Monday, 14 July 2014

Countdown to War, Day 17. 14 July 1914: "No Surrender", Mrs Pankhurst struggles on, and gentility is maintained at Birkdale and Southport. Viciously

One hundred years ago today, on Tuesday 14 July 1914, Martin the young railwayman and his friends might have read some historic words in the Manchester Guardian. Spoken by Sir Edward Carson, the leader of Unionism in Ireland, they were deliverd to a meeting in Drumberg as part of the 12th of July Battle of the Boyne celebrations. Faced with all those cheering people calling on him for leadership, he had asked himself:

What is the one lesson I ought to learn from all that I have seen to-day? And I think I can sum it up in the two old words you every one wish to say to me, “No surrender.” (Great cheers).

No surrender. A call for implacable conflict and words he felt might well echo down the decades.

While the Protestants were cheering Carson, at Castlebellingham in County Louth, 4000 Irish Volunteers were parading in military formation, as a photograph published by the paper attested. And so the descent towards civil war continued...

Things weren’t getting sorted out in the Levant either. The paper published another extract from a letter by an “Englishman in the Aegean Islands”:

It is, I confess, difficult for me to see how, if, as it seems, the expulsion of the Christian inhabitants of the coasts opposite Lesbos and Chios, was, so to speak, a simple move in the game, a simple retort to Greece, it might not have been carried out openly and diplomatically without the horrors that attended it. 

More horrors,” said Martin. 

“With religion to fuel them,” said the Cynic, “to make sure they really cut deep. The Irish don’t know what delights they’re preparing for themselves.”

Meanwhile, Mrs Pankhurst, released from prison for four days, was going to be returned to gaol before she could address a planned suffragette meeting. Mrs Mansel had told a meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union:

Mrs. Pankhurst was too ill to be able to go to the meeting except on an ambulance with her nurses and doctors. And what did the Home Secretary propose to do? Did he propose to tear her away from her nurses and doctors? ... Mrs. Pankhurst was going to the meeting on Thursday evening, and nothing could stop her. She was going to be there, and they were going to see that she was there. (Cheers)

It was impressive just how far people were prepared to go to attain their goals. Whatever it cost, even their own or others’ lives or liberty. Would he go so far for any of those causes? Ireland? Did it matter whether it stayed or went? Turkey and Greece? He didn’t understand their conflict, but did anyone else? The vote? Well that was worth a sacrifice, he agreed. But would he go through what Mrs Pankhurst had?

Croquet: genteel. And vicious
In a world where so much seemed to be going wrong, there was at least one area in which a sense of proper order and decorum was being maintained.

The eighth annual croquet tournament promoted by the Birkdale and Southport Croquet Club began yesterday, and will continue for the rest of the week. In spite of the fact that there are several other meetings in various parts of the country in progress at the present time the entry was much more numerous than usual, and the standard of the competing players was much higher.

See? said the older tracklayer, what are you complaining about? Things can’t be going all wrong in a world which still has that much gentility in it.

What are you talking about?” asked the Cynic. Bloody vicious game. Good preparation for war, if you ask me.


Anonymous said...

Your Edward Carson makes Ian Paisley sound like a bleeding heart Liberal!


David Beeson said...

I think Paisley saw himself as walking in Carson's footsteps.

The odd thing though is this: do you know the Terence Rattigan play "The Winslow Boy"? The lawyer and MP who takes up the boy's case was, in the original, historical event, Edward Carson.