I came across an old letter in THE IRISH TIMES by a Mr Bouchier Hayes and an IRISHMAN’S DIARY feature by him whilst starting to sort out the papers in my attic this week.
The letter concerned an IRISHMAN’S DIARY entry by R.M. Smyllie in 1933. Smyllie had been in Germany when the UK declared war in 1914 and had been interned as an enemy alien. He should have considered himself lucky in later years for not being interned, or worse, in Ireland as an enemy within the gates.
Smyllie told a story claiming that Irishmen in the British Army, held by the Germans as prisoners of war had been visited by a German scholar interested in the Irish language and music, hoping to record Irish folk music. Members of the Munster Fusiliers promised to oblige him and treated him to a rendition of “GOD SAVE THE KING.” IRISH TIMES correspondents have been known to say more than their prayers and Smyllie, a Sligo man could be quite a wild card.
When Lord Carson died in October 1935 Smyllie was Editor of the IRISH TIMES which observed in its Obituary that Carson had been born forty years too early, for he might have become another Hitler or even a Mussolini.
This was high praise for the IRISH TIMES, which in March 1933 had welcomed Hitler’s accession to power. In the two and a half years since Hitler’s accession the Dictator had demonstrated his character by opening concentration camps for political opponents, murdering Brown Shirts who had helped him to power in his treacherous Night of the Long Knives, and continued attacks on Jews.
But, back to 1933. A couple of weeks before THE IRISH TIMES (edited by one John Healy) rejoiced in Hitler’s accession to power it had warned its readers against voting Fianna Fail, which had been in power a year, supported by Labour. The paper had little influence on the public. Perhaps its greatest triumph had been wa in 1918, when, for the first time it supported a Nationalist candidate, Captain Redmond, son of the deceased John Redmond against Sinn Fein. The Unionist vote for Redmond, added to that of Nationalists, gave the Redmondites one of their six Irish seats. The other five were in Ulster, four under an agreement with Sinn Fein. Nationalist candidates not in British uniform go no support from the Irish Times. In Fianna Fail’s first year in office it had done nothing to frighten democrats and Fianna Fail was returned to government in successive elections until 1948. Hitler, whose rule lasted until 1945 never contested an election following his endorsement by THE IRISH TIMES.
Back to the IRISHMAN’S DIARY piece by Mr Bouchier Hayes, which devoted to a consideration of the Black and Tans and its more privileged contemporary the Auxiliary Police Cadet Force of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Bouchier Hayes acknowledged that both forces could cut up rough, but as evidence that the Auxies could behave like gentlemen referred to them searching a train at Christmas 1920 and treating the passengers politely.
On Christmas Day 1920 three Dublinmen, John Connolly, William Lyons and James Keogh were shot and wounded by Auxies whilst returning from morning Mass. The Auxies got out of a car, carrying rifles and revolvers, and the men were told to run and were shot. There were two incidents, one in Capel Street and one in Dorset Street. The injured men were not armed, nor
wanted by the British “authorities.”
That same Christmas Day two unarmed civilians, John Lean and Maurice Reidy were murdered by Auxies in the house of a neighbour, Mrs Byrne at Ballydwyer, Co. Kerry. The Auxies set fire to the house over Mrs Byrne’s head. These were but a few of the atrocities perpetrated by Auxies, Tans and British troops in Ireland that week.
As THE IRISH TIMES habitually published, as reportage, press releases fed them by the British regime, it is little wonder that Mr Bouchier Hayes could find in its archive the tale of chivalrous Yuletide Auxies.
I wonder did THE IRISH TIMES tell its readers in 1920 of the attempt by Auxies to burn down FREEMAN’S JOURNAL premises in Dublin’s Westmoreland St. at 3.30 AM on Christmas morning (during Curfew when the Crown Forces controlled the streets). It was the second such attempt by the Auxies whose work was frustrated after they left, by the Dublin Fire Brigade.
John Healy. Hitler’s Cheerleader was Editor of the IRISH TIMES in 1920 and the main correspondent in Ireland for THE TIMES of London.