IN 1877 the hanging of eight -1 Irishmen brought to an end a reign of terror that had gripped the American Pennsylvanian coalfields for more than 20 years.
Following the Great Famine, thousands of Irish families fled ;o the United States. where food would never be short, where they would earn large wages, and where their children would be educated and well-dressed. Or so they were led to believe.
But it did not take long for them to realise that in fact they had left bad conditions to come to worse. The men were paid starvation wages that could be spent only at the company store—and they were lucky if they found a tin shack to live in.
Naturally trouble had to come, and it came with a fury that swamped the coalfields in blood. The Molly Maguires were formed, originally to deal out tit-for-tat vengeance but soon degenerating into bands of thugs who thought nothing of murdering a foreman for a wrong word. For years they were able to rob, maim and murder without punishment; it would take a brave man to give evidence against a Molly.
At last that brave man turned up. James McParlan, a Pinkerton detective. joined the Mollies and rose to become a leading lieutenant, collecting evidence until he was able to prove the guilt of all the leaders of the organisation.
Can there be any sympathy for the Molly Maguires? Certainly they were disgustingly treated by the mine owners and were badly let down by the propaganda that had induced them to leave Ireland in the first place, and yet of course One can only feel horror at what they eventually became.
I think that Arthur H. Lewis in Lament for the Molly Maguires is not sure of his own feelings. and strangely this gives his book an odd appeal; one is both for the Mollies and against them, which is prob ably the only answer (Longmans, 30s.). There can he no doubt, however. of the courage of McParlan, who stayed with the Mollies until the end although he knew he was suspected of being a detectise. and of Fr. McDermott a ho endlessly denounced them from his pulpit.
Mr. Lewis has written a hook that is well-documented, never dull, and can be recommended to anyone wanting to know more about this period of Irish-American history.
Nearer home is Clifford King's The Orange and the Green, a history of the troubled years 1912-1922 (Macdonald. 30s.). Mr. King gives a straightforward account of the decade. although at times skating a little too quickly. Perhaps the most interesting point is to be reminded of the speech prepared by Sir Edward Carson when he was organising the shipping of guns into Northern Ireland.
In the event of his arrest he was to make a plea which in these days of U.D.I. is not irrelevant: "My Lord and gentlemen of the jury; I was born under a British flag, a loyal subject of His Majesty the King. So much do I value this birthright that I was even prepared to rebel to defend it. If to fight so as to remain, like yourselves, a loyal subject of His Majesty he a crime, my Lord and gentlemen of the Jury, I plead guilty . . ."
Well in time for the celebrations to be held later this year for the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising comes the re-issue of two books which have already made their mark. Frank O'Connor's The Big Fellow, his well-known biography of Michael Collins, was first published in 1937 and has now been revised (Clonmore & Reynolds, 25s.).
Mr. O'C'onnor is Collins' champion and his biography suffers from his tendency to see greatness in everything that Collins did, but for all that the book is a worthy tribute to a man who wanted only to do what he thought best for Ireland. He shows us that, far from trying to understand the character of the Big Fellow, we should only he grateful that he was there 11• hen needed most.
The Irish novelist James
Stephens was in Dublin during Easter Week and kept a diary that is dramatic and yet not dramatised. The Insurrection in Dublin now appears as a paperback and is a valuable picture of events during those terrible days (Scepter 6s.).
When this hook was first
published in 1916. Mr. Stephens asserted that friendship between Ireland and England would eventually come. however remote it might have seemed at the time. He also said that without that friend'ship there could he no solution to the "Ulster Problem". We have the English-Irish friendship; can we hope soon for a reconciliation between North and South?
Lionel Fleming in Head or Harp also deals in part with the struggle for Home Rule, although most of the book concerns his childhood and his career as a journalist and broadcaster in Dublin and London (Barrie &
21s.). A charming book it is, too.
Mr. Fleming was on the
Irish Times. when Bertie Srnyllie was Assistant Editor land what an odd man he must have been). He knew, among others. Gogarty and
Yeats and attended the funeral of George Moore.
He tells at secondhand of the night in the Palace Bar when Louis MacNeice and Patrick Kavanagh hurled insulting couplets at each other (Kavanagh: "Let yez go hack and labour for Faber and Faber.").
But the most memorable is the old lady who would jogtrot up to 40 miles with a letter in the days before the G.P.O. "Ale" she would say, "it's many an up-a-leg and down-a-leg before ye see me again."
OI 7-0E-T01 ICH, cranky, reactionary—yes, W, B. Yeats was certainly all of these; and yet he rvrnalrrs ki Mal poet. It was, one presumes. the power to trans
fer his dream of the world into mentor-able speech which gives him this commanding status. One of the contributors to
n COttellary edited ha D. E. S. Nlaswell and S. B. nu,hrui. is the Nigerian poet Christopher Okigho (Neimin, 85s.i. Ile has expressed the hold of the Irish writer's charm in the following words: They thought you could stop pursuing the kN h ite elephant
But you pursued the white elephant w 'Mout turning hack You who charmed the white elephant ' ith your magic flute You who trapped the while elephant like a common rabbit. feats was. indeed. a chimerachaser: but one who managed to convert his quarry into an ideal verbal monument.
Yeats' chimeras and ideals were many: theosophy, astrology, Irish nationalism and others: and the present volume is particularly informing on Yeats' relation in the Irish scene!, its politics. its country-houses, its embryonic theatre, the bearing of its speech on the poet's style. the Celtic element in his verse. and the friendship and influence of the playwright John Millington Sy rage.
These late floral tokens upon the poet's hearse have been woven by scholars Of many countries— Ireland, Egypt, Jordan, Canada, 1.1.S.A.—and go far to prove the export-power of art when the market in drier goods has passed its Intern days. Yeats, parochial, as he sometimes was, is more ubiquitous, more universal. than the most cosmopolitan globe-trotter.