By .1. F. FIELDING, K.C.S.G. . Four thousand issues ago the CATHOLIC HERALD was born. It was in 1884 that it was founded by an Irishman, Charles Diamond, who was a member of the Nationalist Party in the House of Commons.
® I-lere the story of Diamond the man is told by one who knew him well and who is now himself a director of the CATHOLIC HERALD.
JUST 68 years ago a young man with bright auburn hair and searching blue eyes walked into the Leeds office of
the CATHOLIC HERALD where I
had started work as a junior reporter.
'That was my introduction to Charles Diamond, ownereditor and fiery Nationalist M.P. for Monaghan. Thus began my association with him of nearly 40 years.
He frequently dropped in at Leeds on his way from London to Glasgow. Three editions of the "Herald" were published in Yorkshire—part of a chain which stretched over England and Scotland and was later extended to embrace Dublin and Cardiff.
The English and Scottish papers were printed at Glasgow under the managing editorship of D. J. Mitchel Quin, K.S.G., a grand man to work with. Some years later I discovered we were both active members of the C.Y.M.S. and the S.V.P., the first planks in Catholic Action. Mr, Quin exercised a mellowing influence on G.D. who was never the same after Mr. Quin's death.
Other journalistic irons in the fire besides the "Herald" were the "Catholic Pulpit", 'The Lamp", and the "Catholic Home Journal". Two other Catholic weeklies were merged with the "Herald" — the "Monitor" and the "Catholic News".
C.D. was vastly amused when a secular newspaper called him the Northcliffe of the Catholic press.
In the early part of the century the English, Irish and Welsh papers came to be printed at Manchester. Mr. Thomson, another likeable Scot, was the man on the spot there, and there was a gap when
he resigned to join the family's publishing business. The printing press had been a constant source of trouble to Mr. Thomson and he compared it to Dr. Johnson's dancing dog --which though it danced badly did actually dance
An individualist C.D. never bowed to the discipline of the Irish Parliamentary Party. A strict teetotaller he was never happy in the company of those colleagues who were connected with the liquor trade, and it was no surprise to him (though it came as a shock to his admirers) when the Trade element in the Party manoeuvred him out of his seat at Monaghan.
Always a champion of the op pressed nations, C.D. was a vigorous opponent of the Boer War. He fiercely denounced the Jameson Raid, and sensing the fate in store for the Hoers he sailed to South Africa and for six months traversed the country on horseback studying the political situation on the spot.
Paul Kruger, the Bocr leader, was amongst the cclehrities he interviewed. The series of articles he wrote for the "Herald' on his travels and impressions aroused tremendous interest amongst Irish Catholic readers but the grave warning he gave that the Bocrs would resist invasion to the bitter end was ignored by the Press and politicians alike.
In his Parliamentary days C.D. was a popular speaker at Irish meetings in this country. Fluent, forthright, and forcible, he dis• dained the nostalgic appeal of the average Irish M.P. and scorned the "flowers on mother's grave" style
He did not however consider it beneath his dignity to play o the gallery occasionally. After the first World War he engaged in a public debate on Russia at Barnsley, the centre of the Yorkshire mining field. The local Labour M.P. returning from a visit to Russia, had given a glowing account of conditions under the Soviet, stoutly declaring that he had seen no evidence of religious persecution and building up a picture of Russia as a workers' paradise.
Immediately he was challenged to a public debate with an offer of £25 if he could substantiate his assertions. I deposited £25 with the Mayor of Barnsley and the debate over which the Mayor presided took place at the Town Hall, which was packed to capacity.
The M.P. duly said his piece and it was obvious that he had seen in Russia just what his guidcs and interpreters had wanted him to see.
Few people in the audience were impressed by his recital, and all were keyed up for Mr. Diamond's reply. When called on by the Chairman, C.D, slowly rose from his seat on the platform and in taking off his overcoat made a pretence of taking off his jacket as well— a gesture that was greeted with roars of laughter to the obvious discomfiture' of his opponent. Then turning to the M.P. he greeted him in Russian! The poor man was speechless. and a look of blank dismay crossed his features.
C.D. now turned to the audience and blandly remarked, " Your M.P. has been to Russia and knows all about it. i have greeted him in Russian and he does not know a word of the language."
More applause for C.D. and more discomfiture for the man beside him.
C.D, had no difficulty in
demolishing his opponent's case. He quoted first-hand stories from Russian refugees and from an abundant supply of copies of olTicial reports and documents. He was given an ovation at the end. No .vote of course was taken, but as one enthusiastic man in the audience declared, "Mr. Diamond won hands down". The cheque for £25 was magnanimously given to the Mayor to be handed to any
charity he nominated.
.1 .0 causes that appealed to him, C.D. gave freely and spontane ously. On hearing that Bishop Cowgill was going to Rome for the Pope's Jubilee he sent him a cheque for £100, as a .Juhilee gift to the Pope from the editor and staff of the "Herald" as a token of their loyalty and affection.
There was also an occasion when he came dow'i to Yorkshire
to speak for the Labour candidate at a by-election in the Spen Valley. I accompanied him from Leeds and we found on arrival that the meeting was already under way. C.D. had been billed as the Irish orator — a designation of which he told me he disapproved.
The hall was crowded and C.D. remained at the door whilst I forced my way to the platform. The chairman halted the meeting to make the necessary announcement, and the guest-speaker was escorted to the front amid resounding cheers.
One of the most telling passages in his speech was a moving denunciation of the Liberal Party's record in "promising to the ear what they so often break to the heart".
C.D. had previously joined the Labour Party and had signalled his allegiance by a donation of £1,000 to the party funds and by standing (unsuccessfully) as a Labour candidate for a London constituency.
On one of his visits to Leeds I took him along to see the new offices of the Pearl Assurance Company on the frontage of which is a sculptured figure of Mr. Foley, the founder of the Pearl. A romantic story was told of Mr. Foley. As an out-of-work clerk he had tramped from Leeds to London where on the dockside he had started an agency which eventually blossomed into the Pearl Company. On his retirement he had joined the Irish Party and had entered the House of Commons. As a result of all-night sittings common in those days, he had become addicted to the bottle. C.D. gazed up at his effigy and remarked: "Poor Foley. I knew him well. He was frequently sober."
There were get-togethers of our English and Scottish staffs over
the years, usually at Harrogate.
On one occasion Mrs. Diamond (a dear old soul), Mrs. Quin, and other ladies graced the social part of the proceedings. After dinner C.D. came round with cigars. A Scottish member of the staff had recently :,tood as a Labour candidate for Parliament and when the cigars were offered he took a pipe out of his mouth waved it airily and smugly exclaimed.
"Don't forget I'm a Labour man". Instantly C.D. retorted. — "And don't forget to be a gentleman when ladies are present.
There was another reunion at a London hotel to celebrate C.D: s return from his sojourn in Pentonville. He was his old genial self, and playfully chided Mrs. Dianrond when she whispered "Be careful with the sugar" (then still rationed). When I casually mentioned that during his imprisonment a portrait and appreciative sketch of him had appeared in a
popular women's paper it turned out that no other member of the staff had heard of the article. A messenger was sent hot-foot to obtain copies, and C.D, later told me how much he had enjoyed it.
Apart from the papers C.D. had other important business interests. Chief of these were the English Sewing Cotton Company and the Barnsley Paper Mills. Shortly after acquiring the paper mills he was faced with a -strike. Anxious for a settlement. he asked me to secure the services, as mediator, of the Mayor of the town and informing him in confidence that C.D. was prepared to concede the men's demands in full, The Mayor, who was a Catholic and Trade Unionist, readily fell in with the suggestion and was given the credit for bringing about a settlement of the dispute.
Of journalists who owed their training to the "Herald" perhaps the most prominent was Francis McCullagh. A native of Dublin he came to Leeds after a spell at Glasgow. He became editor of the Catholic Messenger", Ceylon, the "Siam Free Press", Bangkok, and war correspondent of the "New York Herald" and the London "Daily News"
Henry Somerville, K.S.C., left Leeds to join the editorial staff at Manchester, went on to the Catholic Workers' College, Oxford, where he took his M.A. in Economics, and was appointed editor of a leading Catholic paper in Canada.
in more recent years, Chris Hennessy, who did valiant service at our Liverpool office, joined the "Universe". and is now managing editor.
Success stories cannot be told of all men who passed through the Leeds office. Determined to give a fresh start to an ex-Stonyhurst man who had fallen on evil days J had him decently fitted out and tried him out at Hull. He shaped well for a week or two and then disappeared. He was last seen following with other down-and-outs in the wake of a Salvation Army band—having got rid of his new suit.
C.D, had always been such a fit
and active man that it was a shock to all who knew him when news of his serious illness was circulated.
saw him a few days before his death. I found him quite resigned and patiently awaiting the final summons.
On hidding him goodbye he clasped my hand, asked me to pray for him, and then faintly murmured, "The evil a man does lives after him. The good is oft interred frith his bones".