Tim Harrington would not welcome King Edward

Held in association with the 'Sullivans 400' celebration and the unveiling of a bust, the Beara Historical Society heard a talk on 'Timothy Charles Harrington, M.P., and the visit of King Edward VII to Ireland - One Hundred Years Ago'.

This was given by Fachtna O'Donovan, the first instalment of which was published last week, and we now continue as follows.

On the 15th of July the Irish Party assembled at the Rotunda to discuss its finances and the meeting was well publicised on any matter relating to the King's visit. The meeting was well publicised around the city. There was no question of discussion on any matter relating to the King's visit. The meeting was interrupted and seized upon by a group led by Maude Gonne who invaded the platform and demanded a public statement from Harrington on the position of providing a loyal address of welcome.
The incident led to a riot and bloodshed, as a result of which more than 40 people were hospitalised . The Press dubbed the night “ The Battle of the Rotunda,” and the “Irish Times” the following day described it as being “one of the most sensational incidents in the recent history of Irish politics.”

This meeting was advertised to start at 8pm and by that time a large body of people had assembled in the room. It was near 9 o'clock when the Lord Mayor entered and took the chair. While he was speaking, Maude Gonne McBride and the playwright Edward Martyn entered the room and took seats on the platform. There followed scenes of loud shouting and disorder from both sections in the crowd and on the platform. John Redmond was calling for order and Mrs.McBride was demanding an answer from the Lord Mayor as to welcome the King. The “Cork Examiner” reported the Lord Mayor Harrington then ‘jumped to his feet, apparently in great indignation, and was received with mingled cheers and groans, in the midst of which he was heard to say: “I hope now that the question has been put to me by Mrs. McBride, I hope I will be allowed to answer it. I will begin by saying, with all deference to her, there is nobody amongst the crowd that accompany her, who can point to a purer or cleaner record in Irish politics than I have.

When I see Mrs. McBride coming to ask me that question of the instigation of her deputation, one of whom until recent date, was not within the ranks of Irish national politics, but an enemy of advanced Nationality and Home Rule ( a reference to Edward Martyn who was until recently a strong Unionist), and I say that I can point to my record, and say that I never lowered the National flag, and I never will.” Amid shouts and cheers and general disorder, Mrs McBride again asked him to answer the question, to which Harrington calmly replied: “ Perhaps as the question has been asked I may tell Mrs. McBride that in the newspaper which represents her views a paragraph appeared last week, and is repeated this week, which was an utter tissue of falsehoods.

There was not a shadow of truth in the statement that I planned or contrived, there is no shadow of truth in the statement that I was offered a reward, or that I won't act to the best traditions. I am no flunkey; that is the only answer that you will get.” Again Mrs. McBride in a loud voice demanded a plain answer to the question, and a great scene of disorder of the crowd surging forward towards the platform.

Somebody attempted to pull a chair from the platform, and a fight resued with chairs freely thrown in all directions. After some time some of those who had interrupted the meeting were repulsed and Gonne and Martyn were moved towards the door. John Redmond then started to speak on the topic of the party's finances but general disorder prevailed in the auditorium for the remainder of the meeting.
The melee at the Rotunda would on the face of it “flashpoint” between the old form of nationalism of the Irish Party parliamentarians and the new more militant nationalism of Griffith. There was however another side to the story, which suggested a certain amount of mischievousness on the part of Maude Gonne.

In 1889 Maude went to the offices of the National League to offer her support. Harrington, aware of the propaganda benefits of her involvement, asked her to travel to Donegal to lend her support to the evicted tenants in the county.

Maude was delighted and reminded Harrington of the splendid work of the ladies Land League (which had been disbanded by Parnell). Harrington replied that “ they did do good work and some of us found that they could not be controlled.” Sensitive to his tone, Maude asked whether he disapproved of women in politics and he half-jestingly replied that their place was in the home, but that did not matter because they would find plenty work for her. This no doubt did not go down very well with such a liberated woman as Maude. In a separate incident, the poet W.B. Yeats, who was a member of the I.R.B., in 1903 asked Harrington to relinquish his Westminster seat to Major John McBride as a pro-Boer gesture, but Harrington had refused. Yeats, whose life long love of Maude was the inspiration of his greatest poetry, was devastated when she married McBride in 1903.

Maude Gonne, one of the most colourful characters of Irish history, was in fact an English woman. She was born in Surrey in 1866, the daughter of an Army Colonel. Two years after her birth her father was posted to Ireland and after her mother's death in 1871 she spent her childhood between her father in Dublin and relatives in England, which she hated.

After his death in 1886 her own illness took her to convalesce in France. She had a long affair with French nationalist Lucein Milleyoye, by whom she had two children. Through him she met the old Fenian John O'Leary and she joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood. It was under Maude's spell that Yeats became a member of the Nationalist Movement.

Maude was one of the most fervent opponents to Queen Victoria's visit in 1900 and in an act of defiance to the Queen's party for the children of Dublin, Maude founded Inghinidhe na h-Eireann ( Daughters of Ireland). In 1902 to celebrate the coronation of Edward, the landlord at the Hill of Tara planned a bonfire on top of the hill. Maude however arrived on the same day with 300 children and feeling that it would “serve a better purpose if burnt in honour of an independent Ireland,” she lit it and sang “ A Nation Once Again,” to the outrage of Briscoe, the landlord, and local police.

Maude married the Boer War veteran John McBride in February 1903. They separted in 1905 after a long wrangle over custody of their only child, Sean. John McBride was executed with the leaders of the 1916 Rising, in what was regarded as more of an act of revenge by the British for his Boer War exploits. His son Sean McBride, entered the Irish political scene of the 1930's, became an International lawyer, founded Amnesty International in 1961, and had the unique distinction of winning both the Nobel and Lenin Peace Prizes.

In her old age, Maude confided to a friend that she and John McBride had heard that the King and Queen England were going to visit Spain, and the two concocted a plot to assassinate the King. McBride was actually to do the deed but he needed a cover, which the honeymoon trip would provide. The story may have been a figment of an old women's imagination, or it may in fact have been what finally pushed Maude into marraige. The King did visit Portugal and Gibraltar in April of that year, so it might have been that their intelligence was inaccurate, leading them to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The couple's honeymoon was cut short due to McBride's heavy drinking, although when Maude returned on her own to Dublin she claimed that it was to mobilise public opinion against the King's visit. She called a meeting at her house and it was decided to confront the Lord Mayor at the Rotunda meeting, and by do doing, gain maximum publicity. The delegation called itself the ‘People's Protection Committee.” It was Edward Martyn who was to put the question to the Lord Mayor, but when he was too nervous to hold the prepared statement without trembing, Maude whisked it out of his hand and took command of the situation. Maude later claimed that their actions had removed Harrington from a difficult situation as no one could now suggest asking him to leave Dublin.

Maude was , at that time, only fresh from her stage performance in the title role of ‘Cathleen ni Houlihan', a play written specially for her by W.B. Yeats, and this no doubt contributed to her dramatic performance at the Rotunda auditorium

Courtesy of the Southern Star