Desmond Greaves Journal, Vol.17, 1965-66
1 November 1965 – 31 May 1966
THEMES: Visit to Dublin to sort the Ernie O’Malley papers in the Pearse Street Library – Wolfe Tone Society meeting – Interacting with Michael O’Leary TD, Kader Asmal, Roy Johnston, Anthony Coughlan, Cathal MacLiam and others – The 1965 Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement – Seeking to persuade the CPGB to adopt a more active policy on Northern Ireland – Deterioration of the cancer condition of his sister Phyllis Greaves – Research on his Mellows biography interrupted, as well as his political work – Break in Dublin following his sister’s death in May 1966 – Ewart Milne – Cycle and youth hostelling visit to Scotland
November 1 Monday (London): I spent most of the day in the office to prepare the December issue [ie. of the Irish Democrat] in view of the six-county elections. There was a useful meeting of the EC in the evening.
November 2 Tuesday: I saw Woddis and others at the IAC [International Affairs Committee of the CPGB]. Sean Redmond had a cold and had to go home. After the meeting Kay Beauchamp and I and another had a drink. The ageing of the committee is in evidence. R. Palme Dutt is no longer wearing the plastic collar, and says he is well. But he is very bent. Kay Beauchamp says she notices it more than ever. When he was in Belgium in the twenties she used to post over the Labour Monthly copy to him. It was then he first contracted this form of tuberculosis. Andrew Rothstein has been ordered by his doctor to attend only one meeting a week. Idris [ie. Idris Cox] is better and comes in twice a week because on the other days he is writing his book. James Klugman was told in Russia last year that if he was a Soviet citizen he would be pensioned off. This greatly depressed him, but then a hospital with a bad reputation suddenly found a great alleviation of his asthma, so he is better. And MacWheenie now says he is going into hospital and has gone as grey as a badger. So these are the ravages of time.
I forgot to record last night an amusing conversation after the meeting. We were talking about Yeats and Elsie O’Dowling said she remembered him well in Dublin during the First World War. She and her friends would do without their lunch to save 1/6d. to go to the Abbey Theatre where his long hands and high-falutin’ vanities attracted them. He would perform mysterious rites and produce “ectoplasm” on the stage for everybody to see. (He must have been an unholy showman.) What were you doing in Dublin? asked Sean Redmond. “I was in the Women’s Legion.” They had never heard of it. Later she went to France and drove an ambulance. It took fourteen days of bullying to get the first on the road, and even then it was the claims of the drivers rather than the conviction of the necessity of the service that stimulated the mechanics. She took her girls to a dance, where they danced with the men who had required the ambulances. At the next dance the Brigadier appeared with his aide-de-camp. He explained that Elsie O’Dowling and her girls counted as officers and must not dance with the men. “But,” said Elsie, “it is the men who put our ambulances on the road.” There was some interchange which made it clear that the two lived in different mental worlds. The aide-de-camp was metaphorically speaking holding his sides at the slip of a girl who was reducing the Brigadier to confusion with simple questions. Finally she said the girls would not attend any dances if they were not allowed to dance with the men. This was a serious blow to the officers. Women were in short supply. The Brigadier said nothing, but from now on separate dances were organised for officers and men, and the girls went to both.
I spoke to Alan Morton on the phone and told him of my conversation with Spence [Phyllis Greaves’s General Practitioner, regarding her cancer]. He thought it would be an idea for me to drop a line to Lippy Kersel about hormones. He is going to Glasgow tonight, then Belfast.
November 3 Wednesday (London): A day of botherations. I found I had left my reading glasses in London while on the train to Manchester and Liverpool. I went to 124 Mount Road [his family home in Birkenhead] and picked up a letter from Cathal, then went to see Phyllis [then convalescing after cancer treatment at a nursing home in Ince-Blundel, outside Liverpool]. She is stronger and can walk up a whole flight of stairs, wakes better and has more flesh on her. But she is worrying about the future. For example when she said she thought her school would last her time (ten years) she added, “If I get any time for it to last”. So there is the danger of falling between two stools, neither giving her the full facts nor reassuring her with science. Perhaps the time to make the change is November 18 – but it is difficult to pretend nothing can go wrong when I have in mind raising the question of further treatment.
Cathal’s letter was interesting [Cathal MacLiam, his friend in Dublin]. He had been out in one of the Post Office workers’ parades and had a few blows of a truncheon on his arm [The postal workers were on strike]. Tony Meade [Editor of the Republican monthly paper, the “United Irishman”] had asked why the Connolly Association had not issued a statement. Yet Cathal, who suggested it, gave ample evidence of the need for caution. The trouble is that the Republican element, like the Trotskies who are also cashing in on this, believe that progress is made only by the extreme activity of the faithful and the few. They are prepared to defy the Court and are being carted off to jail in ones and twos. But the danger is that both Republicanism and the Left may become suspect by the Labour Movement and instead of unity we will build up permanent hostility. The whole thing has the flavour of the heroic but fruitless struggles of the thirties.
I went to the Central London meeting [of the Connolly Association branch of that name] and saw Sean Redmond and Joe Deighan, both of whom were inclined to agree – especially Joe – that caution was needed. We want to know more about what is going on. Peter Mulligan, who had been to see Cathal, was not back yet.
November 4 Thursday (Liverpool): I was in the office in the morning and returned to Liverpool on the Red Rose, going out to see Phyllis again. She was improved further. Mrs Stewart is back and is coming to see her tomorrow.
November 5 Friday: Despite the fog and the fireworks again I went to Ince-Blundell in the evening. Mrs Stewart had been to see her but now has some business problems arising out of the death of her brother in Sheffield earlier this year. But Phyllis thinks she will be able to stay with her.
November 6 Saturday: I got a little work done on the book [ie. his biography of the Irish War of Independence leader Liam Mellows] in the day and in the evening went to see Phyllis. She was a wee bit more tired than usual, but it undoubtedly recovering some of the lost 1½ stone and is able to vary her dress, a great thing for a woman. She has plenty of fighting spirit and each day sees a slight improvement.
November 7 Sunday: I had intended to give myself a wee break and go into Wales for the weekend. But it rained all day. I worked on the book. I also wrote to Lippman Kersel, explaining Phyllis’s position and asking if it was possible to get hormones as a prophylactic against the formation of secondary tumours and if so who was the expert. I do not know if he will reply. Alan Morton thought he would. But no harm can be done. If he doesn’t respond I will look elsewhere.
November 8 Monday: I am getting the difficult Chapter 8 sorted out. And since the day was so fine I dug some holes in which to fix supports for Phyllis’s rustic arch that was blown down in a gale. The “writer’s cramp” which has been on me for some time (whatever it really is, I don’t know) disappeared in the last few days. But I made my wrist stiff by cutting wee twigs with shears! A telephone call from Phyllis in the morning gave the impression that she was “on top of the world” after her longest walk yet out of doors – three or four hundred yards – and the recovery of the power of acceleration. I believe Elsie is home, full of her first grand-daughter. We arranged that Phyllis should stay where she is till the 17th, when I will get Diamond to take me out to collect her. She is very satisfied where she is, and it is good to be relieved of the annoyances of the Clatterbridge medical broiler-house.
November 9 Tuesday: The morning I spent part on the book, part on the garden, clearing overgrown shrubbery that Phyllis has not been able to touch. In the afternoon I went out to see her. She had walked about 500 yards, attracted by the mild weather. In the evening I went to the Philharmonic concert. The programme was quite interesting, but only moderately enjoyable. There was Wagner with his interminably postponed and indecisive resolutions (a musical Swinburne relying on total effect, not precise composition), and Delibes’ dreary reactionary requiem, showing great ingenuity lavished on a poor theme. Apparently Nietzschean “Yea-saying” means putting up with the worst without challenging it. Not a line in his text, for all the high-falutin’ presentations of the obvious, shows man as anything but a poor devil. It is an atheist’s Dream of Gerontius – mercifully not as woeful as that melancholy piece of work. I wondered if I would feel about Delibes what I felt as a young fellow, and I do. The “death-wish” protrudes from every bar. Then there was Schuman’s symphony in Eb – a good lively performance.
After the Requiem artists, choir, orchestra and conductor (Groves – who dances a jig to emphasise the rhythm) had taken the applause an old man wearing sports coat and flannels came on with the others. ”Who is the old gentleman?” I asked. “The choir leader”, said the young girl in the next seat. I looked at the programme. Wasn’t it Dr Wallace who (if I’m not mistaken) was Phyllis’s music-teacher, it must be well over 30 years ago. And weren’t the programme notes written by “A.K.H” whom CEG [his father] used to read every week in the Daily Post. How quickly some things change, and others do not. The last time I was in the hall was when CEG was in the chorus – Balshazzar’s Feast was it? – or the “Child of our time”, more likely. Angus MacPherson was there. And Malcolm Sergeant invited some of us to stay behind while he showed a film of Verdi’s Song of the Nations. I saw quite a lot of MacPherson for a time after that.
November 10 Wednesday: I spent the daylight hours doing some much-needed work in the garden, clearing an overgrown pathway tp the coal-shed. Phyllis’s gardener, a somewhat temperamental old man, has not put in an appearance for weeks. The day was fine and I enjoyed the exercise. In the evening I made some progress on the book. I noticed the kitchen chimney cowl is hanging on precariously with one shard of wire, so I rang the builder.
“It might fall and kill someone,” said I.
“Never mind,” says he, “the onus would not be on you.”
“No”, I replied, “but the chimney pot might.”
I arranged for a sweep to come. When I rang Phyllis I learned she was much better.
November 11 Thursday: Again I was in the garden. In the morning Phyllis rang to say she was better still, and had walked outside the gate. But, alas, during the fifteen minutes she could not be found, Hirsch called! [the surgeon who had operated on her]. I was mentally cursing this bad luck as I think he would be sufficiently interested in the case to look for measures that would possibly not occur to the people at Clatterbridge. But he promised to go out again and I hope he does. I went to see her myself in the evening and she was very bright and cheerful and is recovering more of the lost 1½ stone. I asked if she wanted to keep the two lilac trees at the back of the house and she said she would not part with them for anything, since though they are planted in the worst possible place, their quality, especially the double white, is superb. She spoke of the time the second cherry tree was killed by a fool carpenter who nailed a fence to it, and said that when that happened she felt that now she wouldn’t mind leaving Mount Road. The flowering cherry that was the wonder of the neighbourhood is dead, but the hydrangea has taken its place.
November 12 Friday: I managed to do a little work in the day, and in the evening went out to Ince-Blundell again, to find Phyllis better again.
November 13 Saturday: I had intended to go away for the weekend but felt a cold coming on and stayed where I was and did a little writing.
November 14 Sunday: The cold was much worse, and the weather had turned exceptionally cold, with a chilly north-east wind. But I got on with Chapter 8.
November 15 Monday: I stayed in most of the day, feeling very unwell with this damned cold. Phyllis rang at midday to report the progress that she has walked to the main gate.
November 16 Tuesday: The cold was slightly better. I no longer wanted to sit about. But a sixty mile an hour gale sent in a blizzard for several hours. So I decided not to go to Ince-Blundell as I had intended. Mrs Stewart can take Phyllis on Friday, so everything seems well arranged.
November 17 Wednesday: Diamond called at 2 pm. and we went to Ince-Blundell where Phyllis was feeling quite excited at the prospect of release. But not so excited as when she came home last time – that, she says, did her more good than anything else and she counts her recovery from that time. Hirsch has promised to see her at Mrs Stewart’s. Jean Hack came in, and Elsie’s wee daughter and her fiancé. There is no doubt that Phyllis feels very shaken and perhaps not unapprehensive, but at any rate uneasy about her future prospects. She speaks of hoping she has not to go back to hospital Her sickness was “a bolt from the blue”, but Mrs Stewart thinks she had warning enough had she realised its import. But Phyllis also says that she never expected all would go on smoothly till she retired at 61 and that she insured herself and saved money because she felt she needed to. A circumstance which throws some light on her not suspecting something was amiss is that she suffered quite a deal of minor sickness and was in touch with her doctor quite often. The threshold above which a symptom would have to rise in order to cause alarm was thus higher than with many people.
November 18 Thursday: Phyllis was in a very nervous and depressed state, as she waited for Ely to come take her for the “check-up” at Clatterbridge. However she was not kept waiting long. After a while of prodding and poking she was told to come again in three months. She was very tired afterwards but recovered towards evening when Jean Hack and Anthea came in. As far as I can judge therefore, the medical people attend to the attested affliction of the pelvis they think they can cure, but leave the question of secondaries completely open and have not an inkling of what to do to prevent them. It is a desperate state for any science to be in, and all is concealed by their high-priestly silence and mumbo-jumbo. Kersel did not reply, and I am not really surprised. I am hoping however that Hirsch will see her and he, I imagine, will examine any possibility that exists. To make matters difficult now, since last Saturday I have had a filthy cold and am afraid of her catching it. How she can escape I do not know, yet she must come here.
November 19 Friday: Phyllis seemed more cheerful, did quite a deal of packing, commenting on her returning energy, and we took a taxi at midday to Mrs Stewart’s where there was an excellent lunch waiting. I then caught the 4.20 to London.
November 20 Saturday (London): I was in the office in the morning and saw Sean Redmond, Dorothy Deighan and Peter Mulligan, Chris Sullivan and Pat Hensey. Things are going tolerably well. Charlie Cunningham is in Stevenage as his mother is in hospital with gallstones. John Eber is giving up the MCF [Movement for Colonial Freedom, of which Eber was general secretary] in favour of some Malayan organization and has made as his parting shot a fierce anti-communist attack on Woddis [Jack Woddis, colonial expert of the CPGB], in which surprisingly enough Brockway [Fenner Brockway, leading anti-colonialist, later Lord Brockway] took Woddis’s part. Eber’s nominee for the succession is Faris Glubb, son of Glubb Pasha, whose enthusiasm is Oman, why I do not know. He is always very pleasant to us, but very “la-di-da”, and Woddis does not entirely trust him in the political sense. I did a little work on the book in the evening, after speaking to Phyllis on the phone and hearing she was a little better still.
November 21 Sunday: There was a highly successful Executive Committee meeting today at the office, with Sean Redmond, Joe Deighan, Pat Hensey, Robbie Rossiter, Peter Mulligan, Brian Farrington, Michael Crowe, Tom Redmond, Gerry Curran (morning only), John McClelland, Charlie Cunningham and Mike Cooley. We learned however that John McClelland is moving to Birkenhead, and that Tom Redmond is looking for a job back in London. So Manchester is going to lean on Michael Crowe and Brian Farrington – a rather precarious situation. Patricia White has given up in South London owing to ill health, and a young Dun Laoire lad called Kennedy has taken over. Pat Bond could not attend for personal reasons, and Toni Curran was overwhelmed by the baby she’s got and the baby she’s getting. I rang Mrs Stewart late and found that Phyllis had been very tired today.
November 22 Monday: I spent the day on the paper. There seems to be plenty of material and Sean Redmond will fill in the election results. Phyllis is still well.
November 23 Tuesday: The paper is now nearly finished. There was a Dance Committee meeting in the evening with Pat Bond, Elsie O’Dowling, Sean Redmond and Robbie Rossiter. Elsie seems to have got over Sean’s death [her husband’s} quite well. Indeed, she has amazing vitality. But she says Peadar O’Donnell has cancer and knows it and cannot hope for more than six months. She is strongly of the opinion that people should not be told things like this and perhaps on the balance she may be right, though the point is arguable. I rang Phyllis again and learned she is still slowly mending.
November 24 Wednesday (Liverpool): I went into the office in the morning and found Sean MacDonald closeted with Sean Redmond. They went out mysteriously when I arrived and when Sean came back he told me that MacDonald had been conveying to him confidences he did not wish me to hear, and all a lot of nonsense too. This man spends his time with wee romantic breakaways and will never accomplish anything.
I took the Red Rose to Liverpool and at 124 Mount Road found a letter from a consultant at Charing Cross Hospital, a Mr Howard, a consultant radiotherapist, who said that Phyllis had received the orthodox treatment, that the Liverpool unit was one of the best, that the irradiation should have stopped the spread in the pelvis, and that bloodstream spread is unusually late and seems unlikely. The only thing is to wait and see. If Phyllis can go two or three years trouble free, the chances of recurrence will then be remote. Cytotoxic agents are only palliatives and though it would be expected that hormone treatment would affect those tumours, in fact it doesn’t always do so. Also the reaction of these things is somewhat unpredictable. So Lippman Kersel turned up trumps after all[to whom he had written earlier seeking advice].
I went over to see Phyllis who has a better colour, is delighted at being able to go into a shop and buy something and is in good form. Mrs Stewart is looking after her marvellously, so that on balance I felt somewhat easier. I then after a good dinner went on to the Dublin boat. I wonder if I’ll be able to finish the job this time.
November 25 (Dublin): It was cold and very wet. I took a taxi to 74 Finglas Park, left my stuff, had a rest and then rang Roy [Dr Roy Johnston] on Cathal’s new phone. We met at Groom’s, found the restaurant was closed for alterations, so went to the Gresham. Roy is still in a state of great enthusiasm over his cooperative pool and other activities, all of which will do some good. I was quite pleased, even if I do not have his expectations. Ethna McManus and Viney, whom she married, are busy on Comhar Linn [A support movement for rural cooperatives, especially Fr McDyer’s efforts in Glencolumbkille, Co Donegal]. The Minister of Agriculture is for it, the Ministry for Finance is against it. Incidentally I queried this, and was right, which means I am not too badly out of touch. McDyer is somewhat ostracized. But for all that, cooperative ideas are taking on. At the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis a motion referring to penetration by mysterious leftwingers was withdrawn.
I did little else, but the interesting news relates to Cathal. He has at last found all the powers of leadership that were inherent in him, and has started a staff branch of the WUI [Workers Union of Ireland. This is a mistake: in fact it was the ITGWU and the firm was Telecom, in which Pye had a one-third share]. He is “shop steward”. O’Dwyer is hopping mad; his boss very alarmed. But the chief accountant (a man with his own independent qualifications) remarked that what surprised him was that it wasn’t done long ago. Cathal delares forcibly that he can do the job of shop- steward better than anybody else and has more of less arranged the whole thing, starting with meetings in his house held secretly. He had a meeting at Liberty Hall tonight to which he arranged transport for everybody, and there was 100% attendance, when he was confirmed in office, plied with drink and arrived home at 11.20 pm. considerably exhilarated.
November 26 Friday: I went to Pearse Street to resume my enquiry and met Miss O’Byrne, the City Librarian, for the first time. There is hot stuff among these papers [The Ernie O’Malley papers, to which Greaves had been given access by O’Malley’s son Cormac]. There is a document giving the inside story of Briscoe’s visit to Germany. Unfortunately even O’Malley did not know who wrote it. And there is a letter signed Molly Childers[wife of Erskine Childers] asking that the war should be carried to England in October 1922, with bombs put in local stations, let so that they would not go off, but just warn the Government as to what was likely to happen. Miss O’Byrne was going to ask O’Malley for a general permission to make photostats. When I saw these things I decided we should specify what we wanted to copy, for it would be unnecessary to expect a general permission. Cathal says Cathal Goulding [IRA chief of staff] and Tony Meade do not come up so often, and I am not surprised, for Cathal continues to identify himself with the Labour Movement [ie. by his membership of the Irish Workers League]. But they are still friendly.
November 27 Saturday: I was at Pearse Street as the weather was not good enough for the trip to Tipperary. At lunchtime I saw Michael O’Riordan [Irish Workers Party general secretary] – Sean Nolan is in London – and discussed the possibility of a holiday school with him. He urges me to attend the joint Executive in Belfast on February 5th [ie. between the Northern and Southern communist parties]. The O’Malley papers, as opposed to the notebooks, are bulky and in incredible confusion, so it is going to take me the best part of a week to get them into order, before I can even think of making notes.
November 28 Sunday: Nothing much could be done today. But in the evening I rang Phyllis who told me she was still mending. When I got back Michael O’Leary [newly elected Labour TD for Dublin North Central] was there. He had a stiff neck and wanted Helga to use her skill as a physiotherapist on it. He sat smoking his pipe and trying to give the impression of being a great man of the world, but is not a bad lad, even if there is no great popular leader here. He and Tony Coughlan still have their joint ménage [they shared a flat in Aughrim Street, Dublin, for eighteen months at this time], and by all accounts a damnably uncomfortable one it is. He had been to Tipperary in the snow.
November 29 Monday: I missed a day and confused the date of O’Leary’s visit. It was on Monday, not Sunday. I was in the National Library in the evening and thanks to the Maintenance Men’s strike there is no heating. I don’t think I will go again. I was at Pearse Street in the day. We saw Alec(from Cavan) who is getting Phyllis and me the goose.
November 30 Tuesday: Again in Pearse Street – this time doing the finer classifying of the papers. There is much of interest and curiosity. I imagine this collection must be one of the most extensive relating to the Civil War and the period immediately afterwards. At every point O’Malley seems to show himself one of the most consistent of Republicans. Tony Coughlan rang in the evening. I also spoke to Sean Redmond on the phone. He is at Ripley and says old Reynolds [owner of Ripley Printers, which printed the monthly “Irish Democrat”] has the paper in a mess, which is nothing new. Helga went to a meeting on “Women and Socialism” addressed by Marion Jeffares, and I baked a large bass which I bought at a Grafton Street fish shop. Little Bebhinn is growing up so rapidly that she seems hardly the same two days running and speaks many words but no sentences.
December 1 Wednesday: I was all day in Pearse Street Library sorting out thousands of papers, a most remarkable collection, some of them appearing to have been bought at auction and others (says the Librarian with a smile) “might have been got other ways”. There are things which the Government would sharply dislike getting about the place, I imagine, certainly Fine Gael, including intelligence reports on the Six Counties. I rang Phyllis in the evening and she is better again.
December 2 Thursday: Again all day at Pearse Street. In the evening Tony Meade [editor of the “United Irishman”] arrived to get a heater Cathal was buying for him through the firm. He says the web-offset method of printing adopted by the United Irishman means they can print separately in the USA. He thought Farrington’s pamphlet on Yeats [ie. the pamphlet “Malachi Stilt-Jack” by academic Brian Farrington, published by the Connolly Association] a very good essay, and they are reviewing it. Later Tony Coughlan came and we had a meal.
December 3 Friday: I rang Sean Redmond in the morning. The lobby on Wednesday [of the House of Commons] was quite a success and it is most interesting that our tactic with Lipton [Col.Marcus Lipton, MP for Brixton, London] has succeeded. When he announced his nonsense about passports for Irishmen, we did not mention his name when we denounced the project, and we got a number of Irishmen in Brixton to send a mildly phrased carefully researched letter. Bobbie Rossiter was very dubious of this but I said we must try to keep our friends and not lose them. However Lipton has now issued a public statement retracting his plan and saying that some of his constituents had written to him and he had been impressed by their moderate and reasonable demands. So that is very good. I was in the Library in the morning only. I heard Ina [ie. Ina Connolly, one of James Connolly’s daughters] wants to see me.
December 4 Saturday: If the weather had not been so wet, and if I had not still the quite unpleasant remains of the cold I caught in Liverpool, I would have gone away for the whole week-end. But I merely went to Waterford and Carrick to bring back the bicycle. The day was soft and quite mild. A letter from Phyllis said she was still on the mend, and she and Mrs Stewart were contemplating visiting friends, which is good. Peggy Evans is in fierce trouble; her father is ill in Birkenhead and her husband’s in Chichester. As for Phyllis herself I wish I could solve the problem of her living alone at 124 Mount Road, for she is bound to worry and is prone to depression under the circumstances.
Mairin Johnson rang up [ie. Roy Johnston’s wife]. Her mother is ill and can’t get out of the house. Her children are better, but of course still demand attention. And her brother who was with us in London has some internal trouble of which they fear the worst. Steven, the other brother, is not much use, and in any case has six children. And Roy is away in the West working on the cooperative movement. This seems a year of endless trouble. One hears of nothing else.
December 5 Sunday: I did very little indeed, this third cold in a row having me coughing and spluttering all day. However, I got a half bottle of brandy and ensconced myself before the fire fortified with it.
December 6 Monday: I was in Pearse Street all day and am now taking notes. I found the originalof Liam Mellows’s letter from Mountjoy. I imagine it must have been one of O’Malley’s copies that was captured. On the whole the account tallies well enough with Dorothy Macardle’s, but that she is perhaps a little too kind to some of the compromisers who lined people up but then refused to do battle – these seem to include many of the Fianna Fail front-benchers.
December 7 Tuesday: I was in Pearse Street most of the day. The cold weather is bad enough. The strike that froze the National Library and kept me out of there was worse. Now the porter at Pearse Street has gone off sick and the radiators have gradually been cooling down. No wonder I can’t get rid of the cold!
I had lunch with Roy. One piece of news related to the mad party that Kader Asmal [Lecturer in law at Trinity College, founder of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement and later Government Minister in South Africa] organised on Saturday night. It was because Michael O’Leary said he was now 29 and “on the shelf”. Kader said “I’ll organise a party and bring along a number of eligible females, providing you and Tony Coughlan pay for it.” They agreed and Tony inivited Mairin Johnston. But on Saturday morning Tony rang her up and told her he didn’t want her to come at all. So of course she is blazing, and says he is a snob at heart, and will not come to Roy’s parties without asking first, “will it be respectable?” Roy also is angry and calls him a “small-town middle class snob”, as bad as the notorious “climber”Justin Keating. But actually much of it is nonsense with Tony. When he was at Helgas’s he quite lost his head when they pulled his leg by talking about his threading his braces the way his trousers would fall down! And I imagine he does to want to hear Mairin’s comments on any follies he commits.
The other news is that O’Donnell’s meeting had only 40 present. He has bishops, priests and the Catholic quality (with General Costello prominent)[General Michael Joe Costello of the Irish Sugar Company, who was pushing a scheme for packaged dehydrated vegetable soups, which might use produce from the cooperatives] and according to Roy who was in Mayo and Galway over the weekend, the ordinary people have grown quite cynical over these schemes. Mrs Viney, who tried to work with him, was asked to furnish a list of Republicans and the impression was given that Peadar would try to secure their election on the “Defence of the West” committees. Instead, Peadar blackballed them! Roy may find a hotel for our “holiday school”.
December 8 Wednesday: I spent the day in Pearse Street Library again. As usual in the evening I was at a loose end, since the National Library is too cold to work in while the heating is off.
December 9 Thursday: I spent the day at Pearse Street and rang Phyllis in the early evening. She says she makes slow progress and Dr Spence professes himself pleased. Then I went to the Wolfe Tone Society meeting in the dank cold Bricklayers’ Hall. MacGiolla of Sinn Fein was speaking, with Michael O’Leary, and others who were also Republicans. On the whole the meeting was responsive but there were notes of defeatism. After it was over I went with Cathal (who had come from another meeting) for a drink with Sam Nolan, Packy Early and other IWP [Irish Workers Party] boys. Roy was with the Sinn Feiners in the other bar, but the “ewige student” whose name I have forgotten drifted between the two announcing that the car containing the Special Branch men was now at this door, now at that [this was TCD student David Broderick, Daithi O Bruadair]. Sam Nolan said he never saw any IWL man who emigrated come to anything.
December 10 Friday: Again I was in Pearse Street. The librarian, Miss O’Byrne, had a long talk with me. She is an attractive brunette of something like forty years of age, I would say, very competent and interested in her job, which she has had for four years since Stephenson died. She has a very high opinion of Cormac O’Malley, and says that De Valera supported his division of his father’s papers into two categories [one lot in the National Library and the other in the Gilbert Library, Pearse Street]. I said I could hardly see what the distinction was supposed to be. They would be better all in one place. She agreed to hold them for him, but they remain his property. She felt it unfair to accept the ownership in view of his youth, but hopes he will not sell them at Sotheby’s, after which they would go to the USA or Japan.
Sha was talking about the Belfast Library, to the opening of which she was invited and introduced by the librarian (Crowley, I think, an Englishman, a pure administrator knowing nothing about books) to Captain O’Neill. “You’ll have nothing like this in Dublin,” said O’Neill airily. “Not like it brick for brick”, she replied, “but we’ve several considerably bigger libraries … There’s Trinity College.” “Aha, now,” laughed O’Neill to Crowley, “You see, she’s a rebel.” “Not in my own country, Mr Prime Minister,” she said coolly. So he became the rebel.
She also had a brush with Mulcahy. She had submitted (as secretary of the Library Association) a plan for Children’s Libraries to a Fianna Fail Minister. Then the second Interparty Government came in with Mulcahy as Minister for Education. This would be about 1954. She wrote drawing attention to the memorandum she had submitted and trusting the matter would be kept above politics. She received a curt note in atrocious Irish saying, “This will be looked at.” Later she accepted an invitation to a social function that Mulcahy would be present at in hopes of urging him further. He made a speech in the course of which he announced that the task of the Minister for Education was not to prune the system with new ideas but to apply oil here, a spanner there amd keep it smoothly working. In other words, he knew not the first thing about education. “The murder machine!” Ms O’Byrne heckled, after which further discussion was not possible. She is a Kildare woman of Kilkenny parents, and told me her father hastened back to Kilkenny when the Rising began in 1916, expecting to take part in it there. She has some sampler made by prisoners in Maryborough jail [the old name for Portlaoise] in 1923 – all saints and sacred hearts, tricolours and shamrocks. She pointed to certain flaws in the theology and intimated the opinion that these were simple people. “Country people?” I asked. “No”, she replied, “I think the most naïve were from Dublin, where the national tradition had died and was being rediscovered. Their pictures were like their Irish – full of mis-spellings and solecisms.”
She said one other person had looked at the O’Malley material – only the note-books, but he had no scholarship whatsoever and was completely lost. He did not examine the papers! I told her then how I had grouped them under subjects, and the military papers under commands, and arranged them in chronological order.
In the evening I went to Don Giovanni at the Gaiety and enjoyed an excellent performance. Though the show was in every way superior to the other, yet it was as well we took the youngsters to the lighter thing. Roy and Cathal were waiting for me at the conclusion and we drove up to Finglas. Mairin did not come and we had a feeling something had displeased her. She is perhaps a little touchy after Kader Asmal’s mad party at which after all only three unmarried women showed up, and O’Leary and Tony are still free as the birds. Roy says there is no truth in the Six-County rumour that a fresh disturbance is to be expected. He says, “If the IRA didn’t exist, the Six County Government would have to invent it.”
December 11 Saturday: Owing to lack of staff Pearse Street was closed today. Many of them are out sick. I saw Sean Nolan who was at the Congress in London [the CPGB annual policy conference]. The Congress was thoughtful, he said, but nothing new emerged. Tom Murray, who used to have Captain Fforde’s house at Bruckless as a hotel, made an extreme leftist speech, and Colin Sweet, of the youth peace, made a very Chinese intervention [ie. one sympathetic to Maoist China]. Nolan thought there was a current of disagreement which did not receive expression, but there was no attempt to restrict or discourage expression. Anyway we know for years that that never works. Perhaps there is waiting for the cat to jump rather than disagreement. Meanwhile the world split [between Russia and China and their respective communist parties and allies], which we can do little about, leaves the initiative too much in the hands of imperialism, which but for the split would have very little initiative at all. Nolan told me there were one or two similar trends in the Irish Workers Party, but as in Britain, nothing serious. In this week of intense activity in Dublin the Irish Workers Party held a poster parade and meeting at Abbey Street. Sam Nolan invited me to speak, but I thought it unwise. With Tim Egan, Tony Coughlan, Cathal and one or two others we had a drink. We pulled Tony Coughlan’s leg over the expense of hosting these elaborate matrimonial traps (Mairin Johnston had rung me up to apologise for not coming, saying there was a misunderstanding, which I have no doubt was a fair description of the position; Roy, with his head occupied with what he himself describes without self-consciousness as “lofty political ideas”, had not given her the message properly!). One of the men there used to be in Hyde Park. “I’m just beginning to see the importance of socialism for the working man,” he said to me. Also present was a young Dublin lad who walked on the protest parade to Fleet Street [which the Connolly Association had organised to protest at the press’s ignoring the Northern Ireland problem]. He had been in touch with Lawless’s gang, because he was “lonely in London”. On the whole our conversation was useful.
Then in the evening Cathal and I went to Asmal’s [who had a flat in Fortfield Road, Terenure] where we found his wife and Tony Coughlan and Roy. Roy drove us back in the middle of the night with a tape-recorder lent the Anti-Apartheid by a man they are uneasy about, and Cathal was to have a look at it to see that it was not “bugged”.
A letter from Sean Redmond came saying that Mahon [John Mahon, London CPGB organiser, who was unsupportive of Greaves’s policy in the Connolly Association] is still on the same track. For this meeting in April [presumably a meeting of Irish members of the CPGB] he wants a committee of “people who feel deeply”. I wrote saying that as long as we could get the purpose and order of the meeting firmly understood and adhered to from the start, then we should welcome the aid of anybody who was prepared to translate his “deep feelings” into constructive action, and perhaps we might sift out the wheat from the chaff and restore a general homogeneity of outlook.
December 12 Sunday: Cathal and Helga went to the Irish Workers Party sale of work. I rang Phyllis, who says she is going home this week to try the experiment of looking after herself. Spence agrees. I am a little dubious, but hope all goes well. She says she is sometimes better than at others, but when she gets depressed she consoles herself with the thought of a general upward trend. She promised not to attempt too much and leave the Xmas arrangements to me. As usual, of course, there is no prior consultation. CEG was the same. I have no doubt there were occasions, but it would be some labour to bring back to memory a single occasion on which he was struck by the idea that people affected by his decision should be consulted before it was made! If she can’t look after herself, she says, she will telephone Dublin for help! Still, there it is.
December 13 Monday: Again I addressed myself to the piles of work at Pearse Street. I wrote and told Sean Redmond I’d never finish before Xmas, though plenty is being done. I doubt I can possibly have the book out before 1967 – even the autumn. The subject is too complex, the scale too large. Cathal has been enjoying his new play-thing, Asmal’s recorder, which (he says) is not “bugged” at all. He recorded a squabble among the children. Certainly Bebhinn’s screeches sound very terrifying coming from a loudspeaker. I still have the cough from that cold, but the weather is now mild.
December 14 Tuesday: A letter came from Phyllis saying that her reason for going home before I arrived was to try herself out so that she can decide what to do after Xmas, and I can quite see the point, but would have liked to have known. She says she is still improvong. A letter also came from Sean Redmond saing that all goes reasonably well in London. One amusing thing is that the so-called “Irish Communist Group” has openly split at last, Lawless and Daltun starting the “Irish Workers Group” and keeping their paper, “Solus”, while the Cliffords keep the name and have started a new duplicated rag. But they are still attacking me as hard as they can and have also a smack at Roy Johnston this time.
I spent morning and afternoon in Pearse Street, slightly reducing the mountain of work that has to be done. My cold is at last improving. If the mild weather holds three more days, I may finish it. But I am “treating” it with large rare beefsteaks and grapefruits. Mairin Johnston came at 9.45 and left by taxi. Roy failed to collect her.
December 15 Wednesday: Again I was in Pearse Street today and was introduced by Miss O’Byrne to Alderman Moore, tall, grey, Fianna Fail, and I’m told a former Lord Mayor of Dublin [Sean Moore, TD for Dublin South-East]. “Did you ever hear of Liam O’Flaherty seizing the Rotunda?” asked the Alderman. “I did. He ran up a red flag and proclaimed a Soviet Republic that lasted an hour and a half.” “Was that anything to do with Mellows?” “I rather think it was sheer wildness.” “If I knew Liam O’Flaherty that is just what it was,” said Miss O’Byrne. “I think,” I added, “Roddy Connolly would know about that.” ”He would too,” said Miss O’Byrne, grimacing as if the very mention of Roddy’s name was distressing. Then she told the Alderman that thanks to my interest in Mellows she had got over £100 of cataloguing done by me. I thought first, “That’s a cute little lady.” Then I thought I must ask them to be merciful when charging me for the photostats I want!
I wrote to Sean Redmond asking him to stimulate Toni [Mrs Toni Curran, Connolly Association treasurer] regarding money. When I got back to 74 Finglas Park I found Bebhinn was ill – nothing serious, we think, but she was being repeatedly sick. The others were their usual rampageous selves.
December 16 Thursday: I was in Pearse Street again. Perhaps because of the most serious wave of sickness among the staff she has ever known, or possibly from a naturally energetic disposition, Miss O’Byrne is dressed in a white coat filing the show-boxes with a new exhibition. I opened the very last package of the O’Malley papers and found the Mrs Woods material Cormac O’Malley had told me about!
I telephoned Phyllis at 124 Mount Road. She said she was pottering about, felt she was stronger, and was “not feeling so miserable”. That might be, but then she solved the mystery of her return home so precipitately. The swelling in her ankles has begun again and she wants to be near Dr Spence for treatment. He has promised to tell Dr Hirsch. This I found very disturbing indeed, as it is the first set-back since she left Clatterbridge. I booked a berth on next Monday’s sailing – I did not advance the intended date of my departure. I was thinking of Mary Greaves and what was the source of her strength. I think it may have been her concentration on the immediate and the concrete, and refusal to let her mind wander into speculation or sentimentalism. Phyllis does not seem worried, but there is a quietness about her manner which may mean she is concealing her worry from herself. It is perhaps as well, but a safety curtain descends to bar our imagination from certain possibilities. But wait and see is all we can do.
December 17 Friday: Again I spent the day in Pearse Street and telephoned Phyllis in the evening. She was receiving treatment for the ankles, but there was so far no improvement and she felt “disheartened”, which is natural enough. Mrs Stewart is going to spend the weekend with her – even possibly Monday night. In the evening Cathal and I went to Michael O’Leary’s dance at Liberty Hall – we only stayed fifteen minutes, but I saw Vincent Murphy there, and Mairin Johnston.
December 18 Saturday: The day I spent in Pearse Street Library, and in the evening I went to the Irish Workers Party annual “get-together” at Pembroke Lane, with Cathal. I was talking for some time with Michael O’Riordan who regards Roy Johnston’s involvement with the Republicans as “a form of escapism” to get out of the IWP. Much dissatisfaction has been caused by his failure to address a school organised on the subject of the free trade pact. Apparently however it was not merely that he pulled out a week before it was due. He said, “Of course I’ll have to get permission from the Republicans to do this”, and when he didn’t get it he didn’t do it. As Cathal remarked, it should have been the other way round. So Republicans escape from republicanism via socialism, and socialists escape from socialism via republicanism. And people would be well to leave alone each others’ throw-outs! Sam Nolan was there, and the lad who walked on our Fleet Street march, with quite a group of them in combat jacket and jeans, all singing the most sentimental songs about Connolly such that “if he were alive today he’d turn in his grave!” One of the notorious Geraghty family was there, the ex-Republican Gleeson whom Cathal suspects of no good intention – and he is right. I “smelled” a political enemy even though we were not introduced – merely seeing his posing and noting his attitude. Sean Edwards, who was at the school, was there, the O’Rourkes and Tadhg Egan. We left early however and took a taxi back to Finglas. Michael O’Riordan is very insistent that I should attend their joint council in Belfast on February 5th!
December 19 Sunday: It was a very fine day, and I had intended to go cycling, but had still something of a cold. Roy Johston was to have telephoned. He did not. But Tony Coughlan came up in the evening and Alec Moore [a neighbour of Cathal MacLiam’s in Finglas Park] brought a 10 lb. goose he had bought in Cavan for £1. I decided to let Cathal have it
December 20 Monday: I spent the morning in Pearse Street, and the afternoon looking round shops, and finally went on board the Leinster at about 7.15 pm. A letter from Sean Redmond said the IAC [International Affairs Committee of the CPGB] want to discuss the Trade Pact [ie. The Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement, regarded in Ireland as a preparation for joining the Common Market/EEC] and he has agreed to January – rather a risk, as I could not get the White Paper, and only a duplicated text of the pact is available.
December 21 Tuesday (Liverpool): Thanks to the high temperature maintained in the ship all night, the cold from which I have been suffering was enormously improved, though I was tired as I do not sleep well thanks to the noise of the engines. It was of course quite impossible to get a taxi through the tunnel [under the Mersey between Liverpool and Birkenhead/Wallasey, where Phyllis Greaves lived in the family home in Prenton on the Birkenhead side]. I walked to James Street and took the underouround to Hamilton Square. I waited at a bus-stop – nobody was at a other bus-stop, no buses went past. Then two boys told me there was a bus strike. I returned to Hamilton Square and went on to Rock Ferry and walked up. I found Phyllis in bed, but rather better. Apparently however it was not swelling of the ankles but of the abdomen – and whether it is alarming or not I don’t know. Spence [her GP] was here yesterday and seems to have set her mind at rest. But she tells me how she has been pulled between hope and fear, worried by uncertainty. She has felt very unwell, especially on Saturday, and went off her food. Today, however, for the first time, she enjoyed a meal. She has wisely decided, and she waited till she had consulted me before deciding, so come back all I said, to go again to Ince-Blundell, as running this house is obviously beyond her powers – as I always expected it would be. She rang up and arranged for her admission next Monday, and intends to remain there till she is really fit, and let us hope that time comes. But after that she thinks she will have drastically to simplify her arrangements here, as the amount of attention required is so great. She hears from the Quigleys [Belfast friends]. The old man is nearly 90, and has all his faculties, but is liable to falls. Mrs Quigley is in perfect health but her memory is failing badly. May has a terrible time with them. Elsie Allnot, Bert Wiltshire’s niece, was taken ill while on holiday at Teneriffe and has finished her schoolteaching after 39 years instead of completing the forty. Her brother also has been ill. “We’re all feeling our age,” she writes. As Phyllis said to me recently, her friends are older than herself, and the result is all these gloomy reports that can surely not do her much good. And she doesn’t forget to remind me that the fifth generation is now started – Harry Greaves is a grandfather as Elsie is a grandmother!
December 22 Wednesday: Today Phyllis was not too well. She was very tired and dispirited at her slow rate of progress. Anthea came to cut her hair.
December 23 Thursday: Dr Spence came in the morning while I was at the bank. And by a coincidence Phyllis was much better and had such a bright day that she missed her accustomed afternoon nap. Now that I am here the strain of looking after herself is relieved and possibly this contributes to an improvement. She spent a good deal of the day on the telephone, arranging for people to visit her at Ince-Blundell. The doctor says she may, if she wishes, take a wee sup of alcohol, and this evening she had half a glass of sherry, which I trust will act as a tonic.
December 24 Friday: Phyllis continued her improvement and has recovered her appetite and seems also to have cheered up considerably. I managed to do a little work on the Trade Pact after she had gone to bed, and think it will merit the title of a gamble.
December 25 Saturday: Not much was done today, the height of the annual jamboree. Phyllis was still better, though the swelling has not subsided. We went up to Enid Greaves’s and were trapped in a room with a television machine. If the tosh that was produced is typical, and I have no reason to doubt that it is, I marvel at the cosmopolitan illiteracy for which we are heading. Phyllis has had dozens of Christmas cards, parcels, and even a half-bottle of champagne sent her. Enid will drive her to Ince-Blundell on Monday afternoon, and she intends to stay there for some time. I arranged to finish the draft on the Trade Agreement.
December 26 Sunday: Again not much. Looking after an invalid is time-consuming and tiring even when she is mobile. Phyllis now realises completely how impossible the proposal to return home and live on her own was and she now seems on the other extreme, saying she will stay at Ince-Blundell at least to her next examination on February 18th, and probably longer. Though she is now on half-pay she will not be materially out of pocket. Today she said she felt better but was tired, and at the nursing home she can relax completely. Mrs Stewart rang up and invited me to stay with her anytime I came to Liverpool to avoid a “long trek” to 124 Mount Road, but the “trek” is not substantially longer than to her place, though more complicated. But I thanked her for the offer.
December 27 Monday (London): I left at 7.30 am. by taxi to Lime St. Phyllis insisted on coming down to see me off. She looked desperately weak and pale, and I am sure she wouldn’t be going off to Ince-Blundell if she felt she was able to manage for herself. I think on her own she got down-hearted, and she told me how disappointed she was at her slow progress. And of course it is four months within a matter of days and she has shown tremendous determination to go through with it, which I hope is not disappointed, though I don’t dare to hope too much.
However to make things as bad as possible they had put on a Sunday train service without making proper announcements but curtailed that without any warning, so that I was stuck at Lime St. till 10.10. I reached London at about 2 pm, and went first to the office, then to 6 Cockpit Chambers [his flat in Northington Street, Holborn]. There were cards from Maggie Byrne, Alan Morton, Ray Atkins, who is now a grandfather in heaven’s name, and the Russian book on Ireland, with the author’s compliments. The paper sales look to have been disastrous, but what I can do immediately with so much on my plate I don’t know. Before I left Phyllis ventured the wish that 1966 would be better than 1965. We can count ourselves lucky if it isn’t the worst of the lot if it takes after the heel of the old one! I would think the Lemass business is going to present great problems [ie.the Lemass-O’Neill talks in Belfast, undertaken in the context of the 1965 Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement and the UK’s first application in 1961 to join the then EEC].
December 28 Tuesday: I finished the typing and presentation of the document on the Trade talks. Chris Sullivan came in at midday, and Charlie Cunningham in the evening.
December 29 Wednesday: A letter from Phyllis said she was pressing for treatment of the swelling of the abdomen and that the doctor will be in today. Otherwise all seems fair insofar as this is possible. Sean Redmond told me that Faris Glubb has replaced Eber as secretary of the MCF and that he thinks he may be better for us. Glubb was recently at the UN, where he found the Irish delegation were going to support Britain over Oman. He took one of the delegates out to lunch and persuaded him to revisit it. He then referred the matter to Aiken [Irish Foreign Minister] who told him to abstain.
In the evening I went out to St. Albans to have dinner with the Mortons. I did not recognise John. He has grown so vast, at least a mile high. He had his girl friend there, a student from Swansea, “not the one we would have chosen for him,” said Freda [Mrs Morton] when he had gone out with her. “But none ever would be to you,” Alan warned her. She seemed a good enough girl, but I would say a solid go-getter with two ideas, get married and get money. He, on the other hand, is a somewhat innocent youngster, not quite understanding this wicked world, emotional, unsure of himself, and probably in for trouble if it does not mercifully keep out of his way. I was more impressed by David, who is alert, decisive, very articulate, self-confident and while appearing to have great integrity, capable of seeing that it is no sin to lie to the devil. John has bought a motorcar because he “can’t get from his lodgings to the university without one”. But in fact it will be that a young fellow is not complete without one. David on the other hand has all the right ideas, despises the television addicts, and plays first oboe in Guy’s Hospital orchestra. He might take up singing. His views on music are sound and interesting. He respects Beethoven and to a lesser degree Brahms, despises Wagner as decidedly as youth will, considers Mahler and Bruckner boring, but likes Schonberg, William Walton, Benjamin Britten and others of later date whom he finds “exciting”. He is well able to argue his case, is not overawed, nor does he get excitable. And he has a good dash of scepticism. But he modestly declares that his younger sister, Alison, who is sick in bed with a virus infection that is not a cold, has the greatest share of the brains of the family. I was very favourably impressed. Freda of course looks older – it must be quite a few years since I saw her – but is still the great cook she always was and looks very well. Alan’s mother is still alive. She is 89 and comes to see them twice every year. Freda’s mother is 75 and apart from cataract, recently removed, is hale and hearty. The storms are not everywhere.
December 30 Thursday: I worked on the paper all day and in the evening the Standing Committee took place, with Sean Redmond and Pat Hensey but without Joe Deighan or Ton1 Curran. I had the impression Pat Hensey had grown a little more decisive. Yesterday I learned from Sean Redmond that Mahon had proposed and the Political Committee had agreed to drop the proposed Irish meeting at Easter [a meeting of Irish members of the CPGB]. This was obviously because Mahon wished to ensure that the Connolly Association would not have one – and indeed Sean had bungled his talk with Egelnick possibly from being too honest, and declaring his rightwhen he need only have worried over the exercise. I at once wrote to Gollan. [CPGB General Secretary]. This morning came a phone call from Cox saying that my letter had been read at the committee and that the previous meeting which recommended dropping the plan was only a subcommittee. But the suggestion is a discussion with Mahon. I will have to leave that to Sean Redmond, but perhaps Joe Deighan would go along. I wrote to Phyllis.
December 31 Friday: We spent the day on the paper, lunching at Schmidt’s because the chop-house is now closed permanently [Adam’s Chop House, King’s Cross, a long-established and good quality eatery, was across the street from the Connolly Association office at 374 Grays Inn Road, near King’s Cross Station]. The Adamses have retired to Richmond. The leather seats sat on by Lenin, and during the war Frank Cousins [British TUC leader] , will go to the photographer opposite the station, whose shop (like everything else in London) is due for demolition as the city grows progressively uglier.
In the evening I did some work on the Trade Pact. Roy Johnston wrote asking me to address the Wolfe Tone Society on Trade Unionism in the National Struggle, but I declined. I telephoned Ince- Blundell to see how Phyllis was. Again I could not speak to her as she had gone so far away. But the nun on the phone told me – I thought a little sadly – that she was “about the same”. I was worried lest the sirens on the Mersey and the associations of the New Year should give her a fit of the blues. But since I could not speak I sent another letter.
January 1 Saturday (London): I went into the office in the morning, and met Sean Redmond, Dorothy Deighan busy with the books, Pat Hensey and some others. The new year has for once opened with a mild southwesterly wind, but that is about all that can be described as good, with the exception that Brief [his accountant] has got me an income tax rebate.
January 2 Thursday: I acted as tutor at a Connolly Association school on the Trade Pact. Sean Redmond took the chair. There was quite a gathering, Charlie Cunningham, Pat Hensey, Peter Mulligan, Bobby Rossiter, Joe Deighan, Elsie O’Dowling and many others. Betty O’Shea and Joe O’Connor were there, both quite constructive, and O’Connor spoke to me afterwards, professing himself very delighted and asking me how far my book had sold inside Ireland. I thought he had aged badly. His face is showing a thinner, pinched appearance. Elsie O’Dowling, though perhaps more restrained, is going about her business quite normally.
In the evening Charlie Cunningham, Peter Mulligan and Pat Hensey had dinner at my flat. Charlie expressed the opinion that the sales were falling because I was not there, and that “since Sean Redmond was going out with a girl-friend this last month” he was not selling as much. Peter felt that Sean had expected to be invited tonight and was surprised at being left out. I somewhat doubted this.
January 3 Monday (Liverpool): First thing in the morning another blow fell. A letter arrived from Phyllis saying that the swelling of her abdomen had reached a point of some discomfort and she was told she must have another operation for which they were trying to get her into the Women’s Hospital. She asked me not to go hurrying to Liverpool so convincingly that I had half a mind to go on Wednesday as planned. However, I remember CEG’s cheery message on entering hospital in the winter of 1947, and her own optimism at the start, and reflected that the patient talks like this to reassure themselves. I rang Ince. “She’s gravely ill,” said Nurse Paul “Did you know it was grave?” I replied that I did in general. It was felt that rushing up might frighten her. But I decided to risk it.
So I went into the office, and arranged with Sean Redmond to handle the Irish Committee on Monday and the International Affairs Committee on Tuesday. Then I cleaned out the flat to some degree and caught the Red Rose. Sean Redmond, by the way, was not hurt at not being invited. On the way up to Liverpool I talked with a man who had evidently been to the computer exhibition. He remarked that fame is often based on luck. Two workers on a similar invention are level pegging. Then one catches a cold, falls three weeks behind and the other has the credit of priority. How right, I thought. For all the hopes of expansion, the Connolly Association and Irish Democrat are being struck by my enforced idleness in the very time opportunities are at their best. So perhaps somebody else will get the fruits of 1916 – 66. I rang Ince-Blundell. “How much do you know?” “All”.
I took a taxi to Ince, and asked to see the Reverend Mother, who duly appeared, said Phyllis was quite “cheerful”, but that the removal of the liquid in the swelling was only a palliative to the “poor soul”. Sister Paul had said this morning that Phyllis “hadn’t a clue that her condition was grave”. And on the balance surely it is best that it should be that way. When I saw Phyllis she burst into tears. She had urged me to stay but was glad I had come. She was in acute discomfort, could not sleep, or even adequately pass water. She felt action was needed quickly. She had expected to see Dr Madden last Wednesday but had been told he was ill. Then on Friday he did not come. The steady inexorable swelling over the weeks was alarming her beyond measure. She thought at first the nuns thought she was making too much of it. But now they were agreed that fresh treatment was needed. “Is it your only sister?” asked the Reverend Mother as I left. I think if I had another I would still be as sorry over the one.
January 4 Tuesday: I was very upset all day but resolved to speed things if I could. I rang Ince at 10.30. There was nothing definite. Phyllis had had another bad night. They were trying to get a room for her at the Women’s hospital, but Madden had also been trying to get Dr Hirsch whose secretary was aware of the position. I rang the Women’s Hospital and Sister Brazier told me that the hospital had not been approached at all. I therefore took a chance on the name in the telephone directory and got hold of Madden. In a cultured, somewhat disinterested Trinity College voice he told me that the swelling could be tapped but “it would fill up again”. Also there was the difficulty of getting a room at the Women’s. I told him I had ascertained that there was one available. This startled him, but seemingly not into activity. When I rang Ince again they said Madden had urged them to telephone Hirsch at 6 pm. I got there at 7 pm. They had just rung Madden, who told them to try Hirsch tomorrow at 10.30 am. I found Phyllis surprising cheerful and determined that something should be done to “get to the bottom of” what caused the swelling. She put a very brave face on it. But the discomfort was acute. Next door but two is an old woman of 82, an ex-matron of a substantial Catholic nursing home at Harrowgate, ruined when the Government requisitioned it in 1939. She trained her own staff, and insisted on the Bishops who came to her for treatment obeying the doctors’ orders, instead of the other way round. She was contemptuous of the young nun who was detailed to look after Phyllis. She had no method. When she came in she heard Phyllis say that she had a pain in the back when she lay at night, due to her cramped position. “There’s no need for that,” she declared, and quickly bullied two extra pillows from the girl and had them arranged (in so far as they could be arranged in the type of bed area) in a trice. Phyllis was restricting her drinking and talking of salt-free diets. With her tremendously active mind she is applying all the bits of knowledge she has in her own defence. But she argued that measurements should be made of her intake and output of liquids. She was if necessary prepared to face the operating theatre again. But the old matron told her tapping was possible, would be done there and then at Ince by Madden himself, and that she would get instant relief. She then proceeded to castigate the patient next door, “Mrs. Dumbell”, whom she classified as a nervous case and bad. “There’s something wrong with you, and you’ll never be right till you fight it” and told of her passages of arms with “Mrs Humbug”, who had got a patient who had just had an eye operation to watch television. As for the young nurses of today, “they lacked method.”
When I reached home I rang Phyllis’s deputy, Miss Stothart, and told her that Phyllis would probably be going elsewhere, and also Enid Greaves and Mrs Stewart. Phyllis was very pleased I had rung the hospital. So we wait for tomorrow.
January 5 Wednesday: Thanks to the worry over Phyllis I woke up in the night myself. However I slept again later and had the first dream I have recalled in reference to this four months of illness. It was merely a visual snatch of the room in Clatterbridge. I thought that a good thing. I formed independently the “mental rectification” theory of dreams long before it was fashionable. I rang Ince at 11.30. Dr Madden had contacted the hospital. “You said that you yourselves were ringing Mr Hirsch”. No, Dr Madden had done so. They were trying to get her to the Women’s Hospital. I observed that I knew they had vacancies yesterday. Would I ring again around 1.30 – 2 pm. I rang at 1.25, 1.35, 1.45 – the line was engaged. I went to Liverpool. Again the line was engaged – this time as I learned later, ringing me. I rang the Women’s Hospital. They understood Dr Madden had just telephoned but the Registrar could not be found. I had put two shillings in the box before they found him, and even then he was too grand to speak on the phone. He went to his office –more minutes lost – and told the telephonist to say Phyllis was expected today, but he couldn’t say when. Then at last I got through to Ince. An ambulance would be there in an hour. Would I come out and travel with Phyllis? I got a taxi and thanks to traffic jams the journey took the best part of an hour. I pulled up just ahead of the ambulance. While they brought Phyllis down on a chair, I spoke to the old matron. She had told them, “That woman can’t spend another night like that”. Sister Paul was there. Phyllis had left her bags expecting to be back in a day or two. “We kept them,” she told me, “to keep up her spirits. She thinks she’s coming back here. But I’ll be very surprised if I see her”. So now prognostications reached the extremity on the other side. Of course, a convalescent home is not equipped for patients of this kind. They were all out to see her off, in a very kindly way. She was not unduly uncomfortable in the ambulance. We travelled slowly and came into the Women’s Hospital just after 4 pm. She was greeted by the Matron, whose brother’s nieces she had taught and got to Oxford, and in minutes was in bed. Then the efficient organisation of this admirable institution came into play. Temperature was taken, tea was made and she was persuaded to drink it. Sister Brazier came in and went to find the doctor. The assistant almoner checked the records. Sister Brazier was back saying that the doctor would soon be out of the theatre. Finally I went for a meal – the St. George had closed, another blow – and when I was back the job had been done. Dr Francis told me that she was much relieved. “But,” he warned, and they are all determined to rub it in, “That won’t cure her.” They have so surrounded their profession with mediaeval mystery that they are assuming the manner of oracles, and nowhere can a nincompoop so safely rest undetected – or rather safely defended. Phyllis was indeed relieved. Francis had told her he was taking Hirsch’s place. The plastic bags were still filling, but she was drinking soup and eating toast. Sister Brazier looked very grave and very upset, the first time I saw a nurse affected. The wee girl from Tyrone, whom I translated some (baby simple) Gaelic for, came in to see us, and all the nurses appeared one by one. Phyllis had a great reception. It was returning to “civilisation”, at £50 a week. She told me that Sister Paul had said to her, “Your brother is getting impatient” and attributed some of the day’s haste to my pushing. She said that as soon as she is better she is going to try and get the Education Committee to cease sending seriously sick members of the staff complicated forms to fill in.
I went back, telephoned Enid Greaves and Mrs Stothard who told me how the nun had said to her, “She’s poorly. Does her brother know?” I had of course to pretend this related to the immediate symptoms and replied, “How would I know except by telepathy?”, which was of course not fair to the nuns. She commented on the brave face Phyllis put on. She had urged that she ask me to come but did not dare cross Phyllis by ringing me herself. Phyllis was worried at interrupting my work. I told her that was of no consequence. Phyllis had said, “My brother will be here on Wednesday and will kick up a fuss”. Then she said she had sought to dissuade me but was glad I came. I then rang Mrs Stewart who looks on the set-back more gravely than Miss Stothard. I wonder indeed if she could possibly have come to suspect. The other talks of “lifting Phyllis out of herself” and talks of return to work on March 1st, April 1st and other dates.
January 6 Thursday: I spoke to Sean Redmond on the phone. Both the Irish Committee and the International Affairs Committee went off well. Palme Dutt wants an article for the Labour Monthly. Mike Cooley and K.K. [Name not known] were brought on the International Affairs Committee. I went to the Birkenhead Coop Bank, but found it closed, and then proceeded to the hospital. There I found Phyllis in bed, looking considerably worse. She was terribly tired. But when I returned at 6.30 she had a better colour and was brighter, but with the slight recession of the eyes I first noticed at Ince when she was very bad. Hirsch had been in. Phyllis was inclined to blame the Ince sisters for not getting the doctor quicker. “But this is going on for weeks,” said Hirsch. “I should have been told about it.” The implication is that Spence should not have tried to treat it himself. “Is Hirsch a Catholic?” Phyllis asked me. She suspected he was trying to defend them, either the nuns or the easy-going Madden. The young doctor who removed the liquid came in. She asked him about tablets. “Um,” he replied. All doctors are evasive, she remarked afterwards. She fears further tapping of fluid. Strangely enough however I felt more cheerful because she had improved, even so little. Hope is very hard to put down. At home I rang Miss Stothart who is looking for alternative nursing homes for her. Mrs Stewart rang saying she was still ill, and had had a run of bad news on the telephone the like of nothing she ever remembered, and one bright individual kept her fifteen minutes describing the details of a funeral. Nevertheless, if she was fit or capable in the slightest degree, she would endeavour to visit Phyllis on or around Monday.
January 7 Friday: I rang in the morning and found Phyllis had had a good night and felt brighter. This impression was confirmed when I saw her in the evening. She is reading the book I gave her for Christmas, the life of Madame de Pompadour. It was agreed I dare risk a trip to London.
January 8 Saturday (London): I travelled on the Shamrock, which arrived early, and found Sean Redmond and Dorothy Deighan at the office. Later I met Pat Hensey, Charlie Cunningham, Robbie Rossiter, Peter Mulligan and Joe Deighan, and went selling with Charlie. All the boys are pleased with Tuesday, so much so that Robbie Rossiter donated £10 to the Democrat as an expression of pleasure at the document I drew up. There was a letter from R. Palme Dutt asking for references for his book now being translated into Russian. Mahon is sick. The boys felt very cross with Idris Cox who was the only sourpuss on Tuesday and said the objection to holding the party meeting at Easter was that the Connolly Association was planning a “big meeting and march”. The position he placed Mahon in was that of refusing to go ahead unless the Connolly Association drew back. It would be bad if Mahon did this, but why ventilate the idea first? Joe Deighan complained that Cox left the room twice during the discussion. But I fear it may be that Cox’s sickness is gnawing at him, and possibly that combines with a feeling that Woddis is superseding him, or has been promoted over his head, a thing that might not have occurred had he been well. I sent Phyllis a greetings telegram, and rang up the hospital who told me she was comfortable. Sean Redmond was out three times, and could never have known I was coming, so I will not take too much notice of Charlie Cunningham. He is inclined to any woe, having recently told me that Pat Hensey was in the dumps. “Much more likely he is feeling that way himself,” was Sean Redmond’s comment. Des Logan is at evening classes three nights a week.
January 9 Sunday (Liverpool): I had a talk with Sean Redmond in the morning and we made some plans. The Sunday Independent is in full swing against Communist infiltration of the IRA, which of course means Roy Johnston. But the Irish Times has printed our protest to O’Neill very prominently. Sean has family trouble. He thinks Tom Redmond’s marriage is now breaking up finally. Apparently the child was unintended. But Aine [Tom Redmond’s wife] has brought him to London to live with the Scaifes, and Mrs Redmond is very upset and taking Tom’s part. What with Brian Farrington and Michael Crowe with their nose to the academic grindstone and John McClelland travelling to Birkenhead every day, our Manchester branch seems not long for this world unless there is an unexpected improvement.
I returned to Liverpool on the 2.35 and was in the hospital by 7 pm. Phyllis had had visitors at every session and was fairly bright. She has Miss Stothard still seeking alternatives to Ince. But she is finding the long sickness desperately burdensome.
January 10 Monday: I wrote the Labour Monthly article and posted it to Sean Redmond to type and deliver. According to the hospital at midday Phyllis was slightly better. When Miss Stothart rang she said she had ascertained that Gatewere Grange was full but there was a room at £25 a week at “Lourdes”, in Sefton Park. Phyllis told me that she considered this too expensive, and her mind began to turn back to Ince, under the promise that Hirsch would go out if needed. I offered to look after her at home for an experimental period, but she was disinclined to have that. What had upset her most of all today was a dream. She was walking and at a certain point a motor car or something appeared and she ran to get out of its way. “That’s grand,” she said in the dream, “I can now run a little.” Then she awoke and her disappointment was so acute that she rang Sister Brazier to tell her about it. She says she has “wind” and is taking a Bismuth mixture for it. She finds the days drag badly and only the two visits a day make any break.
As I went out I saw Sister Brazier and asked about Phyllis’s condition. She shook her head. “She’s not good. She’s got all these little aches and pains. It’s really very worrying”. She seemed sceptical about leaving hospital for a nursing home. “If Mr Hirsch comes in the morning I’ll tackle him. I know him better than the others”. But I fear he will come in the afternoon when she is off duty. It is interesting though pathetic to see Phyllis constantly lengthening in her own mind the period she is likely to remain ill. I am terrified of the time she might suddenly start envisaging a very different kind of cessation to the whole thing. Though who knows what she is secretly thinking even now. Yet against this, she has asked for a number of books and magazines of outdoor interest.
January 11 Tuesday: When I rang Sister Brasier (this is the spelling; she now has it fixed to her uniform) she said Phyllis was neither better nor worse, had had much the same amount of sleep as last night, and Hirsch had not yet called. But on my reaching the hospital just after two, thinking I might nobble him and see how things are now, she told me he had come at lunchtime. They say the immediate trouble is an inflated intestine, possibly due to the pressure of the fluid now removed, possibly due to a virus which everybody in Liverpool seems to be suffering from. Twenty five nurses are off daily with sickness. They have the problem that while they want to give Phyllis all the attention necessary, they do not wish to run her into unnecessary expense. Will she be covered by insurance if there is a limit to the benefit allowable in a year? This is a New Year, I replied. I stated the principle that there should be no stinting of money on grounds of medical care, comfort or Phyllis’s expressed preference, but that on the other hand they should avoid needless waste. They wondered if they could get her to 124 Mount Road with a “home help”, the District Nurse, and Spence calling every day. I replied I was not averse but Phyllis seemed to prefer Ince. “That’s expensive, too.” So I asked what were the prospects, would the fluid return. He thought it would, but not for a few weeks. Sometimes patients from this disease were back in a week; other times not for six weeks. There was no basis for prediction. I thought we should do nothing that would lead to frightening her. “Does she know her condition?” asked Sister Brasier. “I believe she did not, though how long she would remain free of suspicion I did not know.” “She’s intelligent. She may reason it out”. “Yes. But the human mind has a curious blind spot in those things.” “I agree with you.” So since they could offer no prospect of recovery, I repeated what I told Spence. Everything must be done for her comfort, irrespective of cost, subject only to avoiding needless waste that does not given even imaginary satisfaction.
When I saw Phyllis she said this morning she had reached her lowest, and had thought to herself it was a pity she had come through the operation at all. I brushed this aside, while thinking of Hirsch’s telling me his decision. But while he had diagnosed “wind” inflating the intestine, and had suggested charcoal, Sister Brasier had suggested another medicament, which while I was speaking to her began to take effect, so that she brightened considerably. I took her “History Today” and she commented on Hodge [Alan Hodge, who knew Greaves as a young man – see Volumes 1 and 2] being “in everything”. I had not noticed it but can well believe it. Phyllis always remembers him as the “boy who walked right in” at 124 Mount Road. He was pretending not to notice such mundane things as doors, being something of a poet.
I rang Mrs Stewart on returning to Mount Road and she told me Miss Holstead, the one I thought simpering, but who is apparently a very practical woman, whose slight eccentricity arises from deafness, will visit her this evening. Mrs Stewart is now on the mend, but when she saw Phyllis yesterday thought she was terribly “forlorn”. One cannot hope for the best in these circumstances since nobody knows what it is. The unknown quantity is zero, x = o. Apparently one of Phyllis’s objections to coming home is that the house, being draughty thanks to the constant vibration of this damned motor traffic, the temperatures between rooms vary too much. And Mrs Stewart remarked that, being still herself, Phyllis will not be persuaded by anybody! Though I notice a change in that respect, which is not encouraging, since it betokens a loss of confidence.
I summarised the first four chapters of my Life of Connolly, in preparation for a pamphlet which might run to 64 pages – if I can finish it in time.
January 12 Wednesday: At noon I learned Phyllis had had a fair night and was much better, sitting up in the private ward lounge for a change of scene. But when I arrived in the afternoon she became very sick, this being due, she believed, to the medicine she was taking to remove “wind”. I left at 3 pm. when another friend, a retired teacher, came in. Phyllis told me afterwards that she (Ruth Holstead, I think) and Phyllis and Miss Stothard, together with some other – I may have confused the names – were all together as evacuees in Caernarfon. When I returned at 7 pm. I found Miss Stothard – a big lively woman I took to – and by the time I left at 8 pm. I found Phyllis much improved and talking about finding a nursing home in the area of Tranmere known as “Devonshire Park”, where Halliday used to live and Enid Greaves went to school, not five minutes walk from 124 Mount Road. Nevertheless, on balance I felt rather depressed with the day as a whole.
January 13 Thursday: When I spoke to the hospital at noon I was told Phyllis had had a good night’s sleep and was feeling better. She had visitors going in the afternoon. But when I arrived in the evening the swelling, which I presume to be ascites [accumulation of fluid in the internal organs], was again in evidence and she could not pass solids or liquid despite all manner of medicines. She was very depressed and said she could not even read but lay there all day thinking about her condition. She had asked Spence if the cyst was malignant. His reply was that they thought it might be, but that the radiotherapy should deal with that. So perhaps the poor girl is now worrying over that. Nor did she care to write letters, though she had replied to Enid Greaves. The Devonshire Park nursing home is for old ladies, so that is out. It is four months today since the operation. I spoke to Sister Brasier. She agreed something would have to be done about the fluid. Hirsch would come in tomorrow. She thought he was disappointed that the radiotherapy had not been effective. I remarked that surely this was for the pelvis. “But he got it all away,” she said. “What about the spillage of the contents?” “He hoped the radiotherapy would look after that”. My impression, possibly erroneous, was that the radiotherapy was for the penetration of the pelvis and that he was keeping his fingers crossed over the spillage. Whatever way it was the outcome looks bleak at the moment. The only thing to do is to increase the amount of time she has company. Perhaps I could get the visiting hours expanded – during this last spell I have kept them, but at no time have they requested me to do so. The woman teacher who was here yesterday was Ruth Day, Miss Holstead being the deaf one.
January 14 Friday: I managed a little writing in the morning, but there was a succession of phone calls, Mrs Stewart to say she might go in this afternoon; Miss Stothard that she had found a nursing home in Oxton, and asking me to ask Spence about it; and Laura Austen, “surprised to hear” my voice, and enquiring if I was staying indefinitely. She is a well-meaning nosy-parker. Phyllis does not want her to visit her, so I put her off. As Mrs Stewart was not certain of her visit, I had to go over, but when I got there, there she was. Phyllis was much brighter, the natural functions having resumed their activities, and we all three sat in the lounge where the orderly brought us tea. I went again in the evening, and Phyllis was still relatively bright, and was talking about going to Cornwall to stay with Enid Greaves for the spring. Hirsch had not been in. Whether it was logical enough, this tiny upturn made me more cheerful. The weather these last few days has been dry but incredibly cold. There were small flurries of snow today. A letter came from Toni Curran. I find it very hard to work in these conditions.
January 15 Saturday: I finished the third brief chapter of the pamphlet Life of Connolly. Mrs Stewart rang early – when I was only half dressed – and seemed very upset with Phyllis’s condition. “Do they know what it is?” she asked. “I think they must be a bit at sea,” I replied, but felt I was not very convincing. “But where is it all going to end?” she asked. She is an experienced person, so I said nothing to that but tried to sound optimistic. When I rang the hospital Sister Brasier said Phyllis had had a less good night and some pain this morning. I wondered whether to go right over, though she has friends going in. In the event I decided not to. The thing to do is to go when nobody else is there. So when I went I got some daffodil buds that she could watch opening. This made her break into tears. “Kindness is what affects me,” she said. When I got there I was told to wait – something unusual at 6 pm. Then I heard the young Doctor telephoning somebody (I imagine Hirsch) that she was very distended. And when I got in I found that a tube had been used unsuccessfully to release the “wind” which is “blowing her up” – I suspect liquid, myself. So she was very down in the dumps. But nonetheless she had the daffodils put in a prominent place and didn’t some of them start to open there and then. She says the days seem interminable. The discomfort is constant. She has had several bouts of vomiting that produces nothing, one while the nurses were there. She says not to come in the mornings now but to keep that for . . . but also talks of the possibility of another operation. “I could not believe,” she said,”that you could feel so poorly and they should be able to do nothing for you”. I indicated that they might do something yet. I do not want her to feel hopeless, though she worries constantly. Yet she has her wit, and her mind is clear and balanced, much better than in the Clatterbridge days. She brought out some wind and was delighted. “All is not lost,” I jested. “No,” she replied, “that’s the trouble”. If the discomfort and pain increases I must demand some action, though I have a feeling that the medical people are very capable within the limits which medical science has attained. I went up on the No.80 bus to the Halfway House and equipped myself with Niersteiner. I am also spending an hour longer in bed to get as much sleep as possible as I don’t know what is yet to be faced in the way of nervous strain.
January 16 Sunday: My plan to get extra sleep did not work too well, but I had a “nap” in the afternoon that put things right. Last night Phyllis had asked me to contrive some way of getting Miss Stothard to impose just a little less strain on her. She is a woman of considerable energy and very robust health. I could not think of any tactful way of doing it last night. But this morning I decided to make her think that the doctor was asking that visitors should be careful not to overtax the patient. Fred Brown brought in some delicious crystallised fruits from Jean Hack, who is only now out after influenza. But of course Phyllis is unable to eat them. When I got to the hospital at 5.45 pm. I found her very pale and though she said she did not feel as ill as she did yesterday, her nervous energy seemed to have sunk very badly. For most of the time she would not even talk, and this shows she is not good. She had been telling Miss Stothard that she was worried that I was held up in my work by being here, so I tried to set her mind at rest. It is not her nature to concentrate on herself and she is constantly worrying over imaginary trouble she is causing others, who are only too pleased to help in the little they can.
I spoke once more to Sister Brasier. She had three days ago told Dr Rowe that the hospital should be doing more to relieve her. Hirsch has not carried out his promise to call at the end of the week. It seems to me that on balance the medical profession does, as I long thought, have lower professional standards than the legal or scientific, when they should have higher. However, she will telephone him in the morning. The others are afraid to act without him. She is one of the few who is not afraid of him. She fears that the malignant development may have invaded the small intestine causing a partial blockage, in which case an operation could be performed, but what after that? On the other hand there is a dim chance that the trouble might be “adhesions”, which are liable to arise from radiotherapy. If that were so, there might be a hope of a spell of workable health. But we fear not. And we want this specialist to come and see. I felt rather upset at all these developments, especially to see the drop in Phyllis’s vitality. In a situation like this of course it is quite impossible to say whether one thing is better or worse than another or what is for the best. I offered to go in the morning, but Phyllis feels that this would be to admit she was dangerously ill. So once more we are hampered by our own deceptions, without an alternative to them.
January 17 Monday: I telephoned in the morning and learned that Phyllis was about the same. In the afternoon Miss Stothard phoned to say that Mrs Lockheed and Mrs Stewart had been in. There was in progress another draining of fluid, and Phyllis felt better. When I went in the evening it was still in progress, and she was very quiet and subdued, though she felt better. She denied the correctness of Miss Stothard’s statement that she was better. She had broken into tears when Mrs Stewart came. But she was a little better now. When I spoke to Mrs Stewart, conveying Phyllis’ hopes that she had not upset her, I learned that once Mrs Lockheed was there Phyllis was cheerful. It was like a pleasant afternoon. This prompted Mrs Stewart to remark, “You and I see a side of Phyllis which the others don’t”. So at any rate she has still the resources to put on an act for their benefit. I understand Hirsch is coming tomorrow, at the request of Dr Howe and Sister Brasier. And not before time. Miss Stothard wanted me to tackle him. I told Mrs Stewart part of why I do not propose to, namely that if I ask what she says Phyllis wants to know, namely how long she is likely to be ill, it raises the question of how long she can continue to occupy the bed in the hospital. If I am not there, I am uncommitted and can possibly delay anything we don’t want. But of course, really I want to avoid being put on the spot, since I am pretending I do not know what is wrong with her, for fear it might get back to her.
Though of course I can’t concentrate properly, or at least for an adequate length of time, I did manage to get a little work done. I have asked Sean Redmond to send some material. Yesterday I wrote to him, Alan Morton and Tony Coughlan.
January 18 Tuesday: When I rang the hospital in the morning Phyllis was said to have had a “fair” night – which means bad! Ruth May rang in the afternoon and said Hirsch had been in and had told her she would be in hospital for ten more days. When I arrived there at 6 pm. Sister Brasier said she had missed Hirsch but Dr Howe had seen him. There is to be a course of injections with a cytostatic drug – not chlorambucil apparently, unless it is the same thing under another name. So that means presumably that the radiation was a failure, perhaps not for the pelvic condition but for the spillage. Phyllis, whom I saw at once, is very weak and can only speak quietly. Also she has lost weight. She feels dejected and small wonder. She heard Howe and Hirsch talking and Hirsch thanked Howe for ringing him. Hirsch told Phyllis that she might feel an unpleasant reaction from the injections which, now we know doctors’ parlance, means that the effect will be bloody lousy! Needless to say I did not express that view to Phyllis. Yet she was definitely brighter than last night and ate quite well both at lunch and dinner.
I spoke to Sean Redmond on the phone. Kay Beauchamp had spoken to quite a well attended gathering on Sunday, but it was clear (says he) that she has no experience of addressing an Irish audience, even indeed he suspected a non-communist audience at all. The material could be just the same, if only the presentation was not so formal. He says there is snow in London, one thing we’ve been mercifully spared. Added to all of which those Labour-Imperialist scoundrels in Liverpool, having cheated their water out of the people of Edeyrinion [in Denbighshire, an area of mediaeval Wales], are now trying to plant their overspill there. There will be plans for a fresh plantation of Ireland, too. The Labour gang are utterly insensitive to tradition of any kind, and just as the Tories represent the maintenance of the rule of monopoly capitalism, so the Labour are used to express its ruthless tearing-up of all it wishes to devour – under the pretence of “progress”.
January 19 Wednesday: A letter came from Freda Morton, which I judged to be a sign that Alan had written to Phyllis as I had suggested to him, so as to keep her occupied. Also a letter came from Sean Redmond. I replied to him saying I would try and get out the paper from here, and since I might not even be in London for Easter, would contact Tom Redmond and see what could be done up here. There was also the Short and Harland visit. A lobby is being arranged [a House of Commons lobby by trade union shop stewards from Short and Harlands aircraft firm, Belfast, re employment issues].
When I went in to see Phyllis I found her much better, but hardly able to cross the corridor without assistance. She had had a better sleep, though it was largely thanks to drugs. Her light sleeping has been terribly against her. Though Sister Brasier had wanted the injection made this morning, and Phyllis was dreading it Dr Howe had been up all night and could not spare the time. Thus patient’s valuable time is lost through inadequate medical staff.
She then told me with great indignation the story of her pay. After three months she went on to half pay. But when years ago she was off four months with a nervous breakdown she lost not a penny. This time, despite her long establishment and status, the first intimation she received of the reduction of pay was a letter from her bank informing her that the cheque paid in was only half its usual value. Instead of telling me, whereupon I would have written, or typed for her signature a letter informing the bank that she had received no intimation of a change and asking them to check it on her behalf as she was in hospital, she kept it to herself, let it worry her, and then got her deputy Miss Stothart to object and receive an assurance that there was an oversight. Today she was wearing herself out with indignant protests at a letter she received yesterday. It said “Dear Miss Greaves, the Headmistress of such a school informs us that you have been away since September 6th and we beg to inform you that you have been placed upon half pay. Yours faithfully, Rubber Stamp.” She almost thumped the sheets as she declared, “I’m still the Headmistress. She’s the deputy!” She was being reduced to the ranks, and in her present condition is not able for them. But she only tells me these things when it is too late. She then said some people appealed against such reductions. But she would’nt. Yet the only way to get even with them is to make them pay up. Of course, she does not need the money as the hospital is covered by insurance and she is spending nothing, but the whole business has been precipitated by worry over loss of status. A pity she didn’t tell Education to go to the devil. Apart from wanting the change, one thing I never regretted was saying that if the British capitalists couldn’t treat scientists better, then they didn’t deserve them and would have one less.
A call came from Miss Needham to the effect that she saw Phyllis at about 5.30 pm. and that the injection had been made. It had not been painful as she feared, and so far no unpleasant reactions had occurred. But I am disposed to think that cytotoxic drugs should have been used long ago, at the first swelling. I read indeed that the best results come from combining them with radiotherapy.
January 20 Thursday: When I rang in the morning I was told that Phyllis had had a good night and was quite cheerful. I was very pleased. No side-effects had been noticed from the injection. But when I got there she was in a half doze, and told me she could only snatch brief spells of nightmarish sleep. From morning she had steadily slipped back. She felt desperately tired and ill. The nurse had to help her over to the toilet. She spoke of yesterday – when her stone white face showed muscular passion, but no flush when she inveighed against the boors of the Education Department – as a “good day”. I never saw her quite so dejected. Mrs Stewart had rung to say her pipes were frozen (I hope the snow in London protects mine!) but appeared after 3 pm. Phyllis began to revive and say she felt better. The five injections were intravenous, but afterwards she must take the drug orally. I am very much put in mind of Sean Dowling when I visited him – desperate weariness and two tablets a day.
A letter came from Mabel [a maternal aunt] which I answered, and a Christmas present to Phyllis which I took her, but which, being glacé fruits, she doesn’t want to eat. She says the days seem interminable because she has lost the desire to read. She agreed with me that she would have been wise to approach the Corporation through her bank. But when one is sick . . .?
January 21 Friday: Sister Brasier told me Phyllis had had a good night and was more cheerful. Mrs Stewart told me she was going in during the afternoon, so, since I was in the city doing some shopping, I called in for an hour at midday. It is true that she was brighter this morning but she had become tired again. I asked Sister Brasier if they thought they could get her on her feet again, and she replied that they hoped so. After these injections she must take the drug orally. The Nursing Home is a real problem, as she will need to have a white blood corpuscle count every fortnight (they do it now every day), and if there is such a drop as would render her liable to infection they must reduce the input of cytostatic drugs. “It’s a vicious circle,” said Sister Brasier. It is worse. It is a system of treatment based on a complete fallacy. But since there seems to be no better available, and certainly Phyllis seems to be passing more water, we can do nothing more. In the evening I returned and found her still tired, but by no means as bad as she was yesterday. Hirsch was in and was almost jovial. The trouble is that she spends all the time fretting and worrying. “I can’t bear uncertainty,” she told me. But to tell her the certainty would make matters even worse.
January 22 Saturday: I spoke with Sean Redmond on the phone. So far Mahon has not moved. Sean will telephone on Monday. Peter Mulligan is doing the cash book and the book sales are doing well. Then I spoke with Tom Redmond and we agreed to meet on Monday. I had intended to continue work on the pamphlet, but on ringing the hospital at 11 am. I learned that though Phyllis had had a good night she had worsened during the morning. I went over and found her very distressed, talking about “why wouldn’t it be decided one way or the other,” she wanted to get well or die and be done with it. The immediate distress is, I am fairly certain, the effect of the drug, and she even began to improve slightly while I was there and, said I “did her good”. But she says she now has “no confidence in anything” and small wonder, indeed. When I returned in the evening she had improved still further and was actually talking of reading the Echo. She talked about our childhood and re-visiting Rockville Street, which is a more interesting place than we ever realised, with the old cottage and the orchard on which our house was built. When I left she was in far better spirits. But of course the whole thing is abominable, that that strong character and active mind should be subjected to this steady compression.
January 23 Saturday: When I rang up in the morning I was told that Phyllis had had a good night and was quite cheerful. Indeed the definiteness of this statement commanded belief. I went for an hour’s bicycle ride to Brimstage via Bebington and returned through Little Storeton (a ride I made many times as a boy), all the way noticing the rubbish dumped everywhere, the disrepair of walls, fences, indeed everything that used to be so properly kept up. “No admission” scream the bright red signs of “Storeton Hall Farms”, which farm as a unit what used to be a dozen farms. But nowhere do they repair anything, and any motorist can tip his bedstead into a spinney. The general decay in this country is appalling. Later I finished the short life of Connolly and have only to do the chapters on the writings as philosophy.
I went to see Phyllis in the evening. Unfortunately, though far better than yesterday and able to read both books and newspapers, since lunchtime she had noticed the ascites returning, the doctor of course still swearing it was “wind”. This brought her badly down in the dumps. It seems as if she never gets a break. “I wish you could get me better. You can do so many things,” she said to me, as if clutching a straw she knew was not there. The nurse tells her that the course of injections must be completed before she can hope for the swelling to be controlled. But she replied by saying that the first time it took six weeks, the second ten days, and now she is in discomfort after a week. While I was there Peggy Gaskell, neé Evans, her friend in Chichester telephoned.
January 24 Monday: Another dreary cold damp day. The parcel of material for the paper posted to me by Sean Redmond last Thursday has not arrived yet, so that I am totally held up on that front. I heard Phyllis was not too well in the morning and I went in at midday. She was feeling better, but was worried at another rapid swelling, which as I learned in the evening is by far the quickest yet. In the evening again she said she was not unwell but for the swelling. I saw Sister Brasier for a minute, looking harassed after a wildly busy day. Nothing seems to have any effect on this remorseless intumescence.
After leaving the hospital I met Tom Redmond and John McClelland at Central Station. The evening rail service is to be cut, so that the journey is to be made more difficult. John McClelland has a house at Greasby he was to move into next week; but now the existing occupiers want to stay till April. Add to that Tom Redmond has taken a job which will involve him in shift work. And Brian Farrington’s contract with Manchester University has been discontinued because of the Labour Governments contraction of education. We made some plans.
January 25 Tuesday: I learned by telephone that Phyllis is brighter, but the swelling continues. How long can she go on like this? Sean Redmond telephoned to say Egelnick had informed him that the London District had decided against the Irish meeting at Easter as “there are too many other things going on“[a meeting of Irish members of the CPGB to urge support for the Connolly Association’s anti-Unionist campaign]. This, when it comes to the point, is their degree of interest in the matter. Boozing-parties in public houses, yes, but a serious diversion of their resources, not on your life. The question now is, do they propose to keep up the criticism? It will not be so easy, since they do nothing themselves. The parcel still has not come; Sean Redmond says he will complain.
When I reached the hospital in the evening I found the draining process in operation – but that after an hour it mysteriously stopped and Phyllis was thoroughly alarmed. I suggested various explanations with a view to soothing her, but only when walking down Bold Street, and thinking casually of all the thousands of glass tubes I had used myself to take liquids and gases from place to place, did I think of the obvious – a blockage! So does the mystery of medicine engross us. Phyllis was not going to tell me the process had stopped so as not to worry me, but I asked. Sister Brasier was also alarmed and was sending for Dr Howe.
January 26 Wednesday: I rang Sister Bethyl in the morning. The draining was working well. “Was it a slight blockage?” “It was.” So that was that. I spent the day on the paper and got three pages off. The parcel came at last. I had one or two conversations with Sean Redmond on the telephone. Miss Stothard was on the phone and displayed that slightly overpowering touch which makes her good nature a little too succulent. “I wish I could get at some one and tell them they’ve got to make her well.” As I remarked to her, you can take a horse to the water. Phyllis, whom I told this to said she knew well there was just a slight potentiality for hysteria. She was exhausted when Miss Stothard would sit by her and say, “Please, get better, I want you to”. As if Phyllis was likely to disregard such advice from any quarter were she in a position to profit by it. This time they removed over a gallon. But she thought her strength better – but was now worried by the cessation of natural functions. These rectified themselves during my visit so we are back to zero again. I don’t know how many more winters I’ve got, but in none of them am I likely to forget this one!
January 27 Thursday: For the first time since Phyllis was ill did I wake up after a dream concerning it. I recall expressing satisfaction that the swelling had gone down and demanding that the cure should be got on with, as she was going to be married. The marriage took the form of a procession in the direction of Waterloo which (of all people) Pat Dooley and I had to hurry to catch up with where it was halted at a public house. The significance of the “wedding” is only too clear. It was a symbol, I presume, for a funeral. And the “get on with the treatment” was in order to avoid it, something which in waking life does not appear so easy, though they still think they may get her a spell.
There were one or two other items from London today, and I spoke to Sean Redmond on the phone. He may come to Liverpool on Tuesday. I worked on the paper. Sister Brasier telephoned at Phyllis’s request, saying she had a visitor this afternoon, so that I need not worry about her. When I went there at 6.30 Miss Stothard was there. They had not expected me until 7 pm. I did again indeed notice Miss Stothard’s slight immaturity, as I also saw (yesterday) that Miss Holstead is not “simpering” – merely nervous on that day.
To my surprise Phyllis was in good form, said she felt stronger and had read, played solitaire, written a letter and walked twice down the corridor, with all natural functions in full swing. She had begun to plan again, talking of going to a nursing home in a week or so, and had ascertained that thanks to her insurance policy she is still living within her income. Her deputy had spoken to Councillor Williams about the unpleasant way her salary was halved, and there may be some satisfaction for her if he takes it up.
Mrs Stewart rang up around 10 pm. and was very pleased at the news. But she is the only one who has realism. “When you see her looking so frail”, she said, “it is difficult not to look on the gloomy side. But even if she only gets a day when she feels better and more hopeful, it is something.”
January 28 Friday: Letters came from Toni Curran and Sean Redmond. . She tells me that December’s disastrous sales left us unable to pay the bill. May we draw on the development fund? I intend to say No. She said also that Dorothy Deighan had declared her intention to drop the books work and that her accounts are in an inextricable muddle. That I believe. Sean also told of a tremendous quarrel with Dorothy. He says it is impossible to work with her and wants a change. He fears she may only be pretending to give up so as to maintain her importance at the centre of the muddle she has created. I thought of some measures to take, and rang him. I noticed a distinct coolness when I spoke of getting the maximum number of sellers out this weekend. So probably Charlie Cunningham was right. He is not pressing it. In the afternoon I called in to 115 Mount Pleasant [Merseyside CPGB office] and saw Les Barrington. He told me that old Miss Tart, headmistress of Mersey Park School when Enid Greaves was there, and a great enthusiast of the olden days, is in the General Hospital, Birkenhead. She must surely be 85. I am going to try and get something started while I am up here to compensate for the decline in London.
When I went in to see Phyllis I found her still cheerful. She was up for two hours this morning. But as Mrs Stewart says, she looks very frail and has lost weight seriously. I asked Sister Brasier what was Hirsch’s opinion now he had been in. She was evasive but made a movement of the lips which meant “not good”. And just what kind of a break they hope to get her remains a mystery. To add to the general botheration, a letter came from Mrs Phillips who cleans the house for Phyllis to say that she is in St. Catherine’s Hospital and is out of action for a while. Meanwhile the dust settles thicker.
January 29 Saturday: I went shopping in the morning and went to see Phyllis instead of ringing. I had seen “zip” neck pullovers in a shop in Ranelagh St. last night. The window was empty this morning. When they reached work they found the glass shattered and a policeman standing guard. The hooliganism has reached astonishing proportions. Phyllis had had her extra injection and was very quiet, “not tired but weary” and could hardly talk. She looked terribly frail and pale. But she had been up for two hours. She did not however feel ill. In the evening she was even quieter and simply dozed slightly as I sat there. The urination however continues and she dares to think the swelling has not begun. So there seems a chance that the spread of the carcinoma may be controlled for a while. What kind of a life she will have is of course another matter, and her decisions may not always correspond to her best interests, and we are debarred from speaking frankly. A letter reached her from Mary Greaves’s old friend Hetty Threlfall, Captain Brown’s daughter. She is 89. The letter was little more than a list of deaths and misfortunes, inevitable at that age. But poor Phyllis is forty years younger! A list of Liverpool names came from Sean Redmond, also a very kind letter from R. Palme Dutt, regretting that he had troubled me over some references while all this personal trouble was on.
January 30 Sunday: I had a slight cold so though intending to cycle to Wirral in the mild weather, I did not, but finished the paper, and wrote to Sean Redmond and Toni Curran. When I saw Phyllis in the evening I found her less tired than she had been yesterday, but still very weary. She is to have another injection tomorrow.
I could not help noticing how her vitality has diminished, and that great decisiveness she could command has weakened. She sat up for a while, but looked very forlorn. Of course I did my best. She talked more – among other things recalling that William Greaves [their paternal grandfather] was said to have sold buckets of water from the well in Well Lane to raise the funds to build Wesley Church, Tranmere. I had prompted her to this by saying that I remembered the well. The statement was made when AEG [their mother] unveiled the plaque to CEG [their father]. She was annoyed because a speaker called William “Pa. Greaves”. Phyllis is worried over replying to Mrs. Threlfall, for fear of alarming the old woman. Every year Phyllis used to driver her to Chester. It is unfortunate perhaps that reminiscences get entered into, as Phyllis gets into a gloomy vein – how this one died, and so on. Not that it is surprising that this should happen. She may keep some fears to herself for fear of alarming me.
I spoke to Sister Brasier and mentioned the return of the swelling. She repeated that Mr Hirsch was very disappointed when the radiotherapy evoked no response. The drug now being used seems to have little effect. “She fills up so quickly,” Sister Brasier said despairingly. Yet her blood count had stayed up so well that these two extra injections have been tried. Hirsch will be in on Tuesday, and we “see where we go from there”. At the start, if radiotherapy had been a success she would have had two or three years. Then the drugs might have brought her months. Now things are looking bleak, but perhaps we shall find other shots to fire. The jonquils she was given for Christmas, which I took over a day or two ago, have flowered and that gives Phyllis one thing to be pleased over.
January 31 Monday: I went to see Gerry Cohen in the morning and discussed the possibility of one or two meetings. Then I called in to see Phyllis was brighter but worried about what she euphemistically calls “waterworks”. The ascites does not seem to have advanced much, and the seventh injection was made this morning. On the way back, the weather being mild and sunny, I decided to return by boat, so remained on the bus till it reached Pier Head. When I got to the stage, there was a desperate hullaballoo, balls, sirens, foghorns. Below the level of the river wall there stretched a dense bed of fog. I waited twenty minutes during which no boat arrived, then walked to James St. and took the underground. At Hamilton Square likewise it was clear and sunny. The Pier Head buildings were clearly visible across the river, but the river itself was covered by what can only be described as another river of fog. The wind was about southeast. Later I learned that a ferryboat had been involved in a collision.
During the afternoon I spoke to Sean Redmond on the phone. He is coming up on Thursday, after being at Ripley on the Wednesday. The meeting yesterday was the best yet, with twenty people present. So he feels quite pleased.
In the evening I found Phyllis brighter than yesterday or the day before, and well able to talk and take an interest in things. She is still passing too little water, but the swelling still seems very slow. A new nurse replaces the little Trinidadian she was so fond of, but she is a bright open red-headed lass from Kilkenny. I had to laugh when Phyllis told me she had told one of the Dungannon girls she had had a blood transfusion. “I hope it was all pure Irish,” she said with mock concern.
Phyllis was telling her the story of Vera Ward, niece of the famous Nellie Simpson who used to go cycling with Hilda and took them all first to London then to Australia or New Zealand. Phyllis went to Paris with Vera Ward during her first year teaching in Birmingham. Vera arrived back without money and took a taxi home for her parents to pay for. She married “Billy” Fernandez who was called up, Vera meanwhile disporting herself with others. When he was killed she was broken-hearted for six weeks, and then got busy again. She married a scientist who worked at ICI, but her philandering got him into a state of nerves in which he would break into tears – he was four years her junior. Finally she persuaded him to give up his job, sell their house, and buy a £1000 caravan and a car to tow it, with which they toured Devon and Cornwall. He got odd jobs as a painter and handyman while she sampled the male youth of each locality they moved to. They worked eastwards along the coast. Phyllis was at Chichester with Peggy Evans when a phone call came. The two of them went to see Vera, and discovered her on a vast caravan site on the Northside of Portsdown Hill. Alas there was no car. The husband and she had had a dreadful quarrel over her irregular life, had disconnected the car, and driven off. But she didn’t care. As long as the money lasted she kept open house and when it was gone she sold the caravan and disappeared to the West Indies. Her doting mother rang Phyllis in 1955 and descanted on the wonderful house and the two twins by the Jamaica marriage, and after twenty minutes thought of asking if AEG was well. Phyllis replied a little sharply that she was dead two years, and this sobered her. But soon it transpired that my bold Vera had been put on the boat to Liverpool by her husband, after a frightful rumpus, and that he had gone to Australia. Presumably, says Phyllis, he had found the twins were not his. She then worked in an office and lived at home. Beside the priggish little boy, I remember first a parson, then a schoolteacher, had little to give her. Old Ward, the only sensible member of the family, had been a buyer for Lewis’s but had no pension. Phyllis thought she had heard the last of the gay lady. But not so. About three years or more later a letter came from Florida saying that Vera had met a girl from Leeds and it had reminded her of Phyllis. She was “now married to a Mr. Something-or-other”. Phyllis and Peggy Evans laughed at the somewhat distant description of her husband. She had a beautiful house, beautiful everything, and had just returned from a visit to the West Indies as she had suspected her servants were robbing her. Phyllis’s theory is that her third husband died intestate (he was young) and she came into his fortune. After that one need only say with Defoe, “she at last grew rich and died a penitent.”
On the way down to the Station this afternoon I walked down Rockville Street [the street in Rock Ferry, Birkenhead, where he was born and where his family had first lived]. It must be about thirty-five years since I was there last. I was impressed by the general process of decay. The pillarbox has gone from the top of the road, the three great poplars from the gardens at the foot. The house we lived in, No. 7A, is spick and span and stands out in its red brick. The same thick privet hedges are there, and the side entry looks similar. But the tall privets have gone from 5A, and likewise the fine jasmine arch that was a delight every summer. The wall of 5A is knocked down to make space for a car without a garage. The cottage opposite is half derelict and boarded up, and the splendid lime tree has gone. There are far fewer trees than in the olden days. But the gabled house of Mrs Kay still stands, as do all the older and larger houses, like Mrs Brown’s.
February 1 Tuesday: The mild sunny weather continues. What is happening in it is a different matter. I rang Sister Brasier in the morning and learned Phyllis had had a miserable night, with pains in her back. I had been delayed by difficulties with the telephone but set off to go to the hospital, but now that Birkenhead’s magnificent bus service has been truncated I realised at the Fire Station that I would hardly arrive more than a few minutes before Mrs Stewart, so I returned. I could not settle to write however, and merely wrote to Enid Greaves and Peggy Evans. When I arrived at the hospital just before six I learned that Mr Hirsch had been in. They were treating the pain in the back with some concern, and had given an analgesic. She considered the trouble was pressure on the shoulder blades because she is now so thin. But sometimes there is a pain in the small of the back. One time she thought her back would break in two. I stayed and talked with her till after eight; she did indeed keep me talking so that I would not leave. The hours between eight and ten are the worst. On the other hand urination is regular and there seems to be no further swelling. She was talking about having seen the Danube at Regensburg and noting how fast it flowed and how it seemed to be flowing the wrong way, into the continent. I mentioned its name was Celtic and she recalled having tried her Welsh in Brittany and noting that though words like “hara”, “menin”, “dur” and such like were understood, they could not understand a Welsh sentence – only nouns.
When I spoke with Sister Brasier she was graver than usual. Once again she had missed Mr Hirsch. She agreed that the pains in the shoulders could be due to pressure, though there were such things as “referred pains” from the abdomen which affected the front of the shoulders. But, she thought the pains in the small of the back were more alarming. They were not anxious to give her strong sedatives. “We must keep them until she really needs them”. In other words the hope of getting her even a short spell of pseudo-health seems to have ebbed, though the injections seem to have arrested the ascites. “She is losing weight,” said Sister Brasier “and her strength is running down. But,” she concluded, “you can rely on us, Mr Greaves, we will see that she does not suffer acute pain.” So now the sinister shadow of morphine rises before us. I felt upset at this turn of events. Though nobody has given me the slightest encouragement to hope for the best, still the approach of the worst chills hopes one was not entitled in reason to hold.
Februry 2 Wednesday: Again in the morning the news was that Phyllis had had an uncomfortable night. I went into the hospital in the morning. Sister Brasier again said she was weaker, and I found her wrapped in gloom and hardly willing to speak. I returned in the evening. She now no longer felt ill – she had had an attack of vomiting after some pills last night – but was so tired that I had to sit in extremely dim light while she dozed or tried to doze. Yet the swelling still does not increase, and she admitted to making an effort to talk to her secretary this afternoon.
When I got back I found, when Fred Brown came in, that Anthea and her friend had come to look at the car for the first time for five weeks, and found the battery flat. Would I ring them and tell them if I agreed to its removal for re-charging? I did so. At the hospital while I was there Enid rang but Phyllis put her off visiting as she finds her tiring. Now Anthea said she thought of calling tomorrow as she would be in town. I told her only to call for a few minutes. Then Enid came to the phone, very anxious to be helpful but of course puzzled at the absence of any favourable developments. The doctors must be puzzled – unless they knew more than they were prepared to say… and so on. “They ought to tell you,” without reflecting maybe that I ought not to tell her. So I spoke of successful results from the injections and side-effects. The trouble is that Enid has been ill on and off all her life and is too damned familiar with the ways of these people. I decided to go in tomorrow early and compound the lies to be told with Sister Brasier, for Enid lacks discretion, even though both Sister Brasier and I fear that Phyllis’s own suspicions are becoming aroused. That meant putting off Sean Redmond who is coming tomorrow. He should be at Tom Redmond’s. I rang his Manchester number. It is out of order – the little rascal has probably not paid his bill!
February 3 Thursday: I rang the hospital and spoke to Sister Brasier. She was for Anthea making the visit, but I asked her to ask Phyllis, who said she preferred not. She had had another bad night. So I rang Enid Greaves to put her off. I met Sean Redmond at Central Station at 10.30 and we spent till he left on the 4.20 pm. discussing plans. In the course of the time we crossed the river by boat and took a bus to Thurstaton. But I am appalled at the rape of the Wirral. The old footpaths with their fine signposts are still there, but leaning on one side, often deep in mud, running through urban “sprawl”. The spinneys and courses are unprotected, the undergrowth destroyed by thousands of human feet. Beside them are the huge fields, and the owners no doubt want the public to destroy the woods for them without cost to themselves so that this land can be ploughed up. I doubt if it would be possible for any authorities to give less attention to preserving the amenities of their environment. Everywhere the speculative builder is on top.
I went in to see Phyllis at about 5 pm. Miss Stothard came in – she had suggested that I leave it till seven, but I had forgotten on learning Phyllis was not well. She left at 6.30. I am afraid Phyllis has gone down further. The ascites has returned, so that the injections did no permanent good. As Sister Brasier said, the younger the person, the more virulent the cancer. Phyllis is talking quietly now, complains she can no longer swallow pills, and occasionally gets nauseous and vomits. She could take no food. The room is full of flowers and she gets some pleasure from them. She tries to read a light book to keep her mind occupied. But for the three hours I was there she kept reiterating that she was weary of being ill, and sighing and complaining. All one can do is to be there, which is a help to her, and to sympathise. These next few weeks are going to be a bad time.
In the evening Anthea and her fiancé came to take away the battery of the car for recharging. Over the car Phyllis had said, “I couldn’t care less”. But I had it done to keep up the show.
February 4 Friday: I had a trying day, I fear possibly the first of many. Mrs Stewart telephoned that she was going in. So far so good. Then Laura Austin came on the line, inquisitive, persistent and unable to restrain her importunacy. When she asked had I heard from Mabel and Hilda and Dorothy, I said from all but Dorothy. This was a hint to her, whom we suspected always of being Dorothy’s intelligence agent. I mentioned, I think foolishly, that Dorothy had not communicated, and added that Phyllis had often visited her when she was in hospital. She came on the line later, impertinently demanding to know “what was the matter with Phyllis” and adding that “the family is in the dark”. I replied that it was open to anybody who wished for enlightenment to communicate with me, and that most had done so. Of couse she is not a member of the family – scattered thing that it is of people who correspond at Christmas and would have stopped doing so long ago in all probability but for Phyllis’s conscientiousness. But I spared her this point. She then announced that Dorothy was frequently asking her how Phyllis was, and that she was very concerned, indeed two weeks ago she had written to Laura Austin asking if she should come to see Phyllis. She now asked me. I replied in the negative. Then could she visit her? Again I replied in the negative. Ah, but she had known Phyllis as a little girl. Finally I grew annoyed and said the wishes of the patient were paramount. Of course one of the troubles, which I could not refer to, was that Laura Austin’s husband works in the Education Offices and this is the last place Phyllis wants discussion, or I want rumours that could get back to her. The morning bulletin was however more favourable.
When I got to the hospital, however, it was belied. Phyllis was very swollen again, very distressed and had scarcely eaten for two days. Mr Hirsch had been in but had suggested no further treatment. “What will they do to me next?” she asked. The urinary function has completely ceased, the other, however, resuming. The shots of pethidine get her some sleep, but the discomfort is constant. Again she said, “I wish you could get me better.” Mrs Stewart commented that she expressed her only criticism of Sister Brasier a few days ago, when Sister Brasier spoke to her assuming she felt worse. “She ought to be trying to keep my spirits up,” said Phyllis. What was this, asked Mrs Stewart. Was it that she decided to live in a land of false hope? It is as well if she does.
I told her about Dorothy’s alleged enquiry of two weeks ago. She was agreeable to my writing to Dorothy via Mabel since we have not her address, advising her not to come, saying we had only heard of the proposal, and my own purpose was to try to break the link between her and the other woman, and thus make sure all communications centre on the right place. Then she showed me a letter from Enid Greaves to the effect that she is now ill in bed, with some affection of the hip which is distorting the symmetry of her legs. “Very curious” was her doctor’s comment.
February 5 Saturday: I learned in the morning that Phyllis had had a “fair” night but was not at all well. I therefore went in the morning and found her very down in the dumps. She said that the narcotic now being administered does not give proper sleep but a nightmarish sensation. She found it a little hard to coordinate her eyes. She was aware that Mary Greaves had been treated with the same thing. Speaking of the possibility of another surgery (unfortunately out of the question) she wondered if she would survive it and told me of a letter she had written some months ago containing her last instructions. So it was a rather dreary interview. However, she still believes she may get well and was discussing how to clean the house. A letter came from Peggy Evans saying she was relieved by my sunshine stories, as she had been firmly convinced that Phyllis’s present illness was terminal. I did not write to Mable yet, hesitating to give meddlesome Mabbie too great an importance.
In the evening however Phyllis, who was now being subjected to the now familiar operation of drawing off liquid, was much more cheerful, almost defiantly so. She had expected to feel much worse and was quite elated. I saw Barrington in the day.
February 6 Sunday: I made a little progress with the short life of Connolly. But at 11 am. the telephone rang. An Irish voice asked if this was the Desmond Greaves of 124 Mount Road. At first I thought it was the hospital with a communication about Phyllis, but strangely enough I felt no alarm. I suppose I am in too close touch to expect the unexpected. Of all people it was Mairin Johnston, who told me in a very low grave voice that she was in trouble and wanted help. Helga had given my address. She would not disclose the trouble on the telephone but said she would write today. I ought to have been in Dublin today for the joint council but wrote to Cathal and told him to tell O’Riordan that I wouldn’t be. I told Mairin to be discreet and warned her that my freedom of action just now resembles that of a prisoner in jail.
I wrote to Mabel, Enid Greaves and Sean Redmond.
When I reached the hospital at 5.15 pm. I found Phyllis still under the effect of pethidine and rather sleepy. She seemed astonishingly relaxed and had no pain in the back. The liquid removed was less than it had been on the previous occasions, now about 6 pints. While I was present she had her first reasonable meal for a week and enjoyed it. Afterwards she grew quite lively, considering her condition, but naturally could not attain a good mood. She feels acutely the contrast when nurses run down the corridor or when I move quickly from my chair, talking about other peoples “bounding health and energy”. It is five weeks in the Women’s Hospital next Wednesday. She gets very downhearted, especially between 8 pm and 10 pm. She asked me to stay till 8.30, which I did. She tells me that Laura Austin has not kept in touch with her over the years and has absolutely no claim whatsoever. She came out of the blue to act as intermediary for Dorothy and her husband who works in the Education offices. No doubt her acute nose scented a mystery and being as well-meaning as a soft drink and as single-minded as a soda water siphon, she set busily about getting to the bottom of it and exploiting it for the circles with which she was in touch.
February 7 Monday: The expected letter did not come from Mairin. I spoke to Sean Redmond on the phone. The General Purposes Committee took place yesterday and Joe Deighan fought very hard to prevent Michael O’Riordan being invited at Easter [for a Connolly Association public meeting]. “We’ll just have a little one on our own,” he argued. Robbie Rossiter declared that Kyne [Tom Kyne, Labour TD] was traipsing round Waterford supporting the Trade pact and that the Irish must be shown that there was some hope at home. The only other doubtful person was Charlie Cunningham. The decision was arrived at against Joe Deighan’s vote. I asked if this meant Joe wanted to pull out. Sean said he didn’t know, and of course I am high and dry and unable to do very much.
In the morning I heard that Phyllis had “had an excellent night but had a pain which was being dealt with.” Would I ring back? I did so at 12.30 and heard that Mrs Stewart was coming and Phyllis suggested I should “look in for ten minutes.” This seemed odd, as it was accompanied by “if he likes”. I at first decided to go just after Mrs. Stewart would have left. But before 2 pm. Miss Stothard telephoned with a message from Phyllis that she felt ill but did not ask me to come. I then recognised the old hesitant formula and hurried over as quick as I could. Mrs Stewart was there and Phyllis disclosed that she had had a sudden and distressing pain on the right side, no longer in the abdomen but higher. It had reappeared this morning after threatening last night and its intensity had made her cry out. She had been given a sedative and now was merely “feeling mouldy”. After Mrs Stewart had gone her mind was still ranging over alternatives. Could she have another operation? Of if they could do nothing for her would she not be better off in a nursing home where she could have constant sedation? Could they tackle really serious pain? I told her Sister Brasier had guaranteed to me that they could. What would happen if the new pain coincided with a swollen abdomen and intestinal stress? I replied that so far there had been no such coincidence and it was better to be thankful for that than to anticipate its appearance. On the whole she was weaker, and no longer wanted food.
Miss Nicholas and Miss Stothard took in orange juice and I met them coming out at 6 pm. I found her no better, and alarmed at the return of the ascites. She has at last acquired a thirst and is drinking water, orange juice, lemon barley and so on. And as she is passing nothing the abdomen comes up quickly. They have discontinued the injections and the urination promoting drugs, and now take the blood count only at intervals. This gives her a feeling that “nothing can be done” and, as she says to me, the great trouble is that her condition does not permit her to forget herself even for a minute. She thanked God that AEG [their mother] was not here to see it, it would have worried her to death (That thought had crossed my mind too). I spoke to Sister Brasier who hoped to see Mr Hirsch tomorrow. Not of course that he can do a damned thing (It is characteristic of Phyllis that she feels sorry for Hirsch, who took so much trouble over her case and had so small success). Sister Brasier says, “We must simply go from day to day now. We can give her something stronger if she has more pain.” And Phyllis says, “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy – not that I have one”. That again is different from my position. I don’t suppose I did much more more injury to people than Phyllis did, but there are plenty who would think what she is suffering too good for me, notable among them O’Shea and Prendergast, plus quite a few of the Trotsky bunch. Her friends rally round her as if she was their own sister, and this is a great comfort to her. But there was a sinister ring to one of Sister Brasier’s remarks, “Her mind is still quite active”. I would hate to see the impairment of that wonderful little nervous system, so full of the quirks of personality, but so sterling in the warmth and directness of its emotions.
Mairin rang later on saying she had delayed posting her letter, hesitating lest its contents got out. I was the only one she could consult, not even Cathal and Helga. She rang from a call box. I had of course from the start guessed that there was some trouble with Roy. “Not political”, she says, “but confidential”. So we will see what other troubles come. Fred Brown came in to say that last night he was teaching Molly Hack to drive, and didn’t she drive the car into a tree in Bedford Drive and three of them had bumps on the head, and no car for three weeks. Jean is on her bicycle. What a time!
February 8 Tuesday: Contrary to all that might have been expected, Phyllis had the best night for quite a while and ate some lunch and tea. Hisrch went in, was concerned over the new sharp pain (which has not recurred) and offered no help over the rapidly swelling abdomen. The pethidine which disagreed with her at first no longer does so. But when I saw her in the evening there was a curious incident. “Will you do something for me and promise not to scold.” I am not in the habit of scolding sick persons, but I let that pass and said I wouldn’t scold. She then asked for her handbag and gave me two packets of sleeping pills. It was strictly against hospital regulations for her to have them. But she explained she got them before returning home from Ince-Blundell and had brought them in so that in the event of her suffering a really excruciating pain she could use them – I presume to make a quick end of it. I asked what was I to do with them. At first she said destroy them, then “put them in the bureau”; they might be useful when she got back home. So I brought them here and put them in the bureau. After a little work on Connolly I closed the day’s activities and turned to my own sleeping draught – a wee drop of Berncastler, for the existence of which I am not ungrateful at these times! The rain that went on all day yesterday went on all day today as well, and Phyllis’s friend Miss Holstead is laid up with influenza and has lost her voice. So has Sister Bethel. It was, incidentally, typical of Phyllis’s constant generous concern for other people that when she learned that Nurse Owen had become engaged she asked me to bring in a stainless steel bowl from her “presents drawer”, which she had bought in Denmark last August to give to somebody.
February 9 Wednesday: The letter from Mairin Johnston arrived, and it was a surprise. I had rather guessed that Roy might have caught up with some highly republican woman, and that Mairin was worried. But no, the reverse was true, and she is distracted with fear that her pregnancy will be discovered and is asking me if I can tell her of a way out. When I spoke to Sean Redmond on the phone he said a letter marked personal but seemingly from Cathal was there, so I decided to mark time till that came to hand. Unfortunately, Mairin has not indicated how I am supposed to reply without making a worse indiscretion. My feeling is that since Roy is such a bourgeois, and has anyway been neglecting her, it might just be possible to patch things up on a business basis, which would keep the home together and leave a workable partnership. It is his own bloody fault – we were trying to warn him last summer that a little less attention to “lofty political thought” and a little more to his own home would be in his interest. I certainly don’t want to see her subjecting herself to the attentions of some quack, and do not know enough to estimate what she could do herself. So possibly the difficult course is the wisest, I will see tomorrow.
When I rang the hospital in the morning I learned Phyllis had had a poor night and was not too well. Her deputy rang at 1 pm. and said she had brightened up. All her friends are taking in orange juice, squeezed out of genuine oranges which is not the custom in these fool times, and greatly appreciated. When I saw her at 6 pm. she seemed bright enough. The swelling continues however and she has a nagging “stomach ache” very hard to relieve. I would say her condition had not appreciably worsened over the past week, but she says she is weaker. Her only pleasure, since eating and drinking are mostly a bore to her, is in the visits which people pay her, which help to prevent the time from dragging.
I wrote to Joe Deighan after getting his address from Sean Redmond. I hope I shall have succeeded in persuading him to withdraw his opposition to O’Riordan coming to speak. I heard incidentally that James Klugman does want the article for Marxism Today! A nuisance, really.
February 10 Thursday: The letter from Cathal arrived, but it threw no light on the Mairin Johnston crux. I replied to it and enclosed a message to Michael O’Riordan. Sean Redmond had told me that Orme [Stanley Orme, Labour MP] told him an election is tipped for the next two months, so I explained Mahon’s refusal of the meeting on that basis, and invited him to speak to the Connolly Association.
The morning bulletin on Phyllis was that after a poor night she was markedly better. When I saw her in the evening, she said she had had one of the best days since her sickness returned. But of course best is not good. “I wouldn’t mind how long it took,” she said “if I could only see a glimmer of light at the end. But I keep turning it over in my mind. If only I’d done that sooner”. This must refer to going to the doctor. And it is clear that her weak spot has been unwillingness to abandon pre-arranged plans. Even now she likes to arrange every detail for herself, and this has to be respected. I asked Sister Brasier how long could this go on. “A month at the outside”, she replied.
February 11 Friday: I sent the letter to Mairin via Helga. In the absence of a short cut I advised her to consider having it out with Roy and the two of them try to contrive an acceptable solution [The pregnancy in due course was brought to term and her second daughter was born]. I found Phyllis her worst yet. Liquid is being drawn off again. I stayed with her during the midday period and went for lunch while Mrs Stewart took over. She was hardly able to speak. Hirsch came in while I was at lunch. I had gone over partly with the intention of contacting him to urge him to try to do something to relieve the sense of hopelessness that is descending over her. Even now I find it hard to accept that nothing more can be done, though it is obvious that if it were to be done Hirsch would know of it and do it. Perhaps I will get him on Tuesday. I called in at 115 Mount Pleasant [ie. the Liverpool CPGB office] and Cohen told me that some Young Socialists and others wanted me to address them. This will not go against Phyllis, unless she is very bad when I will cancel it, as she is very concerned at the disorganisation of my affairs and is very pleased when I can fit something in, or can tell her I have written an article. When I returned she was in the gloomiest state of all, wishing she had “popped off” during the operation. My mind went back to the first conversation I had with Hirsch, and this partly no doubt explains his continuing close attention to the case. “He’s a nice man,” says Phyllis, “I’m really sorry for him.” It was decided to cut out pethidine and the other drug and try Sodium Amytal to get her to sleep tonight. I asked if they still used old morphine, but they said that while they did, they did not think it acted quickly enough. I know it used to send me to sleep 28 years ago this month.
February 12 Saturday: Two letters came, one from Sean Redmond, the other from Joe Deighan. In his account of things Sean alleged emotionalism and confusion in Joe Deighan, and when I opened Joe’s found the finding confirmed. The essence of his objection is really that he was not consulted by Sean. But he doesn’t appear to be up in arms. Possibly my letter soothed wounded vanity.
The telephone bulletin was another bad night. The sodium amytal did not appear to have much effect and Phyllis lay awake for hours. Today there was great consultation. The drainage was complete. But Phyllis noticed that Sister Brasier avoided her question as to how much was drawn off, and (I imagine – I dare not suggest it) connected this with the development of a progressive swelling of her ankles and feet. All the old symptoms are back which the operation was intended to cure. “It all seems sometimes like a dream,” she said, illustrating the mind’s desire to shed reality grown unbearable. “I wish it was!” She is now to have sedative tablets three times a day. The first effect of these was to relax her, and enable her to “flop, while not feeling too bad”. All this is, of course, a kind of protracted legal form of euthanasia. It is hard not to give at least consideration to her preference for “popping off” in the operation. It might well have been better for her, though worse by far for me, as I have had the satisfaction of seeing an attempt made to save her. Yesterday I got her Schloer, as she wanted apple juice, today peaches, which she can still enjoy in a half-hearted kind of way. I tried to amuse her with account of the students’ “rag” that was going on today. But she remains deeply depressed and weak and weary. And while I was there an unfortunate woman (about the fourth this week) was drawn past moaning on a trolley, and an oldish woman, later joined by a young man, remained hours on a settee waitng to hear if she had survived the operation. Fred Brown called in with some flowers from Jean Hack. He is to buy a brand new car and “Mollie is not to drive it. She is useless to teach; she talks instead of listening”. Apparently her talk took them up the tree. And to cap everything, isn’t his father (aged 85) in hospital with carcinoma of the bladder, which they have disclosed to him saying he is too old for them to operate!
February 13 Sunday: I wrote to Sean Redmond and Joe Deighan, sending the former some resolutions. When I rang the hospital I learned that Phyllis had had a “fair” night and was more relaxed. Miss Stothard, whom I spoke to, said she was visiting her this afternoon. That was how I managed to get the work done. When I went myself in the evening, she was sunk in gloom. She was “doped”. She couldn’t read. A letter had come from Peggy Evans, very happy at my (over-optimistic, and deliberately so) letter. Phyllis said it was hard for her to concentrate even to the extent of reading it. She then told me that the key to the locked drawer in her bedroom (where she keeps her will) was in the bunch of keys in her handbag. “You don’t want anything out of it now,” I asked, pretending not to follow the implication. Later, possibly as the drug wore off, I persuaded her to read her book. She was very delighted when she found she could, and I was pleased with my initiative. “Do you think I’ve tried hard enough?” she asked me – when the courageous little soul has been battling for her life like a lioness for six months! I arranged with Sister Brasier to spread out the sedation so that she gets spells when she can read or talk. The trouble is that the fluid is collecting again, even now, and she says that less is removed each time. And yet when after returning home I spoke with Miss Stothard on the telephone, I was told she was “brighter today” and had been talking about leaving the Women’s Hospital and going to the nursing home called “Lourdes”. So even now she is planning. And for all the sedation she misses nothing. I thought I saw a slightly raised area on her arm. “Surely that couldn’t be a blood-stream secondary so soon!” I exclaimed to myself and looked more closely. “What are you looking at?” she demanded. “Nothing,” I said, and then added, “the newspaper”. So it seems as if she alternates between hope and depression.
I called up to Enid Greaves in the morning to take Anthea the little present. Actually the 21st birthday is not till late March, but I was glad we could make the gift now, and Anthea can write to her tomorrow. Will Pemberton is an extremely sensible person, astute, stable and intelligent. He entirely agreed with my general plan relating to visitors – the patient is at the centre of the scheme of things.
February 14 Monday: In the morning Sister Brasier reported another poor night, and said Phyllis was very depressed. I had taken her in Schloer, which she grew to like so much that her secretary telephoned for me to bring another bottle, which I did, at about 5 pm. When I got there I found Sister Brasier had gone off on holiday (two days late) and Sister Bethyll, the Welsh girl, and a very nice person, was back. Phyllis had been having discomfort and had been given a lot of pethidine. She was trying to sleep and asked me not to go in, but to come for ten minutes later on. This was a new procedure and I didn’t like it. When I got back, at 7.30 pm., I found her distressed and on the verge of tears. She was however anxious that I should keep an appointment I had told her about. I decided to keep them waiting and did not leave till 8 pm., the nominal end of visiting hours, though of course they do not restrict me at all.
I went to a meeting of a “Marxist discussion group” in the house of Mahomed Abdulla, a geologist at the university, to speak on “Marxism and Religion”. I seldom saw the middle class so near its dimmest. One cynical young man with a beard claimed to know Alderman Sefton, who leads the Liverpool Labour party and is responsible for ruining the centre of his own city, let alone half the County Merioneth. Apparently he also is quite cynical. Labour can do nothing but work the capitalist system, and hope by getting into “positions of power” to see that following its inevitable collapse things can be “swung to the left” rather than produce fascism. I remarked that it was to be hoped that he was not put to the test. He might decide to get into positions of power under fascism and wait till that collapsed.
February 15 Tuesday: I heard Phyllis had had a better night and was brighter. I went in at midday and found cheery Miss Stothard getting her to eat her lunch by telling the school gossip. When she had gone Phyllis was calmer and more composed than last night. I spoke of getting better. “I don’t think there’s much chance, Des,” she said, “I may be wrong of course”. Then she told me, “if anything happened” to destroy some leather-bound diaries, which of course I said I trusted I would not be called upon to do. But the pretence grows thin. The abdomen is swelling again, the ankles, and now the right leg, hampering her movement. She is thirsty, and drinks ice-cold Schloer with pleasure, but is afraid of adding to the hydropsy. It is most difficult to drug her to sleep. “My brain is all right,” she said, “though I am relaxed by the pethidine.” So the problem is an extremely difficult one.
I wrote to Sean Redmond thinking it wisest to get him to produce the March issue. And to make things worse the mild weather has given place to snow and sleet. Then he rang up and told me I had forgotten to enclose the Comment proposals [presumably an article for the CPGB publication, “Comment”] in my last letter.
This morning I rang and learned Phyllis had had a better night. But I went in at midday and found Miss Stothard persuading her to eat, and talking school gossip with her which she greatly enjoys. Later she spoke of swelling. I left before Hirsch had arrived. In the evening I found her worse, but quite composed and wanting to talk seriously. The dropsy had extended from right foot to the groin and had joined the ascites. “This is a sudden rapid change,” she told me. Hirsch had come in and said next to nothing. The hospital had presented their bill which runs till tomorrow and Hirsch his for 35 guineas, which Phyllis thought plenty for coming in twice a week and looking at her. If his efforts had proved successful however no doubt this would have been regarded differently. She had fully accepted the position that nothing could be done, but was worried about pain. “Don’t think I’m frightened of ‘pegging out!’ she said, “but I am of intense pain.” I repeated the assurances I had received from Sister Brasier. I hope they prove valid.
She then asked me to take away a legal envelope addressed to myself which contained her last instructions and revised will. She had first altered the will she made before leaving for America, and was going to leave Mrs Stewart £1000. Then she realised that this would embarrass her and had reduced the amount and made it a payment for a holiday. There were also instructions as to whom was to be given her things, and a verbal request to see that Anthea got £100. She wanted to talk now as she might be too deeply drugged later to be capable of it. She said she was leaving things in a mess – papers in three places, and felt she had not done very wisely, “this saving craze” she spoke of. “I had expected to have to keep mother for many years – and then she died. I was terribly upset.” And that was certainly true. She referred to the photograph she took of Richard [Richard Greaves, one of their uncles], Mary Greaves [an aunt], AEG [their mother], U.Basil Willshire [Mary Greaves’s husband] and herself. “Now there’ll be none of them left.” Everything went wrong after she got her cottage, which she had wanted all her life – friends went away, her school contracted, she has fifteen on her staff now whereas she had many more previously; then the comprehensive education scheme began, and finally she took the ovarian cyst. She knew they could be malignant, and it was clear that they had not succeeded in getting it away. She referred to AEG’s funeral. I had remarked that Elsie Greaves [a cousin] was very good to offer to come in her car and take her to Cornwall, and that Enid Greaves [another cousin] wanted to help, and added, “The Greaveses were always practical; the others were able to give plenty of hysterics but little help”. She agreed – hadn’t they had a fit of the giggles on the way to AEG’s funeral. At the same time while she admitted to similarities with Mary Greaves, she thought she had the “Taylor nervous temperament”. Every illness she had had involved her in inability to sleep.
After I got home I reflected on the financial settlement, and wondered if it was not expected that she would last the night. I therefore rang the hospital on the pretext that I wanted to make sure they had my telephone number and told them to be sure and ring me if there were any bad developments, as I would be over there in half an hour. That is, of course, always assuming that Murphy’s have a taxi handy.
February 16 Wednesday: I was telephoned in the morning by Miss Stothard who said she was going in at midday, but that the afternoon visitor was not able to go. I therefore went in myself at 3 pm. – after Mrs Phillips had started work on the house, and remained till about 4.20. I came back to 124 Mount Road and, as somebody was going in at 6 pm., I went at about 6.35 pm. Phyllis was surprisingly calm and collected, in complete possession of her faculties, and more talkative. She felt “not bad” but her huge leg feels numb, and little blisters are appearing on the skin. Naturally she wonders what else is to happen. She asked me to remain after 8 pm. which I did. I was leaving at 9.30 and had said goodbye to her when the night sister told me I could remain longer if I wished. I declined and came home, all the time thinking I was mistaken not to have seized the opportunity. There is a kind of dynamism in a decision which carries you with it. Because, of course, she might not last the night, and she was wide awake and my presence might help her. Not that she was dissatisfied at my leaving. Her face was wreathed in smiles. She was pleased I had stayed so long. She told me she could in her imagination hear AEG playing Beethoven’s Pathétique sonata, and said that she had adopted my suggestion of trying to rest her mind on pleasant recollections, but sometimes she did not wish to be reminded of days when things were good. She hoped my forthcoming book would be a great success and that I would be careful not to go on the booze like Harley Greaves! I can readily promise that it won’t get the better of me, but I can hardly undertake to sign the pledge [i.e. to abstain totally from alcohol]. She was however quite relieved when I assured her that she need not worry. A letter from Enid Greaves had come during the day. Apparently she is better. But she is talking about Phyllis going to her in Cornwall in April, and this makes Phyllis very sad. But it would be impossible to imagine a more courageous and dignified character.
February 17 Thursday: I telephoned and learned that Phyllis had at last had a good night. Then I spoke to Sean Redmond on the telephone. He told me that Cathal Goulding had been arrested for posessing a gun when his car was stopped. He is in jail. Sean commented that it was a pity he hadn’t more sense; they were like children playing soldiers. Then I went to the hospital. Phyllis had had a Unitarian clergyman to see her, a friend of Mrs Stewart who had helped her with a school exhibition. And Miss Dickenson and Miss May were there when I went in. Phyllis was sitting up in bed, looking a little haggard, but was holding court like a queen, and pronouncing on whatever was put up to her. I went home and returned at 6 pm. At about 9.30, after a period in which she had seemed brighter than usual, she noticed her pyjamas coat wet. Had she spilled water? No. It was obvious she was exuding liquid through the puncture from which the last fluid had been drawn. She was thoroughly frightened (“I keep thinking what next?” she said) and rang for the nurses. I waited while they used wads of dressing to absorb it. A pleasant little Welsh woman, Sister Roberts, observed to me that “actually it’s a blessing in disguise. It often happens and it means we don’t have to tap her again”. She was badly shaken by the experience, and I had to stay till 10.30 pm., holding her hand until she pronounced herself “all right”. She says she is not afraid to die, but dreads pain. The sister could only promise to make her “as comfortable as we can”. The hydropsy is still extending. A cage had to be brought in to raise the bedclothes off her lower limbs, and now the left side is following suit. “Unfortunately,” she said “I still feel strong, and my brain is perfect.” I told her it was not necessarily unfortunate that her brain was perfect, as this enabled her to draw consolation from visitors and not retire into an inner world. By the time I got back to 124 Mount Road I was beginning to feel some strain myself, and had a slight toothache. I made some chicken and rice, drank a bottle of wine and went to bed.
February 18 Friday: Again the morning bulletin was a good night. As nobody else was going in the afternoon I went in and found her quite bright and talkative. But the Kilkenny girl, Trainee Nurse Keating, had gone out to a late dance, returned in the small hours, got up worn out, and dropped Phyllis’s good orange juice out of the refrigerator. The Spanish nurse who hardly speaks English was sent to explain. Phyllis told me she was not pleased and said so. “I’m getting irritable now,” she said. She found this in a number of things and mentioned it to the Matron. “You’ve been such a good patient,” she replied, “that you are entitled to all the tantrums you want”. She also assured her that there were unlimited stocks of towels and dressings. As a result of the leakage the hydropsy of the abdomen had gone down, but not of the legs, the left now slowly joining the right. Moreover a cage is now permanently above them to lift off the bed clothes. “Do you know what the course of the disease is now likely to be?” she asked. And of course I do not.
A letter came from Elsie Greaves, long and cheery, and I took it to Phyllis at 7 pm. – in the meantime buying some oranges, squeezing them out, finding the screw-topped jar I intended to carry the juice in hinted of honey, swilling it with bleach, then glucose to remove the bleach – all to lose half of it because the jar leaked. Once more I found her bright and talkative. She had the matron up to deal with Hirsch’s cheque and is determined not to lose a penny of her National Health or other entitlements. At about 7.30 pm. Hirsch himself came in. The little student nurse didn’t know who he was and came in to tell Phyllis “a gentleman” had come to see her. “Who is he? Ask his name!” demands Phyllis. “I might’t want to see him”. She came back with the name “Mr Hirsch”. I spoke to her while he was examining Phyllis. She had asked his name and he replied, “I’m the man who operated on her”. “Complete puncture” was her summary of it. When Hirsch came out I asked him the position. “I’ve got them to tilt the bed up. But it’s rather sad. There’s nothing to be done”. I told him she was aware of that and her sole fear was acute pain. “Well, we’ve any amount more dope here,” he replied. “What she’s having is nothing.” But the Night Sister ascribed her improved nights to increased sedation she was not told about. The better sleep has made her more interested in food. She thoroughly enjoyed today’s meals. She thinks of dishes she would like, such as the mutton with celery AEG used to make – it seems as if AEG is constantly in her thoughts. She tackled me for having (as a boy of fifteen!) called her stupid, and for never ONCE having let her beat me at chess. Of course I did not say anything. Apparently I had said she was stupid when told to help her with her homework – something I was far too impatient to do, and would want to get out of. She then suggested I should keep her cottage but thought it might be inaccessible without a car. The nearest shop is four miles away. But she also says that nothing went right since she got it; friends left the district, the school came under threat of the axe, and her sickness came on. She had everything within reason that she wanted by then, but all collapsed. She asked me what I would do if the same befell me. I replied that that was hard to say. She was looking for certainties. “Elsie Greaves would help,” she said, “she is a very practical person. She had a lump and was in hospital in a week. But it was nothing.” There is no doubt that Elsie has shown up best of all the relatives. But she still awaits an X-ray result on her hip. Phyllis then said that before she died Mary Greaves suggested that in her will she should remember Enid’s two daughters. “I’ve not done so,” she said, “but I just mention it to you. I think Enid herself will look after them well enough”. It was near 10 pm. when I left.
February 19 Saturday: I went to Grange Road and bought a beret and a new anorak. It was pouring rain but cleared and became mild on my way back. Then I went to see Barrington. Doherty had not been in, so we must write him off, I fear. I called in to the hospital and saw Miss Stothard there. Phyllis looked very haggard and tired. She had had a very good night, but the sudden energy which enabled her to wash herself has evaporated. I returned just before 7 pm. and stayed till 9.30 pm. She said she felt “rotten”. The bed had been put flat, and the drainage had been reduced. She was immobile and could not even move herself; a terrible trial. This coloured everything in her outlook. When last night she had complained, I reminded her (to cheer her) that her life had not been unsuccessful. She was held in very high regard, and she had travelled the world and had many wonderful holidays. Tonight she was ready with her rebuttal. She hadn’t had a good life at all. She did not want to drive a car; she had preferred her bicycle. She had learned to drive so as to give AEG some pleasure. But now she was too old to cycle. Now what did this all amount to but that youth is fleeting? For AEG only survived six years after CEG died [their parents]. Then she said the war meant that six years were wasted. Yet they were years in which she was able to advance in her profession. Again, “everything in my life was dictated to me by external circumstances.” Well, of whom is that untrue? And only two years ago did she get her cottage and begin to get things she wanted. Well, many have waited as long. It was not true that she got many of the things she wanted. Then she must have wanted a hell of a lot. Of course I did not answer on any of these accounts. The fact is that she has one great over-riding legitimate grievance. Irrespective of what her life was like, it is being arbitrarily and underservedly curtailed in a horrible manner. The bitter frustration of this is spilling sourness over even the most cherished memories. And then she starts pitying me. “You’ll have nobody to keep an eye on you – and you need it.” I am the only one who never borrowed a penny off Mary Greaves! And this is her legitimate self-pity being projected on to me. A few hours of this every evening is no recipe for a nice calm rest. But there it is. What can one do?
February 20 Sunday: The mild weather having returned I am hoping the back of the winter is now broken. But I did not go out till evening. Again the bulletin at midday was a good night. When I got in however Phyllis was very quiet. Yet she is as unmistakeably herself as ever. She apologises for “not being more chatty” and warns me that she is getting irritable and to take no notice. She says she thinks I am getting hard of hearing, since I ask her to repeat things. It is also, of course, because of the weakening of her voice, though I would not be surprised if the deafening row in Grays Inn Road [where the Connolly Association office was] had had its effect. She was worried about how Miss Stothart will get home after she takes my place tomorrow night. And she also asked me how things were proceeding in Rhodesia. She finds it an effort to read the paper. She also said she would like an avocado pear. She had never tasted one, and felt like trying something new provided it was acid. I told her avocado was not, but suggested paw-paw. She has not however my penchant for bland tropical fruits. I left at about 9.15.
I had scarcely got home when Tom Redmond rang, asked about Phyllis, and offered to do the meeting tomorrow night. I had thought of his doing it, but decided on balance to do it myself. About a half hour later Cathal rang. He had got the phone number at the GPO. He was very upset about the bad turn in Phyllis’s affairs, and sent Helga’s good wishes. He said Cathal Goulding had been “obliging somebody” when he was apprehended. A letter was following.
February 21 Monday: A letter from Toni Curran enclosing cheques to be signed arrived. She said that Dorothy Deighan had a “love-hate” relationship to the book job and was still doing it. The expected letter from Cathal also came, very sympathetic, but conscious of total impotence. He had been to Limerick with Tony Meade [editor of the Republican monthly, the “United Irishman”, in Dublin] who told him they modelled their journalism on the Democrat, “though you might not think it,” adds Cathal, “in view of last month’s headline.” I spoke to Sean Redmond on the telephone and he told me he had a prominent Trade Unionist for Easter. I urged him to try and get Betty Sinclair or Jimmy Graham from Belfast. He very kindly offered to go down specially to Soho to look for paw-paws and avocado pears for Phyllis. Miss Stothard rang saying that she had seen her at midday and asked her to ring me to ask me to take in more Schloer. “I’ll get it for you,” said Miss Stothard. But no. She delicately declined to deprive me of something I could do for her. I must bring it. And of course this pleased me.
But when I got there with the Schloer and a huge box of paper handkerchiefs she was the worst I yet saw her. She did not even have the energy to thank me for them. “I feel distressed,” she said. She recovered for a while when Miss Hanley came in. She requested a National Health form for Wednesday. Miss Hanley gave it at once. Phyllis was pleased at the enquiries from Cathal, Sean Redmond and Tom Redmond. But she was showing signs of irritability when I asked a question when she was eating. “I’m sorry to be cross,” she added, “eating is such an effort.” I left at 7.15, as Miss Stothard had come to relieve me. Phyllis only wanted to sleep. “I feel sleepy all the time now,” she said “I wonder if they’ve increased the night dose.” And indeed that is just what they have done. But it is slowly going to rob me of Phyllis. I went to Garston to fulfil the engagement with the Young Socialists. At 10 pm. I rang the hospital and learned, “she is still very under the weather” and was told, “maybe tomorrow she’ll be her bright self again.” Hospital bulletins my arse! It is a pity they can’t think of something more imaginative.
February 22 Tuesday: I spoke a little to Sean Redmond on the telephone. Then his fruit arrived, no paw-paw, but avocado, mango and lychee. I took them over unexpectedly and stole perhaps a last dim glimpse of Phyllis. She was very pleased, and enlivened sufficiently to sit up in bed and drink a quarter bottle of champagne I had taken over – given to her by a friend at Christmas. She “enjoyed it” but suggested a slightly sweeter one. “I might as well have anything that I like, and if it makes me dopier between times all the better.” Then she repeated the complaint, “I’m sleepy all the time. I wonder what makes me sleepy?” I had reassured her with Hirsch’s words that there was still a big margin. But she checked this with Sister Bethill, who told her that she was “heavily sedated”. She had told Mrs Stewart and Miss Stothard the unfavourable prognosis. “It’s a shame!” was her comment. She is badly swollen again and complains that her memory is beginning to weaken on recent things.
In the afternoon I worked on the front page of the paper and returned to the hospital at 6 pm. Two of her friends had been there in the afternoon. She was back in an apathetic torpor, yet not so much that she could not ask me to be sure to fill in her National Health form tomorrow. And she insisted on holding her own teacup. “They’ve all been trying to persuade me to use a feeding cup,” she remarked, “but I’m in no hurry. I suppose it will come to that.” When the night nurse adverted to the subject, she insisted on being hoisted up, despite the discomfort, and remarked, “I’m not in a hurry to come so low as that.” So there is Phyllis, still the same. I detected a deep-seated sullen resentment at what life has done to her. There is a constant irritability in her tone, a peevish hopelessness, which springs from a quite proper total absence of resignation. She complains that Dorothy did not reply to my letter or write her a line, and that little has come from the others barring Mabel. Finally, she comments, “I hope it doesn’t drag out much longer. I’m here seven weeks tomorrow.” She has so far retreated within herself that she says nothing about the house except to bemoan the “heartbreak” that she cannot see her daffodils now in bud which she is so fond of. I decided then to give her no more news of the garden. To most things now she merely grunts or faintly nods her head.
February 23 Wednesday: I learned on the telephone that Phyllis had had a good night, was slightly brighter, but that she had been tilted to bring the water from her lower limbs. I spoke to Sean Redmond, then to Mrs Stewart. I mentioned that Phyllis had been sunk in gloom last night, and I thought maybe she tired herself making an effort to put on a show for the afternoon visitors. “Yes,” she replied, “and I feel that sometimes she makes the effort for people who don’t matter.” But of course I have a sympathy for her, as she has from the start worked to retain her position and her personality. Then Mrs Stewart remarked that she had been saying things which nobody would have said if they expected to survive long. Perhaps the disease was depressing, as tuberculosis made people optimistic. “I feel,” she went on, “that Phyllis is gradually receding out of my life, and I can do nothing about it. What causes this?” “The gradual build-up of sedatives.”
When I got there she was sitting up and I thought talking with Ruth May. She said she was hardly speaking, but I heard voices when I entered. I went for a whiskey and soda while they finished their talk. Then there was two hours of questions – not however so bad as last night’s. “There should be euthanasia.” said Phyllis “It’s common sense. I feel rotten”. I saw Sister Brasier and told her Phyllis had put two and two together and was miserable and wanted the end. She said in due time they will have to give heroin, which creates a sense of well-being, and is habit-forming so that patients ask, “when’s my injection coming?” But of course their mental processes are at an end. Mr Hirsch was inclined to delay this. I said I agreed, and that as long as the lighter sedation could make things bearable, we must try to stop her retreating into herself and keep her in touch with the outside world. I think I succeeded to some extent in this. I told her how bad we all felt at our impotence. “Don’t upset me,” she said – but her interest had been shifted to other people. She asked had I a cold. I usually deny it, this time I admitted it. “Everything’s gone to pot,” was her comment. She said that Dorothy’s failure to write her a line was “disgusting”. When Dorothy went into hospital, her husband telephoned for the loan of Phyllis’ bedjacket, which she washed specially, though she was unwell herself, and took in. I told her I had today written to Mabel with a sly allusion to this and she was pleased. So all in all, I was more successful than I feared. But it cannot be long now before we bid goodbye to her. She says that the swelling has now affected her thighs and buttocks.
February 24 Thursday: The morning bulletin was that Phyllis was “brighter”. When Miss Stothard told me that she was liveliest at midday, and still felt she could “entertain”visitors and preside, I decided that I was not going to be deprived of the pleasure of seeing a vestige of her old self, so I went to see her at noon. It was undoubted that she was better. I think also that she is enjoying one of the temporary upswings. I left at about 12.30, called in to 115 Mount Pleasant, met the secretary of the University Communist Society, and then came back. In the evening again she was much more responsive. But one curious conversation related to her position at the hospital. It is of course desperately noisy, with traffic thundering past outside scurrying about the sacred duty of making money, nurses clicking their heels above, bellowing down the corridor below, clanging bedpans and clashing the doors of the lift. Then there is the routine, cups of tea at 6 am. for those whose final sedative may be as late as 10.45 pm. and the perpetual looking at the patient. Wouldn’t she be better in a Catholic place, she asked. I doubted it. Then she started counting her material resources. Three weeks from now her insurance coverage runs out. She must find £55 a week. “But I can go on for eighteen months on my capital. But what then?” I said I would help out, inwardly wondering how a person could be talking euthanasia one night and eighteen months the next. Was she beginning to lose the sense of realities? I objected to her unfitness to travel in an ambulance. What about the bedcage? “I’d come to no harm without it for an hour.” I left it at that and said, “Well, you must do what you think best”. But then it was would the hospital want the room she had got. Afterwards I was half-inclined to think she was trying to draw from me some indication of the length of time she has to live. She claims that the medical people are “masters of evasion”, which they are, but she is not far from being a mistress of subtle probing. One thing was good. The staff of her school decided to consult her on the appointment of a new teacher. It was a young man. And Phyllis listened to the pros and cons and gave her pronouncement in favour.
February 25 Friday: I got through more of the Marxism Today article. The morning bulletin was “a good night and much brighter”. So I did not go in till 6 pm. Enid Greaves called with some flowers, and offers of any help needed if the worst came to the worst. She asks no questions, and shows that same streak of practicality that Mary Greaves and Elsie Greaves has. When I got to the hospital I found Phyllis much more contented in her mind, and bright indeed in a way, but not strong enough to talk much. She had thought over my arguments and decided they were sound. But what if the hospital wanted her out, and sent her to some horrible place (which happened to somebody a year or two ago, she was told) would I see that she was got into a good nursing home. I am afraid I had to reply in the affirmative with more certainty than I should have liked. For of course there will be no move. But it does seem as if she has not a realisation of the shortness of her time, and so there is another line of mental protection thrown up. Hirsch had been in again, but said nothing. Miss Hanley had sent up a new kind of underlay which gave greater comfort. But she took a third sedative pill. I expressed surprise, and she replied “Oh – two’s the minimum”. I thought I detected an incipient addiction, though possibly I was wrong. There was something in her manner affectionate towards the pill! Sister Brasier told me she had been more talkative than for some time. “She came in and talked to me” replied Phyllis. When Sister Brasier returned from holiday Phyllis was in her lowest dumps, so that she sees the improvement by contrast. She was delighted with Enid Greaves’s flowers and letter.
In the bright sunny afternoon I took photographs of the spring flowers in Phyllis’s garden so that she will not be totally deprived of the benefit of them.
February 26 Saturday: The morning bulletin was the same. I called in for a few minutes at midday and found Phyllis reasonably bright. But in the evening she was silent again, and told me that her sole pleasure was when she was doped with drugs. It is almost impossible for her to summon interest in anything, except perhaps her school, where one of her colleagues has died suddenly and they are all trying to keep it from her. A letter from Mabel came, and one from Dorothy whom Mabel had (I imagine) been “talking to”. Phyllis was not very interested. She complains that it is ceasing to be a pleasure to eat peaches or drink Schloer, as her “taste has gone”, and the swelling gives her fierce discomfort. She also now feels so dependent on the nurses that she is afraid of complaining about anything, though of course there is no necessity, and their refrigerator is full of her things, while they take in and out morning and night no less than nine or ten different vases of flowers or bowls of plants. I finished the article for Marxism Today. I am not very sure that I am pleased with it. What could anybody do in these circumstances?
February 27 Sunday: I finished the Marxism Today article, but fear it is too long. I did some of the typing. Fred Brown came in and said that his father had died at Clatterbridge, aged 84. This was on Friday. The morning bulletin from Phyllis was “no change”. I saw her in the evening. She was very disconsolate and slightly irritable. When I said I thought her salad looked delicious, she was quite angry. “You eat it then!” Then she said I would make a much more complicated one, and that Sister Brasier had forgotten her enema and she could not enjoy the salad she had been looking forward to. Nor was she prepared to ask for one tomorrow. “My only pleasure is when I’m doped with pills,” she said, and one could see from the way that she asked for her third that she is “hooked”. Nevertheless she wants to see Mabel’s letter. “I have less to say every day,” she remarked, again denying that she was talkative to anybody else.
Late at night Mrs Stewart telephoned. She opened up a new subject with as much tact as she was capable of. It confirmed and explained some things. She had seen Phyllis one afternoon and found her very overwrought and talking about religion. She told Mrs Stewart she wanted a religious service at her funeral, and that in view of her somewhat vague beliefs she suggested it should be Unitarian. I replied that when I opened Phyllis’s sealed letter of instructions, I would do what that said, and had no objection to the Unitarians. It struck me that it would be one in the eye for those born Methodists who treated AEG so scurvily when CEG died, and forced her to move to another church, now I hear knocked down. But Phyllis might have changed her mind. If there were no instructions I said I would still have a religious burial, for the sake of her friends, but it would be Church of England, as that is liable to offend nobody, meaning as little as it does. “I think Phyllis used to share your views on religion,” said Mrs Stewart, but I was not going to be drawn. Now I think I understand the cancelling of the £1000 as I found it hard to see how the present of a thousand pounds could embarrass anybody. So it seems that Mrs Stewart’s proselytizing has cost her a few bob. I must add that I was not really pleased at the whole thing, but it is just like Phyllis to arrange everything without telling you. I would however be very prepared to tolerate her idiosyncrasies a few years longer!
February 28 Monday: I got little sense out of the early bulletin. Speaking with Sean Redmond on the telephone I suggested he do something about Geoffrey Bing, who was a good enough friend of ours at one time. He told me that old Adams, of the chop-house, died of cerebral haemorhage a fortnight after the shop closed. And I knew already that Molly Mandell had died. This year is a slaughter of the innocents! At the hospital at 6 pm. I found Phyllis very ill. She had been sick all night and part of the day, and blames Sister Brasier’s forgetting the enema for it. She had it this morning and it was the worst of all. I sat from 6 pm. till 9 pm. and there was very little out of her. Yet the same personality is still there. She asked me to find some wool out of which she was going to knit a bed-jacket for Mrs Stewart. She wants now to give her the wool. She says “everything tastes rusty” and that this morning she could not tell if her drink was tea or coffee, and the food is not tasting of anything. “Its a wicked shame!” she says of her illness. “I wouldn’t have wished all this trouble on you and my friends.” When she said it would not be necessary for me to come in the afternoon if nobody else came as she was so sleepy, I said I would do it. “Its not much fun for you.” “True”, I replied, “But I’m glad to be able to see you at all”. She lit up at this, and I was glad to be able to give any pleasure. Before this, I noted how while asleep she gives periodic sharp starts which waken her. I also noted the first signs of involuntary (or seemingly involuntary) slight smiles and on one occasion a sound of non-recognition of where she was. This of course was before the effect of the pill wore off.
However I was able to solve the tea-coffee mystery. Nurse Archer, who told me she was tired of lying to another patient who is unaware of her complaint, and though on her feet will go before Phyllis, said “She was right. One of the nurses had made the tea in a coffee pot.” This was maybe the attractive young Kilkenny girl who stays out late at dances and walks round all day in a dream. I told her to tell Phyllis as she had been worrying over the inability to taste things. Nurse Archer said that during her first spell in the hospital Phyllis said something to her which indicated that she knew what was wrong with her. I said I thought it was Phyllis’s method of probing, and she was inclined to agree. She spoke of the problem of curing cancer. “Look at the money that’s wasted,” said I. “Yes,” said she, “going to the moon makes a big bang, but that’s all.”
March 1 Tuesday: The morning bulletin was “better”. I did the Labour Monthly article, then bethought one of other plans to keep Phyllis interested in things. I went to Atkins and got some expensive roses, which I took over at 4 pm., staying only a short while. She had had a good night. After tea at the Kardomah I went back – no taxis, and the most appalling traffic jams, and pouring rain. To my surprise she was a little better. But when she complained of discomfort I may have been too sympathetic and she began to cry. At first I thought it was bad, but quickly realised it was good. It had broken this sullen apathy and she had expressed herself and come out of herself. She fell asleep and slept naturally for an hour. In the meantime Sister Brasier commented on how “brave” she was, and how she hesitated to call for help when she really needed it. Mr Hirsch had been in and had given instructions that she must be given all she wanted in the way of drugs. “He really wonders what he’s going to say when he goes in,” she added. When Phyllis awoke she was delighted at the natural sleep and was more talkative than she has been for many days – even weeks. She was sorry she had “upset” me by crying –actually she had not; you don’t notice a stone on a mountain – and then she told me that she had learned of the member of her staff who had died suddenly. My estimate that it did her no harm to know these things proved right. She told me of this little hunchback, brought up by her parents to be as independent as possible, disqualified from teaching at the age of 31 through having no certificate, and despite severe ill-health and obstacles put in her way securing one by evening study, and finally spending five years travelling from Heswall every day to work for Phyllis. She was taken ill with laryngitis and died in Clatterbridge two days later. She was 41. “I never knew a time like this. Even when mother and dad died it was not a rain of blows like this.” But of course in a sense it was so to them. For we were the younger generation then.
She had been very touched by a letter from a teacher with whom she had crossed swords often, but who said that Miss Stothard always introduced each proposal with the words, “I’m sure Miss Greaves would like us to do this this way”, and assuring her that it was “still her school” where her wishes are carried out. The office people, I hear from Mrs Stewart, already know Phyllis has no hope. Perhaps that is why Laura Austin rings up no more. Not that I’d answer the phone on a Sunday morning. No doubt her husband has satisfied her curiosity. I even caught Phyllis looking at the Echo. But she declined to read it. “I can see the advertisements for Robb’s sale. I’d have been there. I can’t read it. It takes me out into the real world. And I’m not really interested. It reminds me of the night you took me from the Radium Institute and I saw all the shops.” She had nearly cried then.
So all seemed well. I realised this might be the last proper conversation I would have with her, and she asked me to stay after 9 pm. for ten minutes. Then suddenly I saw her features lose their mobility, and she was back in the old withdrawn condition. She was afraid she would vomit but did not. All she could say was that she “felt mouldy” but would not put her finger on it. She had not taken the pill, so she cannot be as dependent as I had thought. So she could not sleep at once. She described the effect of the drug as making her feel as if she was on a switchback or roundabout. And at night she would awake with a jolt having the sensation of dropping through space and landing as if the bed had been dropped from the ceiling. A cup of tea was brought in. Mrs Woods the orderly helped me to take out her flowers – which included mimosa that AEG was fond of, and Phyllis during the bright phase reminded me she always bought her each year. Mrs Woods whispered to me – “It’s just like my dad. He says ‘I’ve awful feelings’ but he can’t describe them. He thinks it’s his heart, and we let him go on. I have it at work and at home.” So I left towards 9.30 with mixed feelings. I must say however one gets accustomed to this in exactly the same way as one gets accustomed to war; and in the same way you never believe you could.
While she was in her best form Miss Hanley came in. “My benefit with BUPA runs out in two weeks time,” she said, “so I’ll write to my bank and tell them to settle all bills up to a certain amount”. “Unless you’d like us to find you an amenity ward?” Phyllis said No. When she had gone I said I could look after the business side. “Yes. But it must be with my money, every bit”. I suggested a limited Power of Attorney. “I think I could afford to spend £1000” she said. That is something like four or five months. “But if I get to the state where I don’t know where I was, then an amenity ward would do.” And again when I told her that Peggy Evans had written talking of coming in a fortnight, and definitely at Easter, she said, “If I’m still knocking around then, I want to see her but not her husband”. “Don’t you like him?” “Oh, of course, but he’s not a special friend of mine.” And she added, “They’ll not tell you how long you’re going to last.” And so there she is with no clue and says emphatically, “I’m sick of it, Des.” Should we say it cannot be very long? Or was the non-acceptance of the possibility of cancer and the determined effort to get well not merciful? And is this uncertainty she is in now not as merciful as the longer-term uncertainty which conceals the end from all of us? Should she be even more driven in on the secreting of signs and symptoms? I think I favour trying to keep her in touch with the “real world” even though she wants that touch not to be too rough or too intimate.
March 2 Wednesday: The morning bulletin implied a disturbed night. I met Sean Redmond at Central Station, and we discussed Connolly Association affairs, the election (a nuisance to us) and so on. We walked along the Rock Ferry promenade, had a drink at New Ferry and then had lunch in town. When I reached the hospital at 6.30 pm. I found Phyllis had cancelled the visitor she was to have had at 6 pm. and she said, “I’ve had a rotten night and a rotten day.” But she would not be specific over the trouble. Most of the time she dozed or slept, but around 9 pm. she revived a little and wanted an avocado pear opened so that she could see what it looked like inside. She then wanted me to take it home and extract the nut so that she could see that. This was curiosity for a fruit she had never eaten. She had a lichee. There was a trace of mould. “This won’t do me any harm will it?” I assured her it would not and mentioned penicillin. “I’ve heard that yarn before.” And just before this she had been saying how she’d like to be told it would all be over in a fortnight. Again she said, “lying in bed like this is not good enough for your lungs. I’m getting chesty.” So there are two conflicting tendencies. And of course nobody knows how long – she has lasted three weeks since Sister Brasier gave her about ten days. She complains that everything tastes bad. Bread is like sawdust. The grapefruit burns like acid. The apple juice is no longer enjoyable. Milk retains most of its normal flavour. I left at 9.25 as the nurses came to settle her down early.
Miss Stothard rang. She had been in at midday. Phyllis had had a vomiting attack with nothing to bring up. “It shakes her, and she is so frail,” said her deputy. And she had also said, “Don’t tell my brother.” She has an idea that I must not be upset. Also she tells her not to arrange a visit for me in the afternoon as I have work to do. All the aspects of her character remain. But Miss Stothard has to break through the outward apathy to capture her interest. She told her about some peccadillo committed by somebody at the school. Phyllis was silent for five minutes seemingly asleep. Then she opened her eyes and said decisively, “I can’t understand what made her do that!” It is a sad and dreary business.
March 3 Thursday: The morning’s bulletin was “a better night and brighter”. When I went in at 6 pm. I found it was true. Although the drainage of the abdomen has stopped, and hydropsy getting severe again with the possibility of another incision tomorrow, I found Phyllis sane, calm, clear and communicative – talking as she had weeks ago, most of the time I was there. She asked for tomato juice, and soap, and for me to bring a new folding or telescopic umbrella which she wants to give to somebody. She is of course by no means resigned. Why should she be? “And they make all this fuss about the death penalty,” she remarked “and people sentenced to death and how horrible it is for them. There must be hundreds – thousands – like me it couldn’t come too quick for.”
Then she reverted to the nursing home. “You know if this is going to drag on I’d be better in a nursing home.” Yet she admits she cannot get out of bed. One leg is like a block of wood, and she cannot move it. The other is nearly as bad. “I don’t suppose you’ll ever come to Birkenhead,” she went on, “It will be funny for you.” I am of course well aware of the problems that will be created, but do not propose to bother about them yet. I suggested that she might yet enjoy “one or two fair days”. “I don’t think it’s very likely.” But she was most interested in the avocado nut, and asked me about Rhodesia again, the shooting of Venus, and the general election. When I mentioned salad, she thought maybe she could take some. I had taken her in a quarter bottle of champagne, and she fell to discussing other drinks that might be obtainable in quarter bottles. She has the refrigerator half-full with her things! She is really rather remarkable! And she suggested that I should go to London for a day or two to bring back my books, and I replied that if I did I would go there and back in the one day.
March 4 Friday: I decided not to try to type anything long with Phyllis’s typewriter, as the “u” sticks and Peter Mulligan (whom I got Sean Redmond to ask) could give no effective advice. He suggested some measures which proved ineffective and said the best machine on the market was an Olympia. So I looked up the agent’s name in the telephone book and finding they had the very thing in stock went to 61 Lord Street and bought one. Peter will of course easily mend Phyllis’s.
The morning bulletin was a medium night, but another tapping. When I reached Catherine St. at 6 pm. I learned she had been fair till 4 pm. but was now very tired. Yet she recovered surprisingly. Her school children send her flowers each week, each class in turn. The staff sent a large pineapple and a handsomely decorated card, specially made. I took the umbrella, tomato juice, soap and a parcel which proved to be a box of Cornish primroses from Elsie Greaves.
Phyllis was quite communicative again and kept me there till 9.30 – the object being to bring pressure on Nurse Hamall to settle her for the night early. The trick worked. She told me the whereabouts of documents. She said she thought AEG’s upbringing tended to indoctrinate children with timidity, and that whereas Elsie Greaves became a good swimmer thanks to her mother’s tuition, AEG would not let her learn. She also thought that AEG would have been better to spend less on the house and keep more in the bank. “They were always knocking this and that down and rebuilding,” she said. She again reverted to Dorothy’s meanness in not writing to her. “But what breaks my heart,” she was saying about her condition, “is that I’ve worked so hard, doing everything. I have, Des . . .” then the door opened and the nurse came in, so she may have forgotten when I see her next. For a few minutes she had a pain and found it hard to speak. It was then she conceived the idea of asking for something substantial to be done and relying on my presence to make the nurse disinclined to delay the settlement.
March 5 Saturday: The morning bulletin was a very good night followed by sickness in the morning. I went in at 12 noon and found Phyllis very down. She was able to tell me that until 5 am. all was fair, indeed she felt well, and remembers imagining a conversation she was going to have with me. Then she drank a cup of tea and enjoyed it, only minutes afterwards bringing the whole lot up, and feeling on the verge of vomiting every since. She struggled with a little breakfast and lunch, but not very successfully, and her voice was faint and at times she had to rest between words, let alone sentences, sometimes swallowing the last words in a sentence.
I met Doherty [ie. Liverpool CA member Pat Doherty] at 2 pm. In view of the election I suggested we leave over any Easter comemmorations in Liverpool and perhaps try a Connolly meeting in May. He says he is out of favour in Mount Pleasant because of his support for Chinese tactics [ie. over the dispute between Russia and China in the international communist movement]. I discerned a certain basis of defeatism. He says we should not propose any transport policy to meet the menace of motor cars. “Blow them! Let them get into a mess.” Again on monopoly and the knocking down of cities – “the quicker it’s completed the sooner there’ll be social changes.” So in practice he offers no resistance!
When I got back to Catherine St. I found Phyllis very very slightly better, but nothing like what she has been for the past few days. I remained there till 9.40 – a long stretch to sit on the backside with nothing to do – and spoke to Nurse Archer as I came out. She told me that the other woman also suffers from sickness. “She’s on heroin,” she added, “I don’t want that too soon,” said I. “No,” she replied, “once they get that they go down the hill very quickly.” I took to the hospital with me some flowers sent via Interflora from Alison, Aubrey Taylor’s wife. Phyllis told me that Kathleen Sharpe (daughter of AEG’s friend Mrs Sharpe) had called with Gladys Hughes (who I think used to sing for CEG but was in any case one of his great admirers, a hiking, youth-hostelling, badminton-playing social-life girl with little else to her; I bumped into her once in the Lake District), but she said she was too ill to see them. She added that their interest is somewhat belated.
March 6 Sunday: The morning bulletin was a “fairly comfortable night”, said by Sister Bethyll in not too confident a voice. She did not want me to go at midday. I went for a short bicycle ride, to Barnston Station, saw Fred Browne who gave me a flowers to take, and went to Mount Pleasant to give the YCL a talk on the Irish Question. They were bright interested young people, but not very knowledgeable on the subject. I then went to Catherine St. and found Phyllis had had an excellent night, and a good day. After a sleep while I was there she was more cheerful than for days. It would be possible to deceive oneself she was recovering, and I’d almost swear I heard her say that she would do something “when I’m well”. Yet another time she spoke of being sorry to leave me without a sister “to keep an eye on you”. She wanted some bottled raspberries brought in from which Mrs Stewart can make her a drink, and some raspberries in brandy to put with ice cream. In the small refrigerator she has four bottles of orange juices, two of Schloer, one of white grape juice, one of red, a pineapple and a carton of cream! In the end they had to order her to draw the line! And her mind goes on planning and arranging and deciding – oh! I forgot, also the champagne! The reason that she has been able to talk is of course that they reduced the drug that makes her sleepy in the day. She said that she greatly enjoyed my visit tonight and was bright and smiling when I left. “I don’t really feel any weaker,” she said. “Well, that’s to the good,” said I. “It is, I suppose, in one way.” And she added that if she had been able to dispose of aqueous intake some other way than into her tissues, she would have “quite enjoyed” trying different drinks and mentioned an exceptionally delicious kind of plums in spirit. I said to Nurse Archer that she seemed to be carrying on very well. She was silent and said that last night she thought Phyllis looked very drawn round the eyes: “A look they all get.” But Sister Brasier gave her the outside till March 10th. Here is the 6th.
Phyllis was very keen on my going to London to see what is on the doormat. So tomorrow I must telephone early and find out what kind of a night she has had. If she is much the same as today, perhaps I will go on the Shamrock and come back on the 2.25 pm. I rang Miss Needham who said she would try and go to see Phyllis just before the Philarmonic Concert on Tuesday.
March 7 Monday: I found I had left my spectacles for reading in the hospital – as a result of having the light out while Phyllis slept. The morning bulletin was good again. As I could not go to London I combined recovering the spectacles with taking in some raspberries in brandy and some loganberries from which she wants Mrs Stewart to make a drink for her. Then came Miss Stothard with tinned loganberries. She was sleepy so I left her with Miss Stothard.
In the evening she was bright again. She revealed that she had been talking to Nurse Archer who had told her that her daughter, who is a Sister, was hoping to go to live near the nursing home Lourdes, and would probably be a Night Sister there. Phyllis had been complaining about Sister Brasier (whom she is now very critical of) not placing her pillows the way she wanted them, allegedly because nobody could ever tell her anything. The nurse had been saying that if Phyllis took an amenity ward when her insurance ran out next week, the attention would be just as good. But, says Phyllis, who has them running backwards and forwards with little errands, the attention is not good enough. She wants continuous personal attention. The nurses are more prepared to give it. They are gentler, they are not so noisy. The nurses often fail to turn up here. Emergency cases come in and all is dropped for them, and she builds up an ideal picture of what life would be like if only she could get there. What about travelling? That might be unpleasant but she hardly seems to think of it. She has a general hydropsy from the feet to the waist, and liquid is draining from an unhealed incision. But she wants me to telephone Dr Spence and ask his advice about Lourdes. Then she says to me, “I wish your cold would get better.” I am afraid I replied with just a little (not too much) impatience, that I didn’t think it would till the summer came. She was silent for a while. I asked her if she had asked Nurse Archer if she was fit to travel? “It is not for Nurse Archer to decide”. Yet she builds prospects on her talk.
I had a long puzzle over this one. Bang went my prospect of going to London tomorrow, and how I am going to get out the Easter Special [ie. a special edition of the monthly “Irish Democrat”]without doing so, I do not know. But I may manage it yet. If I were to tackle Dr Howe, he might say to himself, “She is expendable anyway. Why should I prevent her going?” So that is no help. She might have an appalling journey only to die in two days and spend those days complaining that the new doctors did not understand her condition. If I put my foot down and say, “You stay where you are, it is silly to move”, she will fret at not getting help where she expected it. And she will spend every day chewing over the issues. So on balance I’m inclined to ring Spence, see what he says, which I am fairly sure will be, “stay where you are.” Of course her difficulty is that she does not know how serious is her condition. The two good days have set her thinking of moving and she even raised the question of recovery again saying she didn’t think there was much hope, did I? I said I doubted it – was this non-committal enough? So the position is of course impossible, and there is no good, only worse and worst.
Mrs Stewart telephoned. She said she wondered if her visits upset Phyllis by reminding her of happier days and the wonderful holidays they had together. I saw no reason whey the present visitor should be sacrificed to the past memory. Then she said Phyllis had asked her for a copy of Keats’s Nightingale Ode to be typed and taken her. “I read it,” said Mrs. Stewart, “and if she is identifying herself with that, it is very sad. I would rather she read the twenty-third psalm.” “Or a popular thriller,” said I. I had forgotten the Nightingale Ode (I was never a great one for Keats), but found it and read it, and agreed with Mrs Stewart. I had when she mentioned nightingales thought of Milton’s sonnet and looked that up to see if that struck me now the same way, and of course it did not. There is a robust health in the sonnet absent in the ode.
However I deduced something of today’s business when Miss Stothard telephoned. She had been busy cheering Phyllis up, which is of course worthy. (Mrs Stewart considered that she will suffer a severe disappointment, and that more penetrating people have already guessed at the truth. How could she conceal it? Don’t, said I, but don’t uncover it either; leave each to his own powers of penetration.) But she had been busy insisting, “You must admit these two days you’re no worse”. “We must go on hoping,” said big healthy vigorous Miss Stothard!
Of course, theoretically Phyllis is Miss Stothard’s boss, though the latter now addresses her as “pet”. And she also appears to enjoy Phyllis’s exasperating traits along with the others. Thus today she wanted a quarter bottle of champagne, partly of course because I have brought it her, but for her own sake as well. I was to open it, and wrapped two paper handkerchiefs before pulling the cork. One of these I left on the cover while I wrapped the first. “Oh, don’t do that. They’ll go mad.” “Do what?” “Open it on the bedclothes. It will wet the cover”. I explained I had no intention of wetting the bedclothes. Yet she is capable of believing anything no matter however stupid of somebody else. And like CEG she prescribes every detail for other people. Thus tonight a nurse brought her milk, and tea for me. Phyllis says, “Will you ask me tomorrow night? I would have ordered tea if I’d been asked.” Of course the tea was there in two minutes. It could have been got by simple request. And we get, “Are you coming in with these flowers soon?” “Yes” “Well when you do will you bring me a glass of water?” The girl of course gets caught up in something more important than flowers, and forgets the glass of water, and then Phyllis thinks she is being neglected, whereas if she’d asked for a glass of water instead of telling the nurse how to do her job, she would have had it at once!
March 8 Tuesday: I decided that as Dr Spence [her GP] could not possibly offer any advice that might run counter to that of Hirsch and Howe, I would have to tackle them. After a bulletin of another fair night, I went to the hospital and asked Sister Bethyll to get me Dr Howe. She was about to telephone when two green-dressed orderlies wearing white masks pushed past a death-pale patient on a trolley. She was whisked into a room, and after her went Sister Brasier. I then went in to Phyllis who was surprised to see me. I told her what I wanted to do – find out if she could be moved, then if it was medically wise. She was still on the point. The main grievance is delay in settling her down at night. She is the only patient who requires two to move her. She believes she gets left till the last. And last night the loquacious Dr Francis, who goes on his rounds at midnight, held everything up from 10 pm. to 11.30. Then the patients got their drugs. Could she not get better nursing and more attention at Lourdes? Of course, she said, if she was only going to last a short time it was of no significance. But what if it was six months? And the noise and clatter waking her at six each morning. Did I see her point? Of course I did. But I also saw the possibility of snags at Lourdes which can’t be foreseen. Didn’t I have to get her from Ince to Catherine Street because there the doctor only called twice a week.
Miss Stothard came, again with tins of loganberries and cheese biscuits wafer thin. She told her about school and asked her advice, chattering merrily all the time and Phyllis responded. After a while I went out and told Sister Brasier I would like to meet Howe. She telephoned him and in a few minutes he and I were ensconsed in her office. I told him about Phyllis’s worry about losing the bed and being “put in the street” and put it that she felt if she had to be moved she would have to move quickly. I estimated him as a very conscientious decent young man, and modest, a rare virtue. He explained that there was fluid in the abdomen owing to the presence of secondaries, and also some in a lung. This did not appear to be accumulating and he hoped not to have to tap it. He thought moving would be bad. She is not fit for a journey. Sister Brasier had already given me an assurance that there was no question of her being forced to leave. In the middle of my talk with Howe, Sister Brasier brought Hirsch in. So we repeated it. Hirsch said, “If she goes from here it could only be to another hospital. She couldn’t go to a nursing home. It would have to be a first-class hospital.” But they could help financially by getting her an “amenity room”, much what she is in now, possibly even on her own.
Then came the question of prognosis. Howe had said the longest conceivable was 4 to 6 months. Was it likely? No. What was? Four to six weeks. Hirsch thought the same, “unless some complication comes along, the lung condition for example, though she’s not getting breathless.” “Kidney failure?” “Not very likely.” So I have it that the period is short, that moving is not recommended, and could only be into some place similar.
When I saw her in the evening Mrs Needham was there. Phyllis was very tired. She had retired late last night. Between one and two when she normally has a sleep a pneumatic drill had been hammering in the street. When Mrs Needham went she only wanted to sleep. This time I put the light out and went to sit on the settee in the corridor and read the paper. She awoke at about 7.50 and was silent, reserved, and almost morose till I went at 9 pm. When I asked her what Hirsch had said to her she said, “I can’t remember” which meant, “I’ve no energy left to discuss it”. And yet at tea time she had lamb and vegetables after soup, followed by the loganberries which Mrs Stewart had prepared for her (plus cream) which she pronounced “delicious” and later on was helping herself to home-made biscuits. Hirsch, by the way, said he thought she would not have much pain.
March 9 Wednesday: The morning bulletin was a very good night, and an attempt to sleep this morning. So I got busy on the new paper, and wrote to Sean Redmond, Tony Coughlan, Betty Sinclair, Cathal MacLiam, the Labour Monthly and Pat Bond. Tom Redmond rang and said in principle he is prepared to go to Dublin for me. I also had a brief talk on the plans with Sean Redmond, and Mrs Phillips came to do the cleaning.
When I arrived at the hospital, Miss Holstead was there, and they were talking school. This is the only subject that Phyllis retains an interest in. As soon as Miss Holstead had gone she relapsed into wooden silence, explaining first that owing to having had the enema she had taken more tablets than usual. Very late she grew more talkative, but all the time there is the type of negativism that I used to have to contend with at Christmas after AEG died, before I discovered that a glass of wine would relax her, send her to sleep in a chair and keep her good-tempered. I got my reputation as a boozer from bringing ample supplies each Christmas! Sickness has brought out the behaviour, though without the unpleasantness that marks it is a healthy person. She is really continually on edge, and of course no wonder.
She continued to talk about being settled earlier, and complained that there were insufficient nurses at night. She has come almost to hate Sister Brasier, whom she now speaks of as “thatone”, and accused her of putting a dressing on the wound through which the liquid is draining. “I told her it would stop it. ‘Oh, no?’ – but it did, and when she came in again I said, ‘It has stopped it’ “. Naturally I was quite shaken. “But why didn’t you tell me this?” “It wouldn’t have done any good”. “But I would have raised the question in my discussion with Howe and Hirsch.” I pressed the matter. “Is it then a fact that Sister Brasier put a dressing on which had the effect of stopping the drainage that the doctors wanted and placing you under the necessity of having another puncture”. “No – not that – it began flowing again in three hours.” “Then Sister Brasier may have been right.” “I know she is only trying to save towels. She is one of the old school.”
Up to that minute she had not expressed any interest in my discussions with the doctors. Now she did. I told her I had an assurance that she would not be put out. “Yes. They all came in and told me that.” “When?” “Yesterday”. So I got not a scrap of recognition for that! I then told her about the arguments against attempting to move, and this time she was interested. She said she was eating reasonably well and quite enjoying her food. The complaint that nothing had any taste any more had gone. But sometimes she found it hard to hear me. She wanted a small forsythia from the garden to give to Nurse Hassall – doubtless this is calculated to hasten the nightly injection. Then she asked me to get out some nightclothes from a drawer and put them on the radiator, which I did. The radiator is on the opposite side of the bed to the drawers, so I delayed while I did something near the radiator. “Will you shut that drawer.” “All in time.” “You could have shut it at once.” “Why?” “There’s no sense in making two journeys when something can be done in one.” “Well,” said I, “you’re a wee sergeant major”. Afterwards I thought, a wee schoolteacher. But this is illustrative of the way her love of organising people has shrunk with her general outlook till it reaches the size of telling them the order in which they should open or shut drawers! I am glad however that I enabled her to get out of her system her anger with Sister Brasier. This has no doubt been rankling, and she refers scathingly to the smile – which like all nurses Sister Brasier switches on the minute she sees a patient. But who is to blame them; they are not encouraged to emulate the wise look of the doctors. Incidentally, the Kilkenny nurse was splitting her sides about the pillar! [Nelson’s Pillar in O’Connell Street, Dublin, was blown up by some independent Republicans during this 50th anniversary year of the Easter Rising.]
At about 11 pm. Tom Redmond telephoned and said he would go to Dublin.
March 10 Thursday: The morning bulletin was that Phyllis had not had so much sleep. But she did not want me to go in early. I dug up a forsythia that she wants to give to Nurse Hassall and wrote a few letters. Until I get the stuff from London I can not do much else. In the evening I found her better than yesterday. I took her a pot of Erica Carnea obtained in Birkenhead, and yesterday’s friesias are admired everywhere. But she is affected little now by these attentions. She has so far sunk into herself.
She told me that Miss Stothard tells her all the gossip from school and that this interests her and is her only contact with the world. We gave Nurse Hassall the forsythia, and the attention improved almost at once. “You see,” says Phyllis. Then we fell to talking about the garden, and I told her what was growing. She then brought up what was to happen afterwards. Jean must have the washing machine, Peggy Evans the Belleek china I gave her, which she had not much used as May Quigley had not sent the cloth from Belfast till she was in hospital. Then, would I be sure and destroy the diaries. “You’ll not read them, will you?” I thought to myself I’ve enough being promised me without addding that, but reassured her readily enough. They might say what a dreadful dog I was! This was not amusing, indeed. I was hauled over the coals for not getting coal in when I stayed with her. “Go away with you! Many’s the bucket of coal I got for you”. “Yes, two hours afterwards when the fire had gone out.” I said the fence I had mended stood the gales perfectly and it was a pity I hadn’t done it before. This was an injudicious remark. “You could have done.” “Well I would if I’d been asked”. “I don’t ask people to do things. There’s one thing I learned from living alone. Nobody will do anything for you.” “What about Jean?” “She did nothing.” “She kept your key”. “Well I kept hers.” But no word about telephoning Jean to ask her to switch water off, or more recently of Anthea doing her hair, or Eric looking at the car. Her mind seems to dwell only on the disappointments and frustrations and the shortcomings of other people. Now this is a feature of this stage of the sickness, and must be physically determined. It is odd that Mrs Stwewart, who telephoned me a few days ago, asked if it was good that she should go in to see Phyllis. “I think I depress her with memories of past happiness. We had wonderful holidays together.” Mrs Stewart has said wiser things about Phyllis than anybody else, she wisest being the “rebel without a worthwhile cause”. And perhaps this fear of being wounded by recollections of happiness is her reason for painting the whole of our childhood and indeed the whole of her life in terms of unrelieved gloom. There is certainly no trace of resignation here. Not that I blame her for a moment. It is quite understandable. And I notice more coughing, clearly from the fluid in the lungs. And to this moment I am not sure whether it is best that she should know her ailment. She says reading, second nature to her, is beyond her. Yet I am not sure that it is not also a failure of interest. I recall, of course, that the much more extroverted Sean Murray when in his last illness “tried to take an interest in politics, but did not really succeed.” “I don’t think, however, he had Phyllis’s certainty. I told her, by the way, when she spoke of disposing of things, that I would not be in a hurry. “You’ll keep mother’s piano?” I replied that I would. But I would like to keep together as much of the family possessions as possible and will have to think of a new flat. But Northington Street [ie.in London] is so conveniently situated that I am reluctant to leave it.
Phyllis was also talking about looking after the garden and suggested that I might sell the car at once, and have the house painted. She mentioned Harry Stokes, her gardener, who has not been since September, and the importance of mowing the lawn. This was not distasteful to her, as it was planning and organising.
March 11 Friday: I telephoned the hospital at 7.15 am. and learned that Phyllis had had a “very good night” and (said Nurse Hassall) “I wouldn’t tell you that if it wasn’t right.” I was a trifle suspicious of this additional assurance, but decided it must be true within reason. I therefore caught the Shamrock and since it ran early reached Euston at 11.55 and was at Cockpit Chambers by the time Sean Redmond rang from Euston where he had tried to meet me. He came down and helped me with a load of books. We discussed the Easter meeting and a few other things.
The train ran late on the return trip, so that it was 6.55 pm. before I was in the Women’s Hospital. Phyllis was lying quietly. She explained that she had been exceptionally bright at lunchtime after what was indeed the best night for weeks. She had had several visitors. Then at 4 pm. when they were washing her, she almost had a natural evacuation, but an enema was necessary. This exhausted her, as it always does, thanks to what she thinks are adhesions. It was soon clear to me that her mood was very different from yesterday’s. She began to cry and explained to Sister Brasier who happened to come in that she had hoped to retain her liveliness till I came and “it isdisappointing.”. I said that Sister Brasier was not so bad, but she wouldn’t have it. “Ach,” said I, “maybe she’s a bit of a head-mistress herself.” But Phyllis was in no mood for levity, and not to be cheered. “I’m not nasty”, she said. “Well no, but it could be that you might once in your life have been a bit testy with someone.” In a moment or two she was crying again. Had my remark offended her? Of course not. “It’s talking about school. I had one of my nice teachers here. I domiss it. And they are all talking about what will happen when I get back. It upsets me.” “Well, then we must stop them.” “Oh, no, that would be terrible!” I went out while they made some adjustments. When I was back her mind was still on Sister Brasier. “I’m not nasty to sick people.” “Come now, is she?” “She was once.” “Perhaps she was strained beyond the limits.” “Possibly.” She then said that she felt very unwell and didn’t know just why. Nurse Hassall came in and promised to settle her for the night at once. Sister Brasier also came, and when she cried a third time was so kind and sympathetic that Phyllis was melted and said, “She’s all right at bottom”, which of course she is. But she explained that she felt worse than she ever had since this stage of the illness was reached, and what was so disturbing was that the change had come about since 4 pm. when she was glad I had managed to get to London and was looking forward to a better evening. I noticed she coughs, and Sister Brasier said there is now fluid on the lungs, as indeed I know. There is a danger of pain here and a possible need to “aspirate” the lungs. The poor girl is in great distress, but before I left she had had an injection and seemed more settled. She said several times that my presence helps, despite the utter powerlessness of anybody who sees her. It would be better to have her in her sullen-seeming mood than have it this way. For now she is saying how bad it is, not only for her, but for all of us. And since she knows the point to which all tends there is not a scrap of hope or consolation, though I was thinking of discussing with Mrs Stewart how to turn her mind on to her positive achievements and away from the frustrations and disappointments with which life always abounds and which are best forgotten.
March 12 Saturday: Phyllis did not have a good night, so I went in at noon and found her rather depressed. In the evening she was far worse and cried several times. “I hope I won’t be like this every night.” She kept saying “Oh, dear” and “How I’m tired of it. I wish they would put me out. I’m only waiting for it.” It is as if there was no longer the energy left for resentment, though occasionally this would appear. She has pain in her chest and shoulder, coughing a little. Nurse Archer thinks there is a danger of pneumonia. “Have you the means of dealing with that? It is painful,” I asked. She was non-commital. “It has to come.” I know that, but I’m concerned with how it comes. I persuaded Phyllis to ring early and get some pethidine, and she was very thankful that she had, as I left. But they could not attend to her back to prevent bed-sores, explaining that there was only one on duty. But Sister Brasier was there all the time, bustling about. It may well be that there is something in what Phyllis says, at night they rely on a doped hospital. They assured us that she could have another shot in the middle of the night, but one side is too swollen to use, the other is punctured like a pin-cushion, and her arms are too thin to take it. No wonder the poor girl is distressed.
As a sort of bizarre comic relief, Fred Brown came in at 10 pm. and assured me that Mrs Marsden knew not a thing about Phyllis, but of course she must have noticed that Phyllis was not here and I was! He added that since his father died he would have a few bob, over £1000 (much more is my guess, unless there are several brothers or sisters) and he is worried about sterling (thanks to the election nonsense) and is thinking of buying real estate and letting it. He added of course that the workers were getting too much, and didn’t appreciate it and the Trade Unions were a grievous tyranny – all of which is printed on tonight’s “Echo” and echoed on all sides! I told him not to worry; the country was stinking with money as he could see for himself.
March 13 Sunday: The morning bulletin was not good, but in the evening Phyllis told me she had got over the sickness by taking great care in the timing of her pill taking. She was calm and collected and, though far from well, nevertheless had a natural motion (the first for a fortnight) which will obviate an enema tomorrow. She thinks it possible that another tapping will be necessary. She has been told the doctor is on call and now feels pleased she did not move, as she is receiving plenty of attention now she needs it.
March 14 Monday: The morning bulletin was better. I met Tom Redmond at Central Station and discussed his visit to Dublin. At the hospital Phyllis told me she had had a “bad day” and had been given an extra pethidine injection. She hardly spoke, and was irritable when spoken to. She had another at 8.30 pm. and then wanted to be left alone. She had put off Mrs Stewart in the afternoon. She looked very white and drawn.
March 15 Tuesday: A letter to Phyllis arrived from Harley Greaves – I had another saying things were not looking too bright. Also Cathal sent me some photographs including one of little Bebhinn looking irrestible, with Egon’s schoolbag on her back! He says that the Special Branch have been at the heels of every Republican (and Republicans’ cousins into the bargain) but they still don’t seem to have a clue who blew up the Pillar.
The morning bulletin was a fair night, but an uncomfortable morning. Dr Howe was to tap the abdomen again. When I arrived at 6 pm. it was clear that the drainage was not going to be a great success, and while I was there the tube was removed. Howe told me he had got three pints, as against 4 l/2 last time. Phyllis was very tired and uncomfortable. But she had had no pethidine in the day and could talk a little. Of course she was worrying about what would happen if the results of the tapping fell to zero. But I do not see how this can happen. She said I was a great comfort to her, even when she was “bad-tempered”, but it was her condition that made her that way. She was more herself tonight, but terribly weak. I have to stand beside the bed to hear her, and sometimes now she finds it difficult to hear me. She also said how marvellous her friends have been, supporting her. She managed a few smiles, one for Miss Hanley, the almoner, whom she likes. But always she reiterates how she is “tired of it all”, and again one comes back to the old position. She is all skin and bone, and as frail as a chicken.
March 16 Wednesday: The morning bulletin was a fair night and “very comfortable” this morning, and this from Sister Brasier. I spent most of the day tidying up the garden, which badly needed it. Then I saw Phyllis at 6 pm., but found her increasingly unwell, coughing and sick – this only since 5 pm., as she had had a good day. It is generally practised now to give her pethidine at 8 pm. and this was done. Before that she spoke a little. But the degree to which she is withdrawn within herself is illustrated by the fact that she could not remember the contents of Harley Greaves’s letter. Again she brought in one of the Tyrone nurses and asked for the removal of her tray, some water and a tablet. This was some time coming in and she was extremely uncomfortable. “Why don’t you ask them to come and rearrange the bed clothes and place you lower?” “I’ve already asked them to do that and they haven’t come”. She was quite snappy. But of course she had not. She had given one of her typical conditional requests, the request for the tablet being accompanied by “if its time”. By this means she does herself down all the time. However I pacified her and persuaded her to ring again. They came in one minute and made her comfortable – or as much as she could be. Later she asked, “Can this go on for weeks? I’m tired of it”. “Well, it might,” I said, making my voice sound dubious, “But its not likely.” “I’m glad. What makes me fed up is that I’ve tried so hard.” And of course she had, at the very start practising walking so many steps a day, and gradually increasing it, doing what the medical people said meticulously, and asking advice on almost every issue that could affect her. “It must be the very worst thing you could have,” she added. “Oh, there are worse,” said I, though it is difficult to think of much worse than puttting an active person on her back for months so that she cannot even move up or down or to her side without help.
Then she asked me to have the stone in the cemetery engraved with her name, and to have it kept decent during my life-time, and to offer Mary Gaskell her classics of English literature. “I know you don’t care a damn,” she added, “but there’ll be plenty of money to compensate for what you’ve lost looking after me.” She is right of course. I don’t begrudge the financial loss, nor the time, though I regret the loss of the time in so crucial a period when an opportunity of years is missed, or made so much less use of than it could be. But there it is.
When I got back Peggy Gaskell rang up. She had received my letter in which I told her Easter was too much ahead for any certainty that she would be able to visit Phyllis. She had therefore come for a few days. I told her not to let Phyllis think she came specially. She has, anyway, also come because her brother’s marriage is running into difficulties.
March 17 Thursday: A telephone call from Tom Redmond awakened me at the unearthly hour of 7 am. After ringing the hospital and ascertaining that Phyllis was fairly comfortable, I met him in Central Station. He had seen quite a few people, Peadar O’Donnell, Roy Johnston (with whom he stayed and who is after all still in the Irish Workers Party to do him credit), Tony Meade, George Gilmore, Donal Nevin and others. He tried to see Cathal Goulding in jail but failed, Mairin thinking that this denial of a visit was illegal. There were one or two items of personal news. Mairin seemed well and happy. What solution was come to I therefore do not know. Roy is hardly ever in! She says that Tony Coughlan after many philanderings has now been hooked by one of his students who comes from Enniskillen and who together with her parents is in the Salvation Army. With object not stated he is alleged to have purchased a mighty imposing copy of the bible, costing several pounds. “A very interesting book” says he! [A garbled version of the facts! – Ed.] Gilmore [ie. George Gilmore] is sunk in pessimism and says that he “hadn’t a creative brain” and simply followed Peadar O’Donnell. The Sinn Fein are hoping to establish a paper in the North. Donal Nevin has little confidence in the Labour Party of which he is the eminence grise. Tom went to Manchester.
In mid-afternoon Peggy Gaskell (neé Evans) [their cousin] called in. She had been somewhat shocked at Phyllis’s condition but concealed that she had come specially. She remarked, somewhat surprisingly, that through time I had gone to look like AEG [his mother].
When I reached the hospital I found Phyllis rather better than on the last few occasions, but very tired, and saying “Oh, dear!” all the time, and also making sharp involuntary little noises. Before she had the pethidine, now brought forward to 8 pm., she talked just a little. She was very pleased Peggy Evans had come but wanted to know if I had told her the nature of her complaint. “In a general way. I kept off the subject.” “And you were quite right.” She likes me to arrange things for her before she goes to sleep. Tonight she hoped she was not “giving orders” and was very pleased when I told her not to worry her head. It would seem that the unexpected visitor brought her slightly out of herself, which was good. She is also pleased at the increased attention she is getting and agrees quite warmly that she was better to remain. I think she felt just a little resentful at my standing so firmly on it a few days ago.
March 18 Friday: The morning bulletin was a very good night and very bright. I went in at 12 noon and found this was true. The enema gave little trouble and Phyllis chatted away till Miss Stothard came. She spoke of where papers and jewellery were to be found. I rang Sean Redmond in the afternoon. Three MPs were at the dance, Lipton, Ivan Richards and Bernard Floud [The annual Connolly Association St.Patrick’s Night dance in the Porchester Hall, Paddington, London].Lipton came and returned on the South London bus, cute old fox that he is [the bus was hired to bring South London CA members to the dance]. Sean thought he had broken even and made £40 on the ballot.
Again in the evening Phyllis was bright. She talked more than I ever thought to hear her, speaking of the papers relating to the car, and of disposing of clothes to Peggy Evans, and the whole course of the disease, from the time she was ill, and indeed the beginnings of it, or what she regards as such, many years back. It seems her ability to talk depends on her getting rest, and the new system of sedation before the day staff go off, is providing it. She said that the time she felt hopeful was at Clatterbridge, though Spence had told her that it was thought that the cyst “might be” malignant (as if they didn’t know and couldn’t tell!). But when she was at Ince Blundell she noticed how rapid was the progress of a woman whose ovarian cyst had been pronounced benign. Then at Mrs Stewart’s began the swelling, slow, insidious, unremitting. But she felt resentment at Sister Brasier for indicating the failure of the last treatment a fortnight before she need. It seems to me that poor Sister Brasier has had the responsibility and must thus act as the target of all protest. But Phyllis remarked that Sister Brasier is the only one who will remember such an instruction as to get a visitor out at a particular time, and that not only is she a good nurse, but the nurses she has trained are the most efficient among the younger ones. But she criticises her rather curiously as being “conscious of her key position”, and when a while ago I said maybe she was like many a headmistress in that, Phyllis replied that her status as a head-teacher was equal to that of the matron of a sizeable hospital!
I passed on to her the news that Kathleen Sharpe, daughter of AEG’s old Manx friend, had telephoned last night and enquired after her health and asked leading questions which I evaded, guessing she had met Miss Needham and wanted her share of the gossip. Phyllis was pleased. Kathleen Sharpe had never written to her, or visited her, and her sudden appearance with flowers after six months, a week ago, seemed too much to coincide with the downturn of the medical prospects. She wanted nothing to do with her.
March 19 Saturday: The morning bulletin was another good night, but as Phyllis expected another draining off of liquid she wanted me to go in at midday, which I did. The operation was commenced while I was there. She was quite talkative and reasonably cheerful. Now that she has got her way about early sedation one of her main grumbles has gone and she gets fair nights. She wanted some “chocolate truffles” from Fullers opposite Central Station, a “very exclusive” shop. When I got there I found a counter packed with chocolate “Easter Eggs” and an uninterested assistant who had never heard of the sweetmeat. I smelled another “take-over”.
In the evening she was more tired and said, “Oh dear!” a few times. Even so she was communicative enough. She had told Miss Hanley that certain absorbent sheets had run out, so that she could circumvent Sister Brasier’s economising tendencies. She had told Peggy Evans to have some of her clothing and urged her to come and see it today. But she did not and I can quite understand why. Phyllis declared, “If there’s nothing worse than I’ve had so far, I can stand it all right.” There is a curious illogicality in this.
And so ends what must be, on the whole, one of the mildest winters that ever came. The daffodils and rock plants are in full bloom, forsythias and almonds everywhere.
March 20 Sunday: It was a fine bright day, and quite warm. I cycled down Landican Lane, again noticing how completely deserted it was. Thirty years ago there would have been dozens of young people walking, talking, laughing. The morning bulletin was fair. When I arrived in the evening, Phyllis having asked me not to go at mid-day, as she was sleepy, I found her tired, but able to talk quietly. Tom Redmond telephoned later on, and said that red-baiting bitch Sheila Murnaghan [Northern Ireland Liberal party politician] had stated that parcels of postal voting papers had been sent to the Connolly Association during the last election. Now where did she get this idea? At first my feeling was to issue a denial, but of course we are not in a position to assert that something was not sent. Then I thought that among those we are interested in, the allegation would not prove so damaging, and it is we who are calling for an enquiry, while she is against it [The Connolly Association was calling for a parliamentary enquiry into the working of the 1920 Government of Ireland Act at this time].
March 21 Monday: I spoke to Sean Redmond on the phone. He thinks he made £30 on the dance, and £70 on the ballot. This still leaves him embarrassed. Of the dance he said Flann Campbell was there and was very impressed [former Irish Democrat editor, now in the British Labour Party]. Also present was that scoundrel Prendergast, needless to say drunk and maudlin. A letter came from Michael O’Riordan asking if I could meet him and Moore and Barr at their hotel next Sunday. They are going to Moscow. He has also written to Sean Redmond. I can imagine a connection with Prendergast’s appearance. I think I will suggest that Joe Deighan should go along. It is quite conceivable that there might be an attempt to bring back the old leftist gang on the grounds of the rapprochment with O’Riordan, and Prendergast, denied his place when the sun was shining the other way, might demand entry to the Connolly Association, and try to get a move against me as the obstacle to it. This is the time to set intrigues afloat, when I am kept out of London. This was what he did last time.
The morning bulletin was “No change”. But when I arrived in the evening I found Phylis very tired, and she could hardly speak a few words. I took her some forget-me-nots. “I should be giving you those,” she said. Later she asked if she could give me a present, “not a book”, that I would “keep a long time”. I was asked to think what it could be. While engaging more of my attention, it enables her to do some of her beloved planning, which is good. They only removed the tube this evening, and I did not leave the hospital till after 9 pm. It may well be that tomorrow will be a bad day. I couldn’t help feeling incredulous, “Phyllis come to this!” And yet it is still Phyllis. Forcing herself to write for the first time in many weeks, she wrote a letter to Peggy Evans sending her god-child, Ray, a present of £5. She expects to be moved into another room tomorrow so that Room 6 can be cleaned up.
March 22 Tuesday: The morning bulletin was a good night but a bad start to the day. I worked on the paper till 5 pm., then went over. She was in Room 4, painted blue-grey, and not quite so cheerful as Room 6, though possibly quieter and less affected by the corridor lighting. She was not well. She could speak very little, though such as it was was natural enough. Sometimes however she finds it an effort to speak and has to enunciate the words very slowly. Her voice is little more than a whisper, though occasionally it rises. Miss Harley came in. Was the bed comfortable – it is a new one. “I’ve not been in it long enough.” I asked if the room was satisfactory. “Too soon to say.” She had been feeling sick and this made her negative. Elsie Greaves came in with some flowers which I took over.
March 23 Wednesday: A letter arrived from Enid Greaves. The contrast between the two families is striking. The Taylors all sentinment and gush, who do nothing. The Greaveses expressing themselves entirely through action. Enid is in Plymouth hospital where she has been taken “for observation”. She hopes that is all, and expects to be home soon. Though she asked Phyllis not to reply, yet she would like to know how she was getting on. The morning bulletin was “fair night, poor day”.
When I went in I learned that Phyllis had not been well. When I first saw her in her room I felt very sorry for her, and wondered why this feeling arose so sharply on this occasion. I think she must be looking distinctly worse. She said she had been sick quite often and complained at loss of appetite. Neither today nor yesterday had she had breakfast or lunch, and she complains that food when it goes down “burns like acid”. I also thought I saw an appearance of a yellow colour in her cheeks, while her face as a whole is terribly pale and drawn. She was nevertheless aroused by Enid’s misfortune to write a tiny note on a card, which I posted later. “I had a queer feeling about Enid,” she said. I had passed on the news of course, because it would make her feel that she was not the only unlucky one. Sister Brasier, whom Phyllis now recognises is going to great trouble to look after her properly, told me that the last two days have been the worst Phyllis has had. To express my own feelings is not easy, since they are mixed. Mrs Wall, last week, spoke of her own father who has had cancer for two years. “The best thing would be if he would just drop asleep.” And against that is all the instinct of not wanting to lose them. I understand that the dosage of pethidine has been doubled. That will be now half of what Hirsch told me was the maximum. It is strange that neither he nor Sister Brasier are hesitant about increasing the dose. But one of the nurses thinks she is “heavily sedated”, and says she never knew of two drugs being given together. This is however because pethidine alone does not induce sleep with Phyllis, and I was very insistent to Hirsch and Howe that she had always found difficulty in sleeping.
For an hour of my visit Phyllis was immobile, asleep. Yet when the nurses are coming in to attend to her she objects to my going out of the room before they come, so my presence does seem to help her in some way. For my own part, I find the situation comparable to that during the war. One “gets used to” what it is impossible to “get used to”.
During the day I got quite a bit done on the paper. Tom Redmond’s stuff arrived belatedly from Manchester. There was a very kind letter from Pat Bond, with which he sent the songs [one page of the “Irish Democrat” was devoted to Irish songs and ballads which were popular with many readers and which Pat Bond supplied each month], and the boys in London seem to be getting by. Gerry Curran’s second son is called Conor.
March 24 Thursday: The morning bulletin was “a fair night and a little brighter”. Mrs Stewart rang and said she would go in this afternoon unless Phyllis stopped her. I said I had noticed a deterioration these last few days. “But Miss Stothard is still able to extract evidence of impending recovery.” “Do you really mean she can’t see? Isn’t she just putting a good face on it?” “No. She is incapable of keeping anything to herself.” So there is the judgment of one woman on another. I had just a faint feeling that Mrs Stewart may resent Miss Stothard’s making herself so indispensable, with the whole school staff squeezing out oranges, making fruit salads and chopping pineapples in Phyllis’s office! However their work has been a tremendous help to her. There are many hands, and they can do it.
It was hailing and snowing, blowing a gale but sunshining and in London (Sean Redmond told me) thundering and lightning. Periodically the flowers stood out of a white blanket, then a green sward. I got five pages done – quite a good day, and Sean did phoning for me. Michael O’Riordan has written to him.
When I reached Phyllis she was substantially brighter. “I don’t feel so sick,” she said “but I know I’m worse, as I’m not eating, but I don’t care.” Her feeling is that the sooner it is over the better. This she curiously phrased a week or so ago. “I’ll be glad when it’s over.” She was talking quite normally. She had filled in a page of a notebook I got her with more instructions for me – this will of course be useful as I anticipate a disposal problem. But when I will get back to work, heaven knows.
“Do you know the French for “to wake with a start”? she asked. I was delighted at this sudden interest in life, but thinking she wanted some single verb, I said I did not. “Well it is ‘reveiller a surceau’ – I find that springs into my mind whenever I wake with a start in the middle of the night. Strange how your mind works.”
She now wants some of her daffodils from the garden, which again is good. While we were talking Miss Hanley came in and told her that the hospital’s group office had mistaken the fees and overcharged her by three guineas a week, which was repayable. “I used to do all the salaries, all the payments, all the income tax and pensions myself,” said Miss Hanley, “but now they have a hundred people in Rodney Street and they can’t get it right.” Phyllis was quite interested and told her of the computers which gave her teachers short wages and nobody could blame the poor dumb things. “I have to fight for my staff,” she declared. “That is what I do,” said Miss Hanley. Her work is the one thing that keeps Phyllis in the world, and hence Miss Stothard is a blessing. Apparently there is some young teacher at present fifteen pounds short, with lodgings and out of pocket expenses to pay. “It will be put right,” say the bureaucrats, as she scrimps and borrows.
Phyllis’s main thing is that she wants to feel as comfortable as possible, and that is at present the sole aim of policy. She is now full of praise for the nurses, with the exception of the red-headed Kilkenny girl whom she thinks stupid. It is strange, living so much in female company, again and again I note how much rougher they are to each other than men are. Is it because boys are always ready to put up their fists, so that they learn caution? Girls operate by snubs and sarcasms?
In the new room are more up-to-date beds and furnishings. The table which protrudes over the bed contains a space for brushes and combs, and tonight Phyllis’s investigations opened up a mirror which she was able to manipulate so as to look at herself. I put in hastily, “You don’t look too bad” “I suppose I don’t,” she replied, “but I think my face has a funny shape, and I look much older.” But of course there is the drawn look across the eyes which Nurse Archer tells me “they all get” and perhaps if Phyllis had hopes of getting well she would look at her reflection differently.
March 25 Friday: I got one other page of the paper off, in spite of a cold and a visit from the piano tuner. The morning bulletin was “about the same”. The cold was not too severe, though I had a slight nose-bleed, and the weather was distinctly milder though still cold. I was also heartened by a letter from Phillips Newman to the effect that they can despatch Zeltinger Riesling without charging for carriage on a dozen, and thus give me my favourite wine instead of the sweetish liquors mainly available in Liverpool. Of those available here I would say the Niersteiner is about the best, though there is fair Berncasteler.
When I had just rung up the hospital, Miss Stothard came on. Phyllis had asked her to put off Mrs Stewart again but to bring her in instead of me at midday tomorrow. A few minutes later Mrs Stewart rang to ask if this was so. I could of course only refer to Miss Stothard’s statement. In the evening I learned that after two pills at 1 pm. Phyllis thinks she can sleep till six and is thinking of doing away with the afternoon visitors. They disturb her sleep. The process of withdrawing into herself goes on steadily, and she looked paler than ever, her hands having acquired a species of translucency, or so it seems. Repeatedly she says she cannot remember her condition of quite recently. I think the amount of pethedine has been increased, but I have not spoken to Howe for a few days.
A sister approached me. Was I Miss Greaves’s relative? She introduced herself as Mrs Gaskell’s niece and was a great friend of Sister Brasier, who she calls by her surname as apparently nurses do. She was hoping to call on “Aunty Molly” who had lost her husband. She had been in to see Phyllis and would do so again. She commented on how long Phyllis had known Peggy Evans. It was only then that I reflected that Phyllis’s leftwing tendencies, so pronounced in the war and immediate post-war years, must have been derived from Peggy Evans, for Mrs Gaskell was in the Communist Party. It was thus Phyllis knew the University lecturer Norman Wilson. And of course Alan Morton was in Liverpool at the time, and knew them all. The steady drift to the right has taken place since Peggy Evans went to Chichester. She would now, I suppose, be about “New Statesman”, though she deplores the increasingly rubbishy quality of that repulsive periodical.
At 8 pm. Nurse Owen came in announcing that Phyllis could be settled for the night at once. Would she have a drink first. Hesitantly she agreed. Two minutes later Nurse Hamell came in explaining that she could not do anything till the drinks had been taken round. Periodically she made fresh excuses – they were finished quite soon, but Phyllis settled at 9.30 pm. “Nurse Hamell gangs her own gait” said Phyllis. While they were attending to her she found an opportunity to convey that she knows the matron’s sister, Sister Weston (of the Gaskell family) and the matron of Newsham. She is ready to put up quite a fight for treatment as she wants it. Apart from that she is a sad little figure. I feel bitterly resentful of this undeserved and unexpected disaster. Today Miss Stothard said, “She is very poorly.”
March 26 Saturday: In the morning Mrs Stewart rang. She was going to see Phyllis at lunchtime. She rang again afterwards. A complication had arisen. Phyllis had asked her to get a birthday card to send to her old friend in Caernarfon who is 98 – but in fact she died two months ago and they did not tell Phyllis. It is strange how when you think Phyllis is not following things, she is doing so in her own way. We decided to send the card when Phyllis has chosen it, and tell the daughter the reason. Mrs Stewart also told me of some of the pre-history. Apparently during the time when Phyllis was reading books about the menopause, “she was in agony with it.” So there has been a history of considerable pain. It is really tragic that she did not at once seek medical advice. “She had little time for doctors,” said Mrs Stewart. But nobody has, except when they are ill.
When I arrived in the evening she was looking at the cards Mrs Stewart had taken in to her. She was more serious and drawn than ever. She was asleep most of the time I was there, and began to talk in a deep almost sepulchral voice. I at first thought she was asking me for something. “Only talking to myself,” she said. A minute later she was at it again – seemingly gibberish. I sat down. Then she said in the same tone, “I think I’m going out now. I think I’ll go out through the far door…” I took no notice, then a metaphorical meaning to the first sentence jumped into my mind. I went to the bed again. The muttering went on and suddenly it seemed to me that I was alone in the room. I was watching her when she came to, and she gave a smile of recognition and I think of relief. But away she went again, “Get the groundsheet. . . ” as if she was camping. This time when I asked her (half awake) did she say anything, she answered sharply, “Nothing”, as if ashamed to be caught wandering. She had had a bad night last night owing to the late settlement and I had made some noise about it this morning to the day staff. All the patterns of Phyllis tired, or slightly sick, appear. Thus when I admired some pink roses and asked who brought them she said, “I can’t remember.” This is her stock in trade when she doesn’t want to answer. She doesn’t have enough interest to want to tell you.
I was speaking to Mrs Wall. Her father’s doctor’s student son was killed in a car crash. Yet they still want their cars. The father himself was discovered in the kitchen murmuring to himself, “I’m buggered now. I know it.” She says, “We don’t wish him any harm. We’ve looked after him as you’ve looked after her. But all we wish is that he’d just go to sleep. Its a rotten death, isn’t it?”
I told Phyllis that Mrs Stewart would go in tomorrow. It looks as if afternoon visiting is over. Perhaps for a while I will go in at 6.30 and allow somebody else at six. So I rang Mrs Stewart, and arranged for her to go in tomorrow. She remarked that Miss Holstead had been put off several times and she had been a very good friend. I said that provided she went out if Phyllis was tired, she should go with Mrs Stewart. “Then there is the further complication of Miss Stothard. She still hasn’t a clue. I don’t know what to do. She is already getting too much for Phyllis, but she just hasn’t the heart to tell her not to come. It would drive her mad. She simply idolises Phyllis. “I don’t know what will happen at the end. It will be a terrible shock.” I thought we must bear this in mind. While putting Phyllis’s interest in the easiest possible death as the paramount one in relation to this situation, we must try to mitigate the effects on others as much as possible. But whether a word of warning would produce a reaction that would be transmitted to Phyllis I am not sure.
Fred Brown came in. Jean Hack has still this infection of the throat and is off work. She has now to go to hospital on Tuesday to see a specialist.
March 27 Sunday: There was a furious gale raging today. When I rang the hospital I had a message from Phyllis that “if I looked in at midday she would be glad to see me”. I was doing the last page of the paper and was at first inclined to leave the visit till evening. But as the Nurse indicated that she had had a bad night I got a taxi from Murphy’s and was over in twenty minutes. I found her surprisingly bright and talkative, though by no means well. She had developed diarrhoea, which she thought weakening. A few minutes later the scheduled visitors, Mrs Stewart and Miss Holstead, came. I therefore left and had to walk to Central for another taxi. The tunnel was quiet, so again I was back in less than twenty minutes. I then had some lunch and rushed madly with one page, catching the 4 pm. post in Borough Road; the other I took to the GPO, where I had till 8 pm. I took in the forsythia for Nurse Archer.
When I was there in the evening Phyllis admitting to feeling quite comfortable, but also to having felt ill and disturbed this morning and having “sent for me ” – not the way I would understand being “sent for”. It is astonishing how repeatedly she rallies, just when you think she is badly down. She had had some nightmarish sleeps but was all the same refreshed by them. I showed her Cathal’s photograph and she was very struck by that “beautiful child” Bebhinn, who is anyway the prettiest baby I ever saw next only Phyllis herself. She had enjoyed some apple brought in by Mrs Stewart and wanted the school cooking department to make her some not-too-stiff, vanilla blancmange. So there – back into the world again.
But Mrs Wall still commented on how she had “failed” since she came in, and this new rallying is at a lower level. I rang Mrs Stewart and again she said Miss Stothard was a problem. “Phyllis is the star she follows,” was her description of it. But she does not think she yet realises the position, and of course hysterics we do not want.
March 28 Monday: I finished the last few columns of the paper, wrote to Cathal, sent Kay Beauchamp £5 for Nicholson’s election fund, and ordered a couple of dozen Zeltinger from Phillips Newman. I spoke to Sean Redmond on the phone about sending a message to Geoffrey Bing, who referred to Northern Ireland three times on television when he returned [Belfast-born British Labour MP, opponent of the 1949 Ireland Act, later Attorney General of Ghana, being arrested on the ousting of Kwame Nkrumah in that country in 1966]. He was released just after our protest – post hoc, I fear, rather than propter hoc, but it may have helped.
I spoke to Miss Stothard about the blancmange Phyllis wanted, and the resources of the school cooking section were at once put into use. The bulletin was a fair night. But the day was not so good. Nevertheless Phyllis was, if not talkative, at least reasonably responsive.
March 29 Tuesday: I rang the hospital at 7.30 am. Phyllis was asleep, and seemed to have had a good night. I therefore went to Ripley, found that Melville had broken his ankle playing golf on Sunday, and the works was in chaos. Luckily I had gone early and Sean Redmond arrived at 1.15. Between us we got the paper ready and rearranged by 4 pm. and went by taxi for the 4.41. He stopped at Manchester, I went on to Liverpool and was in the hospital by 7.30 pm. Mrs Stewart had at my request gone in from 6 pm. onward. Phyllis was quite herself – she had the tube in her abdomen again, and “this restricts my movements badly” was her comment. Of course her movements at best are inches, at worst they are millimeters. But I felt rather proud of her quiet dignity, which she perhaps allows to be ruffled when I am alone with her, but with nobody else. She had her injection early and after Mrs Stewart went I remained till she felt sleepy enough to go off. Sister Brasier said the tapping was to have been this morning, but Dr Howe was delayed. This meant Phyllis omitted to take some tablets. “I think that she was a little fretful during the day. She has now got used to the drugs to the extent that she needs them.” She also said the dreams and the waking with starts was a result of the sedation.
I had some talk with Sean Redmond. O’Riordan had talked re meeting, a school in Ireland to which he wants people to go, and a Joint Council. Sean wisely told him to communicate with the proper authorities. Joe Deighan was with him, which was good. He pointed out that the meeting on the 14th was only a fortnight off. Would I be in the chair as announced? I thought so but can’t be sure. I had in mind that I could miss seeing Phyllis one evening, but go one morning, and by returning on the night train come in the next. She was agreeable to this. But when she said with so much relief as I left tonight, “I’m glad you got back safe,” I was wondering what is best. Certainly, it is hard to think of any timing by which I could be put out of action in so many important things. There is again the possibility that she may then be on the danger list. So there it is, all uncertainty all the time.
Sean Redmond told me how Prendergast was stocious drunk at the dance and when he heard about the O’Riordan meeting said, “I’ll not be there” in a maudlin voice. “Why not?” “Greaves will be there, and I go nowhere he is. Mind, I agree that he has some talent (not much, Sean commented) but we’re incompatibles.” Elsie O’Dowling remarked that if he had had added to his talent a little strength of character, he would not need to be envious of those who used theirs to a little more purpose.
March 30 Wednesday: The morning bulletin was a fair night after 2 am. and easier today. I met Sean Redmond at Central Station and we went along the promenade from New Brighton to Seacombe. He told me that the only murmuring of discontent at my prolonged absence comes from Joe Deighan, and that he does not find it hard to dispel it. All the others are very sympathetic. Finances are very difficult, and that is the main problem. West London is particularly weak, because as Sean puts it, Charlie Cunningham is defeatist and Pat Hensey is timid. But really there is lacking a political leader. He thinks Tom Redmond and Aine are separated for good, as Aine now has her own flat in London. When I saw Phyllis in the evening, she was fairly quiet but reasonably comfortable, the tube being out. But now that afternoon visitors have been stopped in favour of sleep, flowers are not coming, and there were only two vases of daffodils.
March 31 Sunday: Today was election day, but there was little sign of it. One loudspeaker van in Mount Road, another in Catherine St.; in the evening, two young boys on bicycles riding round with posters telling people to vote Tory. The morning bulletin was better. I did a little work in the garden, sowed some lettuce and prepared boxes for colcannon if I can get the seed. Then in the evening I saw Phyllis. She was tired, very sleepy and more distant. She could do little more than give an odd smile in my direction. But Mrs Stewart had taken flowers in, and I took some rather fine roses, which greatly delighted her. She has two injections a night now and finds them very painful. Yet the decline is incredibly slow, though inexorable and unmistakeable. Mrs Miller, the older woman with (I think) sarcoma is still alive, but I think not far from the end.
I was amused at the Rock Ferry rank from which I take a taxi most nights. A few nights ago I phoned for one, and was told it would be there in a minute. Two buses went by while I waited. So I walked. Tonight when I phoned it was, “hold on please”, and the radio found a man in Eglinton Park. “Well, go at once to Rock Ferry office. There’s a party for Mount Road.” It is great to be a “party” and greater to get the taxi at once – for he was little over a minute coming.
Incidentally, I told Phyllis that Jean Hack was in hospital. “Strange,” she said, “I dreamed last night that she was in hospital, and in a bad way. I must have connected it with her father-in-law’s dying.” Phyllis was of course sorry, and yet I felt it wisest to tell her as it does Jean no harm and makes Phyllis feel she isn’t the only one. At her request I rang Mrs Stewart. “Do you know when I shall be allowed to go in again?” she asked. There is no doubt there is anti-Stothard feeling! I told her to go in on Sunday. I think I let it go with simply influencing things, but if Phyllis goes beyond a certain point, I just take the arrangements over and do what I think best.
April 1 Friday: The news was good. The Tories were scattered, and Fitt was returned [ie. as MP at Westminster for West Belfast], together with Lipton, Maguire and several other friends of ours. But Duffy went down to a Liberal. I spoke to Sean Redmond and Peter Mulligan on the phone. They were very elated. But in the Cooperative shop where I bought one or two things I happened to be present while housewives from the “Mount Estate” bought their week’s supplies, and was shocked to see the rubbish people are living on. And one old hen was carrying tins of rice pudding. I wanted spinach; there was none anywhere. I was persuaded to buy “frozen” spinach. It was as tasteless as I presume grass would be.
The morning bulletin was good. But when I reached the hospital at 4 pm. I found her very worn out. She promised to tell me what had happened when she had enough energy. Apparently she has been suffering from skin irritation which the sister thought a side-reaction from the sedatives. Howe was in this morning and said he had the answer. So another medicine is added to the combination already competing in her inside. She has had some pain which she attributes to “wind” but is not unduly distressed. She says of the new tribulations, “what can you expect?” and seems to hope they indicate the approach of the end. But she was interested in the election result. “And now they’ve this majority will they go mad?” I assured her from my knowledge of them that they would not. “Why not?” “Theres nothing wild in their programme. It might be the other party’s.” “But I mean the local authorities”. “Ach, well, they’ll lose a lot of seats in May, especially if there’s a tough budget.” And she was pleased when I told her Jean Hack was on her feet again and that I had written to Enid Greaves. Then I spoke to Sister Bethyll who also said that the irritation was induced by the sedatives most likely but was also “due to her general condition”. She gave her the pethidine injection at 7.30 – the earliest yet. “The injections hurt like hell, ” said Phyllis. The paleness is more pronounced, and the cheeks are growing hollower. “I can’t take an interest in food,” she complained. She has arranged that the nurses chase Miss Stothard away after half an hour, and that she does not come again till Monday.
I rang Mrs Stewart after getting back to 124 Mount Road in the pouring rain which has been on all day. “I’ve been listening to the political news. Have you?” “No.” “Oh, why not?” “It will all be on the paper in the morning. It only takes a quarter of the time to read.” “Oh, well, I’m just sitting knitting. Anyway we know our fate”. “Yes. It is Tweedledum, not tweedledee.” She laughed her assent, and was pleased that Phyllis wanted to see her tomorrow.
April 2 Saturday: When I looked out of the window at 8 am. at first I thought there was a thick fog with the sun behind it. But I quickly realised that what I was looking at was thick snow on the roofs opposite, and it was snowing heavily. However, it slowly slackened and soon more was melting than was gathering. A brisk north east wind agitated my sodden tea towels on the clothes line three days – and by night it was calm, brilliant moonlight, and the towels dry. I revised the historical part of the short life of Connolly.
The morning bulletin was not good, a poor night. I asked would I go over. The reply was not till evening, but would I put off Mrs Stewart and Miss Holstead because of the snow. I pressed to know if this was the only reason and gathered that Phyllis was worried because of the weather. We agreed it was up to them whether they wished to attempt the journey. But I rang Mrs Stewart and told her Phyllis could if necessary do without her. But she was anxious to go, and thought Miss Holstead was in town already. So I told her they could go, but take care not to stay if Phyllis was tired, as she had had an enema. The nurse comes anyway, aware of how things were.
But when I arrived in the evening, twenty minutes early owing to a fortuitously favourable combination of transport times, I was told that Phyllis had had her injection of pethidine at 5.20 pm. twenty minutes ago. However, I went in for a few minutes and learned that a friend had come from South Wales and had been in as well. But she was not sorry. She talked however of reducing visitors to myself and Mrs Stewart, with a little of Miss Stothard. It was hard to judge her condition because of the results of the drug. But I would say she was getting low. “I think they want to keep me asleep as much as possible,” she said. So all I could do was to give her a little kiss on the sunken cheek and come away.
I returned by boat. As the engineer started up, a seaman whom I had seen talking and laughing with a woman on board raced along to the stern to cast off the ropes he had forgotten about. “That wouldn’t have happened in the older days,” I said to myself. “You’re going to bring the stage and all after us,” said an old Irish salt who sounded like a Cork man. When I got off I noticed the woman hid herself away, and presumably returned. So they may bring the stage yet.
I have not listened to the radio more than three times since I got here. But this time I was back at 6.30 and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion was being played. There was a long sunset and zodiacal light, and I cast my mind back thirty years to when I lived here as a young man and sat listening to Bach. The window on the side of the house was not yet made – it was made in 1939, I think. After that we had the splendid view, with the woods, and the building and water tower that looked like a public building on the sky-line. Now the housing estate has destroyed it. Then one looked forward as into a golden house which might conceal untold pleasures and achievements. Now one knows only too well the limits of things, and that life does not always, or even usually approach within miles of the favourable limits. Then all was widening. Now it is constricting and the only unknown things are evil things.
I rang up at 8.45. I was told Phyllis was in some pain, had not yet slept, but was dozing – and that they could not yet give her another injection. Then came words not necessarily ominous, though more so for being volunteered, “I’ll get in touch with you if I need you in the night.”
April 3 Sunday: It was bright today, but cool, and there must have been a frost, for there was damage both to the lilac and clematis on the new arch I had made for Phyllis. In the morning Fred Brown came in to say Jean was going back to work tomorrow and all that is wrong is strained vocal chords. “Was it on account of giving out to you?” I asked Brown – getting my own back for some earlier pleasantries, or what I judged were such. “No, coughing”. He brought freesias for Phyllis. They are very good, and I send them every week.
The morning bulletin was from Sister Bethyll. “She seems brighter in herself, but of course her condition is worse. If you are thinking of coming over she’d be very glad to see you.” So I went at midday, ruining a leg of lamb incidentally, but it was not too frazzled, and stayed about an hour. I noticed that she looked worse than yesterday. She spoke a little. Apparently the woman from Monmouth was Ivy Hicks, the friend with whom she used to go on holidays and whose departure from Liverpool a couple of years ago was the first signal of the break-up of Phyllis’s world. Phyllis was quite indignant. “What a silly thing to do. Why couldn’t she get in touch first? It is Easter in a few days.” Apparently she had the opportunity of an excursion. She had only stayed 25 minutes and yet Phyllis said it completely exhausted her. But in my opinion she blamed Ivy Hicks for the beginning of the catastrophic phase of the disease which coincided with the visit. ” Another visit like that would finish me,” said Phyllis. It is strange how the desire for life lasts, despite her saying she wished she could go. This time however she rang and asked for pethidine and got it at once. I saw her quiet and left. “She’s going down quickly now,” I observed to Sister Bethyll. “Just what I was saying to Nurse Owen.” “And you can see how the pethidine has got hold of her.” “Yes,” Sister Bethyll said, “But it is the best!” And of course it is. It is her sole pleasure and protector. I saw a certain rawness and (I thought) swelling on an elbow, perhaps a bloodstream secondary at last. The rawness is where she has been scratching, as an irritation of the skin comes and goes. They have put cream on it, and she had yet another medicine. But she said with enthusiasm, “They are really looking after me, Des,” which I am sure they are. Sister Bethyll was doubtful whether I should return in the evening.
I did go however and found her drowsy still. I imagined that she had deteriorated even since midday. So this is that famous rapid degeneration that sets in. However, I stayed with her till 8 pm. when there was more pethidine. Nurse Archer came, pleased to get the forsythia Phyllis gave her, and told me that the other woman, Mrs. Millder, had died last night as a result of which she could not go in very often to see Phyllis. Apparently they had a wild night. So they were right, Phyllis’ disease was more advanced, but she outlasted the other.
Mrs Stewart rang up. I told her the latest news and remarked on the speed now gathering. “That’s what matron said to me a day or two ago.” She was concerned about Miss Stothard who still says, “Ach, she’s up and then she’s down”. Was she to tell her if she asked? I replied best now to prepare her mind but insist we want no hysterics in Phyllis’s presence. Mrs Stewart said she blamed herself for not seeing this coming on, that it never crossed her mind. I replied that we all wish we had noticed it, but people are primarily responsible for their own health, and if number one does not look after number one, number two seldom takes his place. She said that if Phyllis had not started using cosmetics she might have noticed. She also referred to Ivy Hicks and said her visit was intended as a kindness and also she wanted to see Phyllis while she was still to be seen. I answered that of course I appreciated that. Phyllis’s reaction was due to her illness and Miss Hicks had no means of knowing she was so unwell. Mrs Stewart said she had written to the friend in Hull explaining the position and had received a sad little note in reply. Her mother had just died two days before and her father was very ill. She could not come and did not know how to write to Phyllis, so how that circle is being cascaded with trouble!
Later on Kathleen Sharpe telephoned to enquire about Phyllis, in that deep voice people put on when they wish to make a display of sympathy. But sympathy who with? Do I go and tell Phyllis that Miss Sharpe’s voice was an octave deeper than usual? Or if it is sympathy with me, as it were before the event, then I have ample supplies of my own. I told her Phyllis was “just the same”. While Phyllis is alive it is a matter of looking after her and putting her interests first. When the inevitable happens, subject to last instructions and the discharge of any debts of gratitude, then it is my own comfort that comes first, and I do not want to be embarrassed by sympathetic females however deep their voices. If there is one thing I remember about Mary Greaves it was her saying to me as I left her after Bert’s funeral. “Should I stay longer?” “Don’t worry. I’m not morbid.” And she wasn’t.
April 4 Monday: When I telephoned in the morning Sister Bethyll told me that Phyllis was asleep, and that “she says she feels better, but of course she is worse”. I rang again at 2 pm., and (having developed a cold in the head) went in to the hospital at 6 pm. I took a letter from Enid Greaves, posted in Launceton. She is back at home. In the meantime I had an exchange with Sean Redmond. Every single trouble seems to be falling out. I am getting dubious about managing either the Manchester or the London meeting. I will be desperately disappointed over the second – after having striven for a position for years, and got it, I may not be able to be present [Seemingly a meeting of senior CPGB people and others with a view to giving more systematic support to the Connolly Association’s campaign on Northern Ireland, following years of CPGB failure to make this a priority]. However the paper is going well.
I found Phyllis very quiet. “How are you?” “Fed up.” And all evening she was the same. She told me, “I’m getting weaker”, as if it was glad tidings of great joy. The irritation continues despite the medicine, and she is scratching her skin on and off all the time. She fears another tapping tomorrow. It is to be alive and have almost every source of pleasure stripped steadily away. I brought the bowl of anemones which were brought from South Wales from behind some products so that she could see them. But she did not seem too pleased. I threw away some withered daffodils, and was re-arranging narcissus when she said quite indignantly, “Look, you lifted one by its petals.” “These petals are very strong.” “Even so, its a terrible thing to do.” I was at first puzzled by this, but then put two and two together. The narcissuses must have been sent by somebody who is in favour. But the anemones were brought by someone who disturbed her and (she believes) caused her bad day, and the kind thought and the 150 miles journey and expense count for nothing for the moment. Yet a few days could go by and she would be vigorously defending Miss Hicks, and she could ask me, half-interested, perhaps seeking an interest, “Did you manage to get any work done?” Of course I did not.
April 5 Tuesday: Contrary to expectations Phyllis had a good night and enjoyed her breakfast. “It’s good that she should get a few hours comfort,” said Sister Brasier. Mrs Stewart rang to say she was going in at 6 pm. and Elsie Greaves to say her daughter’s wedding was a great success and the young couple away in Salop. She was rather upset to her the news about Phyllis’s decline and asked if she could do anything. But what could she do?
I had a frustrating morning. I went to the bank. Being in Grange Road I decided to get some folders at Mortons, once a well-stocked very civilised bookshop. I found the new owners stock-taking and of course they had none. I got the impression that the stationery business will gobble up the book business. Then I thought I would find out about trains to London if I can go. The ABC local summary timetable has discontinued publication. So I went to Woodside Station. The bookstall was closed. And of course all the time it was drizzling rain.
On the way to the hospital I got some “chocolate truffles” at the shop in Bold Street which Mrs Stewart had found. She was waiting in the corridor when I got there. Phyllis was asleep, unusual for 6 pm. Mrs Stewart stayed about half an hour. Phyllis was very tired, but though she said she had been better last night, the reverse was true. She even looked slightly better. She told me how Miss Stothard was going home last night when a car stopped and the driver, who turned out to be Laura Austin’s husband, said jump in. He was no time getting round to the subject of Phyllis. “But,” says he, “her brother isn’t exactly encouraging about visitors.” “Indeed not,” said Miss Stothard, “for she is very weak, and visitors tire her.” She did not even admit she had met me, or that she went in every day herself. He tried all ways of arriving at information but had to give up. Apparently Phyllis had warned Miss Stothard. Phyllis is still very indignant about Dorothy Taylor’s “sending flowers by proxy – a sneaky thing”. And she replies rightly that if Dorothy was curious she was well able to write to Phyllis herself. Of the Taylors Phyllis says, “They don’t care a damn.” But I would say she would be nearer the mark to say they care as much as their superficial characters permit them.
And yet Phyllis is herself still! She knows exactly what is in the refrigerator, what kind of jar or pot contains junket, apple snow, and all the innumerable concoctions Miss Stothard brings in daily. And she sends the nurses back if they bring the wrong thing, and comments that her instructions were plain and the pots well labelled! Apart from some nightmarish dreams in the afternoon she had not a bad day. I am rather coming to the view that I must cut out the London meeting.
April 6 Wednesday: The morning bulletin was “a good night and brighter”. It poured rain, but I went to buy food in Borough Road. Then Mrs Stewart rang, bubbling with pleasure. Miss Stothard, another teacher and herself were with Phyllis at midday, and “she was the life and soul of the party, making jokes and smiling, indeed one one occasion almost laughing.” It is clear that only news of school stimulates her. Her relations with Mrs Stewart and myself are not capable of further development. If she talks of holidays – she will have no more. If I talk of family, where are they, if of house when will she ever see it? But it is not perhaps this negative side which Mrs Stewart puts her finger on, only. Thanks to Miss Stothard’s admirable behaviour, Phyllis is still the headmistress, still deciding policy, and exercising influence in the real world. This has been an enormous help to her.
When I went in the evening, though more tired she was still bright, and if not talkative, at least asked me for the news of the election, and anything else. “If only I was a little stronger, I’d read the paper,” she said. And strangely enough she had not slept as much, having had unpleasant dreams, but she even looked better.
Miss Needham telephoned and said she was going to Cornwall for ten days. I told Mrs Stewart how William Greaves when he had cancer, suddenly felt better, got up and went for a walk. She replied that her husband was in bed only two weeks before he died. After a week he got up, went to church, and preached, then died a week later. Surely this must imply some counteragency in the body?
I had just sown colcannon and lettuces when British Railways came. Two cases were brought in. “Don’t drink it all at once,” said the driver. “And how do you know what’s in it,” said I, “It could be baking soda.” “It could be – but I should know by now.” He seemed to regard delivering two cases of wine a great joke.
April 7 Thursday: The morning bulletin at 11 am. was a message from Phyllis that she had had an excellent night and was very comfortable and looked forward to seeing me in the eveing. I was surprised at the excellence of the report but pleased at the same time. Elsie Greaves came in, bringing some of her daughter’s wedding cake. She also was pleased at the news, but without any prompting from me echoed the thought that was in my mind, “Sometimes when people have been ill a long time, they suddenly feel marvellous. It lasts a short while, then they go down suddenly.” She was of course thinking of her father, as I had done.
And it would seem that we might well have had our fears. For when I arrived at the hospital at 6 pm. Sister Bethyll, usually the optimist, told me that Phyllis was so ill that she had telephoned me not to come. She had had an injection at 4.45 and Mr Hirsch had been in to see her. However the nurse repeated that she was awake, so I went in. I found an ominous pallor. She was in pain and was distressed that the drug had only put her out for ninety minutes. Apparently only a few minutes after she had sent the message that she was comfortable, she was violently sick, and “didn’t know where it all came from.” Then there was a sharp abdominal pain, which had returned so quickly after the injection. She was disappointed once more at being too ill to talk with me when I came in but showed me a transistor radio that had been given her as a result of an end-of-term subscription at the school. She wondered if she should call for more help to deal with the pain. I encouraged it, and rang for the Sister. She in turn consulted the doctor by telephone and was back within a few minutes with a hypodermic. A few minutes later she was gone off to sleep and I left.
I had a few words with Sister Bethyll who disclosed that the two last injections were not pethidine but did not let out what they were. If it had been Sister Brasier I could have found out. But probably it is heroin. Sister Bethyll agreed that she was now very very sick and volunteered to see I was telephoned if anything went wrong in the night. I asked her to be sure the night staff knew of it.
April 8 Friday: The result of my morning telephone call was surprising. Phyllis had a good night and, though drowsy, was better. I was to ring later to see if she wanted me at lunchtime. I did so. The reply was that while she was still drowsy she would like to see me. By the most extraordinary luck with the transport I was there in half an hour and had a half hour before Mrs Stewart came at 12.20. At first I had a gloomy impression. She scarcely noticed my entering the room and her face seemed to have shrunk. But she did reasonably well with the lunch and soon was talking. Her school colleagues had presented her with an expensive portable radio on which she listened to the news and announced that she might well listen to the St. Matthew Passion this afternoon, which she says is her favourite of the oratorios. One of her classes had sent a large card on which were built up from various materials a number of ornamental hats, which all the sisters and nurses were coming in to see. This was pinned over the looking glass, where the highly ornamental St. Patrick’s Day cards from the same source had been displayed.
After Mrs Stewart had gone and I had privately ascertained from Sister Brasier that the abdominal pain was probably muscular due to vomiting “for no apparent reason”, Phyllis told me,”I’m fooling them all.” “How?” Apparently the swelling had gone down and she was passing more water. But she was very frightened of the pain returning and doubted that it was muscular strain. She told me that Mr Hirsch came when she was at her worst. Then came her first joke for three months or more. She brought up so much that “I didn’t think the old man would have so much blood in him.” Hirsch was alarmed. Sister Brasier laughed and remarked, “Doctors don’t see patients at their worst.” Phyllis now declares that Sister Brasier is the one she has by far the most confidence in. And of course this is right. She is decisive and acts at once when others hesitate, but Phyllis at the same time says this is because she is more hardened by experience and does not get upset. Now however, many nurses were away on holiday, so we hoped all was well, or at least that the upswing of the see-saw was going to last till Tuesday.
So indeed it seemed at midday. By evening things had changed. Sister Brasier told me she had had attacks of vomiting all afternoon. When I went in she was very sick and was vomiting again while I was there. The pain then develops. “I don’t think I can stand much more of this,” she told me. The injections had had little effect. Sister Brasier told me that the new drug Hirsch had introduced was morphine, and this can make patients sick. She secured the house-surgeon’s permission to go back on to the pethidine mixture and hoped this might be better. I asked her whether it was safe to go to Manchester. She thought so. But perhaps I had best write out my speech, and Tom Redmond can come and collect it if need be.
Mrs Stewart telephoned. Was Phyllis still improving. She was very disappointed when I told her there was another relapse. She told me how her husband was sick on and off for five months. This was cancer of the stomach, terribly distressing. She said after his first operation she “knew he was clear” but “it started again.” With that disease, apart from the slim possibility, call no man clear till he’s died of something else. She told me that Phyllis had had much illness I knew nothing about. She went down in Iceland and in Sweden and somewhere else. Often she would go back to work after a holiday, when one would think she should be in the pink of health, and go down with virus infections. She said her husband had two inexplicable illnesses before the stomach disease began. I mentioned the factor of nervous strain. She said her husband had desperate personal problems to contend with. Perhaps Phyllis found the job of being headmistress too heavy for her physical strength. “She didn’t spare herself.” And as she said to me, “What breaks my heart is that I’ve worked so hard, doing everything. I have, Des.” But the difficulty was that if I had urged on her the desirability of getting rid of the house and getting a flat in the city, it might seem as if I was harrying for my share of the house. Also my attention was diverted by the struggles in the Connolly Association – another responsibility to the slate of the Prendergast-O’Shea cabal of devils. “One of us will bite the dust,” said Prendergast to Alec Digges. So far neither has physically, though he has been somewhat cut by some politically. But cause is followed by effect, and they succeeded in preventing me (though I did not know it) from looking after all the matters I was entitled to be interested in. On the other hand, it may be less work would have been worse for her!
She was very touched by a little display of sympathy from the nurses, who made her an Easter gift of two bars of very superior soap, and an Easter card signed by the two sisters and all the nurses.
April 9 Saturday: The news in the morning was of a better night and Phyllis brighter. When the little Tyrone nurse spoke to me she suggested I go over at 12.30 and at 1 pm. there would be other friends. It was still pouring rain. I arrived at 12.30, found they were there already and that the nurse (who is slightly deaf) had given the wrong message. The result was my day was turned to chaos. I had told Joe Deighan not to go to Manchester but had intended to write out my speech. This proved impossible, for I could not get away till 2.30. However, undoubtedly the patient was better. So it is to be hoped all is well tomorrow.
In the evening again all was calm. But undoubtedly her physiognomy is changing, and tonight I said to myself, “Surely this can’t be Phyllis”. Yet her character is still there, drugs and torment notwithstanding. The matron told us how attached to her she was, and it seems that Sister Brasier initiated the present. Miss Stothard told me, “There were tears when she told me about the nurses and the soap”. Now Miss Stothard is going away. So the little junkets and blancmanges and so on will cease, and the school gossip that kept Phyllis interested. She may be too ill for it ever to be resumed. Miss Stothard is the world’s greatest optimist. She thinks the intensity of her wishes sufficient to influence the situation. This evening she said to me with vehement confidence, “Something must emerge.” I said yes of course. “Emerge”, indeed!
The sister who is Mrs Gaskell’s niece told me that Peggy Evans is in town for Easter, but she did not seem certain whether she was going in to see Phyllis. Possibly the proposals about the clothes embarrassed her. A note from Helga enclosed a picture of the children.
April 10 Sunday: The morning bulletin was again favourable. Sister Brasier seemed to have done the trick. I took some flowers at midday which Fred Brown had brought in. She was away on her rounds. If she came back in time they would go to church. The weather was warm and dry. “You’ll go somewhere then?” “We’ll go to Huyton. That’s where the urns of my parents are buried.” So presumably they did.
When I reached the hospital at 12 am. having taken a taxi all the way to be there on time, I found that Phyllis was fast asleep. She awoke at ten to one, so I was there only fifteen minutes, then went to Lime Street for the slow train to Manchester. The weather being warm and dry the heating was full on and the carriages like furnaces. I reached the Chorlton Town Hall at 2.55, and the meeting began at 3.15 [A Connolly Association meeting on the occasion of the 50thanniversary of the Easter Rising]. Every seat was filled – up to 100 present. These included Tom Redmond, Michael Crowe, Sean’s twin, on a trip from Yorkshire, John MacClelland and his wife, Tommy Watters recently returned from Belfast and the funeral of his wife’s brother. There were many of the old faces there and they all asked kindly about Phyllis.
John McClelland drove me back in Brian Farrington’s car which he has lent them while he is away on holiday. Phyllis had been a bit alarmed at my proposing to return by car, and of course I didn’t like it, but I brought them by quiet roads and we were never in danger. Again I found Phyllis very tired. Mrs Stewart was there. And again I had the sensation, “Is this Phyllis?” It is unbelievable what can happen in less than a year. I had the sensation of a kind of ominous quiet, since she has no severe pain or discomfort, but cannot eat much – though she ate the yoghurt I brought in yesterday. She finds talking at all a great strain and her voice is so quiet that I have to be right over the bed to hear what she is saying. But she can still hear the telephone in the office when neither I nor the deaf Tyrone girl can detect a thing.
I was talking to Mrs Wall, who was telling me about Margaret, the deaf and dumb orderly they have there. She points to the walls when she wants Mrs Wall to be brought, makes the sign of a sister’s hat to indicate Sister Brasier, and so on. From her being an Everton supporter and having a nephew at a Catholic school I think Mrs Wall is Catholic. Her father, also dying of cancer, had had a bad week and has developed a sore throat with coughing. She also is shocked at the rate at which Phyllis is failing. Every day brings its deterioration in appearance, and it is as if her dentures hold out her lips. “Poor girl,” says Mrs Wall, “she had a good career, too. Life is cruel!” That is what I meant when I said there was precious little justice on earth, but none in heaven. The problem now is, will I be able to go on Thursday. It is of less importance in one way than today’s visit; but more important in others. If the present quiet spell persists, there is just a chance. It seems by the way that Dr Howe has decided not to make another tapping. “I would not get enough out to make it worthwhile.” So what this portends we will see. I nearly knocked him out tonight, charging into the gentleman’s lavatory, of which he had left the door unsecured. I caught him amidships during his sojourning with nature. However he was none the worse for it.
April 11 Monday: The morning bulletin was “not a very good night”. Phyllis would try and rest. Then Peggy Evans rang. Her brother-in-law (I think, not brother) aged 42 has had a coronory thrombosis; a “shadow” has been seen on an x-ray plate of his lung, and the diagnosis is cancer of the lung. He is in Clatterbridge. So she cannot visit Phyllis in the evening. I suggested tomorrow midday. Later Miss Stothard rang saying that she did not see her because she was asleep all day.
In the afternoon – damp and cold with an east wind following last night’s thunderstorm, presumable announcer of a disappointing summer – Sean Redmond rang. He was very delighted. The whole issue is almost sold out. There were 500 sold at the Trafalgar Square meeting where there were cries of “Up the Republic”. Rory Brugha’s speech advised the exiles to do two things, first set an example as citizens, second buy Irish goods. So the ideals of the shopkeeper have indeed triumphed. The crowd was given no lead and stood about for an hour at the close, as if waiting for it. I said I would get a new issue out at once, and rang Tom Redmond who agreed to go to Belfast this week.
When I got to the hospital Mrs Stewart was there. Phyllis looked much better and showed some of her old spirit. She had had a dreadful night, vomiting for hours. This morning without asking her approval Sister Bethyll produced a hypodermic and gave her an injection that put her out for the whole day. She was impressed with the absence of palaver when something just had to be done. It was not, however, heroin as we first suspected, but merely the pethidine mixture as before. Nurse Archer told me that also there had been a haemorrhage at some point. Apparently the bowels were not working, and both Sister Brasier and she think there is an obstruction.
April 12 Tuesday: I met Tom Redmond at Central Station. He says Rose telephoned him [ie. Paul Rose MP]. Apparently the Belfast Telegraph carried a report that Rose was going to Belfast to offer Fitt the Labour Whip. Rose was very anxious to make it clear that he was not. Indeed the Labour Chief Whip had rung him up from London to ask what was he playing at. Tom also told me how Rose had wired congratulating Fitt on his victory. Fitt had replied by inviting him to Belfast and Dublin for the Easter Commemmorations, adding that there might be high jinks in Belfast. Rose developed a bad cold, and just to be certain hurt his foot, or had some other disability which kept him at home.
I went on to the hospital to take Phyllis a letter from Elsie Greaves. She still looks very bad, of course, but says she had a very good night and is more relaxed than for weeks. She hopes I will be able to go to London. It will make her think she is very dangerously ill if I don’t go – so the desire to live a little longer has reasserted itself, which is good.
Some carrageen came from Helga and I obtained two very elegant glass sundae cups to put in the product to take to Phyllis. When I reached the hospital she told me that she had had more nightmares in the afternoon, but still felt better than for some time. She took “beef tea” that Mrs Stewart had taken and which she pronounced “delicious” and some of the carrageen. Peggy Evans had been there and is going in again tomorrow as Phyllis wishes her to meet Mrs Stewart. Sister Weston, Peggy Evans’s cousin, goes in to see Phyllis frequently, and hopes to be present at the gathering tomorrow. So there is plenty going on round the bedside, with the almoner and matron also calling in for a chat. The almoner gave Phyllis a National Health Certificate. “Is it for two weeks?” she asked me. It was. She was pleased – for if it were for only one, she would think this a sign that she would only last a week. This again shows she is more comfortable.
But there are no enemas. I asked Sister Bethyll if they had given up hope of moving the bowel. The reply was, “But she’s eating nothing. There‘s nothing there. She’d feel it if there was.” But such a remark is quite compatible with an obstruction, in which case I would fear more bouts of sickness.
April 13 Wednesday: According to the morning bulletin Phyllis had another bad night, but not so bad as Monday’s. I had a cold myself – the weather is very cold again – and seem to have developed an abscess beside the weal, a “whitlow” I believe it is called. So I must be feeling some physical strain. I fixed it however by pushing a sterilised darning needle 1/8″ into it and squeezed the pus out. Otherwise I could not type. I spoke to Sean Redmond about the new paper. He had got cold feet about it and had sent no material. But I satisfied his objections and wrote to the printer apologising for the delay.
When I reached Phyllis she was better, and said she felt quite relaxed. Miss Hanley came in and there was some discussion about cheques. One of those from Phyllis’s insurance had to be paid into her bank, and she asked me to take the keys from her handbag, so that she could give me the one that opens her locked drawer. Suddenly there was a flood of tears. What was the matter? She had seen the key of her cottage. However it was over in a few minutes.
April 14 Thursday (London): I telephoned Dr Howe who said he expected no sudden change in Phyllis’s condition and that within all normal expectations a trip to London was safe enough. I telephoned Sean Redmond who told me it was snowing in London since 8 am. “But it will have stopped by night.” He was anxious nonetheless. Betty Sinclair had arrived, but Michael O’Riordan was “lost”. I got a little copy off to Ripley, then sent for a taxi to take me to the hospital, calling on the way at a chemists for “calf’s foot jelly” for Phyllis. Every kind of delay took place. I found when I got there that she was very cheerful, and had a lunch which she enjoyed better than for some time – weeks. She had had a good night, and she seems now quite set on living as long as she can. Previously she was praying for a quick end. She has been listening to the news on her wee radio, and so some pleasure has returned.
I caught the 2.20 for London and ran into snow at Rugby. Thereafter the train, which had been over half an hour early, dragged till it was half an hour late at Euston. Snow was everywhere and sleet falling. I found Peter Mulligan and Gerry Curran in the office. Sean Redmond came in at 6.50. I went to 6 Cockpit Chambers to collect correspondence, then to the Conway Hall, with just time for a gobbled pork pie, and started the meeting. The simian “Dalton” with pasty Lawless and others were selling their rubbish, shouting outside the hall. They have a printed paper with the usual attacks on myself. I am now one of the “cynical old men” of the movement and the embodiment of “rightwing revisionism within the Irish revolutionary movement.” They have not even the faintest inkling of what a social revolution consists of.
We were all afraid of a poor attendance. But about 120 turned up. Michael O’Riordan arrived safely, and spoke together with Betty Sinclair, Mike Cooley, Tom Leonard, Joe Deighan and Sean Redmond. There was a collection of over £54, taken by Robbie Rossiter. Elsie O’Dowling was there, with Vivian Morton (TA Jackson’s daughter) both with others asking after Phyllis. Even more striking, Kay Beauchamp was there, with Maurice Bowles, and for a time Bill Alexander. Prendergast came after all and said “Oh Hello” somewhat surprisedly when I said good evening! Des Logan told me a tit-bit. At the dance Prendergast commented on the good attendance to Flann Campbell. “Aye,” he said “It’s hard. It’s all forgotten about those who held the banner in the days when it was difficult.” I doubt if this would impress Campbell! Needless to say, my bold James, together with Aherne, Joe O’Connor, and Larry Fennel were like bluebottles circling O’Riordan for an opportunity to delight. It crossed my mind to make some reference to reconciliation, but judged it would be unnecessary, and likely as a sign of hesitation to instigate or encourage resistance. Rather let those who are any good work their way back if they have the ability and character to do it. Fred O’Shea was there, and I was glad to see Paddy Clancy. Of our own people most were present, Pat Bond, Charlie Cuningham, Pat Hensey, Eamonn MacLaughlin, whose “play” in Cricklewood has so far survived two showings, and hope springs eternal. Even silly old Jack Fitzgerald was there, showing everybody an Isle of Man penny!
Afterwards we went for a drink, where I discussed with Betty Sinclair measures in Fitt’s constituency to see that he does not rat on us. She told me that early on election day all the polling cards were gathered up by Art McMillen and his boys, and that they saw they were voted on. So if a local committee were to be established Fitt would know who held his seat in their hands. “His head will be this big,” she said, outlining a huge balloon with her hands. I also urged O’Riordan to establish a Connolly Memorial Library in 1968 [the centenary of James Connolly’s birth]. It is just conveivable that he might do it.
After that Betty Sinclair, Sean Redmond and myself accompanied Joe Deighan and Dorothy to their flat in Marchmont St., and had a bite to eat, leaving just before twelve, with Betty Sinclair staying the night there.
April 15 Friday (Liverpool): I came back on the 12.20 am. sleeping train, reached Liverpool at 4.15 am., got up at 5.15, took a taxi and went back to bed at 124 Mount Road at 5.40, getting up at 9 am. I had telephoned the hospital at 7 pm. last night and Phyllis was bright. Now I learned she had had another good night and was listening to her radio. A serious anxiety (despite the medical assurances) was thus dispelled, and I started on the paper. Snow was everywhere when I arrived, but had melted by the time I got up again. But a light but steady sleet was falling.
Not only did Phyllis have a good night but a good day as well, and she was more discursive and relaxed than for some time.
April 16 Saturday: The morning bulletin was again good. The rain and sleet continued all day without intermission. The phone was ringing all day. Elsie Greaves rang to enquire about Phyllis and commented, “She’ll fool the doctors yet.” Tom Redmond did not ring, so I tracked down the McPeakes and found he had slept it out. He rang back later saying he had been to the News and Telegraph and could not get a picture of Fitt. He was coming on the 2.20 plane. He then rang saying he had missed it and there was no room on the 7.20 to Liverpool. He would go on the 8.30 to Manchester. I told McClelland when he rang that Tom would be late. “Just like him to carry on like that! Ridiculous” was the comment of the hard-headed Belfastman. So Tom Redmond will have to come to Liverpool in the morning. He is supposed to have his stuff written up by evening, but my guess is he will spend the time chattering.
I was at the hospital at 6.15 and Mrs Stewart came till 7 pm. I told Phyllis how I had recovered £9 underpaid to her by the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. She was pleased, but indignant that sick people should be swindled by the government. She had been warned by a friend to keep a watch on them but had been too sick to do it.
I had already telephoned Sean Redmond to go over to Belfast to take over from Tom and cover the demonstrations. I met him at Lime Street at 8 pm. and we went down to the boat. Embarkation is supposed to begin at 8 pm. But instead of this people are herded into a dank smelly shed and no officials are available. A gentleman who wore a uniform but strenuously denied being an official explained that the fault lay in Belfast, and that people were kept till well after 8 pm. every night and that was what the seats were for. “Why advertise 8 pm.?” asked Sean. “Ask Belfast that”. This was at the stage, as the dock is out of commission. Then he said the keys of the booking office had been lost, which I don’t believe. I advised Sean Redmond to go first to Art McMillen, as I had asked Tom to get a message to him. If he was invited to speak he should consent if pressed after a prolonged show of reluctance.
Tonight Phyllis was remarkable, and her appearance had improved. That excessively drawn expression had gone. She had slept all night and most of the day on two-thirds of the maximum. She maintains that the improvement is her own work – so has persuaded the staff to give her injections, meals, etc. when she wants them and not at predetermined times. She says they are all kindness itself. As for her friends she is engaged in the somewhat macabre occupation of arranging what to leave them when she is gone. But it occupies her. She wants a public expression of her appreciation. I was very pleased with her tonight, the old Phyllis back.
April 17 Sunday: I worked on the paper all morning. Just after lunch Tom Redmond arrived with his story. The interview with Fitt is a journalistic scoop. If I can possibly get to Ripley I will try to see the front page is altered so as to emphasise it. He was up in his house and saw piles of death columns cut from the Belfast Telegraph “to make sure the other side did not personate”. Jack Bennett wrote his election address. The two of them took five hours over it. He had seen Art McMillen who had read my article in Marxism Today and was passing it round. Billy McMillen admitted to him that he had spent too much of his life learning to use guns and too little learning to use his head. The Telegraph had a big report of our meeting and murmurings against Betty Sinclair. I got four more pages off.
The morning bulletin was again good. Phyllis had had a good night and was resting. When I went in at 6.20 my first impression was that the bony cadaverous look was back again. But when she sat up and ate she seemed herself again. She took Mrs Stewart’s chicken broth, hospital ham and fruit, Miss Stothard’s junket, and brie that I had got from Lewis’s and spoke of enjoying it. But she was less talkative than last night and said she “felt weaker”. She was very tired by the time I left and was quickly asleep. I remember how Mary Greaves used to look ghastly when you saw her immobile, but recovered her animation when she spoke to you. I felt rather sadder than usual tonight. It is desperately depressing to see Phyllis come to this, and her constantly expressed gratitude for the little one can do does not cheer. She has been busy with the notebook, arranging what must be given to everybody by way of acknowledgment, and wants me to send some lapland gloves to Cathal’s children in Dublin. Cathal sent me a picture of the lot of them sitting on an elephant. Also she wants a public expression of thanks to the hospital and her friends.
Late at night Tony Coughlan rang up from Dublin. The reason why he had sent no copy was that he had not received my letters, nor had Cathal seen him. His father had had a cerebral haemorrhage, and was paralysed down one side. He had had to take a week off work and go to Cork. “My mother is in a bit of a state,” he went on, adding naively, “She’s rather an excitable woman. I hadn’t noticed it before, and then my sister has incarcerated herself.” [His sister was a Catholic religious in the Presentation Order]. Well, perhaps the mother had not seen her husband paralysed before!
April 18 Monday: More rain, and the same cold East wind. The morning bulletin was a good night, but there was a reserve in Sister Bethyll’s voice when she spoke of Phyllis resting. At 11 am. Sean Redmond rang up. He was in Manchester but came across to Liverpool for lunch. We found a place where they would develop his photographs and took a taxi out there. He had stayed with Art McMillen.
When I reached the hospital in the evening, Sister Brasier was there. She said she was shocked at the way Phyllis had gone down since she went away. I remarked that the tiredness had only come on last night – at least to this excessive degree. When I saw Phyllis she told me she had had a slight attack of sickness at lunchtime and that the food “tasted like sawdust”. She took a little of the yoghurt I brought her and mixed it with the glucose. But she did not speak more than a few words, and that was to complain of tiredness. Nurse Archer attributes this to the accumulated effect of large doses of narcotic drugs. Even Miss Hanley commented, “She’s down.” And perhaps in the absence of that type of sullen-seeming resentment against her condition one can see a further stage of physical break-up. It is getting as if she was too tired to resent it. But all the same she did twice ask me which of the foods of which she takes tiny scraps contained the most nutriment for keeping her strength up.
April 19 Tuesday: Incredible it may have seemed, but it went on raining all day again, only slackening for a few minutes in the morning, and it was nearly as cold. I do know there was dreadful weather up here years ago, and often I used to wonder would it ever improve, but I cannot call to mind an April resembling this one. Yet on a jutting twig at the top of the dead cherry tree there is a thrush, which every day pours forth song uninterruptedly from dawn to dark. You would think it would get tired, or at least wilt, but it seems to enjoy the rain, and never were there such trills and cadences.
The morning bulletin was a good night but she is still tired. I thought however I might get to Ripley tomorrow. Sean Redmond was asking me about the conference and the EC at the weekend. It is hard to make any arrangement. When I got to the hospital they allowed me in (thanks to the Tyrone nurse) before the sister knew I was there. I thought Phyllis looked worse than ever. She told me she felt thoroughly ill. When I came out Mrs Stewart was there. Phyllis had taken a fancy to some cold buttered toast. Mrs Stewart knew she would never eat it but brought it just the same. She had also wanted chicken broth, so that Mrs Stewart had gone to St. John’s market, bought the only boiling fowl there, cooked it and brought in the broth. As well as that there was apple mousse. Of course Phyllis just has these fancies and though she took the soup, she did not do justice to it.
She was very tired indeed but could not tell what the illness consisted of. There was no acute pain, but a little just the same. She did not feel sick, but a little sick. All she wanted was an injection and sleep. She wanted to hold my hand a bit. “Don’t say anything or you’ll have me crying.” Then she asked what was the date when CEG died and (wisely or not) I told her April 24th and she said I thought so. Thus her whole consciousness must be absorbed in gloomy speculation. And of course she is wasted away. For the first time I thought she was slightly breathless.
I asked Sister Brasier for a rough prognosis. She said that since Phyllis was conscious the time was not near. They usually go unconscious first. Thinking that over I decided to ask Sean Redmond
to go to Derby, as it is when she is conscious that she will want me there. And late in the evening the cold rain was still dripping.
April 20 Wednesday: When I got up it was still dripping endless rain, and the thrush was on its favourite bough as if it were the sole Arabian tree. So it continued till mid-day when it gradually grew brighter. When the sun came out the thrush flew away! I had a call from Sean Redmond whom I had wired last night and he agreed to go to Ripley. The morning bulletin was that Phyllis had a good night and was better. Indeed I could have one as it turned out. And I couldn’t settle to this paper I am supposed to read at Marx House on Saturday. I posted the stole to KG and the Laplanders’ pouch Phyllis wanted to give Finoula. Miss Stothard rang saying she was back from Jersey and going to see Phyllis tomorrow.
When I reached the hospital at 6 pm. she was asleep. At 7 pm. she awoke and ate a snack, very little. She felt far better than she did last night and talked quite a bit. “I was thinking of you this afternoon and what a rotten time you’ve had these four months.” Well, that had occurred to me, but I had not said anything then and I said nothing now. She had apparently been wakeful enough to be chewing over things. There was an enema, not very successful, and she had to have an extra injection to send her off. She was thinking of Miss Stothard. “It’s getting time she was to know the truth, poor girl” said Phyllis. My feeling would still be to let it dawn on her. Why have an extra problem? We don’t know how she will react. She is very disgusted with an incompetent Hungarian nurse who must be one of those who arrived in 1956 [ie. after the Soviet intervention in Hungary]. Finally before I left she asked the most curious question. “You don’t think I’m too cowardly, do you?” All the time she has been exercised by the thought that people might be thinking she was “making too much fuss”. Yet all the nurses comment that she “never complains”. So just what can be going through her head, it is hard to know, for the drug was acting and she went to sleep, but not before I had assured her that we all think she is a little marvel, which indeed she is. I saw Dr Howe and told him the six weeks were now up. He thought she had lost weight badly this last week. All we could do was to keep her comfortable. One of the nurses commented that she would now but for the drugs be feeling quite considerable pain; presumably this is when she “feels ill” but doesn’t know why or where. Nurse Owen gave me a message from Sister Brasier. She had fallen down the steps, injured her knee, and would be off work for several days! More trouble!
April 21 Thursday: The morning bulletin was “an excellent night and much better”. I should address the historians on Saturday. Today I had to type my speech – straight into the typewriter, and this way, even, it took all day. Phyllis’s gardener, “Harry”, appeared on the scene and offered to put in two hours mowing the front lawns and tidying up. With last September’s outstanding debt this cost £1, plus a precious quarter-hour chatterboxing. However the work done was handy. I finished the text at 6 pm., caught a lucky bus to Rock Ferry, arrived at 6.22 at Central, and after going by taxi to the GPO, then to Catherine St. I reached Phyllis at 6.30. To my surprise she was awake and eating and beginning to wonder where I was. The Ministry of Pensions and Insurance who coughed up the £9 I tackled them for, sent an “explanation” which suggested they had paid Phyllis at the reduced rate applicable to those receiving free hospital treatment. I told Miss Hanley this. It may have been her clerk’s fault. By way of explanation and for something to say I told Phyllis about the gardener and London. Having chewed it all over as is her wont she remarked, “I’m sorry you couldn’t get to London. Like Charles ll or whoever it was, I’m an unconscionable time a-dying.” “Don’t be in too big a hurry!” I urged upon her. If she is reasonably comfortable and not in pain, why should she not enjoy even the slight pleasure of seeing people and talking? Apparently, according to Mrs Stewart who rang later, she was quite lively with Miss Stothard and interested in everything. And she said to me that she wanted to write her own cheque for the hospital as it made her feel “still in the world”. She also felt that Dorothy Taylor had the opinion that I had given her the house, and not sold her my share in it. This was because when AEG died I said that Phyllis must have the house as long as she wanted it, and she was no longer in such close touch with Dorothy when she was financially affluent and felt she should finish the division. I said it was not of the smallest importance what Dorothy Taylor’s opinion was. Phyllis is much more sensitive to other peoples’ opinion than one would expect. Today Mrs Stewart baked her some bread – she had taken a fancy to the home-made variety. The fancies she takes are unpredictable.
Again when I got back I felt a little more depressed than usual. It is as if Phyllis is losing her faults with her strength and though the virtues remain, virtues alone do not make a full person. But the medical developments are curious. There is no more retching, and the slight swellings have disappeared. Sister Bethyll indicated a tapping tomorrow, but fluid is accumulating much more slowly, presumably thanks to the retardation of all the vital processes. Phyllis often asks me to repeat things now. Yet on Tuesday she recognised Mr Hirsch’s voice in the office serveral rooms away and this had helped to keep her awake. The nurses give her whatever she wants at whatever time, and in this could not be better.
April 22 Friday: The morning bulletin was another good night but the prospect of another tapping this morning. Mrs Stewart telephoned saying she found Phyllis quite cheerful at midday. I said I marvelled at her fortitude. “Yes,” she said, “she is very patient, and quite out of keeping with her normal character. It is a great inspiration – but we’d prefer to be inspired some other way.”
I spoke to Sean Redmond on the phone and suggested combining the annual report and the main resolution at the Connolly Association Conference and devoting as much time as possible to organisation.
When I reached the hospital (I had been requested to leave it till after 7 pm. as Phyllis went to sleep late) I found her quite cheerful, but not very “chatty” as she calls it. She must have a great constitution but for this. I rushed off notes and text to Sean Redmond.
April 23 Saturday: The morning bulletin was a very comfortable night and much relieved I rang Sean Redmond. There was a scare. The text of the paper Sean is to read on my behalf at the History Group today had not arrived, though a magazine posted last night simultaneously had. I suggested tackling the Post Office. When I rang back at 12.30 pm he had done so. They told him that there was a second postal delivery on a Saturday, but they didn’t usually bother with it! But in view of the presence of this letter they would make one – ten yards across the road! Such are the services we get in 1966. My curly kale seems to have germinated.
In the evening Phyllis seemed better. She nibbled at some tiny sandwiches of egg, watercress, mustard leaves and cream that I had taken in with the hope of tempting her and tried little bits of the hospital food, which it must be admitted is reasonably good. Sister Brasier is still laid up – and indeed occupies one of the rooms on the same corridor. Nurse Archer came. “She’s failing,” she said rather sadly. I felt she was holding her own. But of course it can’t go on.
April 24 Sunday: It didn’t go on. The morning bulletin was not too well after a fair night and a morning enema. Would I telephone again after lunch? The weather was wet and drizzly. It cleared at midday. But it was just a little chilly for going out for a cycle ride. I spoke to Sean Redmond who said that the lecture was a great success, but a weak chairman allowed the Trotskies (Clifford brand) to introduce all manner of irrelevancies. They want to publish it all the same.
Then Miss Needham rang and I gave her the news that Phyllis had had a fair week or so, but was less well today. Elsie Greaves also rang and we arranged that the young people would come and do the car this afternoon. Mrs Stewart rang and said Phyllis was too ill to see her at midday, and that she had a rat in her coal shed, or so she presumed from dung and gnawings, and what would she do to poison it. The thrush moved to the top of a television aerial and warbled louder than ever. I thought I heard answers from a distance, and then found another one on another aerial fifty yards away. The youngsters came and ran the car in and out, and then I went to the hospital.
Nurse Caldwell (from Tyrone) stopped me and explained that Phyllis only wanted to see me for a few minutes and then have the injection. I told her about the telephone calls. She explained that she was having certain recurrent spasms of pain and this was distressing her. “I’m glad you’re not in London,” she said. “Why would I be?” “Why? But I’m glad you’re not.” She rang for the nurse after drinking some milk and soda. “I just want to be put right out,” she said. And a few minutes later she was given the injection and I went out where Nurse Keating (of Kilkenny) had made a cup of tea for me.
As I was going out I was stopped by the woman in the office – I imagine Miss Hanley’s assistant. “She’s lasting a long time,” she remarked. “And has all her faculties,” said I, not without a little pride. “Amazing! She must have had a splendid constitution”. And that’s just the tragedy. As she said when she wanted a quick exit, her strong points were reversed against her.
I returned early, of course, and put on the radio. One of WR Rodger’s hatch-ups of interviews was in progress – the Rising. That myth-maker Yeats, as I called him in my paper – was well to the fore, his verses punctuating the proceedings even in the most unsuitable positions. They were read in a sepulchral voice. There were important inaccuracies of fact. I never met Sean T. O’Kelly [former President of Ireland] but one could tell what an old fool he was. Mulcahy [General Richard Mucahy] was passing himself off as a lover of spring and flowers – like Goering and the Elks. The others came over fairly well, particularly the women, and Bulmer Hobson, Denis McCullough, and (curiously enough) that old slob O’Shannon. All the Seans but one were turned into Johns, Eoin MacNeill became John MacNeill. The title was “Ould Ireland Free”, to which one was tempted to add sarcastically, “once more”. Of course Rodgers is an empty cod as meeting him you could size up in two minutes.
April 25 Monday: The morning bulletin was that Phyllis had slept rather well, “but she looks very ill this morning.” This was Sister Bethyll, who is usually the optimist. However Phyllis sent a message to the effect that she felt better than she did yesterday. I was asked to ring in the afternoon. Meanwhile I removed the old fence next to Hicks’s and reinforced the fence which was swaying in the recent gale. Margaret McClelland rang up saying that John McClelland did not reach home from London till 1 am. Brian Farrington and Michael Crowe drove him home and then went on to Manchester. Apparently the EC went on a long time. But he has made contact with Docherty [ie. Liverpool CA member Pat Doherty].
When I rang at 3 pm. Phyllis was asleep. “She’s settled down, and the discomfort has eased,” said Sister Bethyll, “but we can do nothing about the weakness.” I was there at 6 pm. but she did not awaken till 7.15. She looked very poorly, and yet could still apologise for her inability to talk with me. I doubt if I was with her more than fifteen minutes. She said the pain was coming on again and she wanted the injection. Finally she rang and asked for it. I spoke with Nurse Owen before coming away. “You get attached to them when they’re in so long,” she said to me. “Do you know it was I who received her here last September on the Sunday morning.” I asked where was the pain. Nurse Owen indicated the lower abdomen where the original trouble began. She commented on Phyllis’s clarity of mind and will-power. She will only have her injection at the stated correct hours, though she can have an extra one whenever she wishes. I suspect she wants to be awake for her visitors and especially myself. “And she knows who she likes and who she doesn’t,” Nurse Owen went on – thinking I imagine about the Hungarian whom Phyllis says is incompetent. How long can she go on like this, everybody asks. The woman in the office who spoke to me last night remarked that this type of lingering case upsets the nurses. Certainly it has affected Nurse Owen. All of them are kindness itself, perhaps except the Hungarian who is not intentionally callous. “I think she’ll come through the night,” said I. “Don’t be too sure,” said Nurse Owen. One of the things they are afraid of is that she might pass out in the night and they not know it – Nurse Archer particularly fears this. I explained that if she just went peacefully to sleep that would compensate for anything else. But what would distress me would be anything in the nature of convulsions. “I don’t know whether it occurs in this type of case.” “Unfortunately it does,” said she, giving the condition a name. I do hope she is spared that.
I had scarcely got back to 124 Mount Road when Mrs Stewart rang up. Miss Stothard had been in and found Phyllis very ill. Apparently Miss Stothard now knows there is no chance of recovery and is in a highly emotional state. Well, said I, she has done very good work for Phyllis and we should appreciate it. But she’s a big, strapping woman, so she’ll have the strength to get over it, and that’s all that can be done. She said Miss Stothard was saying Phyllis wanted to talk to her and could not; also wanted to talk to me. But, says Mrs Stewart, “she doesn’t give any intimacies to Miss Stothard, not like she does to us”. Several times she had been joining herself to me and I decided not to resent it, as I felt it was part of the slight jealousy of Miss Stothard’s special position, based on the accident of being Phyllis’s deputy. After all Mrs Stewart could not say, “not like she does to me”.
I rang McClelland. The EC was a success and he is in touch with Doherty again.
Then the expected call from Miss Stothard came. She sounded very upset. She had gone in, found Phyllis worse than ever. She thought Phyllis wanted to talk about school. Two girls had won a £20 prize for art sponsored by Dykes the jewellers. “Oh my mother and father knew them and Mrs Dyke,” said Phyllis. Then she was saying, “My poor brother is coming here this evening and I’ll be too doped to talk to him.” Miss Stothard is attracted to the strong leadership side of Phyllis’s character. “On Saturday she was quite angry. Poor Miss Holstead was there. She doesn’t understand what I’m saying to her. She’s making ridiculous answers. Miss Holstead is deaf of course. But it’s very annoying. She should lip read.” And Miss Holstead on the other hand thought Phyllis didn’t recognise her. Then the little Welsh nurse brought in medicine. “Have you measured out the two tablespoons?” asked Phyllis. “Yes, Miss Greaves,” said the little Nurse humbly, “It is marked on the side of the glass.” And now Miss Stothard insists on going tomorrow. “I do hope she is better.” Hope seems to have re-established itself since she rang Mrs Stewart. And Mrs Stewart is going specially early to forestall Miss Stothard, as Tuesday was really her day! I told Miss Stothard how much I thought she had helped Phyllis.
April 26 Tuesday: I telephoned the hospital in the morning and Sister Bethyll, usually the optimist, sounded very upset, and urged me to come in at midday which I did. She told me Phyllis no longer awakens when people went into the room. Indeed we had a quiet conversation. She was lying unconscious or deeply asleep, her mouth open, and a cold pallor on her features. But she was breathing quite strongly. Apart from an interval for lunch I sat with her till 6 pm. She slowly recovered consciousness and talked a little, in a very weak voice. Dr Howe came. She was “the same but weaker”. Mr Hirsch came. “She may carry on for quite a bit – but it can’t be – no, it can’t be more than a fortnight. After all she is taking no nourishment.” And that is the trouble. Mrs Stewart had brought her something but did not see her. Miss Stothard came – on the verge of tears as I could see. I told her there was no value in getting upset. There was only one patient. We didn’t need two. “But you can’t help your natural feelings.” She saw Phyllis just for a minute. Two letters came, one from Miss Hicks, another from Peggy Evans. Phyllis was just a little inclined to be tearful but was too weak. “I’ll read them when I’m feeling better.” And if she didn’t begin to feel better! She did not however read them when I was there, and for some reason doesn’t want me to read them to her! She asked, “What did Mr. Hirsch say?” And there she is, as sharp as ever. Mrs Wall told me how her father walked out of the house for the first time in eighteen months, and is now flat on his back. I told her I was not allowing my mind to dwell needlessly on distressing issues. “Quite right. You mustn’t think of it. We know nothing can be done. We know it’s God’s will. But we still think it’s cruel.” She is a Catholic, as I guessed when she said she was a supporter of Everton. “I don’t know what I would have done without you” said Phyllis before I left. “Never mind, you didn’t have to.” At the same time I hate to see it.
I met John McClelland at Singleton Avenue, and we went to the Preston Hotel. Well do I remember going there in other days when the Birkenhead Branch met in Mallory Road, and the war was on. These were the days when Mrs Gaskell was becoming interested and quite a few people Phyllis knew. We discussed developing the Connolly Association in Liverpool.
April 27 Wednesday: A letter from Sean Redmond confirmed what I had heard about the EC. There was also a resolution of sympathy with my own predicament. And Pat Bond also wrote on the question of the expansion of the work and the new organiser we want to engage. The morning bulletin was better, but of course very bad. I went at midday and had a few words with her. But the pain was coming on again and she rang for an injection. After I left I understand Miss Stothard had a few words with her. And Mrs Stewart saw her late in the afternoon and telephoned me to go at 7 instead of 6 as she was going to have another injection. When I arrived, with a letter from Elsie Greaves, she was able to tell me that the Education Committee had voted her full pay for an extra three months in recognition of her past services. “Pity they didn’t think of that before,” said I. She agreed but while saying, “It won’t do me any good,” she was pleased at the recognition. When she was well enough to enjoy it she was getting cheeky letters from them. Apparently the office had telephoned Miss Stothard to tell her this. I had not been there more than ten minutes or so when she felt pain coming on again (this keeps waking her up) and so there had to be another injection. They are coming thick and fast, and if the pain doesn’t kill her, the drugs will. But the second is preferable. She is still as lucid as when she is well, and still running her own affairs, getting the drugs when she wants them, and getting her flowers removed when she wants them out. Nothing is left for anybody else to decide!
When Miss Stothard phoned she seemed to have regained her composure, which is very good. She has done an immense amount for Phyllis and I hope she is not too cast down and distressed. She gave me further details. Apparently Councillor Williams is behind it, and the Director has supported it. I again remarked about the slowness. They had apologised for that, I was told. It had been bandied from committee to committee. “That is the modern way,” said Councillor Williams. “The personal touch is lost”. I wrote to Sean Redmond, Tom Redmond and Tony Coughlan. A letter came asking for the rent of Phyllis’s cottage. I sent my own cheque but said nothing to Phyllis.
April 28 Thursday: The day began badly. The telephone rang at 7.45 am. Knowing well what it was liable to be I came downstairs and heard Nurse Hassell say she was going off duty and Phyllis was deteriorating rapidly. I washed, shaved, drank a cup of black coffee (the milk had not yet been delivered) and since there was no question of getting a taxi through the tunnel went by bus and underground to the hospital. There I found Phyllis looking desperately ill, sitting up none the less, eating porridge, and later taking some grapefruit.
According to Sister Bethyll she had been very confused in the night. Now she said to us that she found it difficult to separate illusion and reality. Her face lit up when I went in and she said, “What a nice thought, coming in like this.” She said that last night when she took her second injection, she had argued that point with Nurse Hassell that I had just been in. “You can do that merely if you feel sleepy,” said I. Then she asked me to move a pillow from a chair. “There you are,” she said when I queried her wish. “I’m at it again.” For there was no pillow. She then spoke about a toothbrush on the frame which keeps the bedclothes off her, and then realised it was a loose thread of the counterpane she was looking at. Soon however she regained her faculties completely. She asked had I checked on the certificate of the family grave. I had not. “There’s no hurry,” said I. “I liked it when you said ‘we want to keep you with us as long as possible,’” she said. “That was very nice.” So I assured her it was the same now. Had I got the will? I had. So it is clear she is expecting the end herself. I do not recall her being so delighted at a visit since the early days of her illness. “When you’re here it makes things more real and keeps the nightmares away.” I stayed till about 11.30 when she went fast asleep after an injection. I was back at 2.15. Her voice was getting fainter, but there was no confusion. Again I stepped out to get addresses of halls for McClelland. On my return at 3.45 she was weaker still and I stayed till 6.30 when she had a further injection.
I then came back to 124 Mount Road, thinking I might be there all night, and having got pork pies at Lewis’s I put in my brief case a half bottle of brandy. When I reached the hospital Sister Roberts (who rang this morning, not Nurse Hassell) looked very grave and suggested I stay the night in the lounge. I hesitated, but as the telephone at 124 Mount Road has not been too reliable, I decided I would, the more so since Phyllis seemed rather uneasy and restless. The temperature in the hospital is kept over 70F, and under such conditions I can usually sleep on any flat surface that is not too hard. So I took a drink of brandy and prepared to stretch out on the settee, Nurse Hassell meanwhile producing a good strong drop of tea.
April 29 Friday: A strange day. I did not need to get up to see Phyllis and slept on and off till 6 am. Phyllis had led me to believe that from that time on the whole hospital is in an uproar with doors banging, pots and pans clashing, water running, and people all hither and thither. I found it quiet enough. But I think her previous room, No. 4, was not far enough away from the lift shaft, the main corridor off which has branches, and the kitchen. Add to this of course her quite remarkable hearing. It was of course light early, and the sunrise illuminated this side of the Cathedral and the Catholic Church on the corner of Falkner St. along which I and my fellow students used to walk laughing and planning and anticipating thirty and more years ago. It is strange to be planted for this most melancholy experience right where I spent what I suppose were my happiest days, though as for that I had many enjoyable ones, and the happiness of youth is based on illusion.
Finally I went in to see Phyllis at about 7.15 am. This time she was surprised to see me. “How did you get here?” “By taxi through the tunnel,” I lied. “Why so early?” “I’d never get through if I left it later.” This seemed to satisfy her, but later I understood better her note of alarm. She said she would try some porridge, after a cup of tea. She could not hold the cup. Her hand was weak and trembling, and the tea was spilt. This was of course easily remedied. Then she found she could not use the spoon to take the porridge to her mouth. I helped – as if I was back in Finglas! [ie. feeding the MacLiam children there]. Soon she took the spoon halfway and managed a few mouthfuls. Her mind slowly cleared. “Did anything happen in the night to let them know I was worse?” “Nothing”. “Well how did they know to tell you?” I didn’t know. But later she explained that she had indeed been distressed in the night and had felt a “terrible weakness”.
I had a few words with Dr Howe and while they were washing her, not without a sense of taking a chance, I went to 124 Mount Road and was just in time to get books by parcel post from Cork – including two volumes of Giraldus Cambrensis. I might pick up the others some time. Murphy wants to publish the History Group thing and Sean Redmond returned my manuscript. I was back quite soon as Nurse Parker (a very pleasant wee Welsh girl) said Phyllis was asking for me. Nurse Owen told me she was asking for me when Dr Howe was there. “I think she was feeling afraid”. And indeed she said to me, “I didn’t want you to go,” as if there had been a misunderstanding and I had thought she wanted this. But of course the reason was that I wanted a wash and shave if I could get it. Then she said, “I don’t want to be moved.” I said, “Of course not” and went out to see if Miss Stothard had come. “Don’t go far away,” said Phyllis. I found Miss Stothard still rather emotional. “How can you control your feelings?” she asked. “Just think what she used to be like.” I replied that while naturally one makes such comparisons, still it is best to restrict all thought that cannot lead to action, at least for the time being. I told her that her actions had been of enormous help. We had set out to lighten Phyllis’s burden as much as we could, and we had succeeded as far as it was possible to succeed, and no more was asked of anybody, since it was not we but nature that had struck Phyllis. She said it was easier for a man to talk like this. I told her about Einstein whose wife was dying and who stayed with her day and night while consciousness lasted, and then left the room abruptly and returned to his calculations. The story is no doubt exaggerated. She agreed with that, and I think it may help her. Whether I shall have a reaction later or not (I certainly don’t intend to have it if it is avoidable – no doubt there is physical and mental strain that has to be repaired) my feeling is that while allowing all reasonable expression, the emotions are best under control. I gravely doubt the theory that all else leads to that dread phenomenon “repression”? Though there may be various mechanisms. To feel and control is probably harmless, to not feel and imagine this is control may be different. The first comes under conscious control, the other not. However, when I said that the only way after a tragedy like this is to “get on with it”, Miss Stothard said, “I don’t think your sister would agree with that. She was very upset when your aunt died.” I said that while I was naturally sorry, I was not upset, as she was nearly 88 and nothing else could be expected. I think I helped Miss Stothard; even if the advice was onesided it leaned the way she needed to be led.
When I got back into Phyllis’ room she said, “What’s all this about having me moved? I don’t want to move.” “There’s no plan to move you”. “I’ve been told it’s all worked out.” “It must have been a dream.” “How extraordinary. I was told it was Hooton hospital.” Of course there is no such place, but Hooton obviously represents in her mind the hated Clatterbridge. Soon she was convinced that it was a dream, and she said that she now recalled that the announcement was accompanied by curious sensations of unreality. She had had an injection at 11.30. This would be nearly 4 pm. I told Nurse Caldwell about it. “That’s a bad day,” she said. “It gets them terrible confused after they’re taking it a time.”
Then Mrs Stewart came, offering any help she could give and saying how she would treasure in her memory her last meeting with Phyllis. But I asked her to go and sit with her while I went to have some food. Such were my own preoccupations that I went into the Chinese Restaurant in Bold Street instead of the Indian one I intended to go into, and left behind my pen, and a letter I had written to Sean Redmond. When I got back, Phyllis was far brighter. Earlier she said, “I feel fine but I’m very weak.” The nurse had fed her with mince at midday. Now she picked at some fish, and ate a bowl of soup, and some fruit, custard and junket. I had a feeling that the confusion might be due to lack of glucose. Dr Howe thought possibly this, but agreed we must expect damage to brain cells from now on. He too thinks her retention of her mental faculties is amazing. Whether it was indeed the food, or the fact that she did not hurry to have the injection (showing that for all we might have thought, she is using it, and not “hooked” on it) she became quite bright, and smiled as she brought forth some little quips, all much to the point. She asked had I enough money, and am I looking after myself properly, and was very much herself. At 7.10 after she had her injection I went as quickly as possible to 124 Mount Road, brought one or two books and had a cup of tea. Then I returned to the hospital by bus, train and taxi.
I found a new Sister (not the pleasantest – the kind of person who agrees with a proposition by saying “oky-doke”, whatever that may mean. It is intended to convey matey efficiency with no superfluous words.) But with her (and telling her what to do) was a little Irish nurse who was the soul of solicitude. Phyllis tells me, by the way, that Nurse Canter, the other Tyrone sister (of Nurse Caldwell) is really a terror but will do anything for Phyllis since I translated the Gaelic for her.
I looked in for a second to Phyllis. “Everything’s all right,” she said, something more than half asleep. Then came Peggy Evans’s cousin, also remarking on the way she had kept her faculties. “Its a long time since we had such a good patient – a marvellous person!” Of course one cannot exclude the funereal element in this talk, consoling the relatives. Yet at the same time, the amount of trouble they take over her, spending several hours a day, and undertaking quite unpleasant jobs to make her comfortable, all without a trace of casualness or complaint, shows the compliments are not totally unfounded. The Irish nurse set about making me some tea and that was another day gone. She seems to be a friend of Peggy Evans’s cousin, so that also helps. But without Phyllis’s connection with the matron I doubt if we would ever get the run of the hospital like this.
April 30 Saturday: The weather has become warm and dry. I thought on the whole I slept better – about six hours in all, I imagine, though broken of course. The wee Irish girl who was so helpful is called O’Murchadha – I asked Nurse Keating whether it was Murphy, Murray or Morrow in English. She thought Morrow, but did not know. Strangely enough Phyllis had a good night and did not need her second injection till 3 am. She was then chatting quite freely with the nurse.
This morning I found her better – I did not disclose where I had spent the night – and she took some breakfast. I doubt if she realises how desperate the situation is, for she seems to have rallied. There was no fumbling with the porridge. But it was she who suggested eating it with a tea spoon. As Miss Stothard was coming in I went to 124 Mount Road and found a parcel of material for the paper sent by Sean Redmond. After doing some necessary jobs I rang the hospital at 11.30 and Phyllis gave me the message to come in around 4 pm. I told Mrs Stewart to try tomorrow, as Phyllis had rallied. I spoke to Peter Mulligan and Dorothy Deighan on the phone. Sean was at a conference – I presume the MCF[Movement for Colonial Freedom]. Then I returned for 4.30 and found Phyllis had just wakened.
I was with her until 7.45 pm. and for a good part of that time she was talking on and off. Her voice is of course very weak. But she joked about it. She said to me, “Now pour me out some tea or there’ll be trouble!” and it almost seemed there was a kind of gaiety in her demeanour. At first I wondered at the comparatively small talk that is not typical of Phyllis. Was it possible that the brain was beginning to be affected, possibly by the diminution in the power of inhibition? She said to me that Nurse Caldwell gives injections that hurt her least, Sister Bethyll is fair, and Sister Brasier, the super-nurse, the roughest. She thought that Nurse Caldwell who is the least educated had the most sensitive fingers. When I suggested that being deaf she could not go by the sounds the patient made, and must feel the reactions, Phylis nodded decisively. “Of course. That’ll be it.” There was no wealkening of the intellect there. She caught on like a flash.
Her mood was curious, for when she mentioned the work the nurses were doing for her for a second I thought she would cry. I was puzzling over the meaning of this when I sent out for a bite at 8 pm. while they attended to her. While I am sure she said no more than the truth when she said she was not afraid to die, yet in a young person, all the reflexes of the nervous system revolt furiously against it, so that a kind of excitation and surface gaiety might result. However when I got back Sister Bethyll, with whom I had discussed the possibility of spending a night at 124 Mount Road strongly urged me to stay at the hospital and promised what the others had not thought of, to bring me blankets and pillows. I had felt somewhat tired after two broken nights, and Mrs Stewart said I showed it yesterday. But this afternoon I had a wee nap in the chair while Phyllis was sleeping. Sister Bethyll thought Phyllis was “very poorly” and anything might happen. I felt very sad, as she was such a pleasant little companion today. I went in to see her and said good night. This time I armed myself with some chianti and another half bottle of brandy, much to the amusement of Sister Collins, and her mother Nurse Archer.
These last few nights we have put in a wee desk lamp against the wall so that Phyllis can be looked at. I fear she may not be fit to ring her bell. There is a huge spherical light in the ceiling which glows as red as the setting sun. “That’ll give her nightmares,” I told Nurse Archer. “It’s a horrible thing.” “Yes,” she said, “It looks like Big Brother watching you.” The temperature in the hospital reached 78F, so that I had to open all the windows in the lounge and endure the constant roar of traffic till the room cooled off. I recovered the pen and letter card, by the way, but did not post the card. If Phyllis comes through the week, I will try and get a few hours with the paper during the times she is asleep. If it isn’t done, well, it isn’t done. But I need not tell this to Sean Redmond till Monday.
Another theory was put forward. Several times when I asked Phyllis how she felt she said, “I feel fine. I don’t feel ill, only weak.” Tonight one of the nurses said, “I think she is becoming less sensitive. She hardly noticed the injection tonight.”
May 1 Sunday: Today could be recorded as the dreariest yet – with bright sun and brilliant skies and the temperature in Phyllis’s room going up to 80F. I was not wakened and slept till 7.30 and felt much better. “You look better,” said the observant Sister Bethyll. Nurse Archer said Phyllis had been talking to her in the middle of the night. But there was no talk this morning, but a word or two of greeting. It was not Peggy Evans’s cousin, who reappeared after a holiday today, but Sister Collins who said Phyllis was a “marvellous person”. I told Phyllis and it gave her great pleasure. She asked me to do something for the hospital since they had been so kind to her. But that was about all.
I took a taxi to 124 Mount Road, and another back. Even in that time – little over an hour – Phyllis had deteriorated. I had lunch at the hospital. Mrs Stewart came in and there was a brief exchange, little more than greetings. Then came Miss Stothard and Phyllis was very pleased I had brought her. But by 2.30 she was very distressed, screwing up her face with pain – the attacks are growing more frequent – and I got the nurse to give her an injection. She lay deathly quiet. Then gradually regained consciousness. Scarcely was she in a position to concentrate when the pain began again. I had some difficulty tracking down the nurse. It was Nurse Owen who had gone for tea, but as soon as she came back she was able to give another injection. When I went in to see her for a moment at 9 pm. (after a half hour’s walk round the city) she looked like a living corpse. I would hardly believe it was Phyllis, her features having altered completely and sunk in. The light was on quite brightly but she gave no sign of being aware of it. And to make things look worse, her eyes are half open. When I went out I got in a stock of brandy. I have been sipping it most of the day. Not that I feel terribly distressed. I am rather reminded of Alice McMath’s phrase that became a family joke. She would say of some dreadful nuisance or calamity, “It would get you beyond.” And as these months have crept by I have got used to the idea of losing Phyllis. It is no pleasanter, but it no longer gives the stab of surprise. Mrs Stewart said quite an astute thing, despite her belief that she has influenced Phyllis “spiritually” (which means religion). She wants Phyllis to go on living as long as she can bear it. Perhaps she should cease just before it gets too bad. I think that point is about here.
Once again Nurse Maher (of near Nenagh) and Nurse Archer made me supper and I got ready to spend yet another night in the hospital. Just before retiring I saw Phyllis for a moment. Her mind was still clear. She wanted me to re-arrange her bell, so that she would not miss it. “That’s my life-line. If I lost it I’d be panic-stricken.”
May 2 Monday: At about 3 am. I heard shouts. I did not at first think it could be Phyllis, but Nurse Archer came in as I got up. As a matter of interest, at about midnight I had looked in, seen her moving her arms and facial muscles as if in pain, and had gone to Nurse Archer. “She had an injection late,” she said “I can’t give her another yet. It would put her out altogether.” Then I saw that the lamp, last night on the floor, had been elevated on to a press. The little Irish nurse put it down, and Phyllis seemed more composed. Nurse Archer was however worried. I went out with her, and saw Phyllis, who seemed to get more restful. I went back on to the settee. At 7 am. Nurse Archer told me that she had cried out again, and that she had spent the hours 3 am. to 4 am. sitting in the room. “That’s the time they go.” But she didn’t. Indeed, before her second injection she chatted with Nurse Archer.
In the morning I did not find her well. She was very slow waking up. So I decided to go to 124 Mount Road, and get a change of socks and a clean shirt and wash my hair. The temperature in the hospital is still around 89F. The tunnel was blocked with trippers returning from anglicising North Wales. I took the tube to Central (Birkenhead) and there got a taxi. Everything in the garden seemed to have doubled in size. It was quite remarkable, and due to the heat on damp soil, I imagine. Mrs Stewart rang. I told her to come in. I spoke to Sean Redmond on the phone. He had sent me a letter reporting his election to the EC of the NCCL [National Council of Civil Liberties] – he came last in 24. Mrs McCluskey, Shaughnessy and O’Sullivan (I think I remember right) were there, and we were well reported in the Irish Press.
I returned again by bus and underground, and arrived just after Mrs Stewart had left. This morning Nurse Archer was congratulating herself on bringing Phyllis through the night but said what sounded uncommonly like, “Let’s hope she goes today.” I could hardly think she meant exactly that – as if a policeman were to say, “Let the burglary take place, but not on my beat.” However, Phyllis said Miss Stothard could go in and give her “one kiss” and that lady then showered hugs and kisses, I have no doubt pleasing Phyllis with affection she would have found most embarrassing a year ago. Then she came out and talked to me. She was no longer fighting back tears, but I judge that she is really something of a good-hearted silly. She said that Phyllis was fighting to the last, because that was her nature, and only her indomitable will to live kept her alive. I replied, “More likely her heart and lungs are keeping her alive without consulting her.” Then she was telling me about the court case Phyllis was so worried about. A new stairway was fitted. A teacher who wore narrow heels tripped, lost neither time off work, no holiday, but was suing the Corporation through the NUT for some hundreds of pounds. The solicitors had been worrying the life out of Phyllis before the summer recess, and she was asked why she had not reported the stairway. She replied that the Clerk of Works had passed it, and she did not report it until somebody slipped. It was characteristic of Phyllis that she stood by her teacher in her claim – exaggerated though Miss Stothard thinks it is. Later it was discerned that the stairway was not fitted perfectly. I said I thought that probably Phyllis would have noticed this at the time of installation, but for the sickness which was already coming on. But no. Her idol cannot be reduced to human proportions. And she seemed to believe that to appear in court was the most dreadful ordeal to which anybody could be subjected. Still, since she is good-hearted, we must forgive the teacherish inability to rethink anything outside the ready-made schematism she had drawn up.
I had lunch at the hospital – and a tot of Courvoisier from my own store! At about 3 pm. Mrs Stewart came. She said that neither she, nor Miss Holstead, or any of Phyllis’s close friends wanted her to go on existing like this. But Miss Stothard could not imagine the world without Phyllis. “I know it’s wrong,” she told Mrs Stewart on the phone, “but even now I can’t give up hope.” “I don’t think,” Mrs Stewart replied, “that either right or wrong come into it.” For there is poor Phyllis, her abdomen swollen up huge and tight, everything else withered away, her bodily functions no longer under her control, but her brain as acute as ever when she is conscious, and her warm generosity and interest in other people unimpaired. It would be hard to devise a worse fate for her. But Miss Stothard would have her linger as this gets slowly worse. She did not wake and Mrs Stewart had to leave.
It must have been about 5 pm. when I went down to Hanover Street to buy stamps, post a letter, and get some supplies of food and drink – turkey, liebfraumilch and pommard. I returned at 5.50 and Nurse Owen said, “We’re washing her, and she is asking for you.” She was covered by a sheet, so they asked me to go in, and as I did so I heard her ask, “Where’s my brother?” and I was produced like a rabbit from a hat.
I had met Miss Hanley as I went out and she told me that Phyllis’s case was like her sister’s. “She went on and on like this – I think Miss Greaves must have a very strong constitution.” “She was quite athletic as a girl.” “Ah, yes. My sister was an athlete.” I then said how Phyllis appreciated the attention she was getting, and that she had asked me to do something for the hospital when all was over. “Have you a nurses’ library?” I asked. “Yes”. “Well maybe I’ll see the matron about making a little contribution to that.” I think she was quite pleased. I told Phyllis what I had done and she was delighted, especially as I suggested putting her name on the cover of the books. I thought I would get a list from somebody like Lipmann Kenell, submit it to the Matron, and subject to her acceptance get Peter Mulligan to order them for me from Lewis’s in Gower Street.
Then she asked, “Do you think I’m giving them too much trouble, Des?” I replied on the contrary and told her the opinions they had expressed. Then she wanted me to get three boxes of chocolates, one for Nurse Owen, and one each for the two Tyrone girls.
Then she had her injection and was soon off again – immobile but for an occasional faint spasm or twitch, recognising nobody. She was slightly sick before she got it and I had to run out and hurry them up. I had dinner also. Poor Phyllis has not eaten a bite all day, and now has to have the water lifted to her lips. To Dr Howe I expressed my surprise at her long survival. “It amazes me, at any rate,” said I in deference to his experience as a doctor. “It amazes me too,” he replied. For she is merely “a little weaker” on his bulletin. Nurse Archer came back likewise astonished. She told me how yesterday Phylis insisted on holding her own cup. “You’re very independent, Miss Greaves,” said the nurse. “Independent, but not ungrateful” came the immediate reply in the weak voice. And it is her mental preservation that causes the most surprise.
I asked the little Irish nurse, by the way, what her name was. It is Maher, but her husband is not Irish but half Spanish, possibly (did I hear her right) half West Indian. She is from near Nenagh.
While we were waiting to see if Phyllis would wake, Mrs Stewart and I were going over past events. She said that she did not think that Phyllis’ nervous breakdown of 1947/8 was due only to CEG’s [her father’s] death. Her woman’s intuition told her there must have been some other emotional crisis. But why did CEG never guess this? Perhaps she had planned to give up teaching and try journalism, but had to stay to look after AEG? I doubt it. For she was free within six years and in the following twelve made no change. The insomnia she suffered from dates from that period, that is to say from the age of about 31; also the need to go to bed at 9.30 pm. and constant complaint of being “tired out” to Mrs Stewart. She was constantly catching vicious colds. At the end of term she was utterly exhausted. But Mrs Stewart felt that she did not delegate her work. There was a hidden distrust, perhaps lack of confidence, which impelled her to insist on complete personal control. This links with the penchant for “planning”. Mrs Stewart then told me of the constantly ringing telephone, the need to drop executive work and teach a class when a subordinate was away. I wonder whether not to place the whole blame on the shortage of teachers, arising from the plethora of bombs [ie. the British Government’s expenditure on the atomic and hydrogen bombs].
May 3 Tuesday: I did not sleep so well, and am beginning to feel the strain of “camping out” at the hospital. Phyllis was better in the night and had all the ablutions performed, something which she now liked to leave till morning. Sister Brasier was due back at 8 am. and Nurse Archer kept delaying Phyllis’s injection, waiting until she arrived. The reason she gave me was that Sister Brasier would be shocked to see her unless she was awake. Phyllis kept asking me (though she knew it would not be till Sister Brasier came back) “When’s my injection coming?” She was doing it yesterday too. Now, she does not wear her spectacles and cannot see her travelling clock which I wind for her each evening. I expressed the view that the drug had at last got a firm hold of her. “That’s the pethidine,” said Nurse Archer. “But it took a time!” Then another remark leaked out. “I am always glad when morning comes. I wouldn’t like to be the one to give her her last injection.” So that explains the strange contradictory remarks of yesterday. “But I feel a bit mean holding it up on her,” she added. However, Sister Brasier came at 8 am. and was so pleasant to Phyllis that she was glad she had waited. And at 8.05 the injection was given.
I then went to 124 Mount Road. The rhododendron, a particularly brilliant scarlet one CEG planted, was in full flower. It seems to have come out instantaneously. Everything had grown, and there were flowers everywhere. I spoke to Sean Redmond. Among other things he said the MCF was in doldrums. Faris Glubb had resigned, saying the job of the MCF was to provide arms not resolutions to colonial peoples. Brockway wants Barbara Haq. Woddis wants a South African whom he tried to get in before, when Eber’s influence was enough to elect Glubb. Ennals says the new NCCL secretary understands the Irish Question.
I returned to the hospital for lunch and found Phyllis asleep and Mrs Stewart waiting. At 12.20 Miss Stothard arrived with roses from the staff. She told us she was “petting” Phyllis. She did seem to stimulate her. Mrs Stewart then went in and was told that my idea of making a contribution to the Nurses’ Library, with her name in the books. had greatly cheered her. She had consumed one of Miss Stothard’s junkets, and that lady had informed her that the court case has been adjourned. When Mrs Stewart came out again she was not yet ready to sleep, so I went into her room and she repeated what she had told her. “It has quite cheered me up”. She asked me to think of something similar in relation to the school. She then started to talk about food. She asked what sloppy easily soluble thing was most nutritious. I said egg custard. Nothing would satisfy her but to communicate this to the nurses, and Sister Brasier had one up for her in twenty minutes. She took a few spoonsful of it. Then she thought she could drink china tea, so I went to 124 Mount Road to get some. She explained where it was in the press – much to the astonishment of the nurses, as it is nearly five months since she was there, and possibly more since she saw it.
When I got back she was still fairly communicative. At long last however she has given in to the suggestion of using feeding cups, and she doubts her ability to sign her name. She had taken some apple juice and was afraid it had disagreed with her. But, no, all was well. Did she want cold custard? She considered matters and plumped for an injection since it was time. But having had it she could not sleep. She had a pain, not very acute, but bad enough. Dr Howe was brought, and authorised another injection, after which she went to sleep.
And once again I was camping out.
May 4 Wednesday: It was Nurse Hasall on over night – not the best of them. But she told me at 6 am. that Phyllis was awake. Sister Roberts said she was “very low” at 2 am., but after that rallied. I went in to see her at 6.30. After the 8 am. injection I went to 124 Mount Road and got off two pages of the Democrat and spoke to Tom Redmond and Sean Redmond on the phone. Tony Coughlan’s copy came. I was back at the hospital at 11 am.
Phyllis did not wake till after 12. Mrs Stewart and Miss Stothard came, the latter manipulating the feeding cups delightedly. She reads special significance into every word that Phyllis says. Then she had said, “When are you coming again?” The reply was “Tomorrow mid-day unless your brother sends for me sooner”. So I said leave it to me! – which amused Mrs Stewart.
I went back to Mount Road to let in Mrs Phillips and found two letters from Enid Greaves, one of which, to myself, expressed the intention of coming here to be present at the final ceremony. She would like to have visited Phyllis whom she described as “more than a cousin”. The other letter was to Phyllis. On my return at 3 pm. she was asleep, and at 7 pm. she was still asleep.
It was interesting that Elsie had very skilfully woven into the text of the letter some consolatory references to the ideas of Rudolf Steiner and remarked that Phyllis would be familiar with them. She was, and was able to tell me how the child of one of her friends – Beryl, I think – attended one of his schools. Mrs Stewart also is occupied with consolatory thoughts. She is somewhat scornful of two of Phyllis’s friends who are every night praying for a miracle. She does not believe in asking for “preferential treatment”. That Phyllis has already suffered (on that philosophy) highly discriminatory treatment, does not occur to her.
Sister Brasier remarked that I was tired, which is true. She suggested the noise was preventing my sleeping. But that is not the main thing – the lateness of the hour at which it is possible to retire and the need to get up early are the trouble. Apropos of noise she referred to the night clubs in Falkner Street which discharge their intoxicated patrons at 3 am. and are periodically raided by the police, who conceal themselves on the roof of the hospital to spy on them, and are periodically fined for smoking hashish and what not else.
Phyllis delayed her injection and wanted me in to hold her hand till near 9 pm. The theory is that the oedema causes a delayed reaction, the drug being so to speak stored. I got down to Central Station and saw John McClelland and Pat Doherty. We discussed the Connolly Commemoration meeting of May 19th.
When I returned Phyllis was soon awake and again wanted me with her. So that I resumed till close on 11 pm. – we have not told her I am here all night. Her powers of hearing are unimpaired – she heard Nurse Hassall discussing a doll in the next room and asked her about it, then telling me the incident in her tiny voice. I was finally told, “I’m all right now. Bye-bye, Des.” I have a feeling she fears the end is not far off. But Dr Howe commenting on how “the weight has been falling off her the last few days” thought she might hold on for a day or two yet. It is terrible that she is conscious of the whole thing throughout, and keeps getting frights as new symptoms, real or apparent, come on the scene.
May 5 Thursday: Phyllis had rather a better night, and for the first time for weeks did not need an injection in the middle of the night. But for all that in the morning she was still weaker. She uses the feeding cups now, and as for the little she can eat, it must be fed to her as to a baby. But mercifully there seems to be no pain.
I went to 124 Mount Road and did another page of the paper, and saw the window cleaners, whom Jean Hack has also engaged, having seen them with me this morning. This is handy as I can get her to pay them.
Back at the hospital at 1.30, I found Miss Stothard had been there, and Mrs Stewart was in with Phyllis. When she had gone Phyllis told me, “I am sorry for Miss Stothard. She’s a very good girl and she’s really fond of me”. She had brought sweet peas and convolvoluses. She brings a genuine imagination to bear on the little services she performs and if she makes Mrs Stewart smile by describing Phyllis as “such a pet”, something Phyllis when well would have despised as very infra dig, now on the balance the effect is good as no harm is possible beyond the great harm.
Phyllis nevertheless retains her sense of humour. She decided after many delays to try some egg custard – but could only take one spoonful. “My head can hold more than my belly can,” she commented. At the same time, she is growing less concerned as if she had not the energy to keep up the unequal struggle. She “wants to be told when to have her injection.” Yet strangely enough the hankering for it of the last few days was absent today. Nurse Hassall thought she had (apart from pain) had a very bad experience, since her perfect consciousness must have involved her in months of “mental torture”. Now she is finding it hard to speak and pronounces the letter “s” as if it were “sh”. But mentally she is not only clear but has preserved her cultural background, which reveals itself as occasion offers the opportunity.
I had hoped to do a little work in the lounge in the evening. But wasn’t Liverpool playing at Glasgow, so that one of the patients came to watch it on television.
May 6 Friday: Once again Phyllis had a reasonably good night without the extra injection. But she was very different today. Her voice has shrunk almost to nothing, and the air of total dejection is pitiful. It is as if she had reached the point where she had given up the unequal struggle.
I went to 124 Mount Road as soon as they came in to wash and clean her. Sister Brasier was on – something which always gives me confidence. She may be harder, but she is just as kindly as the others, and above all she can take decisions and act at once. It is that which has given her the pre-eminent position. I managed to get off two more pages by working at a mad rush and was back about 2 pm. Mrs Stewart was there. She told me how Phyllis had suddenly said, “I think we should go for a walk,” and she made signs of walking with her hands on the counterpane. “How can we, Phyllis?” asked Mrs Stewart, “It’s pouring with rain.”
When I went in Phyllis said to me, “I’m talking terrible nonsense. I asked Mrs Stewart to come for a walk.” This seemed to distress her. But it was soon forgotten. Later I went in after she had rung the bell – I had been to the toilet or somewhere like that – and saw the Hungarian girl she doesn’t like, and Nurse Keating she thinks not too bright, standing like a couple of softies on each side of the bed. “I want sister,” said Phyllis and began to cry. I went as if to rush and get her, and this galvanised the other two. Then Phyllis told me she was in real pain – from her back, for she has been lying on it for four months. Sister Brasier soon had things right.
She told me that Phyllis’s pulse was the weakest yet. “She can’t last more than forty-eight hours. She’s only ticking over.” I saw the Matron and Miss Hanley. All were genuinely upset and said frankly it would have been more merciful if this had come two months ago. “It’s a pity she came here after Christmas,” I understood the Matron to say – why, and what alternative there was, I do not know, but I think she meant that Phyllis could have done without the raising of false hopes in the pale simulated recovery of the autumn. “But,” said she and it was interesting to see how a person in her position looked at it, “We can not advance it by a single day, nor can we retard it. It’s your fate.” So after years of fighting disease, the conclusion is that the issue depends on luck. I imagine this view is founded on religion.
May 7 Saturday: Again Phyllis had a fairly comfortable night, without the usual extra injection. She was, however, very weak and uncommunicative in the morning. I went to 124 Mount Road, did a little work on the paper, then returned by 11.30. She merely lay there and said nothing. In the afternoon Mrs Stewart, Miss Stothard and Miss Holstead came. I tried to ration their time, but Miss Stothard monopolised most of it. While she was in with Phyllis I talked to Mrs Stewart, who told me that she first got to know Phyllis when teaching at Speke just after AEG had died and she herself had lost her husband. She spoke of Phyllis’s acerbity towards graduates who got headships and wondered if Phyllis ever resented the fact that I received a university education and she did not. I thought it possible. She said also that AEG told Miss Holstead that Phyllis was very fond of her father. At a later period, however, they did not hit it off. I think CEG grew selfish after developing stomach ulcers and demanded AEG’s undivided attention.
There was hardly any conversation today. Phyllis was weaker than ever. And sitting about all the time I began to feel that I, for my part, had “had enough”. Dr Howe asked me how I was standing up to nine nights without a proper sleep. I told him fairly enough – thanks to a steady consumption of cognac!
Another explanation of the Matron’s remark occurred to me. Mrs Stewart described how her husband was only bed-ridden for a fortnight, and indeed preached in church a week before he died. One morning the doctor said, “This can’t go on. It is no good to you, and none to him.” He gave an injection with the comment, “That may weaken his heart”. By evening he was dead. Mrs Stewart believes it was a coup de grace. Perhaps then, I reflected afterwards, if Phyllis had been at home, the local GP would have done the same and said nothing. Here, however, every drachm of poison is recorded and counterchecked. The entire resources of a first-class hospital are mobilised for the maintenance of misery.
At night Nurse Archer was back. She gave Phyllis her evening injection. “I only wish it would put her right out. She’s had her purgatory in this world, poor girl. I am always uneasy about giving the last injection, but this time, I hope that is it.”
For despite the fact that she looks peaceful and dignified lying there asleep, the physical decay stares one in the face. I mentioned this to the nurse. “The degeneration of the tissues began ten days ago.” The neck is brown verging on black. Black hair grows gradually on the chin and cheeks, as if the body had lost its power of self-regulation. Her voice is a whisper, and said Nurse Archer, “she must be near the end. She is losing the ability to control her dentures.” But at midnight, there she was, still breathing. Dr Howe went in to look at her.
Everybody in the hospital is now asking me whether I am well myself, and if I get any sleep at all. “You’ll never want to see Liverpool again,” commented Nurse Archer! What makes matters worse with Phyllis now is that she finds it extremely difficult to swallow even water, yet complains of dryness of the mouth.
May 8 Sunday: I got some sleep, but not much. Nurse Archer also was on the qui vive, as a seriously ill patient always unsettles the night staff. Phyllis, on the other hand, had a comparatively good night and at 6 am. when she had her injection seemed almost perky, and was quite easy to understand. Every day it gets more astonishing.
I took a taxi to 124 Mount Road, finished the paper but for one 1000-word article, and was back for lunch. Phyllis was still asleep but could whisper that she was “all right” but couldn’t sleep properly. I had while at 124 arranged with Enid Greaves that Elsie Graves could stay with her if she came up. Later Elsie telephoned the hospital from Cornwall to ask how Phyllis was and send her regards. But Phyllis hardly said a word. Miss Stothard entertained her for a while, wisely or unwisely I can’t say, and Mrs Stewart had a word with her. But all the time she simply lies there immobile, the picture of utter dejection.
Mrs Stewart expressed the opinion, which my own experience confirms, that the onset of cancer is often accompanied by moods of depression. And this, she thinks, explains Phyllis’s periodical fits of melancholy. She thought too that in every holiday she took with her, over the years she has wished to do less and less. But this could merely be age. I doubt if I would cycle a hundred miles now. The weather is dank, wet and gloomy.
May 9 Monday: Phyllis had a fairly good night though she was restless in the early part. I went early to Mount Road. I was compelled to ask Sean Redmond to go to Ripley on Wednesday. He has had plenty of extra work thanks to the situation up here. He told me that the MCF conference at the weekend was a flop. Only 30 people attended. He considers that Faris Glubb deliberately sabotaged it. He has now gone off to get a job with one of Bertrand Russell’s outfits. It is of course dangerous to see intention behind bad work. It may be just that the job was too big for him. He had not received any impression of how Brockway was taking the set-back. Perhaps he finds too strong an anti-imperialist movement embarrassing at the moment!
When I returned to the hospital Phyllis was just slightly weaker again. Miss Stothard came. I persuaded her not to overtire Phyllis. When Mrs Stewart came there was little response. But then things changed. Once or twice she asked for me, but did not seem clear what she wanted. I sat in the room most of the time, except to take tea in the lounge.
While I was having it Nurse Owen brought in Mr Hirsch. He said, “It’s a matter of days now” – his ultimate is up tomorrow! He then remarked, “I must say I’ve never before seen a case where the decline is so gradual, so gentle.” A few minutes later the Hungarian nurse came in quite flustered. “She wants to see you.” I went in – she was only lightly covered and the washing implements were there. Her speech was as mushy as a drunkard’s. But her thoughts were clear. “I’m worried,” she said. “What about?”. With great vehemence she got out, “I don’t want to live if I’m going to be a burden to anybody.” I thought this meant she wanted to go at once. “Have you spoken to Mr Hirsch?” “Yes.” “That’s why I’m worried. He just sidled away. I hear you all talking in the corridor, and I think you are talking about me. I gather that you think that there is hope – that’s why I say I don’t want to be a burden.” I couldn’t understand for a while. I saw Mr Hirsch in the office and tackled him. He seemed unaware of the question she had asked. We both assumed it was what is in everybody’s mind. “How long?”. “I don’t know,” he said, “how far she would respond to religion: ‘as long as God wills’.” I thought very little, unitarian or no unitarian, God’s will is somewhat difficult to predict, and “I don’t know” is as good an answer. I suggested, “Not very long”. But later I realised that it had all arisen from a fantasy – like that of moving her – a dream in which there was hope of survival but only as a handicapped person. I had thought that Hirsch was clumsy in sidling away. Possibly he did not understand her or was too embarrassed to reply.
A few minutes later she was upset again, and said she was frightened. She had had attacks of dizziness, the last a very bad one. Sister Bethyll came and reassured her. Then she was cold, and I put the radiator on. When I went to pump ship the bell went again. Where was I? But by about 9 pm. she had settled and I merely went in from time to time. Nurse Archer agreed with Hirsch, but thought the unique feature was the preservation of her senses. They thought she had an enormously “strong will”. Nurse Archer agreed she could hear what was said in the corridor. “They can always hear you,” she said, “even if they can’t speak. I got proof of that. There was a woman here who was an alcoholic. We didn’t know, and after the anaesthetic she was unconscious for weeks, for most of the day. She told me things we had said after she recovered. And once I went in to ask her would she like a drink. Her hand pointed to a drawer. I opened it and found she had a bottle of whisky hidden there. We had to give her a tot every day.”
May 10 Tuesday: There were developments during the night. It must have been about 6 am. when Nurse Archer came in and said Phyllis wanted to talk to me. She was refusing to have her injection and had put it off from hour to hour. Nurse Archer had given her a mouthwash. “Is this a preliminary?” she asked. “What do you mean, Miss Greaves?” “Am I going to die?” “Well of course we all are sometime.” “That’s an evasion.” They made her a little more comfortable. She asked, “What are you going to do next?” “Change the sheets.” “I don’t need it. I want to be left alone.” “There’s no need to have the injection if you don’t want it.” “Well, if I don’t, it will be the old routine of pain and sickness. Where’s my brother?” At that point I was brought in.
She was speaking in short sharp muzzy bursts and using the sort of construction I have known people use when their brains were damaged, childish constructions to describe what children could not possibly know. “If I have this injection,” she said, “I know it will be the end of me, because that’s what it’s for.” I assured her that it was the same stuff. After a while she felt a jab of pain and thought she might have it after all. “But, you understand, don’t you?” she said. I told them she had agreed to take it. They went in. Then she said I must hold her hand while she was having it. It certainly seemed to hurt her savagely, and I was asking them why. Are these drugs intensely acid or alkaline or dissolved in an organic liquid? A few minutes later, she felt sick, but nothing came of it.
It was useless to try and sleep again. So I took a taxi to 124 Mount Road, to put out the dustbin and buy in one or two reserve food items. The gas meter reader came, and later the Prudential Insurance collector. Two letters came, one from Phyllis’s friend Beryl in Cambridge who wants to come and see her, but I put her off, and a second from Harley Greaves, whom Elsie had told of the woeful situation. He described Phyllis as “poor lad” and then added – “you forget the years going by. I am talking as I did when we were all kids together.”
When I reached the hospital again, Phyllis said she didn’t want to see the girl from Cambridge “on any account”. She only wanted myself and Phyllis Stewart. Not Miss Stothard? “Not if she wakes me up.” So poor Miss Stothard, the faithful but the undiscerning, was told that on no account must she wake her up, which, I believe, she didn’t do. After lunch Phyllis was totally unconscious and no longer reacted even to her name. They are giving the injections slightly more frequently now. Sister Bethyll says if she has pain now it will be severe. They must keep up the sedation.
I went in and out of her room fairly frequently after lunch, and at about 3 pm. tea was set in the lounge. I noticed her eyes wandering, almost rolling, and came out every minute or two. About 3 pm. I noticed her become much paler and called Nurse Caldwell. “She looks desperate,” I said. She looked at her but did nothing. A couple of minutes later I went for Sister Bethyll, for she was now very still and her eyes were no longer blinking. “Is she gone,” I asked. “I think so.” The pallor had become complete. The doctor was brought and pronounced life extinct. The change was perfectly peaceful, like the stopping of a clock. Of course I had mixed feelings, sad about the whole thing, glad about the final relief. I saw Miss Hanley, who gave me certificates, and the Matron, whom I told of the proposed gift to the library. All the nurses said how fond they were of Phyllis and that they would miss her after this time. I arranged for Mrs Stewart to collect her things and took only those appertaining to business. I rang Enid Greaves and Elsie Greaves, arranged the funeral for Thursday at 12.20 pm. and wrote to Alan Morton. Then I found out roughly what she wants done with her property. And finally at nearly 11 pm. I curried some tinned chicken and drank a bottle of Zeltinger and retired. Mrs Stewart confirmed the Unitarian minister was available.
May 11 Wednesday: The day was busy with unpleasant business. I went to the Liverpool Cooperative funeral service and made arrangements for cremation tomorrow. I missed the Echobut got an advert in the Post. Then I bought some new clothes at Lewis’s, in particular a raincoat, and other things in Birkenhead. At about 8.30 Elsie Greaves arrived arrived having driven from Dunhevyd [in Cornwall] in one day. While she was here Mrs Sharpe rang, saying she was very sorry, and was eighty-two and a great friend of AEG, which she was, but nonetheless doing her little piece of poking. What would I do, live here or sell the house? “I’ll have to think about it,” said I. I went up to Enid Greaves’s in the evening and we stayed talking till midnight.
May 12 Thursday: The day began most inauspiciously. Getting up in the night to go to the toilet I fell down the stairs and am bruised from head to foot, limping and fed up. I think nothing is broken or misplaced – if I am right I have had a providential escape. A letter came from Miss May, from Miss Holstead, and the Director of Education.
I arranged the transport, picked up Enid Greaves and Elsie Greaves, and went to Confield. We bought a single bunch of flowers on the way to lay on the coffin. Mr Short gave a very good talk in which he paid Phyllis some powerful tributes and said that he had only set foot in her school when he realised that here was something “different”. Mrs West was there, and a representative of the Education Committee, Councillor Williams of the Governors, and about forty in all, mostly middleaged and elderly as is the way with funerals. I brought Enid Greaves and Elsie to the Arcadia for lunch, then back to Thornton Road and 124 Mount Road. Enid came in the evening and looked at some of the clothes Phyllis said she would like her to have. She stayed till 10 pm, and I was glad of the company. The house seems quieter from knowing that there is no Phyllis any longer, and also perhaps because I have not spent an evening here this year.
We were talking about past and present. As to the latter I enquired about Harley Greaves and expressed my opinion that at Mary Greaves’s funeral he seemed to be hitting the bottle. “I wish it was,” said Enid, “but my fear is that it is drugs. He has access to them.” She thought it was benzedrine he was taking. A few years ago he had a haemorrhage which was put down to consuming aspirin.
May 13 Friday: Elsie Greaves came in the morning and took some of Phyllis’s clothes away, which will be useful to her. She said she was going to stay tonight in Montgomery where Mary Greaves’s old friend Mary Brunnery now lives. I heard details I did not know. During the war period DzF would not have Elsie in the house, which was one of the bases of contention with Mary Greaves. She stayed one night at the Adelphi, and a year with the Brunnerys, this rather loud family of Liverpools who stayed with Mary Greaves many years ago. Apparently this woman lives with a son. “Is that the one that did jail?” I asked. “No – this is the eldest, very respectable.” Then Elsie told me how one morning when Harley Greaves was living there, around 1937 I imagine, a policeman called. Had Harley received a parcel that morning? He had not. At midday when Harry Greaves came home for lunch [ie. Harley’s father] the policeman came again, with a parcel addressed to Harley he had collected from the sorting office. Harley was requested to open it. In it were £850 in notes, which to Mary Greaves’s consternation were strewn about her table. To make matters worse Jack Brunnery had enclosed a note, “Dear Harley, look after the boodle for me till I ask for it.” Harley was also suspected of having supplied Brunnery with drugs to provoke a miscarriage in a girl he had put in the family way. However, there was nothing to implicate him and he gave evidence for the prosecution at the trial – Brunnery meanwhile winking at him from the dock. It was Harley who had recommended Brunnery for the job in the bank, and he was extremely worried for his father’s and his own reputation. Apparently the defalcation was from a seaman’s account, but the seaman died leading to a check at an inconvenient time. Elsie Greaves does not look too well. She was as black as your hat at Mary Greaves’s funeral; now she is as grey as a badger. And she says she has twice been to hospital with suspected cancer, but apparently it has not been that.
In the evening young Anthea and her fiancé Eric came and looked at the car. I think he would like to buy it, as he is very enamoured of it. I spoke to Margaret McClelland on the phone. She advised advertising the house soon at the highest possible price, as you’ll always get it. So the advice comes thick and fast, but no harm. I wrote to Alan Morton, Helga, Phyllis’s solicitor, and paid a number of bills. I also arranged for the interment of the ashes next Thursday. Enid Greaves will help.
May 14 Saturday: I went to Anfield, signed an interment form, took the grave certificate, and came back. Diamond drove me and was very sorry to hear about Phyllis. He has been driving one man for three months – one of the Holt Shipping people – and has not been on call. He was so impressed by her improvement after Ince- Blundell that he was sure she must be better now.
At first I thought I would go to London till Thursday, but later decided I wanted a complete break somewhere I could relax. I rang 74 Finglas Park and Helga and Cathal both said come across at once. So I told Enid Greaves, Mrs Stewart and Jean Hack and made my way to the Dublin boat. The embarkation arrangements at Liverpool are an utter disgrace. Even in the immediate postwar period it is doubtful if there was such lack of concern for the convenience of passengers. I remember an American during the war saying quite “matter of fact”: “there was another case of British incompetence today.”
May 15 Sunday (Dublin): I reached Dublin after a smooth crossing and took a taxi up to Cathal’s. Helga was up, and the children came bounding down followed by Cathal. I went to see the Connolly day march in the afternoon and saw Michael O’Riordan, Sean Nolan, Sam Nolan, the Mooneys, and many more. Gerry Fitt was on the platform but the speeches were empty. I don’t know if that was the significance of the wink he gave me! After an afternoon resting Cathal and I met Tadhg Egan and as we were returning accidentally met Tony Coughlan. They tell me the Monument Restaurant is taken over. Another decent facility goes.
May 16 Monday: I had lunch with Roy Johnston in the Gresham. Both he and Cathal stress the great success of the Wolfe Tone Society lectures, George Gilmores’ being the most successful. While Cathal was at a Union meeting Tony Meade, editor of the United Irishman, came up, and returned at 10.30 pm. – staying till 12. He lives at Skerries and was on his way home. There was the disclosure of a great Republican “blueprint for revolution” in Saturday’s Independent. Michael O’Riordan’s says,”obviously Roy’s composition”. Roy says, “a composite document contained material ‘lifted’ from his reports”. Tony Meade says “only one of many – of no significance at all.” He is a somewhat intense young man, approaching thirty, very serious in his dedication to his cause, but with a slightly cynical sense of humour, not so relaxed as the gaiety of Cathal Goulding. He dresses very well in a £50 suit made by a Republican tailor. In his office are labour-saving devices and a sanctum sanctorum that stray visitors cannot get in. There is none of the slap-dashness of some of the older generation. The whole trend is towards professionalism. I would say that his outlook was entirely bounded by bourgeois business, though he can ask Cathal, “What’s the Marxist line on that?” as if it was only to be brought out of the right pillbox. He considers Brugha seriously underestimated and Collins’s reputation a figment of newspaper propaganda.
May 17 Tuesday: Last night my muscles were beginning to loosen up again, but today I was very stiff again and sat about all day. I spoke to Sean Redmond on the telephone, and also confirmed with Liverpool the interment on Thursday. I went out for a wee drink with Cathal. Cyril next door seldom sees him. He is always talking about pots and pans and his prospects of becoming a director of the manufacturing concern he works for. Apart from that I was indoors all day.
May 18 Wednesday: I was slightly better again today – by early evening the best since before my accident. I went to town in the morning, and going into Bewleys in Grafton Street whom did I see sitting there but Ewart Milne, very grey, aged, but unmistakeable. He did not at first recognise me, but we were soon having a talk that lasted an hour. He said Austin Clarke had suffered a rejuvenation. “He’s just about got out of the shadow of the black Church.” This apropos of his new poem. Then Milne said he was “in seclusion” and had scarcely seen a soul since his wife died at the end of 1964. It was cancer of the lung. When registering the death in Newcastle, Northumberland, from which she hailed, he was asked, “did she smoke?” She did, heavily. “One in nine who die from that disease are non-smokers.” Then complications arose. Her estate (very considerable) was in England but for a house in Dublin. He got probate in England. Then the Irish Inland Revenue claimed that he had Irish domicile. He denied it. Not only that, but they agreed that a wife could not have a different domicile from the husband. He could afford to laugh there, however, as he already had probate in England. In revenge the Irish Inland Revenue dug its heels in over the house, and he can neither sell it nor do anything else with it, apart from having an overdraft on the strength of it. I said to him why not let it, and than await the Revenue’s decision. He might get the duty in rent if he had to pay it. He had already contemplated abandoning it altogether. He said he felt a little mean jibbing at paying duty to a small country, but had no objection to paying on the house alone if they would accept that. He is now of course very well fixed. He said he had never intended returning to Ireland for more than five years and he wants to go to England again as soon as he can. Both of his youngsters have decided to do so. One of them is working for London Transport, has joined the long-haired element, but says the pop-group business he had hoped to exploit is too competitive.
His mood is somewhat self-pitying as he is wholly self-centred and more than a little conceited as well. He told me how he had discovered that he and his wife had been cheated and defrauded to the extent of £1000 and over by a person they had trusted, but who should be nameless. Of course I guessed at once. “I think I can imagine whom,” I said. “Indeed, you were of course on the edge of it.” “Do you remember the Irish song book?” “That’s what I am talking about.” “Well, the author of that was Stella Fitzthomas O’Hagan, who you know as well as I, is Stella Jackson.” I recalled that I had published her statement that she and not Patrick Galvin was the author. “And quite right too!” He then intimated that Galvin had gone to his wife borrowing money which was to be used for the advancement of the reputation of Ewart’s poetry. And that did not greatly surprise me.
He was somewhat apologetic – as apologetic as he is capable of being – about his tantrums. He would take out a subscription to the Democrat again when he returned to London. He will of course do so, and have some tantrums if he is well enough, if not about China about something else. He mistakes his own feelings for world developments. He told me that he had at one time gone to sea, and worked the Dublin-London passage on the B. and l.[ie. the British and Irish Steamship Company] before he went to Spain.
Later I saw Sean Nolan. There was nothing much here. Deasy called in.
Then I called to see Mairin Johnston. The children were there. But from the fact that she is as slim as a sylph, I conclude she solved her problem all right. Roy’s crazy pools scheme is in difficulties. They are not getting in enough money to pay the prizes. I am not a bit surprised. When their inaugural literature did not tell the subscribers what to do, I concluded that they were completely unbusinesslike. Mairin says she has joined the Labour Party, but finds it composed of self-seeking individualists. She repeated the story of Tony Coughlan and the Salvation Army girl. But Mairin is not a friendly commentator where Tony Coughlan is concerned.
At about 5.30 pm. Tony Meade called to see Cathal but discovered that he was working late. He ran me down to the North Wall, discoursing on 1916 and saying that the insurgents made a mess of it and didn’t know what they were doing. He is still in an iconoclastic frame of mind. Yet he sees nothing incongruous in occupying ditches and cow sheds in Co. Fermanagh while Stormont proceeds unhindered on its course, secure in every way. He agreed however that if 1916 was an example of an attempt at a revolution when no revolutionary situation existed, so was his own little effort in 1956, for which he did four years [ie. arising from the IRA’s “border campaign” of the late 1950s]. He said he was sick and tired of commemmorations and that next year the Republicans might drop the Easter parade and have some meetings instead.
The boat was crowded. I went into the restaurant and found the eaters lined up. There was a chief waiter I didn’t know, but I knew the stewart at the table he shepherded me to, and he laid on the most splendiferous “VIP treatment”, obviously for the benefit of what he called the “once-a-year merchants, and the black cargo we’re carrying tonight”. He felt very sore about B and I’s acceptance of diverted passengers. “I’m a Union man,” he said “and what about you? You’re a regular passenger. Suppose when you came in here you found all these people and couldn’t get a seat? What would you think? If it was cargo we’d not be carrying it.” A Bridlington Hotel owner, labour-collecting in his native Louth, said “turn the navy out and bring the British railways ships on to this route.” “Yes,” said an English couple opposite, “and have the dockers out as well, and put the fat in the fire.”
May 19 Thursday (Liverpool): I felt distinctly better today – the first “normal” day since the accident, and improved as the day went on, even running a few yards to catch a bus. In the morning Enid Greaves drove me to Anfield, whence we took Phyllis’s ashes in a plastic urn to Bebington and interred them with the remains of AEG and CEG. So that is the end of my poor girl. We made some enquiries over inscriptions, then went for a drink, and Enid drove me home. There were letters from Michael Crowe, Pat Bond and Brian Farrington – the latter saying that the Yeats pamphlet had secured him his appointment in Aberdeen. All were very kind. I did not reply to them. In the evening the Connolly lecture was poorly attended, only John McClelland, Pat McLaughlin, Kath McLaughlin, Barney Morgan, Pat Doherty and – equal to ten – Roose Williams. He could of course not keep off Wales where he says there is a natural revival among the youth. I do certainly hope so and that they achieve something before that indescribable character Wilson plants their country with Brummies. Kath McLaughlin is only hobbling on crutches. She will never do much again. Eddie Gormely was absent because there was a lecture at the Irish Centre.
May 20 Friday (London): I travelled to London on the 10.15 relief train, which for a wonder had a dining car on it. When I reached the office just before 1 pm. Sean Redmond was at lunch. Later he arrived. The financial position of the Connolly Association is extremely difficult, and one reason is the virtual collapse of the West London Branch, due mainly to Pat Hensey’s and Charlie Cunningham’s being “nice” people with no ability for leadership.
In the evening I went to Holloway with Joe Deighan. The reception was very much better than before I went to Liverpool. Joe was telling me the news. Sean Redmond had spent an hour at the House of Commons trying to persuade Fitt to speak on June 29th [ie. at the annual Connolly Association demonstration on “Wolfe Tone Sunday” in Trafalgar Square]. He gave no firm answer. The next night Joe Deighan was with him for two hours. He admitted to being in tow from the Irish Embassy. McCabe rings him up day and night. I feared this would happen. He says the Connolly Association is “smeared with Communism” (this doubtless from the Embassy). It would not be wise for him to speak at the moment. His “political instinct” tells him this; it is always right. Of course he will always follow us. He is a Connolly man. Apparently his conceit is incredible, yet he can hardly sit still with the knowledge that he is a charlatan!
Other news is that Eamon McLaughlin lost pounds and pounds on his play and is now (according to Des Logan) hitting the bottle hard. Robbie Rossiter is disillusioned and talking of going to New Zealand, and, says Joe Deighan, there are many currents of dissatisfaction and discontent. His own tendency seems to be to give in to them.
May 21 Saturday: The Connolly Association conference opened at the Conway Hall. Among those present were Joe Deigahn, who took the chair, Sean Redmond, Peter Mulligan, Charlie Cunningham, Pat Hensey, Bobby Heatley, Robbie Rossiter, Chris Sullivan, Elsie O’Dowling, Jane Tait, Tom Redmond and others – and Gerry Curran and John McClelland. The young Belfast man (my guess is Queen’s University) who according to Joe Deighan “knows personally every single person in these islands”, was there, leftist, talkative and a bit stuffy, not above an attack on the Trade Unions. Peter Mulligan shows no further progress, but CO’D [unclear whom these initials refer to]made some very thoughtful speeches, as also did Mike Cooley. It could not be said that much that was novel emerged.
In the evening I went to the Festival Hall. The programme was not unfamiliar – the 7th of Beethoven, the first of Brahms, and I got a bad seat, and was nearly blown out of the hall by two trumpets. I thought someone would put them off with rifle fire or swipe their instruments when unguarded during the interval. The conductor dissected everything. Hearing the Beethoven was like watching the works of an organ. At first I thought he would do the same to the Brahms, and he started to, but all was forgiven as he did the last movement very well indeed, making the Schiller/Beethoven freedom-hymn warm and compelling, and succeeding both times in bringing out the absolute inevitability of the chorale. I have a cold, and though mobile enough, am not right after the fall.
May 22 Sunday: The conference proceeded. Central London had sent me condolences over Phyllis, and now I received a similar message from South. Elsie O’Dowling, who had aged much since Sean died, said, “It puts years on you. You’d think it wouldn’t, but it does.” And that is fair enough. Emotionally it is as if the death took place long ago – when its inevitability was finally accepted. But a physical strain has been added, increasing as the idea became more familiar, so producing a worse effect. Robbie Rossiter also paid his personal regards. While there was nothing startling, the general effect was good. Rossiter offered a week in Liverpool. The deficiency on the special fund is down to £95.
May 23 Monday: I went to Central Books, coming across Iris Walker the new manageress, then to King Street[CPGB head offices]. There I saw Idris Cox and Hillel Woddis, full of energy and expansiveness now he has taken over R. Palme Dutt’s work in the International Department. Palme Dutt is having another office, and still comes in twice a week. I asked Idris how he was faring personally. “He is getting to look very old. But he is so reserved. I am one of the very few who has been in his house. He usually keeps you talking on the doorstep. I think he is managing for himself.” So that was all I could get. Then I went to the bank, and to Matthews Drew to buy a new book like that I am writing on [ie. for his Journal]. I found the line is being discontinued in favour of some rough red cheap-looking horrors but bought a dozen at the much reduced price of 6/- – perhaps it is optimism to get a nine years’ supply! Then I went to the office and had lunch with Chris Sullivan (unemployed again) and Sean Redmond. I caught the 3 pm. train to Liverpool and found there had been a furious gale. My fence had not been damaged, but all the blossom was ripped off the apple tree – I wonder is the fruit ruined – hollyhocks were broken off at the root, laburnum spikes scattered all over the lawns, and everything straggling all over the place. There was awaiting me a letter from Elsie Greaves.
Earlier today Sean Redmond said the MCF was in chaos, since Faris Glubb has resigned to go to work for Bertrand Russell. He may pull out of it to concentrate on the NCCL.
May 24 Tuesday: I got Phyllis’s papers into order and made an appointment with Bateson, her solicitor, for tomorrow. About teatime Elsie Greaves came and pressed an invitation to go up there in the evening. I did so, after ringing Peggy Evans and learning that she was not coming to Liverpool at Whit, as there is nobody to look after her father. The brother, she said, has cancer of the lung with secondaries in the brain, as we heard before. She hopes to come in August, and, though apparently not very enthusiastic, will look at Phyllis’s things then. She is rather down in the dumps and I said she should be glad her own health is holding up. When I told this to Bill Pemberton he had no sense of “there but for the grace of God go I.” He said, “As far as I’m concerned, until I die, I’m immortal”. Then when Elsie was out of the room he told me that her trouble, for which she goes to Clatterbridge, is cancer of the larynx, but he hopes it was arrested in time. To make things worse, I am sure Elsie is not well. The speed with which the clouds throw themselves across the sky! Incidentally it rained all day.
May 25 Wednesday: I got a cab to take me to Batesons who have an imposing establishment in one of those glorious rambling Victorian buildings in Castle Street. I saw W. Bateson, whom I presume to be the head of the firm. I must say I rather took to him, and his assistant McNamara also – I think I have his name right. He was very pleased to have all the papers in order. When we were talking generally it came out I was writing a book. What about? Irish history. “Indeed – right from the very beginning?” “Tush,” McNamara interrupted, “that would be a work of fiction!”
I was speaking on the phone to Sean Redmond and gave him a summary of the reply I have drafted to the Clann na hEireann proposals for unity on their policy. Later a telegram came from Tony Coughlan saying that the copy is on the way. It went on raining all night and did not stop till nearly 5 pm. In the evening I went to the GPO with letters. I felt a little nostalgic when passing the flower shop where I got Phyllis flowers, and the taxi rank outside Central Station where I took a cab to her every day, and also the GPO in Stanley Street where CEG was [ie. where his father worked as a Post Office official], and the municipal annexe where Harry Greaves was. It is like being the last of the Mohicans, and at no great age, either. However, I soon got over that.
May 26 Thursday: In the morning the man whom Bateson suggested to do the probate valuation telephoned. “Mr Bateson has been in to see me…” Rather curious, thought I, to go to that trouble (if he did). Then “of course if you’re selling this stuff we can do it for you, we’re auctioneers also.” So I said I will think about it. If I do sell, why not him? Unless I do better privately. I recall Bateson asking, “if we get him to value does it commit us to ask him to sell?” And they thought not.
The rest of the day I spent on the paper. It was actually dry! I was able to wash one or two small items. At tea-time I thought a fishbone had stuck in my palette. I drank tomato with Worcester sauce in it, but hydrogen peroxide seemed to clear it.
May 27 Friday: I spent the greater part of the day replying to the letters of condolence and have now most of them out of the way. Apart from that I spent the morning finishing the paper. Miss Stothard rang. The valuation man, Owen, called.
May 28 Saturday: In the morning Mrs Stewart called and helped to identify Phyllis’ jewellery which is to be despatched to various people. Miss Stothard, I omitted to say yesterday, was worried because Phyllis had insisted that her own signature was necessary for cheques drawn on a school account. The bank want the Death Certificate. I said get hold of Bateson. She also said that the meeting of Governors of the School yesterday had a one-minute silence in memory of Phyllis, and some “very nice things were said.” She hoped this was the last, as the wound is kept open. But she seems to have weathered the storm quite well.
Mrs Stewart also is cheery enough. She had lunch with me, but almost the whole time was spent talking about Phyllis. I got some of the jewellery despatched. After she had gone I had to mow the lawns – something I did thirty years ago, and never thought to do again; I also saw Jean Hack who said she did not want the washing machine Phyllis wanted me to give her. The same might happen with Anthea!
May 29 Sunday (Glasgow/ Inverness): I was busy in the garden most of the day but managed to catch the 4.55 pm. train to Glasgow. The refreshment arrangements were shocking – no food, only beer to drink out of plastic glasses. I made myself a nusiance and got one of the two decent glasses, poor though they were. I did not really know whether I wanted to go away or not, but I recalled Phyllis’s old saying that when you feel so tired that you don’t feel like going away, that is the very time you should. And it was some relief after eight months cooped up to get into short pants and ride away on a bicycle. But all did not go well. The train pulled up at Lockerbie and stopped for a while at [placname unclear]. It was announced that a goods train with four engines, two afore two aft, has broken down on the gradient. We were delayed about a half hour. It almost seemed as if this trouble that began with a train breakdown was to end with the same. Nevertheless I caught the night train from Buchanan St. to Inverness and secured the last sleeper.
May 30 Monday (Auchtascailt): After making some purchases I took the train to Garve where a young man belonging to the hotel was cutting grass with a two-handed scythe. I cycled on the Ullapool Road and had lunch. There was a cockney cyclist there who rode a scooter in London but hated the motorists, like a sensible man. The weather was powerful and I could “feel myself being done good” all the time. The cyclist wanted me to go to Ullapool with him. He was in the YHA fifteen years – would be in his middle thirties – and said how pleased he was that so many old-aged pensioners were cycling round using the hostels. He was quite right in this. But when he criticised the removal of Eamonn Andrews from Telefis Eireann on the grounds that this was against the principle of “giving the public what it wants” (as if the public was bound to want Andrews’s cosmopolitanising rubbish), I decided that though a nice fellow he would be boring for a holiday. I let him go ahead and turned left to Auchtascailt. At Braemor Junction I noticed how heavy the traffic was. At the little roadside restaurant the proprietress stated the road had wakened up in two days. There she turned out venison hamburgers (if I might invent a term). When I said this was not the time of year for venison, she said she was lucky, she had a deep-freeze box. This was the first sign of the rapid commercialisation of the district I was to see more of later.
There were so many cars on the road that the pleasure of cycling was badly reduced. But Auchtascailt proved a pleasant place. Wright, the warden, a retired Scot who had lived at Richmond where he had a boat, was a character. I found him feeding a lamb with a bottle when I got there. He had the parts of a bicycle – down to the smallest nut – on a bench. He knew the precise cuckoo sitting on a wire that was trying to get into a linnet’s nest, the wee linnet sitting on the same wire keeping a constant watch on the big bird. Two elderly “hostellers” came on a three-wheeler. “If I had your legs, you could have the car,” said the man. “Cycling was always my sport. But I’m past it now. You’ve got to get round some way.” I didn’t mind him. But there came a girl who relucantly admitted to being American. Though the hostel is but 200 yards from a big hotel she asked could she stay the night as her car had broken down. She bummed tea and biscuits. My theory is that she is Australian. The Americans have more money to throw about, and would go to the hotel.
May 31 Tuesday (Craig): I rose early. The weather once more was superb. I was talking to Wright, the warder, about his lamb. He heard it bleating in the ditch. “It was an ethical question,” he said “Would I leave it or not. So I got it on the bottle. If anybody says it will cost me 2/- a week in milk, then I’m fool enough to do it. If I’d taken it up to the farmer it would die anyway. In the olden days the farmer’s wife would have fed it on milk till it would eat grass. But they’re too commercialised these days. She’d bang it on the head and put it in the dustbin.” Had he a legal title to it? That he didn’t know. Could he sell it to a butcher? He doubted it but let nobody say he was a sentimentalist. By autumn when the hostel closed it would be quite big. He could have it killed and take it home and put it in the fridge. As for the legalities with which the question was fringed, he would talk to somebody in the hotel and would “pick his brains”. By autumn he’d know just what to do.
I went on to Badbea and Badcaul. There I talked with an old man who had been in the army, all over the world, but had returned home to do farming. The farm where I had tea in 1945 was now taken over by a Newcastle man – a retired man. The old Badbea Hostel was a house again. I mentioned the traffic. “What? You should see it in a month’s time. They come nose to tail, blocking up the road.” There is a caravan site at Dundonald – where AEG and CEG had the accident in 1938. All the way to Gairloch at every strand the motor cars were parked in scores – but none of them would walk two hundred yards. I had lunch in Aultbea, a restricted menu, but the wine cheap.
I met an Englishman in kilts at Red Point. He told me there were “masses of people” at Craig. Mrs Mackenzie doubted it. When I got there I found a warden in residence, and a good dozen visitors, an American student from St. Andrews – indeed most were students, including the cyclists. On the balance this was a pleasant set, all genuine country-lovers, and able to talk about other things besides how many kettles were in the Youth Hostel at [placename unclear]. But the peace and quiet I was looking for was not there. The process of being “done good” seemed to have gone far enough. There had been changes at Craig that made it less attractive. A wooden floor had been put down over the pleasant stone floor – a distinct disimprovement. And the place is beginning to show more than ever the spoor of the human animal, broken trees, trampled undergrowth, and also the piles of rubbish. It might be worth another visit out of season. But I decided that I would not stay more than the one night.
A few minor woes, I grazed my heel on the shoes I bought in Inverness – the modern stiff type made for appearances first, comfort second. And the transistor radio, that one of the youngsters put on for the news and immediately switched off afterwards (a most civilised thing) gave the weather forecast for tomorrow as wet.
(c. 78,000 words)
DESMOND GREAVES J0URNAL, VOLUME 17, INDEX
1 November 1965 – 31 May 1966
Greaves, C. Desmond
– Aesthetics and cultural matters: 11.9, 3.7, 5.21
– Assessments of others: 12.7, 12.16, 12.18, 12.21, 1.4, 1.16, 2.6-7, 2.12,
2.14, 2.19, 2.27, 3.1, 3.8, 3.12, 3.21, 3.24, 3.26, 4.3, 4.6, 4.8,
4.10, 4.28-29, 5.6, 5.18
– Britain, public attitudes and assessments of trends in: 1.18-19, 1.23, 2.3,
2.14, 3.5, 3.25, 4.1, 5.31
– Civil Rights campaign on Northern Ireland: 1.3, 1.9, 3.16
– Family relations: 12.21, 2.4-5, 2.15, 2.18, 3.4, 3.23, 4.3, 5.7, 5.13, 5.25
– Holidays/cycle tours: 5.30-31
– Ireland, public attitudes and assessments of trends in:11.3, 12.18,
12.20, 12.27, 12.31, 1.2, 5.30
– Mellows research: 11.26
– National question: 1.18, 5.2, 5.19
– Self-assessments: 12.13, 1.3, 1.19, 2.8, 2.14, 3.9, 3.16, 3.23, 4.3, 4.4,
4.23, 4.29, 5.2, 5.23
Organisation Names Index
– Clann na hEireann: 5.25
– Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB): 11.2, 1.6, 1.8, 12.11, 12.20,
1.25, 3.21, 3.29, 4.4,4.14, 5.23
– Communist Party of Northern Ireland (CPNI): 3.21, 4.4
– Connolly Association/Irish Democrat: 12.30, 1.2-3, 1.19, 1.25, 1.28, 3.20-
21, 3.30, 4.4, 4.8, 4.10, 4.14, 4.22, 4.27, 5.2, 5.20-21
– Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement: 12.11
– Irish Workers Party (formerly Irish Workers League): 12.9, 12.11, 12.18,
3.21, 3.29, 4.4
– Labour Party (British): 11.18, 5.19
– Labour Party (Irish): 3.17
– Movement for Colonial Freedom (MCF): 11.20, 12.29, 5.3, 5.9, 5.23
– National Council for Civil Liberties: 5.2
– Sinn Fein/IRA: 11.3,11.24-26, 12.9-10, 12.18, 1.9, 2.7, 2.17, 2.21, 3.17,
– Trotskyite and far-left organisations: 12.14, 2.7, 4.14
– Wolfe Tone Society: 12.9, 12.31, 5.16
Personal Names Index
Andrews, Eamon: 5.30
Aiken, Frank: 12.29
Asmal, Kader: 12.7, 12.10-11
Beauchamp. Kay: 11.2
Bennett, Jack: 4.17
Bing, Geoffrey: 3.28
Bond, Paddy: 3.23
Brockway, Fenner (Lord): 11.20, 5.3, 5.9
Brugha, Rory: 4.11
Clifford, Brendan and Angela: 12.14, 4.24
Cooley, Mike: 1.6, 4.14
Coughlan, Anthony (Tony): 11.28, 12.2, 12.7, 12.11, 3.17, 4.17, 4.27,
Cox, Idris: 11.2, 12.30, 1.8, 5.23
Crowe, Michael: 1.9,
Cunningham, Charlie: 1.8, 3.30,
Dalton, Liam (aka. McQuaid): 12.14, 4.14
Deighan, Joseph: 2.7, 2.12
De Valera, Eamon: 12.10
Doherty, Pat: 3.5
Dutt, R. Palme: 11.2, 1.6, 1.8, 1.29, 5.23
Eber, John: 11.20, 5.3
Einstein, Alfred: 4.29
Ennals, Martin: 5.3,
Farrington, Brian: 1.9, 1.24,
Fitt, Gerry MP: 4.12, 4.14, 4.17, 5.15, 5.20
Galvin, Patrick: 5.18
Gill, Tom; See MacGiolla
Gilmore, George: 3.17, 5.16
Glubb, Faris: 5.3, 5.9, 5.23
Gollan, John: 12.30
Goulding, Cathal: 11.26, 2.17, 2.20, 5.16-17
Greaves, Mary: 12.16
Greaves, Phyllis: 11.2, 12.21, 1.3,1.10-11,1.13, 1.19-20, 2.1, 2.8, 2.12-13, 2.19, 2.21,2.28, 3.3, 3.10, 3.25, 4.6, 4.24, 5.2, 5.5-7, 5.9-10, 5.19 and Vol.17 passim
Hensey, Pat: 3.30,
Hodge, Alan S.: 1.11
Johnston, Mairin: 12.7, 12.17, 2.6-7, 2.9, 2.11, 3.17, 5.18
Johnston, Roy: 11.25, 12.10-11, 12.14, 12.18, 12.31, 1.9, 2.9, 3.17, 5.16,
Klugman, James: 11.2, 2.9
Kyne, Tom TD: 2.7
Lawless, Gery: 12.14, 4.14
Lemass, Sean: 12.27
Lipton, Marcus M.P: 12.3
Macardle, Dorothy: 12.6
McClelland, John and Margaret: 1.24
MacGiolla, Tomas: 12.9
MacLiam, Cathal: 11.25-26, 2.20, 4.17, 5.18
McManus, Ethna (Mrs Viney): 11.25, 12.7
McMillen, Art: 4.14, 4.16-17
McMillen, Billy: 4.17
Mahon, John: 12.11, 12.30, 1.8, 2.10
Meade, Tony: 12.2, 2.21, 5.16, 5.18
Milne, Ewart: 5.18
Moore, Sean TD: 12.15
Morton, Prof. Alan G: 11.3, 12.29, 3.25, 5.10
Mulcahy, General Richard (Dick): 12.10, 4.24
Mulligan, Peter: 3.4
Murray, Sean: 3.10
Nevin, Donal: 3.17
Nolan, Sean: 11.27, 12.9-10
O’Byrne, Miss (Dublin city librarian): 11.26, 12.10, 12.15
O’Connor, Joe: 1.2
O’Donnell, Peadar: 11.23, 12.7, 3.17
O’Dowling (neé Timbey), Elsie: 11.2, 3.29
O’Kelly, Sean T.: 4.24
O’Leary, Michael TD: 11.28, 12.7, 12.9, 12.17
O’Malley, Cormac: 12.10, 12.16
O’Malley, Ernie: 11.27-28,11.30, 12.1, 12.6, 12.10
O’Neill, Captain Terence: 12.10
O’Riordan, Michael: 11.27, 12.18, 2.7, 2.10, 3.21, 3.29, 4.14, 5.16
O’Shea, Fred: 2.7, 4.8, 4.14
Prendergast, Jim: 2.7, 3.21, 3.29, 4.8, 4.14
Redmond, Sean: 12.11, 12.20, 12.30, 2.2, 2.7, 2.17, 2.28, 3.2, 3.20, 3.29,
4.14, 4.16, 4.22, 5.2-3, 5.9, 5.23
Redmond, Tom: 1.9, 1.24, 3.17, 3.30
Rodgers, WR.: 4.24
Rose, Paul MP: 4.12
Rossiter, Bobby: 12.3, 1.8, 2.7, 4.14
Sinclair, Elizabeth (Betty): 4.14
Ward, Vera: 1.3
Wilson, Harold: 5.19
Williams, J.Roose: 5.19
Woddis, Jack: 11.2, 11.20, 5.3, 5.23
Yeats, WB: 11.2, 4.24