The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in the early 1880s, Lord Spencer, set out by rail and horseback for a tour of the south of the country at the height of the Land League campaign. This report from September 8th, 1884 covered his visit to Millstreet:
EARL SPENCER is a man not easily driven from the path he has deliberately chosen or he would have resigned his intention to visit the birthplace and home of the Moonlighters yesterday. Millstreet is not the place of all others in this part of the world where the administrator of the Crimes Act might anticipate a cheerful welcome, and its selection as the scene of his first visit just after his arrival in the south shows as much perhaps as anything could do, the determination of the Viceroy, who has throughout so terrible a period of our history as that chronicled since the date of the [Phoenix] Park murders [in 1882], held a firm grasp of the reins of government, and calmly and courageously faced the situation with all its perils and difficulties.
But it is not solely because the district through which he rode was one of the most notorious haunts of lawlessness, that the journey of Saturday may be considered remarkable. There was a still more powerful deterrent in the gloomy sky and lowering clouds, and the moisture-laden gale that swept from the westward over the unsheltered country that stretched from the wooded mountains and lake shores of Killarney to the Blackwater Bridge at Mallow.
An escort of the 11th Hussars was in waiting [at Millstreet station], and at half past twelve o’clock his Excellency abruptly gave the signal to horse, and rode off at so rapid a rate in the direction of Millstreet, about a mile distant, as obliged the cavalry men to put their horses to a gallop The straggling street through which his Excellency passed was far from being deserted. Here and there the people had mustered in knots of over half-a-dozen, and here and there the Lord Lieutenant acknowledged a salutation but the malcontents had spared no effort to give expression to their views, and upon some of the houses, copies of the cartoons issued recently with United Ireland and other prints were displayed. In one place the motto, in large green characters, painted upon a white ground, “Ireland loves William O’Brien” [nationalist MP for Mallow and Land League leader] appeared; in another, displayed with equal prominence, was the legend “Faith and Fatherland.” The front of a prominent house had upon it the inscription “Parnell for ever.” The Lord Lieutenant during his two hours’ stay in Millstreet was the guest of the Rev. Canon Griffin, P.P., an ecclesiastic of broad views and cultured mind. In a few cases the shutters were put up on the shop windows. The instances in which this was done were, however, very few, and having regard to the external appearance of the places where it was done, the demonstration could not be considered other than an ignominious failure.
this article appeared in the Irish times on September 8th, 1884
28th Sept ’10: The comments added below by Jack Lane give a contrasting view of the visit, and are well worth a read.
from Millstreet – the Cockpit of Ireland – Aubane historical society 2002:
The following poem was written about Millstreet on 5 August 1884 to
celebrate how the town dealt with the visit of the then Lord Lieutenant, the Earl Spencer (an ancestor of Lady Diana). As the person responsible for many deaths, executions and the use of the law against the people generally he was given a unique reception in that the town closed down on the day of his visit and was festooned with banners and posters supporting the resistance to the government.
This was regarded by the Home Rule leaders as the perfect type of demonstration, being effective and within the law. However, he was received by Canon Griffin with whom he dined. The poem opens with the kind of reception that the Earl would have expected, then the reception he got and contrasts Canon Griffin’s actions with the traditional relationship of the priests and the people.
Sound the trumpet, beat the drum ,
For the belted hero comes,
Who rules the land with strong but gentle sway,
Hide all trace of the green,
Let no crownless harps be seen
On your banners when they flout the skies today.
Let the maiden and the wife,
And the child so new to life,
The old man bent with labour and with years,
And the young man brave and gay,
Fill the happy streets to-day.
And greet their foreign master with their cheers.
Let the widow lone and old,
Mourning for the heart that’s cold,
All her sorrow with her weeds cast aside;
And the Widow-maker great,
As he prances down the street,
With the smile that lit her lips when a bride.
At the beating of the drum,
Let the childless mother come
And strew the brightest flowers upon his way;
Let the orphans dry their tears,
And with happy childish cheers
The Orphan-maker welcome here today.
Hark! I hear the ringing sound
As of hoofs upon the ground,
And swords are gleaming brightly in the sun,
Sound the trumpet, beat the drums,
For the belted hero comes –
A more than royal welcome hath he won.
But a silence like the grave,
And the banners bright that wave
Display the golden harp without the crown;
And beneath their folds of green
Must the Saxon pass, I wean,
As with gloomy brow he passes through the town.
And not a kindly word is said,
But mutterings deep instead,
And the wail of the widow for her son,
Is there no one here to give,
Shall our ruler not receive,
The more than royal welcome he hath won?
Lo! a door is opened wide,
And a Soggarth stands inside,
And he clasps the Castle Earl by the hand;
And I thought of all the years
When the priest by Castle Peers
Was hunted like a wolf throughout the land.
Ah! his only comrades then
Were the brave frieze-coated men,
‘Twas often on the rugged mountain side
That they watched his lone retreat;
Sure they starved that he might eat,
And for their Soggarth’s sake they gladly died.
But those years have passed away,
And the priests are free to-day;
Still on the peasant’s head the price is set,
And, mavroon, we’ve lived to see –
Paha! ’tis only Canon G-,
The priests, thank God! are with the people yet.
“United Ireland”, 13th. September 1884.
EARL SPENCER AT KILLARNEY. The Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, accompanied by Captains Pyttle and Ross, A.D.C.’s, left Killarney on Saturday for Millstreet, which has been the scene of several serious outrages. The visit was paid with the object of obtaining precise information respecting those outrages. His Excellency travelled in a saloon carriage attached to the mail train. At the entrance to the town large streamers were extended across the streets, bearing the words, God save the Irish nation.” A great number of smaller ones were dis- played from the houses, bearing such inscriptions as Parnell for ever,” God save Ireland,” Millstreet loves William O’Brien.” Several disloyal cartoons were posted on the front walls of the town, but the police, acting on instructions, succeeded, after some trouble, in scraping them off by the aid of long poles. Lord Spencer had a long conversation with Canon Griffin on the state of the country and the relations between landlord and tenant in the district. His Excellency subsequently “visited the Presentation Convent and the military barracks, and returned to Killarney on horseback/8 distance of twenty-one miles, under a heavy downpour of rain. [The Aberdare Times – 13th September 1884]
Nationalist Newspaper “The Nation” had this piece comparing the Tsar’s visit to Warsaw to the Lord Lieutenant’s visit to Millstreet:
MILLSTREET AND WARSAW.
(The Nation, Sept. 13.) The Czar of all the Russias has been in Poland this week, and Earl Spencer has been in West Cork and Kerry. Not only do the two events curiously synchronise, but their attendant circumstances have many striking features in common. The emperor’s visifi to the Ireland of the Earl was that of a trembling despot whose conscience pointed with stern finger to unknown terrors springing from the wrath of an oppressed people. The military and the police were everywhere. Soldiers had carriage of his trains, and acted as the conductors thereof. The streets through which he and his wife passed were lined with bayonets ; in those streets the doors and window? of all the houses save those occupied by Russian officials were ordered to be kept closed under pain of immediate punishment ; and to be shot down on eight was commanded as the penalty of coming nearer than a certain prescribed distance from the person of Czar Alexander the Third. In such wise did he go amongst the Poles, whom he insists on governing against their will.
The London journals had many apt reflections on the condition of affairs thus revealed between ruler and ruled— in Poland. But it is remarkable that with scarcely an exception they omitted’to make reflections of the same kind upon very similar circumstances occurring almost at the same hour in the Poland of the West. Earl Spencer’s progress during his recent ‘tour of pleasure’ was marked by the continuous presence of soldiers and policemen. They did not indeed undertake to drive the engines or collect tickets; but they guarded the railway Hues, they held possession of the railway stations, they swarmed in the trains which bore the Viceroy along, they kept close watch and ward over his lodging-places, and they surrounded his person jealously wherever be moved on the highroads or in the village streets. It is true that public notification was not given to the effect that suspicious persons going nigh him would be shot ; but no such announcement indeed was required. Toe vigilant R.M s and D.l.’s might safely be trusted to give the work of command on the faintest suspicion of danger, knowing, as well they might, that if a mistake happened to be made, and an Irishman or two was slain in the wrong, ie would be promptly excused as an error of judgement leaning to the right side and deserving rather of reward than of punishment. Earl Spencer’s attitude towards the people of the South- West then, pretty closely resembled that of the Czar towards the people of Warsaw. That was the popular reception of the viceroy in any degree more cordial than that of the Emperor? Not in the least. Both despots were met with sullen silence by the masses. In truth, the facts rather go to show that Earl Spencer is more fiercely hated by the Irish than the Czar is by the Poles. It required the orders of police to get doors and windows closed at Warsaw; in this SouthWest of Ireland the people put up their shutters of their own accord when Earl Spencer was expected to pass by. No black flags were thrust into the imperial ruler’s face to remind him of his doubtful deeds ; but the viceregal ruler has not the same story to tell. No cartoons terribly impeaching the Czar were displayed for his inspection; while the Lord Lieutenant has had a different experience. However, the difference may be accounted for by assuming that the Warsawans were cowed, while the Irish people were never more full of resolution than they are to-day. This indeed would seem to be the cause ; for bunting was everywhere displayed in Warsaw by a reluctant population at the command of the police ; while it is safe to say that no such order would now be carried out in Ireland in pretended honour to the Viceroy of the Crimes Act. The police themselves and the coastguards were the only persons who decorated their habitations with flags. The people displayed no banne ■ except the black ones. It might be thought that the remarkable parallel afforded within the last few days in places so far apart as Millstreet and Warsaw would have attracted general attention in England. Yet that doei not seem to have been the case. We should have supposed, at all events, that the observant eyes of London journalists could not fail to see a coincidence so sensational. But in this supposition we have been disappointed up to the time of our writing. The Times is ready enough to admit the true significance of the circumstances of the Czar’s visit to the despoiled Polish capital, but appears to be as unwilling as ever to make known the truth in regard to Ireland. Yet it is obviously quite as true in this country as in Poland repression brings no real sense of security to despots. Earl Spencer’s fears are a ” lamentable evidence” of the fact as those of Alexander the Third. A Lord Lieutenant who dares not take a short railway journey without having the line patrolled and the bridges and other points of vantage held by armed men must himself know that he has done nothing towards the pacification of Ireland. If he be not a confirmed imbecile he should rather conclude that his action has had the opposite effect when he found himself greeted by black flags instead of welcoming hurrahs. The Times and the leaders of English politics may pretend to miss the Millstreet moral while fully alive to the Warsaw one ; but it will be the business of the Irish people to enforce it out them until they concert means, to quote that journal’s own words, ” to remove the evils which make revolutions possible.’
[The Nation – September 13th 1884]
MESSRS. T. P. O’CONNOR AND HEALY ON THE SITUATION. – A NATIONAL meeting was held in Galway on September 15, at which the gentlemen in question spoke essentially about Spenser’s visit to Ireland:
… … Mr. Healy M.P.— At another time he could not see the Lakes of Killarney with the naked eye ; and this gentleman, who is allowed by the favour of the guns of the police to visit certain districts and address magistrates and police in a courthouse — this man has the audacity to talk abcut the loyalty of the counties of Kerry and Cork. Loyalty to what 1 Is it Indian meal and stirabout ? (Laughter.) Is it to the bayonets of the police ? (Cries of •• No, no.”) Is it to the heartless landlord ? (Cries of ” No. “) Is it to the rackrent exterminator ? (Cries of ” No, no.) Is it to Buckshot and the gaol ? (Groans and cries of ” No.”) Is it to perjured witnesses or to packed juries? Is it to George Bolton ? (Groans.) Or is it to French and Cornwall? (groans)— the loyal population? The loyal population of Kerry and Cork ! Why, you could put the whole of them on an outside car (laughter), and this man endeavours before the English public to pervert the general sentiment with regard to foreign misrule in this country. He is allowed to speak in Listowel, Tralee, Millstreet ; aye, but if my friend, Mr. T. P. O’Connor, or myself ventured into one of these districts he would issue a proclamation proclaiming our meeting. If I went to Millstreet to-morrow Earl Spencer would not go there in flesh, but he would send a white sheet of paper signed Spencer (groans), and then he would send his police to shoot down any persons who would dare to come into the district which he himself had the audacity to visit. This gentleman is a specimen of the rale under which we live, and I now wish to invite the people — the heart-broken, persecuted people — of Millstreet, of Castleisiand, and all of the other landlord-cursed districts, to get up a demonstration by way of giving their real answer to a statement of a person like Lord Spencer, and if they ask me down there I will go with a heart and a half, and we shall see whether Earl Spencer will put his name to a placard forbidding the people to assemble and pronounce their opinion about him. We have been told by this distinguished nobleman that the limits of concession have been reached, and that you, the labourers and farmers and artisans of Ireland, are to look no more to England for remedial measures. Our answer to that is this, that we have never looked to England for remedial legislation. We have carried it by our own firm hearts and by the brains and devotion of leaders like Charles Stewart Pamell (cheers-)…
[NEW ZEALAND TABLET, VOLUME XII, ISSUE 31, 21 NOVEMBER 1884]