Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The sale of Gatwick: not quite what it seems?

Malcolm will be reading with interest the accounts of the sale of Gatwick Airport to the owners of London City.

Not just because it appears as if the monopoly of London's airports has become (Hooray!) a duopoly.

As far as Malcolm understands it, the story goes like this:

In June 2006, BAA, the owners of
Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, yesterday succumbed to a £10.3bn takeover bid from Spanish construction firm Ferrovial, after months of fending off its unwanted attentions.
Yet another privatised industry fell into foreign hands.

From the start, there were doubts that Ferrovial could support the debt-level.

By January 2009, those doubts were being loudly bruited:

The Sunday Telegraph reported that a note issued by Credit Suisse analyst Robert Crimes raised the prospect that the Spanish infrastructure giant could default on repayments of part of the £2.25 billion loan that funds its stake in BAA. The full debt is due to be paid by 2014.

Ferrovial owns 56% of BAA and last year it completed a £13.4 billion refinancing when its stake was cut from 61%. The Credit Suisse note stated that funds from the proposed sale of Gatwick and Stansted cannot be used to repay this loan until after a further banking facility is reduced from £4.4 billion to £1.3 billion.

Well, in the meanwhile the Competition Commission has been musing that BAA owning seven airports, including the three main London ones, and both the main Scottish ones, might, just might be a teeny monopolistic. Eventually, the edict came down: Gatwick, Stansted and one of the Scottish airports had to be rendered up.


So the news today is hardly earth-shaking.

Yet that Credit Suisse note suggests Ferovial is still a way from plugging the gap. The note suggests that Ferrovial has got to reduce their borrowing by well over £3 billion by 2014. Meanwhile, the Times continues to report that Ferrovial's total borrowings are "huge":
Ferrovial acquired BAA in 2006 for £10.2 billion. The group borrowed nearly the full amount and had difficultly refinancing the debt when the credit crunch hit.
For reasons that are not immediately clear, Credit Suisse (who, unsurprisingly, appear among the lenders allowing the finance for the present deal) say the "take" from selling Gatwick cannot be set against the debt. Even if it could, there's still a way to go. Even more so, since Ferrovial is a Spanish company -- and sterling has devalued substantially against the Euro in the interim.

The Times report today is a long way from enthusiastic:
The £1.51 billion sale price fell short of BAA's expectations. The group had hoped to fetch up to £1.8 billion for the airport and was reluctant to go below £1.6 billion.
Of that, £55 million is "conditional".

If Gatwick (32.2 million passengers a year) is only worth £1.5 billion (only!), then Stansted (22.2 million) must be worth a lot less. Moreover, all passenger numbers and freight tonnages are down, though it seems that Gatwick is better off than elsewhere.

Malcolm senses this story still has legs
Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The not-so-good and the not-so-great, number 19: Kate Meyrick

Sometimes things creep up on one.
This one did; but, in a way, it follows from the piece about Eliza Gilbert, a.k.a Lola Montez. Of course, the sneerers and nay-sayers would suggest it's here because Malcolm cannot get on with the job over the Cromwellian settlement and its consequences. And ... sigh ... they
would be right.

Mrs Meyrick rose to the surface because of doings on Malcolm Redfellow's Home Service. Iain Dale had featured a 1929 Tory election poster. The poster was a mild fore-runner for Churchill's despicable "Gestapo" attack. As Malcolm suggests in his posting on the other channel, the irony is that the real repression in 1929 came from the reactionary Home Secretary, Sir William Joynson-Hicks.

A naice Dublin protestant gel

Kate Evelyn Nason was born in Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) in 1875. Within a year, her father (a doctor) was dead. Her mother re-married a Lancastrian cleric. At the age of seven, Kate was an orphan, living with her grand-mother. She briefly attended Alaexandra College, that academy for the best of protestant Dublin's rising misses. In the true Alex tradition, she found herself a respectable professional, another medic, to wed. The surname (Merrick) became gentrified to Meyrick, and he set up practice, first in Southsea, then in Basingstoke.

By 1909 Mrs Meyrick was ten years married, the mother of six (three of each) and bored, bored, bored. Briefly, she upped with the kids and left. Reconciled to the good nerve-doctor, she took lessons in hypno-therapy and (thanks to trench warfare) soon had plenty of neurasthenic subjects on which to practise. At the end of the War, the marriage had finally collapsed (Dr Meyrick was a spend-thrift).

The Clubland entrepreneur

The Mrs Meyrick, though, was enterprising. She promptly moved to London, took a share in and managed Dalton's Club in Leicester Square. The law said closing time was ten o'clock: Mrs Meyrick took no heed of such niceties. The club was raided and shut down, Mrs Meyrick was guilty of running "disorderly premises" and fined £25. Two premises later, Ma Meyrick (as London society knew her) had her own club at 43 Gerrard Street in Soho. There then began a repetitive cycle of police raids, in which the newly-appointed Tory Home Secretary, Joynson-Hicks, generally known as "Jix", took a personal interest, as part of his self-ordainedl morality campaign.

It was now clear that it was Ma Meyrick versus the blue-noses. In November 1924 she came up before the Bow Street magistrate, Sir Chartres Biron, who sent her down for six months. There is at least a hint of regret in his comment:
She was a lady, of good appearance and charming manners, and conducted her various clubs with more decorum than many, but with also a fine contempt for the law.
Note that "her various clubs", for Ma Meyrick now had the Manhattan in Denman Street, the Silver Slipper in Regent Street, and a substantial slice of the action at the Folies Bergères in Newman Street.

Into the peerage

Ma Meyrick came out of Holloway to general public acclaim. She was soon back in the celebrity gossip columns when her daughter, Dorothy Evelyn, married the nineteen-year-old Edward Southwell Russell (he falsified his age), 26th Baron de Clifford. As an aside, de Clifford (who frequently spoke in the Lords, urging that driving laws be tightened) was the last peer to be tried in the Lords -- for manslaughter caused by his driving on the wrong side of the road. He was also a Mosleyite. Two years later, another Meyrick daughter, Mary Ethel Isobel, was hitched to George Harley Hay-Drummond, 14th Earl of Kinnoull in the Scottish peerage.

Crime does not pay?

The police raids continued, and in 1928 Ma Meyrick did another six months in Holloway. Her compensation was to build herself a substantial fortune: the clubs were each making up to £1,000 a week (of which perhaps half was profit). Her investments were guided by Alfred Loewenstein -- who provides yet another story (to be dealt with as an annex) -- until Ma Meyrick was worth something in the region of half-a-million. In 1928 money.

Ma Meyrick's nemesis was Sergeant George Goddard of the Metropolitan Police. He had led the first raid on the 43 in February 1922. In November 1928 Goddard was found to have accrued over £12,000: an impossible sum on an honest copper's wage. Goddard had been taking £100 a week from Ma Meyrick in protection money, with other nice little earners on the side. This time Ma Meyrick was hit with fifteen months, with hard labour, for bribery and corruption. She was back inside for six months in late 1930 and again in mid-1931. By then her health was destroyed: she died of pneumonia at her Regent's Park home, aged 57.

Her funeral was at fashionable St Martins-in-the-Fields.

Ma Meyrick had an after-life

Evelyn Waugh recreated her in Brideshead Revisited, and the "43" became the "Old Hundredth". Try Chapter five:
Mulcaster said, "I say, let's slip away from this ghastly dance and go to Ma Mayfield's."
"Who is Ma Mayfield?"
"You know Ma Mayfield. Everyone knows Ma Mayfield of the Old Hundredth. I've got a regular there - a sweet little thing called Effie. There'd be the devil to pay if Effie heard I'd been to London and hadn't been in to see her. Come and meet Effie at Ma Mayfield's."
"All right," said Sebastian, "let's meet Effie at Ma Mayfield's" ...
"D'you know where this place is??
"Of course I do. A hundred Sink Street."

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, October 19, 2009

More of mordant Morin

Malcolm reckons that Jim Morin of the Miami Herald manages as many "hits" as most cartoonists. Here is yesterday's (well, it's dated yesterday) and it's again right on the button:


To think, only weeks ago those bastards were begging for taxpayers' money.
Sphere: Related Content

Friday, October 16, 2009

A guaranteed emetic

Following that previous posting about "world peace", here's some more on the same lines:
I would like to extend warm birthday wishes to Margaret Thatcher today. Baroness Thatcher continues to remain a role model to many people, particularly women, around the world. Her career is a collection of "firsts." She was the youngest female Conservative Party member to stand for election in history, she was the first woman to hold the title Leader of the Opposition, and she was the first woman to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

As Prime Minister, she took an active role in defending economic freedom and democratic ideals. Her push to privatize British industry and lower tax rates led to a substantial economic expansion in the United Kingdom. She was just as influential in foreign policy. Along with President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, Prime Minister Thatcher recognized the evil of Communism and worked tirelessly to erode the power and influence of the Soviet Union.

Her life and career serve as a blueprint for overcoming the odds and challenging the "status quo." She started life as a grocer's daughter from Grantham and rose to become Prime Minister - all by her own merit and hard work. I cherish the accomplishments of Margaret Thatcher and will always count her as one of my role models.
Published on the Facebook page of that equally inspiring (small "c") conservative thinker, and (absolutely minuscule "s") small-town politician, Sarah Palin. Who singularly failed,
  • generally,
and
  • specifically in that paeon to acknowledge the contribution made by a millionaire husband, prepared to fund his wife's little eccentricities.
Palin? Remember her? Sphere: Related Content
Apple-pie order and world peace

Seriously something wrong

... with the world.

Who would have thought that Pravda would (in ascending order of incredulity):
  • be on-line?
  • be quite readable?
  • feature a "Miss Plastic Surgery"— forgive the snort, as Malcolm struggles for the next word — "beauty" parade?
and
  • be quite witty about it (as above)?

There has to be a rational explanation for such an aberration.

Ah, yes! Here it is, at the bottom of each page: © AP

Scratch a bit further, though, and the pancake make-up flakes off:
Russia Officially Declares Right to Nuke Potential Aggressor
They got it right first time: the usually conspicuous wishes for world peace went missing. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Macready appendix

(to follow from The not-so-good and not-so-great, number 16, yet a further addendum)

Malcolm's distinguished correspondent, who provoked the renewed interest in Sir Gordon Macready, mentioned that Macready's wife was "Elizabeth de Noailles", of French aristocratic descent.

Well, say that again: because the surname has connotations, as well as:
  • a Winterhalter portrait, now lost, and one by de Laszlo (not of the same person, obviously, if only for reasons of chronology);
  • a Rodin bust in the Met in New York (which does have a link to one of the previous subjects);
  • and the first woman to be a Commander of the Legion of Honor, the first into the Royal Belgian Academy of French Language and Literature (again, a connected identity).
Those proved to be misdirections (though there is a relation in all to Elisabeth).

A bit of rootling round discovered that Elisabeth Pauline Sabine Marie de Noailles was born on 27th October, 1898, at Naintenon; and died on 7th December, 1969, at Paris. On 23rd November, 1920, in Paris, she married Gordon Nevil Macready, later Lieutenant General, and 2nd Baronet. He was born on 5th April, 1891, at Kandy in what was then Ceylon; and died on 17th October, 1956, at Paris.

That's for the family tree huggers.

So, Malcolm (who has cuddled several familial shrubs in his time) went looking for more about this lady.

She was the youngest of three children born to the Duc de Noailles. The eldest of those three, and the only son, because of one detail suddenly interested Malcolm. He was, it says here, Jean Maurice Paul Jules de Noailles, the Duc d'Ayen, born on 18th September, 1893, and died on 14th April, 1945 , at Bergen-Belsen.

Noticed it?

Malcolm did (and gave you a clue in that image, above); and had a small frisson.

First that date: Bergen-Belsen was liberated on 15th April, 1945.

Stop. Think. Anyone who has not sat through the nearly-twelve minutes of Richard Dimbleby's Home Service broadcast of 19th April, 1945 is hereby challenged to do so. And remain dry-eyed and not choked.

It took Malcolm some while to track down a French wikipedia entry for Jean Maurice Paul Jules de Noailles. It translates something like this:
A great sportsman. He was world champion at pigeon-shooting and several times French champion. A resistance member, he was arrested by the Gestapo on 22 Jan 1942, in Paris, following an anonymous tip-off. He was tortured and interned at [85 Avenue] Foch [the Gestapo headquarters] in Paris, then at Compiègne. He was deported to Buchenwald-Flossenburg, later transferred to Oranienburg and finally to Bergen-Belsen, where he died a few days before the end of the war. His remains were never found.

Another reference would indicate that Jean de Noailles' son, Adrien-Maurice, also died in Belsen. The title, for what it is worth, passed to a cousin, who died only in January of this year, aged 103.
Lest we forget

There is a flickr.com photograph of the memorial stone at Belsen, for Jean de Noailles, Duc d'Aven (see left).

The municipality of Cannes then renamed an avenue, in the north-west of the city, avenue Jean de Noailles. Jean de Noailles' father attended the small ceremony. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Yet another Macready

(The not-so-good and not-so-great, number 16, yet a further addendum)

and, for once, no cavils.

Repeatedly in these postings Malcolm recognises that he has failed to do anything like full justice to a subject. Since he's in this lark entirely for his own satisfaction, he himself unsatisfied and disappointed by his own inadequacies.

Yet, overnight, there came an email which both encouraged and depressed him. It read:
Enjoyed the Great Macready, my family being close friends of the next generation down, Sir Gordon and Elizabeth (Zab) Macready. This one was another true Macready. As Co-Chairman of the Bipartite Control Office, he was a sane administrator who helped, among other things, to create Die Welt. His wife, if memory serves, was a Princesse de Noailles, and at school with my mother. KB
If this was from whom Malcolm suspected it might be (as has since been confirmed), that is praise indeed. It would imply that a Professor Emeritus of Boston University, an author and editor of considerable distinction has passed this way. And sprinkled a little fairy dust on Malcolm and his, at best, 'prent
ice efforts.

Yet, it leaves Malcolm with unfinished business: the fourth generation of the Macreadys, and no small slouch himself:

Lieutenant-General Sir Gordon Macready

To give some stature of the man, there he is at Potsdam, at the Combined Chiefs of Staff Conference, with (to his left) Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, and Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke (the photograph comes from the Truman Presidential Library, no less).

Malcolm noticed a reference to Macready in Admiral Cunningham's published papers, at the Combined Chiefs of Staff meeting, 28th August 1942. This was the outline planning for Operation Torch, the seizure of Tunisia.

General Marshall gave this, the United States' first major venture in the Atlantic/Western theatre of war, enormous importance.
Stalin was demanding the "second front", to relieve pressure on the Russian front. At first, this pricked the Americans into urging a gung-ho, cross-Channel offensive in 1943. The British were critical of what they saw as American over-confidence, while the Americans saw the British as too cautious. It took major efforts by the British, from Churchill down, to convince the Americans of a more staged approach. The British, as Cunningham argued, were also conscious that over-exuberance in North Africa might incite Franco to join the Axis, thus putting German forces into Spain, and so threatening Gibraltar, while Vichy France could commit up to 150,000 troops to defend Morocco. Macready at Cunningham's elbow, shrewdly identified weaknesses in the French military or that Casablanca was capable of supporting no more than seven divisions. Finding him at that table, with the likes of Marshall, Cunningham, Leahy, and King, is further testimony to his significance.

Cunningham's Papers foot-note Macready:
Lt Gen Sir Gordon Macready (1891-1956); of mil fam; W Front 1914-18; Versailles, Berlin. Poland 1919; Brevet Maj 1919; Ass S, CID 1926-32; IDC 1933; GSO 1, WO 1934-6; DDSD 1936-8; Asst CIGS 1940-2; Chief, Br Army Staff, Washington 1942; ret 1946; Reg Cmnr, Lrs Saxony 1946-7; Econ Advisr, Control Cmn, Germany 1947-51.
Malcolm admits he had some difficulty decoding those abbreviations. He found it instructive to do so. "DDSD" and "Ass CIGS 1940-2", for instance, expands to Deputy Director of Staff Duties 1936-38 and Assistant Chief of the Imperial General Staff. 1940-1942. In turn that means Macready had, along with
Liddell-Hart, to hold the hand of Leslie Hore-Belisha at the Ministry of War, forcing through army reform against crusty opposition from the top brass at the War Office, and of necessity ploughing a furrow similar to what Haldane had done in the pre-WWI Liberal government.

Macready turns up as more than a peripheral character in other aspects of the war.

In September 1941 -- before Pearl Harbor! -- Macready is on a discreet Anglo-American mission to Moscow, negotiating assistance to the Soviet Union. This time he shares the table with Averell Harriman, Beaverbrook, Hastings Ismay and Allan Brooke.

Then, posted to Washington, he was not only responsible for maintaining supplies to Britain's war machine, he was also a crucial information channel. This shows in Granatstein's account of command in the Canadian army in WW2. The Canadian forces suffered severe casualties in the the Italian and Normandy campaign. By November 1944, the Canadian government teetered on the brink over conscription, what the Canadian General Maurice Pope described as:
the most serious crisis since Confederation, one that might destroy the basis of Confederation itself.
Pope sought out Macready in Washington; and confided in him a message for the CIGS in London, begging that patience to be shown the Canadians.

In short, Macready was not merely in the higher circles of British military policy for o
ver three decades, he also had earned remarkable trust for his diplomatic expertise. In Washington, Macready and others of similar talent went a long way to compensate for the inadequacies of Halifax, the appeaser, as Ambassador: Churchill seems increasingly to have relied upon the military attaches as his agents. Macready, too, was central to forming the British government's assessment of the new President Truman: he suggested that Truman and his Secretary-of-State Byrnes were "to some extent limited by concern of the home scene in the United States".

Yet -- and Malcolm found this surprising -- Macready has no entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.

And still more ...

That Cunningham footnote says Gordon Macready "ret 1946". On the contrary, he became one of the British Regional Commissioners in occupied Germany, running the Land of Niedersachsen, all the way from Emden and the Dutch border in the west to Braunschweig and the Elbe in the east, from Cuxhaven in the north to Osnabrück and Göttingen in the south. That includes Hanover, Hildesheim, Oldenburg ... and modern Wolfsburg, once Stadt des KdF-Wagens, and the dormitory for the makers of what we now know as the VW. Which means that one of Macready's subordinates was Major Ivan Hirst, who re-started manufacturing in 1945 (and gave the company its de-Nazified name.

By late 1947 the US and British military occupations were working towards creatin
g "Bizonia". Despite shrieks of horror from the French, a German Bizonal Economic Council took life from January 1948. This was, more than just in name, still an agency of the military government: Macready was joint Chairman, alongside the American Clarence Adcock. It was, though, the future West German administration in embryo. It had executive and legislative elements. Its Director of Economics was the social market economist, and future Chancellor, Ludwig Erhard. Macready seems repeatedly to have jousted with Erhard, who was anxious for speedier liberalisation. The full programme for the Council, in its original press-release form, is on-line; and has Macready as its featured "face" (right).

If there is some kind of moralistic lesson in all this, it involves the kind of commitment that is less in fashion than it once was.

Macready belonged to the late-Victorian generation who were brought up on Newbolt and Kipling. That ethic took many, far too many, to bloody sacrifice on the Somme. It also cultivated noble attitudes of unselfish and unstinting public service. In those rare individuals where morality and intelligence combine, that coincidence can be awesome.


Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

West Cork revisited 3: calculating the numbers of the pogrom?
Here Malcolm continues to assemble evidence. Anyone is, of course, entitled to leap to conclusions without consideration of the previous and the following posts.
We now need to consider the departure of a large number of protestant families after the 1921 settlement. It was the minor theme of RTÉ's CSÍ: Cork's Bloody Secret.

Professor John A. Murphy, in a letter to the Irish Times, challenged Eoghan Harris's claim:
Senator Eoghan Harris claimed that at least 60,000 Protestants were “driven out” of the new State in those years and that was a “conservative estimate”.

He stressed that the figure represented ordinary Protestants, “small farmers, small shopkeepers”, and did not include former servants of the ousted British regime such as disbanded policemen and demobbed soldiers. Neither did it include, presumably, those who left because they felt unable to accept the ideology and culture of the new dispensation.

Outside of these categories then, according to Senator Harris, at least 60,000 southern Protestants were subjected to an “enforced exodus” on a massive scale, to ethnic cleansing, in fact. He has made these unsubstantial allegations repeatedly (for example in the Sunday Independent , May 24th, 2009).
Harris responded, first in the Irish Times:
The Censuses from 1911 to 1926 show that a third of Irish Protestants left the State in that period. In the brief slots provided by the CSÍ programme I used the phrase “driven out ” to cover any categories of compulsion (from physical intimidation to cultural pressures such as compulsory Irish for State jobs) which caused what I called the “enforced exodus” of the 1921-22 period.

As nobody can say for sure what this enforced exodus entailed, I based my estimate of 60,000 on two figures. First, I rejected as ridiculously high a possible top figure of 146,000. On the other hand I thought the bottom figure of 39,000 a bit too low.

The latter figure comes from Dr Andy Bielenberg’s paper to the 2008 Cork conference, Understanding Our History . Excluding certain categories (RIC, first World War casualties, etc), Dr Bielenberg came up with a figure of 39,000 “involuntary emigrants”. This carefully chosen phrase is still close to my notion of an “enforced exodus”. As a professional historian, Dr Bielenberg is properly conservative in his calculations. However, if you add in the decline of Dublin working-class Protestants, those who made no claims, and those who hung on for a few years, I believe the true figure of the “enforced exodus” is far closer to 60,000. But if Prof Murphy insists that only professional historians can do the tots I will settle for Prof Bielenberg’s figure of 39,000.
Then, more generally, in his own column in the Sunday Independent:
My phone rings non-stop after CSÍ : Cork's Bloody Secret. Most of the callers are Roman Catholics and republicans from west Cork. They are thrilled to see the end of the last taboo -- telling the truth about what happened to hundreds of ordinary Irish Protestants after the Treaty.

Why did it take so long to speak out? At first fear seems to have been a real factor in isolated rural areas. Later came a decent desire not to disturb the status quo. In recent years an empty ecumenism persuaded Protestants to postpone giving witness.

Comfortable city Protestants conspired to prolong that silence. Some simply hadn't a clue about the sufferings of their country cousins. But some were silent because they had settled for the cushy role of Protestant republican.

I believe the major force in persuading Protestants to speak to CSÍ was Bishop Paul Colton's 2008 conference entitled Protestants, the War of Independence and the Civil War in County Cork. Some 150 Cork Protestants shared tragic family memories. After that the walls of silence could not stand long.

Expect some bitter old tribal nationalists to emerge to nit-pick. But most Irish people seemed relieved that those who suffered have finally found their voice. Certainly the majority community showed solidarity by tuning into CSI in large numbers.

Cork's Bloody Secret had 276,000 viewers and secured 21.8 per cent of audience share. This is a phenomenal audience for an Irish-language programme. Attention on that scale is a form of atonement.
Today there is some support for Harris, from Robin Bury, in a further letter to the Irish Times, today:
Senator Eoghan Harris (October 10th) is right to indicate that precise figures are difficult, if not impossible, to find for the number of Protestant “involuntary emigrants” between the inter-censal periods of 1911 and 1926. I have researched this subject in some detail over many months with the help of Prof David Fitzpatrick of University College, Dublin. He pointed out to me that “These speculations show, above all, how treacherous and insufficient are the available figures”. I agree, having looked at all the available sources I can lay my hands on.

At the end of this research, the best estimate I can come up with is about 45,000 Protestants were “involuntary emigrants” between 1911 and 1926, a figure somewhat higher than that of Dr Andy Bielenberg. A comprehensive breakdown of this figure will, I hope, become available when the book I am writing on Protestants in this State since 1920 is published.

Mr Harris is right to say there was a major exodus of Protestants during this period who were intimidated, or made to feel unwanted, and my book covers many such examples, details of which can be found in the Irish Grants Committee archives at the National Archives, Kew, London and in periodicals of that time like the Church of Ireland Gazette and the Presbyterian Witness.
Harris has been this way before. Last December he wrote about a conference in Cork:
a gathering of Cork Protestants at a successful seminar called 'Understanding Our History -- Protestants, the War of Independence and the Civil War in County Cork'.

The seminar, which had a full house, was the brainchild of the popular Paul Colton, Church of Ireland Bishop of the United Dioceses of Cork, Cloyne and Ross -- easily the best, as well as the best-titled, job in Ireland.
He referred then to Bielenberg's work:
drily titled Protestant emigration from the south of Ireland 1911-1926, some statistical evidence. But there was nothing dry about his final figure. Excluding extraneous factors (such as connections with the British forces, civil service, World War One casualties etc) Dr Bielenberg concluded that 39,000 southern Protestants became "involuntary migrants" in that period.

"Involuntary migrants," is another name for victims of intimidation.

As Bielenberg showed, many of them were not farmers, but small-town traders and artisans.

Behind the figures we glimpsed a grim picture -- decent Irish families caught in a conflict over which they had no control, and forced to flee from the land of their birth.

To this day, Dublin Protestants have little sense of the suffering of their country cousins. But in rural Ireland, the enforced exodus of almost 40,000 Protestants left scars on the soul as well as on the landscape. It was good to hear that some who fled came back to their farms -- proof that expelled southern Protestants were patriots who loved their country with the same passion their descendants show today.

Kevin Myers, writing in the Irish Times, was the first to break the silence about the sufferings of southern Protestants in that period. Academic study only began with the publication of Peter Hart's book, The IRA and its Enemies.
Before he moves on, Malcolm has to notice names from his past: he went to school with one Bielenberg, and was at TCD with the odd Bury. Doubtless these are the next generation. Small place, Ireland.

Let's draw a couple of conclusions here, which ought to be common ground:
  • Bielenberg's count, which all seem to accept as a base-line figure, excludes the British forces, civil service, World War One casualties etc.
  • It also excludes later "forced assimilation", the consequence of the Catholic Church's insistence on the children of mixed-marriages being brought up as Catholics, which continued the process until the last decade of the twentieth century.
Malcolm would go further.
  • There was ingrained and institutional prejudice against protestants, which persisted from earlier and lasted far longer than the scope of what Harris or Bielenberg or Peter Hart are considering.
At which point, we need to go further back. So ...

[To be continued] Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, October 11, 2009

West Cork, revisited: 2. Some more historical background ...

This piece, let it be remembered, sprang from the political assassination of Vice-Admiral Henry Boyle Townshend Somerville.

Let's ignore the affection of "Townshend" -- that was claiming collateral descent from the Townshends of West Raynham, Norfolk. The first Townsend into Ireland, a Cromwellian captain and adventurer, probably from Dorset, took a variation of the Townshend arms when he received his land-grant.

The combination of those given names, though, tells us that we are deep into the intricacies of Anglo-Irish gentry. At a quick look, this involves the Fitzgeralds and the
de Burghs and the Barrys and the Synges and ... many more. In other words, the Vice-Admiral could prove Irish (and, no, not just "Anglo-Irish") ancestry back, at least, to the twelfth century, and by the "Old English" marrying into pre-Norman Irish clans, into distant pre-history. It also means that Tom Barry, the IRA captain who ordered the old man's assassination, shared at least a name in the Somerville matrilinear ancestry.

The first of the Somervilles to arrive in Ireland seems to be the Reverend William Somerville, accompanied by his wife, Agnes, and their two sons, William and Thomas. That was around 1692. Some sources suggest that Somerville had left presbyterian Scotland because of prejudice against Anglicans and episcopalians.


The young Thomas Somerville followed his father into the Church, married a widow (a useful financial move in those days) and sired five sons (four whom seem to have emigrated to the American colonies) and four daughters.

By the third Irish generation, the Somervilles were inter-marrying with the Townsends of Castletownsend, which village became the family base through to the twentieth century.

As a pallid youth, Malcolm even shared Somerville tea at Castletownsend. No doubt about it: by that time, terms like "decayed gentry" and "distressed gentry-folk" were not far amiss.

It needs to be remembered that the Great Famine devastated not just the Irish peasantry but also the landlord class. Resident Irish landlords could not, and did not ignore the plight of their tenants: with few exceptions, they had been investing and encouraging agricultural improvements over decades. With the Famine, they were confronted with a disaster far beyond their comprehension -- and their means.

If one needs real villains of the piece, look to the absentee landlords, living in England, interested only in rack-renting their Irish estates.

... where they ate the donkeys

By a coincidence, Malcolm found himself browsing Stuart McLean's book on an Gorta Mór: The Event and Its Terrors: Ireland, Famine, Modernity.
He started to pay closer attention when he came to the passage on Skibbereen, Schull (an old stamping ground) and, in particular, Rev. Richard Townsend.

Here, in full, and at some length, it is:
Conditions in Skibbereen, County Cork, close to Ireland's southern-most tip, were made known to the British reading public during the winter of 1846-47 in part through the writings and illustrations of James Mahony, a Cork-born artist, employed by the Illustrated London News to report on conditions in his native locality. The first of these "Sketches in the West of Ireland" appeared on February 13, 1847. An accompanying editorial piece, apparently anxious to preempt charges of exaggeration, claimed that, because Mahony was a native of the district, he "must already have been somewhat familiar with such scenes of suffering in his own locality (Cork), so that he cannot be supposed to have taken an extreme view of the greater misery at Skibbereen". Mahony alighted first in the area of Bridgetown, where “I saw the dying, the living, and the dead, lying indiscriminately upon the same floor, without anything between them and the cold earth, save a few miserable rags upon them.” The dead, he observed, were often left to lie next to the living for several days before their bodies were removed. At Ballidichub [Ballydehob?], in the parish of Aghadoe, in a cabin formerly occupied by one Tim Harrington, he found four people who had been dead for six days, and a fifth dying. The latter made an attempt to rise when the visitors entered but collapsed in the doorway. The living were unwilling to bury the dead, Mahony wrote, for fear of fever. He was struck too by the hopeless insufficiency of existing relief measures in the face of a numerous and destitute population. At nearby Schull he recalled seeing “three to four hundred women,” money in hands, attempting to buy food, while a few government officers doled out Indian meal to each of them in turn. The meal itself was distributed in small quantities at "famine prices," and it was often necessary to wait all day to receive one's share. Supplies of meal had arrived by water in a sloop, accompanied by a government steamship for protection -- a total quantity of just fifty tons for a population of more than twenty-seven thousand people.

Schull provided Mahony too with a specimen of "in-house horrors" far worse than the predicament of those who were at least able to afford the price of meal. In the second of his "Sketches" (published on February 20) he gave a description and sketch of the hut of a man named Mullins, “who lay dying in a corner on a heap of straw, supplied by the Relief Committee, whilst his three wretched children crouched over a few embers of a turf fire, as if to raise the last spark of life.” Mullins, it turned out, had buried his wife some days previously. He himself had been found in a state of unconsciousness by the local Protestant clergyman, whose efforts had succeeded in pronging his life by a few days. In the accompanying illustration, the children crowd around the fire with their backs turned. Mullins himself lies center-right, his face partially averted and his eyes closed. A child, clad in rags appears in a doorway to the right, its hand extended. However, the most prominent figure is that of a man (presumably the artist), in hat and coat, seated on a chair, surveying the scene of destitution before him. As a footnote. there appeared the following editorial comment: “Our Artist assures us that the dimensions of the hut do not exceed ten feet square; adding that, to make the sketch, he was compelled to stand up to his ankles in the dirt and filth upon the floor.”

Readers of the Illustrated London News had further opportunity to learn about conditions in west Cork through the medical diaries of the Skibbereen physician, Dr. Daniel Donovan, reprinted from the Cork Southern Reporter. Although for a medical practitioner, called upon daily to attend the sick and dying, such scenes inevitably took on a familiar char­acter, Donovan himself admitted to being disturbed by his patients' acceptance of, even longing for, their own imminent demise:

Twenty-two strangers, who came into Skibbereen to beg, had taken up their abode in a house in Bridge Town; illness broke out amongst them and I was sent for to see five who were sick of the fever. The appearance of this lazaretto, when a bit of bog was lighted to show me the patients, baffles description. Four bare walls and an old straw roof constituted the habitation, and there was not in it a single pound of straw for bedding; a shower of liquid soot was falling from the thatch and a foetid fog was rising from filthy wet rags that constituted the only clothing of the inmates. I prescribed for my patients, and was about to leave them when my attention was attracted to a group in the opposite end of the house, who were zealously engaged about an old woman and child who were lying on the ground.

One of the party told him that her child was dead and her mother dying, and asked, would he give the latter a drink? The dying woman thanked him, and then thanked God that she would not be in need of his drink much longer. She then asked him, would she live until morning? He replied that he expected her to live no more than an hour — “this assurance seemed to give her the greatest satisfaction” — she then asked him to arrange for her and her child to he buried in the abbey graveyard at Skibbereen. He promised to do so, but in the hurry of business, he forgot his promise. Returning to the houst, several days later, accompanied by "an artist from the Illustrated London News" (that is, Mahony), he was shocked to find the bodies in the same spot and the same position in which he had left them.

Reports about Skibbereen had been appearing with increasing frequency since the autumn of 1846. In early December, two Protestant clergymen, the Reverend Caulfied and the Reverend Richard Townsend (whose bulletins concerning conditions in the district had been published in newspapers in both Britain and Ireland) had travelled to London to meet with Trevelyan. They had informed him that the government relief schemes were failing, that no “practical and responsible persons of property and respectability” had come forward to form a relief committee, and that in consequence, no subscriptions had been collected. The committee, now in a "state of suspension, was unable to take effective action. The only employment in the district was on public works, which, at 8 pence a day, was insufficient to feed a family. Caulfield himself had been dispensing soup at his own house each day to between sixty or seventy people, who would otherwise have starved. Trevelyan was asked to send emergency supplies of food, but none were sent. On December 15, the commissioners of the Board of Works had written an official letter to the British government, giving notice of the extreme destitution at Skibbereen. Trevelyan responded by writing to his commissary general. Sir Randolph Routh, advising him he should not send emergency supplies, in the absence of an effective relief committee at local level, because to do so would deplete government stocks; nor was he to consider the purchase of further supplies from overseas, thus interfering with the trade of local merchants. Appeals for Skibbereen received an official response in the form of a treasury minute, written by Trevelyan on behalf of the lords of the treasury, on January 8, 1847:

It is their Lordships' desire that effectual relief should be given to the inhabitants of the district in the neighborhood of Skibbereen …local Relief Committees should be stimulated to the utmost possible extent; soup kitchens should be established under the management of those Committees at such distances as will render them accessible to all destitute inhabitants and ... liberal donations should be made by Govcrnment in aid of funds raised by local subscriptions.

As a result, Skibbereen received no emergency supplies of food. although two soup kitchens were started with privately collected funds after the visit of a commissariat officer. Richard Inglis. on December 17.

By this point, horror stories in the local and national press had begun to multiply, spinning out a mythology of chaos, death, and destitution that seemed to gain in intensity with each successive retelling. According to the Cork Examiner, the death rate in the Skibbereen workhouse had, by January, reached a hundred forty a month, with as many as eight dying in a single day. Dr. Donovan, addressing a public meeting, asserted that people were "dropping in dozens”. The Reverend Robert Traill, Church of Ireland rector of Schull and chairman of the local relief committee, claimed That there were fifteen thousand persons destitute in his district, five thousand being entirely dependent on “casual charity”. There had been fifty deaths from famine, while hundreds were reduced to the point where neither food nor medicine could restore them.

The seeming ubiquity of death and disease suggests that Skibbereen had come to occupy an increasingly well-defined fantasy space in the imaginations of observers and commentators, perhaps as a heightened microcosm of conditions in Ireland as a whole, perhaps, more disturbingly, as a black hole of fathomless and all-consuming scarcity in which order and intelligibility, including the lucid precepts of political economy, were pulveriseed into nonexistence.

By April 1847, with the worst depredations of the winter over, the picture seemed complete. The following report (again reprinted from the Cork Sothern Reporter) appeared in the Illustrated London News:

The climax of mortality and misery has arrived. The peasantry are literally rotting off the surface of the earth. The living are swept off in the south western baronies by pestilence, and the dead lie unburied. melting away in this warm season where they drop and die ... the highways, dykes and cabins of the south and west are darkly dotted with corpses blackening in the sun. or filled with masses of reeking putrefaction.

The description suggests, if anything, the aftermath of catastrophe, invoking a strangely still landscape, already strewn with corpses and shrouded in the stench of decay. Human society appears to have vanished, while the casualties of its passing linger only to rot back into the soil, which waits to reclaim them.

So, what's your point, Malcolm?
  • Note those references to "fever". It wasn't just starvation that did for the victims. Those who left, who could afford the fare for the passage, were running away from more than hunger.
  • Next time you sing along with Pete St John's marvellous, magnificent Fields of Athenry, remember that "Trevelyan's corn" implies ... quite a bit.



The pert young piece and Malcolm sang that at Twickenham, cheering London Irish on against Harlequins to start the season. The Lady in his Life and Malcolm were at it again the other night, at the Irish Club. It always brings a prickle behind his eyes, followed by a discreet sniffle.
  • Read, inwardly digest, and wait for ...
[To be continued] Sphere: Related Content
It's the rottweilers again ...

Malcolm has commented on this before. He's even, in extremis, exploited it (though, on that occasion, to make sure, he included Ms Blackman's cleavage).

For some inexplicable reason, any mention of rottweilers means an up-tick in the number of hits to his two blogs.

This started when he referred to a well-known UK broadcaster as the "Splott Rottweiler". Not just assonance: true by manner; true to origin.

Yet, he hasn't mentioned the breed for some while. So, he wondered, why the sudden up-tick in interest?

It took a bit of Googling, but Malcolm thinks he now knows the source. Well, well, thank you, New York Times, for the sympathetic magic. You can afford those hits, after all. Sphere: Related Content
West Cork, revisited: 1. Some historical background

A few days back, Malcolm was considering the fourth programme in the RTÉ documentary series:
Cork's Bloody Secret

CSÍ looks at the killing by the IRA of 13 West Cork protestants over four days in April 1922.

In the course of so doing, Malcolm referred to Joseph O'Neill's Blood-Dark Track, a Family History, including this bit:

Pat went into the house and returned with a white towel. He handed it to Brendan. They laughed, and Brendan came over to the car, got into his seat and slammed shut the door. He dropped the towel on my lap. I felt a weight among the folds. I unfolded the towel. A rusted revolver sat between my knees. I looked at my uncle. Colt .45, he said, starting the engine, that's the gun that shot Admiral Somerville.

Our American Cousin's comment on that took Malcolm aback:

To be quite honest, I can't find anything wrong with the killing of Admiral Somerville.
Well, here's the Irish Times revisiting that murder:

A RETIRED British navy vice-admiral was murdered by the IRA in west Cork in 1936 for recruiting 52 Irishmen, including IRA members, into the British armed forces.

Vice admiral Henry Boyle Somerville (73), a relative of writer Edith Somerville (of Sommerville and Ross), was shot when he answered the door of his home at Castletownshend, Skibbereen, on March 24th, 1936.

A placard was found in the hallway, with a words arrangement from letters cut from newspapers, stating “This English Agent sent 52 Irishmen into the British army in the last seven weeks”.

Garda papers note that in February that year an attendance of 40 was expected at an IRA meeting in Coombe outside Skibbereen, but only 12 turned up to hear Patrick Joseph Collins of the west Cork Battalion speak.

“Collins expressed disappointment on the small attendance and was informed that several members had recently joined the British navy and army and that others had gone to England in search of work.”

At the meeting it emerged that a young man named Lehane, a captain in the Drimoleague IRA company, was among those who joined the British navy, and that vice admiral Somerville had paid the fares of a number of recruits.

“During the discussion Patrick Joseph Collins said that something would have to be done to stop the recruiting campaign.”

Gardaí believe the matter was “taken out of the hands of the local IRA” and that headquarters in Cork city were involved.

Documents found at the naval officer’s home showed “applicants from Kerry and Waterford as well as Co Cork were included in the number of recruits in whose enlistment he was in some way concerned”.

Gardaí said “nothing was left undone to break down those alibis” of the three main suspects, “but without much success”. It was “no ordinary murder, but a well and coolly thought-out outrage, well-planned and daringly executed”.
The episode made it, in a more racy form, and with some useful illumination, to the pages of Time magazine:

Irishmen, by & large, are poor sailors but excellent admirals. The late Earl Beatty was an Irish admiral. So is Edward VIII's chief naval aide-de-camp, Admiral Sir William ("Ginger") Boyle. Irish Dramatist Lord Dunsany's brother, Vice Admiral Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, is Commander-in-Chief at Plymouth, and the principal naval aide-de-camp to George V was an Admiral Kelly.

Officially retired since 1919, and living quietly in his home at Castletownshend, near Skibbereen, last week was still another Irish admiral, Henry Boyle Townshend Somerville. His Majesty's Government have worried greatly in recent months over the difficulty of finding British recruits for their rapidly expanding Navy and air force. Admiral Somerville had done much better. Hunting likely young men throughout the Irish Free State who were in need of a job, he saw to it that dozens of them were able to make their way across St. George's Channel to enlist in the British Navy. In many a Dublin back room, in many a country pub, grim-faced young Irish republicans vowed to get even with Admiral Somerville.

Comfortable though the Admiral's cottage is, it has not yet been wired for electricity. At 9:30 one evening last week he sat in his small drawing room reading the papers to his wife. There came a crunching of feet in the gravel driveway. An elderly housemaid announced that some young men wished to speak to the Admiral.

"Hmph," said he, "more recruits!"

He picked up a flickering oil lamp, went out to the hall. Mrs. Somerville, at her knitting, could hear every word.

"Are you Mr. Somerville?" said a voice.

"I am Admiral Somerville, young man."

There was a shot. The lamp crashed to the floor. Mrs. Somerville rushed screaming to the dining room for another lamp, but it blew out before she could reach the hall. In the dark she heard the pounding of running feet on the gravel again. The Admiral was still breathing when she reached him, but he died before a doctor could be summoned. By his body lay a card: RECRUITER FOR THE BRITISH. THIS IS A WARNING! By the door was a crumpled British recruiting poster and another card. It read:

"A British agent who has sent 52 boys to the British Navy within the last few months. He will send no more."

In the Dail Eireann last week the Free State's Army bill was passed providing it with an Army of 5,900 regulars, 5,800 reserves, 18,500 volunteers at a total cost of $7,650,000.

There are two ways of looking at the assassination:

  • Somerville was an "English agent" and therefore a legitimate target in the era of the "Economic War". If it helped to maintain IRA morale and recruitment (particularly so when former adherents were defecting to Fianna Fáil and "legitimate" politics), so much the better -- if not for one particular septuagenarian.
  • Somerville doing what he could, as best he could, to find employment for his fellow Irishmen, in a period when Ireland was in severe economic hardship, and at a time when re-armament against rising Nazism was no bad thing. After all, even De Valera, in Dáil Éireann, on 25 February 1937, voiced his view that:
    the truth is that in modern War there is not any neutrality.
More than anything, what sticks in Malcolm's craw is that adjective "English".

[To be continued]

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, October 10, 2009

At last ... something worth reading from Dan Brown

Well, not quite: more, about Dan Brown.

All-comers should try Maureen Dowd's beautifully arch and barbed review of The Lost Symbol. It is a bit of revisiting, for Janet Maslin also did a cracker, no prisoners taken, for the New York Times, a month back:
Mr. Brown’s splendid ability to concoct 64-square grids outweighs what might otherwise be authorial shortcomings. Within this book’s hermetically sealed universe, characters’ motivations don’t really have to make sense; they just have to generate the nonstop momentum that makes The Lost Symbol impossible to put down. So Mal’akh’s story is best not dissected beyond the facts that he is bad, self-tattooed, self-castrated and not Langdon’s friend.

Also, the author uses so many italics that even brilliant experts wind up sounding like teenage girls. And Mr. Brown would face an interesting creative challenge if the phrases “What the hell ...?,” “Who the hell ... ?” and “Why the hell ... ?” were made unavailable to him. The surprises here are so fast and furious that those phrases get quite the workout.

Then again, Mr. Brown’s excitable, hyperbolic tone is one the guilty pleasures of his books. ( ‘Actually, Katherine, it’s not gibberish.’ His eyes brightened again with the thrill of discovery. ‘It’s ... Latin.’)
Then, in this week's New York Times Books section, or on line, along comes Mo with her acerbic re-take.

Your starter for ten (or more) good belly-laughs starts here:

The new Dan Brown puzzler is the scariest one yet.

It’s not so much the barbarous machinations of the villain, another one-dimensional, self-mortifying hulk, that sends chills down your spine. Or the plot, which is an Oedipal MacGuffin.

No, the terrifying thing about The Lost Symbol is that Brown — who did not flinch when the Vatican both condemned The Da Vinci Code and curtailed the filming of Angels & Demons in Rome — clearly got spooked by that other powerful, secretive ancient sect, the Masons.
Ah, yes: the Vatican!

On a diffferent note, Malcolm was taken by the spokesperson for the Birmingham Museum's exhibition of the Staffordshire Hoard. They only realised the interest unleashed by the find, he said, when they had a 'phone-call from ... the Vatican. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Further news from Florida

When Malcolm drew attention to the Miami Herald, yesterday (and the previous post here), he hardly thought of a swift return to the same topic.

Yet, it would need one of nobler and purer mind than Malcolm to resist a story under the headline:
Former priest, ex-stripper set for child custody battle
Sphere: Related Content
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