One of his pleasures included 72 glasses of beer drunk in 24 hours. He had spent a whole day “behind a shot-gun”, and he was interested in horses and dogs. After a while he said, “But there’s war coming! And what’s more, Ireland will be in it.”
“I hope not.”
“Well – we’ve got to beat the Reds!”
“And why, pray?”
“The Communist Party controls Russia. It’s not a democracy like Britain or America or Ireland. Communism and Fascism are the same thing. Stalin is another Hitler. When I meet the Poles in Dublin and see what fine fellows they are, and the raw deal they’ve had, I say ‘England and the U.S. must fight.'”
“It’s well to be safe in Tralee or Dublin when you talk like that.”
“Ireland’s always been on the side of progress, in 1916, or 1922 or any time. But we’re a small nation. Look at the small nations Russia has engulfed. Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia. But the U.S.A. has helped Ireland in innumerable ways, and as for Britain, we’ve realised we’re dependent on British trade whether we like it or not. But I like the British. They’re like us. We both like horses, and dogs and shooting, and bacon and eggs for breakfast, and golf.”
“That’s all very well, but it’s a little unwise to barter away independence for such petty status.”
“Now, look, what country today is independent at all?”
So that was that. It began to rain heavily so I asked a Guard for an inexpensive place to stay. I got more than I bargained for however. The name of the place was the “Mall Restaurant”. From the outside you saw no difference between it and any other restaurant. But when I rang and the door opened a middle-aged withered woman without her front teeth, who had once been beautiful, showed me a long damp corridor where a bucket collected the raindrops from the leaking roof, and when I had deposited bicycle and rucksack, this prematurely aged shuffling creature, friendly, smiling but slow, took me up to the bedroom. The large front room opening on to the street had five beds in it. One was occupied by an elderly man, and above his head attached to the wall was a huge embroidered banner. There were screens composed of linen stretched on frameworks of wood roughly dividing the beds, and there was a hospital odour of disinfectant. As I unpacked another man came in, and though it was only 8 pm. undressed, hung his clothes on a rack except for his mackintosh which he spread on the bed for additional warmth, and got in to bed without a word.
I examined the walls; they were covered with pictures, most of them copies of good ones, or (if one denied the purchaser’s taste) famous ones, more closely placed together than in an art gallery. There was faded carpet on the stairs and a notice, “Put lights out when not in use,” and another bore the threatening legend, “All lights switched off at main at 11 pm.” By this notice was a huge panorama in a glass case, with several statues of religious significance standing in suitable positions, and an electric light illuminating the whole scene. It was like being in the house of a miser who had decided to collect curiosities.
I went for a walk and on my return met the proprietress, a large middleaged woman who asked me if I would like supper and invited me into the restaurant to see her sawdust fires. The restaurant had about forty tables each with a faded cloth; these stood on a sanded floor; but on the tables was the oddest collection of substitute crockery that was ever got together. The milk was in sauce-bottles, mayonnaise bottles, honey-jars; the salt in mustard-tins, card-board boxes, match-boxes – and more I have forgotten. At the rear was a half-open shed into which some of the heavy rain was falling. There the woman had four or five large cylinders on the floor, with kettles and the like hanging from hooks over them, and overpowering smoke pouring out and choking us. The centre was red hot. She has a hole in the base and fills it up with sawdust, a stick being inserted at the top. Then she lights it. Each night the girl scrapes the glowing carbon which burns till it reaches the sides, into the centre, puts fresh sawdust in, and the mass stays so hot overnight that the removal of the stick supplying air sets the whole thing blazing next morning. She showed me a mattress lying beside such a fire “drying”. “Now it was an Irish woman invented this,” she said, showing me stacked up bags of sawdust all round. “But do you know, when I show the poor people here who can’t afford turf how to do it, they are too lazy, just too lazy!”
Then she showed me the kitchen where the shuffling woman fried incredibly slowly, poking and turning all the time as busily as if she had been carving or cutting woods or metal. There was a foul odour of tea-cloths here, and flies were everywhere. The knives and forks were greasy, and my milk was in a ginger-beer bottle. When I had finished there were two road labourers in the kitchen, one who had been 37 years in London. He had to be up at 4 am. “May I borrow the timepiece,” he said to the proprietress. They were good-humoured intelligent men, and knew the rainfall figures for most of Ireland’s chief places. Then we all went to bed.
September 4 Wednesday (Tralee, Castlemaine, Killorglin, Caherciveen, Waterville, Sneem): It poured with rain when I got up. It was incredible how it could keep it up. The proprietress charged me 7/6 and told me how I might get a lift on a lorry driven by her brother-in-law. Her kindness and suavity was in such contrast with the signs of rigid economy all round that I could not help wondering what went on behind the other curtained windows in Tralee. On the way over the hills I overtook a man of about 22 who was out of work but claimed to have found a place where he could fill a gallon can with blackberries in two hours and get 2/- for them at a hotel. Then my mudguard broke. I got into Castlemaine and was told Dick McCarthy would mend it. This he was pleased to do as the rain had prevented him touching his harvest for three days. He said little but his brother made up for it. There was a strong North wind. It usually brought good weather, and perhaps it would “take up”. But the harvest was destroyed and the hay liable to go black while everybody was waiting his time. The summer was worse than anyone living could remember and he thought it must be “the worst that ever came”. This was a pity as there was good land there, with 20 and 25 cow farms (eg.100 acres he explained) down to 8 and 10 cow farms. There was a fair yesterday, but prices were low. The weather ruined it, except for a few fat bullocks that would sell at anytime, and be bought by butchers to kill – local butchers – and a few calves and sheep. There was now no pig market at Castelmaine, but there was a fortnightly fair in Killorglin. “But will there be war now?” he asked. “Russia is keeping quiet. Maybe they don’t want to fight, and besides what good would it do, all the murder and that? I suppose it is all due to overpopulation. But now it’s all the wickedness in the world that’s the cause of the bad weather.”
I went on to Killorglin, had lunch, and was hailed in the road by a cyclist who proved to be Gately, the man who first approached me at BCURA on my first day there. He has left BCURA, spent a year’s education at the university, and is now a schoolteacher. I think his friend was a schoolteacher also. Then I went on via Glenbeigh, Caherciveen and Waterville to Sneem, and stayed at Mrs Hurley O’Connor’s.
There were two Dublin boys there aged 29 and 26. They had been members of Altiri na h’Aiseirghe[Radical right-wing movement in 1940s Ireland]. “There’ll be no satisfaction in Ireland till the children are grown up,” they said. “The older generation is living in the past.” They denied that A.na hA. was Fascist but said it supported Salazar, as they did still. They had also been in Glún na Buaidhe. They had given up politics as a “dirty game”. They did not believe the language would ever be restored. They regarded the teachers’ Dublin-only strike as a “clever move”. But “nobody cares about anything in Ireland. Something ought to be done of course, but what?” They also said turf was sabotaged. The elder, who somewhat resembled Bob Doyle, has worked at Lullymore for the Turf Board, as he had no job when he left school. First they were paid wages, then piece work was introduced, so much per 100 sq. metres, which the men could not understand. The food contractor swindled, charging the Government for good meals and providing poor ones, till all the wild Mayo boys broke everything they could lay hands on till the food improved. He was a clerk now.
September 5 Thursday (Sneem): A grocer asked, “Could I go to England freely as you came here? Then he said himself, “But it’s our rotten Government who stops us. The farmworker only gets £3 a week and he can’t get away from it. A union butcher gets £6. It’s a powerful wage.” He said nobody was interested in the border. What did it matter to a workingman or farmer?
I went for a walk to the top of Beann, the highest mountain accessible from Sneem, about 2450 ft. high. A Sneem boy was stacking turf for Sneem about three miles up in the hills. Alongside were other stacks which he said belonged to the County Council who came with lorries for the turf. Some of it went to Cork City.
I stopped for tea at a farm. The farmer was worried about the weather. “The animals will die,” he said, but didn’t seem terribly worried. “Some have nothing,” he said. He had about 13 cows and said this was the maximum in the valley. I saw that his hay was stacked and his oats cut. He had “any amount of acres, but most of it rough.” Out of 150 acres 12 would be cultiviable, and the rest had sheep on it. He had driven sheep over the hills to Castlemaine fair two days ago. The farm workers included his father (65), himself (40), two sons 20 and 18, a daughter (17), a small child (6) and wife (40). Possibly another elder son and wife.
Higher up the valley was a man with four cows. “How do you like it? Beautiful country, so. Is it now? And we all wishing we were out of it. Bad luck to it. I suppose I’ll have to stay here now. It’s a poor life, never any money or anything.” He was a younger man, about 30.
When I got back to the hotel two CTC [Cyclists Touring Club] men were there. They had obtained recommended routes from a man called Blair in Cork. Mrs O’Connor said that he recommended hotels and then raised a cut off them. Then she said Wilf Hudson was the worst offender. He had a hotel in Kerry. His wife puts people up in Cork. The CTC has dissociated itself from his activities as he is now publishing his own handbook. I told them I knew Hudson. Then the CTC people said they also had been warned against his nefarious activities. So that was interesting and useful.
September 6 Friday (Killarney, Sneem): I cycled to Killarney. One man asked if it was true that Irishmen are wild in Britain. I denied it and he said Ireland and Britain are more friendly now, and that it was necessary to beat the Reds. He was a well-dressed farmer from near Killorglin.
I noted an advert for the sale of a 17 acre farm with revised land annuity of £1-7-8 and poor law valuation £5. Useful figures.
But when I got back to Sneem Mrs O’Connor took me into her own kitchen where she had laid my meal and said excitedly, “We’re after having murder since you went. The ould divil is after losing her purse and making thieves of the lot of us.. The “ould divil” was the apparently inoffensive Englishwoman who was staying there. She was an aristocratic person however, whose son was a commander and who had lived here (in Cork) 22 years. She had said “I know I left it here.” Then she was sure it was at the Post Office and accused them of stealing it. She went to every shop in the village and then said, “Well. It was here.” “And she threatened to call the guards,” said the maid with violent indignation. “My husband wants me to show her the door,” said Mrs O’Connor. “And to cap it all, she found it – in one of those fisherman’s huts where she’d been to the lavatory.” “It’s worse to be accused and you not after taking it,” said the maid, “for you don’t even have the satisfaction of taking it.” “It’s not right,” said Mrs O’Connor, “Getting the house a bad name!” So the wealthy widow who is not really a bad sort is out of favour.
September 7 Saturday (Sneem): I did not get up till late. Milady had made no apology, and appeared after taking her breakfast in bed scented and daintily dressed, and walking jauntily about the house without the slightest symptoms of discomfiture.
I had bought McCarthy’s book in Limerick and while I was at Killarney, Mrs O’Connor borrowed it and started reading it. She explained this to me today, and said that McCarthy was a “souper”. She seems a rather intelligent woman, intense, critical and of political interests, very much for the small farmer. She told me how the owner of all the houses in Sneem lived below Parknasilla and was “burnt out”. His agent then sold all his houses to the occupiers and they largely rebuilt on the spot. I had already noticed the mud-huts interposed between the more modern houses in the village. No doubt there were many of them then occupied. The remains of the old village are still clinging to the edges of the new. Since then they had had an incentive to improve their places. The landlords were Protestant. Liam O’Flaherty [1896-1984, Irish socialist novelist] used to spend his holidays with them at Sneem. She told with regret how he went to Russia and became Socialist and went in for free love and the like. This was because he was training for a priest and they expelled him from College. “But tell me,” said her mother to whom he made confidences, “in your heart of hearts are you not a Catholic still.” “I am”, he said, “but I hate the priests and I’ll spend my life attacking them.”
Then I went for a walk and talked with a small peasant girl. She had 50 acres of rough land with about 5 cultivated. “It’s poor land and it’s very hard for the small farmer to make a living. The cow here is only like a goat anywhere else. They give 8 pints for a month or two after milking and then it goes down to two pints. There isn’t the food for them.” We saw a man with milk churns and I asked if he was going to the creamery. She laughed, “He sends nothing to the creamery, he’s got four children.” She had a brother at Feltham, a labourer, and complained at the lack of amusements in Sneem. They had at last got a dance-hall, but the parish priest was against it, and the Bishop in Killarney was also against. The priests at Caherdaniel on the other hand were in favour of it and attended the dance themselves. Along the sides of the road at various places are erected slabs where the young people dance ‘sets’ in the open air. This apparently diverts no money from the church and consequently they allow it. There was a Protestant church here opposite the Catholic one, but no parson. “The Protestants are often better living people than the Catholics,” she said. “They believe in God all right, but they don’t believe in the Blessed Virgin.” Then she added, “But I don’t care for any of it. The young people must have some amusement whatever the priest says.”
Mrs Harris, milady, was there for lunch, and grinned at me when I got in. She was quite unconcerned at the black looks of the others, but said she usually stayed with Mrs Fitzgerald, and was likely to go there in another day or two. She had been looking for a house here but had not yet been successful. She had been to the Dublin Horse Show and travelled back across the midlands with the chairman of the Lincolnshire Farmers’ Union. Farms there were up to 500 acres, but in Lincolnshire 5000 was common. He was very critical of what he saw and kept looking through the train window and exclaiming, “Look at those hedges! Why don’t they repair them!” and “Why don’t they improve those cattle?”
Towards the end of lunch CJ Hopkins appeared. He was a young man of tall and aristocratic appearance, who came in for lunch dressed in shorts and a blue golf jacket of very public school design. No sooner had he sat down than Mrs Harris, who had not displayed the slightest interest in any of the previous visitors, began descanting on the beauties of Sneem, and how nobody who came here ever felt like going away from it. Before she had been at it 10 minutes he agreed to stay for a day, and Mrs O’Connor then said of her with the air of one giving the devil his due, “She’s all right – but she’s excitable.” If ever a pot called a kettle black!
I went for a walk with him in the afternoon. The weather was fine, for once, and we climbed the rugged hill west of Sneem. He was in fact a medical student of London University, in his third year, and therefore about 20. He told me he was Catholic, and having been to a Catholic public school he knew many Irish people, and was cycling around looking them up and staying a few days with each. But he was getting short of money and could only stay one night at Sneem. He had friends in Cork and was going there next. He liked boating, sailing, riding and shooting, exclaimed “Golly!” when he was surprised, and had that drawling slightly sneering voice which public schoolboys always have, which is to some extent softened by the residual honesties of boyhood. but which soon hardens when the business of defending their class interests begins.
When he read in the paper on our return of the great harvest campaign, he said “Golly! I’d like to get a job and stay here a bit longer.” Mrs Harris jumped on it and promised to try to introduce him to somebody. Hearing that he had friends in Limerick she asked, “May I ask, whom do you know in Limerick?” “The Brownes.” “Oh! I know them, well.” She then drove us both in her car to the oyster-bed pier, past the house which some other aristocratic friends of her were building, and explained that she had intended to spend the afternoon sailing, but Commander Leycester who was to have helped them sail the boat had been involved in a car accident coming back from Cork and was suffering from shock. “So I scraped rocks all afternoon – we’re going to make a rock garden.”
We bought an evening paper from JJ Sheehan who is the proprietor of the largest store, has post-cards bearing the legend, “JJ Sheehan, Merchant, Sneem,” and is in fact the uncrowned king of Sneem. There was earlier on an accordion outside his shop and we were given to understand that “Crusher Casey”, the famous wrestler, who was born in Sneem, was coming that evening. Last time he came home there was a band to meet him. “There’ll be no band this time,” said somebody. “Why not?” I asked Mrs Harris. “I think he joined the America army and it’s put people up against him.”
I learned from Mrs O’Connor that the Protestant bishop for this district had been Alfred Percival Graves, and that the original Father O’Flynn was called Walsh, and was the former parish priest of Sneem. His “wonderful way” was due to his fondness for riding and hunting and the other sports of the Protestant gentry. Hopkins asked the history of the Romanesque Catholic church. It was donated by the Welsh Protestant Lord Dunraven who on recovering from a serious illness and “seeing the poor people of Sneem kneeling down in the muck because they hadn’t a church”, decided to give them one. He later became Catholic. Hopkins could hardly believe that a Protestant would do this, but was finally convinced. He was also educated on the subject of the Black and Tans. When he was in bed she laughed and said, “The poor kid! He knows no better – He’s very aristocratic though! Do you know, I asked him if he prayed for the king. ‘Don’t you?’ he asked. ‘No’, I said, ‘I pray for the Pope as the head of the church, but the king is head of another state and doesn’t concern me.’” She then told me of Admiral Turner’s son who was there for a few days. “He was a lovely fellow, and only twenty, but a bad mixer and a snob. I told him about it. I said, ‘You are in Ireland now and you must be friendly with everyone.’ Those two Dublin boys were here and one of them took his maps and looked at them. ‘May I have my maps!’ he said in a haughty voice. ‘And do you know, Mrs O’Connor,’ he said to me, ‘They took my maps without even asking my permission.’ ‘Well, sure’, I said, ‘They thought they belonged to the house!’ To show if he worried about his maps; it was more than I did.”
September 8 Sunday (Sneem): The boy was up early and off to Mass. Mrs Harris did not get up till late. When he came back Hopkins was full of hesitation about getting his job, and Mrs Harris decided to take him over to see Commander Leycester who had some land and might give him a week’s work.
“Will he get it, do you think?” asked Mrs O’Connor.
“I don’t think so,” said I.
“I do,” said she.
“These people will do anything whatever for John Bull. They always look after their own sort. This Vice-Admiral Turner’s son was the same. When he was having tea, two or three people were looking in at the door. The Dublin boy was looking at them. ‘Don’t look,’ says he, ‘it’s only somebody looking for a bed.’ ‘If it’s somebody looking for a bed,’ said I, ‘I’m here to give it them.’ He wanted all the attention. Then it turned out to be Commander Leycester looking for him and he sprang up at once, a perfect gentleman. ‘How do you do? I’m so glad to see you.’ She’ll get him a job. She’s set her mind on it. All these people supported Britain during the war, not because they cared twopence for Britain but because of their investments there. They used to say, ‘If Germany were to win, our money would be worth nothing.’ But if they want to pay, let them pay him. They’ve plenty to spend.”
But when he came back he said he had been set sawing wood as a test of his capacity and had apparently not succeeded. But Mrs Harris was sure she would find somebody else.
“She’ll be getting herself a nice reception at these people’s after parking this young fellow on them!” said Mrs O’Connor. Then she described how during the Troubles the Tans burnt Cahirciveen and came to Sneem and insisted on having free cigarettes off her mother. But the army officer in charge made them give them back and said he had been ordered to burn Caherciveen as a reprisal and had done it, but that he’d have no looting in his company. She then showed us her old Waterford cut glass and her pewter, and the picture which was painted by her mother. Mrs O’Connor has a farm which “the boss”, her husband, works, with four Kerry cows. In the morning I went down to the creek and in the afternoon I saw her kitchen garden, about 50 yards away from the house.
We noticed advertisements of a play to be given by the Ballyvourney players at 8.30 pm. in the village hall and we decided to go. Nobody knew whether it was ‘old’ or ‘new’ time, but we went along there at 8.25 and found the place locked up. But at 8.30 on the way back we saw three young men, presumably the committee, walking in the direction of the hall with lamps and lanterns. About a hundred yards behind them three boys in bare feet carried boxes, hammers and saws. They said the performance of “Three weeks to live” would begin at 9 to 9.15. But at 9.15 nobody was there. A ladder was in front of the stage, and the men and boys were arranging forms, and holding periodic consultations over how many 2/-, and how many 1/-, seats there were to be. The 2/- seats were in the front, and 18 inches wide. The shilling seats were behind them and 9 inches wide. And for 6p you stood at the back. Then the players arrived in a car from Ballyvourney, and one, a girl, had worked in Liverpool, Birkenhead and Warrington, and another who had had thirteen drinks in O’Connor’s bar, said when he learned I was from England, “A fine old country!”
Then gradually a queue formed outside the door. Nobody took any notice of it until one or two children walked in. Then they hastily put a table at the door, shouted “Where are the tickets” and sent to the village to borrow candles to put on the table. An accordion behind the scenes began to play dance music and one or two began to dance sets. At 10.30 the performance began with a sentimental song about the dirty English and Ireland that would one day be free. Then followed another of the same kind, met with whistles and shuffling. Nobody was interested but the audience gradually augmented and the hall filled up. Another dance at the back, then a young boy sang a humorous song to great acclamation. They all sing in a half-“crooning” way (I think “crooning” is of Celtic origin). And leave the stage with a kind of rough jaunty combination of a curtsy and a hitch of the trousers. Dancing began again, and then a sketch, of very poor quality, took place from 11.15 to 11.30 pm. Finally the play in three acts began at 11.40. There was an all-male cast. There was doubling of the parts, and the play itself was half-farcical, half-sentimental, and indescribably rambling and verbose. The first act passed off quietly, but towards the end of the second act the audience began to shuffle and whistle, and loud bangs of the feet began at the back. Somebody found the accordion and began to play it, and as a group began to dance, one of the actors who did not happen to be “on” rushed to the rear of the hall and recaptured it. But this did not quiet the multitude (“appease the elements,” as a Birkenhead Irishman used to say). Finally the chief character had to emerge from his role and say in a reproving voice, “Order, please. It’s always the same. If you don’t want to listen, go out. The disturbance always comes from those who would be half as good if they were on the stage themselves!” When it finished at 12.45 (the ‘Acts’ were short – it was really a one-act play, all the action taking place in one room in a short time) Hopkins and I went back, leaving the maid from the hotel still listening. She arrived home at 2.15, but “the boss” waited up for her without the slightest sign of perturbation. “In this country,” said Mrs Harris, “Time doesn’t matter.”
But on the way back Hopkins told me that he had arranged to stay two days free with the “Ffrench-Mullins”, friends of Mrs Harris. These local celebrities are the presidents of local events, the regatta judges, treasurers of things and so on, together of course with JJ Sheehan, who is a kind of mayor of the village. “They have said I can use their boats and do what I like,” he said, and then they would try to get him a job. I was quite struck by the utter shamelessness of these superior people, who would not, as he said, wire home for more money, perhaps because his family in Hampstead Garden suburb did not possess it, but he would give himself airs and graces on no money, and sponge shamelessly on people he did not even know, without turning a hair. When the cyclists came, Admiral Turner’s son said to Mrs O’Connor, “The working classes like to spend their holiday that way.” “They’re 90% of humanity,” she said.
September 9 Monday (Sneem, Kenmare, Kilgarvan, Barraduff, Millstreet, Macroom): On learning that Hopkins, who had dug out from his luggage a smart sportscoat and well-creased flannels, lived in Golders Green, Mrs Harris told us a story about a house in Golders Green Crescent where she used to stay as a child when they came from Warwickshire to visit London. “It was two aunts of mine and my uncle who lived there. They were not very well off – comfortable you know. But do you know I always used to feel there was something odd about that house. Well at the end of the last war a New Zealand relative of ours went to stay there. After being there a day he said, ‘Do you think there is anything strange about this house?’ ‘Well,’ said my aunt ‘to tell you the truth we sometimes do.’ ‘Well, do you know,’ he said, ‘I’m very psychic and I’m sure there’s something in my room at night.’ So it was agreed to leave his door open, and to give him a whistle which he would blow if he saw or heard anything. Now it was just about the time they were building the Golders Green tube, and we often heard noises, but we always attributed it to the tunnel they were making, though it wasn’t anywhere near actually. Well in the night the whistle went and they rushed in to find him in a cold sweat. Something had been trying to pull the bedclothes off him. After ten days he said he would have to leave. ‘You see, I’m very mediumistic, and I’m afraid if I stay something will try to materialise,’ he said. So they decided the children were growing up and they’d have to investigate. Then they found that they were paying £40 less rent than anyone else in the road. And even my mother, who is not the slightest bit psychic, didn’t like having some heavy curtains they had pulled, as she was afraid there was something behind them. Well they got this society for whatever it is in on it and they found out that it was a house that had been used for spiritualistic seances and this room where he slept was where they used to hold them. Now apparently all sorts of spirits used to come to that house, and I suppose they’d get one there and it couldn’t get back again. Anyway they got a man there to try to, what do you say. . .?”
“Exorcise it!” said Hopkins sagely.
“Yes. That’s right. But I never heard the end of it, or they left for other reasons and went to live in the country.”
“It’s extraordinary how people will believe the impossible,” I said
“Yes. There’s usually a material explanation,” said Hopkins.
“Well, I don’t know,” said she, “Even my mother thought there was something odd about it.”
Then they went out. Mrs O’Connor said, “Now what is she doing at all! She’s after getting him off on to Mrs Knowles now, and she’s going to take him to meet the train at Kenmare.” I observed her saying to this same Mrs Knowles, a middle-aged loud-voiced Englishwoman with a dog, “After all he’s a nice little fellow and we don’t want to lose him.” She had also been explaining how she had peopled Sneem with the right sort of people, including a girl play-wright who had married here and was unable to write a line owing to the relaxing climate. But she was very suspicious of a certain major who had built two houses, for it might be that he was going to commercialise the place. “Has it been conveyed to him?” I asked. “Well, to tell the truth, it has.”
When I cycled off Hopkins went part way along the road to see a priest who had a farm. But I don’t know whether he got work in the end.
Before I left I suggested to Mrs O’Connor that I might come for a week in February. “Well, now my maids are leaving me and I don’t know what I’ll do,” she said. The maid told me she had three sisters in London and two in Dublin. She was going to Dublin because there was more life. But she would prefer to go to England. “They earn more in a week than we get in a month, and have a half-day off and everything, regular hours and all that. Now I’m working 8 till 12 every day here. But it’s hard to get to England. Our Government won’t let us. It took one girl six months, with all the red tape.”
“Do many of them want to go?” I asked.
“Why, with most of the girls here it’s England, England, England all the time, till you’re tired of it. That’s because there’s no emigration to America now.”
A Garda on the road told me that the country was prosperous but that just lately prices at the fairs had not been too good. “Buying is a bit slack.” Then he said, “This Molotov is getting a bit tough. He’ll have his eyes opened one day. A few atom bombs would make him sit up! – but I suppose another war would do nobody any good.”
At Kenmare a man having lunch in a shop said the fairs were not too good. “People are afraid to buy and want to sell as there’ll be no feeding stuffs and the hay harvest is ruined.”
I had a puncture north of Kilgarvan and stopped at the station where a young boy, fifth child of the farmer’s family, helped me to mend it. The stationmaster is also a farmer and the station offices are part of the farm-house which abuts on the line. The boy was away from school for the harvest. Yesterday was oats. Today they were trying to get the hay in. “But it isn’t a good saving day today,” said his elder brother, “the wind is damp.” And it was, because there were showers of rain and I abandoned the intention of going into Killarney and then, because my mudguard broke, of going on to Cahir. Instead I turned south to Millstreet and Macroom.
Having been turned down at the hotels I asked a Garda for advice. “You’ll hardly get in tonight,” he said, “as the fair is tomorrow, and all the cattle dealers are in the hotels.” He came with me to at least five place but all were full and it grew late. At last he advised me to go two miles east to Coolalta and to say “Guard Stack had sent me.” This I did and found a fairly comfortable bungalow with a surprisingly good library with Irish books and poetry. The Cork woman staying there told me that the proprietress was a poet. There were three other women there from Dublin, all cyclists. Their discussion was interesting. The Cork woman had collected for the Red Cross and learned that those with most money give least. “This is a Catholic outfit,” said one. They discussed emigration and exclaimed bitterly that “An Irishman will work anywhere except in Ireland.” They said coal was better and cheaper than turf, and that if coal miners were never paid enough, neither were turf workers “who got up to their waists in water”. But men would get £11 a week in England. For all that some had come back home and were “marching round idle” in Cork. The voluntary harvest plan ought to be a success, as there were many farmers’ sons in city offices. They had seen bicycles stacked outside a farm-house a few miles West of Cork. And the Lord Mayor of Cork “was after helping in the stooking himself”. They also talked about the numerous thefts of bicycles in Cork which had only recently diminished, remarking that in many cases proprietors of cycle parks were not above an illicit transaction.
September 10 Tuesday (Macroom, Cork): I met the Proprietress in the morning. Her name is Mrs Reynolds. Her library includes Pearse, all the WP Ryan series of books, Burns, and even Pope! There was an odd conversation at breakfast at the table of the Dublin people. The Cork woman had left about a periodical which was something to do with Saint Theresa. “Have you a great devotion to her?” said the Dublin woman.
“And does she give you all you ask for?”
“Not all – but a good deal.”
Then she told me of a fellow devotee who always knows when she is to “get an answer” by the fact that somebody gives her a flower.
Then I went into Macroom in pouring rain and saw the farmers standing disconsolate; then cycled to Cork, along the more northerly road, John Lancaster and I having used the Southern one. I reached Cork quite early and at about 4 pm. the rain stopped. I had some difficulty in finding a hotel but finally got in at the annexe to Corrigan’s Hotel.
At 6 pm. I met Michael O’Riordan who is an excellent man, without fear and of a good proletarian character [Leading Irish communist and former International Brigader in Spain. Greaves had previously met him when he visited Cork on his 1939 cycle tour]. We had a long discussion until about 10 pm. when I returned to the hotel. I received the impression that there was much unemployment in Cork, and that the movement for all that was very weak
September 11 Wednesday (Cork,Youghal, Dungarvan, Waterford): At the hotel was a coast-guard inspector whose brother was a farmer with about 100 acres. He said that British machinery firms made good tractors but did not understand the Irish market. For example they showed at the Dublin Show tractors for large farms of 1000 acres. But these did not grow grain. The tractors had 8 yards head-land, whereas the small farmer wants a one-furrow plough and 5 yards headland and not 3 furrows. He said the country was more prosperous than in 1939. He also said that the British had given tractors to farmers in Britain and they had misused them. These schemes of central machinery pools were all very well but the farmers would ruin them unless they owned them themselves. It showed that “this Russian idea of community farming” was no good.
I set out for Waterford intending to get as far as [Name unclear], but had a puncture at Youghal and went into the Atlantic Hotel while it was being mended for me. I had an excellent lunch for 4/- and the place was full of priests and fat Capuchins, gobbling as hard as they could. The day was fine and later on a bright moon rose. The harvesters were busy and in places even went on by moonlight. I had some difficulty again in finding a hotel in Waterford but again a Guard came to my aid and I stopped at the Central Hotel.
September 12 Thursday (Waterford, New Ross, Borris, Carlow, Baltinglass, Ballinclea): It began to rain as I left Waterford. “Wait till it stops,” said the Proprietress. “I don’t believe it will stop,” said I, and it didn’t. So I went North via Carlow and Castledermot to the Youth Hostel near Donard. This is pronounced Donárd.
There was a Trinity student and his brother there. They were Protestant. He was studying civil engineering and hoped to get a job in one of the colonies. It was odd to find these rather light-hearted people with no feeling of responsibility towards Ireland, as it were visitors in their own country. “Will there be war with Russia?” they asked. They were of course against teaching through Gaelic and were against both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. They said a Belfast man had expressed the opinion that if a strong Labour movement were to develop in Eire, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael would amalgamate. We went for a midnight walk.
There was also a young waiter from a Dublin hotel. He had three weeks holiday (some in compensation for his Bank holiday work) was satisfied with his job, in which he worked a 9 till 6 day with one day off per week.
Then two more students came, and a rather stylish man of about 23 who was also at Trinity and had secured a job as lecturer in classics at London. He had heard Farrington lecture [Professor Benjamin Farrington,1891-1974, born in Cork, Professor of Classics in Swansea, authority on Greek science, author of “The Challenge of Socialism”] and was a member of the Fabian Society, but had not been active lately.
September 13 Friday (Ballinclea, Donard, Blessington, Dublin): I cycled as far as Hollywood with the Fabian and his friend. The Fabian, although vaguely socialist, thought woman’s place was in the home. He felt strongly about the teachers’ strike, which he thought would disastrously affect education. He agreed on teaching Gaelic but not through it. The teachers’ strike was weakening the Government. He said the Dónard accentuation in the North was due to the Northern Gaelic having a more penultimate tonic stress. Scotch Gaelic was more so and had Brythonic influences. He lived in South Dublin and had voted Fianna Fail through lack of a socialist.
His friend was Fine Gael and lived in Howth. He was frankly one of the Ascendancy remnants, and regarded living in Ireland as rather a good joke. He was now Socialist and opposed to De Valera. He had been an active member of Fine Gael.
Then I cycled on into Dublin and met for a short half-hour John Ireland who had broken his word about keeping the evening free and went home because he said he had been out every night that week and had work to do. I had asked CEG [his father] to send me more money to Poste Restante Dublin, but it had not arrived, so I used my return ticket and sailing ticket to Liverpool. Unfortunately I was not able to get a berth, and after clearing a space on the floor for myself among the luggage, with the other unfortunates I went into the restaurant to have dinner.
September 14 Saturday (Dublin, Liverpool): Opposite me was a priest. We began to talk about the weather. Then the waiter came. He ordered fish, it not yet being midnight, and I steak.
“I take it you have no objection to dining with a black Protestant?” I said.
“Not at this stage of the game!” We began to discuss politics and he informed me that there was going to be another war, against Russia, and Eire would be in it. Chamberlain was a much maligned misunderstood man. Hitler was not so black as he was painted. After all the British built him up and his crime was only that he wouldn’t play ball. Roosevelt by his policy of Russian alliance had made the most tragic mistake of any statesman of the 20th century – and so it went on.
I reached Liverpool at 7 am. and spent the day there. I found CEG deep in preparations for a grand choral festival run by the Free Church Council. Phyllis was unpopular because she would not take part in it, and AEG rather sympathized with CEG. She explained that it was being held the night before she went on holiday to Ireland. She is talking about going to New Zealand. But AEG takes little notice of this. When I saw her in August she was talking about becoming a Youth Hostel Warden. CEG’s comment is that he “wishes she would get married”.
September 15 Sunday (Liverpool, London): I remained in Liverpool till evening, and returned to London on the 5.30.
September 16 Monday: Returning to Battersea I found virtually nothing changed.
September 17 Tuesday: I wrote too soon that nothing was changed. Behind the similar exterior everything – indeed the spirit itself – is changed. I was told by Philpotts, that expert intelligence officer, that De La Rue had sold out their share in Delanium to Powell Dyffryn. It appears that their other companies are not coining money as rapidly as they could wish. I tried to estimate the probable result of the change. Clearly Powell Dyffryn, though the enthusiasm of their newly assumed interest in the welfare of the coal industry has not yet indecently warred with nationalization, will not long regard themselves as coal-owners, and not longer than that base their calculations on the use of coal. They are thus likely to follow DB Foster’s lines of development, away from chemistry towards engineering. I hear also that Foster is proposing that Bloomfield should go to Germany to find out how to make copper/graphite motor brushes. He may possibly bring away a trifle more information than Foster succeeded in getting.
In the evening I saw Pat Clancy.
September 18 Wednesday: I saw Bennett in the morning and he told me that financial changes were in progress and told me that he was very impressed that the Delanium unit processes corresponded closely to those used in powder metallurgy, and that we could use the existing plant for that purpose if need be. He had “been talking this to Mr Hann”. The upshot was that whereas this work began with four firms competing, Titmanstone, ICI, De la Rue and Powell Dyffryn, all had now abandoned it but one. In this way Bennett had now freed himself from all but his last master. At the moment Hann will do whatever he wants, but if he comes to see more clearly the erratic management and wasteful expenditure on everything that does not affect the welfare of the employees, as he will have a greater opportunity of doing, he may alter his attitude.
There was great excitement because the six girls engaged on carbon fabrication suddenly decided that the dust would give them all kinds of diseases. How this happened was odd. Last Saturday a woman suffering from a weak chest decided to go and Payne engaged another. Over the weekend she saw her doctor who advised her that the carbon dust would do her no harm at all. She therefore presented herself on Monday and Payne confronted her with the new woman. DB Foster would not let him keep both, and so the one who had so hastily given notice was sent away. All this coming and going was observed by the others and interpreted as of quite the opposite meaning to its real significance. And so Bennett called them into his office, together with as many others as he could get into it, and gave a short lecture on the harmlessness of carbon dust, and its in fact positively beneficial effect on the human organism.
September 19 Thursday: In the day I saw Jimmy Shields for a short while. He wanted me to give his boy, also James Shields, a job. I was able to persuade Bennett that we needed a lab boy, and then Miss Dowsett discovered that the son of her cobbler was a good lad and well worth a job. I told them I already had somebody in mind. So in the end they agreed to have two. We have – that is to say Parker and I, who can be said to have any policy, for Bloomfield is incapable of anything – been going circumspectly, and now that they are surrounded with difficulties which have accumulated during the period we have not forced our advice upon them, they have become angels of sweetness and good-manners. By slow degrees we are forcing them to give back what they took away – the assistants, little pieces of apparatus, to supply us with more electric points and so on. There is one golden rule in dealing with capitalists: “bugger them about.”
September 20 Friday: There was little in the morning to cause excitement, but in the afternoon there was a grand new type of meeting which Bennett always hankers for, a “colloquium.” On this occasion we were to hear a talk from Parker on his attendance at a fortnight’s school on advanced physical chemistry at Manchester. The talk was surrounded by some diplomacy. He had been promised his expenses, when Miss Dowsett without warning jibbed at the fare. Miss Murphy remembered that it had been agreed to pay this, but JG Bennett conveniently forgot. It was felt by Parker that Miss Dowsett was trying to “get even with him” for compelling her to pay some small sum previously, and for proving her wrong when she accused him of taking an extra day’s holiday.
So we all assembled, Parker and I having discussed matters over lunch. The room was full. A blackboard had been erected on Parker’s insistence that he could not explain wave-mechanics without. Bennett sat in his big armchair, and Samuel, Perla, Bloomfield, Derrick Walker and all the physicists including Elliott, Segler, the boy Norris, Moss and Fowler, crowded in. Parker took good care to bore them stiff. So much did he do so that Moss, himself a chemist acting physicist under duress, was stung to his first essay of wit: “It showed these physicists that there was something more in chemistry than they thought – they were bored stiff!” This may have been unconscious. Elliot asked one or two questions, and Bennett made a few passes.
Then Parker began his valedictory address by saying that about a hundred people were present and that many of them came from ICI, especially General Chemicals and other Lancashire firms. The lectures must have been valuable as the attendances were good and many of the chemists sat up late every night writing up their notes and met in each others’ hotels to discuss the day’s sessions. It was a strenuous fortnight to both lecturers and students – Parker was so long coming to the point that I was nearly exploding and did not dare to look at Foster, who was – I could sense it – nearly nudging me. “But one thing which was said by the chairman I am sure you will be glad to know, and that is the burden of his concluding remarks. These lectures, he said, were a new departure, and he wanted to express the appreciation of the university, and of himself and his colleagues, of the numerous industrial undertakings who had by allowing their employees time off and generously paying their salary and full expenses, made possible this successful course.” Foster was openly chuckling. JG Bennett pretended to notice nothing. As soon as the lecture meeting had finished Parker approached Bennett again, and this time received payment in full including his fare.
In the evening the Irish Committee was held.
September 21 Saturday (London, High Halden, Kent): I had felt the signs of a cold coming on, so decided to have a weekend in the country in the hopes of arresting its development. Accordingly I left town about 11 am. and cycled to Rochester and Maidstone to the hostel at High Halden. There I learned about the farm scheme. The warden is the farmer, about 35-40 years of age, and as far as I could gather, the farm on whose premises the hostel is, and an adjoining one, are run as one administrative unit, complex financial arrangements having been agreed to. The work which the hostellers do is not paid for, except in that the Hostels’ Association obtains facilities in lieu. The people who were staying there included the usual cyclists, one of whom had recently been in Ireland with a CTC party, and had been met in Cork by Hudson and sent to the “Green House” at Sneem – further confirmation of what I had heard there.
I hear incidentally from Pat Clancy that Hudson is coming to the Connolly Association conference, and that he is a party member. It is of course quite legitimate for him to augment his income in the way he does, though I can imagine more justifiable types of consultancy – though in my experience of consultants none of them have been half as useful as Hudson must have been to wandering tourists who lack initiative themselves. The cyclist was an incredible bore. He was about 35 years of age, I should imagine, possibly older, but had only possessed a bicycle three years. He talked interminably, and when his friends came, also “cyclists”, when he suspected he was not being listened to, he shouted them down, employing all the hideous mutilations of our language as it appears in the Cockney dialect. There is a slickness and a vulgarity about Cockney language which never fails to irritate me. Yet there is no logical reason why a language pronounced one way should be better or worse than one pronounced another way, that is, provided we all do so similarly, and can hear what is said. What they had to say was the usual recitation of travels. I escaped.
Later I talked with a young man from Croydon who was botanizing. He had known the warden at Croydon and introduced me, and we discussed farming after the others had gone to bed. The farmer is a character in his way. I heard him engaged in one or two brushes with some of the youngsters. He was slightly aggressive in his manner, but it was clear that all that was the matter was that he could not suffer fools gladly and when we discussed farming he proved himself very able. He is trying better strains of wheat than his neighbours, but this year, thanks to the poor harvest, he has had to put in what the seedsmen can give him. We enjoyed his excellent bread, which is 100% extraction, made from his own wheat and baked to his specification – superb stuff – of which our cycling Cockneys could only say, “I prefer white bread.”
September 22 Sunday (Rye, Hastings, Tonbridge, London): It appeared in the morning as if the weather was going to “take up”, but later it began to cloud over. I plucked about a pound of brambles and then cycled to Rye, which Alan Morton used to visit, Hastings and back via the A21. When I reached home, after seeing a car skid and revolve three times ten yards ahead of me since it began to rain, I converted the brambles into jelly. I had also bought plums and damsons which I made partly into jam and partly bottled. I have more energy – despite the cold – since my holiday, am eating in restaurants no more, but making myself better food and saving money.
September 23 Monday: I received a visit from Paddy Clancy in the evening and we drafted the resolution for the Connolly Association conference. There was no news he had for me.
In the day Idris Jones came to see us. He is now working with the Coal Board and will, I think in all probability, join them permanently. He is on administrative work, but living in digs (he is unmarried) and having little to do with himself, he has been reduced to playing squash with Foster in the evening. He always insists on calling him “Eye-dris” Jones. Jones revealed that his principal holiday pastime is walking the Welsh mountains in all weathers.
September 24 Tuesday: In the evening Gerard Curran called. I asked him what he was doing and he informed me that he was still at the hospital. The Labour Exchange had refused to allow him to go to the clerical job he had found. He had seen Flann Campbell and helped with the paper, and some of the Connolly Association boys had suggested his going into the building trade as a labourer, after which he could with ease disappear and do what he liked – so they told him.
September 25 Wednesday: To the accompaniment of cynical smiles preparations were made for the visit of Hann and Robert Foot, who is nowadays director of Powell Dufferin. DB Foster had a room rescued from the carpenter and made into an exhibition. A time-table was prepared and believing it desirable to keep ahead of Elliot, I got bottles off the shelves and put them on white paper with labels “to show what we were doing”. Then in due time they came round accompanied by JG Bennett. Foot is more oily than ever. Hann is the quiet shrewd magnate, who knows his wealth and his strength and whose manners are good, for his class. Bennett is by turn the businessman and the enthusiast. He cuts people’s salaries and supplies insufficient of everything so as to make a little money go a long way, and then disappears in order to have the joy of writing.
They looked at Bloomfield’s things. Bloomfield was nervous and was quite a time before he could say anything. “Well, Mr Bloomfield,” greasily prompted Foot, and as he left the laboratory he said to me, “You certainly have got a good team here, Mr Greaves, so keen, so enthusiastic. It must really be a great thing to feel one is doing something that is really new.” “It’s something to go round with two intelligent men!” said Foster. How far his judgement on Foot was correct may be estimated by that gentleman’s remark as he left Parker’s bench, where he had been shown an ashless carbon worth £200 per lb. “Now – how would that stuff burn?” asked the late dictator of the coal industry. However, JG Bennett was very excited and pleased. They decided not to let a space on the ground floor they had formerly decided to let, and Bennett also felt that soon some more staff would be available. On Monday Idris Jones was told, “I think we’ve passed rock bottom now.” So heaven knows what excesses of wild extravagance Bennett will now indulge in. Some of BISRA including Thring and Majorcas are already here, and Majorcas told me that the X-ray set Budden bought is now to be taken over by them. Thus Bennett sells his mistakes where a director would bury them. And we are also informed that BISRA will attend the colloquia, pay handsomely for mechanical jobs done in Dalanium Workshop, and will indeed help quite a deal financially and morally.
September 26 Thursday: There was a discussion with Lieutenant Robeson of Power Jets on certain uses of carbon and other materials. We went to lunch. Foster and Elliot were there. Robeson referred to Engels’s “Origin of the Family”. Foster and Elliot merely said something suitable. Then I attacked British policy in Greece – I forget how it came up – and afterwards Robeson said he had been present at a lecture I gave to the Edgeware Left Book Club in 1942!
I saw Jimmy Shields and his son, James 2, and arranged to give the latter an interview on Monday. Then when the International Affairs Committee met, apart from Palme Dutt, back from India and delivering his ponderous witticisms in his deep gruff voice – India has softened him, I think – there was also James Klugman of all people. He is living with Maurice Cornforth and Kitty in Hornsey, and Parker told me a few days ago he was back. He has been abroad for 5 1/2 years, and whereas when I met him last 10 years ago almost exactly, his hair had in it faint traces of grey here and there, now it is as white as any distinguished old man. In some ways he reminds me of Ivor Montagu, but is still much the Cambridge student, still possessing the very human and engaging manner which made him so successful among the students.
September 27 Friday (1946 – Aet.33): Here I am another year older, and I’m not sure any better for it, but since there is no climacteric or node about the present time, one need not say much. It is however worth observing that a personal balance of gain and loss ought to be taken from time to time. As one gets older one gets the habit of taking oneself for granted; one is not interested to describe one’s feelings to other people, as adolescents learn to do and think it is a sign of being adult – rather one learns to interpret other people and to estimate their actions. I am not too pleased with the way I find myself. In the early days the quickness of the brain enabled me to act by theory beyond my years. Experience steadily replaces theory, and makes all equal. But overall I suffer from being cut off from the British masses. Living as a bogus extra for five years is a little isolating. It leads to a dampening of the enthusiasm, or rather translating it as one might send a picture along a wire, and to the theoretizing of indignation.
The farcical Friday meeting was held, this time to discuss the chemical laboratory. I had managed to get this discussed before Budden’s return. The whole was quite a success. On extrusion, the degree to which they are dependent on our solving the problem is illustrated by their willingness to promise anything in the way of equipment if we would only do it. Then glazing was discussed and I poured ridicule on the present arrangement. It was made clear that Bennett is more interested in finding a job for Miss Petroff than solving the glazing problem.
Later Bloomfield came to me to tell him that yesterday Foster took him out and stood him a lunch. He then invited him to attend a series of lectures by Mr Bennett “by the way.” But the undertaking has blossomed out, for he presented Bloomfield with a printed sheet giving the titles of the lectures and the heading bore the inscription, “Institute for the Comparative Study of Anthropology, Sociology and the Sciences” – address Park Studio, Pelham St, SW7 [This referred to Bennett’s theosophical interests]. Now Parker suspects that Llewelyn now lives there. The course is free to members, but £1-1-0 “to the public. (Is this a subscription or a deterrent?) But Foster was at pains to explain to Bloomfield that he would supply him with two free tickets. Bloomfield has agreed to go, despite our telling him of his folly, and it is to be hoped that his wife will have more sense than he. Bloomfield talks of leaving and getting another job, but I think, while not falling intellectually for this Yogi thing, he will be too weak to be in it or out of it, and will go on attending the ridiculous lectures, constantly grumbling and making fun of them, but sitting through them with the utmost solemnity.
September 28 Saturday (London, Liverpool): The weather certainly has “taken up”, for yesterday and today proved the two finest days of the year, with temperatures in the high seventies and brilliant sunshine all day. I took the Merseyside Express and reached Liverpool about 3 pm. CEG was at the football match and AEG and Phyllis were at home. It seems the dispute about Phyllis singing in CEG’s choir is settled. The facts were, said Phyllis, that they had put her name down without previously asking her agreement, and when she protested merely said, “It wouldn’t hurt you!” After holding out on them long enough to embarrass them, she agreed to do it. So whichever way the matter was done it held no firm hope of a Phyllis-CEG rapprochment. Actually AEG is not without her artfulness and instigated the trick with the aim of improving relations. If Phyllis had been equally artful she would have acceded at the start. But on the other hand CEG will, in that quarter, accept all and give nothing. From having been brought up to go to church every Sunday and to sing in choirs, he can imagine no competing attractions and thinks it laziness or stubborness on Phyllis’s part to have the slightest hesitation in obeying what is not his inclination but the rules of normal behaviour. But the disputes are really storms in a tea-cup.
In the evening CEG ran us to West Kirby and back through Brimstage, where he showed me the old “Peel tower”, an embattlement built on to the side of a farmhouse. I had gone past the spot year after year and never noticed it. In the evening Phyllis and CEG sang, and AEG played. Here CEG’s stubborness came into play. While Phyllis was singing he stayed in the front room and read his book. As soon as AEG began to play, he came in to listen. He lacks the first elements of accommodation – yet to hear him flattering Tom LLoyd over the telephone to get him to sing for him is sufficient to show his ability in the simpler forms of cajolery! It is so silly, that the two of them should be at loggerheads in such a small way and over such minor things. Moreover it is so unusual. I think perhaps Phyllis, who is very talkative, a little cocksure, without experience as schoolteachers are, but who behind that is very sensible and good-hearted, irritates him by being a little too like him, thus competing for the attention of AEG. It is only the complete self-effacement of AEG which holds the whole thing together. She has no life of her own but has lived entirely for her family. Perhaps if she had done less the other two would agree the better. They are “spoiled”.
Late in the evening Bloor rang me up, and we arranged to meet tomorrow. AEG and Phyllis told me that Mary Greaves has suddenly become parsimonious again, as if the shock of finding herself 70, and perhaps the discovery that AEG and CEG could afford to go to America, had thrown her back into her earlier temperament. It is as if one kept one’s weaknesses like discarded dresses in a wardrobe, which in old age can to be brought out again, when one is too old to wear anything new. The change may be temporary or not. The implication of displeasure is illustrated by her announcement that she is leaving all her money to Bert Wiltshire [her husband]. I take it that Enid Greaves was excluded due to the quarrel. Long ago she told AEG that I would not get a penny unless I gave up communism. Harley Greaves has borrowed money from her and not returned it yet – though he is making big profits, so they say. And the innocent ones, Phyllis, Daphne Greaves and Kathleen Greaves, are apparently to suffer with the guilty, that is if not getting money for nothing is to suffer.
September 29 Sunday (Liverpool): In the morning I crossed to Liverpool and called on Geoffrey Bloor. I received the impression, now that the more obvious – and perhaps superficial – physical health produced by army life has worn off, that he still suffers from the effects of his accident. There is of course the slight depression of the forehead, but there is also a slight habit of blinking, an occasional twitch of the mouth, very slight but sufficiently discernible for him to see I discerned it. However Winifred Bloor looks after him well, and I saw his small daughter, Judith Kate. She is not of course produced from the vital protoplasm which comprises Alan Morton and Freda, and cannot – though perhaps a few months old baby should be free from criticisms – compare I think with young John. Still, there is no guarantee that those that show the promise to begin with will keep it up, though I suppose there is a presumption that vitality wins. AEG is never tired of telling the tales of my early exploits, the talking at ten months, singing of complete songs at three, and all kinds of other prodigies at ages measured in months. Alan Morton was the same. And so apparently is young John. But perhaps I see Geoffrey’s child when she is not at her best. I like to see in a child that freshness and excitable curiosity which one sees in a good kitten. Bloor told me that he had heard that James Klugman was back. He also said he had met John Lancaster in London. Winifred described Lancaster as “a funny little thing”, and as I observed, he is small but he seems not to know where to put himself. Jerry Dawson is back and they are busy with “Unity” [ie. Unity Theatre]. Geoffrey said that he attended one of their shows and was plunged ten years into the past. The identical people were there, looking practically the same as they did then. So there are others besides Cleopatra whom age does not wither or custom stale.
I returned to Prenton for lunch and after further talk, departed for Manchester and Bolton, where I spoke at a meeting in the Farnworth Cooperative Hall. This was the first British meeting I have spoken at since I was ill, and in some ways it marks an important step in recovering touch with the feelings of the British people. Only about 50 were present, but I dare say it did some good.
September 30 Monday: I travelled on a sleeper on the midnight train from Manchester to London. Before starting I spoke to a young soldier who had volunteered for the Palestine police. He had been a corporal. His sergeant had insulted his fianceé. He had struck him, and as a result was court-martialled and stripped of his rank. This “knocked him up completely.” Six times since he had been offered the stripes back but had refused them. “There is too much responsibility. You do all the work, and then some accident takes place and you’re deprived of the benefit of what you’ve done.”
“Why are you joining the Palestine Police?”
“Because I’m fed up with England.”
“It’s not a very creditable job it’s performing just now.”
“Oh! – Well, I’ll stand that all right.” He did not understand me. As a regular he hadn’t a political idea in his head.
At Battersea Budden was back rushing backwards and forwards like a dog in a forest, after which he went to see Marcello Pirani and Elliot. They went to ask how to make a carbon grain furnace. Robeson wanted a furnace. JG Bennett suggested a carbon grain. Posing as manufacturers of such things, Bennett offered to sell him one. Then as the Physics department had no idea of how to make it, he rang up Fisher and asked permission to consult Pirani.
“I think there should be some reciprocity,” said Fisher. But then Bennett said it was purely a matter of safety, and that the furnace had dangerous potentialities which only Pirani could warn of. “Well, if it’s a matter of safety,” said Fisher, “I couldn’t take the responsibility of refusing.” So off they went today and came back highly delighted and Budden spent the rest of the afternoon in another whirlwind. Meanwhile Bloomfield left a note before going on holiday, saying that Foster had told him of his intention of putting Miss Petroff on motor brushes “when the glazing is finished,” and asking me to stop it. The note was sent by Samuel and he had instructions to tear it up. Now on Friday when I had made mincemeat of Bennett, Stott and Miss Petroff, Bennett asked Parker his opinion, and he backed me up. He asked Bloomfield, who replied, “Some time ago Mr Greaves took me off glazing.” For all his lukewarmness Bennett took my advice. Now Bloomfield is still unwilling to take a stand for himself, but wants me to do it for him, while destroying the evidence that commits him to back me up. So I propose to let him get on with it. It will be poetic justice.
The operations of Elliot have also called for some comment. Miss Vallender says he has insisted on having a copy of every document drawn up since the firm started. He notes everything down laboriously in notebooks. His progress reports are voluminous, for he reports all his programmes each time, in three cases out of four placing in the appropriate space, “No action”. He writes pompous letters to university professors whom periodically he goes to see. He and all the other physicists have joined the “Rheologists Club” of Scott-Blair, where the yogi RL Brown is a leading light. “As chief physicist of Delanium Ltd. I am interested in rheology,” he writes. (Heaven knows how Parker sees his correspondence. Are all Parkers nosy, I wonder! I think Parker must have suborned Miss Vallender.) But I understand he is unpopular with his staff on account of his bureaucracy. When they do experiments he writes up his results in a paper a mile long, admittedly acknowledging the man who did the work, but placing his own name in the title and at the end. More irritating, they find his insistence that before they leave early or have time off, they must have a written note from him.
As I walked to the tramstop with Phllpotts he talked about Elliot. “Elliot’s a menace! But isn’t he like Hawkesley? He’s like a second Hawkesley. He’s the same vague look, the same habit of looking round at nothing in all directions without anything being there, the same mouth, the same hair going a little bald in the same place. And like Hawkesley he takes time off and periodically disappears for a couple of days. Then there’s the same fussiness over all kinds of silly details. But he may be a danger, for he’s the sort of fellow who checks up on things. Do you know he’s written to the tensometer people asking if they checked the springs before they sold us the instrument. But fortunately he writes too much down, and the notebooks he uses are so thin that he must fill them with two days notes. Soon he’ll be sitting on a mountain of them. He’ll never be able to find anything as soon as he’s written a bit more. We must encourage him.”
The last was a transposed quotation from Pirani into which Philpotts breathed a more sinister meaning. Philpotts’ principle is that all engagements should be kept as vague as possible.
But Philpotts once told me of how he seized a bunch of Evening Standards from the hands of a seller at Piccadilly and tore them up. “It was at the time of Munich,” he explained – for what “explanation” it was. But when I was in St Albans Freda Morton told me another story, which shows how Phillpotts’ denunciations of “industrialism” are like those minced words “blooming” and “bloody”, which are innocuous forms substituted by timidity for the real thing. In 1938 she says, she knew Philpotts, Hawkesley, Browne and one or two others. Philpotts was very well off, even then, and old Mr Hawkesley was too, had a very well-appointed flat, and four sons, all about Freda’s age within a few years. Our Hawkesley is, I think, the third. They had started at BCURA and spent most of their time praising JG Bennett, saying what a remarkable man he was, how progressive were his ideas, and so on.
“Why did they interest themselves in whether his ideas were progressive or not?” I asked.
“Why,” she said, “I had the lot of them out on Munich night, selling the Daily Worker on Piccadilly!”
“Were they that advanced?”
“Philpotts was slightly drunk. But three parts of this Yogi business are nothing more than a desire to stand well with the source of bread, butter and jam” [ie. to curry favour with JG Bennett, managing director and exponent of the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky’s theosophy].
GREAVES JOURNAL, VOLUME 8, 1946
(17 May – 30 September 1946)
– Aesthetics and verse: 5.24, 6.14, 6.20-25, 6.30, 7.4, 7.26, 8.1, 8.20, 9.21
– Assessment of others: 6.1-3, 6.9, 7.26, 8.4, 8.10, 8.24, 9.12, 9.21, 9.29
– Book projects/articles: 6.30, 8.20
– On a brains trust: 6.19
– On class interest, class struggle: 8.17, 8.24, 9.7, 9.19, 9.25
– Communism/socialism: 5.17
– Connolly Association (Connolly Club): 5.17,5.20, 6.12-13, 8.9, 8.19-20, 9.23
– Irish Democrat 6.19.
– Family relatlons: 6.1, 6.6, 7.27, 8.4, 8.29, 9.14, 9.28
– Health: 8.15
– Holidays/cycle tours: 6.7-11, 6.27, 8.24-9.13
– Industrial experience: Vol.8 passim, 5.21, 6.28, 7.26, 8.14, 8.19, 9.19
– On the Industrial Revolution as affecting peoples’ sense of history: 8.18
– On Cockney pronunciation: 9.21
– Ireland and Irish affairs: 5.17, 5.20, 6.13, 8.26,8.28,9.10, 9.12
– Meteorology: 8.2, 8.30
– Political development: dubious re the wisdom of forming a communist party
in Southern Ireland, 5.17; tired of scientific research 5.26; political
assessment of the Irish in Britain 8.9; “Irish Review” article 9.2
– Professional work: Vol.8 passim, 6.28, 7.26, 9.19
– Religion/Church: 5.21, 5.23, 8.27, 9.1
– Science, heartily sick of: 5.26
– Self-assessments: 6.6, 6.19, 6.30, 8.15, 8.19-20, 9.1, 9.22; at 33 years
of age in 1946: 9.27; memories of self as a child 9.29
Organisation Names Index
Association of Scientific Workers (AScW): 8.16
Colonial Committee, of the CPGB: 6.17
Communist Party of Great Britain: 5.24
Communist Review: 6.30, 7.4
Fianna Fail: 4.17, 9.1
Glún na Buaidhe: 5.28, 5.20
International Affairs Committee (of the CPGB): 5.30, 7.26, 9.26
Irish Committee/Bureau (of the CPGB): 5.24, 8.7, 9.20
Irish Labour Party (Central Branch): 5.17
Irish Soviet Friendship Society, Dublin: 5.19
Messrs Powell Duffryn and Co.: 9.25
Personal Names Index
Barr, Billy: 8.11
Bennett, J.Godolphin: 6.24, 7.3, 8.19, 8.22-23
Bloor, Geoffrey: 9.29
Campbell, Flann: 5.24, 6.3
Clancy, Patrick: 5.20, 9.17
Clarke, Roscoe: 8.28
Cornford, John: 7.26
Cornforth, Maurice: 9.26
Curran, Gerard: 7.4, 7.26, 9.24
Daiken, Leslie: 8.21
De Valera, Eamon: 9.1
Dooley,JL (Pat): 5.24, 6.13, 8.12
Dutt, R.Palme: 9.26
Early, Packie: 5.29
Farrington, Professor Benjamin: 9.12
Grove-White, Bill: 5.26, 6.16, 7.26
Guest, David: 7.26
Heinemann, Margot: 7.26
Henrotte, Esther: 7.27
Ireland, John de Courcy: 5.17, 5.20, 6.16, 9.13
Keyes, Michael: 5.20
Klugman, James: 9.26
Kyle, Sam: 5.20
Lynch, Gilbert: 5.20
McInerney, Michael: 5.18, 5.20
McSwiney, Muriel (Mrs Terence): 8.19
Maitland, Sid: 5.24, 6.3
Malone, Bridget: 6.13
Marshall, Molly: 8.10, 8.17
Milne, Ewart: 5.24
Morton, Alan Geoffrey/Freda Morton: 7.1, 8.10, 9.29
Nolan, Sean: 5.18, 5.21, 8.9
O’Brien, William: 5.20
O’Riordan, Michael: 9.10
Pirani, Professor Marcello: 8.16,8.19, 9.30
Prendergast, Jim: 5.20
Shields, Jimmy: 5.18, 6.17, 7.26, 8.21
Tweedy, RN.: 5.19