Hubert Butler, Grandmother and Wolfe Tone, foreword by Dervla Murphy (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1990), vii-x, 253pp.

Pt. 1, Ireland: Otway Cuffe; Home-Coming; Barriers; Two Languages; County Libraries, sex, religion & censorship; Crossing the Border; Abortion; The Decay of Archaeology; Midland Perspectives; Influenza in Aran; Grandmother and Wolfe Tone. Pt 2, Politics and Culture of Europe and America: James Bourchier, an Irishman in Bulgaria; Mein Kampf, Eliot and Foster; Yugoslavia, cultural background; Yugoslavia, Church and its opponents; Father Chok and compulsory conversion; post war Yugoslavia; The Final Solution; Escape to France; American Impressions.

Foreword: … In 1943 HB wrote “The Two Languages” for The Bell; but only now do we have an opportunity to benefit from this remarkable probing of the Irish psyche. Inexplicably, Geoffrey Taylor, then The Bell’s literary editor, considered it too obscure for publication [...] Here, the relevant correspondence is perspicaciously included. Nurse Mary Ann Cadden case, 1956, sentenced for murder in connection with death of young married woman (i.e, for abortion).

Murphy quotes AE writing on Standish O’Grady: ‘When a man is in advance of his age, a generation, unborn when he speaks, is born in due time and finds in him its inspiration. O’Grady may have failed in his appeal to the aristocracy of his own time but he may yet create an aristocracy of inellect and character in Ireland.’ (x)

Epigraph material, quoted by Butler on RE, 10 Jan. 1950, discusses the position of the Anglo-Irish, and reports that the motto of the Kilkenny Arch. Soc. is taken from Camden: ‘If any there be which are desirous to be strangers in their owne soile, and forrainers in their owne citie, they may so continue, and therein flatter themselves. For such like I have not written these lines, nor takn these paines.’

Escape from the Anthill includes account of how Standish O’Grady was supported by Otway Cuffe and LadY Desart in his war upon Lord Ormon and the local potentates of Kilkenny. [6]

Cuffe brought Douglas Hyde down to Kilkenny [9]

Edward Martyn plays published by O’Grady [27]

Elias Shee Anglo-Irish merchant of Kilkenny, described in Stanyhurst: ‘born in Kilkenny, sometime scholar of Oxford, a gentleman of passing good wit, a pleasing conceited companion, full of mirth without gall. He wrote in English divers sonnets.’ [21]

HB: ‘Oddly enough my religion too, becauseof Plunkett and AE, had its local shrine, though not much spiritual efflugenc radiated from it. [29] … I read The National Being when I was eighteen or so and at Oxford and at about the same time I met AE himself and Sir Horace Plunkett, and this threefold experience, allied to my naturally centrifugal tastes, disrupted the Oxford curriculum. I cannot say I regret this. I was very good at Latin verse composition, but I can think there is no better ay of stamping on Shelley and romance and spontaneity and rebellion, and everything else that I valued, than by translating the Adonais into Lucretian hexameters. [30]

The Barriers: ‘The problem of a struggling national culture is thus an international one. It can preserve itslf only if the spiritual channels by which it cancommunicate with foreign cultures are ketp free [33] and its intercourse is equal and reciprocal. In Ireland intercourse with England was only possible and that could not be on equal terms. … These little stats were formed to protect and foster small cutlural units. they failed. Everything that was unique and spontaneous in their national life was smothered behind the barriers reared to protect it.’ [34]

‘The Two Languages’: Our Irish state has kept its composure through the distractions of war with a composure which the warring peoples, forgetful of former phases of their own collective existence, find neither natural nor decent. [37]

Butler cites the diary of Humphrey O’Sullivan, Callan schoolmaster, decribing Desart woods, a detailed account of the landscape: ‘I went to Desart by the same roads which I took on Easter Friday. We walked through dark evergreen pinewoods, through fine laneways, now crooked, now straight … The landscape from this beautiful sun-palace is exquisite: a gaseous exhalation came from the sun, the mountains to the south were dark blue … the sky was cloudless save one cloudlet adding to its beauty as a dimple to a damsel’s cheek . it is in the heart of this calley that the head-mound and capital city of Ireland ought to be.’ Butler talks of his ‘homemade education and his passionate loalty to the last remnants of the Irish traditions and language which he knew to be dying’, and calls much of his diary ‘uninteresting and repetitive’ though ‘it is easy to believe that he had in him some seed of truth, some zest for life, which in a less unhapppy and divided society would have flowered into poetry and prose of a high order.’ [103-04] Further from O’Sullivan: ‘But alas no attention is being paid to the fine smooth Irish tongue, except by the wretched Swaddlers [Evangelicals], who are trying to see whether they can wheedle away the children of the Gael to their accursed new religion. [104]

‘Dangan Revisited’: … the house passed to a Mr Roger O’Connnor, who cut down all the trees he could sell and skinned the rooms of every saleable fitting. Finally, after it had been well insured, the house burst into flames. No great effort was made to quench them.’ [105]

Dangan was visited by Mrs Delany. The house belong to a Mr Wesley, who acquired a peerage, and a boy, who was to be Mrs Delany’s godson and the father in turn of the Duke of Wellington. ‘It is possible that he disliked the middle-class associations which cam to the family name through his kinsman John Wesley.’ [105]

‘In Monaghan’: Doaghmoyne Chruch, relics of WS Trench, author of Realities of Irish Life, under white marble Celtic cross there; agent to Mr Shirley and Marquess of Bath, with a sway over 44,000 acres; Canon O’Hanlon, writing of Donaghmoyne, refers to him as the notorious calumniator and extrminator of the the people of Farney, and DC Rush, historian of Monaghan, has him a liar and a briber of agent provocateur; Lord Bath, a humane and progressive landlord, thought highly of him. Hubert remarks: ‘his first book (1868), suggests that his considerable literary gifts tempted him sometimes to colourful exaggeration but [that] on the whole he brought peace to the barony and served an unpopular regime with a loyalty that was tempered by humanity. His son illustratd the book with a superabundance of filial piety. In picture after pictur Trench, a figure of scriptural beauty, faces alone and unarmed a mob of drink-sodden paddies brandishing shillelaghs and hurling bottles and turnips. Though his shirt is torn from his back and his limbs are bleeding, he is undaunted. … ‘[116] The ensuing pages contain a reference to a Thornton (O Draignean), called in Trench ‘an idle, good-for-nothing fellow, weak, small and cunning’, who plotted to kill Trench, then turned informer, so that two companions were hanged in Monaghan gaol. [118] Even Rush and O’Hanlon would not deny that ‘even at his worst he gave his tenants the care tht a good stock-bredder gives to his stock. They prospered and multiplied &c.’ [118]

‘The British Israelites at Tara’: a family informant, Synolda French, tells Butler that the famed event never occurred but only that a young man called Groome, interested in hieroglyphics, dug three holes near the Protestant church, and then learnt that the stone from which he took his bearings had been removed from another cite. Cousin Synolda concludes: ‘When we told Dr Prager and the others that this was what had happened, they just wouldn’t believ us. And some of them got quite angry about it. They’d made up their minds that Tara had been messed up by the British Israelites and nothing we said could make them change it.’ [122]

DC Rush, History of Monaghan.

[ back ]
[ top ]