GENERAL ARTICLES

London Letter

Paradox in Eire

BEVERLEY BAXTER'S August 1 1946
GENERAL ARTICLES

London Letter

Paradox in Eire

BEVERLEY BAXTER'S August 1 1946

London Letter

GENERAL ARTICLES

BEVERLEY BAXTER'S

Paradox in Eire

THERE was much excitement, as two young women entered our compartment on the Belfast to Dublin express. One, about 24 years of age, was a radiant redhead, dressed in clothes that were startlingly gay, and with a wholesome vivacity that lit up the scene like one of Mr. Rank’s arc lights. Her elder sister, about 34, was quietly dressed, and tears oozed from her sad eyes.

As the train pulled out the elder sister moaned and the pretty one smiled warmly upon us.

“Isn’t she gloomy?” she asked, pointing to her sister. “Crying all the morning. Couldn’t eat her breakfast.”

I asked her what was the trouble. “We’re flying to America,” said the dazzling redhead. “And to think neither of us has ever been on a boat, much less an airplane. We’re going to join our daddy in Philadelphia. We haven’t seen him for 22 years. This is the picture of his house.”

The Hardhearted Inspector

WE passed the snapshot from hand to hand and made appropriate comments. The ticket inspector entered and said to her: “When you see the Statue of Liberty give it a kiss for me.” “How can I,” asked the redhead, “if you don’t give me a kiss to give it?” This deficiency being remedied to the approval of us all, the beautiful creature then told us she intended to look up “Bill,” an American officer who had been stationed in Belfast. “He was an awfully nice boy,” she said, “but every time I asked him if he loved me he’d just say, ‘Hell, no.’ ” Her story of Bill’s courtship was as funny as anything ever written by Damon Runyan, and it lasted until the border, when a young, sombre, good-looking customs inspector entered to examine our luggage.

Fastening his eyes on the radiant beauty, he asked her to take down her suitcase from the rack. “Ah, you do it,” she said, turning her whole irresistible charm upon him.

“I will not,” he said sternly.

What courage! What character! So radiant redhead (we learned that she was the official Belfast Beauty Queen for six successive years) made a face at him and did what she was told.

We said good-by to the Queen at Dublin, and off she went with her sister. The skies were shedding

tears, like the older girl, but I felt that the whole incident was a perfect prelude for a visit to Eire, which is still the land of romance, of laughter and brooding melancholy.

The last time I was in Dublin was three years ago, when it was spiritually shabby in the soiled purity of neutrality. Irishmen then said openly that the English would never forgive them for staying out of the war, and that Eire would be boycotted when peace came. Like stubborn children, conscious of misbehaving but determined not to change, they believed that they would be punished. It was just one more misunderstanding of the English temperament.

Boycotted? On the day of my arrival the 2,000 Guineas was being run at the Curragh. “Are you going to it?” I asked an Irish friend who had come to the hotel. He shook his head. “And what would I be going to the Curragh for, just to gaze at the

backs of 15,000 Englishmen and never the sight of a horse?”

Like everything in Eire it was an exaggeration, but like most things in Eire it has some meaning. A well-informed Irishman whom I met later on explained it this way: “Under

your Labor Government England is going to become one vast suburb, with holiday camps and charabancs bringing profanity and destruction to your countryside. The modest country gentleman is finished in England. So he’s coming here. Then there are other English families who have some Irish background and they’re buying up estates here like homing pigeons. Of course our income tax being lower than yours has a lot to do with it. That and the fact that you can do what you like in Ireland.”

The New Conquest

1 ASKED him if he thought the new English settlers would be happy in Eire. “Of course not,” he said. “The sun shines here, and no Englishman can stand the sun for long, it gives him a liver.” A gust of rain splashed the window near us, and the day was almost as dark as night. “Besides,” he went on, “the English will soon find that there’s nothing to do in Ireland. They’ll get bored and go back to the South of France.”

One more question. “Do your people resent the English buying up your country places?” “Not at all,” he said. “We are in a race of realists. In the bad old days the English lived in Dublin and the Irish grew their food for them. Now we Irish live in Dublin and the English are coming to grow the food for us.”

Is that the whole truth about the English invasion? Is it possible that Britain’s consideration for Eire during the war has wiped out all the bitter memories of the past? I suggest that we call another witness—the Republican anti-De Valera candidate in the Cork by-election which was being fought during my visit. Here is what he has to say: “The English have reconquered Eire. We drove them out with our blood and they are buying their way back with their fnoney. We are an occupied country again, and the De Valera Government is selling out to the foreigner.”

It is never safe to generalize about the Irish, and certainly there is the warmest courtesy shown everywhere to visitors Continued on page 24

Continued from page 14

from Britain, but when the troubles come again to Southern Ireland (and they will come even if they have to be created) there is nothing more certain than that there will be a cry once more of “Drive the British out. Make them give us back our land.”

Every visitor to Dublin lunches at Jammet’s Restaurant, which has the best food and the slowest service in town. We ate smoked salmon, a minute steak, asparagus dripping in rich sauce, and a peach Melba. Not a lot in quantity, but rich in quality. Whereupon we discovered, like every other visitor from England, that we would not be hungry again during our visit. I have never understood calories, but apparently after six years of austerity in Britain, the digestion just can’t take real food and ask for more.

What about the shops? The best Havana cigars can be purchased almost at pre-war prices. Chocolates are rationed. One has to have coupons to purchase most things, and there is not much variety in establishments that sell women’s clothes.

Luxury goods are expensive and essentials are not cheap. My wife assures me that Dublin is not the shopper’s paradise that it is supposed to be, but the unforced courtesy of the assistants is beyond praise. Believe it or not, the Dublin shop assistant does not regard a customer as being either a nuisance or an enemy of society.

Dublin has always been a city of startling contrasts, a fact we realized once more when we went to see a comedy at the Abbey Theatre. Outside the theatre, watching Dublin’s prosperous proceed to the play, were a dozen undersized, wretchedly clothed children with bare feet, begging for pennies. The commissionaire would shoo them off, but one could as easily disperse a swarm of mosquitoes.

In the intervals of the play the urchins gathered there again with their poor little feet on the soaking cobblestones. It is said that they are professional beggars and that they are organized. Is there such a profit in pennies that it is worth an organization? The truth remains that the poor of Eire are tragically poor both in Dublin and the country.

De Valera—the Puzzle

It is in keeping with the land of paradox that Nelson’s Column dominates the centre of Dublin, while Queen Victoria sits in marble majesty within the courtyard of Eire’s Parliament.

The debating chamber of the Dail is fashioned like a cockfighting establishment. On the floor are the cocks, and above is a circular gallery with pyramided rows of seats. The Speaker wears no robes, and the atmosphere is informal, argumentative and not very impressive. I had hoped to hear flashing oratory expressed in the rich cadence of the Irish tongue, to witness personalities as vivid as Parnell, and to thrill to eloquence harnessed to passion. I regret to report that the Irish M.P.’s are no more glamorous or audible than those at Westminster.

Sitting on the Front Bench, with fingers stroking his weary brow, was that enigma of statesmen, Eamon de Valera, the man who played his part in ridding Ireland of the British, who kept his country out of the war, who has raised the standard of living; yet when you call at his headquarters the guards are armed with revolvers. There are still men in Ireland who believe that murder is the only road to patriotism. Some are fanatics, some are fools, some are just killers. “Ireland

for the Irish!” is their cry, and they dare prison and death for their beliefs.

In the cycle of time De Valera finds himself imprisoning men for the very acts which he and his Sinn Fein colleagues committed in the past. He has had to abolish trial by jury because the threat of death has made it impossible to secure juries and witnesses to assist the processes of the law. The by-election in Cork was caused by the death of an imprisoned Republican Deputy who went on a hunger strike. Nor is this the only example of selfdestruction among political prisoners.

So De Valera sits in the Dail, with his fingers pressed against his forehead, facing angry deputies who are demandT ing an impartial investigation of prison conditions, “where men have undergone solitary confinement for two years, where another has no clothes and, therefore, can take no exercise—” charges which were refuted by the Minister of Justice when he came to speak.

What is the explanation of De Valera’s hold upon his people? Even his followers say that he is meticulous and lacking in human warmth. As a proof of his rigid sense of punctilio they recall that he attended a special service of intercession for the soul of President Roosevelt after his death. And when Hitler was finally assumed to be dead in the famous Berlin Bunker, Mr. de Valera called on the German Minister to express his condolences.

“Of all the mad things,” say the Irish, “to do that when Germany had lost the war.”

There is a sad and sombre note in De Valera’s voice, as though he had seen his dreams fade into the twilight of the years. He sees Ireland divided by a partition as unbridgeable as when it was first created. The attempt to give the country its own language has been not only a failure but a joke. The effort to industrialize Eire has proved costly and unproductive. Once more it is English money that Eire depends upon, English markets, English tourists—and there are desperate men who call themselves patriots and denounce De Valera as a traitor. Was it for this that the martyrs of the Easter Rebellion died?

There was no joy of battle in his face as the debate grew noisy and passionate and one of the M.P.’s was ordered out of the chamber. They say De Valera is tired and that his eyes are giving him trouble. I think that he is experiencing the disillusionment of the revolutionary who becomes the keeper of the law.

* * *

The next morning I read that the Beauty Queen of Belfast and her sister had taken off for America in the Atlantic plane. They are not merely Irish, these two sisters with their laughter and gloom—they are Ireland.

What Your Score Means

If your score is below 60, you are in the danger zone, and the chances are that you are quite lonely at times and not very popular. If you rate below 60 and tell yourself that you are rather popular, you are simply fooling yourself and falling way below your possibilities. Examine each answer carefully for its full import, and make a determined and consistent effort to change so you could make each answer the preferred one.

If your score is 60 to 70 you are on the border line; you are just getting by; there is plenty of room for vital improvement in your personality.

If your score is 70 to 80 you have a fair average. You have some good friends and a number of acquaintances who like you fairly well, but it is safe to say that if your grade is in this category you know yourself that you fall somewhat short, and should bestir yourself to correct the points on which you failed in this inventory. If in this category, while you get along fairly well with other people, you will probably be the first to admit to yourself that you would rarely be spoken of as “a very popular person.”

If your score is 80 to 90 you have a very good rating, and it is a shame that you don’t take the comparatively easy steps that will be clear to you to boost your rating by several points. Your company is frequently sought by

others, and you meet them more than halfway in their seeking.

If your rating is 90 to 100 you are well aware, and so are all of your numerous friends, that you are outstandingly popular. You are the type first thought of and counted in when a social group is being formed, and it is likely that your business and social associates have pushed you ahead of the crowd. You are the kind of person we all would enjoy having for a friend.

Analyze your answers. Just one of those you couldn’t score on may give you the key to the reason for the loss of that friend you valued; that promotion you didn’t get; that plum hanging on a high branch.

Go back through the years, recalling the persons you have known. Did you quit that job when you found that the boss was not sincere, didn’t keep his promises, and was loyal only to himself? Do you remember that beautiful girl you were attracted to but dropped because she was sarcastic and gossiped about your mutual acquaintances? If you are a girl, do you recall that man who talked so much and wanted everything his own way, the one you decided not to marry?

There isn’t a point in this test that you can’t change yourself so as to merit the preferred answer if you really want it that way. It’s definitely within your own control.

From “Make the Most of Your Life,” Whittlesey House, N. Y.