Dora Montefiore

From a Victorian to a Modern


Experiences in Dublin

In 1913 I was on the platform at a meeting at the Memorial Hall, when Jim Larkin came to tell the English workers what straits the Dublin workers were in after seven weeks of slow starvation. As I listened to his appalling story, it flashed across my mind that here was a great opportunity for organised workers in England to prove their solidarity with the locked-out men in Dublin, by taking in to their homes some of the children who were suffering so severely from the effects of industrial strife. When Larkin had finished speaking I wrote out a slip of paper and passed it across to him, asking him if a plan like this which had already been successfully carried out by Belgian comrades, and in the Lawrence strike, in the United States, could be arranged through the Herald League, would it have his backing. He wrote a few words in. the affirmative, and I then passed along a line to Lady Warwick, who was also on the platform, asking her if she would act as Treasurer to the Fund, which she agreed to do. With the consent of Mr. Lapworth, the Editor of the Daily Herald, I wrote the next day a letter to that paper, setting forth the idea, and in less than two days I had upwards of 110 homes offered by workers in England and Scotland to the “Dublin kiddies.” I knew that food ships had already been subscribed for generously by the rank and file of trade unionists and co-operators, who were helping the heroic Dublin workers to realise that their fight was the fight of all other workers, and that an injury or loss to their cause would be the concern of all. But I felt, from what I had heard and read of the slums of Dublin, and the abysmal poverty of the sweated workers that if we could give the children a holiday from such surroundings and fill them with a vision of what life might hold in the way of cleaner and more hopeful environment, my colleagues and I might be the means, not only of saving some of the children, who should be the hope of the race, but also of doing some constructive work for the future of organised industrialism.

Those of us, therefore, who became interested in the scheme obtained the backing of the Daily Herald League, whose organisations stretched throughout the United Kingdom, convened a committee, of which Miss de Pass was appointed Hon. Sec., and the Countess of Warwick Hon. Treas; and the “Dublin Kiddies” Fund was opened. Our appeal was sent to the Clarion, the Labour Leader, the Citizen, the New Age, the Express, Justice, and the Christian Commonwealth; and in the Herald of October 16 I appealed for boots from the Pioneer Boot Works, Northampton; and for clothes from the Co-operative Supplies, 31, Wilson Street, E.C. I should like to state here that our Committee met with a most generous response to these appeals; and two large cases of clothes and boots were also sent from the Glasgow Co-operative by comrades in that town. Mrs. Hayes and Mrs. Cheshire forwarded on large consignments of good second-hand clothing, which the girls on strike at Burns and Co.’s factory at Hatton Garden first overhauled and mended, before sending them on to us at Dublin. Under the heading, “Feed the Children,” the Daily Herald wrote on October 10: “Mrs. Dora B. Montefiore reports that already promises to house something like 200 of the Dublin kiddies have come in since our first announcement. That is most encouraging.”

On October 14 I had announced in the same paper:

“First let me thank, in the name of the Dublin kiddies, all the good friends who have written so promptly offering homes for the children during the Dublin strike. From Glasgow, Liverpool, London, and a dozen other places come the welcome offers, and I know that if the Dublin mothers could read some of the letters it would do their hearts good to know the sort of mothers and fathers who are planning these temporary homes for little ones.

“Several Roman Catholics have written, and one friend offers ‘travelling, lodging, and board expenses for two Dublin children while the strike lasts,’ and suggests boarding them for a time in a convent in Liverpool or London.”

These short extracts will prove, I hope, to the public that not only the physical but the spiritual interests of the children here being considered by those who were trusting us to carry out their purpose of human helpfulness.

On October 17 I was able to write:

“Our committee met last night, with Miss Nellie de Pass as hon. secretary. The members of the committee are Mrs. Julia Scurr, Mr. Lapworth, Mrs. Rand, Mrs. Horrabin, and myself. After hearing the report, and realising the practical spirit of solidarity that inspired the writers of the letters offering homes, it was decided to send by the Friday night’s mail to Dublin, Mrs. Rand, myself, and a trade union organiser to make arrangements as quickly as possible for the despatch of the children.

“Will the friends and comrades who have written such generous letters of welcome and of promised mothering forgive me if I have not been able to answer personally each letter? Every offer of a home has been filed, and as soon as the children are collected postcards will be sent to each friend who has written me. What is so fine in the way the scheme has been taken up is that official sections of B.S.P., I.L.P., trades councils, W.S.P.U., and Clarionettes are working together, not only in the offer of homes, but in the practical co-operation and local organisation which will make these homes possible.

“For instance, one letter I received to-day from Wallasey, Cheshire, offering homes for 12 or 14 kiddies, explains how a group of friends have arranged to take hours during the week for coming to amuse the children, taking them for walks, etc., while another promises so much a week towards laundry expenses.

“One friend spent last Sunday morning raffling a watch, and sent as 30s. as the result. This movement of the workers, small though it may be in its inception, will have among its by-products the implanting in the minds of the workers the sense that they are gradually evolving a workers’ state within the capitalist State—a State of an efficient and co-operative administration of things, as opposed to a State for the government of persons.”

When 300 responsible homes had been offered (the foster parents in many cases, as I can show by letters, being Catholics) I started for Dublin on the evening of October 17 with two friends, Mrs. Elbridge Rand and Miss Grace Neal, the latter being a trade union organiser. I should state here that among the letters offering homes many were from trades councils, branches of the Herald League, trade union branches, and other Labour organisations, stating that certain members of the organisation would provide the homes, and that the executive of the organisation would collect funds for fares, clothing, etc. Plymouth friends offered to house forty children and five mothers; and they wired later that they were in communication with the Catholic parish priest and Catholic medical officer re the care of the “kiddies.” Edinburgh Trades and Labour Council made a similar offer; while branches of the Shop Assistants’, Gasworkers’, Firemen’s, and Sailors’ Unions have written offering dozens of homes. I make this statement in order to refute the accusation that our mission to Dublin was an irresponsible one. We were not only officially backed by the “Herald” League, but the rank and file of the workers were absolutely and solidly behind us. Of the quality of the homes also, and of the beautiful feeling of love for the children which inspired the offer of shelter to the hungry and the naked, there can be no manner of doubt. We are not sentimentalists; but very few who are working with us in this humanitarian cause could read dry-eyed many of these letters.

Arrived in Dublin, Miss Grace Neal acted under me as organising secretary. Two books were prepared, one with names and addresses of those offering homes for boys and the other for those taking girls. Miss Larkin gave us the use of a room in Liberty Hail, and here we opened out and arranged the parcels of warm clothing sent to us by friends. Meetings of wives of the locked-out workers were then called, and we three delegates from the English and Scottish workers gave our message and laid before them our scheme. As a result Miss Grace Neal was kept busy Tuesday and Wednesday entering the names of mothers who were anxious to take advantage of our offer. The passage leading to our room was blocked from morning till evening with women and children; we tried to let them in only one at a time, but each time the door opened the crush was so great that often two or three mothers forced their way in. We rejected many who were not wives of strikers or of locked-out men, and we told them in all instances to go away and make quite sure that the fathers of the children wished them to leave. When the work of registration was over 50 children were selected to meet Mrs. Rand on Wednesday morning at the Baths, where a trained woman had been engaged to cleanse their heads and bodies. Up till Wednesday there was no flaw in the order of the proceedings nor in the organisation. We had each our apportioned work on Wednesday morning. Mrs. Rand attended at the Tara Street Baths. Miss Grace Neal presided over a batch of volunteer workers at our room in Liberty Hall, who were sewing on to the children’s new clothing labels, hearing their names and addresses, and small rosettes of green and red ribbon. I was out in the town selecting enough clothing to make up that was required for the 50 children, taking the tickets, arranging for reserved carriages on the other side, and buying food for the kiddies on the journey. It was when I returned to the Hall that I heard the first news of trouble being made by the priests, who were taking away the children from the Tara Street Baths. I at once drove there, and found Mrs. Rand being personally annoyed and technically assaulted by the priests, who were shouting and ordering the children about in the passage-way leading to the girls’ baths. The scene of confusion was indescribable; some of the women were “answering back” to the priests, and reminding them how they had been refused bread by the representatives of the Church, and how, now that they had a chance of getting their children properly cared for, the priests were preventing the kiddies from going. Other women, worked upon by the violent speeches of the priests, were wailing and calling on the saints to forgive them; whilst the crowd, crushing in from the outside, surged through the entrance doors, and were pushed back brutally by the police. Mrs. Rand and I were the only two calm persons in that yelling, wailing, hysterical multitude, and when we found we could, in consequence of the action of the priests, do nothing more for the children we had promised to befriend, we drove back to Liberty Hall, through a crowd that threw mud at us as we got into the cab, and raised cries of “Throw them in the Liffey!” At the hall kindly hands were stretched out to us on all sides, and “God bless you!” followed us as we went up to the room where the remnant of the children were being dressed for their journey. When the little batch of kiddies was ready Larkin spoke from a window of the hall to the crowd down below, and asked the men to see to it that the children reached the railway station for the 1.30 train, which was to take them down to the Kingstown steamer. One mother with her three children, and one young Dublin girl were to accompany Mrs. Rand to London. The whole party of mothers and children left the hall under the escort of the men, whilst Mrs. Rand and I drove with a little chap of five, who was put into the cab with us, to the station. Arrived there we found at first every door shut against us, and we were pushed back and forth and separated from the men and the mothers and children who were crowding the entrances to the station, At last one door was opened, and as I had the tickets I stood and counted through the women and children who were to accompany Mrs. Rand, and then handed her the necessary number of tickets for the journey. I still held a good-sized packet of tickets in my hand, proving how many children whom we had washed and clothed had been already snatched away by the priests. When I saw the difficulties that might be ahead of Mrs. Rand when she reached the steamer I followed on to the platform, and went up to the carriage where she sat with the little flock of mothers and children gathered round her. As I approached the carriage door a priest thrust me rudely aside, and held me back by my shoulder. I told him he was assaulting me by laying his hand on me, and when he saw I was calm, but very much in earnest, in the matter, he let me go. I again approached the door to speak to Mrs. Rand, when another priest flung the door back against me, hurting me considerably, and making me feel very faint. I then got into the next carriage to Mrs. Rand, determined to go down to the quay and help her get the children on board. In the carriage were four of our boys, wearing our jerseys and the green and red badges. The train was already late, but the officials, at the command of the priests, delayed it further; and just as it was starting two priests, who had no tickets, pushed two women into the carriage where I was, and then got in themselves.

The journey down to Kingstown takes about twenty minutes, and during that time the two women were kneeling in hysterics on the floor of the carriage, calling on the saints to forgive them, while the priests started a systematic bullying of the four boys, telling them they would deal with their fathers and mothers for having let them go. They pulled off the labels and the rosettes we had put on the boys’ jerseys, and told me, as I sat passive and contemptuous in the corner, that they did not want any of our English charity for their children.

The same gross scenes of intimidation of the children that we had had at the station were repeated at the boat; and when I had seen Mrs. Rand with a remnant of the children and the two women on board, a friend who had come down in the train to watch over our interests drew me away from the quay, for he feared that the priests who were addressing the crowd might turn them on us, and cause further trouble.

As the public now know, more children were snatched away from Mrs. Rand after we had left her on the steamer, and she, feeling her responsibility towards all the children who were under her care, and who, she was told by passengers, would be removed by the priests at Holyhead, left the steamer with her charges at the last moment, and was arrested and taken to the Kingstown Police Station, on the charge of kidnapping a child under 14 years of age and feloniously removing it from the care of its father.

I should state here, to make my story quite clear, that as soon as it became known what our mission was in Dublin, Archbishop Walsh issued a Manifesto, which was published in all the papers, condemning the removal of the starving children to English homes. As, judging by the unreliability of the Dublin Press and the foul campaign which the “Hibs.” inspired against us, the Archbishop might have been misled as to our intentions and our methods of work, I wrote him on October 21 the following letter:

[COPY.]

Edinburgh Hotel, Dublin,
October 21, 1913.

His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin.
Mr Lord,—My attention has been called to a letter written by you to the Press on the subject of the scheme for placing some of the children of the Irish workers, who are locked out, in the homes of English and of Scottish workers until such time as the Dublin workers have won their fight. As I have the honour to be trusted by the workers with the carrying out of this scheme, which in its inception and development is an evidence of their industrial solidarity, I venture to lay before you some of the facts about the scheme—facts which might otherwise be brought to your notice in a garbled form. We have had now over 350 offers of working-class homes for Dublin boys and girls between the ages of four and 14. Most of the parents applying send a reference, or belong to some union or another, which union, in many cases, is collecting money for defraying the travelling and other expenses of the children. In many cases, when applying, the workers have sent small sums at once out of their weekly wage towards our fund for expenses. Many of the applicants state that they are Catholics, and many are Irish. A Plymouth working-class organisation wrote asking us to send 40 Children and five mothers to look after them. In most cases, where the children are to be housed in large centres, they will be able to attend a Catholic school, and we shall write to the parish priest, giving him the addresses of the children, so that he may call upon them in their homes.

If, my Lord, you should wish for further details, I should be happy to call upon you during the stay of my colleagues and myself in Dublin, and lay before you any of the correspondence of the workers on the other side which might throw further light on the subject—I am, my Lord Archbishop, yours faithfully,

(Signed) DORA B. Montefiore.

 

To this communication I received the following reply:

 

Archbishop’s House, Dublin,
October 22, 1913.

DEAR MADAM,—You are evidently unaware of the existence in Dublin of a fund, organised by our Lady Mayoress, for the providing of food for the poor children who are deprived of their ordinary means of support by the present unhappy deadlock in the trade of our city.

May I point out that the obvious and natural way to help those innocent victims of the conflict is to contribute to that fund, instead of spending money wastefully, as well as in a manner distasteful to the great mass of the poor mothers of Dublin in paying the cost of deporting the children to England.

For my part I can give neither countenance or support to any scheme of deportation. If the motive which has inspired the scheme is a purely philanthropic one—and I dare say you have been made aware of some sinister rumours to the contrary that are afloat in Dublin—let whatever means are available be directed to a generous support of the fund to which I have referred. If that be done, I can answer for it, the children of Dublin will not suffer want.

I should add that provision is about being made for the further extension of a good work—the clothing of the poor children—in which not a few of our religious and charitable organisations have for years past been doing good work in Dublin. The long continuance of the present industrial deadlock has naturally increased the need of additional aid in this matter. That need will speedily be met, and those engaged in the work of meeting it will, I doubt not, be helped, as those engaged in the work of providing food for the children have already been helped, by the subscriptions of benevolent sympathisers in England.—Believe me to be, dear Madam, your faithful servant,

(Signed) WILLIAM J. WALSH,
Archbishop of Dublin.

 

After having read his Grace’s letter containing the appalling suggestion which he dares to repeat in his reply to my offer of further and personal explanation, I felt it was no use wasting time over this obtuse prelate; and I determined to go ahead with our work, regardless of the action of clericals, capitalists, and their “Hibernian” tools.

As a commentary on the statement of his Grace on the “charitable” schemes already afloat in Dublin for the feeding and clothing of poor children, I will state here that in no city of the world have seen such degrading poverty as that which has been thrust upon our notice since we came to Dublin. Thousands of scarcely clothed children range the streets begging of passers-by. At night little girls of 11 and 12 crowd round taxis and cabs, thrusting in their thin hands and begging for coppers, or they accost passers-by asking for alms. That these children find the trade of begging a flourishing one there can be little doubt; but “charity” thus given curses him that gives and him that takes. In the Daily Herald of October 21 I wrote:

In the gutter in front of our hotel in the main street of Dublin there stood this morning three garbage tins, and each tin was being searched furtively but rapidly by ragged kiddies, age four or five, who threw the ashes into their bags and wolfed the pieces of broken bread and meat they found among the garbage. That is the keynote of the condition of the ‘Dublin kiddies.’ Miss Grace Neal and I have both seen something of slums, but Dublin slums just beggar description. They have to be seen and smelt to be realised; and remember these conditions are not due to the strike, nor to the lock-out of the three thousand women workers. They are due to callous exploitation and landlordism.”

According to Jim Larkin 21,000 families lived in one-room tenements. 21,000 slum “homes” of one room, in which families herd and breed, feed and sleep! And his Grace Archbishop Walsh, who should be the shepherd of this flock, has the insolence to suggest to three women delegates from the workers of Great Britain that he is not certain whether the “sinister rumours” in connection with their visit to Dublin have not a sub-stratum of truth! Can anything be more “sinister” than the disclosures about the lives of the little children, whom his Grace and his parish priests should, by the very essence of their calling, be bound to protect from such corrupt surroundings? I would remind him now in this pamphlet, whose burning indictment I trust he will some day read with profit, that “Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones, it were better for him,” etc. The “sinister” rumours his Grace alludes to were rumours set about purposely by the priests and Hibernians that we three women were agents of the White Slave Traffic. The foul suggestion was breathed in our ears as we walked daily between our hotel and Liberty Hall; and finally materialised in filthy postcards sent to our Dublin friends. “Sinister” is a word well fitted to express the actions of the Dublin capitalists and clericalists; it cannot smirch the open message and mission of the people to the people.

Another “sinister” rumour set about by those in high spiritual places was alluded to by Mr. G.B. Shaw in his recent speech at the Albert Hall. One objection to the removal of the children (not stated in the Press, but whispered in a private conversation) was that the mothers, having no longer to occupy their time with the care of the children, might lead loose lives. Was ever a deadlier insult levelled against Dublin men and women?

After leaving Mrs. Rand on board the Holyhead steamer I returned to Liberty Hall, and told Jim Larkin of the scenes that had taken place on the railway station and on board the steamer; he then declared that some more children should start that night for Liverpool, and Miss Grace Neal volunteered to accompany them.

Written permissions were at once obtained from the parents of 15 children, who were then dressed and prepared for the journey. Larkin then addressed from the windows of Liberty Hall the crowd of Transport Workers on the quay, and told them that Miss Neal and these children were to leave by the eight o’clock boat for Liverpool, and that he depended upon the men to see that the party got through. Two men were to accompany Miss Neal on the boat, so as to prevent, the children being taken away at the last moment.

Soon after seven the little procession started, almost like a forlorn hope, from the steps of Liberty Hall, each child being carried on the shoulders of a stalwart docker, Miss Neal and two Irish girls having a bodyguard, who were to see them safely on to the boat. These precautions were not unnecessary, for the priests and Hibernians were down at the boat before our little party arrived, and the same scenes of violence tools place as had disgraced the morning’s proceedings.

When Miss Neal found herself finally on board, and surrounded by the children and the two Irish girls, she discovered that she had 18 instead of 15 children under her charge. Her first impulse was to put ashore the three children who had not been signed for, but whose parents had evidently, in their desire to see their children properly cared for, placed them on board at the last moment. The men of the party, however, pointed out that if the children were put ashore they might be lost or injured in the seething crowd on the quay; and the three extra children were taken with the rest of the party and were subsequently signed for by the parents. Miss Grace Neal has since told me the story of how she and her helpers sat up all night and watched the kiddies while they slept in their bunks: how the cattle men on board the steamer milked the cows and brought fresh milk to the little travellers in the morning; how warm-hearted comrades met them in the early morning at Liverpool, and how Mrs. Criddle took eleven of the party into her own pleasant home at Wallasey. Pictures of the Dublin kiddies in their Lancashire homes prove, I think, our contention that it is better to help these victims of the industrial troubles by removing them temporarily from the strike area than by feeding them on charity doles in the midst of the miserable surroundings forced on them by capitalism and clericalism.

The latest news of the “Dublin kiddies” in Lancashire came from Miss Larkin, who on November 6 wrote me: “When in Liverpool I saw our kiddies; they looked well and happy, and were delighted to get news from Dublin.”

Just before Miss Neal left for Liverpool I heard a rumour at Liberty Hall that Mrs. Rand and the children under her charge had all been arrested and taken to Kingstown Police Station. I immediately went to Jim Larkin to inquire about the truth of the rumour, which in a few minutes was corroborated on the telephone. I wanted to go down to Kingstown at once, but Jim told me as I was not a householder in Dublin I could be of no use in bailing Mrs. Rand out. He immediately sent down his solicitor with Professor Housten and Mr. Sinclair, who returned with Mrs. Rand to our hotel before eleven o’clock that night. The next day she and I, after attending the police-court farce at Kingstown in the morning, continued our work at Liberty Hall, and waited for the return of Miss Neal from Liverpool before sending off more children. On Thursday evening, having sent Mrs. Rand up to rest, I went into the hall of our hotel to answer the telephone, and found an inspector and a detective in plain clothes waiting for me. The inspector told me he had come to arrest me, and I asked them up into the dining-room and sent for Mrs. Rand. When she was there I asked the inspector for his warrant for my arrest, and he replied he had none. I then asked by what authority he arrested me, and he replied, “On sworn information.” He then read over the charge, which was similar to that against Mrs. Rand, of feloniously kidnapping a boy, and he asked me if I had any statement to make. Of course I had none, as I told him I considered his action in arresting me without a warrant was illegal. I was then driven in a cab to Bridewell Prison in the company of the inspector and detective. Arrived there I was given a chair near the fire in the charge-room, where the ordinary night charges were brought in, searched, and taken off into the cells. I sat there reading for some time, and when the inspector attempted to fill in the various details of the charge against me I refused to reply to any of his questions, again and asserting that I was illegally arrested, and that though they had obtained my body by force they would get no information from me. They then suggested that I should send for bail, but this also I refused to do, saying I was prepared to spend the night in one of the cells. They then told me that the cells were only provided with wooden beds and wooden pillows, and they asked me if I should like to telephone to any friend to bring me a pillow and a rug. I went to the telephone and asked Mrs. Rand to have these necessaries sent round to me. Soon after this Countess Markovicz, Professor Housten, and Mr. Sinclair turned up at the prison, the Countess having heard of my arrest, and having been to the University to fetch the other friends. They kindly provided bail, and two and a half hours after my arrest I was able to return with them to my hotel.

Whilst these friends were at the Bridewell Police Station they heard the police trying to get a second man to charge me with kidnapping his child; but they failed in this attempt, the man refusing to charge. Early on Friday morning Miss Neal returned, having travelled by the night boat from Liverpool, and reported all well with the children she elm had left in the houses of friends.

It was then decided by Mr. and Miss Larkin that, as the ostensible reason for the disgraceful scene which took place on Wednesday was that the children were going across the water, and possibly to Protestant homes, we would send a detachment of children, whose parents were to accompany them, to Amiens Street Station, to Roman Catholic homes in Belfast. The train was to start about six, and Miss Neal was again to accompany the children. I went with Miss Larkin to the station, and was there witness of a scene which I should have not thought possible in any part of the United Kingdom. At one end of the platform, in front of the compartment into which the parents were attempting to get their children, there was a compact, shouting, gesticulating, fighting crowd of Hibernians. In the centre of this crowd was the little party of children and parents, and scattered among them were the priests, who were talking, uttering threats against the parents, and forbidding them to send their children to Protestant homes. Some of the women were upbraiding the priests for allowing the children to starve in Dublin; and according to an American paper, whose correspondent was on the platform, “One woman slapped the face of a priest who was attempting to interfere.” The reporter goes on to say “There is no question that Liberty Hall has seriously set back the cause of the Roman Catholic Church, and that the priests no longer find it possible to exercise the same authority.” As a climax to this disgraceful scene, as the priests and Hibernians found it impossible to prevent the parents from placing their children in the train under the charge of Miss Neal, they telephoned to the Castle for more police, and I watched the reinforcement of twenty spike-helmeted destroyers of law and order march on to the platform, make a ring round the little group of parents and children, and then, when they had successfully played the priests’ game, and prevented the children leaving for Belfast, the train was whistled and left the station, leaving the now infuriated parents to take their children back to the slum homes which capitalist conditions in Dublin provide for the workers and their children.

As to the share the Dublin Press took in the coercion of the Transport Workers, I must tell how the Evening Telegraph of October 21 came out with headlines, “Audacious Scheme to Deport Dublin Children ”; and again, on October 22, “To Save the Children,” “Priests to the Rescue,” “Emigration Stopped,” “Children Rescued.” While the Evening Herald of October 23 had for head-lines: “Priests’ Unavailing Protest,” “Fifty More to be Sent To-night,” “Priests to Attend”, “Hope that All City Catholics Will Support Them,” “Mrs. Rand Charged With Kidnapping at Kingstown.”

The suggestion that 50 more children were to be sent away on the evening of the 23rd was a pure invention of the Press and the priests, and was got up as an excuse for arresting me on Thursday evening.

Both the charges against Mrs. Rand and against myself were adjourned to 29th October, and on that morning a scare-line appeared in one of the Dublin newspapers, “For God’s sake let the children be sent back to Ireland.” When we bought the paper to see if there was any reason for this hysterical outburst, we found that it was only a quotation from a letter from a Liverpool priest, who evidently had been instructed to write thus, so as further to inflame popular feeling against us on the day our charge was to be heard. Another headline showing the villainy of the insinuations against us was: “English kidnappers bailed out by Dublin Jews.” From the time Mrs. Rand was arrested till the day the charge was heard against us the priests held meetings every night about ten o’clock on the steps of Father Mathew’s Statue in front of our hotel in O’Connell Street. They made inflammatory speeches to the crowd of Hibernians who were present, and, unchecked by the police, proceeded night after night to “boo” us women in our hotel.

In the intervals of our doing the organising work in Liberty Hall we had to attend for the police-court proceedings at Kingstown on Wednesday, 22nd, and later on, when I was charged in the Dublin Police Court, on October 24. In connection with these proceedings I must state here that when I was in the witness-box during the hearing of Mrs. Rand’s case, and was asked by the prosecution if I believed the evidence of the father of the boy who accused us of kidnapping his child, I replied: I did not believe it. The prosecution reminded me that that statement would be used against me at the trial, and the magistrate remarked: “From my experience Mrs. Montefiore is perfectly right in refusing to accept the father’s oath that he had not given his consent. These men go to court and say one thing one day and another thing another day.” After the hearing of the charge against me in Dublin the magistrate said I could go out on my own bail for 100. The prosecution objected to my being let free on my own bail. The magistrate remarked: “Are you afraid she will leave Dublin in the interval? Perhaps you would be glad if she did get away.” When the final charge was heard against us on October 29 our counsel, Mr. T.J. Campbell, suggested the dropping of the charge against us. Mr. Mahony, the magistrate, said, “What does the Crown say to dropping the case? I think it is a very sensible course.” Mr. Tobias, who prosecuted, replied he was not in a position to say, but ho would consult the authorities. He asked the magistrate to remand the case.

Our counsel objected to a remand, and added that his clients disclaimed all responsibility of a criminal kind.

Whilst Mr. Tobias left the court to consult the Attorney-General, Father T.F. Ryan, who was present in court as a witness, had the impertinence to suggest from the body of the court that we ladies should, before leaving Dublin, be asked to give a guarantee that the children new in England should be sent back.

He was promptly snubbed by the magistrate, who informed him that he (the magistrate) had no jurisdiction to make such an order. Eventually Mr. Tobias returned to Court, after a consultation with the Attorney-General, and stated that it was decided that the case should stand over for a month, which meant practically that the case against Mrs. Rand and myself was dropped.

From all this it will be seen that the priests had overreached themselves in their attempt to stand by Murphyism.

Now; as to some of the reasons for these reverend gentlemen being so anxious to keep their hold over the Transport Workers and their children, I quote from the Irish Worker of November 1, 1913, the paragraph headed, “How the Clergy are Helping the Strikers”:

EJECTMENT NOTICE SIGNED BY FOUR PRIESTS

Police District of Dublin Metropolis to wit,—Andrew Doherty.

You are hereby required to appear personally before such of the Divisional Justices of the said District as shall be present at the Dublin Metropolitan Police Courts, Inn’s Quay, Southern. Division, in said District, on Tuesday next, at the hour of half-past eleven o’clock, in the forenoon, to answer the complaint of the Rev. E. Holland, Rev, John Eyen, Rev. Thomas Wade, Rev.—McGrath, and William Russell, and show cause why you neglect and refuse to quit and deliver up possession to the Landlord or his Agent of certain premises occupied by you, consisting of two-pair front room of the house situated at 45 Clarendon St., within said District, held by you for a term not exceeding one Calendar month, at a Rent not exceeding 1 sterling by the month, contrary to the form of the Statute in such case made and provided.

Dated this 21st October, 1913.
E.G. SWIFTE,
One of the Justices of the said District.

 

Again, when Larkin was speaking on October 23, defending the removal of the children to England, and strongly criticising the priests and women who had endeavoured to frustrate the scheme, he said that “Until the present Labour crisis arose the priests never acknowledged that there were such things as slums in Dublin. The religion that could not afford to send children away for a fortnight had not much to boast of. He alleged that some of the clergy who were opposed to him were shareholders in the Tramway Company.”

As regards “Countess” Plunkett, who swore the information against Mrs. Rand and myself, I find, on the authority of the Irish Worker, that “This woman owns some of the 21,000 tenement rooms that have made the name of Dublin to stink in the nostrils of decent men and women. She employs a large number of ‘carpenters’ and ‘plasterers’ and other so-called tradesmen at 1 and 25/- per week. Perhaps she will tell you what sums she draws from her Gardiner Street property?” After I and my colleagues had decided that rather than have the children and parents beaten and knocked about by Hibernians we would, for a time, suspend our work of removing the children to English homes, and return to London to consult with our Committee as to the next step to be taken in regard to the clothing and the funds with which we were entrusted, the Liberty Hall authorities, relying on the publicity given to the statements that his Grace the Archbishop and the Dublin clergy were ready to deal with all cases of distress in the city, decided to discontinue the free dinners, which have been the feature at Liberty Hall for some weeks; and, in order to prevent the possibility of overlapping, the women and the children who had thus been hitherto fed, were told to present themselves at the Archbishop’s Palace or the presbyteries of the various chapels in the city. “On Wednesday some women went to the palace of the Archbishop and said they were sent from Liberty Hall for their dinners. The footman said the dinners were not for Larkin’s people, but he would send the secretary to them. The Archbishop’s secretary told the women that there was nothing for them or the children of the workers on strike or lock-out, that there was going to be a collection made in all the churches on Sunday, and that the proceeds of the collections were to be handed to St. Vincent de Paul’s Society, to buy clothes for poor children, but those belonging to workers involved in the dispute were not to receive any such benefit.”

Mr. George Russell (“A.E.”) writes in the Irish Worker of November 1: “As the Archbishop explained, ‘Taking the children away for what I heard is called a holiday can do no real good. It can have but one permanent result, and that surely the reverse of a beneficent one. It will make them discontented with the poor homes, to which they will sooner or later return. That surely is a result by no means to be viewed with anything but abhorrence by anyone sincerely anxious for the happiness of the poor.’ Exposed to the contagion of cleanliness, the alien influence of what is called a nutritious diet introduced into stomachs unprepared to resist such insidious influences, the young underman is thrown back in his evolution. He is no longer the noiseless and efficient social machine; he is actually discontented with the Christian atmosphere of the slum, a thing we may rightly say is abhorrent to those who were bringing about the happiness of the worker by the scientific elimination of all unnecessary desires. James Larkin in his prison cell will have time to think of the great work he has interrupted, and for which interruption it was obvious he really was punished.”

A special correspondent to the Daily Herald from Dublin writes: “I have just left Liberty Hall, where I have seen women and children fighting—actually tearing at one another—to get a jug of soup and a loaf of bread.” In an appeal in a capitalist paper of October 18 the late superintendent of Saint Lawrence’s Catholic Home, where poor people can obtain medical advice, writes: “It is found that in very many cases the best nursing is of little use unless something can be done to give the patient good nourishing food and warm clothes. Concerts have from time to time been given to raise the sum for the sustenance of patients: and the whole of this money is spent in providing milk and nourishing foods in very needy cases.” Again, in the Daily Herald of October 27 a special correspondent writes: “To walk in Dublin streets is almost enough to make one despair. Women and children with hollow cheeks and hollow eyes, barefooted, ragged, and splashed with street mud, accost one every few yards, and trot alongside until one is shamed into turning out a coin! The place is swarming with police. Jaunting-cars dash along with loads of laughing R.I.C. men, and laden lorries must have two or three police passengers added to their loads. Capital, the Law, and now the priests, are against the industrial rebels, and yet they refuse to go back to wage-slavery. It is magnificent.”

Yet, in order to state our case in full, I have to point out that there is no police protection in Dublin for parents who desire to send their children away from the area of industrial struggle, and there is no police protection for those who attempt to save the children by removing them for a time from these horrible surroundings, and giving them hope and an ideal of better things.

The leading article of the Daily Herald of October states:

“In the course of the battle the plight of the children came painfully to many, including some who were no special friends of ‘Larkinism.’ Simple humanity urged that the children, at any rate, should be above and beyond controversy and out of danger. The scheme of Mrs. Montefiore and the Herald League was intensely and bravely human, and had no more connection with theology than with metaphysics or chemistry.”

And again in the same paper of October 27 this same writer—who knows Ireland well, and who in the past fought there a brave and prolonged battle for human rights as against clericalism and ignorance wrote: “The hope of Ireland under Home Rule, or any other development, will lie in men and women who have Irish minds, generous human hearts, and the vision that sees in all orders of workers comrades with potentially great capacities to be encouraged and developed. Ireland, like Britain, wants more life, more breadth and depth, more sanity and sweetness, not more bank balances, untilled fields, and bullocks; more creative activity, not more competitive industrialism; more practical Christianity—or more practical Druidism or Platonism, if she pleases—not more feverish theology. She wants to live, not to fret and waste and starve.”

Whilst Mrs Rand and I were waiting recently in Dublin for the hearing of the charge trumped up against us by the priests of having kidnapped a Dublin boy, she received from her father, Mr. Gage, ex-Governor of California, the following cable of encouragement and of understanding: “When one is fighting against great odds for the Right, one must be prepared to meet prison, or even death.—H.T. GAGE.” These words seem to me to breathe a note of inspiration, not only to us women, who were striving to save the children, but to Jim Larkin lying in his prison cell at Mountjoy, and to all those who are fighting side by side to save the world from the combined sinister forces of capitalism and of clericalism.

As the outcome of this “Dublin Kiddies” business a monster meeting was held at the Albert Hall in November at which “A. E.” Russell, of Dublin, came to speak, and most of us who had had anything to do with the matter came and told our stories to a London public. I subsequently returned to Dublin for a week or two to help in the administration of the Dublin Kiddies’ Fund. During the winter months we gave free breakfasts to the poorest of the children in the basement of Liberty Hall. These children, who numbered some two or three hundred, were mostly barefooted, and the majority looked as if a comb had never touched their heads; they used to sit on the kerb, waiting for the doors to be opened, with their poor chilled feet on bits of sacking or newspaper, and when admitted to the welcome hot meal, kept up a continual drumming with their enamelled mugs on the tables until they were all served, when peace reigned until the last piece of bread and jam and the last mug of cocoa had disappeared. We also had an enormous Christmas tree for them, from which several hundred children had presents; but Miss Neal remained behind to help Miss Larkin in the Christmas festivities, as I had to return home and make my report to the Dublin Kiddies’ Committee.

The incessant work and strain to which these various activities had subjected me had so overtaxed my strength that I was advised by my doctor to take a sea voyage, and I left by the “Demosthenes” on 9th January for Cape Town, from whence I was to go on to Mount Caledon, where the use of the hot springs was prescribed for me. The very day I landed in Cape Town was the day of the Deportation of Socialists, and the excitement was at its height. As there was nothing to do but to await the results of such high handed proceedings, I continued my journey into the mountains as intended, and, on my return to Cape Town, after a month’s treatment, I heard that Tom Mann was coming out from England to hold a series of protest meetings, both in the coast towns and on the Rand. It was decided by the Socialist Party of Cape Town to give Mann a great meeting of welcome at the Town Hall, at which I was asked to take the chair. The meeting was crowded and enthusiastic, and our Comrade Mann started on his speaking tour with a great send-off. It was during this visit to S. Africa that I was asked to address a small privately arranged meeting of Cape boys, who were being industrially organised. They were mostly drivers, a few bakers’ assistants and other unskilled workers, and one of their number translated to them what I said. My talk was naturally on the most simple lines, with illustrations such as the bundle of sticks which cannot be broken, though single sticks can easily be broken and thrown aside. But I could see by their eyes when the translation was given them how they took and understood the points. These Cape boys are descendants of white men, either English or Boers, and of native women, but, as the mothers belong to the inferior and exploited race, the children, looked down on by both races, all fall into the abyss of unskilled labour. I was the first white woman ever to have spoken to these outcasts on the necessity of industrial organisation, and it is quite possible that the work was not continued, as my last visit to the Cape was followed so soon afterwards by the war, which interfered with all forms of peaceful work. I also visited the women’s prison in Cape Town, and saw there the same exploitation of the coloured race. The women and girls there were all Cape girls, or half castes, and their offences were mostly prostitution or thieving. Many of the women had their children with them in prison, because, as the Matron told me, they had no one with whom to leave them. The prison buildings were old and unsuitable, and apparently there was no attempt to reclaim the victims of our “civilisation,” who expiated their offences by taking in the washing of the upper classes of Cape Town. The unskilled worker and the prostitute appear to be, wherever our civilisation spreads, the basic foundation of that civilisation. The police are the moral town scavengers, and the refuse they collect is swept up, night after night into prisons, reformatories, asylums, where they cannot offend the senses of the respectable.

I also during this visit travelled into Basutoland, where Sir Henry Sloly was at that time resident; he and Lady Sloly were most hospitable, helping me to see much that was interesting. The Basutos are the only S. African race who have real independence under their Paramount Chief, and the British Resident; they are also allowed to carry arms. Their “Pitso,” or native Parliament was meeting at the time of my visit, and I was much interested in attending the gatherings, held in a large circular hall, round which the members sat on wooden benches. When speaking the orators came into the centre of the hall, facing Sir Henry Sloly and his staff, and their gestures and flow of language were most remarkable. Basuto stenographers and typists were taking down the substance of the debates, and perfect order obtained except that the members seemed very partial to sucking large white peppermints. Their costumes ranged from rather loud check suits to really wonderful blazers, which were so rainbow in their hues that they must have been specially manufactured for native taste. But as I watched the whole business and listened to Sir Henry Sloly’s dignified speech (given in English) on the summing up of the debate, I felt somehow that we British at our best, in the treatment of native races, are like the old Romans who gave what was best in their civilisation to the countries they conquered, and left ineffaceable traces in the higher psychology of the inhabitants of those countries. The Basutos have passed very strict laws forbidding the sale of all intoxicating drink; neither will they allow any white man to own an inch of their land; and this is a wise proviso, as Basutoland is supposed to be rich in minerals, and once white men were allowed to prospect and mark out claims, why then, goodbye to Basuto independence in the future. Their Paramount Chief, when I was there, was a young man of the name of Griffiths, a Roman Catholic, the husband of one wife, and the owner of a very fine motor car.

I also visited Bloemfontein and saw the very beautiful Memorial the Boers had put up to the memory of their women and children who died in our concentration camps during the Boer War; and was then taken to see the two British cemeteries filled with the British soldiers who died of typhoid during the same war. Lord Roberts brought the remnants of his typhoid stricken army into Bloemfontein from the veldt, and the Tommies lay down in churches, schools, houses, or by the side of the road, and died in their thousands. There they lie now, wrapped in their blankets, five deep in every grave; and the little wooden crosses that mark each grave are so close together that the arms nearly touch. “For King and Country” is the inscription on each little wooden cross; and the wind from the veldt blows so hard and so hot across their resting place that the little mounds have disappeared, and the cemetery is a flat plain of red dust. As I think of the two cemeteries and of those who rest there now, I am tempted to think that they perhaps were the fortunate ones, as they did not live to go through the horrors of the trenches of the greater war that even then was being prepared for the next generation.

I left S. Africa towards the end of April in the German ship “Tabora,” one of the finest passenger ships I have ever travelled in. She had a saloon on a water balance so that there was practically no movement in that part of the vessel, and no chairs or tables were fixed. Also, what I thought was a great improvement on our English way of catering on board ship, one lunched and dined à la carte, so that one was not forced to sit through a whole long meal. There were a great many English on board, among them a bishop and his daughter, and also very many pleasant German passengers. I shared a table in the dining saloon with an elderly German General, who, having heard I was a prominent English suffragist, asked me if I would mind sitting at his table and telling him something about our movement, as he had never yet had the pleasure of meeting a suffragist. He did not speak a word of English, but I found him a man of wide sympathies, and if I did not succeed in converting him to the idea of making citizens of German women, he acknowledged before the end of the voyage that English women at least should not be kept waiting any longer for their vote. We quarrelled sometimes quite amiably, but on the subjects of Art and Literature we had much in common. Sunday, 17th May, the day we arrived at Southampton was a gorgeous sunny day, with a slight mist in the morning, veiling for a time the Isle of Wight, and making the Needles as they loomed through the haze look like a scene in fairyland; then we steamed along the coast of the Island, which was brilliant in its new green spring dress, with great patches of yellow broom. The villas, gardens and orchards nestled in the bays. The German General came and stood by my side uttering exclamations of admiration, for he had never seen anything of England before. As we steamed past Totland Bay he informed me that there were masked English guns hidden behind all that beauty. I did not think much of the remark at the time, and do not to this day know if his information was correct, but in a few months time I thought often and often of our conversations, and wondered what had become of the “Herr General” in the general scrimmage of world war. What he used to try and impress upon me was that the French were a finished race, that they were no good as colonists, and that in fact they should come off the map. This idea I stoutly resisted, urging that every nation had its value in the common life, just as every member of a family had his or her value, and that France’s contribution to Art and Taste and Science was extremely valuable. Then he used to bow ceremoniously and remark: “But we hope, when the time comes for us to fight France that we shall have England by our side.” “Why talk of fighting,” I would reply, “cannot the countries of Europe live side by side without fighting? England never would fight with the idea of suppressing any other great nation. Besides, you can’t destroy a nation nowadays. Interests of all sorts are so interwoven.” Of course we never should have agreed on this subject, but I recognised that war was his métier, and that very likely there were just as many British generals spoiling for a fight. But when we steamed up to Southampton between lines of British Dreadnoughts and Cruisers, whilst British aeroplanes circled overhead, I thought my General was very much impressed, and we parted quite good friends as I left the ship at Southampton, its destination being Hamburg. In three months’ time we were at war with Germany, and the world tragedy had commenced.

On returning to London, I started, with a group of friends, the “Adult Suffrage,” a fortnightly newspaper, having for its object the keeping before the public of the claims of Adult Suffrage when the next extension of the Franchise should be granted. But the war came and our propaganda paper, with many others, had to go to the wall, just as it was beginning to get a circulation. During the first part of the war I worked on The Woman Suffrage National Aid Corps, of which Mrs. Despard was the president, and tried hard to get the women to take up in an organised way the question of food supply during the war, for I felt that should be our special job, and that here should be the chance of proving ourselves. But early in the war both men and women seemed to be bewildered, and officialdom would not at that stage help us, because it had not yet felt the pinch, or learned the value of women’s work.


Next: Chapter XIII. Work in the French War Zone