JOHN REDMOND. HIS SCHOOLDAYS

by ehistoryadmin on April 28, 2018

John Redmond.His Schooldays

Memories by John P. Gannon, of Laragh, Maynooth (O.C. 1870-1876)

Munster Express 16 March 1918

John Redmond was in Second Grammar and the Lower line when I went to Clongowes in the Summer Term of 1870. I was in Third Grammar and the Third Line that Term, and I hardly came in contact with him till after the following Christmas, when I went up into his class. He was a handsome boy, with brown curling hair, walked with an elastic step, and was popular with his fellows in the sense of being highly esteemed; but while being perfectly frank and genial in his manner, he had a fund of reserve which seemed to preclude intimacy, except with a few, of whom I was not one. He gave me the impression of singular high-mindedness and honour. Anything like pettiness or shabbiness would excite his indignation; but he had unusual self-control, and I do not remember any occasion on which he was carried away by excitement, as boys are apt to be. He pursued an even path, and appeared to enjoy school-life more than most schoolboys. Yet, in spite of his perfect contentment, he seemed to me to live half out of school in a world of thought and action more befitting a man. In fact his character was fixed early, and I think he even looked older than his years. He took an interest in politics, and read the newspapers. Coming from a historically patriotic county, where his family had been prominent as friends of the people, he had clearly inherited a tradition which he would not lightly abandon. I well remember his delight when Marshal MacMahon became President of the French Republic, and his saying to the Lay-Brother who used to look after us in the refectory; ‘Hurrah! Brother, they have an Irish President in France.’ But even then he was a constitutional Nationalist. When some one questioned the utility of the British monarchy, he answered gravely: ‘The Queen is the most important person in the State, she holds it together.’ He was a great admirer of Isaac Butt, who then led the Home Rule party, of which his father was a member, and I always felt that when he left school he would enter Irish public life at the first opportunity.

For all his detachment and self-confidence, John Redmond was no prig, but a natural school-boy. Though not specially athletic, he was fond of games, particularly cricket, at which he attained a fair proficiency. He was in the College Eleven, a steady bat, and a good fielder and back-stop. He was attentive in class, but could not be called a hard student, taking a prominent place by quickness of talent rather than by perseverance. The old educational system at Clongowes did not, perhaps, lend itself naturally to sustained effort. It had, I think, the advantage of the new one in range of classical reading and cultivation of literary taste; but it was not analytical – did not encourage boys to probe a subject or wrestle with a difficulty. To one, however, whose mind was of the conservative type it was satisfying. John Redmond, I think, always believed in it. I remember meeting him in Dublin, when he said to me: ‘I have been to Clongowes to put my son to school.’ I remarked on the changes which had taken place there since our time, and the increased zest of study. ‘Yes,’ he said, reflectively, ‘if it is not overdone.’ His own bent at school was towards poetry, declamation and oratory, and he had a remarkable taste for acting, but only in tragedy. Plays were got up then by Mr. George Kelly and Mr. John Verdon (prefects not yet ordained), and John Redmond’s Macbeth seemed to me a wonderful performance for a school-boy. I was told that his Hamlet, which I did not see, having left Clongowes the year before, was even better. He was trained by Mr. Verdon, of whom he said to me: ‘Mr. Verdon is the best amateur actor I have ever seen.’ He might have added, ‘and the best-hearted man.’ At that time the old fashioned declamation of poetry, with elaborate gesture, was still in vogue, and somewhat stilted though it might now appear, it was carried by John Redmond to a pitch of grace and refinement which could hardly be excelled. None of the other boys could compete with him in this accomplishment, and our elocution master, the stately Mr. Bell, of ‘Bell’s Speaker,’ seemed tame and pompous in comparison with him. His favourite modern poet was Longfellow, but he could see little to admire in Tennyson, who was then in great repute as the first of the living poets. The fervid, if somewhat rhetorical, school of young Ireland was high in his favour, as indeed generally in that of young Irishmen in those days. At our School debates he shone, not so much by the matter of his speeches, as by an arresting power of delivery, which already marked him out fror distinction in the art of oratory.

He remained at Clongowes for a year after I left, Father Carbery, who was then rector, having formed a small class of Philosophy, which Redmond joined. I met him afterwards in Trinity College, where we were undergraduates for a short time. I think he gave up in his Junior Freshman year and went to London. I did not reside in College, and saw little of him during his stay, but I can remember the interest he took in John Mitchell’s election in Tipperary, and how he deprecated the policy of not going to Parliament which Mitchell announced.

In after life I saw him rarely, but he seemed to change less from what he had been as a boy than almost anyone else I knew. Servetur ad imum qualis ab incepto processerit et sibi constet, might have been his motto. His character was essentially earnest, consistent, and loyal. He was inclined by natural temperament to moderation and even conservatism. No one could be less of a revolutionist at heart, and if his policy sometimes appeared extreme, it was doubtless due to intense sympathy with a class or a people whom he believed to be wronged. On the other hand he was of too fine a fibre for a tribune, and his kindly and cultured nature found its natural scope in the persuasion of debate. Worldly means he hardly seemed to value. He said to me once: ‘It would be better to starve in Ireland than to live in luxury in England.’ If I were to express in a few words the ruling passion of his life, plainly foreshadowed in boyhood, it would be by the simple epitaph: He loved Ireland.

John Redmond as a Clongownian

By Father Robert Kane, S.J. (O.C. 1859-1864)

My first meeting with John Redmond was in September, 1870, at Clongowes, where I was sent to be master of First of Grammar. His father had brought him back from home after the summer vacation. They were walking together with Father Carbery, the Rector, on the path outside the entrance to the pleasure ground. The Rector introduced me to Mr. Redmond and his son. The father was a tall, majestic man with a most aristocratic face, a perfect portrait of which, although with youthful line and curve, was stamped upon the features of his son. John Redmond was indeed a boy, and yet not merely in the expression but even in the moulding of his face there was a nobility and maturity older than his years. One cause of this was only known, I think, outside the boy’s own home, to Father Carbery and myself. The characters of his father and mother were very dissimilar. Their son was the confidant of each and the comforter of both. It has always seemed to me that this circumstance made John a man in mind and character while still a boy in age and humour.

Up to First of Grammar John Redmond had been facile princeps in the studies of his class. He remained so in First of Grammar until after Christmas when John Gannon, who the previous year had been in Third of Grammar and who, was promoted to First of Grammar, entered the arena. To great talent John Gannon added great application, whereas John Redmond took things much too easily, and only made a feeble spurt towards the time for the examinations. Both were first class at the English essay, which was perhaps the most prominent feature in the First of Grammar course. Their marked success at the essay was all the more admirable as in my class that year there were quite a number of boys who gave brilliant promise of high success in English prose writing.

The following year I had the same class in Poetry. The name was most accurate. In those days it was in reality a class of poetry. Each week they had to write original verses in English, Latin and Greek. At that time the writing of poetry was highly esteemed, and was considered to be of very great importance in the formation of literary taste and judgement. Even then, however, that idea was beginning to wane, and that was the last year during which the class of poetry was taught to write original Greek verse. I have heard it stated since that some few of the pupils then at Clongowes did not think that John Redmond had any real sense of poetry. With that criticism I most thoroughly disagree. Many of the English poems which he wrote for me were quite up to the standard of high-class magazines. And I remember a Greek Anacreontic Ode of his, ‘To a Rose,’ which I valued so much that I kept it for many years. John Redmond never gave me, as his master, any trouble, nor caused me any uneasiness except by his lazy dreaminess, and even for this I only once punished him. That punishment was very thoughtfully chosen so as to suit his high spirit and noble character. One day he blundered badly over his Homer, and, in answer to my questions, he frankly confessed that he had not studied it, although he had quite time enough to do so. Whereupon I stopped the class, and while the other boys were listening in intense silence I spoke to him for about ten minutes. I began by frankly and fully praising his many admirable talents of mind and his many high qualities of character. Then I went on very calmly but very sternly to point out to him the unworthy use he was making of his gifts by letting them melt or rust or rot through laziness and lack of right and energetic self-mastery. Many years afterwards when I met him at Maiden Lane he reminded me of the incident, and told me that he would have much preferred flogging, and that in all his life he had never suffered such a severe punishment. He added, however, that he had never forgotten it, and that it had been to him a most useful and lasting lesson.

With regard to his powers as an orator, I have only once heard them questioned. My only answer to this was to smile and to keep silence. Beyond all cavil, he was one of the greatest orators of our day[1]. His speech at the second reading of Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill is up to the standard of any orator of any day. There is no need of my referring to his talent as an actor in tragedy. Of course any good actor excites jealousy amongst his rivals. His elocution ran risk of being spoiled by the declamation of Mr. Bell, the compiler of Bell’s Speaker. On the Academy Day John Redmond was to declaim an English poem. He appealed to me as to whether he was bound to carry out Mr. Bell’s directions as to voice, pose, and gesture. And I told him to obey Mr. Bell during the practices, but to follow his own ideas on the occasion itself. The result was a great success, for it was not another Bell who spoke but a greater elocutionist, John Redmond.

As I left Clongowes in the September of 1874 to make my Philosophy and Theology in France, I did not again meet John Redmond for eight years. Since then, until about a year ago, I met him from time to time in Ireland and in London, and occasionally I had some correspondence with him. Many people were aware that I had been his master in Clongowes, and that since then we had remained fast friends. Hence I was often harassed with applications to use my influence with him in order to induce him to do ‘a job.’ This I invariably refused to do. Several times when we met in London, John thanked me warmly for my firmness in refusing to take any part in causing him endless unpleasantness, and even sometimes extreme annoyance. His time was so taken up with Parliament and other duties inseparable from his political career that it was not possible for him to be a frequent visitor to Clongowes. But he did go there from time to time and always with intense delight, although this was slightly tinged with melancholy. He loved the dear old place, and was always pleased to talk over the days when ‘he was there a merry little boy.’ While his son Willie, was at Clongowes, John went to see him about twice a year.

Corpus Christi Church, Maiden Lane, was a place where John and I often met. The rector there, Father Kearney, and the curate, Father McGuckin, were great friends of his and also great friends of mine. Since they have been in charge of Maiden Lane it has been a favourite resort of Irishmen living in London, and even of those who are only passing through. Twice it was my high privilege to preach there on the Feast of St. Patrick. On both occasions John was present, although on the second occasion he was only just recovering from the serious accident he met with in Wexford. Each time when a number of special friends, principally Irish priests and members of parliament, assembled together at the presbytery after the ceremonies, he spoke warmly and even enthusiastically about Clongowes and the Jesuits he had known there. To these latter he always showed great cordiality and great respect. Indeed his deference was such that I often found it somewhat embarrassing before strangers.

[In the Clongownian of 1914 is recorded the part he played in the Centenary Celebrations. We wish it were possible to include here every word of that account, and in particular the two speeches that he made on that great occasion. It will be remembered that the boys presented him with an illuminated address. In reply he made a speech which ought not to be forgotten by Clongownians. After thanking the boys for their address, he continued, ‘Father Kane in his magnificent oration, in speaking of Clongowes used the expression ‘noblesse oblige,’ and I am not ashamed to say that all through my public life I had at the bottom of my heart the feeling that I must guard myself at all costs from anything that would be unworthy of the great college in which I commenced my education. I have always been deeply proud of my association with Clongowes. Other men attained great learning here …My association with Clongowes has been an association more of the heart. I was happy at Clongowes; I was happy every day of my life for my six years at Clongowes, and I have all through the years that have passed, looked back with the deepest gratitude to this old place.’ After a brief reference to his own life-work, he continued, ‘The future is with the young men of Ireland. Our day will soon be passed. But, boys, you, when you grow up … it is you who will have to put upon your shoulders the duty of making good the work we have endeavoured to perform. And you can only do it by, in the first instance, clinging to your religion which is the source of all real happiness in the world. You can only do it by clinging to the national sentiment of your country. What shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Those words may be applied to a nation as well as to an individual. And national sentiment is the life of a nation.’ He concluded with a plea for complete toleration in the Ireland of the future.

At the Centenary banquet he spoke again. He dwelt upon the history of Clongowes and its share in the life of Ireland. Then he returned to his own personal memories. He dwelt affectionately upon his schooldays and concluded with these words, ‘I know I was taught here by precept and by example the lessons of truth, of chivalry, and of manliness. I know that I was taught here to accept success without arrogance, and defeat without repining. I was taught here that the highest duty of a gentleman was in every circumstance of life to play the game, and I believe that that in itself was a liberal education. I am proud and thankful to know that these are still the traditions of the Clongowes of to-day, and with these great traditions as a foundation, I believe that the greater facilities, the wider opportunities, and the newer ideas about education of to-day, will enable the old college that we love and venerate, after its century of honourable work, to renew its youth, and look forward with confidence to a still greater future of work for God and Country.’ For such words every Clongownian, Present and Past, may well feel grateful. – Ed.]

There is one very memorable occasion which I must recall. It is the National Banquet at the Hotel Cecil on St. Patrick’s Day, 1912. The toast of John Redmond was proposed by the Most Rev. Dr. Kelly, Bishop of Ross. His speech was a masterly exposition of the aims, prospects, and resources of the Nationalist party. To some amongst the guests, and especially amongst those who were looking forward to the concert or the dance, the speech seemed to be too serious and too long. It was my privilege to have been chosen to second the toast. It was a golden opportunity. My speech was short, but it was quite fresh and intensely interesting to the immense audience, who listened in breathless silence; for I was able to tell them what I knew well but what they did not know yet were most eager to hear, namely, what John Redmond was like as a boy. I need not say that I spoke from my heart. When John rose to reply the audience all stood up and cheered with warm and ringing enthusiasm. He was evidently deeply moved, and his voice was vibrating with emotion. When he spoke of Clongowes his voice rose to the fullest music of its power and pathos. He said that his father had been educated by the Jesuits, and that his son was being educated by the Jesuits. ‘To the Jesuits,’ he exclaimed, while there was a hush, almost of awe, at the intensity of his feeling, ‘to the Jesuits and to Clongowes I owe all that I have of good and all that I may have been able to do, or tried at least to do, for the happiness and greatness of Ireland.’

At the very close of my speech I had said, ‘I propose the health of John Redmond as a man of honour.’ Honour. That is the word in which I epitomise the character of John Redmond as a boy and as a man. The word to the minds of some may bear only a vague meaning. What I understand by it is this. Honour in the sense of the honour which is rendered to another is the admiring appreciation and cordial deference shown towards high merit. Honour in the sense of the honour which is owned and realised in the character of a man, is the uttermost esteem and chivalrous love of truth, justice, becomingness, and courtesy. A great man is often only fully understood when death has stilled the wrangling of rivals and hushed the empty clamour of parties, and the evidence of his worth is often only clearly revealed when the clouds or mists of prejudice or of passion have disappeared before the light of truth which abides. To John Redmond an unparalleled honour was rendered when multitudes of every country, creed, politics, and pursuit, were gathered together round his bier, and when many and many a warm tear of sympathy and of sorrow fell upon the pavement of the Cathedral of Westminster.

His Career

Innumerable sketches of John Redmond’s career have appeared in periodicals of all kinds in England and America as well as in Ireland. In 1910 a study of his lifework and personality by his nephew, Mr. L.G. Redmond-Howard (O.C. 1899-1901) was published in a substantial volume. He had, moreover, played a prominent part in political life for nearly forty years, and for eighteen had been leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Thus his career is public property, the property of the Nation, if we may so speak. To attempt in a school magazine an account of such a career would be superfluous if it were not practically impossible. Moreover, we are concerned with him not as a statesman but as a past Clongownian of whom his college may well be proud. In this humble tribute to his memory, therefore, we regard as beyond our ken the discussion of the wisdom or unwisdom of his political acts. This much, however, we may say about his public career that it was one of stainless honour and integrity. Almost at the outset of his career he went willingly to prison for his convictions. In later years, when circumstances had changed, many of the highest positions in the gift of successive British Governments were his had he cared to take them. He took nothing, but died plain John Redmond.

In private life he was courteous, kindly, genial – the model of a perfect Catholic gentleman. To this, all who knew him personally will bear ready testimony. The closing years were, on the whole, years of sorrow, years of contradiction and disappointment in his public life, and bereavement within his own family circle. In the last portrait of him the lines and furrows of care are but too plain.

For a considerable time before his death Mr. Redmond’s health had been failing.

Towards the close of the Convention, illness compelled his absence from many of its sittings. On March 5th the end came. His last hours were in every way worthy of his life. I quote from the published account which many Clongownians, Past and Present will not have read:

‘It was a calm and peaceful passing away. For some considerable interval before the final scene, Mr. Redmond was unconscious, but up to the last moment of consciousness he preserved a perfectly collected and placid demeanour and seemed more concerned for the convenience of those about him than for any needs of his own.

One of the medical attendants, when he saw the resignation and fortitude of these moments said, ‘I have never met a more courageous man.’ The emphasis of the tribute was no doubt inspired in no small measure also by the knowledge of the manner in which Mr. Redmond had borne the operation and had suffered the intervening days of illness and physical pain.

Before the operation was performed, Mr. Redmond was attended by Father Wigg, of the Catholic Church, Spanish Place, from whom he received Holy Communion. Before unconsciousness supervened, Father Wigg again visited Mr. Redmond, and administered the last sacraments.

To those whom were dearest to the deceased, one of the cherished recollections of the last scene was the absolute forgetfulness of self which Mr. Redmond displayed, and his desire to be as little troublesome to all about him as possible. The courtesy and consideration which were innate in his character were never more touchingly evident than in these moments.

In the words of one of the doctors, Mr. Redmond died ‘sweetly and beautifully.’ There was no sign of struggle. The passing away was just an emission or two of breath, a few moments of doubt and anxiety, and then the realisation by the bereaved family that all was over.’

To give here any adequate notion of the multitudes of tributes which, on the occasion of Mr. Redmond’s death, found their way into the press, would be quite impossible. They came from all quarters, from foe as well as from friend; for even in the heat of conflict, Mr. Redmond was incapable of taking mean advantage of an enemy, or treating an opponent with unfairness. After an impressive service in Westminster Cathedral his remains were brought to Wexford for interment in the family vault. R.I.P.

Here we must take leave of one whom many will hold to be the greatest and one of the best men that have gone forth from Clongowes. But, no doubt, it is too soon to judge him now. When the dust of conflict has subsided, and not till then, shall we be able to see his life-work in its true light, to appreciate at their full value the national services of a man whose entire life was lived for Ireland.

(Clongownian, 1918)

The Memory of John Redmond

During the year that has gone by since the death of John Redmond many things have contributed to keep his memory in our minds. Much has been written and spoken about him in many quarters. A book in defence of his career, to which we shall presently refer again, appeared not long ago. An important biography is announced to appear in the near future, and a third book about him has been commissioned. There were, too, the Anniversary Celebrations in Wexford last March of which likewise we shall have something to say.

But what might well form the chief inducement to us to speak again of John Redmond is this: He stood for a political policy, and for a political policy which has not ceased during these latter years to form the subject of acrimonious debate. Now the inevitable tendency of such discussions is to involve in the obloquy attaching (in the minds of opponents0 to the policy in question the personalities of the men who stood for it. With the discussion of the merits or demerits of any particular line of political action we have here no concern. But Clongowes and the Clongownian owe too much to John Redmond for us to miss so obvious an opportunity of paying a further humble tribute to his worth as a man, and holding up once more before the Clongownians of this generation the portrait of one whose high qualities are truly worthy of their admiration.

Mr. Horgan, who had intimate personal relations with him, has sent us this admirable sketch of John Redmond’s personality:-

John Redmond – An Appreciation

By John J. Horgan, Solicitor, Cork (O.C. 1893-1897)

The life of a prominent politician is not in any country a bed of roses. He is the target for the malicious criticism of his enemies and the no less injurious flattery of his friends. The abnormal nature of Irish politics tends to aggravate these common conditions, and many Irish politicians both in the past and the present have become slaves of their own egotism, and the victims of their friends’ flattery. I think, therefore, that the exceptional charm of John Redmond’s character arose first of all from his utter lack of vanity or pride. He was essentially a modest man. Jealousy, that devouring canker of smaller political lights, was quite foreign to his nature. But with this great quality he combined a quiet dignity of manner which, whilst it placed you at once absolutely at ease in social converse or political consultation, could be equally efficient in gently closuring a bore. Entirely single-minded and disinterested in his aims, he never gave a thought to his own personal interests. His greatest joy in life was to seek those well-earned rests, in later years so few and far between, in Parnell’s old shooting lodge at Augavannagh, which was his Irish home. There, like O’Connell at Derrynane, he found amongst the mountains that peace and quiet denied him in the political arena. There, also, he could pursue that life of a country gentleman which was nearest to his heart. His London residence was equally simple; a small old-fashioned flat in a dreary part of Kensington was his humble abode. Had he wished he could have earned a large income at the Bar, and its highest honours would have been open to him, but he chose rather to serve his country, and lived and died a relatively poor man, at the end prematurely worn and broken-hearted.

Moderation was, I think, the key-note of his character. He disliked ‘wild men’ of every kind, and his well-balanced mind had nothing in common with fanaticism. His clear angular hand-writing, very neat and very legible, indicated accurately the orderliness of his mind and life. It also indicated his steady nerve and courage. He was, indeed, absolutely fearless, as he showed from the days when, beaten and bleeding, he faced the hostile crowd that broke up Parnell’s meeting at Enniscorthy in 1880, up to the last moment when he confronted the operation table with a cheery courage that was the admiration of his doctors. His good faith was equally inflexible. An Irish gentleman in the best sense of the word, he was incapable of a shabby word or deed, and it was his own high standard of honour that made him rely too much upon the good faith of English politicians. His greatest failing as a political leader was that he treated others as they should have treated him. It is a failing of which all who loved him may be proud.

His reputation as a great orator was well justified. Both he and his brother Willie had a particular rich quality of voice which gave great charm and distinction to their speeches. He spoke nearly always from the most careful and voluminous notes beautifully written in his own handwriting. I remember quite well the first time I heard him speak. The occasion was the first annual meeting of the Clongowes Union on June 5th, 1898, in the Clongowes Refectory. It was a delightful speech, finely phrased, compact with clear thought, beautifully delivered. I heard him often afterwards on many occasions, notably in the House of Commons on the memorable April night in 1912 when the Home Rule Bill was introduced, at the great and unanimous Convention in Dublin which accepted it, and at the historic meeting which welcomed Mr. Asquith to Dublin; yet I remember best that summer evening in the Clongowes Refectory and the short simple speech which came from his heart. ‘I could not,’ he said, ‘help feeling to-day more than once, as I strolled through these grounds and met many of my old acquaintances and friends, I could not help thinking of the many gaps, and I confess I felt as if I were a member of a great regiment taking part in a muster after a campaign. And we are the survivors, we are proud and happy to meet together, but what of the gaps, what of those who are gone? I confess that the feeling was strong all day in my mind, the memory was strong all day in my heart, of the many bright young lives, full of hope and vigour and confidence in the future, with whom we were associated, and who have since dropped out and disappeared.’ I have quoted these words for they are characteristic of the man. They indicate not only his love for Clongowes but also his simple attachment to old friends and the depth of his feelings. He did not, indeed, make new friends readily, and as time went on and old friends like Pat O’Brien passed away, gaps were left in his attachments that no-one else could fill.

Few men cared less about popular applause. I think he shrank from popular demonstrations of all kinds, and looked upon them rather as the necessary burdens of his position. He was in public as in private life a plain matter-of-fact man, who applied the ordinary rules of common sense to the problems of life and politics, and never allowed his vision to be distorted by ‘envy, hatred, malice, or ill-will.’ His temperate language often disappointed in a country where exaggeration is too often mistaken for strength and malicious slander is esteemed as wit. He was, of course, a Conservative by temperament, and nothing is more certain than that he would have led the Moderate Party in an Irish Parliament had he been spared to enter the Promised Land. He was, indeed, the ideal Prime Minister for a political Ireland learning to walk, for in such a situation his natural caution and common sense would have prevailed over the flamboyant rhetoric of his adversaries, and he would have rallied to his support the best elements in a country which is naturally conservative. Like Parnell he was naturally indolent, and his chief interests in life were politics and sport. But whatever he did was done well and methodically, and no busy politician was a more punctual or courteous correspondent. He never stooped to the bitter vituperation so common in Irish politics. Even during the Parnell Split when the fire of political passion blazed high, John Redmond called the people to the consideration of great issues stripped of personalities. It was, indeed, his speeches and demeanour at that time which made him afterwards the inevitable leader of a re-united party. He alone had shown himself big enough to lead. And yet no man took less pains to court personal popularity or attract a following. His own good faith, high-mindedness, and charming courtesy were his only passports to his colleagues’ affection and his country’s respect. To the great majority of his countrymen he was known as a great political leader and an impressive orator, but his real greatness lay elsewhere. ‘We knew him,’ writes a colleague, Mr. Hugh Law, ‘for something much greater than an orator – a loyal friend – a man of unswerving honour – a wise counsellor, a teller of the truth, one in whose presence jealousy and conceit, petty spite, backbiting, the imputation of mean motives, simply melted away. … In all the sixteen years which I had the honour to know him I never once heard him say a bitter thing in private or public of those who used to revile and deride him.’

This is not the time or place to estimate his work for Ireland. That time will come when people on both sides of the Irish Sea begin to realise that hatred is a negative thing, that tyranny begets violence, and that mutual respect can only be built up on a foundation of mutual freedom. But this much can be said, and said in truth, that none of Ireland’s sons has ever served her with greater sincerity or nobler purpose. We of his old school may write his name high on the scroll of its great men, confident that no man can truthfully deny his honour, his integrity, his self-sacrifice, or his patriotism.

The Anniversary celebrations to which we have referred, and an illustration of which we here produce, took place in Wexford on March 16th. They were, of course, to a great extent a political demonstration. Had they been nothing else besides we should not here refer to them. But from the demeanour of the crowds who attended, and from the tone of the speeches that were made, it was plain that this tribute to his memory was an expression of personal esteem and even affection, and of a sense of personal loss even more than it was a manifestation of sympathy with his political ideas. There were many things that tended to make the observance more a local than a national demonstration. But, despite the lack of railway services and travelling facilities generally, delegates came from many distant parts of Ireland, and in the funeral parade through Wexford five thousand people walked, while six or seven thousand visitors besides were present and attended the public meeting that was held afterwards. The speeches made at this meeting were naturally coloured by the political views of the speakers. Yet when tribute was paid to the nobility and disinterestedness of his motives all through his career, to the fairness and courtesy of his attitude even towards the bitterest opponents, to his unswerving devotedness in the Cause of Ireland, listeners must have felt that these high praises were no more than the simple truth.

 

As for us he deserves our grateful remembrance as the most loyal of Clongownians. We would refer back our readers to the eloquent article contributed to our last number by Father Robert Kane. It remains for us to sum up briefly our obligations to John Redmond. Few of the early numbers of the Clongownian are without some acknowledgement of help given by him to the magazine. When the time came, his only son was sent here to be educated, and during the years that Willie stayed with us his father was a frequent visitor. At the first meeting of Clongowes Union he spoke of the deepest affection for his old school. In 1898 he was elected a Vice-President of the Union, and from that date till its last meeting before the War he attended it always when his public duties allowed. His speeches at the Centenary Celebrations showed that his regard for this college had grown rather than diminished with the years. All who are interested in the welfare of Clongowes have surely every reason to cherish such a memory.

(Clongownian, 1919)

Death of Mr. John E. Redmond, M.P.

The death took place in a London Nursing Home at 7.45 on Wednesday morning of Mr. John Redmond, member for Waterford City and Leader of the Irish Party, following the operation performed upon him on Friday last.

Mr. Redmond rallied well after the operation, and on Tuesday evening it was believed he was well on the road to recovery, but an attack of heart failure supervened during the night, and he passed away peacefully after some hours.

The sad news, which came as a startling surprise after the favourable bulletins that had been issued, was received all over Ireland and throughout the English-speaking world with feelings of intense sorrow.

The King’s message of sympathy was one of the earliest received, and at the sitting of the House of Commons on Wednesday eloquent tributes to Mr. Redmond’s memory were paid by the Premier, Mr. Asquith and other party leaders.

The Passing of Mr. Redmond

The critical change in Mr. Redmond’s condition occurred shortly after ten o’clock on Tuesday night, when symptoms of heart weakness supervened. Up to then the distinguished patient was progressing as well as could be expected considering the serious character of the operation and the strain it imposed on his reserves of strength.

The doctors and nurses were satisfied that as much as could be hoped for was being achieved, and, as the bulletins expressed it, progress was practically uninterrupted.

On the first signs of weakness the members of the family in London, including Mrs. Redmond, Mrs. Max Green, Capt. W.A. Redmond, and Mrs. William Redmond were summoned to the nursing home, and with them were Mr. Scanlon, M.P., and Mr. T.J. Hanna, Mr. Redmond’s secretary. The party remained at the bedside until the end.

It was a calm and peaceful passing away. For some considerable interval before the final scene Mr. Redmond was unconscious, but up to the last moment of consciousness he preserved a perfectly collected and placid demeanour and seemed more concerned for the convenience of those about him than for any needs of his own.

One of the medical attendants, when he saw the resignation and fortitude of these moments said, ‘I have never met a more courageous man.’ The emphasis of the tribute was no doubt inspired in no small measure also by the knowledge of the manner in which Mr. Redmond had borne the operation and had suffered the intervening days of illness and pain.

To those who were dearest to the deceased one of the cherished recollections of the scene was the absolute forgetfulness of self which Mr. Redmond displayed and his desire to be as little troublesome to all about him as possible. The courtesy and consideration which were innate in his character were never more touchingly evidenced than in these moments.

In the words of one of the doctors, Mr. Redmond died ‘sweetly and beautifully.’ There was no sign of a struggle. The passing away was just an emission or two of breath, a few moments of doubt and anxiety, and then the realisation by the bereaved family that all was over.

Mrs. Redmond, Capt. Redmond, Mrs. Max Green and Mrs. William Redmond were in the room at the last saddened interval.

The statements issued by the doctors expressed exactly the position with regard to the condition of the distinguished patient from day to day. The operation was absolutely necessary, and it was a cause of surprise to everybody who watched the condition from hour to hour that the collapse came so suddenly.

The medical attendants and the nurses lavished most careful attention on their patient, for with their professional anxieties they had personal regard amounting to affection for their patient. The matron of the home is a Tipperary woman, and the nurse who was in immediate attendance on Mr. Redmond is a native of Wexford.

Before the operation was performed on Friday last Mr. Redmond was attended by Father Wigg, of the Catholic Church, Spanish Place, from whom he received Holy Communion. Before unconsciousness supervened on Wednesday morning, Father Wigg again visited Mr. Redmond and administered to him the Last Sacraments. This was about half-past two in the morning.

Removal of the Remains

The remains were removed from the private nursing home in which he breathed his last shortly after nine o’clock on Wednesday night to Westminster Cathedral, where they were placed on a catafalque before the altar in the Holy Soul’s Chapel. They were accompanied by Mrs. Redmond, Mrs. Max Green, Mrs. William Redmond, Captain Redmond, D.S.O., Mr. John O’Connor, M.P., Mr. F.L. Crilly, Secretary of the United Irish League of Great Britain; Mr. Michael McMahon, of the Ministry of Munitions and Mr. T.J. Hanna. The hearse reached the Cathedral at 9.40 and the remains were received at the entrance by the Right Rev. Monsignor Brown,  Rev. James Reany, Rev. W. Reany, Rev. Father Riordan and the Rev. Father Darby. Notwithstanding the fact that the removal of the remains was known only to a limited number, there was a large attendance, including Messrs. J.J. Mooney, M.P.; T. Scanlan, M.P. and Mrs. Scanlan; Wm. Field, M.P.; J. Boland, M.P.; M. Joyce, M.P.; A. Lynch, M.P.; A. Byrne, M.P.; M. Keating, M.P.; J.H. Hackett, M.P.; Lady Macdonnell and the Hon. Anne Macdonnell, John Brady, Chief Organiser, U.I.L., London, and Mrs. Brady, etc. A large number of Australian and Canadian soldiers were also present. When the coffin had been placed on the catafalque before the altar it was covered with the Irish flag of the London branches of the United Irish League. This flag also covered the catafalque in the Cathedral when the Requiem Mass was being held for the repose of the soul of the late Leader’s brother, Major Willie Redmond. The prayers prescribed by the ritual were recited by Monsignor Brown, assisted by the other priests. A number of wreaths were laid on the coffin.

Low Mass was celebrated in Westminster Cathedral on Thursday morning, at which there was a large attendance and arrangements have been made for a Solemn Requiem Mass to be celebrated this (Friday) morning.

News in Waterford

The news of Mr. Redmond’s death came with appalling suddenness on Wednesday in Waterford. The reassuring bulletins had given some reason to hope that he would survive the serious operation which he underwent, though when one considers the amount of worry as well as of domestic grief he has so recently gone through, it was not to be wondered that his heart should fail him. Deep and universal regret was felt on all sides here, for apart from his exalted position as Leader and his brilliant record as a great Parliamentarian, he had been to Waterford an ideal member. His valuable services were always most cordially at the disposal of his constituents in everything relating to the betterment of Waterford or in warding off what might be to its disadvantage in any public manner. On all sides there is abundant evidence of the grief felt at his untimely loss. The municipal flag and the flags of the shipping in the port have been at half-mast since the sad announcement was made known and as friend meet friend in the city it was the one subject referred to with bated breath. Well might it be so, for the ties which bound him to Waterford since his first connection with the city twenty-seven years ago have been no ordinary ones, and citizens of all creeds and classes bewail one who had been proven and true and who dearly loved Waterford to his heart’s core.

Elected after a fierce contest at the time of the Parnell split, and subsequently re-elected after two other hotly-contested struggles he, nevertheless, always referred proudly to the fact that amongst some of his most bitter opponents of that time were to be reckoned his staunchest and most ardent supporters of later years. As we have said, Waterford is the poorer for his loss, though the result of many of his exertions remain and will endure when those men and these times shall have passed away.

With Waterford’s free bridge Mr. Redmond’s name will ever be associated. Thanks to his untiring efforts, a grant of no less than £33,000 was obtained from the Treasury sources towards that project. The present Munitions factory in the city, giving much needed employment, is entirely due to his initiative.

The various housing schemes in Waterford under which, from time to time, the large number of artisans’ dwellings have been erected have had his unceasing exertions in the matter of obtaining the loans and even since the war instalments were obtained to continue with the work when other places in which the housing problem is equally pressing had to go without. For this reason on the last occasion it was on condition that no mention be made of it that he devoted his attention to obtaining the latest instalment, and he was ever ready on his periodical visits to his constituency to receive deputations to which he earnestly and sympathetically gave ear and scrupulously endeavoured to carry out what would be asked of him. One of his last and most beneficial acts for the constituency was the obtaining of two boats for cross-Channel service to replace those lost at Christmastide.

By the death of John Redmond Waterford is doubly bereaved for in addition to the grief felt, in common with the rest of Ireland at the loss of one of their ablest and most gifted sons of this or of any century, she also personally laments the passing away of one whom she always looked to in her hour of need and did not look in vain.

Some Recollections

The following is extracted from the book written by Mr. L.G. Redmond-Howard, a relative of the late Mr. Redmond:-

The eldest son of Mr. W.A. Redmond, the member of Wexford, who had married a daughter of General Hoey, he was born in 1857, and spent most of his early years at Ballytrent House, an old family mansion on the coast of Wexford, overlooking the sea and facing the Tuscar Lighthouse. They were a family of four, comprising two daughters, one of whom became a nun of the Order of Marie Reparatrice at Harley House, while the other married an English Australian of New South Wales, Mr. Louis George Howard (the present writer’s father), and two sons – John, the eldest, and another, William Hoey Redmond, who at first served in the army, and later became member for East Clare.

From boyhood to manhood, therefore, John Redmond lived in Wexford, and the history of his own family, as well as the history of the county, furnish the best explanation of his mental attitude towards England and all things English.

From the very first John Redmond showed signs of exceptional ability. He was very fond of literature, as well as sports and hunting, and became the object of his father’s special care and attention who, as soon as he was sufficiently prepared, sent him to the Irish Jesuit College of Clongowes in Kildare. ‘All I am I owe to the Jesuit Fathers.’ Redmond once declared at a public banquet at the Hotel Cecil.

His College Days

At Clongowes he is well remembered to his old masters even to this day. The recollections of one of them I am now allowed to include. His debates used to empty the billiard-rooms then as they often now do the smoking-rooms of the House of Commons.

‘All through this time in Clongowes,’ writes the aforesaid mentor, ‘there was no more prominent boy. At the very beginning the high compliment was paid him of getting through two classes in one year. Even then he gave promise of excellence in speaking and writing English. Even in his elocution (and he was the best of all Professor Bell’s pupils) his action was well nigh perfect. He impressed one with what he was saying – he caught one. And on the stage these peculiar gifts were seen to far greater advantage. In ‘Charles II,’ for instance, in ‘The Iron Chest,’ ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Hamlet’ he always took the leading parts and played and looked these parts to the life. The present Judge Barry was a contemporary of his, and made an excellent and effective Macduff to Redmond’s Macbeth!

‘He had a very kind and easy way about him,’ writes a schoolfellow, ‘I never knew of anyone to dislike him, and as his old school is proud of him, so he has ever been loyal to his Alma Mater. Also, I may add, he had the reputation of being one of the most religious boys in the school!’

An interview which I had with his old master, however, will, perhaps, give more insight into his character than any more abstract analysis.

‘When I went to Clongowes myself as a master,’ said Father Kane – the old mentor in question – ‘in the Autumn of 1870, John Redmond was in the Fourth Form. He had been at Clongowes for some years before I had charge of his class. It was a large class and, I may say, a rowdy class. And when I say ‘rowdy,’ I mean rowdy even for an Irish class. In fact, they had already had twelve respective masters, and so I had to be severe. Indeed, there was continual disorder, and they were somewhat out of hand. But not so for John Redmond. He was always a gentleman, and he was extremely courteous to me.’

‘What sort of a student was he?’ I asked.

‘Well, it is rather hard to say. He had many interests. He loved literature, he could recite poems and quote passages of Byron and Shelley and especially Shakespeare by heart, but John Gannon, who came to Clongowes about this time, was more of a plodder, and eventually ‘took him down.’ In fact, comparing them, one might describe Jack as ‘almost lazy’ – not idle, but dreamy ‘literary,’ and dilettante. Towards the ‘exams,’ however, he would make up for lost time, and by sheer ability account for his apparent lack of industry during previous terms.

‘In English he was by far at his best and his essays were always well ahead of those of the other scholars. It was not mere superficial knowledge (for he always had an extraordinary memory), so much as the elevated way he had of looking at any given subject, which struck me. And when there was a ‘Consultatio’ or public display, I often made him read out his own essays publicly, some of which I still have among my papers.’

What would you say was the chief point of his character?’ I inquired.

‘I should say his ‘maturity.’ He had been matured by his home life, and his devotion to both his parents and sisters. His father, William Archer Redmond, who was the member for Wexford, used often come to see his son, and was always full of interest in his doings. And ‘Jack’ always seemed to have a grand, old-fashioned respect for his father, and thus he acquired part of his father’s refinement and polish, and the close intimacy between them gave him a maturity of mind which at once placed him in a different category to that of his companions.’

As a Debater in School Days

‘At the same time he began to make his mark on the stage and in debate. As to the stage, he was the greatest actor that was ever seen at Clongowes. It was in the year of 1871 that he first played Macbeth. The next year he played Hamlet, which was even a more marked success than his Macbeth of the year before.

‘His own forte – though he was an all-round man – was essentially the debate. He was awarded the Clongowes debate medal, which, as you know, is given every year to the best speaker – and if ever anyone deserved it and had proved himself worthy of it, it was John Redmond. The Debating Society was much what it is everywhere all the world over – semi-parliamentary, semi-academic. Daniel O’Connell had been a great admirer of the Clongowes Debating Society, and no doubt the memory of his stirring words had encouraged many young aspirants like Jack. He was wont to come down from Dublin to listen and to take the chair. He would sometimes speak, too, and the records of his words must have been still in existence in the days of Redmond. They all perished, however, in the great fire when the study hall was burned down and the minute’s book was destroyed. Father Fegan, who was later higher-line Prefect, was Redmond’s chief rival, and both these fiery leaders would wax eloquent about the respective merits of Cicero and Deniosthenes, and rouse their followers to equal pitches of enthusiasm. ‘Later, however, under the guidance of John Redmond, the debates ceased to have that mere academic value, and their energies were turned into more useful directions, and questions of Irish history, as well as topics of current politics were introduced, and not a little of Redmond’s experience and skill is due to the training which he received in the Clongowes Debating Society, before he sailed forth to measure swords with the mighty orators of the British House of Commons.’

‘Redmond also was exceedingly good at games, and was greatly loved and respected by his companions as, indeed, he was by his superiors. A first-rate bowler and smart batsman, he was, in his last year, elected vice-captain of the school.’

Waterford’s Condolence

Innumerable telegrams and messages of condolence have been sent by prominent citizens to Mrs. Redmond and family, each breathing the spirit of sadness and melancholy which pervade the city that had the honour of having him as its representative.

A special meeting of the Waterford Corporation will be held to-day (Friday) at 1 o’clock in connection with the death of Mr. Redmond.

(Munster Express, March 9, 1918)

Mr. Redmond’s Funeral

Mr. Redmond’s remains were placed in the family vault at St. John’s Churchyard, Wexford, on Saturday, amidst signs of deep sorrow. The remains reached Kingstown that morning, and were thence conveyed by special train to Wexford. Long before the arrival of the mailboat at Kingstown a very large number of sympathisers gathered in the vicinity of the Pier and the front was lined with people. The engine of the train which conveyed the remains was draped with crepe.

Many striking demonstrations of sorrow which Mr. Redmond’s death evoked were witnessed on the journey from Kingstown to Wexford. On all sides there were evidences of deep mourning, and at many places touching scenes took place. The crowds that assembled on the platforms of the railway stations reverently uncovered as the train entered the station, and knelt down in fervent prayer close to the mortuary van. The groups of people who gathered at railway bridges and level crossings manifested a similar spirit of prayerfulness and sorrow and the men and women working in the fields mournfully bowed their heads.

In the grounds of the Benedictine Convent of Ypres, near Edermine, one of the most impressive scenes was witnessed. As the train passed along Macmine Junction the Sisters of the Order were to be seen kneeling in prayer in the open field reciting the Rosary.

The nuns in the convent, it will be remembered, had to leave Belgium after the outbreak of war. They took refuge in London, and subsequently, through the exertions of Mr. Redmond, found a home in Macmine. One of the Sisters of the community is a niece of the dead Leader.

Impressive scenes marked the arrival at Wexford. Outside the railway station a huge concourse was assembled. People came from all parts of Ireland to pay a tribute of respect to the dead patriot, while his fellow-townsmen of all classes and creeds united in doing honour and homage to his memory.

In Wexford and the surrounding districts there were various indications of the gloom and grief which Mr. Redmond’s death had evoked. The whole town was in mourning. Business and trade were completely suspended. The Redmond monument at Redmond Place, the ’98 monument in the Bullring and the Walpole monument at Widmills Hill were draped in black and white, and from the public buildings and private houses emblems of mourning were displayed.

Crepe armlets and miniature photographs of Mr. Redmond on a background of black and green were extensively worn. Life-sized pictures of the dead leader were displayed in different parts of the town. The flags on all the ships in the harbour were at half-mast.

As the funeral procession passed along the streets to the Church of the Immaculate Conception blinds were drawn, and the thousands crowding the thoroughfares reverently uncovered. The bells of the Catholic and Protestant churches tolled as the funeral proceeded to the church.

Most Rev. Dr. Codd, Bishop of Ferns, resided at the Solemn Requiem Office and High Mass in the Church of the Immaculate Conception. There was a very large attendance of priests from different parts of the country in the choir. After the Absolution the coffin was borne from the church by a number of the dead Leader’s constituents from Ballybricken, whilst the organist played the ‘Dead March in Saul.’ The funeral traversed the principal streets of the town to the melancholy strains of the ‘Dead March,’ and the cortege was the most remarkable manifestation of public sorrow ever witnessed in that town. The procession was headed by the band of the Royal Irish Regiment and the three Waterford bands – Barrack St. Brass and Reed Band, Erin’s Hope and T.F. Meagher’s Fife and Drum Bands. Next followed military and naval detachments, including a contingent of American sailors. Captain W.A. Redmond walked after the bier with Mr. John Dillon, Mr. Joseph Devlin and Mr. John Hayden, M.P.’s. Next came the mourning coaches, containing Mrs. Redmond, Mrs. Max Green, Mrs. W.H.K. Redmond, and immediate relatives. After the members of the Irish Party came the members of the Irish Convention, including Sir Horace Plunkett, Lord Londonderry and Lord MacDonnell. This section also included The O’Mahony, Viscount Powerscourt, General Sir Bryan Mahon, General Doran and   Mr. Power, representing the Lord Lieutenant.

Hundreds of beautiful floral tributes were carried on two large lorries. About one hundred Wexford ladies, all wearing crepe, carried wreaths and other tokens of mourning. The Waterford contingent, which was a large one, headed by the Mayor and many members of the Corporation, with mace and sword-bearers, made an impressive demonstration of mourning. The contingent was headed by a black banner, and a number of Waterford ladies also joined in the procession. The Lord Mayor of Cork, with mace and sword-bearers, wore his official robes, and he was accompanied by members of the Corporation and Harbour Board. Next followed the Mayor of Wexford and Corporation, preceded by mace-bearer, the Harbour Commissioners, Major Willie Redmond Memorial Committee, members of the Co. Council, New Ross Urban Council, Gorey Urban District Council, Enniscorthy Urban Council, Rural District Councils, Wexford, Enniscorthy, New Ross and Gorey; Wexford clubs and organisations and the general public. Representative public men from all parts of Ireland were present. Several hundred employees from the Millroad Iron Works were a prominent feature, and there were also in the procession 200 employees from the Waterford Munitions factory, and a delegation from Kynoch’s, Arklow. Shortly after two o’clock the remains were borne into the churchyard, and the burial service having been conducted, the coffin was placed in the Redmond family vault. After the coffin had been deposited in the vault touching tributes were paid to Mr. Redmond’s life work by Mr. John Dillon, M.P., and Mr. O’Connor, Attorney-General.

References in Waterford Protestant Cathedral

Preaching at the morning service in the Protestant Cathedral on Sunday, the Right Rev. Dr. O’Hara, Bishop of Cashel, said there were circumstances connected with the last few years of Mr. Redmond’s life which appealed to all of them. They were pathetic and almost tragic, but at the same time they were instructive. While entirely disagreeing with Mr. Redmond’s policy as to the political future of the country, he could not but regard him as an honest and straightforward politician, and a man of blameless private life. The events of the last two years seemed to his Lordship to demand from them all an amount of sympathy for Mr. Redmond personally. Above all, his end was eloquent of the instability and uncertainty of political life, of the worthlessness of popular applause, and the fleeting and unreliable nature of all public sentiment and opinion.

At the evening service, the Dean said Irishmen, however they may differ amongst themselves, were always quick to recognise fine qualities in their political opponents, and they all willingly acknowledged the late Mr. Redmond’s great ability, his splendid patriotism, his zeal for Ireland, and his courage in carrying out what he believed to be his duty. His devotion to duty brought him unpopularity, but, however that may have afflicted the last years of Mr. Redmond’s life, yet there would come a time when his splendid courage and high-souled unselfishness would be generally recognised. They would greatly miss him, especially at the present time when they needed unifying forces in the country. Mr. Redmond had left behind him the inspiration of an example which he trusted would be initiated by all who valued their country’s progress. Mr. Redmond was not of their faith, but they believed the purity of his motives, as shown by his entire public life, was an evidence that he was a true christian gentleman.

[1] Two volumes containing collections of John Redmond’s Speeches have been published. In 1896,   Mr. W.E.H. Lecky, the historian, said in the course of a conversation that since the death of Gladstone the House had been entirely devoid of an orator, save for one man – John Redmond.

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