1 January – 31 December 1983
Themes: Turning the Liverpool branch of the Connolly Association into the premier Irish organisation on Merseyside (2.5) – Lecturing on Wales and Ireland in Pontypridd (2.14) – Visiting the elderly R. Page Arnot (2.16) – Mooting the desirability of an international conference in defence of the Nation State (3.2) – On the CPGB: “The days of Gallagher, Dutt, and Jackson are gone. All that are left are flabby mediocrities without a trace of anti-imperialist spirit, that reflect the narrow economism of the trade unionist now being stripped naked by politics!”(4.13) – A particular revelation: “He told me that Gollan had told him why the CP did not press the Irish question: he was afraid of his Scottish membership. This is the depth of opportunism it had sunk to. I must confess this had never struck me before. Sceptical as I am of their motives I had not envisaged the sheer duplicity of this. We were to agitate the Irish question among nationalists, the CP getting what members it could. But the Scots were to recruit Orangemen! So the issue was never brought to a decision. If I had known this I would have paid more attention to Scotland.” (5.23) – Reminiscence of his going as a full-time worker with the Connolly Association in 1951 (5.23/7.27/8.16) – Launch in Dublin of his book of poems, “Four Letter Verses and the Mountbatten Award” (6.3) – On the roots of the CPGB divisions: “Unquestionably the fatal damage was the destruction of classical Marxism by academic revisionists…It would seem that if an attempt were to be made to pull things together it would begin by an attack on the “new revisionism”. But who is left who is able to do it?… We can defend the classical position on Irish affairs because of the national question. But to advance from that base is another matter. We are too busy defending it. It won’t be over-run, but it needs defending (6.12) – Invitation to an Irish Embassy luncheon in Liverpool (7.19) – Organising a series of Irish history lectures in that city – Formal influences on his verse-writing; the concept of anti-imperialist poetry (8.30) – On the split between “soft-liners” and “hard-liners in the CPGB:“My instinct, when I heard of the row between the ‘Morning Star’ and the CP, was that the CP were preferable, and I can see I was right. It is the difference between shit and shite! Still, I suppose it is marginal.” (8.21 and (9.10) – An interpolation by Dr Roy Johnston querying some remarks about himself (9.14) – Seeking to trace James Connolly’s letters to his wife (9.16) – On reaching his 70th birthday (9.27) – Deciding the contents of his will (10.22) – The internal divisions at the 1983 CPGB Congress (11.12-15) –The Connolly Association moves to new premises at 244 Gray’s Inn Road, London (12.5)
Index to Volume 32 of Desmond Greaves’s Journal
[Editorial Note: In this and all the volumes of the Greaves Journal from No.28 to No.38 the Index is placed at the beginning rather than the end of each volume, the better to facilitate internet readers seeking knowledge of that particular volume’s contents.
The text of this Volume 32 of the Journal therefore follows rather than precedes the Index below.
In the Index references throughout, the month comes first and then the day of the month. Thus 6.7 means June 7th, 1.25 means January 25th, 12.4 means December 4th and so on. Where the entries in a particular volume extend beyond one year so that monthly dates are repeated, the figure (2) is attached to each entry for the second year.]
Greaves, C. Desmond
Aesthetic and cultural matters: 1.5, 1.15, 2.26, 3.31, 4.5, 4.18, 5.26, 5.30,
8.26, 8.30, 10.25
Assessments of others: 4.16, 5.18, 5.20, 5.23, 6.12, 7.29, 8.15, 9.18,
10.2,10.4-25, 11.19, 12.14, 12.18
Britain, public attitudes and assessment of trends in: 2.4, 5.28, 5.30, 6.10,
6.22, 10.2, 10.11, 11.3, 11.9, 12.18
Campaigning in Britain for Civil Rights in Northern Ireland: 5.7
Campaigning in Britain for Irish reunification: 5.7, 6.28, 7.20, 7.27, 8.11,
8.16, 8.24,11.14, 11.17
Campaigning in defence of the Nation State: 3.2, 3.14, 4.9, 11.8, 12.5
European supranational integration/the EEC: 8.7, 9.4, 9.30
Family relations: 8.24, 8.30
Holidays/cycle tours: 3.7-10, 5.16-19, 10.2-26, 12.14-20
ITGWU History research: 7.29
Journal and personal records: 6.12, 9.14
Meteorology, interest in: 3.29, 4.23, 5.6, 5.15, 7.8, 7.13, 7.16, 8.2, 9.2-3
Sean O’Casey biography: 2.16
Self-assessments and personal plans: 1.6, 3.11, 3.15, 4.29, 5.27, 6.12,
8.16, 9.15, 9.25,10.9-10, 10.22, 11.28
Verse: “Four Letter Verses and the Mountbatten Award”: 1.6, 1.8, 1.27,
1.31, 2.15, 4.27-28, 5.10, 5.15, 5.26-27, 6.2-3, 8.30, 9.12, 9.14
Organisation Names Index
Clann na hEireann: 9.28
Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB): 1.30, 2.4, 2.14, 2.19, 2.26, 3.11,
3.15, 3.19-20, 4.20, 5.6, 5.10-11, 5.23, 6.6, 6.9, 6.12, 6.15-16, 6.22, 6.24, 6.28, 7.20, 7.25, 7.27, 8.2, 8.8, 8.11, 8.15-16, 8.21, 8.24, 9.12, 9.19, 9.21-22, 9.26, 9.28, 10.1,10.9, 11.2, 11.9, 11.11-15, 11.17, 12.10
Communist Party of Ireland (CPI): 2.25, 5.31, 7.27, 9.4, 9.10-11
Connolly Association/Irish Democrat: 2.19, 3.11, 5.6, 5.11, 6.28, 7.20, 8.2,
8.11, 8.15-16, 9.11, 9.19, 9.21-22, 9.26, 10.10
Federation of Irish Societies:1.5, 7.19
Irish in Britain Representation Group: 1.5, 2.5, 5.23, 7.19, 7.25
Irish Labour History Society: 6.8, 7.29
Irish Sovereignty Movement: 5.10
Irish Transport and General Workers Union: 9.3
Labour Committee on Ireland: 2.26, 9.3, 11.25, 12.30
National Library of Ireland: 11.30
New Communist Party: 7.3, 9.13,10.9
Sinn Fein/IRA-“Officials”(Sinn Fein the Workers Party/“Stickies”): 9.22,10.28
Sinn Fein/IRA-“Provisionals”: 4.25, 8.7, 9.4, 12.2
Troops Out Movement: 3.2, 4.2, 7.16
Trotskyist and ultra-left organisations: 3.20, 5.23, 9.11
Personal Names Index
Adams, Gerry: 6.10, 9.2, 9.4, 12.2
Arnot, R. Page: 6.24
Ayling, Roland: 8.11
Barr, Andy: 6.28, 8.11, 9.8, 9.11
Barry, Peter: 7.19
Behan, Dominic: 10.29
Benn, Tony: 7.22, 8.9
Bennett, Jack and Anna:1.26, 4.8-10, 7.27, 7.30, 12.3, 12.5
Bennett, Owen: 4.11, 7.27
Blevin, John: 9.11
Bond, Patrick (Pat, Paddy): 2.28
Bond, Stella: 1.13, 2.28, 7.26
Bowers, Joe: 12.3
Boyd, John: 9.30
Brennan, Irene: 7.25, 9.26
Brennan, Michael: 3.20
Brown, Prof. Malcolm: 9.12
Campbell, Flann and Mary: 2.28, 6.25, 7.24, 7.28, 8.8, 11.16
Carmody, Paddy: 7.27, 8.11
Carron, Owen, MP: 2.26
Carter, Pete: 9.12, 9.28-29
Charles, Wilf: 11.9
Chater, Tony: 1.12, 3.13, 3.19, 5.23, 6.6, 6.24, 9.4, 9.22, 10.1, 11.8,
Cohen, Gerry: 6.9
Connolly-Edwards, Fiona: 9.27
Connolly, Ross: 12.1
Connolly, Ina, Nora and Roddy: 9.16
Cooley, Mike: 9.28, 11.1
Costello, Mick: 1.10, 3.19, 9.22, 10.1
Coughlan, Anthony (Tony): 1.10, 1.27, 1.31, 3.13-14, 4.9, 4.11, 4.28,
5.10,5.15, 5.20,5.24, 5.26-27, 5.31, 6.2-3, 6.13, 7.1, 7.17, 8.7,
8.15-16, 8.31, 9.2, 9.4, 9.14-15, 12.2, 12.4-5, 12.20, 12.23-24,
Cowman, Eddie: 7.2, 8.7, 8.31, 9.14, 11.29, 12.4
Cox, Idris: 2.4, 8.11, 8.16
Cronin, Tony: 6.3, 12.4
Crowe, Michael: 2.5, 7.15, 9.4, 9.7
Cunningham, Charlie: 5.2, 5.22, 11.17, 12.10
Curran, Mrs Antoinette (Toni): 5.27, 6.23
Curran, Gerard: 9.14, 9.14
Davison, Madge: 9.11
Deane, Seamus: 12.4
Deegan, Val: 5.20
Deighan, Joseph: 1.6, 2.25, 2.2, 5.7-8, 5.11, 5.15, 6.3, 9.23, 9.25, 12.2,
Delane, Mairin: 11.14
Devine, Francis: 7.29, 11.8
Devlin, Bernadette: 11.23
Donaghey, Tony: 6.24, 9.1-3
Durkin, Tom: 7.3, 7.9, 8.2
Dutt, R. Palme: 4.13, 6.28, 8.11, 8.16, 9.10, 11.2
Edwards, Bert: 9.16, 11.4
Engels, Frederick: 6.12
Evans, Moss: 8.21, 9.12
Fitt, Gerry, MP: 4.9, 7.21, 9.14
Freeman, John: 6.28, 7.22, 8.14-15, 8.21, 9.2, 9.8, 9.12, 9.21, 9.29-30,
Gallacher, Willie: 4.13, 9.10
Gaster, Jack: 3.19, 3.31, 9.7, 9.10, 9.14, 10.1
Geraghty, Desmond: 9.13
Gibson, John: 6.9, 6.12, 6.22, 8.15, 9.4, 11.19
Gill, Ken: 9.11, 9.22, 9.28, 12.3
Gill, Tess: 11.8, 11.19, 11.24
Gollan, John: 5.23, 8.16, 9.22,11.2
Gordon, Noel: 1.5, 1.17, 1.19, 1.24, 1.26, 2.6, 3.18, 6.15, 8.1-2, 8.31, 9.3,
Green, Royston: 9.12
Gregory, Tony, TD: 5.5
Guilfoyle, John: 1.5, 1.17
Hain, Peter: 4.20, 9.11
Hardy, Bill: 3.20
Harris, Noel: 3.17, 4.20, 9.4, 9.11-12, 9.22, 12.3
Haughey, Denis: 9.1
Heatley, Bobby (Robert): 6.3, 8.15, 12.2
Heffer, Eric, MP: 6.10, 6.25, 8.29, 11.19
Henry, Jack: 7.3
Heussaff, Alan: 3.31, 9.12, 11.3, 12.3
Hobsbawm, Eric:11.9, 10.31
Hodge, Alan: 8.30
Hoffman, John: 9.13
Huggett, Steve: 1.16, 2.6, 7.1, 8.11, 11.14
Hume, John, MP: 9.2, 9.4
Hyde, Douglas: 12.10
Jackson, TA: 4.13, 9.10
Jacques, Martin: 1.10, 3.13, 11.9
Johnston, Roy: 4.16, 6.13, 9.13-15, 11.18, 12.3, 12.5
Keating, Carla: 6.8, 6.11, 7.29
Keating, Justin: 2.28, 6.8, 8.7, 9.14
Kelleher, Derry: 6.3
Kelly, Dalton: (See O Ceallaigh, Daltún)
Kelly, Roger: 1.11, 1.19, 1.21, 6.13, 6.27, 12.10
Kennelly, Brendan: 12.4
Kent, Bruce: 11.13, 11.17
Kerrigan, Peter: 8.16
Latham, Arthur, MP: 3.1
Lawless, Gery: 5.23
Lehane, Con: 9.19
Livingstone, Ken, MP: 3.1, 7.26, 8.29, 9.4
Logan, Desmond: 11.16
Lowery, Robert: 4.18, 4.29, 8.11, 8.14
Loyden, Eddie, MP: 1.3, 6.10
Lyne, Gerard [See O Luanaigh)
MacAmhlaigh, Dónal: 6.13,12.29-31
McClelland, John: 8.31,12.2
McCorry, Kevin: 12.2
McCullough, Billy: 5.7
MacEoin, Uinseann: 12.3
MacLaughlin, Eamonn: 1.13, 3.29
McLennan, Gordon: 1.12, 2.14, 5.6, 5.11, 6.6, 6.16, 9.22, 9.29-30,11.9,
11.11-13, 11.15, 12.10
MacLiam, Cathal and Helga: 1.6, 6.3, 7.22, 12.5, 12.31
MacLiam, Egon: 1.27, 6.3, 12.5
MacLiam, Killian, Conor and Bebhinn: 6.3, 12.5
Maguire, Chris: 5.20
Martin, Eamon: 9.24
Matthews, George: 6.15, 6.24
Marx, Karl: 1.20, 4.9
Mitchell, Jack Prof.: 4.14, 4.16, 4.29, 5.1-2, 8.11, 8.14, 8.30,12.5,12.25
Morgan, Barney: 2.20, 3.15, 3.27, 4.20, 6.12, 8.15, 9.25, 12.7
Morrissey, Michael: 4.20, 9.12
Morrissey, Sean: 8.15, 8.21
Mortimer, Michael: 6.22, 9.3
Morton, Alan G. Prof. and Mrs Freda Morton: 8.11
Morton, Alisoun: 8.11, 11.7
Mulligan, Peter: 5.20, 7.12, 8.14-15, 9.17, 12.6
Myant, Chris: 2.3, 2.26, 3.11, 3.17, 3.20, 3.29, 4.20, 5.6, 5.11, 6.28, 7.2,
7.9, 7.22, 7.25, 8.11, 8.21, 8.30, 9.4, 9.11, 9.15-16, 9.22-23,
9.29-30, 11.14-15,11.17, 11.19, 12.
Newsinger, John: 6.12, 9.13, 9.16
O’Brien, Conor Cruise: 8.7
O Caollai, Maolachlann: 4.9, 12.4
O Ceallaigh, Daltún and Deirbhle (Murphy): 1.6, 4.9, 6.3, 12.4
O’Connor, Emmet: 1.10
O’Donnell, Peadar: 11.30
O’Donohue, Pat: 1.12, 4.26, 5.23, 6.23, 7.22, 8.15, 11.14
O’Dowling, Elsie, née Timbey: 11.16
O’Grady, Joe: 2.26, 4.20
O’Herlihy, Callaghan (Cal): 12.24
O Loingsigh, Micheál S.: 4.28-29, 5.26-27, 12.4
O Luanaigh, G: 11.30
O Murchú, Eoin: 7.13-14, 9.28, 12.25
O’Riordan, Michael: 5.11, 6.12, 7.29, 9.22, 12.5
O’Shea, Dr Elizabeth (Betty): 2.26
O’Shea, Fred: 5.20
O Snodaigh, Pádraig: 12.4
Parry, Bob, MP: 6.10
Patterson, Henry: 10.28
Paulin, Tom: 8.4, 9.9
Pearce, Bert: 2.14, 2.19, 6.15-16, 6.24
Pocock, Gerry: 3.11, 5.11
Pollitt, Harry: 1.30, 8.16, 9.10
Powell, Pat: 9.29
Power, Colm: 5.20, 7.29, 8.1, 8.15, 10.28
Power, Niall: 2.26, 7.2, 11.8
Prendergast, Jim: 8.16
Ramelson, Bert: 11.9
Redmond, Sean: 7.29, 8.16, 8.31
Redmond, Tom: 5.11, 7.29
Reid, Betty: 11.2
Rendle, Philip: 2.5, 9.1
Rigney, Peter: 2.3
Rothstein, Andrew: 10.26
Saidlear, Muriel: 6.2, 9.27, 11.29, 12.23,12.26, 12.28
Salveson, Paul: 4.15, 4.17
Sawtell, Jeff: 3.20, 6.8, 6.24, 9.22,11.5
Scargill, Arthur: 9.11
Scott, C.P.: 11.9
Shields, Jimmy: 2.4, 6.28, 8.16, 11.8, 12.10
Shore, Peter, MP: 8.29
Siegmund-Schultze, Prof. Dorothea: 1.5, 8.30, 12.5
Sinclair, Elizabeth (Betty): 5.7, 8.11, 9.8, 10.10
Skelly, Jeff: 8.30
Stallard, A.W.“Jock”, MP : 5.23
Stewart, Bob: 8.16
Stewart, Edwina: 6.28
Stewart, Jimmy: 8.11, 8.31, 9.22, 9.28, 9.30, 12.2
Stowell, Brian: 3.31, 4.7, 12.7
Tate, Jane: 1.17, 2.16, 3.18-19, 6.15, 6.24, 9.2, 9.14-15, 9.17, 9.22,
Trask, Roger: 1.12
Trory, Ernie: 9.13
Tyndall, John: 4.29
Walsh, Tom: 1.3, 2.5, 7.19
Ward, Bert: 2.26, 8.2, 8.12-13, 9.22-23
Watters, Frank: 11.23
Wilkinson, Brian: 2.4, 2.13-14
Winnington, Alan: 12.10
Woddis, Jack: 2.19, 11.2
Woods, Charlie: 9.4, 9.7, 9.14
Wynne, Bob: 5.23, 5.27, 6.23, 7.21, 8.16
January 1 Saturday: The New Year has opened mild and moist – the weather I wanted last month. I stayed in all day but had a word on the telephone with Tony Coughlan.
January 2 Sunday: Another mild day. I cut the lettuces! And a somewhat apologetic cauliflower which had headed up was made into soup.
January 3 Monday: I filled in tax-forms and wrote letters. Eddie Loyden
[Former Labour MP for Liverpool Garston] promised to chair our meeting on February 5th, and Tom Walsh [Former head of the Liverpool Irish Centre and leading member of the Irish community on Merseyside] agreed to speak.
January 4 Tuesday: I went to Ripley and a long dragging journey it was. Returning was not so bad. I left Derby at 6.30 and was back at 124 Mount Road by 9.10 pm.
January 5 Wednesday: The exceptionally mild weather continues. It was typical that I struck the cold December when I could have gone away now! I spoke to Noel Gordon on the phone. John Guilfoyle has died – on Monday. Noel told me that last Friday night an uncle of his wished his friends a Happy New Year and fell down dead in the middle of it. Roger Kelly is still in Belfast. Noel Gordon is concerned about the GLC [Greater London Council]whose million pounds has produced a unanimity in parts of the Irish community never known before [Ken Livingstone had backed such a sum to support Irish-oriented activities]. He thinks the London IBRG [Irish in Britain Representation Group] are a bunch of “gangsters” with a pathological hatred of the FIS [Federation of Irish Societies].
There was a radio performance tonight of a minuet by George Onslow. I was quite favourably impressed by it – a kind of post-Mendelssohn, but without some of the mannerisms which make Mendelssohn for all his facility unappealing to me. Dorothea sent me some iced gingerbread from Halle [ie. from his friend Professor Dorothea Siegmund-Schultze there]. It looked as if the Post Office had been prying into it. They cannot possibly be frightened of every parcel from Eastern Europe. The object is to intimidate the recipient.
January 6 Thursday: Yesterday was very mild (about 55’F). Today dawned mild but grew steadily colder. I went no further than the pillar box. Noel Gordon rang. Also Jane Tate who has spent the day on John Guilfoyles’s affairs. They are having a ceremony at Golders Green next Friday and she asked me to say a few words. I can see why, but I hope Pat Bond will do it. Staying two extra days in London would be a fierce expense, and I have to pay great attention to that these days.
Later I spoke to Joe Deighan on the phone, wishing him a happy New Year. “Same to you and many of them,” says he. “I’ll need them,” I replied. “Hm – if we pooled our resources we wouldn’t have many!” After that I talked to Cathal, who was humming and hawing about giving a talk in Liverpool. But for Barney Morgan’s supineness I’d have everything fixed before Xmas. Cathal said he had had lumbago and had “felt like an old man.” He added that Sean Redmond’s father, old Sean Redmond, had died on Xmas Eve, and that Daltún O Ceallaigh’s mother had died on Monday. I also had a word with Egon [ie. Egon MacLiam, eldest son of Cathal and Helga MacLiam] who is doing a cover design for my forthcoming book of poems. Skelly [ie. of the publishing firm Lawrence and Wishart] is still pressing for a history of the Irish working-class. I’ll probably try it.
January 7 Friday: I did little enough today, a little clearing up and that was about all.
January 8 Saturday: I finished reading the proofs and can send them to Drogheda on Monday. Unfortunately, one stanza in “Operation soft-rock” has only eight lines, so I had to re-write it.
January 9 Thursday: I had a word with Tony Coughlan in the morning, and later spoke to Egon and Cathal and Micheál O Loingsigh. Doswell, to whom I also spoke, told me that Eddie Loyden is ill in bed [ie. the Liverpool MP]. He offered to send out 340 circulars for me.
January 10 Monday: I posted off the corrected proofs of the poems to Drogheda. Later Barney Morgan came in for a few minutes. I see from the London “Times” that Costello has resigned as CP industrial organiser. Apparently he is not such a bad fellow and has been resisting the Jacques man who has handed over “Marxism Today” to the academic gang [Martin Jacques, British journalist, born 1945, editor of “Marxism Today” and leading light, with historian Eric Hobsbawm, in the “euro-communist” faction in the CPGB in its final years].Tony Coughlan sent me a copy of “Left Perspectives”, which contains a not very perceptive view of my book by Emmet O’Connor [Academic historian at Magill, Derry; son of Greaves’s old friend, Spanish Civil War veteran Peter O’Connor of Waterford]. He has gone to Cambridge to assist in the “declassification” of Labour History. At the same time he is not so bad.
January 11 Tuesday (London): I caught the 2.20 to Euston. I was early for it, having allowed an hour from tracking down Doswell at the Trades Council, but finding I required only a few minutes, so went into the buffet for a glass of stout. I heard the barmaid say to a man, “But it’ll all be better after the revolution.” I looked at her. “I hope I won’t be locked up for saying that – it’s only a joke.” We demurred suitably. “Well,” she went on, “there are so many people telling me that England has turned into a police state, it would make you careful. Still, we can still say what we like.”
Noel Gordon met me at Euston. We had a brief drink near Euston, after which I went to Shepherd’s Bush to address an audience of four: Roger Kelly, Gerry Curran, Pat O’Donohue and a man called Grace – Labour Party, I think. I learned later what had happened. Roger Kelly had prepared the notices but left them in his car. He and his friend got so drunk that they couldn’t find their car (which was as well) so that the things were not sent. In the end Noel Gordon sent them a few days ago. I stayed with Noel.
January 12 Wednesday: I was in Battersea in the day and had lunch with Jane Tate. There was a Standing Committee at 6 pm. attended only by Steve Huggett, Jane Tate, Noel Gordon, Pat O’Donohue (who is greatly improved) and Paddy Bond. Then I was at the Central London branch where there were six! Philip Rendle’s colleague Trask has taken Egelnick’s ‘s place as London District Council organiser [ie. of the CPGB]. This throws more work on Philip. So he was not there. Jane said that Chater is “improving”, whereas Gordon McLennan is “getting worse“[a reference to key protagonists in the “hard-line” and “soft-line” factions in the CPGB at the time].
January 13 Thursday (Liverpool): I went to Battersea to pick up an electric fire. Stella Bond arrived with the news that Eamon MacLaughlin is in bed with influenza and can’t do the lecture next Sunday. So I will have to come back to London! Anyway I left for Liverpool and arrived about 5 pm.
January 14 Friday: I went into Birkenhead to buy things, but otherwise very little was done.
January 15 Saturday: I spoke to Eddie Loyden who promised to chair our conference. Apart from that little was done. In the evening I listened to Elijah on the radio. This time I found another score marked by CEG [ie. his father]. But there were also markings in another handwriting, some of them acute. I guess the original owner may have been an examiner or adjudicator. At one point he wrote, “Swell is the basis of all emotional expression.” Now CEG uses the word “swell” in one of his notes. He was not an organist and would naturally write “crescendo”. So I guess he bought the marked copy himself second hand. But why? “He Watching Over Israel” is profusely annotated though elsewhere there are conductor’s marks. It must have been around 1925 that he entered a choir at Mold Eisteddfod and came in third. I was there but do not remember hearing the performances. I do remember we went in two charabancs and I remember the second one overtaking the first as we went over a steep hill – possibly that between Loggerheads and Gwernynynydd or possibly this side of Mold. They all said the driver was drunk and nearly killed them! There were also markings more frequent than usual in “Lift Thine Eyes”. Now I remember during the war when CEG was away – so that it must have been around 1916, but probably before Phyllis was born, as I do not remember her at all, sitting through numerous rehearsals of “Lift thine eyes.” AEG [ie. his mother] had entered a ladies’ choir for some competition. I have some feeling that she either won or did very well. It was useful to have an annotated score and as this one is bigger than the one I had before, also marked CEG, I presume he bought it for the competition, the other possibly when he was in a chorus for a concert.
I find a great deal of this music extremely familiar. I understand it better – I can hear the Bach chorales that appear at times and note the Handelian influence – but I still don’t like it. Of course I have only really known much about music since I got down to studying harmony thanks to the array of books left in this house. I think I drank in Mendelssohn as a youngster. But my first hero was Handel, then Bach, and I only turned to the classical composers when I was 21. And then, as I say, though my ear was good even then, I did not know how a thing was constructed. Still – an evening well-spent.
January 16 Thursday (London): I went to London, and Noel Gordon met me at Euston. We called on Jane Tate and then went to the lecture room. There was a good attendance, with Flann Campbell and Mary Campbell, Steve Huggett, Pat Bond, Stella Bond, and Philip Rendle. I stayed with Jane Tate, as Noel has a German friend with him.
January 17 Monday (Liverpool): I caught the 11.50 back to Liverpool. According to Jane Tate, Noel Gordon spoke quite well at Guilfoyle’s funeral.
January 18 Tuesday: I got little done today. I am still tired and until I can get a proper holiday in tolerable weather will probably remain so. The weather was cold and windy today, but there was no frost. I cut one of the cauliflowers that have headed up. Barney Morgan came at 7 pm. His daughter Fiona has joined the Labour Party. He was taking 800 copies of the announcement of our historical lecture to the Irish Centre who have promised to send them out. Last Tuesday I took Doswell 340 copies of the PTA conference circular which the Liverpool Trades Council have promised to send out. So we have saved 1140 stamps – a saving of £142 which we could of course not possibly afford.
January 19 Wednesday: A letter came from Noel Gordon apologising for “rushing off” after the lecture on Sunday. I had merely thought he had the German with him. When Roger Kelly went off as well, instead of looking for a drink. I thought they were probably all having a bottle party. But apparently not. Noel said that Helen McMurray was getting hysterical about her “studies” as she calls them, and Roger Kelly’s girl, to whom he is not married, has left him, and his “love life has collapsed.” He is talking of going back to Belfast. “So I had to listen to both of them,” says Noel. With Helen I think it is extreme self-centredness, and with Roger Kelly’s sheer immaturity. But where was the German in it all? Did they unburden themselves on him also?
January 20 Thursday: I tried to get Noel, and Stella Bond told me he had been in, left a note saying he was sick as a dog, and was going home to recover in time for a hastily called meeting at the Irish Centre where, thought I, the million pounds may be in process of dissolving. Stella was very contemptuous of Roger Kelly and Helen McMurray. We both reflected that like everybody else we had met trouble, but generally avoided hysteria. I wondered if the tantrums are still going on. Moreover, though Noel is relatively stable, I wouldn’t guarantee him under all circumstances. I got more done today and noted moreover that thanks to low expenditure over the last three months my finances are, if not satisfactory, tolerable. I am hoping to get enough regardless from Gill’s to finance the publication of the poems. I wrote to Bob Parry and Eamon MacLaughlin and prepared about thirty circulars for the conference, some with personal letters. Barney Morgan should be doing this – the secretary who doesn’t “sec”!
I received a telephone call from Marx House. They are celebrating the centenary of Marx’s death with a series of lectures in Britain, decade by decade. Would I do the 1940’s. I said I could undertake nothing that involved fresh research as my time was fully committed. I asked what about Marx on Ireland. “Surely,” he said, “and we’re prepared to consider Scotland and Wales as well.” First, he knew nothing about Marx. Secondly, he was an English chauvinist. From his voice he was a very young fellow.
January 21 Friday: I went into Birkenhead for stamps and provisions. Apart from that there was not much. I spoke to Pegeen O’Sullivan on the telephone, re a lecture.
January 22 Saturday: I went into the city, bought food and a waterproof “over-anorak” for £2.95. Noel Gordon says Roger Kelly is in a desperate state and talks of returning to Belfast. He has been evicted from his flat and forced to live with his mott’s mother – the mott having deserted him! Helen McMurray has got over her hysteria – for now!
January 23 Sunday: The mild weather continues but I did not go out at all. I had a word with Tony Coughlan and invited Jack Bennett to do a lecture.
January 24 Monday: I tried to get Noel Gordon. No answer. Later Stella Bond told me that he had been in the office and left a note saying he was going to a hospital for an X-ray. Apparently he suffered from sickness and dizziness last week. There is a good health service in London, I can see.
January 25 Tuesday: I continued with the paper. Gerry Curran sent half a page, not laid out, with an apology that he had “not had time” to do any more. And a week late into the bargain. His review of Patterson’s heresies was hopeless. I will ask him to do it again when I have thought of some tactful reason. I tried to get Noel Gordon. Jane Tate said there was no sign of him. He might be in hospital, he might be at home. But we’d never know!
January 26 Wednesday: I went on with the paper. Noel Gordon rang up. The diagnosis is that he has a peptic ulcer. He must not take any drink for a month and must diet. I told him he ought not to smoke. He said the doctor had said the same. Apart from this there was nothing much. I spoke to Jack Bennett in the evening and he agreed to come to Liverpool and lecture.
January 27 Thursday: I nearly finished the paper but it was heavy going. Tony Coughlan sent me Egon’s design for the cover of my book and I sent it to Tim O’Keefe. We think of publishing early in April. But I am still waiting for revised proofs. Noel says there is considerable interest in the lobby of February 16th, but less for the conference. The same is true here.
January 28 Friday: The proofs arrived – in time for me to see the fresh errors made in correcting the old ones! I sent off the last of the paper.
January 29 Saturday: I spent the day on the lecture on “Old Ireland” I am to give tomorrow. I don’t know if there’ll be anybody there.
January 30 Sunday: I spent most of the day on the lecture and went to Rock Ferry expecting to arrive at 6.30 – to my amazement the clock said 7.07. I had missed two trains. The taxi telephone had been destroyed by vandals. Would I wait to see if a taxi came? I had little choice. When a taxi came he radioed for another. It came at 7.30. The lecture was at 7. He got me to the Irish Centre at 7.40, which I thought good going. I don’t know if anybody had left. Barney Morgan was holding the fort. But only about 14-15 were there – Michael Mortimer, Janet Walsh, Michael Kelly, Mrs Monaghan, mostly CA members. Of course I had to cut it short.
None of the CPs were there. It is most unfortunate that Kaye [ie. the local CPGB organiser]started his committee. They are completely inward looking. They have no conception of influencing events – which certainly old Pollitt had – but are entirely cocooned. One would think that if there was Irish activity they would be in it. But no. Nothing interests them unless it is within the walls of their own club. At the lower levels this has probably been true since Pollitt died.
January 31 Monday: I spent a good part of the day going through the proofs of “Four Letter Verses” and think I have found everything. Tony Coughlan spotted a lot of literals I had missed including one in a headline. I also wrote to him. I would like the review copies to go from Ireland. Perhaps he will bring some copies over in March and we can decide how many remain in Ireland. I had a word with Noel Gordon. I am not happy about things in that quarter and can imagine our having to look for somebody else.
February 1 Tuesday: I went to Ripley today, and what a day it was. At Liverpool it was blowing a North-West gale. At Derby there was sleet. I was delayed waiting for a bus. Though the papers were ready at Ripley, where there were remains of drifts of snow, the machine was misbehaving. I caught the 6.30 at Derby and arrived back at 9.15 – thirteen hours! A letter from Paddy Bond said Stella Bond’s father in Cornwell had had a fall and she had to go there to get a specialist to sign an emergency certificate as a general practitioner could not get him into hospital. At Ripley Terry Reynolds told me that Melville, his father, had died a fortnight ago. I remember the grandfather, old Reynold, a famous socialist and atheist, connected with the “Cosmopolitan Debating Society” in Nottingham. Brian told me he died, well over 90, about 13 years ago. Melville, about 78, died of cancer of the liver though he never touched a drink in his life. He was working a fortnight before he died – he did not know he had cancer. But instead of handing everything over to Terry he kept it to himself and Terry says he is having a dreadful time learning the business.
February 2 Wednesday: I went into town. I tried to get Noel Gordon and Tim O’Keefe without success but posted the proofs. Later Jane Tate told me that Noel “had a pain” and went to the doctor. She said he was bound to have a pain if he had an ulcer and indicated to me that “some people gave in too easily.” But then it is easy to sleep on another man’s wounds. She is seeing him this evening.
February 3 Thursday: I wrote to Peter Rigney who was enquiring about McLaughlin of the first CPI, also to Noel Gordon, Gerry Curran, and a few others. I had a word with Barney Morgan. There has been very little response to the meeting planned for Saturday. Philip Rendle telephoned, also Noel. One of the letters was to John Lloyd, the secretary of Myant’s committee. That unionist bastard had drafted a statement very cleverly concealing unionist aims in “progressive” proposals. I pretended I thought Lloyd who signed it had drafted it himself and pointed out where it was asking loaded questions. It may come up at the committee. I sent Noel Gordon a copy.
February 4 Friday: I had a letter from Brian Wilkinson [A Connolly Association member in South Wales]. He has arranged for me to speak to the Labour Party in Pontypridd and Plaid Cymru in Cardiff. I started preparations by reading some of the material I collected on Welsh affairs, and found some duplicated material issued by the Welsh CP during the war. “Wales is a nation,” said Idris Cox. Now I remember when he came to London – would it be to replace Jimmy Shields or was it when Bob Stewart retired; even after Maud Rogerson, I can’t remember – he flatly denied to me that the Welsh constituted a separate nation. “They’re part of the British nation,” he declared. Admittedly in one sentence he put Ireland (which from having seceded was not in the picture) on a par with Scotland and Wales. But thinking this over I recalled that he came to London to take charge of the International Department [ie. of the CPGB] under some sort of cloud. I wonder if the man who replaced him, who I think was English, had attacked his nationalist tendencies so that now he was afraid to voice them? I also read about D.J. Davies, who it seems was formerly a miner. I have an autographed copy of his wife Noelle’s life of Connolly.
February 5 Saturday: For some reason – probably the mot – Barney Morgan cannot accommodate Philip Rendle so I met him at Lime Street. He was in better form than usual and it struck me he was pleased to be invited to speak. I warned him that the response to our conference was all but non-existent. However, when we got to the AUEW there were people there and by 2.35 about 40 had assembled and fresh chairs were brought in. Barney Morgan, the secretary, came late! When he took over the door he let people in for nothing. Michael Mortimer was not there, but Doswell took the chair. Rendle was quite good and Tom Walsh was excellent – the first time he ever spoke at a frankly political meeting. Lenehan of St Helen’s Trades Council was there. Two came from the CP. They sold the “Morning Star”, though not obtrusively, but did not speak. It wouldn’t surprise me if the reason they said nothing was that they saw nothing to disagree with. Of course if they had got up and praised the speakers – there was no dissent – everybody would have thought well of them! I bought the “Morning Star” from them. I think Jane Tate is right. It improves.
Then Michael Crowe who came from Newcastle had a meal with Philip Rendle, myself, and Rick Kennelly and Jim King of Manchester IBRG. Later when Michael had gone we had a drink with them. King is the leader. He has the prospect of a bank loan of £100,000 to start an Irish Centre in Manchester. I think he works in the Post Office. Kennelly has a degree in mathematics but works as a “social worker”. He has the absurd notion that schizophrenia is of environmental and psychological origin. No wonder. He pronounces it “shitsophrenia”. I told him about recent work. Then I took Philip to the tail-end of John Gibson’s film show and he went to stay with him.
This meeting, with its wide representation (AUEW, TASS, ASTMS, NUS, NUT, the LCI and others, establishes the Connolly Association as the premier political Irish organisation in Liverpool. But how I wish I could get a functioning secretary!
February 6 Sunday: Doswell had asked me to draft a resolution for the next Executive of the Trades Council. I did so and will post it tomorrow. I also did a report for the “Irish Post”, though I fear it will appear too late for the lobby. Pat Bond was on the phone. Noel Gordon has gone to pieces and did not attend the conference in London which was worthwhile but poorly attended. The Central London branch has collapsed. Steve Huggett goes away every weekend with his mot. There are no speakers. It is like the old West London branch under Charlie Cunningham and Pat Hensey. They have no conception of arousing interest and bringing people in. Apparently my praise for the London health services may have been hasty. Noel Gordon is receiving a drug which, says Paddy Bond (whose conceptions of scientific matters are the apotheosis of vagueness), is intended to “break it up and disperse it”. It seems to be doing that very thing, good and proper, for Noel has fierce pains and vomits blood. Of course he has given it himself by smoking. I have told him thousands of times that he would be lucky if he didn’t kill himself. Of course I don’t believe the psychological stress theory, for he is a phlegmatic enough person, rather on the melancholic side of it, but not far down. I wonder if stomach ulcers are an auto-immune disease. This seems a class of disease not brought into proper focus. The bacteria, the viruses, diet deficiencies and so on have been brought into focus, slowly progress is being made with cancer, but diseases of the immune system are very common and completely inexplicable.
The CA suffers from difficulties not mentioned above. Philip Rendle told me that Noel Gordon had not given him the text of a poster he was to do for the Liverpool lecture. Noel had hedged when I asked him if he had passed it on. Philip could do it but not bring it up with him. This is unlike Noel. Then to make matters worse Stella Bond’s father who is in Cornwall and 90 years of age had a fall. For two whole weeks they await a “specialist’s” certificate that will get him into hospital. “In other words,” says Pat Bond, “They’re waiting for somebody to die.” Of course the trouble would not have arisen if Barney Morgan had made arrangements for the lectures in October when I told him instead of leaving it till after Christmas. The net result is that my time is wasted. I will have to do another copy.
February 7 Monday: The weather is cold. I saw flakes of snow, though it did not freeze. I wrote letters. Jane Tate said Noel had not yet “surfaced”. She thinks Helen McMurray was ill last week and now he has it.
February 8 Tuesday: Another cold day with ground though not air frost at night. I fear the poppies and lettuces which have so far survived very well, indeed quite exceptionally, will be killed. Barney Morgan rang. I had already booked a room for the next meeting. I had difficulty in getting him to undertake to meet Eamonn MacLaughlin on Sunday, just as he left Philip Rendle to me on Saturday. I shall be in Cardiff and am not too happy to be absent. Eamonn has a habit of going sick! Jane Tate told me that Noel was in the office and went to give a talk to some students. So he is back. The difficulty is that we never know. I suppose Helen McMurray will not take the trouble to ring for him. I got a fair amount done.
February 9 Wednesday: The cold weather continuing I stayed in all day and prepared a lecture on “Wales and Ireland” I am to give in Cardiff next Monday.
February 10 Thursday: I went on with the lecture.
February 11 Friday: Apart from shopping,another day on the same thing.
February 12 Saturday (London): I left for London on the midday train and saw Noel Gordon, Jane Tate etc. at the jumble sale the Central London branch was holding. Then I was out in Hammersmith with Philip Rendle [ie. selling the “Irish Democrat” in the local Irish pubs]. The West London branch has fallen through and Gerry Curran is disgusted with Roger Kelly who let him down over a social.
February 13 Sunday (Pontypridd): I went to Cardiff, fortunately arriving at Paddington an hour early for the scheduled service which was cancelled. I reached Cardiff in time for a bite and to catch the train to Trefford where Brian Wilkinson awaited me. His prospective son-in-law was there with a car, but only three people turned up at the Llantwit Labour Party meeting – two district and one county councillor. We went into a Workingmen’s Club afterwards. They are all very conscious that they are Welsh, but the weight of anglicisation is fierce. All the same Celtic traits present themselves strongly. I was told about Penrhiwceiber where coal wagons weighed and measured were left in a siding over the weekend. The coal kept disappearing. When watch was kept no fewer than 280 people were found to have visited the sidings with sacks. The wagons were moved further down the tracks but for two which were conveniently placed for the pilferers. It was hoped that the weighed trucks would be spared. But they were not. The people, who regard the produce of their mine as a form of public property, pilfered the inconvenient trucks because they thought the convenient ones would be watched! I stayed with Brian Wilkinson, in Twenty, part of Pontypridd.
February 14 Monday: I went to Pontypridd but I judged it too late to see the NUM. It was about 10.30 and I wanted to get into town. There was a bar at the station. I saw the bottles behind the counter and, prepared to take coffee, said, “I suppose you don’t open till 11.30.” “Oh – near enough,” said the girl, “what do you want?” This reminded me of the time – I think I was staying a few days with AMM [A relative of his] in Ruthen – when I reached Cerrig-y-Drudion at abut 10 am. This would be in 1934, I think. The door of the public house was open and I had no difficulty in securing a pint. “A drink will do you good this morning,” the bartender remarked, and explained, “The sergeant is a sensible man.” Another time I was asking about a right of way and remarked, “I think you are not supposed to go that way.” The reply was, “You are not supposed to – but you do.”
I went into Cardiff and called to Tudor Street. Bert Pearce was in Birmingham. David Richards was delighted to see me but had to rush off. He is a Gloucester man whom Brian Wilkinson introduced to the Connolly Association, which he left to become a full-time worker for the CP. He remained very helpful, and Pearce was by no means the worst, a Pembroke man. David Richards spoke of his “guilty conscience” for deserting” the CA and later as he passed me in the car handed over £5 “conscience money” for the fund. He said, “When you saw me ten years ago I was slim, lithe, thinking.” “Surely you’re still that,” I said in reference to the last. “No. Not after ten years working for the Communist Party.” I do not think he meant more than that he had no time to think. He said Brian Wilkinson had repeatedly sent in complaints about the “Morning Star”. “Well,” said I, “I pick it up and say there’s nothing there I disagree with. But what stale reading!” “Nobody here will contest that,” says he.
I went for a drink with two of them, one a successor of Bill Ross at King Street, the other a young Liverpool who is to become editor of a paper that is to replace “Cyffr0”. His mother is from Newtownmountkennedy in Co. Wicklow. I asked him what title he had chosen. “Moving Left”, he replied. “You’re not looking for a big circulation with a title like that?” “Oh we are – you don’t believe we can do it. But we’ll show you.” He was absolutely devoid of the faintest conception of Welsh nationality.
Later I went to the University Students Union where I spoke to Plaid Cymru. This was a congenial meeting. Brian Wilkinson was there of course, but also Plaid Cymru’s General Secretary, Dafydd Williams. There was a lively discussion. I had a talk with Dafydd Williams who was interested when I spoke of Noëlle Davies who sent me a copy of her book on Connolly just after the war [ie. World War 2]. He said she was reported to have learned Welsh in six weeks. It would be interesting to know her starting point. After D.J. Williams died she returned to Ireland and lived at Greystones. Dafydd Williams presented me with a copy of Gwynfor Evan’s latest booklet about the foundation of Wales by Magnus Maximus. He adopts the Wade Evans position, which is also supported by John Morris to an extent, but presents difficulties of its own.
I was later enabled to hear Brian Wilkinsons’s account of his break-up with the CP. “I did not leave them,” he said, “They left me.” He had long correspondence with Pearce who made the suggestion that he should stay in the CP and “fight for his position.” This seems to imply that Pearce himself has no objection in principle to criticism of the “euro-communist” position. There was further correspondence with Gordon McLennan. Brian Wilkinson decided he had something better to do than kick against a brick wall and did not re-register. His only interest now is the Connolly Association, though he donates to many good causes.
February 15 Tuesday (London): I caught the 10.30 train from Cardiff to Paddington and met Tim O’Keefe in the Bloomsbury Tavern. There we had further discussions on the book of poems. There was a Standing Committee in the evening.
February 16 Wednesday: In the afternoon Jane Tate and I went to see R. Page Arnot. [1890-1986, foundation member of the CPGB in 1920; assistant editor of the “Labour Monthly”; author of a history of the British mineworkers]. He lost his wife just before Xmas. He looks very frail, walks slowly and unsteadily and needs a stick. His features were flushed as with a kind of senile eczema. He says since the bereavement his memory has failed, and the doctor says he is suffering from shock. He was nevertheless very pleased to see us and produced a bottle of wine. He says he does not get many visitors. As we remained he recovered some of his energies and before we left was talking about another work on the mining industry. His views were extremely interesting. He thought my book on O’Casey the most penetrating work on a literary subject he had ever read. This was pleasant since nobody else made an attempt to understand it. He thought the only thing in favour of Michael Foot was that he kept the party together. “Perhaps that is all that can be done. It may be that Gordon McLennan is in the same position.” He deplored the absence of propaganda, a fair comment. He hopes to make representations to McLennan. We talked also about R. Palme Dutt, who is now a “non-person”. (Note on 19/2: these events occurred on 17/2).
In the evening we went to the House of Commons and lobbied against the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
February 17 Thursday: I spoke to South London branch in the evening. Only a handful were there and it was a waste of time.
February 18 Friday (Liverpool): I caught the 11.50 train to Liverpool and found items of correspondence, from Tony Coughlan, Colm Power and others.
February 19 Saturday: I made some purchases but did little else. The wretched cold weather continues, though it has been milder here than in London. The only constructive thing I did is to do my accounts. A couple of things I omitted. Brian Wilkinson told me the last straw was when Pearce wrote to ask for a position on the platform occupied by Polish emigres over the “Solidarity” affair. The happened in Nottingham as well. It must have come from Jack Woddis! The other is that a Cheltenham CP member is selling 24 copies of the “Irish Democrat”. I think they are in the Bristol district. Whoever it is, the secretary expressed extreme displeasure that she was supporting the Connolly Association until at length she asked him plainly to press her no more, or she would have to choose. Such is the state of affairs.
February 20 Sunday: In the morning Tony Coughlan phoned, and later Brian Wilkinson. I rang Barney Morgan. The reason he did not come to the lobby on Wednesday was that a water pipe burst three feet under his garden. He complained that Noel Gordon had sent him no notices for Flann Campbell’s lecture and that through a lack of the posters Philip Rendle could not advertise Eamon MacLaughlin’s and so only 25 attended. I said the difficulty was not being able to do the organising in Liverpool. He said he had not time to do it. This gave me what I wanted, an excuse to look for some young person to be secretary without appearing to take the initiative in replacing him. I think Michael Mortimer just might do it. I rang Philip Rendle. He had spent 10 days without action but promised to do it tomorrow.
February 21 Monday: I spent the day on the paper.
February 22 Tuesday: Another day on the paper.
February 23 Wednesday: I worked on the paper but in the evening attended the CA branch. Michael Mortimer was there, with Joe O’Grady, Barney Morgan and others. Noel Gordon was to have gone but lost the circulars when his plastic bag was taken, either by accident or design, in the House of Commons. The members got the circular yesterday. I told him not to come.
February 24 Thursday: I have had a desperate time with the paper this month. Tony Coughlan’s second batch came only today, and I am still awaiting copy from Philip Rendle.
February 25 Friday: Unbelievable! Puffs of a West wind. It is much less cold. I finished the paper, without waiting for Rendle. A letter from Joe Deighan enclosed the CP (NI) resolution. They have come a long way. But they still have this nonsense of a devolved assembly and it was this Joe wanted my opinion on.
February 26 Saturday: I did some clearing up, then went to Manchester where the Labour Committee on Ireland had a conference. Niall Power met me at the door and asked me to be one of the speakers. The others were Balfe of the European Assembly, who is apparently a descendant of the composer, and Owen Carron, the Sinn Fein MP for Fermanagh. He does not look so formidable in the flesh as newspaper photographs make him out. There was a chairman and a woman speaker whose name I did not catch. On the way in I saw Bert Ward with Tom Coughlan. Ward asked me if I was going to speak. I don’t know if he knew I had been asked or whether he thought I would speak from the floor. Anyway what I said went down very well. Ward and Coughlan sat glum and unresponsive. They did not applaud Carron. Balfe was not too bad at all. But Coughlin did very badly. He read a statement – condemned the Provisionals whom he need not have mentioned – and spoke of ending partition as a long-term aim. Betty O’Shea was there, some from Haringey, Conlon of Rotherham (a good lad, I think) and Joe O’Grady from Liverpool. Barney Morgan drove him and myself back to Liverpool.
When it was over – and the chairman had deplored the choice of May 14 for two competing conferences in London – a young man who introduced himself as Stephen Freeman approached me and said he was concerned with one of them. He showed me a statement which he said Noel Gordon had enclosed and invited me to append my signature. It seemed unobjectionable but I took it away to read at leisure. I saw the other names, which included Ken Livingstone and Ted Knight and Peter Tatchell. Now this was the conference Myant and company were cooking up. Freeman said he had seen the letter I sent Lloyd, which contained some political points. I had been invited to sponsor the Myant conference and said to myself, “I’ll fix that young devil.” So I wrote a letter sweet as honey, agreeing to sponsor and innocently querying a presentation (which I knew was Myant’s) which appeared to perpetuate the Unionist veto. Lloyd was the secretary and must have brought it up. Freeman told me that they had made a draft much on these lines but that “the Communists – or some of them – insisted on turning it into questions.” Now Noel Gordon has not been invited to this committee since before Christmas and I asked why this was. Freeman professed not to know. I did not want to appear inquisitive, so I did not ask what had happened to the committee. I wonder if Myant has lost control. His name is not on the sponsorship list, but I don’t know precisely the status of this list. I must telephone Noel Gordon. Nevertheless it looks as if my letter had something of the desired effect.
I got back to 124 Mount Road in time to hear the greater part of “Judas Maccabeus”, of which I found a score but with very few markings, which seems to imply that CEG [ie. his father] had not conducted it, at any rate not from this copy, which was anyway a Novello pocket score. I found myself very familiar with the work. I wonder when I heard it. I recall that CEG used to sing “Honour and Arms” and “Arm, arm, ye brave.” But I knew the rest. It may have been that I was at rehearsals. It is strange what one can remember over close on 60 years!
February 27 Sunday: I wrote some notes on the CPI statement Joe Deighan sent me and an accompanying letter. I have also written to Tatchell and David Richards. They are discontinuing “Cyffro” and a young Liverpool called Biddlecombe (mother from Newtownmountkennedy) wants to replace it with a periodical with the title “Moving Left”, which I told him was lousy. I wrote to Richards suggesting “Penderyn”[ie. Welsh for whiskey or spirit].
Noel Gordon rang up. He told me that this Freeman character was a SWP [Socialist Workers Party] and to his recollection never sought his approval for the statement. He has a vague recollection of something existing but thinks Noel Harris (before he was “silenced”) worked something up along these lines (see 28th).
February 28 Monday: I went to Ripley to read the proofs. I omitted to record that last night we held a lecture at the Irish Centre, with Flann Campbell as the speaker. I met him at Lime Street. He has got a publisher for his book on Protestant nationalists, which is good. We discussed Justin Keating, whom Flann thinks a deplorable renegade. Mary Campbell thinks it is Loretta’s fault. But I told Flann that I do not think so. Wine has of course been sold [ie. Wine’s the jewellers in Dublin; Justin Keating had married Loretta, daughter of the Wine family] and Justin (or Loretta) is a millionaire who could do anything he wanted, but only wants public position and self-importance. While I was at Ripley Noel Gordon telephoned. He said that Stella Bond’s father had died aged 93 and Pat Bond was going to Cornwall for the funeral.
There are signs of improving weather. If March comes in like a lion it is said to be a good sign. It will go out like a lamb. I don’t know if the converse is supposed to be true. The garden is on the whole advanced, thanks to the mild January. A crocus is out. Daffodils are still poking out straight necks like geese but are showing signs of dipping. This has been a good winter for vegetables. I have still two reasonable swedes and a few small pamphreys. I have not yet lifted the Jerusalem artichokes, and there are winter radishes in it.
March 1 Tuesday: Tony Coughlan sent me the “Stickie” review of the ITGWU history. My impression was that (despite a few sticky digs) “even the ranks of Tuscany…” [The full saying concludes: “can scarce forbear to cheer”] Noel Gordon rang in the morning. He had been in Paddington last night and had a talk with Arthur Latham who recalled that we had supported him in the last election though he lost his seat [Arthur Latham, 1930-2016, former Labour MP for Paddington; he had proposed as a private member a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, which had been drafted by Desmond Greaves, in the House of Commons on 12 May 1971]. They are discussing a meeting at which they want Noel Gordon to speak. Noel says that Ken Livingstone did not tell the Paddington Labour Party (whom he represents on the Greater London Council) of his projected trip to Belfast and some of them are annoyed. In the afternoon I went to the CP office. I told Margaret McClelland[a Liverpool CPGB official] I thought Peter Coughlan disappointing on Saturday. I don’t know if it will get back. I hope and expect so.
March 2 Wednesday: I got quite a bit done today, posting off twelve letters, to Pat Bond, Noel Gordon, Maolachlann O Caollai, Roy Johnston, Barney Morgan and others. O Caollai had sent me an article on Connolly from the “New Left” journal. It did not quote my biography though in it I answered the very questions the author asked. He is a Cambridge don who is writing a book against Irish Republicanism. I wrote to Micheál O Loingsigh pointing out what I told Tony Coughlan: the need for a conference for fighting back anti-national brainwashing and in defence of the nation-state. I also wrote to Martin Flannery and Dorothea. Noel Gordon told me of further reverberations of my speech in Manchester – from the reporter of the “Irish News”. Some Troops Outers had told Pat Bond about it. He says there is a prospect of premises in Central London.
March 3 Thursday: I did a little clearing up, of which there is plenty to be done, bought food, and wrote to Freeman saying his statement was such that I could sign it if I was satisfied with the use he was to make of it.
March 4 Friday: I had thought of going away today but there were still things to do. I wrote a considerable number of letters.
March 5 Saturday: I started doing some “spring cleaning”, if one may dignify it by the term. I have had to let the house go, first because of the ITGWU book, then from a certain feeling of exhaustion not helped by the bad weather holiday and the arthritis at Xmas.
March 6 Sunday: I had thought of going today, then decided to stay. Pat Bond rang up saying he had lost the design for a poster I had sent him. So I made him another. Very much on impulse I decided to go away after all. The weather is dry and mild.
March 7 Monday (Dolgoch): I got up early and caught the 7.40 to Chester, thence to Salop and Llanwrytd. On mounting the bicycle at Llanwrtyd I saw the chain was off and the gears jammed. It was unrideable. Also a box of eggs was smashed. I recalled that the guard at Salop – a silly sort of a fellow – had dissuaded me from planting the machine where I thought it would be secure, on the promise of looking after it himself. I spoke to the booking clerk, a decent young fellow, and he allowed me to leave it at the station. But this meant an 11 mile walk I was not prepared for. However, I bought a supply of chocolate and set out. The first episode was a sudden nose-bleed. I had to sit at the side of the road with a handkerchief. Then the feet, or to be precise the toes, caused trouble. I had a spare pair of stockings and doubling them did the trick – had I been intending to walk I would have brought other shoes. I reached without further mishap the fort of the “devil’s ladder” and then a car pulled up and two young people – middle thirties – offered me a lift. They were camping at Dolgoch bridge and had met De Roe [ie. the Youth Hostel warden]. I reached the hostel at about 5 pm. The journey had taken about 4 1/2 hours.
De Roe told me that the young people were “very nice” and were looking for a house so that they would settle in Wales for the sake of the “simple life”. He wondered how they would make a living. I told him I had passed an empty house at Llanwrtyd village, and presumed they were going for it. He immediately rang his friends in Northampton. But they were not in. Later there appeared a tall, bearded scooter-rider from Llanbythean, though he was an Englishman. He told us he was a social worker in an old peoples’ home near Llanfyllin. He had lived in Liverpool and had a “love-hate relation with it”. But I judged him to be from further south. He had bought a barn and converted it. He told me later that he had studied histology and was interested in archaeology. He had a small beadle printing press and was producing some poems for a friend. He and De Roe described the nuclear warmongering as “outrageous”. But the Llanfyllin man believed in “extra-sensory perception” and was convinced that there was a house in Scotland with a poltergeist in it. We begged to doubt it.
March 8 Tuesday: The countryside was white with frost at day-break. “Not again!” I sighed. But it warmed up and did not rain. I went for a walk up Nant Gerwyn, about 7 miles.
March 9 Wednesday: There was no frost and for a while the sun came out. I only walked abut 4 miles – up the Tywi valley. De Roe was telling me of a schoolmaster who insisted that the songs written by the “Beatles” were as good as the best of Schubert! He certainly does meet them! Then he told me of a visitor who decided he would write music and after writing it out had it duplicated at the college in Llanbedr pont steffan[ie. Lampeter] and sent it to friends all over the world. “I told him it was nonsense,” said De Roe, “The bar-lines did not correspond. Each stave was different, and he had consecutive fifths in four-part harmony.” Later I asked him, “Where did you learn about consecutive fifths?” He told me he had studied music up to a certain standard. It was obvious, when I took the matter further, that he had. And Mrs Jones, Glanrafanusaf, told me he had played her piano.
March 10 Thursday (Liverpool): I walked back to Llanwrtyd and acquired a sore toe and a blister. The same guard appeared and tried to bluster his way out of his error which the station staff had rubbed in to him. I was going to let it go but wondered whether to do so or not when he tried to justify himself. I got to 124 Mount Road at about 7pm. Fitzgerald had sent some material from Drogheda and letters arrived from Paddy Bond and Brian Wilkinson.
March 11 Friday: I spoke to Noel Gordon. He told me (what was in Pat Bond’s letter) that Bill Hardy had given us a thousand pounds. He also said the CPGB were holding a special Executive Committee on Ireland this week-end. Had I been invited? I had not heard, but I had been away. Later he rang Pat Bond and Philip Rendle, the latter saying that the International Committee was meeting tonight. He agreed that Philip should be asked to find out whether they had tried to contact me, but if not to take no action. I don’t want to have it said, “We tried to get hold of him but couldn’t.” It seems that Pocock asked Bert Ward who was there last time, and Ward gave my name. I would not think Pocock would want me there. Noel thinks that the reason Myant’s conference is hanging fire is that he awaits endorsement at this meeting. Freeman had telephoned him and wants to see him. He says that the conference committee has met, but infrequently, or as Myant feels inclined. Noel Gordon has not been invited and I complained to Freeman about this. Freeman’s statement was the one that Noel Harris was pushing before he was “silenced”. Question: is Myant now on the way up or on the way out?
For my part it will be the same whether they invite me or not. I am not going to flinch from the last stages of a life’s work that is at long last beginning to see fruit, fruits I had hardly hoped to see. Thirty years ago we told the Republicans they needed the support of British Labour and they laughed at us. Now they are seeking it. As long ago or longer we told Labour they would have to go against Partition. A cutting Pat Bond sent me shows they are moving further in the right direction. In 1955 we told the supporters of Fianna Fail that bringing in foreign capital instead of developing native state industries would saddle them with a mountain of debt. This has happened. As for back as 1948 we forecast disaster for Labour if they joined with Fine Gael. This now faces them. We told them they would have to take up the national question and link with Fianna Fail – there are signs that this is what they will be forced to do. I only hope that if the CP now switches on to the right track they will not make a mess of that as well!
March 12 Saturday: I did a certain amount of preparatory work for the two lectures I am to give in London next weekend, also some clearing up.
March 13 Sunday: I did some clearing up. At 4 pm. Tony Coughlan arrived. After a meal we went to the Irish Centre where he lectured on Daniel O’Connell. Barney Morgan was there, Joe O’Grady (Heffer’s constituency man) and Michael Mortimer, Stephen Dowling and Janet Walshe. The “Sunday Times” had an account, which I suspect Martin Jaques “leaked”, of a prospective dispute at the CP E.C., with Jacques defending “Marxism Today” and Chater and Costello criticising it [Martin Jacques was editor of “Marxism Today”, Chater was editor of the. “Morning Star”]. If these two are “hardliners” what are the soft?
March 14 Monday: Tony Coughlan stayed and worked on the paper – thus depriving me of the typewriter and wasting my day’s work! Noel Gordon told me that Myant had won, the wets have a majority. Seeing the day that was in it, Tony and I had a drink at the Prenton [a local hotel and hostelry beside Tranmere Rovers football pitch in Birkenhead]. I again urged him to hold some kind of conference on anti-national brainwashing and showed him the photostat from the “Monthly Review” that Maolachlann O Caollai had sent me. A character called Newsinger has an article on Connolly, childish in its superficiality, but anti-republican to the core.
March 15 Tuesday: Tony Coughlan left for London in the morning [This was the Easter vacation at TCD, one of the periods that enabled him to undertake full-time political work]. There was a letter from Sean Redmond who is coming to London. Noel Gordon told me that Myant rang him about my lecture on “Marx and Ireland.” He was very interested and very amicable. He told Noel he would ring me to see if I could tell him – it may be he wanted a document – what I was going to say. He appeared to imply he would give publicity. But he did not ring. I think he was fishing for information. But as for sending somebody along to refute me – well, they’ll have to refute Marx as well, and they’re none of them sufficiently interested in Ireland to have found out anything about what they are as interested in as themselves!
Incidentally, I asked Barney Morgan on Sunday if he had renewed his membership of the CP. He said nobody had been near him so he had not bothered. I think he makes a mistake. This way the wets will have it forever and there is too much at stake.
March 16 Wednesday: Noel Gordon said there had been some report about Sunday’s discussion, but that it did not amount to much. Apparently Ashton introduced it. What on earth the knows about it escapes me. Vollomeare of the AUEW/TASS rang up. They had planned a discussion on Ireland next Monday, under the auspices of the “Broad Left”, and had intended to bring over a TASS man from Belfast. Guessing that it would be Joe Bowers, I agreed, making it clear however that I had no desire to participate in Trade Union policy-making. He assured me that the meeting was outside the machinery. Now they still want me, but their man was not Bowers. However, they can’t afford his fare; so I am on my own.
I told Barney Morgan of this meeting. He will not be there as Stephen Dowling, who came to Dublin, has called a meeting to revive the Ford Cemetery commemoration that lapsed some years ago. He is a quiet young fellow of about 28-30, so quiet indeed that I was surprised at his being a Trotsky – not a very vicious one, I would say– and probably lower middle-class Catholic infuriated by unemployment.
March 17 Thursday: Noel Gordon told me that Tony Coughlan’s meeting was well attended – about 12 [ie. a meeting of the CA Central London branch]. He hopes to stimulate the Central London branch. Rumour has it that Myant’s conference is to be postponed yet again! Freeman is coming to see him tomorrow. I had told Freeman I would sign his statement but must first know how he intends to use it. Noel Gordon says it is the platform Noel Harris fought on before he was “silenced”. Noel Harris was angry because Noel Gordon would not back him up in a row with Myant. But Noel Harris was forced to back down publicly while Noel Gordon who offered no challenge just went on doing as he pleased. He had not admitted any right to hear his views or subsequently to muzzle him.
March 18 Friday (London): I left for London quite early and went to Jane Tate’s. Later Michael Crowe came. I heard of the boozing party last night at which Noel Gordon collapsed headlong down the stairs and came to no palpable harm thanks to that strange providence that looks after drunken men. I was out in Hammersmith with Gerry Curran.
March 19 Saturday: I spoke at the “seminar” arranged by the Camden CP. It was very poorly attended – about 24 – and Gaster, the chairman, was very disappointed. I committed a carefully prepared indiscretion. I said that we were all dumb with admiration of the prodigality of nature which could produce in the one world at the same time Marxism and “Marxism Today”. Leslie Morton and Ralph Millner spoke, and one Winston Pinker of the CP EC, but a coloured man and a licensed “hardliner”. All were rather dull. Jane Tate and I met Gaster in a restaurant [Jack Gaster was Desmond Greaves’s personal solicitor]. He is, as Jane Tate put it, a “dry old stick” but a very genuine and far from stupid man. I seem to remember him around 1934 when the “Revolutionary Policy Committee” of the Independent Labour Party broke away and joined the CP. I met him from time to time after that.
He says that after Costello resigned from his post as industrial organiser, Chater gave him a job on the “Morning Star” against the wishes of the E.C. who censured him. The war seems to be between the “Morning Star” and that absurd rag, “Marxism Today”. Chater was, it seems, as bad as any of them until he went to Russia before Christmas, after which he improved. I remarked to Gaster that if Chater and Costello were the defenders of the left, what was the “right” like. He expects ructions at the November conference, possibly followed by a split, in which I presume the “Morning Star” would disappear. He describes the E.C. as “rotten.” I stayed with Jane Tate, as also did Michael Crowe.
March 20 Sunday: In the afternoon we had an EC, with Peter Mulligan, Paddy Bond, Noel Gordon, Roger Kelly, Gerry Curran, Jane Tate and the girls – no Barney Morgan or Barry Riordan or Helen McMurray. We had received a donation of £1000 from Bill Hardy and the CA is “in the black”. We decided to ignore Myant’s conference and run our own. In the evening I gave a talk on “Marx and Ireland.” The room was crowded, a contrast to yesterday. Flann Campbell took the chair, and among those present were Elsie O’Dowling, Connie Seifert, Noel Gordon, Roger Kelly, Helen McMurray, Toni Curran and Bob Wynn, Tadhg Egan, Mick Brennan – about 60 in all. Young Freeman was there. He wanted me to sign his manifesto. I had written to say I agreed with it but wondered what use he proposed to make of it. Apparently he wants to make it a platform at Myant’s conference. He wants to send it to the CP and demand they add some of their names to it. And for this challenge my name is essential, so they’re not getting it. This Freeman is Socialist Workers’ Party and a side lackey of Fitzgerald. I heard how Fitzgerald and Myant had a “hate the Connolly Association” session. Indeed it is this obsession of Myant that is isolating him. Freeman’s idea is of course – and he doesn’t trouble to conceal it – to put the CP on the spot and publicly defeat them on the day. I think it is good fun to see these English opportunists fighting over which will be the leader of the Irish. But it also shows the depths to which that little shit Myant has descended. He wants to be boss – and even the Trotskies can defeat him. Noel Gordon says he will not go to Myant’s meetings, for Freeman has disclosed that he has set up a factional committee within Myant’s committee to prepare secretly for the victory of his policy. Since Myant is not cooperating with us he can be left to find out. The most he can look for from us is that we should not gang up on him but leave him alone. Of course I never wanted this conference. Myant wanted it to get the initiative away from the Connolly Association. Well, we’ll see what happens. I have no doubt, incidentally, that their “rotten policy” on Ireland is the same as their rotten policy on “international affairs”. Sawtell was at the meeting. He is in poor health.
March 21 Monday (Liverpool): I returned to Liverpool. On the way up the train was struck by lightning and the power cut off. The result was a delay of close on two hours.
March 22 Tuesday: I spent the day on the paper.
March 23 Wednesday: Another day on the paper. It is more work this month as I am decorating it considerably.
March 24 Thursday: Another day on the paper.
March 25 Friday: I nearly finished the paper.
March 26 Saturday: I sent off the last copy.
March 27 Sunday: I have a filthy cold all week which is only lifting. I met PoS. at Rock Ferry and took him to the Irish Centre where he gave a lecture on the Fenians. He had with him a very young Liverpool Hiberno-Manx working at the Institute of Advanced Studies, a friend of Brian Stowell’s. There was a reasonable turn-out but Barney Morgan’s amateurism comes out all the time.
March 28 Monday: I went to Ripley. I found them in something approaching chaos. So I did not get a machine proof.
March 29 Tuesday: The bad cold is gradually clearing, but the weather is still damp and chilly. Early spring is not a pleasant season. The astronomical equinox is March 19/20 all right, but the thermal “equinox” is nearer May 12th – a little early for day or maximum temperature. And this we forget as we watch a longer day and a higher sun from which no heat seems to be coming. However, I cut a very presentable cauliflower!
Barney Morgan called. When PoS comes I live in trepidation of his “bright ideas” and hope none of them will catch on until there is time for consultation. On Sunday he urged the establishment of the Gaelic League in Liverpool and wanted the Connolly Association to join with the new foundation in bringing over exhibitions from Dublin. Unfortunately, he left young Broderick behind him to set matters in train and Barney Morgan is meeting Brian Stowell and himself tonight at the Irish Centre. Barney is of a trusting disposition and has no notion of working to a policy or foreseeing dangers. He wants to join with Plaid Cymru for a commemoration at Fron-Goch [ie. the Frongoch internment camp in Wales where Republican prisoners were held following the 1916 Rising]. I told him I understood the distillery or whatever it was had been knocked down and I doubted if the hoteliers of Bala would welcome us. On the other had I was for a Celtic League. I must admit however that he always consults me as if conscious of the sanguineness of his character. I said I thought we should tell them to get the Greater Liverpool branch going in order to build up the language classes. Of course I’m not unduly worried abut the exhibition. Even in arranging these lectures I have to do the work!
Barney Morgan also tells me that following young Dowling’s effort to revive the Ford Cemetery Easter commemoration – which we told them to put off until next year – another group wants to put a plaque on Larkin’s birthplace. The success of the Connolly Association is stimulating imitations. He also told me that Eamon MacLaughlin’s lecture was woeful and that it has done us harm.
Noel Gordon said last Sunday’s lecture was well attended and a number of newcomers took membership forms. I gather he has carried out his threat not to attend Myant’s meetings. Myant will have a canary fit when he sees this issue of the paper.
March 30 Wednesday: The wretched cold weather drags on, as it so often does at this time of year. The temperature reaches the middle forties. The daffodils are nearly over and the Forsythia is past its best but the other things gave suspended operations and stay as they were.
Barney Morgan came in the evening – as he was passing. I asked him how last night’s meeting went off. “Well it didn’t. Nobody came, did they?’
“Well I didn’t know that.”
“No of course.” This was his turn of speech. We speculated. Broderick was presumably influenced by PoS. When Barney rang him up his wife said he had “gone to the pictures”. Barney suspects PoS wants him to register his Irish class as part of the Gaelic League, but under the Education Committee Brian Stowell receives payment.
March 31 Thursday: Another chilly day. I have only anthracite for another week to ten days and am using electricity as well. I can do nothing in the garden as it is showery as well. The wind never seems to budge from NNW and if it does it is speedily back.
But what must happen but Brian Stowell appeared with an MS from a friend in the Isle of Man, Bernard Moffat of the Celtic League. I have been making one or two moves towards starting the Celtic League in Liverpool and have been in touch with Alan Heusaff. I don’t know whether Brian Stowell would help. I think the best thing will be to inform him and see if he shows up.
I find Brian Stowell a somewhat difficult character. As Gaster says of Millner, “I don’t know what activates him. You can never get close enough to him.” I think he was not pleased when I started the Liverpool Connolly Association. But I took it that he didn’t want extra work. His only real enthusiasm is Man and the Manx, and I suppose one shouldn’t grudge him.
April 1 Friday: I did a very little clearing up, but for the most part listened to some of the excellent music provided, for once, by the BBC. This included Rossini’s Stabat Martyr and the Mozart piano concerti K450 and 451. But the cold weather went on and on. I did not go out.
April 2 Saturday: A letter came from the Troops Out Movement- controlled 7th May demonstration committee asking me to speak. The CA sponsored it but the other organisations include the IBRG, IRSP, and SF. I think the Troops Out Movement and IBRG [ie. the Irish in Britain Representation Group] are both Provisional-inspired, at least to a degree. Anyway, I told them I had friends with me that weekend. I am not prepared to be “made use of”. The man who wrote had a Dutch name, something like Van Rysefeldt – and the sponsoring bodies are the queerest omnium gatherum. I did not go out but got a fair amount of clearing up done.
April 3 Sunday: I got more done today. The cold is better – though not away. And the weather in the afternoon was warm enough for an hour’s work in the garden. And in the evening there were two favourites on the radio – the serenade in Bb and the piano concerto K467.
April 4 Monday: The weather was cold again today and I did not get into the garden. I did a certain amount of clearing up in the house and listened to the Theresienmesse in the early afternoon. I had stayed up till 2 am. writing up the lecture on Marx. Today I was tired. Anno domini?
April 5 Tuesday: It was not quite so cold as there was sunshine. I went to the Post Office and walked back from Prenton. I sent letters to Noel Gordon, Tony Coughlan, Paddy Bond, Peter Mulligan, Derry Kelleher, Dafydd Williams, Michael Mortimer, Mike Kelly and quite a few others. But temperatures in the forties do not suit me, so there was no gardening. I listened to the Kreutzer sonata – which of course I know well. It is remarkable that the last movement – intended for something else – so well resolves the rhythmic theme of the first. I suppose it must be accident, for in 1803 Beethoven was not treating all movements together as one sonata.
In the evening a man who spoke in the broadest possible Liverpool accent telephoned. He said his name was Lloyd and I think I remember one so named who was on Kaye’s “Irish Committee” that Myant put him up to. He asked for Bert Ward’s telephone number, which I have not got. Did I know anything about the conference that was to take place in London next month? I told him I had heard a rumour that it had been postponed. He grunted in obvious dissatisfaction, “What! Again?” So Myant has set up his network of “Irish Committees” which are to get him his conferences. But at the heart of it lies the conflict of policy, with the Socialist Workers Party right for the wrongest reasons! We are going to try to push past the whole thing. I spoke to Jack Bennett on the phone.
Blossom has appeared on the Victoria plum, but not very plentifully.
April 6 Wednesday: I did a certain amount of clearing up and finished the Camden lecture on Marx. Whether they will publish it as they talk of doing I don’t know. Jane Tate was going to find out. I am hoping to go away next week and started making arrangements.
April 7 Thursday: I learned that this is “Grand National” weekend and doesn’t Jack Bennett want to bring Anna on Saturday and stay in the comfort of a hotel! I spoke to Barney Morgan who thinks they will “get in somewhere”. But I cannot book anywhere because of Anna’s uncertainty. She will not travel if it is rough!
In the evening Barney Morgan called. He had had two letters from Pegeen O’Sullivan! One of them was enquiring about the Central London branch meeting. Barney had seen Brian Stowell since the fiasco, and it seems the mix-up was the young Manxman’s fault. He has got Tom Walsh to take the chair at Jack Bennett’s meeting. He tells be that Cope, whose insolvent bookshop has been rescued by cash from London, no longer stocks Workers’ Party publications. What this is a sign of I don’t know. Barney thinks him incompetent as a businessman and says he does not keep proper books.
April 8 Friday: I rang up the Feathers to see if I could book in Jack and Anna Bennett who have decided to stay till Tuesday morning and have a holiday. But it is Grand National weekend and they would not accept a booking without my going in to leave a deposit. A nuisance!
I was shocked to read in the paper that Philips, the bookshop, are closing down. Lamdins, the successors of Mortons in Birkenhead, closed down a year of two ago. I wrote to Doswell. A few years ago they had a “save Merseyside” campaign, but all they did was to hold a demonstration. I think O’Hara was in it. When I spoke to Kaye he had no idea. They are most of them complete amateurs. Their idea is to say something and “get support”. They never think of doing something which will, to whatever small degree, affect the course of history. Anyway, I suggested that Doswell might call a conference. I also wrote to Colm Power who had sent me a cutting: Justin Keating said he was anxious to “take on” the Militant Tendency (which includes Conor & Bebhinn) [ie. two of the MacLiam children] so they challenged him to a debate. He’ll be too foxy to be caught in that! I also wrote to Jack Gaster and sent the Marx disquisition to Noel Gordon. He says Myant’s conference is on July 16 – a bit late I think.
April 9 Saturday: A letter came from Roy Whitfield to whom I had applied for information on Engels’s mill [ie. in Salford, Manchester]. Gerard Roche – the brother of the other man – had written to the “Irish Post” violently attacking the doctrine of Marx and Engels, following an article on Marx and Ireland by that unstable character Callanan. He accused Engels of “exploiting Irish immigrants”, making a fortune out of “child labour” and trotted out the old canard that Marx was only interested in Ireland because of its influence on England. I dealt with the last in two lectures. Now Whitfield provided material from the 1861 census to settle the first too, and I wrote a letter to the “Irish Post”.
I went down to Rock Ferry to meet Jack and Anna Bennett. They had had a marvellous crossing but said the Welsh mountains were knee deep in snow. This afternoon was warm and one young fellow and his girl friend had ventured forth, somewhat prematurely I fear, in T-shirts and tennis shorts. As soon as the sun went down it was as cold as ever. Many’s the time I’ve spent April waiting for the spring and have usually found the upturn comes between the 15th and 22nd.
I had a long talk with Jack Bennett. He thinks that after the scare of Burgess and MacLean the intelligence departments decided to protect their university cadres with a screen of ideology and invented pseudo-Marxism as a protection. I had myself rather assumed a political motivation. I made to him the suggestion (already made to Tony Coughlan, Daltún O Ceallaigh and Maolachlann O Caollai) of an international conference in defence of the nation state to be held in Dublin. He tells me he is 56! It was 35 years ago that he and I used to get out the “Irish Democrat” in my flat in Cockpit Chambers! His son Owen is 31 – I remember when he was born, though Anna Bennett remembers things I have forgotten, for example drinking whiskey with Gerry Fitt. Anna says that Jack Bennett got Fitt into Parliament by writing all his speeches for him. But he was lost when he got there and succumbed to the influence of his wife who is the daughter of an RIC man and hates every kind of republican. To get a pension Gerry Fitt must go up in West Belfast and be defeated. Jack Bennett thinks he would like a knighthood – I doubt it. All this shows how dubious is the value of putting up straw men. We went to the Irish Centre and Barney Morgan arrived. He has been quite active canvassing for Jack’s lecture tomorrow.
April 10 Sunday: The fine weather has not continued – wet and cold today. But the damson tree is covered with blossom for the first time since I planted it. There were a few odd sprigs last year, but no damsons. I’d be happier if there were a few insects about. I think it is an advantage.
I went to the Irish Centre where Jack Bennett gave a good talk on the Land League etc. Tom Walsh took the chair. Barney Morgan, Michael Mortimer, Joe O’Grady and others were there. A man called O’Donoghue from Rock Ferry has joined.
April 11 Monday: I had suggested to the Merseyside Action for Peace that they join with the Connolly Association in holding a conference at the end of the year on “Ireland and World Peace”. I met its new secretary Peter Rynie, Glasgow-born, Liverpool-Irish and for a time Bristol-based, who seems quite a decent young fellow – a man in his early forties. After leaving him I contacted Jack Bennett to give him a copy of “O’Casey”. It seems that Owen – now aged 31! – borrowed Jack’s copy and took it to work [ie. Owen Bennett, Jack Bennett’s son]. Then a republican friend borrowed it and now it is circulating in Long Kesh [ie. The prison-camp for republicans in Northern Ireland]. Owen is a trifle inclined to the Provisionals. And indeed one evening he was arrested and kept in jail overnight. He was a very frightened young fellow! I am thinking of going away for a few days tomorrow, but the weather is still too cold.
April 12 Tuesday: It is still basically cold, but sunny in the afternoon. I ventured a haircut. A letter came from Tony Coughlan. His sister is coming from Pakistan in early June and he is going to Rome to meet her. Perhaps he will see Nicoletta [an Italian friend of the MacLiam family] who still writes to me but never puts her address. I had a word with Noel Gordon. Jane Tate is away, looking after her brother who has just come out of hospital after a heart operation.
April 13 Wednesday: I didn’t go away and decided not to. Not only was it cold, but wet as well. I wrote to Michael Mortimer about the meeting next Wednesday. Letters came from Gerry Curran and Noel Gordon. That from Gerry Curran contained a photostatical copy of an article from January’s “Marxism Today” in which an Englishman proposes “relocating” Catholics and Protestants in the Six Counties. The boundless arrogance of these social-chauvinists is matched only by their bottomless ignorance. There was also a copy of “Focus”, giving an account of Jack Ashton’s report to the EC they did not invite me to. He placed the main blame for the strength of Unionism on the divisiveness of the “Provisional” IRA but said its “mass influence could not be ignored.” He blamed the SDLP for consciously representing the Catholics of the North instead of being a non-sectarian party of the whole working class. He referred to the Six Counties as a “region” and Britain as the “mainland”. He noted the growth of movement on plastic bullets and the PTA but made no reference to the Labour Committee on Ireland or the Connolly Association. He thought women’s groups should meddle in the 26 Counties issue of abortion. The days of Gallagher, Dutt, and Jackson are gone. All that are left are flabby mediocrities without a trace of anti-imperialist spirit, that reflect the narrow economism of the Trade Unionist now being stripped naked by politics!
April 14 Thursday: I started the review of Jack Mitchell’s book. I will have to demolish him good and proper. It was still chilly, largely thanks to cloud cover. But the rhododendron is coming out, also the sweet cicely. I think they are early.
April 15 Friday: I spoke to Noel Gordon who says the “Irish Democrat” is selling reasonably. The problem is keeping up the standard. The weather was distinctly milder today – high fifties I would say – and I got a little done in the garden. There was a letter from Paul Salveson. Apparently he is a keen cyclist and is lecturing on the history of the Clarion Clubs. It seems to me he might have done well in Manchester but that miserable Coughlan fellow who made the dreary speech at the Labour Committee on Ireland conference was unable to guide or inspire him.
April 16 Saturday: It was a little cooler today, but that ferocious bite has gone out of the wind, and with mid-April we should be out of the wood. I wrote to Joe Deighan, Derry Kelleher, and one or two more. Roy Johnston rang up. I learned from Noel Gordon that Jack Mitchell’s book is reviewed in the “Irish Socialist” and that the reviewer took the opportunity to attack mine. This is becoming a favourite trick with academic reviewers, a measure of the constantly swelling heads of this pampered fraternity.
April 17 Sunday: It was again not a bad day and I spent a couple of hours in the garden. I think I will not start another book till I have 124 Mount Road straightened out. It will take a few months too. I wrote to Paul Salveson, Daffydd Williams and Brian Wilkinson.
April 18 Monday: Though it was dry it was chilly again. I did nothing in the garden. Noel Gordon sent the “Irish Socialist” review. There was nothing worth replying to in it, and since my own book was described as “masterly” I was not going to worry over undisclosed reservations. I had expected something like that ass Lowery’s effusion.
Barney Morgan came in the evening and said a man called Tony – whose surname he could not remember – wanted to raise £14,000 to erect a statue to Larkin in Liverpool. He is a young teacher about 25 years old who is friendly with Stephen Dowling. He is Labour Party whereas Dowling is in the crowd who used to call themselves “International Socialists”. It is interesting how we start things and others take them up! There is a committee being formed for it. Barney Morgan will attend. I can foresee many obstacles and would prefer them to be spending the money – which they haven’t got – on politics.
I went into Birkenhead and bought one or two things. I listened to Haydn’s D major cello concerto on the radio. I am sure I have not heard it for over 45 years, but I remembered almost every note. Now why? It used to be played very often in the olden days. For another thing the themes of the three movements are closely related. Another thing that struck me is that Beethoven seems to have founded his solitary violin concerto on it. Both have a sweet almost sugary quality, though I prefer the Haydn. I do not think there is sufficient contrast in either work.
April 19 Tuesday: Today the weather was wretched, cold – low 40s – and wet. And to make matters worse there came a letter from Macmillan’s addressed “Dear Desmond” and signed Michael Gill, proposing to put off payment of royalties till September. Now on the one hand payment after 27 September, when I am due to reach the age of 70, would avoid argument from the pension people. On the other hand I need the money in punts[ie. Irish pounds] to pay Micheál O Loingsigh for printing the poems. I think Gill has forgotten that I negotiated for payment after six months in return for forgoing an advance. I think I will write agreeing to the postponement, but in view of the special arrangement, asking for a payment on account. That way I could kill two birds with one stone. Stella Bond sent good news. The CA fund brought in £779, and the Association is already “in the black” thanks to Bill Hardy’s £1000. I have got the circulation beginning to rise. I’d like to get the whole thing into the black as we had it 25 years ago. I got a bit done in the house.
April 20 Wednesday: I did some work about the house in preparation for Noel Gordon’s visit. The weather was the worst yet – with sleet and soft snow, which melted, in the evening. It has been a really exceptionally cold April, and the rhododendron is coming out a flower at a time and all the other blossom hangs long. Noel Gordon arrived at 4.40 pm. He told me a few of the things that had been going on. Bert Ward is publishing a bi-monthly bulletin and has Philip Rendle in it. He wants to get contributions on behalf of Irish organisations and is hoping to entice Noel. The last meeting of Myant’s conference committee did not take place. Noel brought me a letter from Peter Hain asking me to sign the self-same document that Freeman tried to foist on me. I did not do so because he proposed to use it in the course of his rivalry with the CP. But they seem really keen to get it. Yet according to Noel Gordon the conference has receded into the mists. Also, he says, Noel Harris has been trying to get people in the Standing Committee to sign it. None of them would. And of course not. The whole exercise is sectish and amatuer. What right have Freeman and Myant in Irish affairs, an English Trotsky and a journalist!
There was an excellent attendance at the CA branch, with Barney Morgan (who arrived late), Michael Mortimer, Michael Kelly, Pat O’Doherty, Doyle, O’Grady, the two Tauntons, Mullen and one more. There were two new members. I think Liverpool now has 16, which makes it easily the biggest outside London. Barney Morgan became chairman and “organiser”. Michael Mortimer became secretary and Joe O’Grady treasurer. The new member O’Donoghue was also there.
April 21 Thursday: Another wet cold dark windy day. A letter came from Royston Green, and another from Thomas Paulin, whose very good letter was published in the “New Statesman” and whom I wrote to. He is bringing out some poems in June. He might do reviews for us. I got three pages of the “Irish Democrat” away.
April 22 Friday: Apart from getting food in I spent most of the day on the paper. The weather was cold, wet and miserable and I got soaked walking a few hundred yards.
April 23 Saturday: I finished the paper. The weather was not quite so cold, though bad enough. In the early evening there was a sharp thunderstorm out of the South-East. But it brought no warmth. Thunder is a very bad sign – this is the second I saw this year. Everybody is predicting a very bad summer, but that will be nothing new. There hasn’t been a good one since 1976! It is an interesting fact that good summers came at 10-12 year intervals regularly from at least 1868 to 1933. Then the regularity stopped. Why?
A letter came from Fitzgerald saying the poems will be printed any minute, and the covers (for distribution) are on the way. the capacity of printers for delay is unlimited. I heard from Brian Wilkinson.
April 24 Sunday: Another miserable day. Not quite the savage cold, but I think there was a roll of thunder – couldn’t be sure. I gave a talk at the Irish Centre in the evening. Tom Walsh was there, Barney Morgan, Michael Kelly, Michael Mortimer, Joe O’Grady and others. There was a good attendance. This Peter Birtell fellow came in after it was over. He has acquired some influence over young Dowling, though I think he is younger still himself, a dashing 24 I’d say. Anyway he was the moving spirit behind the Ford cemetery project and now they want to erect a replica of the Larkin statue for which the sculptor wants £14,000. They have formed a committee and whether it will come to anything or not I don’t know. I don’t like £14,000 being collected for a piece of metal. I can just think what I could do with half of it. He is a romantic young fellow.
April 25 Monday: I gave a talk to the “Broad Left” of TASS. Some of them are Labour Party, others CP. Some of them are tolerably sound others not. One very small CP man who pretends to some authority could not see that it was not the duty of the British movement to attack the “Provisionals”. “But we must dissociate ourselves from them.” “Nobody ever accused you of associating.” “But the CPI condemns them.” “Condemns some of their actions, true, but they’re Irish. You’re not.” Anyway I suppose it was of some use. But some of them can’t see it is not their duty to run other peoples’ countries.
April 26 Tuesday: I wrote to Michael Gill suggesting a payment on account. I don’t know if it will “fetch” him! I also wrote to Pat O’Donohue who seems to be deducting tax from my drawings – something that has never been done. I also sent a tax form to Fisher. The covers sent express post from Drogheda last Tuesday have not arrived. I rang Fitzgerald twice. He now says the books will be available early next week. It is a damned nuisance.
I had some free entertainment in the early evening – after a day when there was another thunderstorm. I heard an unholy barking in the front garden and thought there was a dog fight. But only one dog had got in and it had cornered a cat with the obvious intention of biting it. The cat, less than half its size, was scratching manfully with its little paws so that the dog could not get near it. I was of course on the side of the cat. It struck me that the reason why a cat is more intelligent than a dog is that it uses its paws as well as its mouth. There was obviously much skill required. Anyway, I hammered loud and hard on the window jam, and the two animals disappeared in opposite directions!
April 27 Wednesday: I received the covers for the poems – Fitzgerald had sent them by ordinary post though he had promised to send them express. There were not enough envelopes in the shop opposite. Those I bought at Smith’s were the wrong size. However I rang Tony Coughlan whom I had not heard from, I guessed because he does not know when his sister is coming from Pakistan. This proved to be the case, but I decide to publish on May 31st, even if he cannot arrange a “launching party” around that date. So I must find a place to photostat the review slips. From the yellow pages I found the “Birkenhead Press” in Grove Rd. and went there. I walked from Bedford Avenue to St Paul’s Road, but everything is changed. The old Carnegie Library is replaced, and the pub opposite is no more.
When the woman in the office saw it was a publishing job she was being offered, she said, “We are publishers,” and showed me a booklet by Allison [one of his teachers at Birkenhead Institute; See Vols.1 and 2]. “I think he’s still alive,” said I. “Yes – and 91.” After that I had a lot of sticking and trimming. Another thunderstorm blew up and I gave up the idea of working in the garden. What is most tiresome about the weather we are having is the darkness and constant blanket of thick cloud, of very wintry and watery appearances. And though the sharpness has gone out of the air, it is still cold, indeed very cold for the time of year. But the bay tree has started to flower, and the myrthis, and some over-wintering borage. I wrote to Gills and asked for a payment on account.
April 28 Thursday: After all my trouble yesterday Fitzgerald told me the printer “has a problem” (some other work!) and cannot deliver the books till the end of next week. This means reviews cannot go out till May 9th for publication on May 31. I spoke to Tony Coughlan who said he will see Micheál O Loingsigh. But I think I will stick to the date – as long as we have copies for the launching which may be in mid-June. In the evening Barney Morgan came in for a spell. The weather was only slightly brighter today – one must switch on the light at 8 pm. although sunset is not till 9.
April 29 Friday: I wrote the revue of the Royal Society collection of Essays on Tyndall [John Tyndall, 1820-1893, Irish physicist and educationist]. He was a great enthusiasm of Molony who used to write to the “Irish Democrat” from California in the early fifties, largely because of his strong anti-clerical leanings. Molony was a great character. He wanted to return to Ireland but his pension was insufficient and he died in California. Then Micheál O Loingsigh rang and said the books will definitely be ready next Friday. There was a fire at the binders. So I decided to stick to the date May 31, and sent covers to the people on the list Tim O’Keefe gave me, and review slips to Tony Coughlan, to whose place the stock is to be delivered. Then I resumed work on Mitchell’s “O’Casey” which Sawtell gave me to review. I had promised Mitchell that I would “wipe Tottenham Court Road with him” if he said another word about me. Then Lowery did it for him. I replied and showed copies round. Then Sawtell gave me the opportunity I might have waited for. I wrote to Noel Gordon yesterday asking him to notify Manchester of the Joe Deighan visit. He rang me today to say it was done. The weather was again wet and cold. It must be the worst April that ever came. Fred Brown next door has been unable to get on his lawn – finally decided to mow it wet. But I will wait. I told Barney Morgan that I must take four months this summer getting house and garden straight. I also told Noel Gordon. And then I have to decide what to do next, if I’m spared.
April 30 Saturday: Today was at least reasonably dry though I think it may have rained in the night. There were even brief spells of sunshine of a sort. But most of the time the sky was covered with alto-cumulus, and later cirro-stratus. The sharp chill has gone, but when I went to do some gardening I put on an extra pullover. I was working on the arch for several hours, and at any rate have something for the clematis to climb up on. I posted a letter to Tony Coughlan, enclosing some covers. I tried to get Noel Gordon, but the line was giving the engaged signal for over half an hour. I continued with the review of Mitchell’s book but could not find some of the references I need. I had thought of going cycling but did not. It was not quite warm enough. I found one reference at 11.45!
May 1 Sunday: Another utterly wretched day – wet until early afternoon – North-East wind and very chilly. I went across the road for a paper but otherwise sat indoors with an electrical fire on – I’ll have a savage electricity bill. It promises to be the worst of a long line of bad summers – though, thank God, you never can tell! I spoke to Jane Tate. She is in bed with throat and ear infections and could not go to the May Day demonstration. I did some clearing up and work on the refutation of Mitchell.
May 2 Monday: In the morning Charlie Cunningham rang up to say he would not be at home tonight. There had been a tentative move for Noel Gordon and me to meet him, but he did not contact Noel, and anyway my visit to London was postponed. He is showing slight signs of resuming activity – described himself as a “disgrace” when Noel saw him, along with that lazy good-for-nothing Michael Rooney. He is of course most generous in financing the Connolly Association.
Later I spoke to Pat Bond. Rain had ruined their “pageant” yesterday. I did some clearing up and something on the O’Casey. It sticks out a mile that Mitchell is under “Orange Communist” influence. His opinion of the people of the Republic is of the order of contempt one should feel for him. I am wondering how to expose him diplomatically. He hasn’t bothered to find out the simplest facts.
May 3 Tuesday (London): I went to Ripley and found everything in a muddle. I had to help out by reading the galleys as they came off the lino machine. To make matters worse I had to go to London, which meant a taxi to catch the 6.2 pm. We held a Standing Committee which was poorly attended – myself, Pat Bond, Noel Gordon, Roger Kelly, Pat O’Donohue. Jane Tate has been unwell. We have got the problem of holding our conference with the prospect of a General Election.
May 4 Wednesday (Liverpool): I came back to Liverpool. Barney Morgan called for me and we went to the Liverpool Branch Committee at the Walton Labour Party rooms. Michael Mortimer was there, Joe O’Grady, Barney Morgan and myself. The weather was slightly better.
May 5 Thursday: Back went the weather to its old tricks, dark, gloomy wet, though not too cold – about 54’F as a maximum. I can do nothing in the garden. I think I am further behind than ever. Noel Gordon told me that Balfe is prepared to speak at our conference, but we must postpone it to July 2nd. I said I would try Tony Gregory. I did one feature page of the July issue.
May 6 Friday: It dawned bright and I got in one hour in the garden despite the wetness under foot. But it was soon raining again, without the savage chill – in the early afternoon the temperature was in the high fifties at least (in the sun) but most of the day was gloomy and overcast. What is happening is that the depressions that normally hit Iceland are hitting Ireland. There must be high pressure further North, but it is not clear on the weather maps I have seen.
Noel Gordon rang up. He had had a letter from Freeman enclosing a leaflet for Myant’s conference. But there was also a slip of paper relating to the manifesto I declined to sign. Noel does not know whether it was included by mistake. It said they must try to get Gordon McLennan’s signature, and also must decide their line at the conference, and that there would be a weekend of activity directed towards the conference on July 2 and 3. Now we have postponed our conference from June 11 to July 2 for fear of a General Election. Myant can’t know what he’s doing. He joined with those people against the Connolly Association and made no bones of his enmity towards us, indeed telling them of his opposition. Now they are preparing to give him the embarrassment of his life. And if we were to warn him we’d get no thanks. So dolce far niente [ie. Better to do nothing]. In the evening Barney Morgan came in. He said he had read that April 1983 was the wettest on record. This might presage a dry spell later. I wrote to Charlie Cunningham, Brian Wilkinson, W.H. Stallard [ie. Jock Stallard, Labour MP for St Pancras North] and Tony Gregory [Independent TD for Dublin Central from 1982 to 2009].
May 7 Saturday: I learned from Barney Morgan that he had met Joe Deighan at the airport and later I met them both in town. Joe and I went to New Brighton which, thanks to the rain and cold, was almost deserted. It is deserted enough at the best of times! Then we went into town for a meal. Joe Deighan thinks the CPI mistaken in calling for a “devolved assembly”, and he is trying to get it changed. Of course it is ridiculous to call for a British renunciation of sovereignty followed by a British exercise of sovereignty.
I happened to say I was on Cave Hill at the 150th anniversary of 1798, and he told me, what I did not know, that he was the secretary of the commemoration committee. Behind it all however was a carpenter, Bill Rooney, who was active in the Gaelic League. The Committee was granted the use of the Ulster Hall. Then the City Council got wind of it and got the booking cancelled. Rooney, not of the IRA type of republican, saw no reason for not using the law. He told them to slap an injunction on the trustees of the hall. This they did, and the judge granted them the use of it, saying there was “no reason why these responsible people should not be granted the use of the hall.” I remember seeing Betty Sinclair in Church Lane. “Oh!” she said, “So you’re in this racket too!” She was still a bit of an Orangewoman then. But I saw from some newspaper that she went to the Ulster Hall – success bred confidence.
The other thing related to our visit to the Trades Council office, that is to say the action that started off the entire Civil Rights movement. Joe Deighan thought it was in 1964. But I think it was earlier. I have got records for 1964. I would hardly have failed to record so important an occasion, though we could not see what would come of it. When we got in Betty Sinclair was most critical, almost hostile, and we had to defend our opinions with vigour. Then she went out without a word. “Don’t mind Betty,” said Billy McCullough [William McCullough, 1901-1967, leading Northern Ireland communist, Chairman of the Belfast and District Trades Council, of which Betty Sinclair was full-time secretary]. “You’re doing a good job. That paper’s been coming out for years and years!” Soon afterwards Betty came back, with coffee and biscuits, apparently having got her objections off her chest. We said to Billy McCullough, “If you’re not prepared to go against the Border, how can you justify a failure to demand equality for Catholics within the Six Counties?” Finally Billy said, “Waal, Joe, I think I’ll faire a shat.” [ie. Well, Joe, I think I’ll fire a shot.] This “shat” was a resolution at the Trades Council which led to the conference of May 8th 1965. Now there is a page in my records which ends in November 1962. Our visit was probably just before then. Joe thinks it was “just before Christmas”. And I recall being surprised at how long it took before the “shat” took effect – two and a half years. To us at the time of course the main gain was the re-establishment of good relations with McCullough and Betty Sinclair.
We went to Michael Mortimer’s to a house party. Barney Morgan was there and members of the Crosby Labour Party, quite a pleasant crowd. A new member, O’Donoghue, drove me back – he tells me is a Muslim! I noticed he did not drink anything.
May 8 Sunday: Another cold damp morning, slowly brightening in the afternoon and indeed providing a bright sunny evening, after it was too late to be of use. I went to the Irish Centre and there was a reasonable attendance at the meeting. Joe Deighan gave a very lively talk and went down very well. Michael Mortimer, Barney Morgan, Joe O’Grady, Peggy Moynihan, Janet Walsh, Michael Kelly and others were there. The young lecturer Birtell, friend of Dowling, came. He is the young man who is trying to get a replica of the O’Connell Street Larkin set up in Liverpool, something I told him would be a waste of money better used in action. He was not so cocky tonight, and I think he is all right. He is not a day older than 25. Lena Daly, Michael Daly, Pat Garrett, Jimmy McGill and a young fellow Hewitt came from Manchester since it was Joe Deighan [whom they all knew well from the time he was the leading light in the Manchester Connolly Association branch in the 1950s and 1960s]. Joe told how he was stopped by a soldier on his way back from Derry. The dignified Sandhurst officer stood behind as the private asked Joe’s name. He gave it.
“What’s your occupation.”
“Where’s your farm?”
Joe Deighan looked at the officer who was human enough to enjoy the joke.
May 9 Monday: I rang Barney Morgan to ask him to drop in to discuss an effort to get a little more coordination among Irish organisations in Liverpool. By the time he came the election had been announced. We decided to devote the next meeting to discussing this. I had intended to go away today, but once more it was windy and wet. The garden is further behind than I ever had it. All you do if you try to work the soil is to cake it up on your shoes. It is surely one of the worst springs that ever came.
May 10 Tuesday: I spoke to Noel Gordon on the phone several times. Pat Bond rang up in a great panic over the election. “What are we going to say?” “Vote Labour,” says Noel Gordon, which is quite right. We did not discuss the megalomaniac folly of the CP contesting and getting a minuscule vote. I drafted a statement on the slogan, “Vote for the devil with the shorter tail.” Again it was cold and wet and I stayed here. I had the idea of reviving the Fergus O’Connor plaque campaign now that Livingstone is at the GLC. Noel Gordon rang back with the idea of combining it with an invitation to the Irish Sovereignty Movement [ie. the lobbying group in Dublin concerned with EEC supranationalism and Northern Ireland] to send a delegation to London.
The rain was not so continuous today though the barometer reading 29.10 is lower than anything I ever saw at this time of year – in the thirties I have known 28.36, but only in October/November. I cleared away weeds that were choking the pennyroyal and transplanted from a seed trap two of last years’ chenopodiums. This is a welcome addition to the vegetable garden. I have cut mangold this week. The rain has brought some things on, weeds particularly, but held back others. I am debating whether to go tomorrow or not. I am getting on fairly well with the critique of Mitchell’s nonsense. In the afternoon Gerry Curran telephoned about the book page. Four copies of “Four Letter Verses” arrived, two from Tony Coughlan, two from Drogheda.
May 11 Wednesday: A letter came from Paddy Bond enclosing further material on the joint statement of the CPI and CPGB. He was surprised that Michael O’Riordan and Tom Redmond would sign it. It contains a fantastic contradiction that they profess unable to see. First, they want England to renounce sovereignty in Ireland. Second, they want her to go on subsidising Northern Ireland. But they don’t say so. They want a “devolved Parliament with economic and fiscal powers”. These, under the Treaty of Rome, are not in England’s power to devolve! Finally they decided that this is “an essential step” in the direction of a united independent Ireland!
I discussed this idiocy with Joe Deighan on Saturday. He told me that John McClelland had most strongly reacted against it. He himself had opposed it but was told he could do no more till the next conference. It is interesting that Gordon McLennan, Pocock and Ward went to the meeting, not Myant. I sent their rubbish to Joe Deighan. I do not propose to go for a confrontation. Let it evoke its own opposition. Having started to plunge into print they will have to defend their position. If Myant presses it at the July 10th conference there will be a guaranteed shambles! Barney Morgan called in the evening. His land rover has been stolen.
May 12 Thursday: Today dawns brighter, but a fierce shower in the afternoon gravely limited the prospects of gardening. I will wait no longer though. If it is any way tolerable I will go away tomorrow.
May 13 Friday: When I got up it was raining. I did not go. But later it cleared up and I was enabled to do a little gardening – very little.
May 14 Saturday: More bad weather – two thunderstorms in one day. But I decided to try for Monday.
May 15 Sunday: At last a completely dry and reasonably sunny day. I got in about 4-5 hours in the garden. I cleared half the North garden and sowed cauliflower, pamphreys, peas and as catch-crops lettuces and radishes – plus coriander. I already have some runner beans in. I also trimmed the lilac and holly in the South-West garden which is running wild. The bay tree is in full flower and the rhododendron is still flowering. But both the holly and one of the box trees are in flower – if they ever flowered before I did not notice it. A radio commentator confirmed my opinion of the weather – it is a due to a large anticyclone from the Mediterranean to Russia. Warm air pours into the Arctic, cool air runs south over Greenland and generates cyclones which are held up, their fronts crowding together to produce a complex depression. I think this is what happened in May 1929 – I know I spent over a week in bed with what the doctor said was jaundice. I am not sure that it was, though I remember taking, I think, bismuth!
In the evening Joe Deighan telephoned. He had decided not to let this “devolved government” go by default and wanted my opinion on whether to take it up privately or publicly. I suggested doing it privately; he could always go public afterwards. I omitted to say that Tony Coughlan rang a few days ago saying his sister was not coming from Pakistan till mid-June, and he would suggest the gathering to launch “Four Letter Verses” on June 2 or 3rd. Publication date is 31 May. I sent a copy to Tim O’Keefe. I don’t expect more than one or two reviews in England. Ireland might be better.
May 16 Monday (Blaencaron): I took the midday train to Chester, Salop and Llandwrtyd. Rain threatened but did not really begin till I was on top of the mountain range. I was only slightly wet. On the way up from Abergwesyn I saw dozens of cars and vans and people milling about on the narrow country road. A young woman stopped me and said, “You’ll have to wait a minute. We’re the BBC and we’re shooting a film.”
“We’ll only be a few minutes; when we’ve finished you can go on.”
“If I go on now you can’t stop me.”
“What do you mean by a ‘few minutes’?”
“Oh, we mean that.”
I waited for a few minutes and when I looked restive she radioed for them to break and I proceeded. Incidentally it had been thundering all afternoon at Llanwrtyd. De Roe seemed in reasonable form.
May 17 Tuesday: De Roe told me he was expecting a youth leader tonight with ten boys. He thought they would arrive late. He said he did not like people who brought parties of boys, after some scouts had said of their leader, “You want to look sharp with him; he’s ‘gay’.” Whatever is said about the substance, their affront to the English language by appropriation of a useful and harmless adjective, brands them as vandals. However, I went a short distance up the Tywi valley and was caught in a rainstorm – plus hail – and returned at 4 pm. They were already there, but only three. De Roe did not like the “youth leader”, a rather soft man of about fifty. He wanted to smoke, but I objected. We also stopped the boys – not bad lads, bright enough. They all rushed off to swim in the river. He merely said, “Be careful,” though both De Roe and I pointed out the dangers of swiftly flowing water. A girl was drowned here a couple of years ago.
About 10 pm. the leader went to bed, first sending them up to make their beds. We presumed all four were in the same room. “Come up in ten minutes time,” says he.
Towards 11 pm. they went into the hallway to smoke. De Roe has his office with a glass sliding panel there. They were all very quiet and I took occasion to go out to the toilet with a torch. When they returned – it was cold out there – they must have asked in half a dozen different ways when I was going to bed. Finally I said the equivalent of “when you’ve all gone.” They had already left lights burning all over the place. Five minutes later one of them came down. He was the least intelligent and said and did very little. The other two were a trifle younger, I’d say. One, about 17, said he had asthma, but studied karate. He said one of his mates was a “devil worshipper”. When I laughed he said, “If you believe in Christianity you have to believe in Satan.” So the authorities boost Christianity and the young people resist by means of devil worship! The third had lost an eye after finding an unexploded bomb. He was the brightest, about 16. He objected when the karate boy said there should be television, and said the lambs were “lovely little things”. The “leader” had told me that these youngsters came from “depressed” backgrounds and had probably come into the country proper for the first time. This one was delighted with the place. Well to return, the lad who came down said he could not sleep. But instead of sitting by the fire he went up again. But before he went he turned and said he had heard somebody going up the stairs and now knew it was not myself. Could somebody have come in? I said have a good look. Then I decided to have a look myself. Believing they were in the North dormitory I went into the large South one. I was surprised to find the gas lit, and two figures on one bed, fully clothed. The boy with the glass eye was in bed, also I think clothed. I did not recognise them and thought possibly somebody had got in. But how could anybody reach this wild place.
I decided “something was going on” and wakened De Roe. We both went in. He did not recognise them either. They pretended to be asleep. I am sure they had thought I would not take action. They all said they heard somebody coming up the stairs and that it was eerie. Possibly it was the youth leader coming downstairs to relieve himself. So we left it at that. I wondered if I might not have left De Roe alone. Just after 1 pm. I noticed a light. They were downstairs again – in other words they had never intended to turn in and were waiting till the coast was clear.
May 18 Wednesday: When I came down in the morning they were a trifle subdued. They had broken all the rules. When De Roe asked had they sleeping bags they said they had. He discovered they had not and charged them £1.20 for the hire of two. The “leader” had not checked if they had brought them. Even this morning he was trying to get us to let him smoke. I wanted something out of the office and went to it with De Roe. “Goodness!” he said, “There is a pound note missing!” I put it here.” He had forgotten to secure the sliding glass. So De Roe tackled the leader. Clearly De Roe’s fears of dreadful orgies were replaced by something more concrete, the swiping of £1 and a midnight feast. The “leader” took them aside and later emerged with a collection of £1 taken from all three. The villain would not own up. Or were all three in it? Later the boy with the glass eye and the karate man asked me whether on going out I had shone my torch in the office. I said no (“They’re trying to pin it on you,” said De Roe. “No,” said I. “It’s between themselves”). They were very pleased when I said “No” and apparently the third boy, who I think was the culprit, had said I had. The two were resentful of him and when they went off scrambling he declined to go with them. He sat by the fire. The “leader” had a further talk with him which I did not attempt to hear. He spoke to me once or twice and I could see he was a weak insecure poor devil. The others had more to them. The karate operator refused on principle to draw the dole. “My father has a business” – a baker’s roundsman. The boy with the glass eye was wily and tried tricks and puzzles on the others. The “leader” told me that they came from “depressed backgrounds” and broken homes (not necessarily all three, but a proportion of the original ten), would never get employment of any kind, had no money and thought stealing a legitimate way of acquiring it, and that their heroes were those who got plenty of money without working for it. But I thought him no great shakes myself. They went off at 12.30, back to Bristol. De Roe and I agreed that the “couldn’t sleep” was the “alibi” and the mysterious footsteps a ruse to put us off the scent. I was glad now I got him up. I went for a walk in the forestry and was again caught in the rain. There was thunder, and the cold East wind blew on.
May 19 Thursday: There was at least a reasonably sunny morning and I walked down the path on the west side of the river to the fish dam a mile down. The field below the hostel has been drained and the man who cut the gully cut one round the hostel too. But the fields below were very wet indeed, so I put my shoes under a boulder and went on as far as the ground was smooth. I mightn’t have troubled as the rain soon came down and the rest of the day was wet. Again there was distinct thunder. I found a place to ford the river, which De Roe (who goes out very little) had heard of. The postman who used to come on horseback used it. He was pleased at this for the farmer, who now has a 21-year lease from the Forestry, will not agree to a bridge. He lives in Nant y Groes in Lower Caron but spends much time up in Dolgoch. He was born in the hostel when it was a farmhouse, an only child, not married, who lives with his mother aged 85, who is as awkward as himself. De Roe says that when they come up together, she does the talking and he stands behind her like a dutiful little boy. “He’ll go to pieces when she dies.” There is an uncle there, also unmarried, the most tolerable of them. He is the great enemy of rights of way and has extinguished some near Blaencaron.
May 20 Friday (Liverpool): It was raining in the morning and quite cold. But I decided to go. The rain stopped at the very place it had started on Monday and I got into Llanwrtyd in exactly two hours. I caught the 11.45 train and was back at 124 Mount Road at 5 pm. There were letters from Tim O’Keefe and Pat Bond, and copy from Tony Coughlan, Peter Mulligan and Colm Power. Pat Bond said that some of the people we had trouble with 25 years ago are now supporters. Chris Maguire hopes to attend on Sunday. Val Deegan gave the news of Paddy Rower’s death. He is very friendly and regrets linking up with the snake O’Shea [Fred O’Shea, from Waterford, was one of his leftist political opponents in the CA and CPGB internal controversy regarding Irish policy in 1957-58]. O’Donovan also has been trying to contact us. He has been doing research on Jim Connell. The dinner was a success but Eamon MacLaughlin made a poor speech.
The story of Val Deegan is a pity. He was in or on the verge of the Republican Movement, a very handsome young fellow the girls used to turn and look at, but one thinks with that excessive youthfulness that is often a sign of disease, as if there was not only degeneration but delayed development – ageing is not a total negative. He had been an idealistic young fellow but got a job on the quays in Waterford and there lived in the midst of drink and corruption and acquired too strong a thirst. If he had had leadership at the crucial time all might have been well. However he contracted tuberculosis, which may have been incipient a long time. He was in Colindale hospital; there Fred O’Shea and his touts used to visit him and plot against the Connolly Association leadership at his bedside, not forgetting to smuggle in drink. He was never unfriendly to myself or Pat Bond, but was led away by that bunch. When we threw them out – he was not one of the expellees – he drifted away and I never gave him a further thought. Now it seems he is “partially disabled” with “polyneuritis”, whatever this is. Arthritis?
Chris Maguire was the secretary in Nottingham and did good work. He got under the influence of Terry Gallogly who was in turn influenced by Ken Coates [Trotskyite intellectual, founder of the Institute for Workers’ Control; later a Labour Member of the European Parliament]. The Connollys (except Ned) were mixed up in it. There was a conspiracy against John Peck – a well-meaning, very dedicated, but somewhat limited CP organiser. He’s the man who took Nottingham CP on a White Polish demonstration! When Mairin more or less chivvied him [ie. Chris Maguire] into marrying her (she chivvied by her mother) he dropped out and became very cynical. This would be about 30 years ago; so he would now be about 53 or 54. I suppose Val Deegan would be about the same. O’Donovan was less close to us and had Trotsky tendencies. He would also now be in his early fifties. Tempora mutantur [ie. Times change. The rest of the quotation, which Greaves often used, is “nos et mutamur in illis”– and we too change in them].
May 21 Saturday: Again rain and cloud. In an interval I pushed a fork into a plot. Useless. The ground is sodden. I have more time available than for years but I have done less than ever in the garden. The temperature is still in the middle fifties. I have known it in the eighties in late May! Noel Gordon rang up and said he had arranged for me to stay at Gerry Curran’s. I suppose Helen McMurray has somebody there, and Jane Tate has her brother. I suspect the Finance Committee meeting will be scrapped because of this. But they will be there long enough to hear what I have to say! I am not too pleased at having to go out to Ealing, though I want a talk with Gerry Curran. They have known for months that I was coming this weekend and they fixed the date. There was plenty of time to get in touch with Eamon MacLaughlin, Charlie Cunningham, or even Paddy Bond. But as usual – the last minute.
May 22 Sunday (London): I caught the 1.37 to Euston. It was 30 minutes late but I got to Marchmont St. on time and gave the lecture on Partition to about 30 people. Noel Gordon, Elsie O’Dowling (looking very frail), Paddy Bond, Stella Bond, Roger Kelly and – stranger – Charlie Cunningham. Everybody made such a fuss of him that we hope he will come back into things. The landlord at the Marquis of Cornwallis is an Irishman and very pleased to have us. It was intended that if we held on till everybody else had gone drinks would continue to be served. However I didn’t wait, though Charlie Cunningham did. Chris Maguire was there.
May 23 Monday (Liverpool): I stayed at Toni Curran’s. In the morning I had a chat with Bob Wynne, who joined the CP during the Spanish Civil War. He was somewhat unceremoniously booted out of the “Morning Star” by Chater, then edited the “County Standard” for a few years. He is an East Anglican. He told me that Gollan [ie. John Gollan,1911-1977, previous General Secretary of the CPGB] had told him why the CP did not press the Irish question. He was afraid of his Scottish membership. This is the depth of opportunism it had sunk to. I must confess this had never struck me before. Sceptical as I am of their motives I had not envisaged the sheer duplicity of this. We were to agitate the Irish question among nationalists, the CP getting what members it could. But the Scots were to recruit Orangemen! So the issue was never brought to a decision. If I had known this I would have paid more attention to Scotland. [Greaves was much affected by this remark of John Gollan’s relayed to him by Bob Wynne and often referred to it in in private conversation in his last years.]
I went into town, called at Marx House and Central Books but did not go to Battersea. We had a Finance Committee meeting at 6 pm., with Noel Gordon, Pat O’Donohue and Jane Tate. Then Noel accompanied me to Euston. I caught the 8.50 pm., but it arrived in Lime Street eight minutes late. The Underground stops at 11.39 and it arrived at 11.40, so I took a taxi.
Jane Tate’s brother, who has had a massive heart operation at 67, is as sprightly as a two-year-old, but Jane is staying with him and is consequently not much in London. Siobhán O’Neill told me late last night that she attended the GLC meeting on Irish organisations. She was sorry to see “Gery” Lawless playing a prominent part. There is a good supply of rats in the Irish movement and I think there are those who keep them busy. Callinan is active in the IBRG [ie. the Irish in Britain Representation Group]. To every sewer its rat. We decided on a party for A.W. Stallard. who has not been re-selected, also to “push out” my verses. I am not too happy about some of Pat O’Donohue’s accounting methods.
May 24 Tuesday: I worked on the paper. Five pages are away but I am short of copy – a nuisance. Tony Coughlan did not send as much as usual. The weather was slightly better, but from midday on turned cloudy and cool. I don’t think I ever had electric fires on so late. It may have just touched 60’F at maximum.
May 25 Wednesday: It was cold and cloudy in the morning again but improved in the afternoon. I got on with the paper.
May 26 Thursday: I spoke to Tony Coughlan in the morning. He has got cold feet over the price of the “Four Letter Verses” – after a visit to Sean Nolan. At first I was inclined to listen to his arguments for reducing it. He thinks the only cost is the printing and wants to charge £3.50 at the lecture on June 3rd. He rang me late at night pressing that the price should be dropped to £4 and said Micheál O Loingsigh was all for this. But I would not agree and think he was disappointed. The fact of the matter is that he suggested the £5 price at the beginning. I checked with Tim O’Keefe who agreed. Now after the review copies have gone and Micheál O Loingsigh has notified the trade, we suddenly lose confidence and cut and run. Now I do not expect to recover the £1,000 I shall be spending. But a certain amount may come back over a period. His argument for the cheaper price for those who attend the launching is that there is no retailer’s discount and I’ll be getting as much as I would from a shop. But I would not get what the purchaser would be paying in a shop. However, I have to fall in with a bit of it if I want it distributed at all. The only way to get this sort of thing out is to subsidise it. But I’m not sure the right decisions were taken at the start. But that is hindsight.
I sent off the paper and arranged for a withdrawal from the Building Society account to pay Micheál O Loingsigh’s bill. I maanged a couple of hours in the garden.
May 27 Friday: Things took a sudden turn for the better. Gill & Macmillan sent £1717, which will pay Micheál O Loingsigh’s bill and leave something to spare. I therefore decided to allow Tony Coughlan to drop the price but was ringing him all day and could not get him. Cathal told me that he had not been told I was coming to Ireland. I hope others have been told. I agreed with Tim O’Keefe to keep the price £5 in England. He strongly advised that.
There was also a letter from Toni Curran saying that Bob Wynne (BW2) was prepared to go to Ripley in July, August and September. I want to be free of all entanglements for these months, while I try to get the house and garden straight and have a proper holiday. I spoke to Skelly on the phone. He wants the history of the Irish Working Class, so I’ll have to start on it at the end of the year. But I’d like to get the aesthetics in and I don’t know how much time I have. I got Tony Coughlan later. The weather has turned very cold and wet again, just when it seemed to be taking up. According to the radio a depression moved westwards from Denmark! I wrote to Noel Gordon and Gerry Curran.
May 28 Saturday: The day dawned indescribably wet, cold and miserable. There is a constant North wind. It must surely be the worst spring ever. Shocking! I sent for a new cheque book on May 5th. On Thursday I rang Skelmersdale. They said it must have been lost in the post and would supply one next week – after the holiday! I rang London who said they would put one in the post as a matter of emergency. There is no sign of it. I have now only one cheque left as the piano tuner came yesterday. I need cash for Dublin so must earmark the last cheque for that. This morning – after two days – a letter came from Noel Gordon but no cheque book. I had to pay the electricity bill, but the gas bill and rates will just have to wait. All this illustrates the general disintegration of English society.
May 29 Sunday: Not wet, but cold and the constant cloud cover goes on. There has not been one warm day, and the darkness is remarkable. I thought to do a bit in the garden but the soil is too waterlogged to start on and the weeds are rampant. I began to lose control of the garden with the drought of 1980 – when I did the vegetables but not the flowers in the front. Now the whole is a mass of weeds and I can’t get on it! No sun today.
The garden is alive with poppies which have survived the winter, spending part of the time as recettes. I never saw this before. The rhododendron is fading but still flowering. I don’t think the damsons have set, though the plums have. There were only two or three sprigs on the normally magnificent white lilac, but it has all gone to greenery. There are two or three flowers on the Diervilla [ie. honeysuckle] which seem set for a long session like the rhododendron. The rowan is at its best and is not fading in two days as it does in a good year. There is less blossom on the crab than I ever saw. I have the impression that the gooseberries also have ran mostly to wood, but the blackcurrants are perfect. The myrrhis has developed into a big sturdy plant. Neither peas nor beans have germinated. There is no warmth.
May 30 Monday: Cloudy and dark once more – everything wet. There must have been heavy rain during the night. But the North wind has turned East – not quite so cold. Looking out through the front windows I see the off-licence is boarded up. So presumably there has been a bank holiday burglary. Since the whole of society is based on burglary it is no wonder.
It brightened occasionally in the day but was drizzling again in the evening. I had the opportunity of hearing Beethoven’s Sonata in C, Opus 2, and to follow the score. I heard this a few years ago and did not recognise it until halfway through. Then it was so familiar I knew every note. I think I know what had happened. It takes me back sixty years. When CEG and AEG [ie. his parents] bought their first house, AEG gave piano lessons to raise some money. I used to be given pocket money to look after Phyllis while the lessons were on, and I suppose I was quite a wealthy young fellow for a time till the lessons stopped. I know AEG put some pupils through the LLCM [Licentiate of the London College of Music]. I think the third and fourth movements must have been a “set piece” and so I heard them played again and again. It may be that AEG did not play it right through. Her score is not marked at all, though she was not like CEG for marking scores. I know those movements so well that I found myself disputing Brandel’s performance, saying to myself: “That’s too fast” or “His time is irregular there” – AEG’s interpretation has so stuck in my memory. She must have been a very accomplished musician to be able to teach that!
I had a word with Tony Coughlan in the afternoon.
May 31 Tuesday: Almost unbelievable – the morning was bright and clear, with the sun visible and the air, if not warm, not cold! Indeed as the day wore on it became positively warm as I went to Ripley. But what a journey! The 28 ‘bus did not come at 9.30 and I joined a long queue. At last the 64 came – only two allowed on board. I disapprove of the principle, but I saw I was one of the two. I was going for the 10.20 train – I arrived at Lime Street just in time, only to learn there was not a 10.20. I would have to travel by a slow one at 10.33. I wondered whether to wait for the fast at 11.20. But this would lose me an hour. I went for the 10.33 – there was an announcement that it was stuck at Runcorn owing to a points failure. So I lost the hour anyway. Then the Derby train arrived ten minutes late. The bus had gone. I walked quickly to the Bus depot – to miss the Ripley bus by 5 seconds!
At this point my luck changed. It was nearly 3 pm. but everything was waiting for me. There were no problems and I left just before 5 pm. with a bundle of papers for Barney Morgan who complains that his do not arrive on time. I caught the six o’clock train at Derby and reached Crewe in time. The Liverpool train was 15 minutes late – which it would never be if the Derby train was late. I got back just before ten. Eleven hours travelling for two hours work! Tony Coughlan had sent me the invitation that was got out for my “launching” in Dublin. I was pleased to see that the CPI had given it a plug in their weekly bulletin. And the talk in Derby was about thunderstorms and fireballs.
June 1st. Wednesday: I spoke to Noel Gordon who is arranging a “launch” in London. He says Jock Stallard is stumping the country with Michael Foot. So we do not know about his party. I went to Liverpool Library – Birkenhead is closed every Wednesday, not like my young days when it was open six nights a week till 10 pm. But it was not satisfactory. The weather began dark and miserable but warmed up. There had been heavy rain overnight. I decided that the marrows had just got to be sown. I will put them in the wrong places but move them. It began to spit and squib. Then a sizeable thunderstorm blew up and drenched everything – a cold front I think, but very thundery. Yesterday’s warm weather did for the rowan! But there is Brompton stock out – it reappeared after some years just where Phyllis used to have it, and the first flowers are on the Geranium Sanguineum. Though hundreds of poppies withered, the winter moss is yet out. The leaves only now beginning to show on the black poplars.
June 2 Thursday: I caught the 12 train and so to Dun Laoire where Tony Coughlan and Muriel Saidlear met me and drove me into town. We had a meal at her place, where I stayed the night.
June 3 Friday: I met Tony Coughlan at Bernardo’s [An Italian restaurant in Lincoln Place at the back of Trinity College, much patronised by Dail deputies and civil servants at the time]. Then in the evening we met Joe Deighan and Dorothy who have come from Belfast, with Daltún O Ceallaigh and Deirbhle, and Bobby Heatley still struggling with his novel. Then Tony Cronin came. The “launching” took place in the Ussher Hall, TCD, [properly the Ussher lecture theatre in the TCD Arts Building] with Micheál O Loingsigh in the chair. Tony Cronin proposed and Jack Bennett seconded a very complimentary note of thanks [Tony Cronin, 1923-2016, Irish poet, arts activist and critic]. There were about 80 people there and 30 copies were sold. Among others present were Anna Bennett, Derry Kelleher, and Fine Gael TD P Bergin and Nora O’Neill, Eddie Cowman and Noel Moynihan, Cathal and Helga and Killian officiating at the bookstall, and Egon MacLiam who designed the cover [The reference to Paddy Bergin as a Fine Gael TD is a mistake. Bergin was a Labour Party activist and trade unionist, a former Labour Party senator and one of the founders of the Irish Labour History Society]. We all repaired to Cathal’s [ie. his friend Cathal MacLiam’s house at 24 Belgrave Road, Rathmines]where a bottle or two was drunk.
June 4 Saturday: Joe Deighan and Tony Coughlan called to Muriel Saidlear’s and drove me to Dun Laoire in the morning. I brought 50 copies over with me. The Gill royalties should cover the bill and leave a couple of hundred. I got back at 4 pm. and was able to buy milk. The impression is that the weather may be taking up. The laburnums are in bloom. I didn’t do much.
June 5 Sunday: I rang Barney Morgan. He went away over the holiday and cancelled the Connolly Association committee meeting. No alternative has been fixed. So I will ring Michael Mortimer. You have to keep behind them all the time. Barney told me that the “Irish Post” splashed the verses on Thursday. So that would do good. I must send copies to Alan Morton, Brian Farrington, Tim O’Keefe and Malcolm Brown in Seattle. Also Skelly wants one [ie. at Messrs Lawrence and Wishart]. I managed an hour’s gardening in the evening. I spoke to Tony Coughlan on the telephone. He is going to London tomorrow to meet his sister who will be staying with Jane Tate. Then they are going to Rome. He will take 50 copies. I don’t expect to get the money back but perhaps I will get some of it. The day was fairly warm, but thanks to a North-East wind it got so chilly in the evening that I came in!
June 6 Monday: Today was warm – low 70s, I would say. It is said that if the temperature does not reach 70 during the first 10 days of June, there will be no summer. I went into town and saw John Gibson in the bookshop. He told me of the shenanigans at the “Morning Star”. I had read the statement that the PPPS committee [ie. the committee of the People’s Press Printing Society, whose members were the legal owners of the “Morning Star”] had become aware that there was being circulated a list of alternatives people were being asked to vote for. Joe Deighan had seen it and thought it a warning against Trotsky nominations. I had thought possibly Labour Party or even SDP [ie. the Social Democratic Party]. It turned out that the “outside body” was the CP. Apparently they want to send the “Morning Star” the way of “Marxism Today”[ie. by securing a majority on the PPPS committee]. Apparently Chater went to Moscow last December and had a change of heart and abandoned Euro-communism. This made him unpopular with Gordon McLennan and he wants to be rid of him.
June 7 Tuesday: Today was warmer still. I spent the afternoon in the garden, but could not complete anything because of a thunderstorm, a slow monotonous rumbling affair, which continued from 6.30 to midnight, with one or two occasional spectacular flashes, but mostly above the clouds. Everything was drenched. I had hopes of “catching up” this year, but now doubt it.
June 8 Wednesday: The weather was fine and warm too – but last night’s heavy rainfall had saturated everything. I got in several hours in the evening however and got in a second sowing of runner beans – the first had failed. I finished the review of Mitchell’s book for Sawtell [Editor of the left-wing art and culture magazine, “Artery”]. I had a letter from Carla Keating, Justin Keating’s daughter. I thought she was “not speaking” to me because I said that Justin had an unshakeable thirst to “get on”. She is assistant secretary of the Irish Labour Society and wants me to talk on the ITGWU history. But first it is in September, second, I’m “not speaking” to them.
June 9 Thursday: I went to vote, then to the bank and then to buy a few things in the city where I met John Gibson at Lime Street. The “Morning Star” has an open dispute with the CP over who is boss. Gibson told me that the CP appointed Gerry Cohen (that useless slob!) to be “Morning Star organiser.” But it was not to build the paper but to get the Euro element into control. The morning was wet and the soil for the most part too sodden to be worked. But I got some more runner beans in.
June 10 Friday: I was up late last night listening to the election results, so did not get up early. I did not wait for all of them of course – I knew they were disastrous. There has been an attempt to destroy the Labour Party. Instead of springing to its defence the CP put up its own candidates who got derisory votes. Not that they took much away! This absurd electoral policy is one of the loops that hems them in, part of their supreme achievement, to be doctrinaire in opportunism. I wonder if there is anything to be done. Noel Gordon rang up and we discussed the disaster. Machiavelli was ten times right in saying that people are far more easily moved by fear than by hope. And we have a frightened nation. I am trying to make the “Irish Democrat” an oasis of clarity. Later Barney Morgan called, obviously very upset. Gerry Adams was elected in Belfast. One bright spot was Liverpool. There was a Labour landslide. We had no right-wingers to sow confusion and stab in the back. So we got Bob Parry, Alan Roberts, Eric Heffer and Eddie Loyden, plus one or two I don’t know. Barney and I had discussed making the Liverpool MPs a local “friends of Ireland” and we seem to have done it, aided of course by the SDP departure. The essence of the thing is that the SDP split the popular vote and left enough of their like behind to paralyse the rump. Barney Morgan came in.
June 11 Saturday: A few days ago Carla Keating invited me to address the ILHS symposium in September. I declined. Today the prospectus came. It is a shocker! And they have had the impertinence to advertise me without my consent. Francis Devine – whom I’m rather disillusioned with; he is all talk – is speaking on the “The Dublin Lockout of 1913”, with the curious subtitle, “Mighty wave or ebb tide”. All the university rats are there, plus a few Trotskies. There are several sessions on the CPI but none of its members are in it. And they’ve brought this preposterous character Newsinger over from Leicester! Joe Deighan wrote to say that he tackled Jimmy Stewart and Michael O’Riordan about this absurd “devolved government” as a “step to ending Partition”. He thought he had moved them slightly. No wonder everything’s in a bad way when well-intentioned people are so confused.
June 12 Sunday: I was reading through the years 1979-81 [ie. in his Journal] and refreshing my memory on some things. Last night but one Barney Morgan said to me, “I think the CP is fucked.” He rang today to say there was an article about the “Morning Star” split in the “Sunday Times” and he had been talking to John Gibson about it. Unquestionably the fatal damage was the destruction of classical Marxism by academic revisionists. I was looking at the ILHS prospectus and sent it to Michael O’Riordan with comments. There are papers being delivered on the CPI, but not by its members. They have unearthed this freak Newsinger from Leicester. Does Hoffman know him, I wonder? I dealt with him in the “Irish Democrat”. They are damned thick on the ground. It would seem that if an attempt were to be made to pull things together it would begin by an attack on the “new revisionism”. But who is left who is able to do it? I can’t follow all their rubbish – I haven’t the financial resources to buy all the papers. But I must think over whether anything can be done. We can defend the classical position on Irish affairs because of the national question. But to advance from that base is another matter. We are too busy defending it. It won’t be over-run, but it needs defending.
Today was dry, sunny, but chilly in the wind. I got some gardening done. I have several jobs in hand – the paper, an article for Plaid Cymru, the paper on Partition and something on Marx and Ireland. Incidentally I went to Marx House when I was in London and found this latest biographer of Engels – 1976 – had not even mentioned his two visits to Ireland.
June 13 Monday: No gardening today. It was wet and chilly and I needed an electric fire in the evening. I went into Birkenhead and made some purchases. I wrote to Noel Gordon, Bob Parry, Eddie Loyden and others. I spoke to Noel Gordon and am thinking of a day trip on Wednesday. Roy Johnston sent one of his foolish letters. He wants me embroiled in the abortion referendum and is sure Tony Coughlan is stopping me. In fact it was Tony wrote the article against it that P.J. Cunningham objected to. Contrariwise Roger Kelly has not resigned from the Connolly Association because Dónal MacAmhlaigh said he disagrees with abortion. There are possibilities that the referendum may not take place. He says he has tackled Tony Coughlan about last Friday night week and that Tony “will not forgive him.” I don’t suppose Tony will bother his head about him. He is surely not completely balanced. He joins everything and leaves everything. He is doing good work for the “Irish Democrat” in Dublin, but I do not rely on his keeping it up.
June 14 Tuesday: I seem to have pottered today away, mostly reading accounts of the past few years to refresh my memory.
June 15 Wednesday (London/Liverpool): I went on a day trip to London. Noel Gordon met me and we had a talk over things. The “Guardian” contains the particulars of the voting at the PPPS meeting which Jane Tate had attended and said was very noisy. It seems the CP had wanted Bert Pearce, George Matthews and Dave Prescott elected, but received a humiliating rebuff. The paper describes these as the “euros”. Instead Robinson, the former shop steward, Mansford of the Tobacco Workers Union, and Willoughby (none of whom I know) were elected. Noel Gordon said he is losing interest in the CP and is thinking of joining the Labour Party. I advised him not to hurry. Also he could do the same as Brian Wilkinson and be “independent”. He was disgusted by a dreary evening with Peter MacLaughlin, who talked about nothing but internal CP disputes, jockeying for position and whether the USSR was “right” or “wrong” on this or that. We called in to see Jane Tate. Then I came back.
June 16 Thursday: It rained early and everything was too wet for gardening. I saw the “Times” report of a “split” in the CP – reading it as bad as they can. They say the strongest “euros” are Gordon McLennan, Bert Pearce and George Matthews. It says the background is a disastrous drop in membership, down to 15,000. I don’t wonder. It is not just incompetence. It is partly the destruction of the whole range of traditional activities, open-air meetings etc. This went in the USA years ago. There is nothing for a minority to do but quarrel.
June 17 Friday: A fine day – by present standards. I was able to do a little in the garden, not much. It is still sodden two inches down, though dry at the top so that nothing will germinate! I spent most of the day on the paper and have five pages done and no more copy left!
June 18 Saturday: The weather has taken up. I did some gardening and got away four pages of the paper.
June 19 Sunday: Today was fine and warm. I did some more gardening and also worked on the paper. It doesn’t take long to convert sodden clay into hard bricks.
June 20 Monday: More hot and dry weather. I worked on the paper.
June 21 Tuesday: More work on the paper.
June 22 Wednesday: I finished the paper and did several hours gardening. Barney Morgan called and we went to the CA committee meeting in the Irish Centre [ie. the regular meeting of the Liverpool CA branch]. Michael Mortimer is doing quite well. Barney told me that John Gibson had been to a “Morning Star” meeting in Manchester. A large number of CP members turned up expecting to be allowed to vote, but not being share-holders they were not permitted. The prospect in front of this country is horrendous when people can fool about like this when the front is wide open and the Government hell bent on world war.
June 23 Thursday (London): I went to London and had dinner out at the house of Pat O’Donohue, where Toni Curran and Bob Wynne came. Young Thomas is 4 1/2 and a great little kid. There was not much political talk. I stayed the night.
June 24 Friday: I went into town and met Jane Tate and together we went to see R. Page Arnot who is 92. We found it hard to be sure whether he was better or worse. Anyway we took him a bottle of wine and he was delighted to see us. We hope that if ever we are 92 somebody will come to see us! We went to Jane’s for tea, then to the “launching” of “Four Letter Verses” in London. It was a total flop. Whether Noel Gordon is in any way to blame I don’t know. I do know he has plenty to contend with, for at 1 am. Helen McMurray started blabbering about all the people killed in Nazi concentration camps and mixed in a lot of absurd feminism – of the standard of whether you say “mistress” or abbreviate it into “Miss”, “Mrs”, or “Ms”! And she had Noel near to saying he would give up politics altogether. It is pitiful to see people who instead of using the abilities they have got to the best advantage, are forever going about moaning about what they can’t do. She told us we should “encourage” a girl in South London and was not in the slightest degree reassured when I told her I had written her an encouraging letter and got no reply! So I don’t wonder if Noel makes a mess of things. Elsie O’Dowling, who is not well and showing her years, pronounced him a bad organiser. He is.
Anyway, there were a few of us there – Tony Donaghey and his wife from Borehamwood, Donal Kennedy, Flann Campbell, Noel Gordon, Jane Tate, Sean Byrne, young David McLoughlin, Chris Sullivan and one or two more – all Connolly Association, none from the CP.
Incidentally the “New Statesman” had an article on the dispute about the “Morning Star”. No credit is due to either side. It seems that the CP cannot get up the circulation but think that by going “wet” like “Marxism Today” they might be able to. The “Morning Star” are afraid of losing their Russian sales and think they can get printing business from Trade Unions. So they want strong Trade Union activists and they are allowing “hardliners” like Sawtell to write every week. So if the “Morning Star” policy is preferable I am still entitled to say that I prefer personally Bert Pearce and George Matthews, who are reasonably honest, something I would allow but only with reservations to that creep Chater.
June 25 Saturday (Liverpool): I came back to Liverpool. I had a very nice letter from Mary Campbell, and Flann has asked me to read the manuscript of his new book. A letter came from Eric Heffer. I had attended the LSI conference [Presumably a Liverpool socialist conference. It is uncertain what the initials stand for].
June 26 Sunday: I did little enough today – read the papers and wrote a few letters. Some fine over-wintered poppies are out in the garden.
June 27 Monday: I went to Ripley. On the whole things went well and the transport was reasonable. Barney Morgan came in at midnight and said the coach trip he had organised attracted 50 people and made £30. Jane Tate said the Alexandra Palace thing was a reasonable success. They took £200, but this “play” was marred by the fact that Roger Kelly had attended no rehearsals and had not learned his lines. Marx Memorial Library have invited me to lecture, but it is in October so I will have to ask them to put it off.
June 28 Tuesday: I had a word with Stella Bond and Noel Gordon. He told me that Alasdair Renwick had said that Myant’s conference was liable to be cancelled. Today Lloyd rang up and told him it had been. Apparently only four people now attend the committee. Freeman and Myant were against cancellation. The other two were for it. It appears nobody has asked for credentials and they have no speakers. Myant promised to get them Freeman from Belfast [ie. leading Northern Ireland trade unionist John Freeman, 1933-2011; Irish regional officer of the British TGWU; of Presbyterian background]. We doubted it! And sure enough he can’t make it. This will of course be very displeasing to Myant with his talk of “weakening” the CA, for his efforts have ended in a fiasco.
Noel also told me that Belfast “Unity” have reprinted our statement on the election in full and Edwina Stewart was at Alexandra Palace calling for a declaration of intent to withdraw. Joe Deighan had told me the old economist line of Andy Barr is dead in the North. I remember Jimmy Shields telling me forty years ago that “more political reputations have been lost in Ireland than anywhere.” He mentioned Bob McIlhone [A Scotsman,1902-1966, British representative on the Comintern in the 1930s]. He did not think R. Palme Dutt fared any better. And though Pat Devine at least knew something of the country and its traditions, I heard of many misjudgements he seems to have made [Devine was also Scottish. Born in 1898, he was a founder member of the CPGB and served variously on the Executives of the British, American and Irish communist parties]. Maybe another reputation is to go.
June 29 Wednesday: It was dull, cold and drizzly, but I got some weeding down. When I am busy on the paper it is fine, when I am not it is bad.
June 30 Thursday: It was reasonably fine today, but I did no more in the garden than a little weeding. I worked on the statement for Saturday’s conference. Noel Gordon has worked hard but is not sanguine. There is a general demoralisation, and small wonder. Noel told me that all the ultra-left papers contain adverts for Myant’s cancelled conference. But nothing has appeared in the “Morning Star”. What is happening behind the scenes? It is clear that after the fiasco Myant will not be able to resuscitate it, and of course he’ll blame us, while getting the blame himself.
July 1 Friday: I had arranged to meet Tony Coughlan at Crewe, but he was not on the first train. I was told that there was no other but a stopping train with change at Crewe. I went on board to make sure he had not fallen asleep or got trapped behind piled-up luggage. By the time I was sure, the entrance I got on by was blocked and the train moved off before I could get out. There were people sitting on bags boxes, suitcases and the floor. I managed to get to the bar and enough people got out at Rugby to get me a seat. I met Noel Gordon at The Yorkshire Grey and we went selling in Hammersmith in Steve Huggett’s car.
July 2 Saturday (Liverpool): The conference took place from 11 am. to 5 pm. There were only 26 present but it was useful. Niall Power was there, and Tom Durkin and John Hourigan. He told me of the scandal at the UCATT conference. Apparently the Six County people who usually vote with the Left told the CP people they would not vote for them unless the Irish question was taken off the agenda. They wanted their votes and went the limit arm-twisting their supporters. Balfe spoke quite well, though he is a terrible “European”. Others present were Brian Wilkinson, Michael Crowe, Joe O’Grady from Liverpool, Noel Gordon, Chris Sullivan, Paddy Bond, Stella Bond, Jane Tate and Tony Coughlan. After Myant’s fiasco from which he will probably not draw the proper political conclusion – namely that the Unionist workers are not interested in their programme of ending Partition in preference to talking about it, that programme being completely bogus – we have the initiative. I was talking with Noel Gordon. The hopeful committee which Eddie Cowman used to attend is now wrecked by Myant’s intriguing [This was the so-called “Committee for Withdrawal”, encompassing a number of different organisations, referred to in earlier volumes]. It will hardly be put together again. Noel Gordon suggested we hold a much bigger conference. I suggested 31 March 1984. I think if we go in while the economists are in disarray, we may be able to bring the whole movement together on the right lines. Surely Myant is a broken reed. We decided to “wait until they come unstuck”. They have done. I returned to Liverpool.
July 3 Sunday: It is warm and dry. The slight drizzle a few days ago hardly damped the surface of the soil, which from being soft and treacly, is now baked into brick. Nothing will germinate. I started on the article for Plaid Cymru. I wonder did I record what I found out about why over the years the CP refused to back our efforts towards a United Ireland. The reason given was that it would lead to conflict with the Scottish members. And these people can posture and pontificate and pretend to be leaders, while they concern themselves mainly with ensuring as far as they can that nobody (Trotskies, NCP etc.) fills the vacuum they have left. Tom Durkin said to me indignantly on Sunday (apropos of their behaviour in UCATT), “They sell a whole cause for the sake of their positions.” He and Hourigan were very bitter about Jack Henry, who seems to have gone over completely. They say there is trouble within the CP in that sphere also, and Gerry Curran, who was present, told me they are pouring money into “Marxism Today”, which is losing vast sums. So they can’t even sell their rubbish!
July 4 Monday: Today was very warm – not hot, but very warm. A marrow seed germinated at last – I have been watering. I planted another batch of peas, did some weeding and tying and put in extra marrows for fear there are no more of the first lot. I also re-sowed garden turnips, snails having had the last lot. I have a very good crop of first-class lettuces. The gooseberries are plentiful and also the blackcurrants, but this year the strawberries are poor. I spoke to Stella Bond who told me that Noel Gordon has gone to meet an aunt who is coming from Canada. I hope that doesn’t take up too much of his time! There are magnificent poppies in the garden.
July 5 Tuesday: I finished the Plaid Cymru article.
July 6 Wednesday: I went to the bank and bought things in Birkenhead, then went into the City for more purchases, to my amazement getting a bottle of wine for £1. In the afternoon Tony Coughlan arrived and in the evening we went to the Irish Centre where about 18 people turned up to hear him on the election. These included Barney Morgan, Michael Mortimer, Joe O’Grady, Michael Kelly, Janet Walsh (the two want copies of “Four Letter Verses”) and Stephen Dowling and Tony Birtell. They made £25 on the coach tour and have something like £125 in hand. Joe O’Grady suggested sending a donation to London, which was good. I will be able to take a back seat now and after a three months’ break look into Manchester.
July 7 Thursday: Tony left on the 11.00 train. The weather is hot and dry and it is impossible to get a fork into the soil. The temperature was well up in the seventies today. I never had such a splendid display of poppies. I spent the day typing and posting the Plaid Cymru article and then cooking all the food that was uncooked, for in this weather even in a refrigerator it can go off. This is the best weather since 1976. Barney Morgan called.
July 8 Friday: Today was dry. It was impossible to clear the baked ground. To make matters worse I cannot effectively use the ground I have cleared. Three times I’ve sown marrows. The few that germinated were eaten by something – probably mice. Turnip seedlings died back. Only one left section of runner beans out of three is growing. This would of course in the eleven-year theory be the cyclical hot summer, corresponding to 1971, but I’m not so confident of that theory these days. But I began to sit up when it reached 70’F in early June.
I wrote to Gerry Curran, Tony Coughlan and Neil Power.
July 9 Saturday: If anything today was hotter still – about 80’F. I did a little in the garden but cannot clear ground until there is rain and there is no sign of it. In the evening I cycled to Brimstage. But of course all the grass verges have been poisoned so there are no plants to see. The succession of the seasons is a thing of the past. I also worked on a statement of the anti-imperialist case, a sort of anti-Myant. I wrote to Noel Gordon and Tom Durkin. A letter from Colm Power said the Irish CND Executive spend all their funds gallivanting to England and Prague and it is hard to get money for postage.
July 10 Sunday: Another very hot day, and the soil getting more and more unworkable. I could not do much in that respect but did some trimming and cutting. The marrow seedlings have been disappearing as soon as they appeared. Birds? Mice? I put inverted glass pots over them and may have got some at least. I also cycled to Raby Mere and Thornton Hough.
Roy Frodsham, a very decent man, put a note through the door to the effect that the Birkenhead CP has come to life. It is hard to see what they can do as they have no theory to disseminate. A notice said there was to be a party to celebrate Beth Sareen’s 50 years in the CP.
This takes me back to 1934 when I joined myself [See Vols.2 and 3 of the Journal]. She ran one of the peace organisations. They wanted a conference. I agreed to be secretary and send the notices out. I think the idea was to broaden it. I was very upset when nobody but CP people turned up. Her name then was Beth Carr and I had a good opinion of her. She was a teacher and they had a teachers’ group covering all Liverpool. F.C. Moore, the Birkenhead Secretary, was in it and they had some kind of teachers’ remnant of the “Minority Movement”. God! The daft things they did – but I was then no judge, it was all new and exciting and I am sure the years 1934-36 were the happiest of my life. In fact I would not say I had any years since that could be described as “happy”, though I had other compensations. I’m not complaining (except about the number of fools around!)
This “teachers’ group” contained Price-Williams from Coedpath, a fool called Beck, Molly Martin and Sareen. Molly Martin who was the nearest thing to a whore and drove her straight-laced husband Ingram Knowles off his head, thought Sareen the wisest man on earth. I didn’t. I thought he was a humbug. He used to wait till everybody else had spoken, then deliver his weighty judgement. I used to tell Molly Martin, “Don’t you see, you’ve done the work.” But then the nonsense of it all. Success was making an impressive statement, not producing a historical result. Beth Carr must have married Sareen – a tall German-looking man, thin faced and bespectacled. And she is still around!
July 11 Monday: I went to the Post Office – and didn’t a tin tack stick in my front tyre, so that the bicycle is immobilised. I tried to repair it but the inner tyre is one of those miserable ones with two longitudinal seems, virtually irreparable. The weather was very hot – mid eighties. I never saw such an array of “beach wear” in a respectable suburb. People have got much more sensible.
July 12 Tuesday: I went to the cycle shop early. The proprietor sold me what he said was a “good” inner tube, but he did not think it would be easy to mend if it got punctured. The reason is that they have replaced rubber with a plastic material. Punctures can be mended but they would require labour costing up to £4.50. He does not provide such an expensive service.
It was hotter than ever today – about 90’F and no sign of rain. I think I have been successful with the marrows, but there are courgettes and onions bought from T & M and Suttons. The greens that did not successfully germinate (or were eaten) were from Johnsons but not direct; from a stall in Birkenhead market. I got a dozen more mercury seedlings to germinate. This is the most successful recent addition to the kitchen garden. The Philadelphus trees are at their best, distributing a fine scent. I spoke to Gerry Curran and Peter Mulligan.
The finest evening primrose came out.
July 13 Wednesday: I put the new tube in, but again the temperature was close to 90’F and I did not feel like completing the job of adjusting the brakes etc. I went into Birkenhead for purchases and started on the paper. Noel Gordon rang and said Eoin O Murchú had reviewed “Four Letter Verses” favourably in the “Irish Socialist”. Two marrow seedlings I had given up hope of popped up, and another in a pot in the house, plus two cucumbers. It looks as if this is the “cyclic” summer corresponding to 1971. The temperatures are very high and if it continues, as it should, might reach 100’F in August for there is a full month to go. For the moment however, I want rain. I did nothing in the garden today.
July 14 Thursday: It was only in the middle eighties today, and there was a slight breeze from the North or Northwest. But no rain. I did very little, except to start work on the paper. The tomatoes will just have to be planted out. I have the site chosen and today I sprayed it at intervals. Most of the marrows I thought eaten by birds or mice have germinated. I also have the “third line” in pots, so I will have a great excess if all do well and if there’s ever a spot of rain. Noel Gordon sent the “Irish Socialist”. Eoin O Murchú has given “Four Letter Verses” a good review, so there are so far three, with the “Irish Post” and the “Manchester Guardian”.
July 15 Friday: Another hot day. I selected two areas for planting out and hosed them at intervals all day. A letter came from Tony Coughlan, another from Michael Crowe. The philadelphus is over already, or very near. So are the foxgloves and poppies. The gooseberries, too green a week ago, are getting over-ripe and I collected them from one bush in the evening. And the loganberries are as bad – they have ripened within a couple of days.
July 16 Saturday: A queer day. Noel Gordon sent me “Troops Out” magazine. Despite weather forecasts that the line from Mersey to Humber was the division between torrid and warm, it remained torrid. All the young people were showing off with boxer shorts and bronzed torsos. The elderly wore shirts and shorts. Some of the girls ran about in bare feet. But about 3 pm. it slowly darkened. Would it rain? I saw the red arc of the sun through thin alto-stratus in the North-West at 9 pm. and decided it would not. So I transplanted – or rather planted out – tomatoes and watered them in. But then – was it rain? A few spots, but no more. Then just before 10 pm. there were dazzling flashes of lightning and the loudest clap of thunder I heard since that furious storm of July 1926, also after a fierce heat wave. That the discharges were overhead the brevity of the delay made clear, and yet after twenty minutes it was still dry. Very dangerous.
I recall that thunderstorm. I am fairly certain it was 1926. CEG and AEG were away on holiday, I can’t recall where, and I was staying with Harry Greaves and WIG [ie. his uncle Harry Greaves’s wife] in Hampden Road. I think she died the following year. I can’t recall Phyllis being there, so perhaps she was with them while I finished my first year at the secondary school. I remember that dazzling flash and almost simultaneously a long reverberating crash of thunder with a noise as if the whole world was coming down on us. We were all dead silent – perhaps shocked rather than scared. There was a lot of rain, and later we went out in the dark and saw these towering storm clouds on all sides, muttering and moaning. Then the heat wave went on as if it had not been broken. Another theory: to the best of my recollection that thunderstorms also came out of the South-West.
Well, at 10.10 the torrents came down – no harm, except that there was perhaps a trifle too much exuberance. I seldom saw such rain. But by 11 pm. it was over. Now though the storm came from the South-West, the wind was North, and the front of the house was not so wet as the back. At 11 pm. one could see remnant lightning flashes in the East – but there was a cool East wind! Now what is the explanation? Is it that a light flow of cool northerly air filtered in under the very hot air and first created a stable inversion. But after a point instability was created and this ran from South-West where it started to North-East where it finished? In other words the storm was like a wave? Anyway I went out at five past eleven to see if any of my seedlings had been destroyed and was happy to note that they had not. The ground was soaking! One of the most remarkable things was that during the entire course of the storm – hours before it and sometime afterwards – there was absolutely no movement of the barometer. Another interesting thing: just after 9 pm. when the sun was still visible, I thought from the appearance of the sky that there might be thunder. I switched on the radio. There was not the slightest interference.
July 17 Sunday: The morning was sunny and hot. Then it clouded over and there was a thunderstorm – quite different. It was not spectacular; there was interference on the radio before it appeared, and the barometer fell very slightly. I would say a cold front. The rest of the day was cool by contrast. Barney Morgan telephoned, and Tony Coughlan later. He told me we had mixed up two McCartneys. I had telephoned Joe Deighan and checked. He told me they were the same person! So there’s a pretty mess! The sole surviving hollyhock flowered yesterday.
July 18 Monday: Once more it was dry but somewhat cooler. I transplanted some cauliflowers while the ground was wet and cleared most of the North bed. The drought has affected one gooseberry bush and the fruits, though plentiful, are small with a tough skin. Otherwise I got on with the paper. Stella Bond told me that Noel Gordon was not in the office.
July 19 Tuesday: I got on with the paper and did a little gardening. I have three tomatoes and a cucumber planted out, but the ground is drying rapidly. In the early evening a telephone call came from the Irish Embassy saying that the Minister for External Affairs, Barry [ie. Fine Gael Foreign Minister Peter Barry], would be in Liverpool on Monday and inviting me to meet him at the St George’s Hotel, where he is giving a little reception. I said I would go. He wants to meet the “leaders of the Irish community”. The IBRG [ie. the Irish in Britain Representation Group] went to see Haughey [ie. then leader of the Fianna Fail opposition in the Dáil]. Tom Walsh trumped their ace by taking the Federation of Irish Societies to see Fitzgerald [ie. Garret FitzGerald, then Taoiseach] and I think this is part of it, whether arising before or after Tom Walsh’s démarche I wouldn’t be sure. Barney Morgan rang and said the Embassy had rung the Irish Centre looking for me and they had put them on to him.
July 20 Wednesday: I nearly finished the paper. Noel Gordon rang. Sponsorships for next year’s conference on the Irish Question are beginning to come in. He has got no reaction to the cancellation of Myant’s conference, but the LDC [ie. London District Committee of the CPGB] are sending a delegation to Belfast in October. They should be going to Dublin as well. But as I said, it will keep them out of worse mischief for a time! They are running an “Irish Social” to raise funds. It wouldn’t do to spend English money!
July 21 Thursday: Today it was warm and sunny again but not excessively hot. All the same it was hot enough to wilt a transplanted cauliflower and destroy a cucumber. I water regularly, several times a day, but there is no reserve of moisture in the soil, despite the thunderstorm. The barometer is .12 of an inch in the day, but there is no sign of the dry spell breaking. One can appreciate the costs of drought in undeveloped countries. The clematis is out. Owing to having to replace the fencing I cut it down to the soil. It has made excellent growth as for the first time since before the drought of 1975 it is free from mildew and looks good. Marjoram has just come out. It is possible to pull a lb. of loganberries in the morning and find another ready for picking in the evening. Noel Gordon tells me more sponsors for next year’s conference have come in – six or seven. Toni Curran rang up to say Bob Wynne is going to Ripley on Tuesday. But that Gerry Fitt has accepted a life peerage and will surely make a fool of himself. I don’t believe he is vicious, only stupid and incredibly vain.
July 22 Friday: I had a letter from Tony Coughlan who told me that Bobby Heatley had read that John Freeman, speaking at the ATGWU conference, had advised the British Labour Movement to be “neutral” between Catholics and Protestants, Nationalists and Unionists, and thereby “bring together” the two sides. Apparently he hopes to get Moss Evans’s job! [Evans was head of the TGWU in Britain, the union of which John Freemen was regional secretary in Ireland]. I wonder if this experience and the form of the horse he backed will educate that conceited little fool Myant! Noel tells me about ten MPs are sponsoring our conference. I wrote to Tony Benn complaining about his ridiculous “solution” to the Six County issue. Pat O’Donohue wrote saying the watch I lost at his place has turned up.
A letter came from Cathal [ie. his Dublin friend Cathal MacLiam] to whom I had written condolences on the death of his father. He has had a load of troubles. Paying for his father in the nursing home nearly bankrupted him. Then his mother went into hospital for a colostomy. She is 85. It has badly shaken her. And then Helga has an operation for gallstones and appendicitis. Egon is in Italy, sending for money. Bebhinn went to Leeds and sent an SOS for funds. But Conor has a job as an electrician’s technician.
I transplanted two more cauliflowers expecting rain. Thunder was predicted but though the barometer was falling all day it was 10.30 before the rumbling and banging began and flashes lit up the south. What a year for thunderstorms. I remember it thundered for a week in 1936, but it was never like this. The day of course was very warm and dry. Tonight there was a sharp shower just before 11, but by the hour the sky was clear, Vega overhead, but flashes of lightning South and West.
July 23 Saturday: Today was warm and humid with periodical showers of light rain, ideal weather for transplanting. I finished the summer cauliflowers, got out some more tomatoes, also marrows and cucumbers. I still have a few of these not grown quite enough. The drought has been damaging and the gooseberry crop is down on last year’s. Still, we’ll see how we do. I also wrote some letters. The clematis I cut down to the roots has grown to full size and is free from mildew for the first time for years.
July 24 Sunday: It was warm, humid, showery and thundery, but I got more work done in the garden. I am however nowhere near halfway through. I am reading through Flan Campbell’s manuscript. It is useful, but he’s a pedestrian writer; there are no striking phrases or epigrams. Also he lacks the organising talent that comes from a political/historical sense.
July 25 Monday: I went to the Embassy lunch at the St George’s hotel. It began at 12.30 – that is, the drinking. I met Joe O’Connor of the Irish Centre, tall McNamara and Harry McHugh, Bob Parry, and Jim King from Manchester. The Lord Mayor’s chain was there, and one or two councillors. I’ll swear there wasn’t a woman in the room, but priests were there and one bishop, the Minister Peter Barry and the Ambassador himself, a cheery enough character. The Minister read, or rather mumbled, a platitudinous address. “D’you think this will make any difference?” says McHugh to me as he was leaving. But it was possible to watch a few straws in the wind. Jim King’s IBRG had gone to see Haughey. So there was the same young man at the top table seated between the ambassador and the Bishop of Shrewsbury. I told him frankly, “They’ll try to corrupt you.” “They’ve just told me when I go to Dublin it’s the Government I should be seeing, not the opposition.” He is of course staunchly Fianna Fail, and all his family. Another young man – mid-thirties, I’d say – from Manchester said he had been at some species of race convention in Chicago. It seems many republican organisations boycott the Embassy, and there are plans to spread this to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. He thinks they are watching that as well.
A third young Manchester – they say everything Irish is booming there – who is in the Labour Party for eight years referred to the present rotten policy of the CP. He added, “They used to be all right, but Irene Brennan got them to change it.” She got into an impasse and had to change but hadn’t the decency to try to put right what she had put wrong. When she saw the light Myant persisted in darkness. I did not know her mischief-making was so widely known. I took a taxi home.
July 26 Tuesday: Yesterday was very warm. So was this morning, but in the early evening a cool breeze developed and a “hoar” which did not lie on this part of Mount Road but obscured the hill. I have seen it before this year, but never any other year. Probably it is sea fog carried down the coast by a North wind.
I spoke to Noel Gordon. He says Bert Ward wants me to write an article on the origin of Partition for his bulletin. I’ll see when I see his letter. Noel thinks Myant still hopes to get his conference off the ground. And Philip Rendle has his own long-cherished pet scheme of a conference sponsored by the “Morning Star”, “Tribune” and “Labour Weekly”. Stella Bond rang in great excitement after hearing Ken Livingstone saying what we’ve been saying for years!
July 27 Wednesday: The letter from Bert Ward arrived, sent on by Noel Gordon. I will have to think whether to agree. These people want my name, but they don’t want me to exert any influence on policy. They want nationalist votes; they want orange votes. The problem is to satisfy nationalists by undertaking to support the end of Partition, but to make that end “ultimate” enough to reassure the Unionists. He included a bulletin which carried the text of a speech made by a Milligan woman at the CPI conference. It spoke of the unswerving anti-imperialism of the CPGB on the Irish question. How can hypocrisy attain such effrontery? It is not hypocrisy; it is a kind of mesmeric self-deception. The CPI issued a statement about its unswerving fight against Partition – no word of the long arguments with Carmody, whom Jack Bennett finally demolished in the “Irish Democrat”. They would be more trustworthy if they admitted just an occasional peccadillo! I did some work in the garden. Barney Morgan rang.
July 28 Thursday: I finished Flann Campbell’s manuscript. He has useful stuff about the land league in Ulster, but the presentation is poor and the style pedestrian. I have scribbled all over it. I began on the South-West bed in the West garden.
July 29 Friday: I got on very well in the garden, though there is still no rain and I have kept marrows, cauliflowers, cucumbers, peas, lettuces, beans and tomatoes alive by daily watering. Elsewhere the ground is brick where it has not been dug, and powder where it has. I had a letter from Colm Power. He has Tom Redmond sized up. Any question about anybody in the CP and Tom says, “He’s sound.” I fear for what will happen when Michael O’Riordan retires. Sean Redmond wrote saying he is willing to speak in Liverpool. He said that Francis Devine had approached him saying I had declined to speak at a Labour History Society meeting. Devine had asked him to try to persuade me. According to what Francis told Sean Redmond the Society are upset at the ITGWU attempts to “kill” my book – the official Union journal did not even review it. They want me to talk on its contents. I gave Carla Keating the reason that I was on holiday in September. It is partly that, but since they came over to Liverpool without getting in touch with me I gravely doubt their goodwill. Francis Devine has never answered a letter I sent him and has twice broken his word on actions proposed by himself. I am certainly not going. They can go to hell. Of course Sean Redmond, who is a person of integrity, knows nothing of this – a bit better than his lightweight brother, who is “sound” but likes to be popular.
July 30 Saturday: Warmer again today, though the barometer is falling. I planted out tomatoes and the cucumbers – the last – on the strength of a weather forecast of rain. The delay has held them up. Philip Rendle rang saying he cannot get Noel Gordon. I think when Helen McMurray is on holiday he doesn’t bother to go in! I omitted to note yesterday that Colm Power sent me the Irish UN Association bulletin. Jack Bennett’s brother “Erna” who thinks he is a woman has become the secretary of it!
July 31 Sunday: I did some transplanting – pamphreys and marrows – on the strength of a weather forecast of rain. In the early evening there were a few spots, but I am sure the amount of rain was not measurable, though it turned cool – low 60s. The barometer is still falling, but slowly and I get the impression (9 pm.) that cloud is thinning in the North-West the rain is supposed to be coming from. I had a few words with Stella Bond who like me wonders if Noel Gordon will be in on Monday or if he was in on Friday. He seems to get ill mighty easily. Flann Campbell also rang up. I will send his manuscript back with Eddie Cowman.
August 1 Monday: There was not a drop of the promised rain overnight, and all the transplanted pamphreys were wilted when I went out in the morning. The marrows – supposed to be more sensitive – were all right. Though dry, however, the weather was distinctly cool with a rough North-West wind – the low 60s Fahrenheit I would say. I got a bit done in the garden, however. Noel Gordon rang. He said he had gone to Belfast on Friday because his father was in hospital. The old man is 69, has suddenly come over with shingles, and fell down the stairs. He does not appear to have the will to recover. One can say little to Noel but must deplore his unprofessional attitude. He goes away, there is an emergency, but it never occurs to him to let his colleagues know. Nor will his female friend bother to do so. What was to stop him asking her to ring Jane Tate or Stella Bond? Only that she’d be too lazy or self- centred to do it. Two minutes and his responsibilities are catered for. Though in one way I would be sorry if he gave up the job – I expect him to do so as soon as her ladyship wants to move somewhere – I am already working out in my mind what to do in that eventuality. I think my first recourse would be to ask Colm Power to come over.
I wrote to Tony Coughlan, Sean Redmond and Pat O’Donohue.
August 2 Tuesday: A most unsatisfactory day. I woke at 5 am. – it was only light – with acute rhinitis. I could hardly breathe through my nose. The only thing was to get up. After a while I found I could doze in a chair before the electric fire and get enough air for that unstrenuous activity Then it was sniffling and sneezing. I wondered if it was “hay fever” for there have been some tremendous pollen counts this year. But I finally decided it was just a very bad head-cold. None of my relatives ever complained of hay fever and I never gave it a thought. The temperature has dropped from the low eighties to the middle fifties in a few days, and I thought of that famous time in 1911 it is said to have dropped overnight from the nineties to the sixties and everybody caught cold! I could not do much. A letter from Noel Gordon explained that he went to Belfast at his sister’s urgent request. But why do it and half excuse it afterwards? Why not tell us what he proposes to do like a proper professional man? The second post brought a letter from Tom Durkin who promises to back our conference and supports my idea of a small committee of Trade Unionists to persuade them to attend. I sent the letter on to Noel Gordon and also wrote to Noel Harris. I did a little on the Bert Ward article. I can see why they asked me – they have nobody else who could do it. I decided as before not to give them what they ask for but give them what’s good for them. According to Noel 20 MPs have sponsored our conference.
It is getting dark at 9 o’clock now – I went up and put the eiderdown back on the bed! I think a cold must have been coming on, but the low temperatures make it more severe. There was a downpour this morning, which was badly needed. The first Tropaeolum flower came out today – with a primrose-coloured background, late (thanks to cultivation) and not very vigorous. I do not remember seeing this colour among them for years, but I do not think it is from an old seed. Flower colours are not strongly genetically determined – though of course nobody knows what a bee will bring [His first scientific paper for the “North-Western Naturalist” when he was eighteen had been on the colours of Tropaeolum flowers].
August 3 Wednesday: The weather was warmer and my cold has passed the acute stage. I managed to get something done in the garden. But the results of a heavy shower are away in a day. What is wanted is a slow persistent drizzle over eight or nine hours.
August 4 Thursday: I finished the article for Bert Ward. I told him it must not be changed without my consent. You can’t trust them. Another copy of Tom Paulin’s book came from Faber. I did some more in the garden.
August 5 Friday: I went into Birkenhead to make purchases and did some work in the garden. A letter from Alan Morton said he had a cold he could not throw off and had been with Freda’s brother in Hastings for two weeks. He feels better now and is busy ordering a paper on Pliny’s Botany. I do not feel very energetic. The drought continues.
August 6 Saturday: The first annual poppy came out today – late, largely I think because of my late cultivation due to the spring rains. I got a bit done in the garden and some clearing up done in the house.
August 7 Sunday: At 9 am. Eddie Cowman rang up from Dun Laoire. The boat had broken down and they must wait five hours for another. He hoped to arrive at 8 pm. He only just managed to catch the Llandudno train and arrived at 9.45 pm. However, it gave more time for getting ready and we sat up late with a bottle or two to lubricate the small hours. He says the “public sector” in Ireland is overstaffed and demoralised. Also the general standards of behaviour once so high in Ireland are decadent to the last degree. Even the staff at Amiens Street station are known to pick the pockets of passengers. Industry has gone. Unemployment is 200,00. Now there is talk about the EEC abandoning CAP [ie. the protectionist Common Agricultural Policy, which guaranteed high product prices for Irish farmers]. “It can’t go on,” he said. “Everything in the world seems to be saying we’re at the end of something.” He thinks the present generation are still living in the post- war boom and the next one will be different. Apparently he has helped to make Tony Coughlan plunge into controversy with Justin Keating and “Conor Booze O’Brien” – apparently his drunkenness is notorious. He does not think the “Provos” have any hope in the 26-Counties.
August 8 Monday: Eddie left at 1.45 pm. to go to London, taking Flann Campbell’s manuscript with him. Flann will meet him at Euston. Noel Gordon telephoned. A letter from Brian Wilkinson explained that he was so disgusted by the “Morning Star” last week that he withdrew his shares and has sent the money to the Connolly Association.
August 9 Tuesday: I received a letter from Tony Benn in which he says I have not understood his plan for reuniting Ireland and that “withdrawal must precede re-unification.” That is in one sense obvious, though one could imagine simultaneity. But he wants withdrawal of the British to be followed by occupation by the UN [ie. by a United Nations force] and then there are discussions with the Irish Government which is kept standing outside the door while things are arranged in its territory.
August 10 Wednesday: Another warm fine day. The sun went down an orange-red disc. It looks set for days! Nevertheless I did a little in the garden. I will have to do the planting out of winter broccoli etc. with the aid of the hosepipe. Noel Gordon said Eddie Cowman went in to see him yesterday. Noel is going to Belfast and talks of going to see Gerry Adams. I told him I could see no CA political objection, but that he must consider his personal welfare. He had thought of that as the place has gone up in smoke again [ie. because of Provisional IRA activity].
August 11 Thursday: Bert Ward rang up in the morning about the article. He told me with a slightly challenging air that he is going to Ireland in about ten days time. Nevertheless I am not sure that the “spirits of the soil” might not get him and we’ll see him on the other side, with incalculable effects on that rat Myant. Flann Campbell also rang to thank me for going through his manuscript. I had indeed taken some trouble with it. I remember when I wrote “The Irish Question and the British People” I had 60 copies duplicated and sent it to everybody, even including people like Carmody [ie. Paddy Carmody of the CPI in Dublin, who wrote articles under the pseudonym “Alistair Raftery”]. Only two bothered to take it really seriously, Betty Sinclair and R. Palme Dutt. Cox [ie. Idris Cox of the CPGB International Committee] fooled about saying I had not used the words “British” and “English” “correctly” – as if you could take notice of his national adjectives, a renegade Welshman who told me that the Welsh are “a part of the British nation”. Needless to say I stuck to my adjectives. He was only one of the fools who have plagued my existence. Palme Dutt was enthusiastic and when I asked him his view of Idris Cox’s strictures on several items he brushed them aside. Of course I was making a challenge and remembered Alan Morton at Levers [ie. at Lever Brothers, later Unilever, where his friend Alan Morton had worked for a period as a young man]. He was secretary to Vanderhazy, if that is the right name, and was asked to invite dozens of absurd nincompoops to give their views on policy. “What are you asking that fellow for?” asked Alan. “Ah! Well, I know he doesn’t know anything. But if anything goes wrong, I’ll show the list and say. ‘Is there anybody else I should have consulted?'” But when I got to Belfast I found Betty Sinclair had read it through carefully and had most useful points to make. I think it was then that we became friendly and corresponded regularly over years.
I had a word with Noel Gordon. Myant is in Belfast and had dinner with Andy Barr, with whom young Barr is staying on holiday. I think Andy Barr is probably an important influence in the background. Most people seem to agree that Jimmy Stewart is not to blame. I’ll give the filthy bastards something to think about next month! The laugh we have on this contemptible scum is the impossibility of raising any mass movement on an imperialist programme. Noel Gordon is going to Dublin, where he will pick up Steve Huggett’s car and drive to Belfast.
I did a little bit in the garden – gathered the blackcurrants off two bushes and cooked gooseberries, of which I have still masses unpicked. I also wrote to Skelly. Tony Coughlan sent me a photostat of an attack by Jack Mitchell on my “O’Casey” published in Lowery’s “O’Casey Review”. There is no harm in Mitchell. He just has not the intellectual resolving power to come to clear conclusions. That ass Roland Ayling also has a swipe at me. I wrote to ask Skelly whether he had sent them a review copy or was this an academic attack disguised as a review. I make a practice of not replying to reviewers. But if this is a disguised polemic I might send a reply.
At about 5 pm. – something strange! The sun was not shining. Clouds halfway between fracto-stratus and cumulo-stratus were scudding from the North and there was a chill in the air. The barometer fell 1/40″ – within an hour the sky was clear again and there was no rain.
August 12 Friday: Bert Ward rang querying something in the article. I didn’t risk giving an opinion on the phone. He promised to send me a photostat to look at. Today was cooler. The sun did not break through until midday, but then it was warm enough. I did a little in the garden, but decided to put off publication of the “Irish Democrat” till September 2nd. I have not much energy – though the acute symptoms of the cold have gone. I spoke to Pat Bond but could not get Noel Gordon.
August 13 Saturday: The photostat arrived from Bert Ward. He seems conscientious, but it was a false alarm. He wanted to change “minority” into “majority” because he didn’t understand the word “separatist” thinking it meant “Unionist” or Partitionist. I deleted it and have it to send back. I continued to feel listless till mid-afternoon when I decided to go into Birkenhead. Then, quite on impulse I got down W.P. Ryan’s book, so that I am getting into the mood for writing once again. Also, a wretched wateriness of the eyes seems to have cleared up – tonight at any rate. Today there was not one wisp of cloud in the sky from morning to night – this can happen when an anticyclone brings air from the West. The forecasters talk about rain by Tuesday. It is needed. I found many more gooseberries than I expected on the “Lancashire Lad” bush and gathered a pound in a few minutes. They will only last another day or two.
August 14 Sunday: Today was very warm. I had thought of going cycling but did not feel energetic enough in the heat. And of course the countryside round here is not what it was. One can only go South to Southwest. I rang Jack Bennett in the evening. He promised to get me the text or at least the essentials of Freeman’s speech. We didn’t have a proper conversation for the line was too bad. I tried to get Steve Huggett to find out when “Artery” was coming out, but there was no answer. If he is coming out soon with my review of Mitchell’s book, which contains the essence of my views, I may not bother to send Lowery a reply which he might not print. Though I will see what Skelly says. I also spoke to Peter Mulligan who says he was in the office on Friday when I was ringing Noel Gordon, so it seems that telephone line is still up to its tricks. I have done a little on the reply to Freeman.
There were slight signs of a change of weather. Cloud appeared at midday but came to little. But the glass fell and the wind freshened from the South. At sunset the “set fair” aspect of last night was less pronounced, though if I had to name the slightly lenticular flashes of cloud dotted far apart in the sky, I would not find it easy. I would say they were very degenerate fracto-cumulus, passing into cumulo -stratus. So the change will not come quickly and may regress. My time is wasted evening after evening with the hosepipe. Still, I have promising crops of runner beans, broad beans, tomatoes, turnips, swedes, peas, lettuces, and the good old standby Chenopodium, which I cut for lunch today. The pamphrey have just survived, and the cauliflowers are poor.
August 15 Monday: A letter arrived from Bobby Heatley saying he thought Freeman’s speech was reported in the “Morning Star” or the northern edition of the “Sunday Press”. I therefore rang Jane Tate who will investigate. She had Peter Mulligan and Goley with her and was loud in her praise of his imagination. He is getting a list of second-generation Irish poets and asking them to give one poem each for an anthology he will publish! She also says they took 40 people to the “Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” and had a very successful garden party in South London.
I did a little in the garden and might have done more but that Barney Morgan arrived at an inconvenient moment and, though welcome of course, stayed till 8 pm. He has been driving John Gibson out to Ellesmere Port to visit Russian ships, taking Russian seamen round Chester, taking visitors to the mot’s caravan in Llanrwst, and driving Monaghan Pegeen’s husband back and forth from Clatterbridge where he is undergoing “radio-therapy” (Oh! Therapy thy guilt is great!) after a colostomy. According to Barney, he is on top of the world. Jane Tate found the Freeman report in the “Morning Star” and the account from Bobby Heatley via Tony Coughlan was inaccurate. What can you do with them?
Barney Morgan told me another thing. He was at John Gibson’s when a CP member called and told them that Margaret McClelland and Blevin were “working to rule” in the CP office until they were paid. John Gibson gave £5. What did “working to rule” mean? I asked Barney. “Oh – closing down from 1 till 2 for a lunch hour and not coming in in the evenings.” Apparently it has shamed some of them into doing something. Not of course that I’ve not had plenty of that myself! The Connolly Association paid me about £400 last year, and if I had not other resources things would be bad indeed. If Pat O’Donohue ever sends my expenses for July I’ll send them a fiver like John Gibson. But of course this is the result of a rotten policy causing demoralisation. With its present policy the CP has no function.
I was pleased that Barney Morgan was prepared to back my idea of starting up a branch of the Celtic League in Liverpool. I was wondering about a Celtic symposium under CA auspices.
Finally Colm Power rang up from Tony Coughlan’s – College or home I do not know. He had been in Belfast trying to see Freeman but only saw Sean Morrissey, who regarded the statement as “profound Marxism”. He managed to get a copy of the “Transport Record” with the proper text in it. Morrissey told Colm that Freeman proposed, having seen the “Irish Democrat”, to wait to see what was said in the “Irish Democrat” and then send a reply. This was useful information.
August 16 Tuesday: I drank an extra bottle last night – or nearly that – and did not get up early. Actually I felt the better for it. But what a strange phenomenon! It was raining and moreover went on all day. I did not go out but started work on the paper. I had a word with Jane Tate who will complete the job Noel Gordon did not finish. Colm Power’s “Transport Record” arrived this morning. Later I had a word with Gerry Curran. Toni Curran and Bob Wynne are staying with his brother in Kerry and next week Gerry’s father is staying at 57 B. Road with Toni. So all seem on excellent terms!
I was thinking of how many things fit into place when John Gollan’s statement to Bob Wynne is taken into account. If I had known their true attitude, my course of action would have been different. But how typically English was their sneaking and perfidious method. During the war Pollitt asked me to work full-time on the Irish question. I could not because I was as a scientist not allowed to change my occupation. I knew Dooley wanted this job, but Pollitt would not give it him. Now when my spell at Powell Dufferin came to an end as a result of the closure of the Battersea laboratories, I decided that if the world could not treat scientists better they would have one less. I was of course young and rather idealistic. The CP influence in the CA was very strong and it was not possible to work for the CA without getting CP agreement.
If Jimmy Shields had still been alive all would have been well. But he died in 1949. Idris Cox had just come from Wales to take over in his place [ie. presumably take over chairing the International Affairs Committee] – there was an interregnum when Bob Stewart had it [Bob Stewart, 1877-1971, founder member of the CPGB and its representative on the Comintern in the 1920s; helped refound the CPI in 1933]. I found that Idris Cox was far from anxious that I should do the job. He was at a committee meeting – I forget which committee. He didn’t want to oppose me, but “This was not the time” – “Leave it a while.” Finally I think it was Isabel Brown spoke up and asked, “What is Desmond supposed to live on while we wait till it is time?” So it was agreed. Then there was opposition from Peter Kerrigan, a bullying lout, but otherwise with his points [Peter Kerrigan, 1899-1977, CPGB national organiser]. I went to see Palme Dutt who was anxious for me to start. Kerrigan was called in shouting, “I object to this!” You’ve gone over my head to Raji.” “I’m sorry you’re upset,” I said. “Upset? No. I’m not upset.” That’s what he was like. So he gave way.
Then things began to happen. Prendergast came to see me[Jim Prendergast, 1914-1974, born in Dublin, Irish communist, Spanish civil war veteran, founder member of the Connolly Association]. “Now you’ll want to be well-in with everybody. Could you use your influence to get Johnny Nolan [ie. Irish Workers’ League member Sean Nolan] a holiday in Russia?” I did nothing about that. Prendergast then launched a bitter political attack – very educational for me as I was beginning in professional not amateur politics. He confessed to somebody else that he had been editor of the “Irish Democrat” and could do it again. I am sure I mishandled him. Years later he regretted his behaviour, so that was that. Then a man who had been a full-time organiser – indeed might still have been – approached me and said that friends of his who were “businessmen” were anxious to help and would advance money for the promotion of a “really big” event. My feeling was that this was a trap. If the money failed to materialise I would be saddled with an unwieldy debt. So I turned that down. The last I heard of this man was that he was running a hotel in Co. Wicklow.
Now I wrote to CP districts. I never got a reply. The amount of help I got was nil. The vote in favour of my doing the job was carried, but the “Scottish members” were the main consideration. I am now sure they didn’t believe it could be done, and that I would retire dispirited and perhaps leave politics altogether. Of course I had the constant help and advice of R. Palme Dutt with whom I later became personally very friendly. Pat Devine was also a great help and Bob Stewart when he could. Of course from being savaged I grew savage myself, and when Tony Coughlan (not a CP member) returned to Ireland [having been full-time CA organiser in 1960-61] I appointed Sean Redmond without consulting one of them, and have kept that up.
Then there was the business of the “Irish Committee”. When it was down to two or three I said I wanted fresh blood. A list was drawn up. All was well. But the London District must consent. They refused. I closed the thing down at once and bothered my head no more. Then I was in Scotland and this character said how people on the E.C. [ie. the Executive Committee of the CPGB] had regretted that I had “wasted my talents” on a side-issue. The Scottish dimension! I wonder what could have been done about it? But I wish I had known about it when I was putting in 16 hours a day and burning the wood from the back of blocks because I could not afford coal.
Now Idris Cox came from Cardiff under a cloud. I suspect that cloud was identification with nationalism [Cox was a CPGB authority on the national question]. He felt unsure of himself. But I never from then on completely trusted him. The demoralisation had set in very soon after the war, but I never imagined it could reach its present dimensions.
August 17 Wednesday: The warm dry weather has returned. I did a little work in the garden, transplanting some cauliflowers. I also did some work on the paper.
August 18 Thursday: I worked on the paper and the garden. I have had to postpone publication. Tony Coughlan’s copy came yesterday. Gerry Curran’s is not here yet. I also did something in the garden. I found a few plants of broccoli probably from last year but one’s seed, so I moved them out of the weeds where they were growing. The first marrow flourished.
August 19 Friday: Gerry Curran’s copy arrived, four days late. He told me Bob Wynne cannot go to Ripley on the changed date. He and Toni are going to Norfolk. Life for these people seems to be a succession of holidays. Where they get the money from I can’t imagine. Anyway Gerry thinks Sean Byrne will go. I am having a “partial sabbatical”. I had a word with Gerry Curran, Tony Coughlan and Daltún O Ceallaigh about the paper. Egon told me Tony was at Muriel Saidlear’s and I rang him there. Daltún confirmed what I had heard, namely that the ITGWU is considering closing down the “glue-pot” in Rathmines [This was his soubriquet for the ITGWU Research Department in Palmerston Road, Rathmines, Dublin, which he regarded as being full of sticky substance – a reference to the number of “Stickies” there, that is, Workers’ Party members and sympathisers]. I found a stray coleslaw cabbage in the wilderness and rescued that – about three years ago Helga got me some seed from Germany. I sowed another drill of coriander. The only vegetable I have for use is the mercury [ie. lettuce and spinach], which reproduces itself most prolifically.
August 20 Saturday: I got something done on the paper, went into Birkenhead for money from the bank and put in an hour in the garden.
August 21 Sunday: I spent most of the day in the garden and did something on my article on Freeman’s nonsense. Colm Power was in Belfast trying to get the full text of his speech in Douglas. He saw Seán Morrissey who described Freeman’s speech as “Marxism”. However, I think I have got the measure of this self-seeking scum. The snivelling Myant adopts his economist attitude so as to keep circulation among the Trade Unions. He thinks he can get Freeman over to boost it, but the thing collapses as Freeman thinks he’ll get Moss Evans’s job. My instinct, when I heard of the row between the “Morning Star” and the CP was that the CP were preferable, and I can see I was right. It is the difference between shit and shite! Still, I suppose it is marginal, Colm Power tells me that Freeman is “girding” himself for the attack and intends to reply. But I intend to write my article so as to make replying as difficult as possible. There is no question that the “Morning Star” position is economism, the CP its exact mirror image – political opportunism. That is why they both quarrel and agree.
The marrows are in full flower from yesterday – mostly male.
August 22 Monday: Today was spent entirely on the paper.
August 23 Tuesday: Another day on the paper. The first tomato flourished, as the broad beans are excellent, flowering and no black fly.
August 24 Wednesday: I finished the paper at midday and, the local Post Office being closed, cycled in to Argyle Street to post off the copy. I spent a couple of hours in the garden and will be able to clear the central bed of the West garden tomorrow. A letter came from Pat O’Donohue. Barney Morgan has agreed to look after “Carn” in “News from Nowhere”, the bookshop [“Carn” was the magazine of the Celtic League]. I wrote to Alan Morton. I have done a middle-page spread on Partition policy which I think will make me very unpopular in some quarters. I could have done with more time on it, but there it is.
There was rain in the night. Phyllis [ie. his sister, who died in 1966] would have been 67 today!
August 25 Thursday: I sent letters to Pat O’Donohue, Tony Coughlan and others. I went to buy a few things in Prenton and finally managed a couple of hours in the garden. The weather was fine and warm. I transplanted the physalis but expect nothing. Tomatoes are in flower. There was a minor horticultural disaster when some of those wretched aphids – white “woolly” ones – attacked cabbages. I ripped them up and put peas in their place. I might have some by the end of next month. The marrows have sent up a forest of the most enormous leaves you ever saw!
August 26 Friday: Another fine warm day. I spent most of the afternoon and evening in the garden and cleared the central bed of the West garden which is now very nearly right. But what to sow, now it is so late? I think perhaps some swedes, winter radishes, scorzonera[ie. salsify] and, later, peas and beans for next year – also perhaps some “all the year round” cauliflowers to head up next July. I spent several hours gathering blackcurrants. I had a word with Jane Tate in the morning. She hopes Noel Gordon will be back in time for next Wednesday’s branch meeting.
Out of curiosity I put the radio on to hear an arrangement of a Mozart sonata by Grieg – whose music I can’t stand. I never heard anything like it in my life. Grieg was “modernising” and – unless the BBC decided to spare us – left out the recapitulation in the first movement, merely coming back to the tonic after a few fireworks with a loud bang. The balance, the interplay, the subtle reworking of themes – all totally absent. It could have been Liszt!
August 27 Saturday: Another fine day. I completed the central bed. But I am still wondering what to sow. The wee girl from next door (Borough Road) keeps knocking at the door. What would she be? Nine or ten? Sometimes she has a slightly older companion. They are off school and keep knocking their tennis balls over the wall. Three days ago they lost 50p. over the wall and have never found it. It fell among the bushes and might be anywhere. This seems to be the daughter of one of the two girls that Phyllis called “hussies”. They got married. The man next door, whose name I do not know, let his garden run wild and his fence fall down so that I had to build a wall. The daughter’s husband was for ever mending cars in the drive. The man himself told me he was “fed up”. “My wife died and my daughter married a bad ‘un.” I do sometimes see the wife but not the husband. Is this because he is out of harm’s way?
Not only did I dig the garden. I cooked masses of blackcurrants and other things that will go bad on me if I do not cook them.
August 28 Sunday: I transplanted some cauliflowers and sowed fresh lettuce and radishes. I had to pay 50p. for 5 lbs. of potatoes yesterday. Now I see the papers forecast great shortages of vegetables. Another typical failure of large-scale farming. All the more reason to get my land into use. The courgettes have started and the runner beans look promising.
August 29 Monday: I see that Shore, Kinnock and Hattersley [Leading Labour Party figures] supported by the “Express” and “Sunday Times”, are gunning for Livingstone. I wrote to Livingstone to back him up and asked Peter Mulligan and Paddy Bond to do the same. Heffer is not so bad – he has the Connolly Association on his tail! I also wrote to Peter Shore and gave him a few historical references! Of course Livingstone was deliberately provocative in likening British policy to that of Hitler – but there’s plenty of substance in the allegation [Ken Livingstone, born 1945, elected Labour leader of the Greater London Council in 1981; later an MP and Mayor of London].
I spent the afternoon and evening – until it got dark – in the garden and at last it is beginning to look attractive to the eye. I sowed pamphreys in soil highly enriched with ammonium sulphate, and a drill of golden turnips. If there is more warm weather, as would normally be expected, I should have some roots. Tomorrow I hope to put down a substantial sowing of swedes – if they do not root up. They will be useful for greens (one of the last) in the spring. I didn’t dig up any artichokes last year so I should have masses of them to help defeat the potato famine. I also transplanted three more cauliflowers.
A few days ago I saw a small grey kitten through the window. Then a woman called to ask if I had seen her cat which had disappeared – black with white paws. Today I heard some commotion in the laburnum tree. On looking closer I saw the kitten, which was up the tree scratching bark off a dead branch. It struck me that it was a very dark grey and went to the woman’s house. But she assured me that hers was a big cat. When I got back the kitten – probably a year old – was jumping at stalks of grass and chasing its tail on the remains of the compost heap that had the wasps’ nest in it. I have so far come across no sign of wasps. The DDT finished them in a night.
August 30 Tuesday: There was a letter from Skelly [of his publishers Lawrence and Wishart]. Jack Mitchell had been in to ask him to publish a life of James Leslie Mitchell, whom I confess I have never heard of. He told Skelly that he had attacked my book in the “Sean O’Casey Annual”. Skelly can’t recall and there is no record of Lawrence and Wishart sending a review copy. He thinks Mitchell probably offered the thing. He had seen Sawtell, who had told him of my review of his book. Skelly thinks that Sawtell may have shown it him. Mitchell said he liked my book of verses and intends to review it somewhere. It is a situation resembling high cockalorum; perhaps he’ll review it in “Artery”[a left-wing art and literary magazine which was edited by Sawtell]. Skelly concluded by saying no manuscript had come from Myant and they are beginning to think they won’t get it [This was the proposed book on Ireland by Myant referred to in an earlier entry].
There was a card from Dorothea – from Potsdam [ie. Professor Dorothea Siegmund-Schultze of the University of Halle in East Germany]. She says she is “very, very impressed” by “Four Letter Verses”. Then she asks “was T.S. Eliot a formative influence?” Academics think that writers write out of what others have written before them, and not out of a desire to speak themselves. Now verse-writing, like music, is on the two sides of the family. The Greaveses used to have verse-writing competitions, and I must say I was quite surprised – after I had begun to write – at the facility and speed with which CEG [ie. his father] composed a humorous poem. AEG’s father used to write lyrics to the tunes of popular songs, particularly at election times, but also when some political event had taken place. I never connected this with my own facility. Partly I then didn’t believe in “heredity” and like many young people believed myself the true discoverer of the world and all that was in it.
At elementary school we were taught the names of the poets and were particularly warned of the difficulty of understanding Shelley. I suppose this would put people off discovering “Men of England.” Then at secondary school – that old cram shop – the verse we were told to read, apart from Shakespeare, which was too difficult for us, was of execrable quality, and for matriculation mostly Georgian. I must have been about 18 when, mostly orientated towards novels but also reading philosophy and literary criticism, I came across a reference to “pinnacled dim in the intense inane” and “multitudinous seas incarnadine” as incomprehensible – by some quite reputable critic. I did not then of course understand what fools so many of these are. It was obvious to me that “incarnadine” was used as a verb, to redden. But the other, in isolation, was not so easy. I did not even know it was from Shelley. There was a copy of Shelley belonging to AHT [one of his maternal aunts] and for some reason I was looking at it. Behold – there was “pinnacled dim in the intense inane” and its meaning as plain as a pikestaff! I decided Shelley was not difficult at all and for a year or two wallowed in it. Then my enthusiasm was Yeats. And it would be around the age of 18 that I began “classicizing”. I had one or two published in “Poetry Review”. Then I met Alan Hodge, who was addicted to the moderns [Alan Hodge 1915-1979, British historian and critic]. It was he who told me about Wilfred Owen and that would be the third. I took from him his dissonance, but the rhyming of stressed and unstressed syllables I took direct from Welsh poetry, as I was trying to learn both Irish and Welsh at the time. I never got far. It would be when I was about twenty-three and beginning to think about the general theory of aesthetics that I had the idea of restoring to poetry the elements of the dance that were present in music. I could already extemporise in for the most part baroque style and it was natural to think about the relations between verse and music. The result was the “New World Fantasia” which when it was published in 1947 or 48 critics described as “simply bad”, but Leslie Daiken was greatly taken with: “My God! Those rhythms.” Then of course my civilised life came to an end. I had to go to London to look for a job. I had no piano, no library, no leisure, and I had like my predecessors to get it all together over the years. I can say that from 1936 there have been no “formative influences” whatsoever.
I suppose it was about ten or possibly 15 years ago – after I had finished the long Scotch poem in which I used the rhythmic principle; I don’t know where it is now – that I was sitting in the morning room when the thought struck me: “anti-imperialist verse”. I had written anti-war verse, but not anti-imperialist. And that led to the accumulation of the collection I have just published.
Skelly is urging me to reply to Jack Mitchell in the “O’Casey Annual”. I’ll see.
August 31 Wednesday: The weather forecasters say this will be the last day of the summer and that the most dreadful intense depressions are heading straight for us. I got enough extra land cleared, the day being warm but gradually clouding over. Two spots of rain fell as the more distant streetlights were on neon at about 8 pm. But by 10.30 there weas no more though the glass continued to fall.
In the evening Jane Tate rang up to say she thought she had premises in Gray’s Inn Road. But Noel Gordon had not shown up at the meeting he was supposed to address. They had telephoned Helen McMurray’s father to ask when he had left. He was still there. Her father was still in hospital and he wanted to wait till the weekend when he would come out. Jane Tate represented very strongly that he should have informed her. There was great disappointment as they had worked hard to get a good attendance. He says he is coming at the weekend. It had not occurred to him to notify the CA of his intention of staying. Once within the walls of the ghetto nothing outside has any existence. Jane is of course quite disgusted. I think Jimmy Stewart would like him to return there. When this sort of thing happens I feel I would not be so disappointed as I was, for example, when Tony Coughlan and Eddie Cowman went back. Sean Redmond I was ready for, and John McClelland also gave good warning.
September 1 Thursday: It must have rained in torrents during the night, and I have a faint recollection of at some point hearing a rumble of thunder and going to sleep again. Anyway, the soil I prepared yesterday is in excellent condition and I sowed some cauliflowers (“all the year round”) and swedes. But as a fierce gale is forecast I spent the afternoon trying to secure the broad bean crop which is more promising than anything previous. I wrote to Pat O’Donohue, to Michael Mortimer and to Byrne. I have been ringing Barney Morgan but getting no answer. I will not rely on Noel Gordon coming back in time to go to Blackpool. Tony Donaghey is going there – not as a delegate, and he will help with the papers. I also wrote to Denis Haughey, John Hume’s agent in Derry.
September 2 Friday: My copies of the “Irish Democrat” arrived this morning. My article on Freeman is not too bad. I want to get it sold at the TUC. Whether it will have much effect on those position-hunting, salary-grabbing opportunists is of course another matter. It’s a case of seeking the one just man. The whole world could be blown up but Jimmy Riddle is determined to be secretary! Colm Power writes that he can’t get a copy of the ATGWU agenda from Marlborough St. I am sure they think him a great nuisance! Tony Coughlan says that it is that poor piss Sean Morrisey, influenced by his conceited ass of a son, who has turned Freeman’s mind. I don’t suppose it needed much turning. Noel Harris stayed with Tony Coughlan and says Freeman is dreaming of getting Moss Evan’s job. He also saw Hume, who is worried that if he comes to our conference he may find Gerry Adams there. As far as I am concerned he can come or not as he pleases. Likewise Gerry Adams. Tony Coughlan says in his letter that his sister is flying from London to Pakistan tomorrow. He may go to see her off and in that case will call on Sunday. But there is a gale blowing and unless it abates he may not travel, or so I would think. I found a trail of devastation, marrows slumped over, tomatoes almost torn out of the ground, artichokes blown over – all of which I restored as well as I could. The broad beans were all right. But the gale – which I had expected from the North-West, came from the South-East. It was consequently reasonably mild, but it will veer North-West I fear. By evening the wind was West of South, a thick drizzle was falling and the barometer stood at 29.04 inches of mercury, and was still going down. I believe a similar catastrophic change in the weather took place in 1911.
I spoke to Tony Donaghey on the phone. He was not sure of going to Blackpool, but if he goes it will probably be on Wednesday. I got no answer from Barney Morgan. He must be away. Stella Bond told me that Jane Tate thought the premises we are being offered – two shops in Gray’s Inn Road – will be very satisfactory. It will be great to be back in WC1 and Noel Gordon will have no excuse for arriving at the office at 11 am! I sowed some swedes.
Around 9 pm. Tony Coughlan rang. He is going to brave the terrors of the Irish Sea. His sister is going direct from Cork and will stay with Jane Tate. The sister does not want to go back but is answering a call of duty.
September 3 Sunday: More devastation. The wind did veer North-West, and the cords I tied in some cases snapped. Strange, the broad beans held, but hollyhocks were brought down, likewise artichokes, tomatoes, and there was fresh ruin among marrows. The tendrils of climbing cucumbers were unfortunately snapped off strong stakes. I remember a big gale in September 1927, about the first week, and it was followed by gale upon gale till the end of October. Certainly they were right who said the summer is ended, although it has normally three weeks to run.
Further checks show the tendrils have held, but the stems above them have been blown away from the support. I went across to the shops. A very heavy gust compelled me to take my hand out of my pocket – otherwise I could have lost balance. That very seldom happens. Things have been blown over that are normally never touched – spinach beet for example. I could do nothing in the garden so started on the house. I spoke to Jane Tate and finally got Barney Morgan who was away in Wales all week. Later Michael Mortimer rang. He, Barney and Joe O’Grady will go to Blackpool. If Noel Gordon and Tony Donaghey are there we will have a good team. The Labour Committee on Ireland are holding a fringe meeting on Wednesday. I did not record that Tom McCarthy of the Rathmines glue-pot asked me whether I had the Cork branch minutes. I replied that I had and took occasion to ask whether “Liberty”[ie. the ITGWU magazine for its members] had reviewed the history which McCarthy said is doing well.
September 4 Sunday: Another wild day, but not cold – there may be hope in that. I was on to Jane Tate in the morning. She said that Tony Coughlan was at Heath Row seeing his sister off to Pakistan, and that he would get the 3 pm. train from Euston. I told her it was 2.55. She said she had received, she thought from Michael Crowe, who is in Paris, a booklet by one Charlie Woods of Newcastle criticising the CP’s “Eurocommunist” nonsense and predicting its extinction if it did not change. Tony Coughlan had read it but she was reading it. Later I rang John Gibson who said he had received a copy and promised to send it on to me. He seemed curiously light-hearted about it, almost a trifle cynical, especially about the price and the appeal for funds – £1.50 for 40 pages. But of course he is sending them out free. I must read it before I form an opinion.
I expected Tony Coughlan at 6.45. But he did not arrive till nearly 9 pm. He had a return ticket to Dun Laoire so had gone to Chester and waited an hour for a train to Rock Ferry. He did not know that Lime Street counts as Rock Ferry, and that if he had taken the 2.55 he would only have had to pay from Chester to Rock Ferry. He has a streak of impracticality which probably arises from having plenty of money to bail himself out of any situation. When I referred to this he only laughed, which is confirmation of it.
He told me that this character Woods is an ex-miner, ex-full timer, aged 83, and he thinks the pamphlet very good. He thinks there will be high jinks at the next CP conference. I would say not before time. I told him I had as much contempt for Chater at the “Morning Star” as I have for the pitiful bunch at St. John Street. He said so has the writer of the pamphlet. He thinks that Myant is influenced by Madge Davison. I don’t know. Would it not be an idea to find out the facts and be influenced by that? Noel Harris saw John Hume who is afraid if he comes to our conference he might find himself on the same platform as Gerry Adams. The latter is talking of going up for the “European Assembly” against Hume. I told Tony C. I thought this was foolish. They refuse to go into the Dáil because it is a “Partition Parliament”; likewise they wouldn’t touch Westminster or Stormont. But they show their fundamental conformism, despite all their bombs and their rhetoric, by acknowledging the EEC which officially accepts existing frontiers. The blithering idiocy there is on all sides!
He had Noel Harris with him last week and explained our proposed conference to him. He said Sean Morrisey is influenced by his worthless son and in turn influences Freeman. He does not think Freeman will get Moss Evans’s job, but no doubt he lives in hope. They are utter shits, these careerists. Tony told me that the “Provisionals” had approached Michael O’Riordan urging him to have Ken Livingstone invited to Dublin. Like me he thinks Livingstone is a bit of a blow-off. But their minds are turning towards politics. History repeats itself.
September 5 Monday: We got up at about 10 am. and Tony Coughlan left for Chester at 11.35. He reminded me, so he thought, that we had celebrated my 60th birthday at the Gresham. I said, No, it must have been the 50th. Later I checked it – it was my 53rd in 1966. I didn’t get much done today. I have a filthy cold brought on, I think, by household dust. Noel Gordon rang from London, so he is back at last, also Barney Morgan.
September 6 Tuesday: I did some work about the house. Noel Gordon arrived in the evening, after Barney Morgan had called and gone. Noel had received a copy of the Newcastle document but was less enthusiastic than Tony Coughlan and feared it could have divisive effects. This means they sent it to Jane Tate and Noel Gordon but not to me – this points to an origin in Holborn [ie. presumably in the Holborn CP branch].
September 7 Wednesday: Michael Mortimer rang and it was arranged that Barney Morgan would take Noel to Blackpool. Jane Tate said Michael Crowe was with her last night and told her that the Newcastle document was the work of the Northern district of the CP but that one of the oldest members, Woods, agreed to carry the can [Woods was later expelled from the CPGB for having published this pamphlet]. So it definitely bodes ill. It looks as if Gaster’s talk of a split is not so ill-founded as it might have seemed. Noel Gordon rang up and said he was staying with Barney Morgan. He was still at Blackpool at 10.30 pm.
September 8 Thursday: At about midday Noel appeared – after Barney Morgan had been waiting for him half an hour – bringing with him Roger Kelly and DmL. They had in all sold about 70 papers. Andy Holmes had given out about my article and accused me of “attacking Betty Sinclair” – by saying she was right! But Freeman had simply bought a copy. Noel Gordon had spoken to Andy Barr who declared it to be scandalous that Northern Ireland was not mentioned at the TUC. Barney left at 1.30, then DmL and Roger Kelly drove Noel to the station and themselves west into Wales for a holiday. All the time it was pouring rain.
September 9 Friday: I did very little in the garden and in the evening reviewed Tom Paulin’s book “Liberty Tree.” I was hoping to go away for a few days this weekend, but as always happens the weather looks bad. The heavens opened at 11 pm. and I’m using an electrical fire.
September 10 Saturday: The weather reached a nadir of wretchedness today, wet and cold. About midday the wind veered North-East, and though the barometer started to rise it went on raining.
I received the pamphlet from John Gibson and read it twice. Its accusations seem pretty fair. It looks as if Gaster was right and they are moving to a split. The demand is for the dismissal of the present leadership and its replacement from top to bottom. That is to say the demand is organisational, not political. I wonder have they thought over the consequences of this approach. Suppose the full-time officials refuse to vacate the premises. Would there be a lawsuit? And who has the best resources if there were? So there seems to be something in what Noel Gordon says. Moreover, I have a very uneasy feeling that this has come too late. Press, radio and (I presume) television are working up war hysteria on an unprecedented scale. The only thing that can prevent or defer war is the fear on the part of the warmongers of its possible effect on themselves. Is there time – granted a regenerated CP would be an asset – to make this asset most effective, or would it be better to use organisations that do not so grievously need repair? These are not easy questions. It would be no gain if in pursuing this asset we lost what we’ve got, or the backward tendencies become even more paramount than they are. I think they should have produced a theoretical document demolishing the positions they wish to criticise and (for example) calling for a special Congress. But It’s done now and I suppose the knives are being sharpened.
One thing I didn’t know, if it is true, is that the majority of the Political Committee were anxious to break with the USSR over Hungary, but that Palme Dutt, Pollitt and Gallagher and the majority of the Executive over-ruled them. This possibly explains R. Palme Dutt’s look of extreme alarm when I began to speak at the International Affairs Committee meeting – though when I had finished he congratulated me. The alarm was due to the prelude.
September 11 Sunday: The weather was at least dry today, but cloudy and cool. Peter Rynie rang to say that George Stratton had been at the TUC and had a drink with Ken Gill and Noel Harris. Apparently Harris helped to persuade Ken Gill to agree to speak at the conference in Liverpool for which I have got Sean Redmond. But Ken Gill is not yet definite so Rynie will let me know next week. I told him to keep pressing Gill. But if he will not do it Noel Harris would say better things. He has broken with Myant’s nonsense. I don’t think one can exaggerate the blow to Myant that his conference fiasco has proved. The depths to which he was prepared to descend are illustrated by the deliberate attempts by the “Workers’ Revolutionary Party” (formerly International Socialists) to discredit Scargill by publishing a private letter written two months ago on the eve of the TUC. Myant was consciously working with these disruptors against the Connolly Association. And they were only prevented from stabbing him in the back by my refusal to play ball. I still have the letter Peter Hain, who seems remarkably friendly with them, sent to me. I’d like to see that young scoundrel politically finished. What I find it hard to understand is that the CPI calls for a declaration of intent to withdraw from Ireland, but Myant who refuses it, stays in Belfast with Madge Davison and dines with Andy Barr. Who is cheating?
Incidentally I sent the Liverpool CP £10 – to Margaret McClelland who is a decent woman who has been working there for years. I also think the young fellow is decent enough. In my accompanying letter I treated their plight lightly but remarked that policy had relevance. I told them that. since they did not make national policy, they would have to recuperate on local policy and I thought the economic devastation of Liverpool would unite everybody from the CP to the Chamber of Commerce. I had some months ago suggested this to Rynie but he was too Simon Pure to cooperate with capitalists.
September 12 Monday: A note came from Noel Gordon and I spoke to him on the telephone. Noel Harris told him that the “Industrial Committee” of the CP is going to discuss Ireland and that Freeman is invited. Noel Harris was not invited and complained to Pete Carter who said, “You’re invited now.” Now Freeman is not a member. The game must be to work out a platform on which he can be elected to Moss Evan’s job. So this was what Myant was seeing Andy Barr about. And this is why Freeman made a donation of £100 to the CP (NI) “Unity”. Colm Power sent me the full text of Freeman’s speech. He thinks Michael Morrisey wrote it – it talks about “articulating” a programme. This is a favourite academic cant word, Colm Power also compares the flying off course of the Korean air-liner with the loading up of the Lusitania with arms and her abandonment by the British navy. The same thing had struck me. A provocation. Professor Malcolm Brown sent me an article that new academic Newsinger wrote in a USA “Science and Society” – an attack on Connolly and Irish nationalism. The brainwashers have assembled quite a list of revisionists – he quotes Owen Dudley Edwards and Ransome (presumably one of his bum-boys), Paul Bew, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Sean O’Casey’s story of the ICA [ie. Irish Citizen Army], Patrick Lynch and Rex Taylor. Brown wants me to reply. He began his letter: “Your poems prove you to be the most formidable poet in English of your particular political persuasion. I’m much impressed; hope your colleagues are.” Well, it depends on what you mean by political persuasion! He says his second volume “keeps getting put off – for other shores” I laughed at Newsinger at his incompetent intrusion into Irish political history. But people with his brand of viciousness will always be taken seriously. I also heard today from Royston Green who is apparently treasurer of the Celtic League. He has seen Alan Heussaff who is in Cornwall for their conference.
Another cold day. I did not get much done.
September 13 Tuesday: Apart from a half hour in the early afternoon today was wet and cool. I went down to the shops in Prenton on the bicycle and ran into rain on the way back. The weather is as bad as the political situation. It puts be in mind of old Smith who lived in the Wiend when I first came into politics. He had been pensioned off from his insurance company for taking part in the organisation of a union. Whenever he saw me – I would be about 21 – he would say, “What do you think about the ‘pohsition’?” I would say very bad and he would reiterate, “Terrible! Terrible!” There was another old fellow called Fearon who had written some anti-war verses. But they were not powerful. He gave me a copy, but it disappeared.
A letter came from Roy Johnston. He is still giving out about Tony Coughlan. His contract at TCD is coming to an end. He wants to concentrate on getting another and wants Tony C. to take his position in CND, which Tony apparently doesn’t wish to do. He is also against Micheál O Loingsigh, and even Cathal comes in for castigation for failing to support Geraghty [ie. ITGWU official Desmond Geraghty, then a Workers’ Party supporter] and backing Micheál. Of course Roy cannot work with anybody on the basis of give and take. I think Tony Coughlan isgetting a bit set in his ways, but the ways he is set in are good ways and he exercises wide influence. But to hear Roy on him: “He’s shit scared of young people.” Roy concedes they are anarchistic – like himself, I add. Like old Tweedie and Derry Kelleher he always has a bee in his bonnet.
Ernie Trory at Tolhurst’s suggestion sent me a pamphlet on Poland to review. It is quite useful. I remember his name over very many years but can’t place him. He was, I think, a CP organiser and probably went out of favour over Czechoslovakia. I think I will send for his other writings. He may be NCP [ie. the New Communist Party. He was, according to Wikipedia, and wrote several books on international politics]. I do not know. I think I will make a political voyage of discovery in November. I wrote to John Hoffman asking him if he knows anything about the bird of loudest lay, Newsinger [John Hoffman lectured on political theory at Leicester University].
September 14 Wednesday: I started clearing up in the study with a view to starting a new book sometime in the autumn. I must get a holiday first, but the weather is atrocious. I went into Birkenhead on the bicycle and had to come back in light rain. However, I found my diary for the first part of 1946. It contains a glorious account of the nonsense and intrigues at Powell Dufferin. I was thinking of destroying those old diaries but it seems a pity. There is nothing of great historical value of course. There are one or two – very few – items I would wish to expunge. How can that be done? I also found the account of my tour of Ireland with John Lancaster in 1939, and other records going back to 1934. The 1939 one gives an account of my first meeting with Michael O’Riordan. There was a letter from Gerry Curran today. He is very touchy. I think his trouble is the sort of imagination that is linked to laziness – Eddie Cowman used to dismiss him as a lazybones. He doesn’t want the labour of presenting his thoughts to the public.
Some material came from Tony Coughlan – including a review of “Four Letter Verses” in “Books Ireland”. There was a cutting from the “Irish Times” saying that Roy Johnston is challenging the constitution before the European Commission. “I wouldn’t be putting his phizz on the Democrat each month,” says Tony. Verb sap. Justin Keating, after a sanctimonious letter to Gerry Fitt deploring his acceptance of a peerage, is reported to be looking to the plutocracy of Brussels to support his own posterior. What a joke if he were to pronounce on Roy Johnston. I know he would go for the fleshpots. In the “Irish Times” story it is said that Roy was formerly a member of the Church of Ireland but is now a “Quaker”. The humbug! He’d be anything to suit his immediate purpose. He has been complaining that his contract with TCD is to be terminated. Of course I can now see why he was so involved in the abortion campaign. With Roy you always ask when his private interests come into his public stance.
Another copy of Woods’s pamphlet came, this time direct to me from NW1. I asked Jane Tate where hers came from. She thought it was NW1. So it seems to indicate Antrim Road and betokens a degree of factional operation. Gaster said to us he expected ructions and a split. I think it was Joshi said to me (apropos of India): “They couldn’t solve the problem, so they split.” And these can’t either.
[Comment on the above paragraphs by Dr Roy Johnston inserted here by permission of the Editor:
“September 14 1983: The reference to the Strasbourg divorce case is totally misleading. Janice and I allowed our case to go forward challenging the Constitution at the European Court of Human Rights, not the European Commission. We were selected from a panel of similar volunteers by the Divorce Action Group, on the grounds that we were considered the most likely to win. The idea that I was motivated to want my picture on the “Democrat” in the context is ludicrous, and AC in suggesting this shows how much out of touch with the then situation he was.
Justin Keating’s approach to Brussels has absolutely no conceivable connection; CDG has mixed up the two agencies; Human Rights has nothing to do with the EEC.
What my religious convictions are are my own business, and he has no right to suggest that I had joined the Quakers for this purpose; Janice and I had in fact joined them some years earlier, being pleased that they accepted de facto our marital position.
I was never seriously involved in any abortion campaign. I had earlier written to CDG suggesting that he should give it a bit of notice, it being a hot issue at the time; that was the total of my concern, simply to keep the Democrat in touch where I felt it was losing touch.
As for the implication that my ‘private interests’ were dictating my public position, in the context of the ending of my TCD contract and the abortion campaign on the divorce issue, this is simply ludicrous, showing how little effort CDG was prepared to invest into finding out what I really thought or did, and how much he was dependent on malicious gossip, among some of his misinformed acolytes in Dublin, in his assessment of my position, and by implication the positions of others.
In fact at the time we allowed ourselves to go forward as the Divorce Action Group’s test case, there was absolutely no question of any personal gain in the matter; it was purely a matter of civic responsibility. We only discovered subsequently that an advantage to us existed, in the form of avoidance of penal inheritance tax, and penal stamp duty in the matter of transfer of ownership of a share in the house. We did not benefit from this until the divorce referendum was in the end passed, in this context no thanks to AC, by the way. There never was any connection whatever between the divorce referendum and the abortion referendum. CDG makes it look like there was. This entry is most malicious and throws much light on the character of both AC and CDG, and some doubt on the validity of many of his comments on people with whom he is not in first-hand contact. . . RHW Johnston, 27/01/ 02.”
September 15 Thursday: Some more nonsense from Roy Johnston. Otto Kahn had accused him of a sly dig against East European Peace Movements – quite rightly too as Roy runs with the hare and hunts with the hounds. He sent a haughty reply with the comment, “Who is Otto Khan? This rat has forced me to waste my time replying.” Now if it was a waste of time to reply it was open to him to let it go. He is very antagonistic to Tony Coughlan, but I think it is mutual insofar as Tony C. bothers his head. We have something better to do than get into tangles with Roy.
At 6 pm Jane Tate telephoned to say that she thinks we’ve got back to Gray’s Inn Road, and at a lower rent. She also told me about Marx House. A month ago they telephoned me. Would I give a lecture on Marx and Ireland? I said I would but not till November. Then about a week ago the young fellow who acts as librarian wrote saying the lecture programme was in ruins and they were going in for a different type of lecture etc. etc., but assured me that if they were having a lecture on Marx and Ireland I would be the first person to ask. Well now, qui s’excuse s’accuse. I have no intense desire to go all the way to London to talk at Marx House, though I would be prepared to do. I do not think the fate of nations rests on whether I do or don’t. Today a friend approached her and said there was a series of meetings at Marx House and one of them was on Ireland. “Oh – that’s the one CDG will be doing,” says Jane. “Oh No. It is Chris Myant.” Jane says that Marx House has been captured by the “Euros” and the new secretary is in Myant’s pocket. I think he feels that what Marx said about Ireland is too near the bone, so he will talk on “Ireland”. She says there are about four factions of “hardliners” gunning for the “Euros”. So they will make a mess of it because they also cannot solve the problem.
I did some more in the study and found a copy of the minutes or report of the 1932 conference of the League Against Imperialism. I don’t remember how I got it. It might have been among Molly Downes’s papers. I went out – the morning showers ceased in the afternoon – but only to the shops [There was a line of some half dozen shops in what was called “The Wiend” across the road from where he lived in Prenton, Birkenhead]. Noel Gordon rang. He wants me to write to the Labour HQ to get him a press ticket. I did. I also wrote to Pat Bond to get him to ask Rossiter to draw a design to use instead of Roy Johnston’s picture, and to Andrew Rothstein about the League Against Imperialism conference
September 16 Friday: A cool boisterous day today, with occasional showers. There has not been a decent day this month – and it’s usually the best month. There is not a single broad bean. I think the pollen is washed out by the driving rain and wind – such Landson’s plants sterile! The runner beans are poor, too, and only one or two small tomatoes. First they were held back by cold, then by drought, then by wind and rain. But marrows are plentiful. Noel Gordon sent me the minutes of the London District Council Irish Committee [ie. of the CPGB]. Philip Rendle is going on their proposed visit to Northern Ireland. I think the facts of the case are going to build up resistance to Myant. But Noel tells me his main characteristic is his boundless conceit. I would think that too.
I spent most of the day clearing up the study – and didn’t it need it. I found Mullery’s letters – that ass Newsinger calls him “Mulray” because that’s what Levenson said. He must have got it from Ina [ie. Ina Connolly, one of James Connolly’s daughters]. But I also found letters from Ina and Fiona who described how she and Roddy were examining shoals of letters from James Connolly to his wife. Where are they? When Helen McMurray and I went to Marx House where Bert Edwards is supposed to have put them there was no trace. Nor was there any trace of the agreement by which Fiona permitted them to remain on permanent loan. Has Bert got them? I want to get them into the National Library, which means I must trace Roderick and Roddy’s son Ross.
September 17 Saturday: Jane Tate rang early in a fuss about the “licence” for the two shops in Gray’s Inn Road. She had asked me to sign it without the amount being stated and without making clear that I did so on behalf of the Connolly Publications. I declined. Later I spoke to Toni Curran, who said there had been a muddle. It was reasonably fine today and I did some work on the paper. But it is cool. I spoke to Peter Mulligan in the evening.
September 18 Sunday: It was windy but dry today. I did not go out but worked on the paper. I had a word with Tony Coughlan and Pat Bond. He is very dismissive of Noel Gordon: “He can’t get off his arse and go out and see people.” He had not turned up at a demonstration yesterday after promising Jane Tate. I told him as I told Jane, they must take it up in the committee. Again and again I have told them this, but while they are able to lose their temper if anybody disagrees with them, they are afraid to do it. Jane can scold but not correct. Of course I can understand Noel’s not keeping appointments. Helen McMurray would not alter her course by the second of an arc to enable Noel to do his job. Everything revolves round her convenience and I never heard her once refer to any responsibility he might have. And if he wants somebody to sleep with he has to put up with it. I must say I do not recall that he ever let me down, though I have never once scolded him or ticked him off. I certainly would not let him away with it if he did, but I think I would probably raise it in the committee and call for responsibility. It is not all Noel’s fault, but it is a pity that he should lose their confidence, and they be so incapable of inspiring him. Neither Jane nor Paddy have much control of themselves, I suppose, let alone others!
September 19 Monday: I continued with the work on the paper and posted off three pages to Ripley. An invitation to a Wirral pre-Congress CP meeting arrived by hand, signed by two people I do not know. They are to discuss Executive Council resolutions, one on the general election, another on “key issues facing the trade unions” and a third on the “relationship” (husband, wife, fourth cousin twice removed?) between the CP and the PPPS [ie. the People’s Press Printing Society which owned the “Morning Star” daily paper]. The first seems negative, the second restrictive, the third disruptive. The secretaries say, “This 1983 November Congress is probably the most crucial since the war.” Then they talk of playing a vital role in the preservation of peace and setting on the road to socialism. I don’t think I can contribute much in the circumstances. I think I will have to see what happens. I have in mind producing the November “Irish Democrat” with that Congress in mind, just as September was for the TUC and October for the Labour Party. But I can’t fight all the battles. The one I’m in will do. I spoke to Cathal on the telephone, asking him to trace Ross Connolly for me.
I heard on RTE that Con Lehane had died. Cathal said he was speaking to him a fortnight ago. His speech was slurred as he had a cerebral haemorrhage a year ago. I was sorry about this. He was a good friend of ours.
September 20 Tuesday: I went on with the paper. I had a word with Noel Gordon and persuaded him to organise a lobby of Parliament on October the 24th when the permanent PTA has its second reading. In the evening Barney Morgan came in. Michael Mortimer has arranged a committee meeting for tomorrow, but as I told them I am not available till November, I will not go. It is no harm that they should take some decisions themselves. I already sent Michael Mortimer some suggestions. Barney Morgan said a significant thing. He proposes to sell his house after he has redecorated it and take a flat. “I’d get quite a few thousand pounds, and I might as well spend it before we’re all bombed to hell.”
September 21 Wednesday: This must go down as the worst day yet – cold and wet until late afternoon. And it had been raining all night. I finished the paper but have not posted it – the local Post Office is closed on a Wednesday afternoon and I didn’t want to go into town in the damp chill weather. Ripley does only local work on a Thursday. Barney Morgan called on his way in to leave me some papers. I had a few words on the phone with Gerry Curran who is getting out the November issue. I made a challenge to Freeman in the September issue. He did not reply. The October issue is directed largely to the Labour Party conference. But I will build on the Freeman article in November with the CP conference in mind. I have very little hope in that quarter. I would prefer that the “hardliners” should win if there is to be a tussle, but I doubt their abilities. They’re all political babies.
September 22 Thursday: I spoke to Jane Tate and later Noel Gordon rang. He promised to send me the pre-Congress discussion material of the CP. He says they are in unimaginable disarray. How wise I was to insulate the Irish movement from their opportunism! He says that the disputes are descending to personalities. He says he thinks Gordon McLennan is on his way out. What if they get worse?” I asked. “What indeed?” Apparently the “hardliners” are all behind Chater and Costello, so they’ll try to split away the paper. But other “hardliners” say Chater is an opportunist, which he is and a peculiarly contemptible one at that. So shit is contending with shite. Noel had seen some of the UCATT boys. They want an Irish resolution at their conference next year, and Myant and Gordon McLennan are opposed to it. They say it is “divisive”. Gollan was bad enough but McLennan has proved an indecisive poor thing. And of course once you’ve given your hostages to fortune you’re trapped. I think the foundation of the whole thing is economism. I’ll have a go at that in the next “Democrat”. Another thing Noel told me was that Bert Ward asked Michael O’Riordan and Jimmy Stewart to contribute articles on “their part of Ireland” to his bulletin. They must have seen through this old, old manoeuvre for nothing came. Also the “Stickies” in Belfast refused to see that git Myant; they said they “didn’t trust him.” So they’ve caught him on. But they do trust Bert Ward. I wonder what Myant did on them.
In the evening Rynie telephoned. Ken Gill has not agreed to speak at the CA/MPP conference. When they tackled him at Blackpool he was very reluctant. Since then, says Rynie, Noel Harris has “had a good go at him” and he is coming round. I have known Gill like this before. He has greatly degenerated from the time when he did my cartoons for me. This is economism also. It is the besetting vice of the English movement.
Jane Tate was telling me this morning that Sawtell came to a Congress discussion meeting in St. Pancras with a resolution that took 20 minutes to read! What a mad-house! I think Sawtell, like so many of them (Myant included), hasn’t the trace of a sense of humour [Sawtell was editor of “Artery” cultural magazine]. It is the surest guarantee of impracticality. Regarding Noel Gordon Jane says he hates being in Battersea on his own. It is like a prison!
September 23 Friday: The first day of autumn – and the weather has taken up, bright and reasonably sunny. A letter came from Joe Deighan congratulating me on my 70th birthday which is not till next Tuesday. I am pitched into the middle of next week. He says Myant’s “nose is badly out of joint over here”. He says, “He stopped listening'” and contrasts him with Bert Ward who is a “good listener”. For my part I regard Ward as a wet, a creep and an intellectual parasite; if he listens to Joe Deighan it is to pick his brains.
September 24 Saturday: Again not a bad day, though I did little enough.
September 25 Sunday: I spent most of the time reading my diaries from 1973 – it is slow work but illuminating. Joe Deighan sent me a bottle of whiskey via Barney Morgan.
September 26 Monday: I was going over the Irene Brennan period. It would be hard to find anything more two-faced and contemptible than CP behaviour during that period. I was reading some of the “pre-Congress” discussion and had a word with Noel Gordon. The level is a new “low”. In the afternoon Stella Bond told me that the new premises have been occupied by a squatter, and Noel Gordon has gone to see the council.
September 27 Tuesday: Seventy years old today. A very nice letter came from Muriel Saidlear, Tony Coughlan, Cathal, Helga, Daltún O Ceallaigh, Colm Power, Micheál O Loingsigh and Eddie Cowman [This was a collective letter signed by those named and sent by Muriel Saidlear]. Later Cathal [ie. Cathal MacLiam] rang up. I also had a word with Joe Deighan and Toni Curran. I wrote to Muriel Saidlear.
I found a letter from Fiona referring to cataloguing her father’s letters. I wonder where they are. Cathal gave me Ross Connolly’s address.
September 28 Wednesday: I wrote a few letters, to Joe O’Grady who sent me a birthday card yesterday, also to Pat O’Donohue and Sean Redmond. The CA & MPP (umbrella peace organisation) agreed to run a conference on Irish neutrality in November. I booked Sean Redmond. They are supposed to be getting a British Trade Union figure. They tackled Ken Gill at the TUC and he still won’t confirm that he is available. He has done this trick before. Rynie rang up and I told him to postpone it till after Christmas. Noel Gordon tells me Myant’s latest initiative is under the auspices of the CP “Industrial Department.” They have invited two representatives from each district to discuss the Irish question. According to Noel Myant and McLennan are exerting the greatest possible pressure on Hourigan etc. to refrain from passing any resolution on Ireland at the UCATT conference. The Irish question is “divisive”. Let us have no policy that needs to be fought for. Noel sent me pre-Congress stuff and I went on reading it. There is some good solid protest mixed up with the slush. Since this Costello fellow gave up as industrial organiser Peter Carter (like Myant an ex-Trotsky) has taken it up. I have not met him for years, but he was one of the admirers of Clann na hEireann in Birmingham. I wonder what they are up to. Surely not trying to keep the Irish question out of all the unions! Unfortunately the confidence I have in the people who are running the CP now is zero. I can quite credit them with trying to disrupt as much as they can. Yet Jimmy Stewart and Eoin Ó Murchú have been invited and also Michael Crowe appointed from Newcastle. So we shall hear.
September 29 Thursday: I cut the grass in the front garden and did a few odd jobs. I spoke to Noel Gordon. He says the “Morning Star” carries a speech by Pete Carter (who replaced Costello as industrial organiser) in Leeds, to the effect that it was difficult for Northern Ireland trade Unions to raise constitutional matters but that should not stop British ones. Now this is the opposite to what Freeman says and what Myant and Gordon McLennan are doing. Carter also announced the industrial meeting on Ireland. Noel thinks Carter is in with McLennan but doesn’t know how he stands with Myant. He says the “hardliners” (just who he means I don’t know) hate Carter and call him the “Trotskyist”. In the afternoon Pat Powell rang from Galway to wish me many happy returns. He said, “You sound the same as before.” And a card came from Toni Curran, which she had forgotten to post, for which reason she telephoned.
September 30 Friday: It was dark and chilly today, but I did a little in the garden, and sprayed some marauding brambles with poison. I wrote some letters. John Boyd has got some money he wants to spend writing a pamphlet against the EEC [John Boyd, an Englishman, was a member of the Connolly Association and established the Campaign Against Euro-federalism to oppose the EC/EU in British Labour circles]. I sent him some suggestions. I had a word with Noel Gordon who says Philip Rendle knows nothing about the Carter conference, but Noel thinks Myant is behind it. But why when he is trying to discourage the UCATT boys from passing resolutions does he call a conference to encourage it? Some game to win votes for McLennan? Can this be linked with the fact that Freeman did not reply to my article? Could it possibly have convinced them, and thereby freed their hands in some respects? There was talk of Freeman coming to this meeting, but then we thought it must be Jimmy Stewart. Noel told me that ten members of the London District left for Belfast tonight. They are not going to Dublin. I told Noel to press ahead with our conference.
October 1 Saturday: After early rain it was mild though a shade cloudy. I prepared for going away but managed to pop some onion seed in the ground for late winter scallions. I seldom liked so little the look of the political scene. It has that tragic necessity it seemed to have in the thirties, but it is Reagan and Thatcher instead of Hitler and Mussolini.
What will happen at the CP Congress? The “softs” are relatively stronger than in 1976, though their policies are more discredited. If, as the man in Newcastle proposes, a counter list is proposed, will it be admitted? Or will it be a matter of private circularising? And will those who do it not be disqualified? I can see little prospect of the “hardliners” winning the day. But I could imagine another damaging split, which Gaster seems resigned to. Perhaps the best would be a victory for the Costello/Chater ticket, which would leave them as hostages in the hands of the left, though of course they’re completely bogus. Now that it is clear that the Rynie thing is off till the New Year, I suggested to Michael Mortimer bringing forward the Marx Lecture.
Quite late – nine o’clock – one of the wee girls from 811 Borough Road called asking if she could get her ball from the garden. They are always knocking it over. But I don’t mind them. They are not bad kids, even though Phyllis called their mother a “hussy”. What amused me was that she addressed me twice as “Professor”. It was the nick-name I had at school, and also during the time I was working with the draughtsmen in the Royal Arsenal during the war. But I did not think to hear it again. I wonder if this is a bit of Fred Brown’s wry sense of humour [Fred and Jean Brown lived in the house next door].
October 2 Sunday (Clun): I set off on my holiday. At the start it was “Cauneas!”[ie. Beware]. I reached Rock Ferry to be told the 11.30 was not running and bicycles could not be carried on the ‘bus to Bromborough. Then I was told the Bromborough timing had been put back to 12.10. So I cycled there. I asked for a ticket to Craven Arms [in Shropshire]. The clerk asked me for £14 for a half fare! I took a ticket to Chester, where they wanted about £2. I cycled from Craven Arms to Clun where I had a meal at an odd little restaurant whose manager was operating a “citizens’ band” radio and an imbecile girl sat silently fidgeting. An old old woman then appeared spasmodically.
The warden of the Youth Hostel was a decent and intelligent young fellow who read “The Times,” (not realising that it is a scab newspaper) and listened to RTE. I told him I thought the so called “Third World” was due for an explosion. He agreed. I think he has a “social science” degree. He was opposed to the Falklands escapade. He was opposed to present trends in the YHA but he says young people are not interested in the countryside. They go to large hostels which have introduced television, video games and one-armed bandits. These are being set up in the towns. He says Merseyside YHA, up to now semi-independent, has been taken over by St Albans and there is talk of establishing a region for Wales. I had a drink with him in the local hostelry and he said there should be more encouragement of older people in the YHA. I thought they should go for the unemployed.
October 3 Monday (Dolgoch): I cycled to Hoptonheath and Bucknell, then took the train to Llanwrytd; it began to rain the moment I alighted. It was on and off till I reached Dolgoch, but the following South wind helped. Indeed it was my easiest ever crossing of the mountains here. A young Swiss was there, a cyclist. He had stopped hitchhiking when, with the onset of autumn, lifts grew scarce. He was empty and spoke English with an American accent.
The warden’s caravan was wrecked and he is now living in the building. He told me that there have been two inspections from St. Albans and a third is likely. Three came last time. De Roe remained in his caravan and left Greenhalgh to talk to them. One was a female in a two-thousand pound fur coat. The two men were dressed to the nines and were staying at a plush hotel and driving round hostels in an expensive car. David Mathews, the regional secretary, talked with them. They insulted Mrs Greenhalgh and Mathews commented that he and they “spoke different languages”. Their sole query was “how much money have you made?” They insisted on De Roe moving his caravan – he moved it two yards on to the Comisiwn Coedwigaeth land [ie. Welsh Forestry Commission] and wrecked it in the process. He thinks they want to sell Dolgoch and want repairs done to the structure to make it the more saleable. I said don’t hurry with the repairs then. But they were champing at the delay. Well, let them champ, said I. Mathews had been spending his weekends erecting a new wing. He was told to stop it forthwith.
October 4 Tuesday (Blaencaron): The Swiss went off to Abergwesyn and Bwlch. I went to Tregaron. The south wind continued. Rain began when I was at the Tywi bridge. I had a fierce time crossing the mountains in a 60 miles per hour gale. But just above Diphwys it dropped and veered South-West and the rain stopped. I had lunch, then went to Blaencaron. There were two Germans there, quite pleasant, the man was a doctor; the woman had lived some time in England and was fluent. He had come to Wales in search of the bardic tradition. He was enthusiastic in his praise of Hegel but addicted to mysticism. Mrs Jones told me that Marian is studying at Aberystwyth business college. The “inspectors” had been to Blaencaron also. Mrs Jones thought no more highly of them than De Roe. They were snobbish and arrogant. The Tyncornel warden is in hospital.
October 5 Wednesday: I did some shopping in Tregaron. The Cefn coch [farmhouse accommodation] was closed when I went there, but the proprietress’s husband came bustling across the road to open it for me. “I closed it when the wife went out. She is having her hair done. It gives her something to do. You are all right, but I can’t stand serving these la-di-dahs, so I closed it.”
Mrs Jones had told me that some regional officials were coming, and I met them at 6.30. They were decent fellows. One was the chairman, and a member for what it is worth, of the Countryside Commission. One of them told me that St Albans wanted to close down Blaencaron. “I violently disagree,” he said. They want to alter the place out of recognition to meet the absurd standards of the inspectorate of the “Standards Committee”. The whole South Wales policy is being challenged by the Thatcherite gang who now have control. According to a newspaper they have lost 50,000 members and 300,000 bed-nights in two years. My guess is that they want to do a bit of asset stripping to pay the interest on the loans used to build their white elephants.
Since I saw the cat and dog fight in my garden I have been a little more interested in animals. Does the behaviour that resembles that of children have a human origin? I think so. This evening I knocked on the farm door. Mrs Jones was out. The old sheep dog that lay across the entrance took no notice, stirred not an ear, till I started to walk away. Then it ran ahead of me and stood looking across the river. There I saw the farmer and his youngest son. I approached but saw they were beyond a branch of the river. The dog had already gone to the second bridge. So dogs are brighter than you would think. Nobody came.
October 6 Thursday: Mrs Jones was anxious to hear what the committee members had told me. Her eldest daughter was there, plus the baby, a lovely lad of 18 months, speaking, I am glad to say, Welsh. De Roe had asked me to telephone him to tell him if Lewis was out of hospital. But his line seems to be out of order. I walked over the lower slopes, about 7 miles. On Tuesday I bought the life story of of Dunsterville [A colourful British general in Iran and the Caucasus in World War 1], the original Skally [name and reference unclear] and a novel by Jack Jones, an interesting account of Cardiff. Nobody came.
October 7 Friday: Another fine day. I went into Tregaron but did not do much. Nobody came.
October 8 Saturday: Several people came. Two cyclists, one a “clubman” about 40 with an American wife, about 55, talked about the commercialism of the Merseyside YHA, with its busloads of tourists and “nature trails”. They lived in Pembroke and he was Welsh. They had lived in South Africa. Later two boys came, also cycling. One of them, Nigel, of whom the other spoke with great respect, had been a member of the Peak Regional YHA council. He had been unemployed for a year after leaving school and went cycling. Now he and his friend have a job in a holiday camp near Salop. Nigel was from Stockport, the other from Preston. All the talk was on protecting the small hostels. They were also anxious to bring the unemployed into the YHA. It is quite interesting. There is a class struggle in the YHA. All doors that do not open to money must be sealed and barred. “These boys won’t be left behind,” commented the American. She was right. They were good kids – about 19.
October 9 Sunday: It started to rain late last night and was still raining when I retired today. It had been raining most of Saturday and only stopped for an hour or two in the evening. This has already proved a good holiday. To begin with I was not desperate for it. To follow I continued to chew over things. Yesterday on the Irish building workers. Today on my attitude to a possible split in the CP. I will aim at retaining membership in the official movement but will maintain relations with all, as I did on a personal basis with the NCP impossibilists. It also struck me that I probably have enough money to last me the rest of my life and need not continue to be so scrupulously economical. Nobody came.
October 10 Monday: It rained in torrents all night. The river has risen and there was slight flooding of the road. I think the CPGB is in what Lenin called “the marsh”. I went over the whole thing in my mind. I am only responsible for the Irish movement. But one must act for the best in all ways. While I do not propose to “stick my neck out” if I have to “assert myself” (Betty Sinclair’s constant advice to me) the time is drawing near. Nobody came.
October 11 Tuesday (Dolgoch): I went to Dolgoch again. It was fine – apart from an occasional shower. De Roe buys no papers and listens to the BBC. He grows constantly more anti-Soviet. I have noticed the changes over the years. Nobody came.
October 12 Wednesday: It rained most of the day. Two young men from Essex came in a car. They were very exalted at their adventure, talked constantly between themselves, and played atrocious chess, then “ludo”. The bigger one, a muscular fellow, was the better, but they had no brains at all. They were aged about 25.
October 13 Thursday: The young fellows went walking. I intended to go to buy things at Tregaron. The weather turned wet and I turned back at the telephone box. Unfortunately, I left my rucksack in it and had to ride back in the pouring rain to recover it. Nobody came.
October 14 Friday: The morning was fine and sunny but it did not last long. A Welsh boy, aged about 20, came. He was from Cardiff and was unemployed since he left school. He was cycling to Bolton, where he bad lived, for a friend’s wedding. He told me that he could not get a job in a factory. He had some “O levels” and “A levels” (I’m not sure what these are) and managements would tell him, “You’re too well qualified; you’d be off after a better job as soon as you can get one.” He was intelligent and played a fair game of chess. Indeed he had played for his school. But they had not taught him the openings. I told him I had played for the University, so he was not to put out at being scattered. Of course I hardly ever play chess now, but I follow the game in the “Manchester Guardian” each Saturday. He had forgotten the Welsh he learned at school. But he responded when he realised that I was pro-Welsh. A walker aged about 50 came. He had climbed all but 14 of the peaks above 3000 feet in Britain and was filling in four miles of a walk from the Scottish border to Land’s End. You never heard such nonsense.
October 15 Saturday: It rained all day. The Welshman stayed, but the walker, a Cheshire man, strode off to climb Drygarn Fawr. He had been a teacher, but then went into industry from which he took “early retirement”. I walked to the Tywi bridge with the Cardiff about 5 pm. and there was the Cheshire man, after climbing Drygarn Fawr, without a thing taken out of him. He was not so stupid either. Later three la-di-dahs arrived. Their car had broken down five miles away. One of them collapsed and was put to bed. They were all talking about “hypothermia” – exposure possibly, or exhaustion. They had all fallen in a river. They sounded like public schoolboys.
The warden has four cats. One insists on his place by the fire, and chases away successfully his brother and a female. He is black. He tries to chase away an orange one, but this one resists and there was an unholy cat-fight this evening with fur strewn all over the place.
October 16 Sunday (Blaencaron): There was only a sprinkle of rain today. The man who collapsed last night got up again this morning and strode about sporting scarlet trousers till he collapsed again and retired. He and his friends would be in their early twenties. I went to Blaencaron. A motorist who was here for walking came. He worked for Fords at Basildon. He was very typically chauvinist, but not irredeemably so.
As I was walking up the hill in Tregaron an Alsation bounded out and started growling – perhaps it smelled cat. A young man bounded out of his car and ordered it way. It was a very decent thing to do as it was not his dog.
October 17 Monday: The morning was dry but it rained in the afternoon. I went into Tregaron.
October 18 Tuesday: I found a book by Adrian Mitchell described as “one of our more popular poets” and since there was nothing else, read it. It was called “Man Friday”. It was to some degree a satire on capitalist values – less subtle than Defoe’s and anachronistic in parts. But it was better than I feared.
October 19 Wednesday (Dolgoch): I returned to Dolgoch. De Roe told me five more casualties came in on Sunday after I had gone. They had come by train from London and got lost in the mountains. They had spent the night in a ruin. They made cups of tea and smoked (to De Roe’s fury) and finally went off in a taxi they brought from Tregaron. Cockneys! A cyclist I met at Dolgoch before, his name Medley, arrived. He was well named. He talked continuously, even to himself, so that I thought there was a radio on. He had worked for the Council but had been made redundant. “I’m one of Thatcher’s four million,” he said. His heart was in the right place. It was dull but dry.
October 20 Thursday (Tyncornel): It dawned fine but seemed like clouding over. I left the bicycle at Dolgoch and walked to Tyncornel. There were hardly any entries in the book. But included were the two boys, Nigel Melons and the Preston lad. The useless thieves that compose a good part of the English population had seen there was no warden and simply not paid. I was glad these youngsters had a touch of dignity. It is very encouraging to see it in young people. It did not rain. Nobody came.
October 21 Friday: Today was clear and brilliant, but with a cold East wind. There was no cloud. I worked out a course of action regarding the house at 124 Mount Road and refitting parts of it. Nobody came.
October 22 Saturday: Another clear and brilliant day. There was early frost in the hills. Two women appeared at midday, to prepare tea for some “sponsored walking,” raising money for the parish church at Llanddewi Brefi. The walkers arrived later – three middle-aged men, three girls 17-18, two boys of about the same age, and a lively little fellow of about 9. They were all very pleasant people and conversed entirely in Welsh, which was very pleasant to hear. Apart from this nothing happened, but being 70, I decided on the contents of my will. I’ll have to make one.
This morning the moon was visible in the North-West – like a brass shield, or perhaps one could say, “like a tea-tray in the sky”. In the afternoon I found a wren flying about the kitchen. It exhausted itself, but I enticed it on to a shovel and put it out. It flew in again, but I got it on the shovel again, and this time it flew away. I have heard that birds do not always survive contretemps like this. But I do not know. It would certainly not survive in the kitchen. There was another fine sunset.
October 23 Sunday (Dolgoch): This was the best day – warm, sunny, cloudless. I returned to Dolgoch, coming up the right bank of the Tywi. The Northampton young fellow arrived, now 25, split up from his girl friend, but with another, a bit of fluff whom he let do all the cooking. De Roe told me his domestic break-up was his fault. The romanticism is being knocked out of him. He says he is more “realist”. But he’s not a bad lad considering his upper middle-class background and environment.
There is a shortage of gas, but De Roe says Mathews will bring some in the morning. Five who stayed last night have gone to Tyncornel. I told De Roe that Lewis had cut off the water supply and diverted it to his new barn, “the biggest in Wales”, which is however not so bad as I was given to believe. One of the visitors is a detective. I did not leave a note of where I had drawn water. Let the detective detect.
October 24 Monday: The Northamptons went. The weather is still fine but turned cold in the evening with a frost by 6 pm. Two cyclists came, one from Liverpool and his girl from Bradford. He was an oboe player, and quite a bright and unconventional character. A youngster who looked a typical “mother’s boy” arrived on a bicycle – neat attire, well- pressed jeans, but with a certain business-like quality in the way he handled things. He said not a word. No gas came. Mathews has never let De Roe down before. De Roe thinks he is getting demoralised as the chopper is raised over the whole South Wales organisation by the filthy imperialist scum at Head Office. A girl from Cambridge arrived.
October 25 Tuesday: In the morning De Roe and I got the young fellow talking. He proved quite bright. His father is an oboe player! That was a coincidence. He is going on for dentistry. I think he is probably in his last year at school. He told me he was from Swansea, though his mother was from Brecon. I said, “Ah! Dylan Thomas country.” “Yes,” he replied, “but I can’t stand him. He may be a very witty man, but he wraps it all up in unnecessary verbiage.” Hm! said I to myself, the young are not all cabbages! I went to Blaenpoethuchaf. There arrived the Cambridge girl who had left Dolgoch leaving dirty pots behind (I think she was Canadian) and a 30-year-old Australian, finally a boy from the Swansea valley who was in the Boy Scouts – the most boring company of the whole trip. Indeed, I decided to go back to Liverpool at once.
October 26 Wednesday (Liverpool): I went to Cynghordy and took the train to Liverpool. I had hardly got in when the telephone started ringing. Barney Morgan was on the line, then Andrew Rothstein who wants to see me about a matter concerning Irish history. What will it be? CP history? He has a sound vigorous voice for a man of 85. And I rang Jane Tate.
October 27 Thursday: Noel Gordon rang at midday. He told me there were developments on the CP front. I think I will have to go to London and find out what is happening. Barney Morgan called in the evening but he knows nothing. He is a sound republican but not intensely political. He tells me Michael Mortimer has not done much, so we decided on a committee meeting on Sunday. It would never occur to Barney to intervene himself and find out what is happening. However, things are too desperate for complaining. Action is the word, and this is the time for it.
October 28 Friday: I did little today but have a haircut, rang Noel Gordon and read the material Colm Power had sent me from Dublin. The Workers Party [ie. the former “Official” Sinn Fein] has brought out a theoretical journal with an English title, “Class Politics”. Henry Patterson contributes obscure rubbish in which he castigates “TA Jackson’s slight work” in ill-spelled sesquipedalianisms. That contemptible rat Dominic Behan has an article – they must be short of authors! – in which he claims that the CP of Great Britain “liquidated the Communist Party of Scotland” in the “early fifties”. What on earth is he talking about? He also says they tried – “decided” – to “liquidate” the CPI in 1938. They gave Musgrove £100 in 1941 and I think McInerney got a similar sum soon afterwards [George Musgrove and Michael McInerney were “Connolly Club” members in the 1939-41 period]. I forget the details. Not that I’ve any sympathy. They nourished Dominic Behan at their bosom year after year and tolerated his attempts to wreck the Connolly Association. In his letter Colm Power asks about Bannister, who is dead. The association of ideas is obvious.
October 29 Saturday: There must have been frost last night. The marrows and tomatoes were struck down, though the tropaeolums that are sensitive enough have survived. I cut two small marrows and a couple of pounds of green tomatoes. I have a filthy cold, too, and did little otherwise. Sean Redmond sent me his history of the IMETU [ie. the Irish Municipal Employees Trade Union] of which he is general secretary. It looks a useful piece of work.
October 30 Sunday: I went to the Irish Centre to meet Barney Morgan, Michael Mortimer and Joe O’Grady. It seems Michael Mortimer has fallen down on the job but promises to improve.
October 31 Monday (London/Liverpool): I took the 10 am. to Euston where Noel Gordon and Jane Tate met me. I saw the new premises they think they have acquired – back in Gray’s Inn Road. They are certainly an improvement; two shops on street level. But we’ll need a lot of money. According to Noel Gordon Myant hates Chater and this is why he resigned as assistant-editor of the “Morning Star”. He can’t complain that Chater doesn’t give him all the publicity he needs. He says that Myant’s talk at Marx House was woeful, attended by only about 10 who sat round a table, one a two-nationist. Apparently at the industrial conference Pete Carter was woeful and Myant denounced the Connolly Association, some of those present dissenting. Jimmy Stewart and Eoin O Murchú were there. Noel thinks the exercise was designed to show them they were “doing something”. Some of them were loudly critical of my article on Freeman, but the filthy contemptible cowardly scum didn’t dare to reply to it! Noel thinks Myant is going up for the E.C. this time. Camden have proposed John Hoffman. Noel Gordon says Noel Harris is very uncertain. He wants to be the chairman at this conference. The CA is not having a main speaker. Bert Ward’s latest trick is to try to get a CP member of the CA to attend his “advisory committee.” I returned to Liverpool.
November 1 Tuesday: I didn’t get much done. I made a draft to send to the YHA [ie. the Youth Hostel Association], went out for stamps and wine, and pottered about the house.
November 2 Wednesday: The weather is very mild – over 60’F I would say. I did a bit of clearing up in the morning and worked in the garden in the afternoon; also wrote letters. Jane Tate told me that she has for years acted as a steward at CP conferences. Until this year the arrangements were made by Betty Reid, a decent woman. This year it is Woddis’s widow, who never impressed me. Jane thinks she is being “frozen out”.
I looked at some old records. It seems as if Palme Dutt was replaced by Jack Woddis as early as 1965, but I cannot find a note of the first meeting when Woddis was so ungracious to Dutt when he spoke [presumably a meeting of the CP International Affairs Committee, which Greaves occasionally attended]. The rot did not begin in 1968. It was well advanced. Now Lawrence and Wishart sent the manuscript of my “Irish Crisis” to Woddis in 1971. The book takes a clear anti-Partitionist stand and he had an opportunity as a reader to state any objection he felt. He did not do so. But in 1974 John Gollan was refusing to support the “Declaration of Intent” to withdraw. At what point did he decide his “Scottish membership” must be given a veto? I must see if Bob Wynne can remember.
November 3 Thursday: I met Owen Morris in Liverpool at his request. He is writing a book on Ireland in Welsh. I had already put him on to Tony Coughlan. I gave him some information. He told me of the scandal of Englishmen, Germans, Scots and even Irish buying up land in Anglesey. The Welsh are being driven into ghettoes like second class citizens. I think he had some sympathy with the arsonists who react to these immigrants by trying to burn down the holiday homes. I asked why all the new restaurants and tourist attractions are run by incomers. Was it that the natives lacked the “know how”? He said this was not so, but what they lacked was confidence. This reminded me of the man in “Cefin Coch” who closed the café rather than face the “la-di-dahs”. He attended the Irish History lectures in Liverpool. It seems he comes here often. He sells agricultural supplies to farmers. I am afraid he relies rather heavily on books, but he is a good man, strongly national – about 32-35 years of age. I told him of our plan for a Celtic League in Liverpool. Alan Heussaff tells me that “News from Nowhere“[ie. the Liverpool left-wing bookshop] which ordered “Carn” sent for extra supplies.
November 4 Friday: At long last Noel Gordon sent on to me the letters from “Science and Society” and Ross Connolly. He had consulted his brother about the Connolly letters and suggested they might have been catalogued as the “Edwards Collection”. But he did not send me Roderick Wilson’s address. I think Bert Edwards still has the bulk of the material. Ross was very surprised that we found nothing in Marx House and could only suggest a mis-cataloguing.
November 5 Saturday: I went into the city, bought some books and met Barney Morgan at the “News from Nowhere”. I had called at “Progressive Books” where Cope had commented on the deplorable political situation. He and his mates have not made it any better by their revisionism. I am afraid young Sawtell was right when he remarked that what was dangerous was not so much what was in the “British Road to Socialism” as what they would take it as giving them licence to do. Anyway that was that. I had a coffee with Barney Morgan and discussed plans.
November 6 Sunday: I stayed in all day despite the continuing mild weather. Barney Morgan expects a hard winter. I don’t. The leaves have hung very long this year and there is much residual heat in soil and sea.
November 7 Monday: I went into the city, and in Church Street bumped into the egregious Dr May who tells me that “friends of his,” to wit the “Mosquito Press”, intend publishing the complete works of Connolly, annotated by somebody or other. Had they been in touch with me? I told him “No”. Then I saw John Gibson at the bookshop. I was asking him about Manchester. That weary wimp Coughlan is away but, says John Gibson, one of his proteges has taken over. The place is all but derelict. And the Manchester secretary is not much better. So Gibson – I’ll find out for myself when I go there. He has however a high opinion of Blevin; and I am inclined to agree. He also says the young man who has replaced Francis Deane at the Manchester Trades Council is promising. I got the latest “Focus”, with the CP Congress discussion in it and sat up till 2 am. reading it.
Last night the BBC had an anti-Soviet propaganda piece about “yellow rain.” I rang Alan Morton about “Red Snow”. I could not remember whether it was bacillus or bacterium, and they mean the same thing. He’d also forgotten. He seemed somewhat down in the mouth. “Everything continually gets worse as you get older.” Freda Morton is not well. His eye is “no worse”. Alisoun has been ill again – the doctor having discontinued something that was doing her good. But he is going to London to take part in a symposium on Pliny. I wonder whether it is what Angus MacPherson used to call “senile depression”. He never lived to suffer from it; he died before he was 30, of tuberculosis, surrounded by all the devices and luxuries the medicos’ own hospital could provide.
November 8 Tuesday: I had a few words with Noel Gordon. I mentioned that Myant is staking out his claim to edit the “Morning Star” by attacking Chater. He replied that Tess Gill had attacked Myant for his empty comment in the “Morning Star” but added, “But she’s on the hit list.” The state they’re in! Apparently the “Sunday Times” published the names of those the “Euros” want off the E.C. – she is one of them; so is Chater and Derek Robinson and another from the “Morning Star”. “Judging by the discussion published it won’t be hard to secure empty places on the E.C.,” says I. I remarked that in all the contributions one human quality was conspicuously absent – modesty. “They think it is their function to act as the conscience of imperialism,” I quipped. It began as a joke, then it slotted into place and all was explained. It is the fallacy of a British road to socialism. Imperialism is a world system and will snap at a weak link. Hence a socialist approach must be international. But they think that by skilful manipulation of alliances they can induce it to snap at a strong link, their own. And if these alliances are jeopardised by international action, international action will not be taken. Logically they end up like the Labour Party, which shamelessly jettisons its programme for the sake of office. It all comes back to what old Jimmy Shields used to call “this rotten chauvinism”. The same thing informs their attitude to Ireland – and indeed induces them on all issues to prefer muddle to precision. If Gordon McLennan and his friends are for one purge, and their opponents are as determined on another, then, as I said to Noel Gordon, “it wouldn’t surprise me if they were ‘fucked’.”
A letter came from Francis Devine asking me to join the editorial board of “Saothar”[ie. the journal of the Irish Labour History Society], of which he is seemingly an editor again. I wrote declining. Noel Gordon told me that Niall Power wants me to join the “Editorial Advisory Board” of “Labour in Ireland.” I said I will tell him I will “consult my committee”.
November 9 Wednesday: I went to Manchester and met the new city organiser, Simons, whom John Gibson does not think much of. He was amiable enough and said he had been at a meeting I addressed in Staines during the war. He must have been a very young lad. Then I had a drink with Wilf Charles and a fire-brigade union organiser called Hodder, an Irishman. They both joined the Connolly Association. Wilf Charles deplored the state of affairs in the CP, and his view of it resembles my own. They have come to grief through abandoning internationalism. He thinks Gordon McLennan “has it well sewn up”, with a million pounds in the bank and control of the apparatus. He also discerns signs of trying to paper over the cracks. He says Peter Coughlan was not only no use at his job but was very unpopular. If what Wilf Charles says about him is true it would be no wonder. His replacement is a young fellow from Liverpool. Wilf was not so scathing as John Gibson but thinks the same. But I agree there is an improvement over Coughlin. Askins is still hobbling about with multiple sclerosis. Sol Gadian died last year and Syd Abbott has lost a leg owing to gangrene. Francis Deane of the Trades Council has retired and a young fellow has taken over. But they have moved it to Salford,
When I got back to Liverpool I found a letter from Noel Gordon who says that at a meeting attended by Roger Kelly, Bert Ward was criticising Myant and the CP’s confusion over Ireland – Ramelson being present to give a display of it [Bert Ramelson was former CPGB industrial organiser]. I wonder are the spirits of the soil capturing him? We will see.
One curious thing, reverting to Manchester, that Wilf Charles told me is that he was talking to Jim Arnison who told him that Hobsbawm did not write the article that drew so much criticism; it was in fact ghosted by Martin Jacques while Hobsbawm was out of the country [Eric Hobsbawm,1917-2012, British historian, influential figure on the “Eurocommunist” side in the internal CPGB divisions of the 1970s and 1980s. Desmond Greaves considered that Hobsbawm did not properly understand the national question, particularly in relation to Ireland]. The two of them are trundling up and down the country holding defeatist meetings about “Labour’s lost millions” and urging accommodation with the SDP. I saw Jacques in operation at the Marx House meeting where he tried to gain control by using the CP educational department. As for Hobsbawm, I remember going to give a talk to the students at Cambridge and seeing this horse-faced public-school product with a marked proboscis comporting himself as if he didn’t care who owned the world. Wilf Charles says the British Labour Movement is corrupt through and through, layer after layer from top to bottom. He also said his father played snooker with CP Scott [Editor of the “Manchester Guardian” newspaper from 1872 to 1929], who was quite without snobbery.
November 10 Thursday: The dry mild weather continues. There is a grand display of borage, there are poppies in seed, flower and seedling. The coriander is better than I ever saw it. But the ground is too wet to work. I did little.
November 11 Friday: I went into Birkenhead and bought the “New Statesman” and “Economist”. Both have articles on the CP Congress. The “New Statesman” thinks McLennan is home and dry. The “Economist” thinks the rival factions are “running neck and neck” but that McLennan will win a “temporary reprieve” though “his days are numbered” as are probably the party’s also.
November 12 Saturday: I wrote to the BBC about their cold war “yellow rain” and sent a copy to Bob Waring who had attacked Mrs Thatcher’s “congenital anti-Sovietism” in the House of Commons. The “Manchester Guardian” had an article on the CP. They think a “hard line” victory possible. The BBC 6 pm. news said McLennan had made a fighting speech threatening expulsions. That could mean he thought he was home and dry; or it could be that he would like to see resignations. I was trying to work out what will happen if one side or the other won a definitive victory.
November 13 Sunday: I bought the “Observer” and “Sunday Times”. The only thing about the CP Congress was an announcement that Bruce Kent of CND was to address it today. I have a suspicion that this was held back – though probably he would be a “fraternal delegate”. This means Gordon McLennan will win. It was a very clever move. The 10 pm. BBC said Kent had thanked the CP and the “Morning Star” for their support of CND. If the “hardliners” try to oust McLennan now they will be attacked as breaking the unity of the peace movement. So failing that what about an accommodation and the papering over of cracks? This is what Wilf Charles expects. I wrote a long letter to the Secretary of the YHA [ie. the Youth Hostel Association] and sent a copy to De Roe. The weather has turned cold so I cut and cooked and ate all the mercury – which is still going strong – for fear it will be cut down. But it seems very hardy.
November 14 Monday (London): I went to London and Noel Gordon met me at Euston. Then we went to the Standing Committee which was well attended, with Paddy Bond, Jane Tate, Steve Huggett, Mairin Delane and Gerry Curran and Pat O’Donohue, also Philip Rendle. Mairin Delane is at the CP congress and will move a resolution on Ireland. She is very disgusted at the process of “compositing”, in which Myant takes the lead. Nevertheless they have moved. They now have a “Declaration of Intent to Withdraw”, though not to end Partition. Myant is on the new Executive. As I thought, Gordon McLennan won.
November 15 Tuesday: I went to Hammersmith but after the Congress was over and saw some of them in a pub. Tony Chater was surrounded by a few cronies and looked very disconsolate. I did not approach him. After the way he has behaved over the Connolly Association no tears are due. But instead of a defeat there was a rout, and mainly because a section of them would not stick to the rule book. Alternative lists had been clandestinely distributed and the stewards chased into the toilets to make sure suspects were not distributing them. This Woods pamphlet could have been published in “Focus”. So Chater, Costello, and Whitfield are off the EC together with a few others. There are talks of expulsions and purges, and one can confidently expect a further decline in membership. And as I expected, Gordon McLennan etc. want Myant as “Star” editor. But Chater will not resign. Indeed we might see a – badly needed – improved paper while he fights for support. They will be lucky if they keep that paper. Noel Gordon and I went to the new premises. Charlie Cunningham came.
November 16 Wednesday: The Central London branch meeting was held – a reasonable attendance included that of Flann Campbell who gave me a bottle of whiskey for going through his manuscript. Desmond Logan was there. He is very anti-Chater because he has “stolen our paper.” Elsie O’Dowling was there looking very frail, and Sean Burke. The “Manchester Guardian” gave an account of Hammersmith and pointed out that Chater can only be sacked by the PPPS and their annual meeting is not till next June. And as for the “Morning Star” Chater asserts that he will go ahead with a grand scheme for commercial printing which seems to me very dubious.
November 17 Thursday (Liverpool): I saw Charlie Cunningham and he and Noel Gordon brought me up to Euston with a new electric fire. Then I came back to Liverpool and found letters from Tony Coughlan and Roy Johnston and newspaper cuttings. I learned that Bruce Kent is in trouble thanks to going to the CP conference. Some of the boys in London were uneasy about it and (granting that the CND leader is a trifle innocent in politics) blamed Gordon McLennan and others for endangering the peace movement for the sake of their party interests. Finally, one choice titbit: in his speech at Hammersmith Myant declared, “The CP is the only party with a strategy for withdrawal from Ireland.” It would be interesting to know what it was!
November 18 Friday: I did little but read through arrears of newspapers. In the evening Michael Mortimer rang up. Barney Morgan had arranged to take the “Democrats” to a meeting tomorrow but had decided to go to Wales – I guess to the mot’s caravan – so he asked Martin to telephone me! Some material came from Tony Coughlan and Colm Power and Roy Johnston’s copy was accompanied by a request that I should jump on his divorce wagon – bandwagon or water-wagon.
November 19 Saturday: I met Michael Mortimer and Joe O’Grady at the Pier Head where there was a very encouraging demonstration. We had a very good reception with the “Irish Democrat”. John Gibson was there with Veronica [ie. Mrs Gibson]. Joe O’Grady remarked that Kinnock decided not to come on a flimsy pretext [Leader of the Labour Party official opposition to the then Thatcher Government]. Heffer asked him to send a message and he was very reluctant to do so, but in the end did. Perhaps he is anxious not to strengthen Heffer’s position. I was not pleased at Barney Morgan’s failure to come, but there is nothing to be done. I talked to Mrs Byrne with whom Betty Sinclair used to stay, and who should be there but Eamon Quinn who took part in the “Battle of Hyde Park”. He is living in Ellesmere Port and is with the “Militants”. He was in Sinn Fein at the end of the war, joined the CP and CA, then became a Trappist monk, and ended where comets usually go down, in the Labour Party.
I remarked to John Gibson that though the place was swamped with “Militant” and “Socialist Worker” there was no sign of the “Morning Star”. I said surely they are not going to commit the unpardonable folly of letting it go. Gibson was not sure they would not. He told me – how true it is I do not know – that Tess Gill was thrown off the E.C. for writing a letter criticising Myant. Quos Iuppiter vult perdere, prius dementat [Those whom Jupiter wishes to destroy, he first makes mad]. They should have kept the dissidents where they could exercise at least a partial control.
November 20 Sunday: I did a little on the paper, otherwise not much. The weather seems to be getting colder.
November 21 Monday: The weather has definitely turned colder. I went on with the paper.
November 22 Tuesday: Frost at last and the borage, until yesterday like a summer plant, is wilting. I think the coriander will probably not survive either. I went on with the paper.
November 23 Wednesday (Sheffield/Barnsley): I went to Sheffield where Michael Conlon, former steel-erector and admirer of Wilf Charles, now a student, met me with Mrs Huggett whom I take to be his girl friend (and a very nice girl too). He drove us to Wentworth Castle, “The Northern Ruskin” [ie. a Labour movement college on the lines of Ruskin College in Oxford]. About 50 odd students – mostly “mature students”, largely Trade Union activists – attended and the meeting was very successful. There were several former CA members present and other links and connections – a girl from Belfast writing about the Belfast Trades Council and Betty Sinclair in particular, and a young man who had been to Barney Morgan’s “know your roots” lectures on Scotland Road. I had a word with the Principal, who had been at my meeting in Coventry when Bernadette Devlin talked her nonsense. At the end Frank Watters came in. He is very distressed at the state of the CP and says the situation in Birmingham is woeful. He lives a mile or two from the college, in Barnsley. But great help had been given with the meeting by the student members of the CP. I stayed the night.
November 24 Thursday (Liverpool): It was freezing hard but Conlon drove me into Sheffield. The mountains were white, but not Manchester, and before I reached Liverpool it was pouring rain. I spent the afternoon on the paper and in the evening addressed a branch of TASS in Walton. George Stratton was there, and several I had met before at the “Broad Left” meeting. There was not a good attendance. The little man who challenged my opinions at the “Broad Left” meeting in April was there. He had come right round. He said he had read the “Irish Democrat” and agreed with it. I think he and the chairman and possibly George Stratton are “hardliners”. One of them repeated that Tess Gill was thrown off the E.C. for writing an article or letter criticising the opinions of Myant. A full-time Union organiser from Preston was there.
November 25 Friday: The weather has turned very mild and no harm either. I got the last of the paper off. The Labour Committee on Ireland have invited me to join the Editorial Advisors of their magazine and to speak at their one-day school in London. I have accepted. They are sandwiching in a conference in February before ours.
November 26 Saturday: I did little enough today though it was pleasantly mild. I made a few notes for the talk tomorrow.
November 27 Sunday: The one-day school was a reasonable success though the young people who had demanded it had gone off to the Manchester Martyrs commemoration at Moston. Among those present were Barney Morgan, Michael Mortimer, Joe O’Grady and Michael Kelly. There was a Trade Union official and a social worker. Janet Walsh has started “Green Pen”, a group of Irish-oriented writers. Harry MacHugh was at their last meeting. They asked did he know me. He replied, “I do, but I don’t agree with him.
November 28 Monday: I spent the day preparing to go to Dublin tomorrow. I have begun to feel like writing another book, and the school yesterday helped. But when in the afternoon I went into Birkenhead to draw cash, buy stationery and get Irish money there was an unusual event. I have occasionally felt very slightly lightheaded over the past few weeks, something I put down to wearing old spectacles, the proper ones having been broken and cannot be replaced till I get back from Dublin. This afternoon the sensation increased so much that I stopped a couple of minutes before walking on. As my first thought was my heart, I felt it and it was pounding away very vigorously – but I would not call it trachycardic [ie. excessive heartbeat]. I had a sore throat yesterday, but the slight temperature passed. So is it anything or is it nothing? Fora the rest of the day all was well and I imagine that if I were not over 70 I might not note this down. Nevertheless, it never happened before – unless it was the same thing as when I went cycling with Edge to Corwen and came back in the train. Then it was a developing cold or similar virus disease.
November 29 Tuesday (Dublin): I caught the midday train to Chester and went to Dun Laoire where Tony Coughlan and Muriel Saidlear met me. She brought us into town where Eddie Cowman met us. After a meal we went to 111 Meadow Grove where Eddie stayed the night. Eddie has not managed to get a decent job and is working on the railway. He told me that he now realised that he sacrificed the chance of a lifetime in giving up his job with the CA but said something about family pressures. He is over 30 now. They all have tremendous respect for him.
November 30 Wednesday: I went into town with Eddie Cowman, then to the National Library. After some searching I found the successor to O’Luanaigh who has gone over to printed books. His name is McKenna. He treated me in the best deferential civil service way, taking me into the fastnesses of the building – indeed he was embarrassingly deferential. I don’t like the opposite but prefer the in-between. He discovered that missing copies of the “Irish Democrat” that Noel Gordon said he sent him never arrived. The ITGWU archives are in some sort of order for moving and building is proceeding at the Kildare Street Club.
In the evening I went to a meeting of the CPI at which Peadar O’Donnell – 91 in a few weeks – gave a talk. His head is clear but his voice is getting weaker. He thinks capitalism must collapse now that it can no longer give employment.
December 1 Thursday: I spent the day tracking down Ross Connolly, via Bernard Connolly, the secretary of the Bray branch of the ITGWU. I also deposited the Cork minutes at Liberty Hall. Ross works for the Sweep. He was agreeable that I should contact Roddy Wilson, then have another search made at Marx Library, finally arrange with a solicitor to tackle Bert’s executors when he shuffles off this mortal coil. Ross is the image of his father. Later I was at 24 Belgrave Road [ie. the home of his long-time friends Cathal and Helga MacLiam and their children] where Tony Coughlan, Micheál O Loingsigh and Eileen O Loingsigh arrived.
December 2 Friday: Tony Coughlan and I got up early and went to Belfast where Joe Deighan met us at the station. He took us first to Newtownards, where we found John McClelland who is running, with a partner, a motor accessories business in a shopping centre to which he pays £16,000 a year in rent. Joe thinks Bobby Heatley makes him defeatist because of the veneer of cynicism Heatley wears. He does not indeed think much of Heatley but took us all to Bangor where we found him at work and had a drink with him. His novel is not making much progress. Then we returned to the city and drove up the Falls Road. Tony Coughlan (I think mistakenly) wanted to deliver by hand a letter to Gerry Adams. We drove round the nationalist area. It is solid Sinn Fein now, with elaborate murals on the walls of houses. Finally we called into see Kevin McCorry, now a prosperous solicitor. I would have seen Jimmy Stewart but his office was closed. We returned to Dublin and went to Cathal’s where Micheál O Loingsigh again appeared.
December 3 Saturday: I met Alan Heussaff after attending the exhibition of Osborne paintings in the National Gallery [Alan Heussaff, 1921-99, Breton nationalist, journalist and Celticist]. He agreed to come to Liverpool on April 1st. He told me that that at the conference of the Celtic League he had argued that the main part of “Carn” should be devoted to Ireland and Wales, but this did not please the Manxmen and Cornishmen who want “equal billing”. I spoke to Uinseann MacEoin’s wife who was sure he would come [Uinseann MacEoin,1920-2001, architect and historian]. Heusaff’s wife was with him.
Later we (that is Cathal, Tony and Helga) went to a party called by Muriel Saidlear. At about 9 pm. Jack Bennett arrived. I had seen Roy Johnston the night I arrived and he had not pressed his claim that I should devote “Irish Democrat” space to his adventures in European law. Now I learned why. He had tackled Jack Bennett who told him not to talk nonsense. Jack seemed more excited than usual and we thought he might have drink taken before cycling from Raheny and losing his way. He was extolling the virtues of early rising. At 6 am. you “hear the twittering of sparrows, the sound of blackbirds, yes – larks, larks – and multicoloured mynah-birds swooping through the air singing ‘Sally by the River’.”
One thing I forgot. I saw Michael O’Riordan the day after the Peadar O’Donnell meeting. We could not say much because Noel Harris was there. His head is of prodigious size. He told me that when he goes to the CPGB Irish Committee meetings, Myant dictates so much that at times they nearly came to blows. “Indeed,” says Noel Harris, “he tried to bully me! Now it’s not easy to bully me.” Hm, I thought, but they can put you on valium for six weeks [This is a reference to Noel Harris having gone into hospital for treatment for depression when he was considering inducing his Irish trade union members to join the ITGWU – which gave his British union superiors in London the opportunity of forcing his resignation]. He told Michael O’Riordan that everything is managed by Ken Gill, who gets his instructions from Joe Bowers [Bowers was a leading member of the CPI in Belfast]. I had a rough account of the conference at which Noel Gordon spoke. He asked me if I had seen my “disciples”. That is to say they do not recognise him as the finest.
December 4 Sunday: I had intended to return but Micheál O Loingsigh invited me to his party tonight. In the morning Eddie Cowman came for lunch. Then I went into town to meet a Signora Barone from Italy who is at TCD doing research on Sean O’Casey. I had a few days ago gone with Tony Coughlan to the “launching” of poems by Brendan Kennelly. He made very ordinary things sound splendid by his magnificent voice; but he lives in a world of feelings. However Tony Cronin was there, and Seamus Deane. He spoke of Signora Barone saying that she had found most of what she wanted in my book which was the best. Pádraig O Snodaigh had told her I was coming to Dublin and she wanted to see me. So I met her, coming into town with Eddie Cowman. I was surprised to see streaks of grey in his mop of hair. So soon. I remember pulling a grey hair out at the age of 34. Later no cosmetic was possible.
In the evening we went to Micheál O Loingsigh’s where Daltún O Ceallaigh, Cathal, Helga, Tony Coughlan and others were assembled. This was a purely social gathering, but very enjoyable. Before it took place Micheál drove me to the Comhaltas Ceolteóirí hall in Monkstown. He is helping to get speakers for the next series of lectures in Liverpool. Maolachlann O Caollai [of the Gaelic League] and his wife were at the party.
December 5 Monday (Liverpool): I took a taxi to Dun Laoire and came back to Liverpool. On the boat, anxious to avoid speakers, I sat down opposite a young man who gave me a welcoming smile, though he did not know me. I went for breakfast – a very indifferent one – and he looked after my bags. Then he went for breakfast and we got talking. I would say he was 23 to 25. He was selling turf machinery for a German firm but said he did not make as much money as he could, as he would not sell it to people who did not need it. He was in Pomeroy last week and going to London for a holiday. His family had a 60-acre farm and he was a stout defender of the family community. He spoke of the mass unemployment in Kerry and added, “Surely that’s the way to revolution.” He also expressed the view that Sinn Fein would be able to capture the youth of Ireland. I think he may have been a republican himself. He was very well informed and highly political, but I doubt if he was a member of anything. He knew about the Connolly Association and the “Irish Democrat”. I got back about 3 pm.
This has been a successful trip. I raised with several people my suggestion that there should be an international conference on the “Defence of the Nation State”. Joe Deighan was most enthusiastic and Micheál O Loingsigh and others began to suggest speakers like Schiller [ie. Professor Herbert Schiller, the American authority on the sociology of communications] and I heard all kinds of things – for example that Brian Farrington’s 25-year-old son Patrick is working as circulation manager of “Marxism Today”. Roy Johnston, who told me this, showed me a carbon copy of a letter he had sent him. He told him that if he wanted any circulation in Ireland then the editorial policy should be changed. He wrote, “From what I gather Greaves’s name is mud” – on what grounds he said this he did not explain. Then he suggested that I, as “G.O.M.” [ie. Grand Old Man], should be invited to contribute. (Incidentally being 70 means that people start saying goodbye to you – Jack Bennett when leaving said, “Thank you for setting us on the right political path in our young days.”) I also got the spectacles mended at Dixon Hempenstall and the improvement was magical. The old ones were stronger and when wearing them I found things close-up blurred while distant things were clear.
I learned also, or had it confirmed, that the “glue pot” is under threat [ie. the ITGWU Research Department, which contained several “Official” Sinn Fein/Workers Party sympathisers]. But the ITGWU is “over-staffed” and talks of dismissing 20 officials, something that may cause Cathal MacLiam some concern [Cathal MacLiam worked as an ITGWU official]. At Belgrave Road Killian is a saucy fifteen-year- old who fancies himself as a “punk”. Egon has the air of a successful man. I think, as I have always thought, he is the best of them. He defended Conor – who is a wild “Militant” and has made Bebhin as bad – on the ground that he was “dedicated” while admitting he did not bother with politics himself.
Tony Coughlan told me he had been in Halle and Dorothea was very delighted – and assisted – because Michael O’Riordan was there [This was one of six biennial Halle conferences on “Ireland: Culture and Society” which Professor Dorothea Siegmund-Schultze organised at the university there. The GDR authorities laid on a special reception at this one because O’Riordan was one of the conference speakers]. Jack Mitchell told him he had “had a spot of bother” with me, but that he liked the poems. He asked for a copy so that he could review them in “Unity”[ie. the CPI bulletin in Belfast]. Feicimid! There was a card from Dorothea.
December 6 Tuesday: A letter came from Seamus de Burca and a cutting from Pat Bond, not the letter from Noel Gordon that was promised. I rang Peter Mulligan and told him the National Library had not received the missing copies. We agreed it looked as if Noel had not sent them, though I remember him talking about getting them from Toni Curran’s garage.
December 7 Wednesday: Noel Gordon tells me he posted me a letter on Monday evening. It has not arrived. This frequently happens with his mail. Does he forget to post things? I went to the Irish Centre for the meeting called for 9 pm. No sign of Michael Mortimer or Barney Morgan who was to have come from the Irish class. When the Irish class arrived, there was no Barney Morgan. He arrived at 9.45, Joe O’Grady at 10 and no Michael Mortimer. Barney gave no reason – but the permanent reason of his generally disorganised modus vivendi! Joe O’Grady had been delayed at a Union meeting. Brian Stowell was there, rather pleased at a reference to himself in the “Irish Democrat”. He invited me to his party on Saturday, but I am going to London.
December 8 Thursday: I did very little – a bit of clearing up, that is all. I rang Michael Mortimer who said he had forgotten all about last night’s meeting. But Barney Morgan had only told him on Sunday.
December 9 Friday: I wrote a few letters and cleared up the front room. The weather is turning warm.
December 10 Saturday (London/Liverpool): I went to London and found Charlie Cunningham, Noel Gordon, Jane Tate and Roger Kelly working on the new bookshop. They are getting good financial support but little practical help. Apparently London is alive with influenza and Charlie Cunningham has been off. However, they are making progress. According to Noel the CP is in a kind of “honeymoon period” till the E.C. meets in January. The critics have, he said, divided the leadership into five categories of which Gordon McLennan is not in the worst but the next-to-worst! I see from the “Morning Star” that Alan Winnington is dead. While it gives me no pleasure it causes me little concern. It must have been while I was in Golders Green, but still in touch with Bernard Voss, whom I had known in Surrey but whom I visited when he moved to Chancery Lane, that he invited me to the journalists’ CP branch. I was to explain some of the necessities of the Irish question to them. It must have been during the war, but I do not recall that aspect of it. There had been a remarkable performance of Brahms’s First Symphony at Golders Green. Was it 1943 or even 1942? Anyway I attended the meeting and found my bold Winnington there. He had come to disclose some wonderful new system by which journalists could use their talents for the sake of the party. Moreover, he strongly objected to my addressing the meeting, saying that while no doubt I could help them in the presentation of the Irish question, the system he had come to outline would help them in everything else as well. I protested and so did one or two more. Douglas Hyde was there, so it was before his defection [English communist journalist who converted to Catholicism]. However, they gave in to Winnington and I never heard a word of it afterwards and lost touch with Voss. The journalists, as far as Ireland was concerned, came out at the same door as in they went.
It used to happen all the time, and I must have been too much of a starry-eyed enthusiast to grasp its meaning. When Jimmy Shields talked to me about “all this rotten chauvinism” I did not connect it. Once a branch invited me to speak on the Irish question and Kay Beauchamp and George Rudé (now a professor of something or other) objected because I might convince them of something. I think the sheer effrontery of the thing took the wind out of my sails. I came back to Liverpool.
December 11 Sunday: It was cold and damp and by evening there was half an inch of snow that showed no signs of giving way before the promised rain. I got precious little done. Apropos of the chauvinist alliance of the British “Left” and the Unionists, I was talking to Joe Deighan in Belfast about Freeman, who gave £100 to Six County CP funds a fortnight before being proclaimed “left” candidate for the secretaryship of the TGWU. Joe said to me, “I hope he doesn’t get the job.” So do I.
December 12 Monday: Most of the snow was gone, but it was still chilly. I went into town and bought a few things.
December 13 Tuesday: The weather has turned mild again. I did some clearing up and looked at the Newsinger thing.
December 14 Wednesday (Dolgoch): I caught the 8.11 to Chester city and went on to Llanwrtyd, where it was raining. I had the wind behind me but cycled to Dolgoch in the wettest weather imaginable. At one point the brakes failed me and I had to jump off – bale out, so to speak. Everything was saturated. Even the sleeping bag had patches of wet. But De Roe had his anthracite fire glowing merrily. I arrived at 4 pm. and all was dry in a couple of hours. De Roe told me that Will Lewis had called. He is not the man he was. Apparently he smokes like a chimney and had a varicose vein which sent a clot to his lung. He was in great pain for weeks but managed to recover. He cannot get a tenant for Blaendothws because of his reputation for being disagreeable. He began as a farm servant at Nant yr hwch – I think when they were treated as the lowest form of life. De Roe told me that a woman who was passing called in to see the hostel floor. Why? “Many a long hour forty years ago I spent on my knees scrubbing that,” she said. Apparently that was her first task every day. She scrubbed one sixth each day so that the whole was done in a week. Mrs Jones, the farmer’s redoubtable mother, said to De Roe, “I cannot remember who that would be.” They don’t like to be reminded of it now.
December 15 Thursday: Today was dull but fair. I forgot to bring butter and thought of going into Tregaron, but it is early closing day. So I went for a walk.
December 16 Friday: Another mainly wet day. There was great excitement after a forestry man with a gun passed the door. All the sheep showed signs of alarm and an animal flashed past which De Roe said was a hound. Apparently there was a hunt last weekend and this must have been separated. De Roe rang up farmer Jones of the razor- edged nose. He came up but did not locate the stray animal.
December 17 Saturday: De Roe told me that 15 members of a Kidderminster cycling club were coming tonight and hoped I could “put up with them”. They were going to make a “Xmas dinner” they hoped we would join. They arrived at 8 pm., all young men – the oldest about 38, the youngest perhaps 18, mostly in their early twenties. They were damned good kids. I was most favourably impressed with the good temper, efficiency and voluntary discipline, granted that the meal was a trifle “al fresco,” but good enough. I could not tell who was “boss,” though it must have been the short, bearded man of 38 and another in his mid-thirties who was managing cook. They had had trouble on the way. A horse had bolted when they approached it and one of the youngest was knocked off his bicycle. They had dabbed him with TCP and though shaken he was not much the worse.
December 18 Sunday: The cyclists went back to Kidderminster leaving everything in the most perfect order – all without a trace of “management”. I never saw this outside Ireland before. So the English are capable of democracy if they are allowed to have it. I asked the unpretentious leader about my brakes. He put it right himself, with the aid of a bank clerk who often goes to Dolgoch. I laughed when I saw them away – dressed in bright red and yellow and carrying balloons attached to their handlebars and packs. “I don’t wonder the horse bolted when he saw you fellows!” I told the leader. I was talking to De Roe about them. They left the place better than they found it, all with perfect competence and no fuss. I remarked that we had seen the mentally deficient, then the morally deficient, then the healthy. “Normal youngsters”, said De Roe, “with animal spirits”. “Not so,” I replied, “above normal. If they were able to cycle 90 miles and prepare a meal as if they had merely walked in, they showed their superiority. They were not lazy.” This shows that the ordinary man is quite right to respect physical activeness. Most of them had ridden up the “devil’s staircase”. “Low gears?” I enquired. “Some”, said the bearded leader, “but they’re fit lads.”
December 19 Monday: I cycled to Hanwrtyd again in the rain – which went on all day yesterday as well – and took the afternoon train. While I was waiting for the rain to ease, which it did to some extent, De Roe told me of the murder in the Carn pysgotwr. The police were for a time at Dolgoch every day, and he was unceremoniously ordered out of his caravan while they searched it. But he made them tea and they paid for it. Apparently this Englishman got three years on the identification of the farmer and swore to “get” him. He did. Nobody will take the farm.
December 20 Tuesday (Liverpool): I did nothing much – Tony Coughlan is coming at the weekend, so I had to do some clearing up.
December 21 Wednesday: I went into the city and bought things.
December 22 Thursday: The shortest day, but mild and wet with the barometer below 29″. I don’t expect a cold winter, but these exceptionally strong spells often betoken a sharp change. I heard from Uinseann MacEoin.
December 23 Friday: Tony Coughlan rang up in the morning to say he was going to get married to Muriel Saidlear on January 2nd and would tell me all about it on Sunday.
December 24 Saturday: Tony Coughlan, who was in London, arrived in the evening. He has been engaged in feverish activity since he and Muriel decided to take the plunge. And he seems on top of the world. He had crossed overnight and visited Cal O’Herlihy and his wife, who is suffering from cancer which but for a GP’s wrong diagnosis might have been cured. You’d be terrified to put yourself in their hands.
December 25 Sunday: We went for a walk, otherwise sat and ate. Tony showed me a review of “Four Letter Verses” which Jack Mitchell has done for “Unity”, which is the only serious review – apart from Eoin Ó Murchú’s – that the thing has had, though he deplores my lack of infectious optimism.
December 26 Monday: Another day spent the same way. Muriel Saidlear and Tony Coughlan’s sister rang. The latter has come from Pakistan where she lives at the end of a dirt track 50 miles long.
December 27 Tuesday: Another similar day, but that we went into town where despite the Bank Holiday the crowds are at the sales.
December 28 Wednesday: Tony Coughlan left for another flying visit to London. He will travel to Dublin tomorrow. He is very sensibly having a Catholic wedding and wanted me to go. But I have the “Democrat” on my hands. It is already going to be late. Muriel rang up to warn him she did not want any “obey” in the wedding ceremony!
December 29 Thursday: I got off the song page, but nothing has come from Dónal MacAmhlaigh and Peter Mulligan is in Ireland so that I can’t contact him. The weather is surprisingly mild, though it usually breaks this week.
December 30 Friday: I continued with the paper. Nothing from Donal MacAmhlaigh yet. A letter came from the Labour Committee on Ireland, and Seán MacMathúna said he could not speak at the Liverpool lecture, but made two suggestions.
December 31 Saturday: Tony Coughlan rang up to see whether I could after all attend his wedding. It had crossed my mind to try, though I had got Helga [ie. Mrs Helga MacLiam] to buy him a present instead [This was a Waterford glass decanter]. But Dónal MacAmhlaigh’s copy still has not arrived and I may therefore have to fill in a page. So I had to say No. He sounds absolutely on top of the world! I got another page off. And finally I opened a bottle of wine and took no notice of the new year.
[End of Volume 32, covering the year 1983; c.58,000 words]