[To THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR: 9 f
Srit,—In your last issue Mr. Stephen Gwynn took you and others to task for supposing that cattle-driving is in the smallest degree a cruel form of political agitation. You have given him the true answer—facts—in your "News of the Week."
It is curious to note how susceptible are these agitators to any charge of personal responsibility for the effect of their whirling words; so anxious are they to clear their personal characters that they have not even time to verify their asser- tions. Mr. Gwynn, for instance, assures you that cattle-drivers do not go masked. Let me quote recent evidence to the con- trary. I read the other day a letter from a personal friend who was within three miles of Mr. Dove's estate when (on December 1st) "thirteen huge bullocks were burned alive, two hundred tons of good hay were burnt, a hundred barrels of old oats, a hundred tons of straw, rye, farm carts, a splendid new cattle-shed which held fifty beasts, and a new hay barn." That letter begins as follows;—" In this neighbourhood, almost every night, men with blackened faces go round and drive the cattle off, scatter them, smash the gates and fences, overpower the herds, and no one is caught."
I have also a letter from a gentleman who was on the spot when a drive took place at ICillocorigan, in County Meath. He states that it was a very dark night (December 3rd), and that the patrol found the gate of the field open :—
" Constable Hughes went through, and, before he had time to see any one, was knocked down by a blow on the head from a long pole. Constable O'Loughlin, who was following, was also knocked down. Hughes got on his feet, with the blood pouring over his face, and rushed towards the people driving the cattle and attempted to arrest one of them : he found this man disguised so that he could not identify him Owing to the darkness of the night and the disguises of the people, the police were unable to identify any one. Both policemen are now confined to bed as the result of the injuries received."
So much for the absence of " masks " at cattle-drives. But Mr. Gwynn and his friends, who have started or approved this agrarian agitation, can never have been foolish enough to think that they could confine it to driving cattle. It has spread far beyond this point : to the robbing of mail-bags,. to firing into houses, to boycotting and intimidation at the• instance of the United Irish League, as Mr. Gwynn must know. And disguises (probably black-lead or charcoal, not
"masks") play a prominent part in these exhibitions of disorder. For instance, on February 19th, at Ballinagleragh, a rural post- man . who was serving registered letters containing processes, on tenants, was set upon by a large body of men whose faces were blackened and otherwise disguised. On March 18th, at Inchigeelagh, a postman was waylaid by a band of disguised men, and his Majesty's mails were robbed. No arrests were made. On April 24th Mr. Forde's house at Brosna was attacked by a party of men, armed and disguised, who fired . several shots into the dwelling. On May 9th, at Loughrea, the houses of three citizens were raided and searched for arms by men with masked faces. On July 23rd, at Mullaghboy, a postman was attacked by three men disguised as women and robbed of letters supposed to contain writs. On Septem- ber 3rd two men, disguised and armed with revolvers, held up a youth named O'Keefe, fired into his cart, smashed it, and threatened the boy's life. On September 4th, near Macroom, another postman was attacked by a body of men armed and disguised, and forcibly deprived of his mailbags. On Octo- ber 22nd two young men, masked and armed, forced their way into Mr. Pickley's house in County Limerick and com- pelled him to give them his gun.
From these few instances it will be seen, therefore, that Mr. Gwynn is unnecessarily meticulous in complaining of Punch for the reference to " masks " coupled with cattle-driving. Disguises are quite common at these diversions, and also at most other demonstrations of agrarian disorder. Even the great Mr. Ginnell did not despise escaping in a pair of false. whiskers (was it not?) after promising the police to surrender on the conclusion of his last speech. Let Mr. Gwynn, verify his references, in the spirit as well as in the letter,. before challenging you, Sir, again. Luckily Mr. Birrell. has verified nearly all of mine from his place in the House of Commons.
"Let the fight be clean," says Mr. G-wynn. On this point we can all agree,—no driving cattle to an exhausted stand- still; no mutilation of dumb animals; no beating of his Majesty's Civil servants whilst doing their duty; no boycotting of whole families until life becomes unbearable ; no firing into the houses of peaceable citizens or at unsuspecting persons from behind hedges. The issue is a purely political one ; fight it out in the House of Commons.—I am, Sir, &c., IaN MaLcoLm.