English relations with Wales & Scotland in 1912


Dec 29, 2006
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Witney
Tarn Stephanos has asked a perfectly valid question about the relationship between England, Scotland and Wales in 1912 - a question which has some significance in relation to the Titanic when we remember that officers Murdoch and Lowe were Scottish and Welshmen respectively! However, Ireland seems to have gained some prominence in this thread thanks, in part, to Steve Shortman - who has introduced some errors of fact. One of these is relatively minor, insofar as Parliament did not send its army to Ireland until August 1649, and we should really be talking of Cromwell's campaign in the 1650s (as opposed to 1640s). On a more contentious level, I am surprised that Steve has referred to the ENGLISH militia putting down the 1798 rebellion in Ireland. Although some Welsh and English "fencible" and militia were undoubtedly present, I would have thought that most of the part-time forces involved in the defeat of the "98" were indigenous Irish units?
 
Apr 30, 2007
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Monica

I wasn’t stating my personal views just that of some people in general. Like you I believe today’s generation cannot be held responsible for the actions of their forefathers. The sea faring city I come from built it’s wealth on the slave trade in the eighteenth century and yet today’s local council are always being pressurised to apologise for the actions of the power brokers of two — three centuries ago because of their “shameful” behaviour. Barmy!

Stanley

Perhaps the three most significant landmarks in the recent history of Ireland/England conflict are the two I referred to along with the 1916 Easter Rising.

All involved the English (as far as the Irish are concerned but technically the British) going onto Irish soil and making a nuisance of themselves, to put it mildly. It’s difficult to summarise a whole military campaign in a couple of words but as you query my sentences I’ll just expand a little.

You are correct in that Olly Cromwell’s campaign in Ireland continued into the 1650’s but the two massacres for which he is infamously still remembered occurred in September/October 1649 at Drogheda and Wexford. (My mother was actually born and raised within a stones throw of the old besieged castle in Wexford).

In 1798 British government forces were sent to Ireland to support the local protestant (loyalist) Irish militia. The local forces were unable to quell the rebellion on their own (they had to retreat from their garrison in Wexford town for example). Without the additional yeomanry and hardware they would have struggled in what was effectively but not exclusively a battle between the Catholic people (representing 80% of the country) against the protestant establishment who were loyal to the British crown. At that time the majority of major land owners and all positions of power (representing the majority of the nation’s wealth) were in the hands of the British backed Protestants (at this time Catholics were not allowed to join the civil service, local militia or reach any position of power).

Of course there were nasty things perpetrated by both sides but as it was the Irish people who were defeated they unfortunately fared worse.

Last year I was actually stood on the top of ‘Vinegar Hill’, the scene of the final annihilation of the Wexford people in June 1798 by the British forces and it’s an awe inspiring place.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Steve
There is nothing that I would dispute in your recent comments, although the point about Catholics in the army may need amplification insofar as the army that defeated Napoleon was probably at least 50 per cent (perhaps as much as 75 per cent) Irish and Catholic. I have recently been working on the medal rolls of the 43rd and 52nd Light Infantry who fought alongside the Connaught Rangers as part of the Light Brigade — and they all seem to have been Irish!

My main point was a query about why you had referred to the “English Militia”￾ in 1798. It seems to me that the tragic events of 1798 were perhaps the most important event in modern Irish history. Users of this site have sometimes asked about the 1912 Home Rule crisis, and wondered why the Irishmen who designed and built the Titanic were so violently opposed to this wholly justified and reasonable measure. I would suggest that study of the 1798 Rebellion would provide the answer. The United Irishmen were formed in the aftermath of the French Revolution in a spirit of brotherhood and liberty. Its leaders were Protestants idealists such as Wolfe Tone and Edward Fitzgerald, but when the rebels started butchering every Protestant that they could lay their hands on the Protestants became alienated and angry, with the result that they retaliated in full measure. Am I not right in thinking that the Loyalists who won the Battle of Vinegar Hill were largely Irish Protestant Yeomanry and Militamen?

On another point, I am not sure that you are right about the class system in 1912. Many of the people in the Titanic story were from humble backgrounds — I am thinking of Captain Smith, Lawrence Beesley, Father Byles, second officer Lightoller, etc — yet they had all joined the ranks of the middle classes. I would think that education was the key to their success, and that the real gulf in 1912 was between the educated minority and the poorly-educated masses.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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The Irish had to put up with loads of stuff - from mainland nobility being given Irish estates from Tudor times onwards, to the invasion of Scottish Protestants into northern parts.

Cheeringly, I am related to an 'Irish' earldom via the usual route - a servant girl getting pregnant. My forebear apparently had more than a few guts, and nicked a substantial proportion of the ancestral silver before departing for England, and finding a (working-class) bloke to marry her just in time. Well done that girl!

PS We don't have any of the silver, although some of my father's elderly relatives could vaguely remember it from the 1880s...
 
Jan 28, 2003
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No. No silver, George. I think it was sold a long time ago. But g-g-g-granny must have been quite a girl as not only did she manage to keep her toiling husband quiet, but she also managed to keep her son's real father involved in his life .. he was very fond of his wrong-side-of-the-blanket lad, despite the mother's kleptomaniac tendencies. But maybe he connived at it, who knows? I'm not the most direct of the descendants, and I think the 'noble' family has died out now. If you go back far enough, I expect we've all got such exotic tales .. which makes my life seem just a bit dull by comparison!
 
Apr 30, 2007
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Stanley

1798 was certainly an important event but if you want to encourage people to study the rebellion it’s worth pointing out that they should first look at the 1691 Williamite revolution because this is where the seeds were sown for the eventual explosion of violence in 1798.

After the Protestant victory of 1691 the country was governed by a minority for the sole interest of a minority with the catholic population being taxed 10% of their income to maintain a church establishment of that minority. In addition anti catholic penal laws were enacted primarily to ensure the retention of catholic land and goods in protestant hands. Here’s a flavour of those laws:

Exclusion of Catholics from most public offices

Ban on intermarriage with Protestants

Catholics barred from holding firearms or serving in the armed forces (rescinded by Militia Act of 1793)

Exclusion from membership of Parliament

Exclusion from voting;

Exclusion from the legal professions and judiciary;

Ban on foreign education;

Ban on Catholics buying land under a lease of more than 31 years

Ban on custody of orphans being granted to Catholics

Ban on Catholics inheriting Protestant land

Prohibition on Catholics owning a horse valued at over £5 (in order to keep horses suitable for military activity out of the majority's hands)

Roman Catholic lay priests must register to preach.

When allowed, Catholic churches to be built from wood, not stone, and away from main roads.

No person of the popish religion shall publicly or in private houses teach school, or instruct youth in learning within the realm.

Life in Ireland in the eighteenth century wasn’t exactly fair and just for the Catholic majority.

The subsequent catalyst for change was the American Revolution. The British could not afford to antagonise the majority Irish population much more due to the unrest occurring in France, their main enemy at that time. Reform of the penal laws and emancipation was now on the agenda for the catholic people and this caused fear and apprehension amongst the Protestants who clearly had the most to lose. They reacted by establishing the Orange Society in the North of the country where they were in the majority and sectarian feuds began.

Your assertion that it was the Catholics who started the atrocities is way off the mark. Historians argue for and against who commenced the violence normally being biased in defence of their own faith. I take the view that both sides committed tit for tat violence and were as bad as each other.

My comment about the Irish forces being Protestants was really in reference to the Wexford area where my interest is centred.

When hostilities commenced the Yeomanry were almost entirely a Protestant force. Edward Hay, a leading historian of the rising who was in Wexford at the time, stated that “no catholic was admitted even to the old Irish volunteers (who were succeeded by the Yeomanry) in County Wexford”. He then adds, “Wexford was the only county where this was the case”. Clearly Catholics were enrolled in other Counties as you say. Apologies for not making my point clear.

I have also just read that the Irish militia for the most part consisted of Protestant officers and Catholic men. However they were described by the British Commander in Chief as “totally without discipline, contemptible before the enemy where any serious resistance is made to them…” and desertion was rife which gives the impression that the Catholics that were involved didn’t really have their heart in it.

Back now to 1912. I wasn’t implying it wasn’t possible to better one’s self with education and attain a higher status. The point I was trying to make concerned that of ‘attitude’ that the privileged class had towards the ordinary commoner. The four people you mention all had a certain status and as such wouldn’t be looked down upon like, for example, a labourer would have been. The different classes back then just didn't mix.
 
May 27, 2007
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My life is Dull too but I also have Illustrious Men and Women also in my family.
I'm related to Zane Grey. Look in gilded age-General fashion and the photo of my Great-Grandmother. Her Maiden name was Gussie Lucile Zane and she was Zane Grey's second cousin. Zane Grey's real name was Pearl Zane Grey and him and my grandmother were descended from Betty Zane a revolutionary war Heroine. you can read her story at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Zane. It's nice to see women weren't so docile and mild as they were made out to be.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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At 14, you're immortal and invincible.

The real difference between the terrific Elizabeth and now is that her parents in 2007 probably wouldn't even let her go to the Mall on her own, never mind run around shipping arms, and slipping past the enemy. Pity, really.
 
May 27, 2007
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I guess they raised kids to be a lot more self reliant in Frontier America. Fathers take their daughters as well their sons hunting. Everybody hunted in lean times. Elizabeth Zane could probably use as well smuggle gunpowder and ammunition. Though its safe to say she probably wasn't shotting at the redcoats till she got back to the fort if at all.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Witney
Steve,

This thread was supposed to be about the inter-relationship between England and the other "Home Nations" in 1912 - the year of the Titanic and the Third Home Rule Bill. My suggestion that the 1798 Rebellion is of seminal importance was meant to be taken in the context of Belfast and northern Irish history, insofar as, in my view, it explains why the men who built the Titanic were opposed to Irish Home Rule. The point is, the 1798 Rebellion initially involved both Protestants and Catholics in a common cause, but when the Catholics turned on their Protestant neighbours that momentary sense of unity was shattered. Other events, such as the Glorious Revolution and its aftermath are also important, but in different ways.

I do not say that Catholics initiated the violence - although I believe that, in historical terms, harsh measures taken by Protestants have typically been reactive. For example, the Cromwellian campaign was prompted by the appalling massacres of Irish Protestants that had taken in the 1640s, while the repressive anti-Catholic measures enacted by the Irish (not the English) Parliament after the Battle of the Boyne were seen as revenge for what had taken place during the 1680s. Many of these measures also applied to Protestant non-conformists.

I note that you are now referring to the “Protestant Yeomanry”￾, whereas in your original comment you spoke of the ENGLISH militia. There were four “part time”￾ forces at the time of the French wars — the Yeomanry, Militia, Volunteers and Fencibles. Yes, the Irish voluntary forces were said to be unreliable, in part because, given half a chance, they would turn their guns on their fellow countrymen as part of their endless religious disputes. I think it only fair to add that this was not the case with the regular Irish soldiers, most of whom seem to have been Catholics. These fine soldiers were fiercely loyal, not so much to England, as to their own regiments. I have often wondered if one of the reasons why they fought so well in Spain and Portugal was because they were helping Catholic countries that had been invaded by a vicious enemy?
 
Apr 30, 2007
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Stanley

Stanley

Yes, apologies for going too far off script but the opening thread did refer to the “tense relations between England & Ireland in 1912” and I thought it was important to cover what occurred in the lead up to that period.

Just to make a couple of final points though. You’re correct to point out that the events of the 1640’s need to be taken into consideration but then so should the preceding Tudor conquest of Ireland.

When looking back at events over history one must always try and look at the proximate cause of subsequent events. The tragic events that have occurred throughout Irish history essentially stem from the ever gracious Henry VIII who decided to declare himself King of Ireland in 1541 with the subsequent imposition of English law, language and culture in a country predominantly of the Catholic faith. Land was seized from the native Irish by protestant landlord settlers who received royal protection. Is it no wonder there was civil unrest for the next 300 + years.

Yes it was the protestant settlers who initially bore the brunt of the violence in the 1640’s and today we deem such a reaction wholly unacceptable but at that time land was all a man had to keep him and his family. There was no local housing policy, there was no social welfare. If he lost his land, he starved.

Yes there was an Irish parliament that was still in existence in 1798 but lets not kid ourselves on that one. Catholics were banned from it until 1800! It was a British appointed executive answerable to the British Government. Even today Catholic Sinn Fein members of parliament in Northern Ireland are not permitted to sit in the UK Houses of parliament as MP's because they refuse to swear allegiance to the British Crown.

(and as an aside; despite the UK's aspirations to be a multi faith society it’s still against the law — Act of Union 1801- for a Catholic to become King or Queen of England!!)

I must still disagree with your assessment of 1798. The Volunteer movement of the 1770’s and the United Irishmen formed in 1791 indeed had Catholic and Protestant members. However their policy of equality of citizenship and allowing Catholics to share in political power provoked a great deal of resentment and anger in the Protestant stronghold of the North where they naturally felt a great threat to their long held ascendancy. This led to the setting up of the militant Orange society in 1795 and they then began to intimidate the Catholics and the Protestant ‘dissenters’. It’s worth noting that in 1797 military commanders issued warnings that such actions were driving large sections of the peasantry to desperation and possible insurrection. The rising of course kicked off shortly thereafter.

The following extract from a British Commander in "The Wexford Rising in 1798" by Charles Dickson gives a flavour of what was happening at that time:

The yeomanry had been let loose upon the people. The Catholic peasantry were subjected to a ruthless campaign of terror and intimidation, a system described later by the lord Lieutenant and Commander — in chief, Lord Cornwallis as being “universal rape and robbery throughout the whole country’.

My reference to the “English militia” is of course incorrect. It was the fact that the 20,000 force who suppressed the 1798 rebellion were under the overall command of Lake, a British General, and Cornwallis that prompted me to refer to the fighting force as “English”.

PS. My mother is a Catholic, my father a Protestant and I’m indifferent to both faiths. All past wrongs need to be highlighted, from whatever quarter.

Ending on a positive note the relationship between the countries today is as good as it has ever been and the economy in the Republic of Ireland is booming.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Witney
I think the other great problem for the leaders of the 1798 Rebellion was that, as they had been inspired by the French revolutionaries, the Ulster Protestants who had started the revolt had strongly secular motives. This would, inevitably, have brought them into conflict with the largely uneducated southern peasantry, who were led by their priests. I have, as a matter of interest, found a reference to an unprovoked massacre of Catholics that was carried out near Newry by a "regiment of Welsh fencible cavalry" in 1797 - so there were clearly at least some non-Irish militia/yeomanry/volunteer/fencible units in operation in Ireland at that time.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Tarn Stephanos has asked a perfectly valid question about the relationship between England, Scotland and Wales in 1912 - a question which has some significance in relation to the Titanic when we remember that officers Murdoch and Lowe were Scottish and Welshmen respectively!
To add further to the historical nuances, I'd point out that Lowe was an Anglo-Welshman. Although a fluent Welsh speaker who used a shore address in Wales his entire life, his self-identity was English. His son told me that, going to school in North Wales in the 20s/30s, he regarded himself as very much an Englishman and looked down upon the local Welsh boys as "very much second class citizens." He held fast to the idea that although a cat might have kittens in an oven, that did not necessarily make them biscuits. Interestingly, this is probably more typical of Depression era tensions in Wales than the atmosphere in which his father, Harold G Lowe, grew up in Barmouth.

I think I'll sit on my hands to avoid getting into a discussion of centuries of English/British/Irish conflict. But you're right, Steve - it is a wonderful thing to see the blossoming of the Republic's economy and culture, and a positive relationship between Britain and the Republic (I wish generations of my family past could have seen it). I'm glad it's happened in my lifetime, and I hope to see peace furthered in the North as well. We may not forget the past - nor should we - but perhaps it can cease to torment us.