The Passing Of The Gael
They are going, going, going from the valleys and the hills,
They are leaving far behind them the heathery moor and mountain rills,
All the wealth of hawthorn hedges where the brown thrush sways and thrills.
They are going, shy-eyed cailins, and lads so straight and tall,
From the purple peaks of Kerry, from the crags of wild Imaal,
From the greening plains of Mayo, and the glens of Donegal.
They are going, going, going, and we cannot bid them stay,
Their fields are now the strangers, where the strangers cattle stray,
Oh! Kathaleen Ni Houlihan, your ways a thorny way!
Of a certain ninety thousand only, of the emigrants to Canada in 47, of which accurate account was kept, it is recorded that 6100 died on the voyage, 4100 died on arrival, 5200 died in hospital and 1900 soon died in the towns to which they repaired.
And thus was the flower of one of the finest nations on the face of the earth in swarths mowed down, and thus in wind-rows did they wither from off earths face - under the aegis of British rule.
Fenianism began in Ireland at the end of the Fifties - and at the
same time in America. James Stephans who had been a very young man in the 48
movement, and who had since been a tutor both in Paris and in Kerry, was the founder and
great organiser of Fenianism. And from that modest beginning sprang, at first slowly, but
after a few years with a rapidity that was magical, one of the greatest of Irish
movements, with far reaching consequences. The Irish People, the Fenian organ, was founded
in 63 with John OLeary as the editor. The Irish People obtained a large
circulation - but not so great as did The Nation of Young Ireland days. In autumn 65
the Government suddenly delivered a great coup - seizing The Irish People, its editors,
Stephans and many of the leading figures in the movement in various parts of the country.
This was truly a disaster, removing as it did from the direction of the movement some of
the wisest heads that guided it. And every one of the hundreds of thousands of the rank
and file severely felt the sad blow - from which indeed the movement never recovered -
even though Stephans was given back. The other Fenian leaders were tried in December on a
charge of high treason and sentenced to penal servitude. The invasion of Canada, which
would undoubtedly have been a successful action of the American Government, which, having
tacitly encouraged the scheme, and permitted the plans to be ripened, stepped in at the
last moment to prevent it. In Ireland, where Stephans had been superseded by Colonel John
Kelly, the Rising, arranged for March 5th, 67, was frustrated by a combination of
circumstance. The informer, Corydon, betrayed the plans; and, strangely, a great snow
storm, one of the wildest and most protracted with which the country was ever visited made
absolutely impossible not only all communications but all movements of men. One of the
greatest Irish movements of the century ended apparently in complete failure. Apparently
only, for though there was not success of arms, other kinds of success began to show
immediately. Within two years after, that terrible incubus upon Ireland, the Established
(English) Church was disestablished, and within three years the first Land Act of the
century, the Act of 70 was made law. And Prime Minister Gladstone afterwards
confessed that it was the healthy fear instilled in him by the astonishing spirit of the
Fenian movement, which forced him to these actions.
Moreover, the spirit begotten by Fenianism went forward for future triumph.
Charles Stewart Parnell
From 1865-1870 the English courts in Ireland were kept busy with the
trial of Fenian Prisoners. The leading counsel for the defence of the prisoners was Issac
Butt QC, one of the most able and eloquent lawyers at the Bar. True, Butts definition of
independence was not that of the Fenians. He invented a new term "Home Rule".
The first meeting of the "Home Government Association" afterwards re-named the
"Home Rule League" was held in a Dublin hotel in 1870. A resolution was passed
"that the true remedy for the evils of Ireland is the establishment of an Irish
Parliament with full control over our domestic affairs". Charles Stewart Parnell was
the squire of Avondale, County Wicklow. To get elected to Parliament he made two trials -
one in Wicklow, another in Dublin, and was on both occasions defeated. Then in 1875 he
replaced John Martin in Meath. He was regarded as a nice, gentlemanly fellow, who would
create no sensation in the House of Commons, - who might make one speech, but never
another. Parnell remained a while a spectator, not quite sure which course to pursue.
After consideration he decided to adopt Biggars. But Parnells obstruction was of a new
brand. It was not just wanton like Biggars; it was scientific. The system was this :
propose an amendment to practically every clause of every measure introduced by the
Government, and then discuss each amendment fully, his friends forming relays to keep the
discussion going. In 1877 Issac Butt was called into the House to remove Parnell. He did
so. Parnell disposed of him in one short sentence. Parnell and Butt were obviously coming
to blows. On September 1st 1877, the Home Rule Federation of Great Britain held their
annual meeting at Liverpool. Parnell was elected president over Butt. Butt was annoyed and
made no secret of the fact. In 1880, he was elected leader of the Irish Party.
Explanations of his rise to power are somewhat contradictory. There are two words common
to all explanations of his election - character and personality. Parnell had only a
limited belief in the efficiency of parliamentarianism. He was of opinion that without a
well organised public opinion in Ireland his power in Parliament would be slight. He
publicly advised the Irish people to keep a keen watch on the conduct of their
representatives in the House of Commons. He publicly stated that long association with the
House of Commons would destroy the integrity of any Irish Party. He saw nothing but
disaster in the policy of conciliating the English. Parnells wish for an energetic
movement at home was gratified in an unexpected manner. Michael Davitt was released from
prison. The name of Michael Davitt brings up the Land Question. Even in Ireland today, it
is difficult to understand the condition of affairs in bygone days. During the year
76-79 the distress of the Irish tenantry touched the line of famine. The rents
were not reduced. The landlord demanded payment for land which the land never earned.
England Parliament would do nothing to remedy matters. Between 1870 and 1876 fourteen
attempts to amend the Land Laws failed. What wonder that the Irish people got restive. By
1876 their patience was giving out. That year a land agent was shot at in County Cork. In
1878 Lord Leitrim, whose reputation for rack-renting was notorious was shot in Donegal.
His slayers were never discovered, though the whole population was supposed to know who
they were. A great public meeting was held at Irishtown. The keynote of the speech was
"the land for the people". The speakers in advocating peasant proprietary broke
away notably from the more moderate land policy of Butt, "the three Fs" ie
Fixity of Tenure, Fair Rents and Free Sale. A land revolution was in progress. Parnell was
naturally, interested in this new movement. Butt had already warned him against the
dangers latent in widespread organisations. He decided to take the risk. The
National Land League" was established at Castlebar. Parnell finally agreed to
recognise the "National Land League" and to become its president. He did not
interfere in the plans of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, neither did he give himself
away. He had espoused Parliamentarianism and was determined to see what could be got out
of it. Any outside help was all to the good.