CHARTERHOUSE CHRONICLE by Gerard Noel
NEXT Monday will be the 25th birthday of David Bingham. Who, you may well ask, is he?
He's really Lord Lucan. But, no, not the one who disappeared 18 years ago. That was his father. whose legally-recognised death young David has been finding it so hard to establish.
An apparent setback to his cause momentarily surfaced last month in the town of Castlebar, in
the far west of Ireland. I happened to be on hand myself to hear about some of the repercussions.
Numerous acres hereabouts getting on for 200,000 were once owned by the Luca!' family. But all such land had long since devolved into other hands. Or had it?
Imagine the recent surprise of one local worthy on suddenly receiving a demand for rent. "Be it known by these presents," said the summons, that certain parts of his land had, indeed, been purportedly transferred to other ownership, but without the necessary "fee simple absolute in possession." The conveyance had therefore been invalid and substantial arrears of rent were now due to the rightful owner, "Lord Lucan".
Gone to ground?
HAD the vanished Seventh earl this latter-day Playboy of the Western World been lying low all these years in that same land where the mists yielded myths of Millington Synge? Did it explain the mysterious identity of the bearded hermit in the lonely cabin on the Irishtown road? Or was some rapacious "agent" trying yet another trick to rob the natives on behalf of a distinctly "absentee" landlord?
The latter possibility could not be summarily ruled out in an area once under the sinister shadow of agent Captain Boycott. But an elaborate hoax seemed more probable; and so it turned out to be.
In one person to whom I spoke however, it produced a shudder at the memory of what life was actually like in County Mayo a hundred and more years ago until, as it seemed, all was changed by a visitation from another world.
I WAS able to see for myself the
very spot on which the said
visitation is recorded as having
For I was staying at nearby Knock where, on August 21, 1879, 15 villagers clearly saw Our Lady suspended over the church gable. What followed was a saga indeed.
I shall write more about the shrine itself (if I'm still alive) next spring, in time for the "summer season" for pilgrimages. My main concern for the moment is with the social history of a still uncongested rural Ireland a century ago and its connection with the phenomenon at Knock.
Indirectly, without doubt. there was a connection between the two. Imaginative and mystical by .nature, the people inspired as if by despair itself, one is told seemed to be in a lightheaded, almost trance-like state of expectancy reminiscent of God's original "own people" searching for their promised land.
Extreme hunger, moreover, is well known to be a factor for some who have mystical experiences, including visions. For these are seldom, if ever, vouchsafed to their better nourished and otherwise more favoured fellow Christians. (I have never have you? heard of a sighting of the Blessed Virgin by a portly City gent making his mattutinal exit from Mansion House underground.) As for the fateful forming of the Irish Land League at Castlebar erstwhile Lucan stronghold in the same week as the apparition at Knock, I will, again, come back to this later. For the former event was the turning point of modern Irish history.
`OuP or 'Non'?
WHEN the French go out to vote on Sunday, will they remember that it is almost exactly the 200th birthday of the French Republic? How ironical to contrast the fallibility of most modern prophecies, based on opinion polls, with the accuracy of at least one prediction, based on very different sources. which preceded the latter event.
The advent of a Republic in France almost to the day. had been long been predicted by the remarkable Michel de Notredamc, better known as Nostradamus. In 1782, however, his works were put on the Index and he was condemned by a Church resentful at his accurate prediction of its humiliation in France in 1792.
Some maintain that the Church always discourages belief in prophecies. But it seems to make some notable exceptions, as in the cases of Saints Malachy and Columkille. (But these men were of impeccable Christian lineage while Nostradamus was of Jewish descent.) The prophecies of the 12th century Archbishop of Armagh, St Malachy, on the other hand, take on a somewhat ominous ring just at the moment, despite the enthusiasm for them of many pious Catholics in the past. For Malachy, as is well known, foretold the line of future Popes whom he described in a succession of cryptic "legends."
There is currently only one such legend left.
Such pessimistic ponderings are prompted by the disedifying spectacle, so far chiefly limited to the USA, of certain vulture-like ghouls already beginning to confer in secret in case there should be a papal conclave next year.
They are aware, say some, that the legendary description of the next Pope, "Gloria Olivae", presumably referring to a peacemaker, is the last legend on Malachy's list.
His prophecies then abruptly end with the statement that the final Pope of history will be "Peter of Rome."
Does such a "Peter" merely symbolise, under his actual title, the first Pope, and is he to be the one and the same as "Gloria Olivae"? Or will the mere choice of another name avert Domesday with the possibility of other Popes in between?
No good seeking popular opinion, a la Gallup. We obviously need higher guidance. What about asking the present Pope? If finally proved correct he will be remembered as the Pole of polls.
RECENT musings by Bernard Levin in The Times prompt a final question: would Gerald Ratner, the impulsive author of fateful one-liners, have undergone a more gradual downfall had he been a Trappist monk?
Levin remarks that the order has recently relaxed its rule of total silence. This is true.
The reform started in the fifties when one Trappist house allowed its inmates a single sentence out loud every decade. Many will remember the result in a particular case: After the first ten years, a certain Trappist said, "my bed's hard."
He utilised his next opportunity to remark that the chapel was cold. after another ten years he announced he was leaving.
The Abbot said, "I'm not surprised. You've done nothing but complain ever since you got here."