BY ONE of those Parliamentary oddities whereby speeches made after 10 o'clock are recorded not in the following day's Hansard but the day after, there is to be found in the copy for May 4 both Hugh Delargy's last speech and the Speaker's formal announcement to the House of his death.
His last words were on the subject of the Committee of Selection: "Since then, the 'our Labour Members on the Committee have been accused in the Fiouse, and in the Press — chiefly by people who did not know the facts — of cheating, twisting and lying, of submitting to pressure and hending the rules: and all sorts of dishonourable conduct. We are not dishonourable men, and we have done no dishonourable thing."
Those that knew him, know that it is true.
He was no stranger to controversy. Only a few days earlier I had been discussing with him the new political row of which he was the centre, namely the party composition on Standing Committees now that with the Stonehouse defection the Government had lost its paper — but not its real — majority on the Floor of the House.
He was the chairman of the Committee of Selection. Was he to write about A again in his column in The Universe? We would frequently joke about our respective columns and our degrees of editorial licence. He did write about it.
He wrote "for the benefit of the Children of Mary in Barrow-inFurness." How many he knew. or if he had ever been there, I do not know hut he loved his craft. Writing was not just a vehicle for ideas, it was an art: short, simple sentences and an ability to simplify the most complex of subjects. Yet he conveyed his own deep emotions and passionate concern.
He handled words as lovingly as any jeweller his gems, always ‘Aunting the right setting, never satisfied with the first or fourth draft. forever pruning, correcting mail he achieved the purity and directness or style which he sought.
He spoke of the Children of Mary not with contempt but with love, for he wanted people to care passionately for the things and ideas he loved and hated — no, disliked, for hate is too strong a word. There was no hatred in the man even for the propounders of the most hateful of philosophies: just a degree of sadness that people could behave so horribly towards each other the way they do at times.
He was passionate about his causes, about the unity of Ireland. My first memory of him Was when he chaired the Anti-Partition Meetings when De Valera waged his last campaign of words in England. Tall, forthright, by far the better actor, Hugh loved
Ireland, the land of his fathers. only because he loved England so much.
His repast, published in so many of his obituaries is still worth recalling. When a history doh suggested that with her record in Ireland. England was in no position to judge the German behaviour in Auschwitz, he replied that the Germans had killed more in atom camp in one week than the English had killed in Ireland in 700 years.
But his Ireland was not the Ireland of ballad. myth and legend. though he knew them all. "The Falls Road is the capital of Ireland," he 'Would boast. The place where live his relatives.
Having decided that he had no vocation for the priesthood despite his brilliance as a student in France and at the Gregorian — it amused him that the only other person in the House with a degree in divinity was Ian Paisley — he went, unemployed and penniless, to the Falls Road of the thirties.
There, as in Manchester, he krew and experienced poverty, there he learnt a different nationalism than the green fields of the merry ploug,hhoy, there he experienced the passion and orotest that could understand a distraught Bernadette Devlin and protect and comfort her when in the House, she attacked Reginald Matidling after his statement following Bloody Sunday.
He was on the Left of the Party. a friend of Aneurin Bevan — "I loved that man" — a proposer of foot for the leadership of the Party. hut he was not a dogmatic doctrinaire man. His socialism he learned from experience, not from books.
Unlike many on the Left. he was not suspicious of Europe. nor did his enthusiasm stop at the F:lbe. Fle had great affection for the Poles. "The Poles are the Irish of Europe" he would declare, and drew parallels between the two countries in their efforts to assert their independence and their Catholicism. I hope he is pleased that I lit my candle and said my prayer for him before the Pieta at the Shrine of Our Lady of Dolours in Strasbourg.
Whatever else he was, he was a Catholic. He knew, loved and lived his religion. He could have been the inspiration for Belloc's Peter Wanderwide. As an old man Belloc was one drills constituents. It was about Belloc's politics, never his poetry, that I. as a very TICW member, for the first and last time crossed swords with Hugh in the Commons Smoke Room. He withered me with his scorn, detested me with his argument, charmed me with his wit and filled me with his wine. He cherished a copy of a poem Bettor: had handwritten for him, Ile was the Pope's man. Ile could clash memorably with bishops, as he did with the late Cardinal Heenan, when he was Bishop of Liverpool, over the morality of voting for Bevanite candidates: hut he was the Pope's man — the institution and the incumbent.
That same Thursday our conversation turned towards the present Pope. l had ventured an opinion that, much as I loved Paul VI.
respected in particular his social documents, I was nevertheless unhappy about Humanae Vitae. He would have none of it. He was the Pope's man and prophetically — and now how sadly he quoted the refrain from Belloc's Ballad to Our Lady of Czestochowa:
This is the Faith that I have held and hold
And this is that in which I :neon to die.
He was loved :.ind respected by all his colleagues. A paradox was that one of his closest friends was an Ulster Unionist, George Currie: another companion in the Smoke Room a Tory knight. He was sought after by men or all parties to obtain his advice and lift their spirits — as often as not by a tale told against himself.
I was always a little afraid of him. Of different generations. we nevertheless shared the same roots and background. He was kind. generous in his praise, gentle with his chiding, listening carefully. his white head nodding, his left thumb and first finger resting in his characteristic pose of his breast pocket. My regret is that I did not see more of him when I could.
If we inks hilt!, spare a prayer or his wife Margaret. She was his vonstant companion, ever helpful. keeping him organised, doing his +.3.ork, We can only guess at her loss.
In that last debate Michael Fool said of' his friend "... on personal grounds. I believe that everyone who has heard my Honourable Friend speak — certainly I have known him since 1945 — will agree that we have used the word 'honourable' of one another in this House but there is no Honourable Member to whom that can he applied more aptly than my Honourable Friend."
May he rest in peace.