Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 5

By "THE MAN IN THE STREET."

V.


I have hitherto dealt with the religious life, and changes of the last fifty years so far as they were represented, by the character and the occupants of the leading pulpits. I propose this week to touch on changes, personal and statistical, in. the public and commercial life of the city. But before I part for the present from the religious aspect I may quote the religion's statistics as they appear in the census returns preceding each period. According to the census of 1861, the denominational statistics were as follows:-- Presbyterians, 42,229; Protestant Episcopalians (or Established Church, as they were described at that period), 29,839; Roman Catholics, 41,237; and Methodists, 4,929. In the last census the returns were:-- Presbyterians were 139,575, 33.7 of the entire population; the Protestant Episcopalians, 118,173, 30.5 of the population; the Roman Catholics, 93,243 24.1 of the population; and Methodists, 23,782, 6.2 of the population.

In 1866 the Parliamentary representatives of Belfast were Sir H. M'C. Cairns, afterwards Lord Cairns, and Mr. S. Gibson Getty, both, of course, Conservatives. The municipal Corporation was on the same political basis, and was a very exclusive body at the time. It was not only Conservative, but largely Presbyterian too, though its Mayor for 1866 was Mr. Mullan, a Methodist. And the Methodists had a good deal of say in its affairs, for Mr. Robert Lindsay, who was for many years a leader of the Corporation, was a Methodist. There was one Roman Catholic in the body at that time, Mr. John Hamill, a most genial and kindly gentleman of property, who, however, was looked upon with askance by many of his own co-religionists, because he was connected with the Corporation or supposed to have some sympathies with its members and policy.

On looking over and thinking over the Corporation of my earlier years in Belfast, I could not help being struck by the fact that a larger proportion of them represented big industrial enterprises in the city to a greater extent than the present members of the Corporation do. It may be that in those days the pressure of business was not so great as at present, and that these gentlemen could afford more time for municipal affairs than their compeers of the present day. It may be that in these democratic days electors now do not look with the same favour on the industrial or commercial capitalists as they did in those old days. Or it may be that tastes as well as customs and manners have changed, and that these men do not care to join in the hurly-burly of municipal life. But the fact remains. The names of Ewart, Matier, Carlisle, Lindsay, Coey, Taylor, Lytle, M'Causland, Duffin, Homer, Herdman, Lanyon, Oulton, Kinahan, Gaffikin, and Brown all suggest associations with large and important industrial and commercial undertakings. Two prominent members of the time, Mr. John Suffern and Mr. Sam Black, were solicitors, and the latter crowned his Corporate career by becoming Town Clerk and Solicitor, and as Sir Samuel Black.

Among those whom I knew personally, and who have representatives still among us, were Mr. Wm. Bell, Mr. John Lytle, Mr. Sam. M'Causland, Mr. Chas. Duffin, Wm. Mullan, Mr. Robert Lindsay, Mr. George Horner, Mr. Sam Browne, Mr. (afterwards Sir) Jas. Haslett, Mr. Alex. Crawford, Mr. R. Boag, Mr. Henry Matier, and Mr. Thos. Gaffikin. Mr. Jas. Guthrie fifty years ago was Town Clerk; Mr. Samuel Bruce, Town Solicitor; Dr. R. F. Dill, Borough Coroner; Mr. J. J. Montgomery, Town Surveyor; and Mr. Geo. Reilly, Superintendent of the Fire Brigade. Since those days the Corporation has now a palatial home, which it had not fifty years ago; and it controls an area nearly double the size, but it consists of sixty instead of forty members. There are more professional men in the Council now than in the olden time, and relatively fewer men connected with large undertakings, and they are a more mixed body, for they include eight Roman Catholics, whereas the old Corporation only contained one, and there is no likelihood that any of them will be suspected, as Mr. Hamill was, of coquetting with the other sections of the body when the interests of faith or class are concerned. Still, it would ill become me to say a disrespectful word of the present Corporation, for the majority work hard, and if they wrangle now and then I must conclude that it is all intended for the good of the city. And least of all could I, if I would, say a disrespectful word of its Lord Mayor, Sir Crawford M'Cullagh, who has won golden opinions from all sorts of men both in and out of the Council for the ability, energy, and impartiality with which he has presided over the civic affairs, and especially for the noble and patriotic part he has played since the war added to his anxieties and responsibilities. With Mr. Meyer as Town Clerk, Mr. John M'Cormick as City Solicitor, Mr. Moneypenny as City Chamberlain, and Mr. Geale as City Accountant, the work of the Council goes on with great smoothness, and with as little grumbling, or cause of grumbling, as could be expected in the work of a public body.

Then there was the Harbour Board, that then, as now, prided itself on its occupying a higher election than the Council, in part possibly because its franchise is higher and its duties of a more purely business character. In 1886 Sir James Hamilton, a man of most refined culture, was chairman, and the Board consisted of fourteen members, the cream of the commercial life of the city. Their names will be a guarantee of their position. They were -- Robert Patterson, James Girdwood, Robert Corry, John Lytle, Jas. Macaulay, Sir E. Coey, James Carlisle, Charles Duffin, Wm. Mullan, Wm. Valentine, Robert Boyd, S. M'Causland, and Lord Pirrie. Mr. Wm. Thompson was the then secretary, and the names of O'Connell Shaw, H. J. Hill, and David Moore figure in the list of clerks, and are all at present alive and well, enjoying well-earned pensions. Mr. W. Redfern Kelly, C.E. and J.P., was in the service of the Commissioners at that time on its engineering side, and he, too, has had a long and honourable day in the service of the Commissioners, and is in the enjoyment of a well-earned pension.

The Water Board was not so aristocratic or select, but it contained the names of two men who made history – Joseph G. Biggar and John Rea.

While I am looking up old names of a century ago, I notice, and must refer to the professors of the colleges of those days of great men. Of the old Queen's College Rev. Dr. P. Shouldan Henry was President, the staff included men of special eminence – MacDoual, Andrews, Nesbitt, Purser, Everett, Wyville Thompson, and James Thompson. In the Assembly's College the Rev. Dr. Cooke was President of Faculty, and the professors were Killen (afterwards President), Porter (afterwards President of Queen's College), Murphy, Wallace, Glasgow – few, but select. Of the Methodist College, which had just been started, Mr. Wm. Arthur was Principal, Dr. Robinson Scott was Vice-Principal, and Dr. Crooks headmaster.

Of newspapers in 1866, we had the "News-Letter" and "Whig," daily, with weekly editions; the "Banner of Ulster," "Morning News," and "Ulster Observer,", tri-weekly; with the "Weekly Press," the "Ulster General Advertiser,' and the "Mercantile Journal." We have now more pacers, and larger papers and more news; but in many ways the papers of that time did the work, and did it well. We have no "Mercantile Journal" and "Ulster Advertiser" now but we have a "Linen Trade Circular" that serves a good trade purpose. In addition, we have the "Irish News" and a weekly issue, the "Evening Telegraph" and a weekly issue, "The Witness," the "Christian Advocate," the "Ulster Guardian," and the "Irish Churchman," and two trade papers in the grocery interest, the "Irish Grocer" and the "Irish Grocery World." No doubt the papers have much greater circulation now than they had then, and are larger sheets; but there was a compactness and terseness about the news and comments in the olden days that were quite satisfying. It is true that to-day we have columns each day of what takes place in London or New York, from Parliament to the Divorce Court, from New York to San Francisco; or even from the Antipodes, instead of a few lines. But I sometimes think we would do just as well with the few lines. Yet with all we get we are like Oliver Twist, asking for more. I must in justice to our daily papers, both morning and evening, say that I do not think there is a city in the kingdom, having regard to its location and population, that is better served in the matter of newspapers than Belfast is. I have often been surprised on returning from visits to London, and looking back over files of the local papers, to find how complete and up to the last hour was the information provided to Belfast readers. They were kept as much abreast of the news and the times as the people in London.

As an indication of the growth of Belfast, I may mention that in 1866, according to the returns, Belfast contained 25,493 houses, with a population of 143,299; while, according to the latest return now, the number of houses is 83,700 (a large number of houses were pulled down in West Belfast last year), and the population returned at 339,000 odd. But I may say that the returns of the year made it as high as 403,000 odd, and the present difference is accounted for by the number of our brave young citizens estimated to be at the front. In 1866 the return of vessels arriving at the port was 7,422, with a tonnage of 1,372,326, with a surplus revenue of £15,498. The coal imports of that date were 600,732 tons; the imports of deal 6,155 (hundreds), and of timber 23,760 loads. According to the last report, the total vessels cleared was 9,037 – it must be remembered, however, that steam has taken the place of sailing ships, and represents larger cargoes – and the registered tonnage 3,288,605. The coal imports represented 1,320,778 tons, and the exports 14,756 tons; deals, 58,035 loads, and timber, 14,345 loads, with wrought timber 1,101 loads – with 3,200 loads of timber and 4£6 loads of wrought timber exported. The surplus revenue of the port was £32,088 2s 4d.

In the matter of linen in 1866 the number of mills and factories in town was forty-four, and the total now is fifty-two. In the former year the number of spindles was 462,484, and in this year it is 588,582. The number of looms in 1866 was about 6,000, and this year it is 17,164. In 1866 the price of flax averaged 11s 6d per stone, and now it is 22s. It should be remembered, however, that there was an inflation of price on account of the boom in trade after the American war, and that there is now an inflation on account of the present war.

And last we come to our local banks, that have ben such important factors in the prosperity of the community and in the prosperity of their shareholders. We find that the note issue of the local banks in 1866 was £1,633,000, while in the present year it is, according to the last returns, £5,181,283.


To be continued...


From The Witness, 21st July 1916.

The "Man in the Street" was the pen name of Alexander McMonagle editor and manager of The Witness and Ulster Echo.






Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Sons of Ulster


No dream of glory lured them forth
    From the fair land they loved so well;
No martial ardour fired their hearts
    And held them by its subtle spell.
Theirs were the arts of peace, content
To labour for earth's betterment.

But when the hour of danger struck
    They heard their, country's call, and laid
Aside the tasks of every day –
    The scholar's gown, the gear of trade.
Heedless of self, they took their stand
For God, for right, for Motherland.

True sons of an Imperial race,
    Proud of their glorious heritage,
Strong with the strength that freedom gives
    To those who honour's conflicts wage,
They feared no foe save treacherous ease
When duty beckoned o'er the seas.

Dauntless they faced the risks of war,
    And quelled not when the order came
To charge across the fatal field
    Through the grim battle's furnace flame.
Heroes they fought and heroes fell,
Unconquered and unconquerable!

Oh, Ulster homes where sorrow dwells,
    A guest that will not be denied,
Admit another inmate, too,
    For on the threshold standeth pride.
Mourn, but be proud, and at grief's shrine
Let laurels with your cypress twine.

Sentinel hills by Belfast town,
    Watch for the dawn of victory's day,
And for the ships that homeward bring
    Conquerors returning from the fray!
Ulster shall greet with glad acclaim
Sons who have won her deathless fame.

And what of those who come no more?
    Under the kindly soil of France
Sleep their bodies by battle worn,
    But they have made the great advance,
Crossing death's frontier, out of strife
Into the realm of endless life.

JAMES E. ARCHIBALD.


Poem: The Witness, 21st July 1916.
Image:  Group of the Royal Irish Rifles, 36th Ulster Division, before parading for the trenches. Near Bertincourt, 20 November 1917. © IWM (Q 3175).



Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 4

By "THE MAN IN THE STREET."

IV.


If the Presbyterian Church in Belfast has grown in the last half century, so have the other Evangelical Churches, and the Roman Catholics as well. In 1866 the Protestant Episcopal, or, as it was known in those days, the Established Church, had fifteen churches, including a military chapel in the barracks, of which the Rev. Richard Oulton was tho chaplain. These were St. Anne s (parish), St. George's, Christ, St. Matthew's, St. Mark's, Mariner's, Magdalene Asylum, Trinity, St. Paul's, St. John's, St. Lukes, St. Mary's, and Ballymacarrett (parish). Of the ministers of that day those that bulk largest in my remembrance were the Rev. George Millar, Vicar of Belfast, as he was called; the Rev. William M'Ilwaine, St. George's; Rev. Robert Hannay, Christ; Rev. E. J. Hatrick, Magdalene; Rev. Chas. Beauclerck and Rev. E. N. Hoare, St. Anne's; Rev. I. H. Deacon, Trinity; and Rev. T. W. Roe, Ballymacarrett.

There was one name, however, on all lips at the time, and that was the Rev. Dr. Drew, who had been minister of Christ Church from 1833 till 1860, when he was appointed Dean of Mourne. Dr. Drew was a great Protestant and Orange hero of the time, and his name was historically and poetically connected with Sandy Row for a generation.

Afterwards known as the Rev. Dr. M'Ilwaine, the minister of St. George's occupied a unique position, in the Church and the city, as antiquarian and scholar, writer and preacher, and left behind him a reputation that is still cherished as a memory in his church. The Rev. Chas. Seaver, afterwards Archdeacon of Connor, was in his time one of the most active and energetic preachers in the Church, who took a great part in the political life of Ulster, especially as it affected the question of Disestablishment. He left a fine reputation and a large family, that is still well represented in the Church and in other departments of useful life work. Mr. Hannay, afterwards Rev. Dr. Hannay, was the father of the brilliant son, who, as "Geo. A. Birmingham," has made himself and his country famous in connection with an important department of Irish literature.

Among those who occupied minor positions about that period or a year or two later was the Rev. Geo. A. Chadwick, who was a curate of St. Anne's, with whom during his later years in the city I came much in contact. He came to Belfast with some Dublin journalistic experiences, and was popular as a preacher and a writer. In due course he became Bishop of Derry, from which position he retired some months ago, being succeeded by the Rev. Dr. Peacocke, of whom I had some pleasant associations while I resided in Bangor, where he was then rector.

I find on looking over the list that no fewer than twenty-four churches have been added in that period, and worked with great energy and success. In Bishop D'Arcy and Dean Grierson the Episcopal Church has at its head two men of marked ability, and to both of whom the Church and the Union and the cause of the war and recruiting for the war and interest in it owe much. Among the others I must make special mention of the Rev. Dr. Murphy, of St. George's, whose activities are many, and whose abilities and enthusiasm are great, and the Rev. Dr. Stephenson, of the Magdelene Church, who on the platform as in the pulpit has served faithfully the Church and the various causes, local and Imperial, with which it is identified.

The Methodist body had fourteen churches or congregational agencies about fifty years ago, of which eight were Wesleyan, four Primitive Wesleyan, one New Connexion, and one Methodist. Donegall Square, Eliza Street, University Road, Falls Road, Frederick Street, Old Lodge Road, Agnes Street, and Ballymacarrett were the Wesleyan. Donegall Place, Hope Street, Ballymacarrett, Crumlin Road, and Melbourne Street the Primitive; and York Street, known as Salem, and which is now the headquarters of the North Belfast Mission, of which the Rev. Wm. Maguire is the zealous and energetic head. There were several ministers of note connected with the body in that time of whom I remember — the Rev. Wm. Arthur, the first head of the Methodist College; the Rev. J. W. M'Kay, who succeeded Sir Arthur in that position; Dr. Appleby, Wesley Guard, J. J. Landers, John Olliver, Geo. Alley, and W. H. Quarry.

To the congregations or organisations of the body in that time eighteen have been added, the most notable of which are the Carlisle Memorial Church, with its fine schools, once an architectural ornament and a centre of religious activity, and of which the Rev. R. Lee Cole has been the minister for some years. I regret to learn that Mr. Cole is now leaving Belfast for another sphere of duty, as he is an able and popular preacher and lecturer, a fine gentleman, and a minister whose special discourses on the war and its moral have been both interesting and informative. The Grosvenor Hall organisation is an important feature of the Methodist life of the city, of which the Rev. R. M. Ker is the director, a man of great energy and enthusiasm, who has exercised great influence in connection with, the many activities of the hall.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church, in the early time under review, had two congregations, over one of which the Rev. J. A. Chancellor, afterwards D.D., was the minister; a man of ability and power in his day and generation. The body now has five congregations in the city. The Congregational body, or Independents as they were then termed, had in 1866 only two congregations, and the Baptists one. The former have now eight churches and the Baptists seven. The only notable man I remember in connection with either of these bodies was the Rev. John White, minister of Donegall Street Independent Church, who was a man of great individuality and power, and an effective force in the evangelistic life of the city.

The Unitarians had three churches in 1866, and have five now. The prominent minister of the body was the Rev. John Scott Porter, who was a man of high scholarship and culture, who represented what was best in the Arianism of his time. The Roman Catholics had five places of worship in 1866, and now they have eighteen. I have no memory of any of the clergy of that Church at that time save the Bishop, Rev. Dr. Dorrian, who was regarded as representing the advance towards Ultramontanism that had set in under Cardinal Cullen, in that respect differing much from his predecessor, the Rev. Dr. Denvir, who represented the pre-Cullen class of bishops and church.

By the way, I have overlooked the United Presbyterian Church, of which the Rev. Dr. Bryce was minister. He was a brilliant member of a brilliant family, and has since earned the highest distinction in educational and public life. Dr. Bryce served the congregation in addition to discharging the duties of principal of the Belfast Academy, then conducted in Academy Street. And it is not too much to say that whatever impression Dr. Bryce may have made in the pulpit, he left a lasting impression on the educational life of the city. Many men who afterwards gained distinction received their education from him, one of the greatest of them being Lord Cairns, who crowned a brilliant legal and political career in England as Lord Chancellor.

Though in the 'sixties Belfast may have fallen somewhat from the high literary position it occupied in the previous century and in the early period of the last, it had the Belfast Athenaeum, the Linen Hall Library, and a People's Reading-room in Donegall Street and the libraries of the Queen's and Assembly's Colleges to represent its literary interest; the Natural History and Philosophical Society and the Naturalists' Field Club, to represent its scientific side; the Anacreontic and Classical Harmonists, to represent its musical; while it had the Royal Academical Institution, the Methodist College, and the Belfast Academy, with St. Malachy's Diocesan Seminary, to provide for its Intermediate education. The Queen's University and the General Assembly's College then, as now, represented the higher education. There was then a Young Men's Christian Association, which met in an upper room over what is now Messrs. Anderson & M'Auley's large emporium, but it was then a mere babe compared with the full-orbed and fully-equipped organisation in Wellington Place that now bears its name. Mr. W. S. Mollan, who is still amongst us, was the secretary of that association at the time I first remember. In looking over the list of committee in an old directory of that date, I find the name of Robert Anderson, in whom I can find little difficulty in recognising the present Sir Robert Anderson, who remains in his old age a pillar of the institution with which he was identified in his youth.


To be continued...


From The Witness, 14th July 1916.

The "Man in the Street" was the pen name of Alexander McMonagle editor and manager of The Witness and Ulster Echo.







Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 3

By "THE MAN IN THE STREET."

III.


Last week I took note of the ministers of Belfast as I remember them fifty years ago and for some years afterwards. I referred to the increase of ministers and congregations in the meantime, but I did not refer to the changes or transformations of churches in the interval. I need not say that if a Belfast Presbyterian returned from the States and visited his old church he would not recognise it so far as its internal arrangements are concerned. Perhaps the only congregation that has maintained its old architectural characteristics is Rosemary Street, which is as it was of yore, only brightened and fashioned to meet the ravages of time. May Street, with its new organ, new pews, and new windows would be unrecognisable by a May Street man of fifty years ago.

But the visitor of the States would look in vain for Alfred Street, Linenhall Street, Fisherwick Place, Donegall Street, or Great George's Street. He would find the Alfred Street building a set of offices; the old Linenhall Street a seat of the linen industry; Fisherwick Place occupied by the Assembly Hall; old Donegall Street by shops and offices, and Great George's Street by a foundry. What was Alfred Street Congregation in the days of the Rev. Geo. Shaw is now known as Fitzroy Avenue, and has made a new history under that name by the pulpit ministrations of the Rev. W. Colquhoun and its liberality, especially to missions. The Fisherwick Place of old now occupies a commanding position in more senses than one on the Malone Road. In the Rev. Chas. Davey it has a minister who sustains the traditions of an able and earnest pulpit, and in all that makes for Presbyterianism, for loyalty, and liberality to Church. Fisherwick is no unworthy successor of Fisherwick Place.

If the shade wanted to find some reminiscence of old Donegall Street he would have to wander up to Cliftonville, where he would find the Rev. A. F. Moody, an able preacher and pastor, and learn that the Rev. Dr. Magill, immediate successor of the Rev. Isaac Nelson, is still alive, and senior minister of the congregation. It might be that he would find the pulpit ministrations of 1916 somewhat different from those of 1866; but he would find a much larger congregation and a more living and evangelistic spirit prevailing. The shade from Great George's Street might find it difficult to recognise his old congregation in the Macrory Memorial Church in Duncairn Gardens, and might find the Rev. Mr. Northey less humorous and eccentric than Mr. Toye; but he would find a congregation with life and spirit and earnestness, of which the greatest lover of Great George's Street or the Church would have no reason to be ashamed.

In this connection it may not be out of place to recall an incident in which two of the ministers of the earlier period of this record are concerned -- though it occurred about three or four years after 1866. I was present at a visitation in Donegall Street Church when the Rev. Isaac Nelson was its minister. I can well remember that Mr. Nelson's replies to the questions were more cynical and sarcastic than conventional. After the prescribed questions in the Code had been answered a la Nelson, the Rev. Geo. Shaw asked Mr. Nelson if he had a lease for the church. He said he had, but it would expire in a few years. "Have you made arrangements for a renewal?" asked Mr. Shaw. "No," replied Mr. Nelson. "What do you intend to do?" was Mr. Shaw's next query. "Oh," replied Mr. Nelson, "we mean to sell our church to a linen company, and build another in the suburbs." (At that time the old Alfred Street building was in possession of a linen company, and Fitzroy Avenue had been built in the then suburbs. Since that time the site of Donegall Street has passed into commercial hands as well.) But let me say this in justice to Mr. Nelson, that the Nelson Memorial Church, on the Shankill Road, is a proof that whatever may have been his characteristics as a cynic, he did not forget on his death the church of his fathers.

In my last I referred, as far as space and necessity would admit, to the churches and ministers of fifty years ago. Since that a formidable list of congregations and ministers has bean added to the Belfast Presbytery, and as part of my object is to deal not only with the past, but the present, I feel bound to give a list of the additions that have been made since. I follow no order of date or circumstances, but take them at random from the list. We have Malone, which is a new church, though not a new congregation, but a continuation of that of which the late Rev. Joseph Mackenzie was minister. The Rev. A. J. Wilson, now D.D., was the successor of Mr. Mackenzie, and is now senior minister, with Rev. Jas. Haire as his able assistant; Mountpottinger, whose first minister was my old journalistic friend, the Rev. David Hunter, followed by Rev. Mr. M'Caughan, and with the Rev. Robert Duff as their eloquent successor; Fortwilliam, with the Rev. James Maconaghie, D.D., as its first, and now senior minister, and the Rev. A. Lyle Harrison, son of my old friend of Castlebellingham as assistant and successor; the Cooke Centenary, with the Rev. Dr. John Macmillan, eloquent as preacher and speaker and brilliant and enthusiastic as temperance advocate; St. Enoch's, with its tradition of Dr. Hanna and the Rev. Charles Davey, and now represented by the Rev. John Pollock, a man of power in the pulpit and on the platform; Agnes Street, with the Rev. Samuel M'Comb as its first pastor, and now ministered to by the Rev. W. J. Baird, who in so much interested in Evangelical and religious work of the Church and the city; Windsor Church, in which, the late Rev. Mr. Ferris ministered so successfully for many years, and in which the Rev. Dr. John Irwin sustains a high reputation both for himself and his congregation by the brilliancy of his pulpit ministrations and the liberality and loyalty of his people.

Then there is the congregation connected with the Shankill Road Mission, of which the Rev. Dr. Henry Montgomery is the head; a man as unique as his work, a man of immense faith and of limitless works; Dundela, to which Professor Heron gave some years of cultured preaching, and where the Rev. James Hunter now sustains the high character for Evangelical work, carried on with vigour, earnestness, and success; Westbourne, where the Rev. W. Witherow combines great activity with Evangelical earnestness, and is doing a great work for the religious and educational life of the district; Newington, of which the late Rev. John Waddell was the first minister, devoted, earnest, Evangelical, and in which the Rev. T. M. Johnstone sustains a high reputation as the living and active minister of a living and active church; Broadway, where the Rev. J. W. Gibson has proved a pillar of sound Presbyterianism, and sound Unionist principles, in the very heart of the Falls Road district; the Megain Memorial, where the Rev. James M'Connell ministers with great energy, devotion, and success; and the M'Quiston Memorial Church, where the Rev. D. D. Boyle has taken up and worthily wears the mantle that fell from the shoulders of my old friend, the Rev. T. R. Ballantine, who has given to South Africa what proved so valuable in Mountpottinger.

But I find I am once more carried away by my feelings and my pen, and I must have some regard for space, and content myself with mentioning the Crumlin Road, with the Rev. D. K. Mitchell as its veteran standard-bearer; Donegall Pass, with the Rev. Jas. Dewar, thoughtful and cultured; Donegall Road, with the Rev. J. M. M'Ilrath, original, forceful, faithful; Castleton, where the Rev. James Knowles, a friend of my earlier years, and an earnest and practical preacher, has been succeeded by the Rev. A. P. Black; Whitehouse, with the Rev. Robert Barron, D.D., as its earnest and faithful minister; Woodvale, where the Rev. John Milliken carries on a faithful ministry; Bethany (Agnes Street), a fine new church, of which the Rev. Samuel Simms is the earnest minister; Fountainville, where my old friend, the Rev. Hans Woods, ministered for many years, and where the Rev. A. Gallagher is an able and popular minister; Cregagh, with the Rev. D. Stewart, at once preacher and historian; Oldpark, with the Rev. Wm. M'Coach, an old Derryman, as its popular minister; Bloomfield, with the Rev. Campbell M. Young, a forceful and earnest preacher; the Nelson Memorial, with the Rev. W. G. Smyth as excellent minister and active worker; and Ravenhill, Ulsterville, Strand (Sydenham), and Ormiston, of which the Revs. Messrs. Ross, Rodgers, Byers, and Tolland are the respective ministers, of all of whom report speaks well.

I should mention that several of these new churches were the outcome of the work of the church extension scheme set on foot over a quarter of a century ago, and which did much for the extension of Presbyterianism in the city.

Let me add here by way of appendix what I had written as a prefix, and overlooked last week.

If a kindly fate brought me to Belfast, a kindlier fate associated, or rather re-associated, me with Presbyterianism, whose interests in my humble way I have done my best to serve. From the "Derry Standard," with its staunch Presbyterianism, and from Dr. James M'Knight, as Editor, whose memory and worth deserved more recognition than it received, both from his qualities as a scholar and journalist and his services to Ulster Tenant Right and Ulster Presbyterianism, to the "Banner of Ulster," was but a step. And my youthful interest was not lessened by the fact that in the palmier days of that journal Dr. M'Knight had been its Editor in days when Editors were content to write for the newspapers, and not to run the universe. It was here I first met the late and great Dr. M'Cosh, then professor in the Queen's College. The fact was recalled to my mind at the time of writing by reading a tribute paid to his great work in Princeton in an American magazine by the head of another American university. Dr. M'Cosh took a great interest in the "Banner," and was frequently in the office, advising, pushing, inspiring.

He was a man of fine and strong bodily presence, and his speech was far from contemptible. There was an earnestness, an intensity of thought, a persuasiveness, a pervasiveness about his personality that left its mark upon the college and its students at a time when it had a smaller band of professors and students than it has now, but when brilliancy was the stamp of almost every one of the former and of many of the latter, as their after careers proved. It was there, too, I first made the acquaintance of one of the latter, Mr. Huston Dodd, now known to the Bench and to all the country as the Hon. Judge Dodd.

I will not say that "The Witness" arose out of the ashes of the "Banner;" but it arose out of a magazine printed and published in the office, and styled "The Evangelical Witness." This was edited by the Rev. John Hall, then of Rutland Square, Dublin, but afterwards known to all the world as Dr. John Hall, of Fifth Avenue Church, New York. Dr. Hall, like Dr. M'Cosh, was built on a large mould, and, like him, was an impressive and persuasive personality; but he gave to the pulpit and practical religion what Dr. M'Cosh gave to the Queen's College and philosophy. While both were friendly and kind to me, I must admit that I was able to read with interest, and, I hope, profit, Dr. Hall's writings, but I am ashamed to confess that I was never able to read Dr. M'Cosh's with either. He soared to heights of philosophy I could not reach, and to depths that I could not plumb.

I may here say, while I am in reminiscent and historical mood, that "The Witness" owes its origin to the present President of the Queen's College, the Rev. Dr. Hamilton, who presided with great faithfulness and fairness over its fortunes till he was called to a larger sphere of usefulness and to greater dignity than either the pulpit or the Press could offer. He has been a kind friend of "The Witness" and of myself since, and no one rejoices more than I do at the able manner in which he has sustained the new dignity that has been his.


To be continued...


From The Witness, 7th July 1916.

The "Man in the Street" was the pen name of Alexander McMonagle editor and manager of The Witness and Ulster Echo.






Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916) part 2

By "THE MAN IN THE STREET."

II.


Having regard to my "Witness" associations, it is not unnatural that I should give an early thought to the religious side of Belfast, and especially to the Presbyterian side of half a century ago as compared with the present. Then, as now, the Presbyterians were the leading religious body in Belfast in numbers and influence. Their activities at the time were many, and their labours as abundant relatively as now. The population has more than doubled since that time, and so have the churches and ministers, but I question if the wants of the masses of Presbyterians are better supplied in proportion to the demands. Fifty years ago we had talk of the lapsed masses just as wie have to-day, but while the agencies are much more numerous I am afraid the tale of lapsed and lapsing is as doleful as it was half a century ago. Indeed, I am afraid the tendencies and temptations of these times are greater than they were, and the indisposition to church-going, if possible, more general and baneful.

On looking over the Minutes for 1866, I find there were about thirty congregations and ministers in connection with the Belfast Presbytery at that time. Now there are sixty-three, but I do not think the proportion of increase is as great as the increase of the population. This may not be the time or place to raise that question, but it is one that should be kept before the members of the Church even more than it is.

The Belfast Presbyterian pulpit was well manned fifty years ago by men many of whom left their mark not only on their own congregations, but on the Church and country at large. The Rev. Dr. Cooke at that time was nearing the close of his brilliant career, but his very name was a tower of strength, and even in his decline, he was great. I heard him more than once in his historic pulpit in May Street, a church that was built for him, and his presence and look suggested greatness as well as goodness. His glance may not have been as keen, his voice as full, or his frame as powerful as at the time "he shattered to atoms the fabric of falsehood" the no less great Dr. Montgomery, his Arian antagonist, had created "with the talisman of truth," but one could not look at him, or listen to his clear and resonant tones, without at once realising the truth of all that had been told regarding him or done by him.

Then there was Dr. Morgan, of Fisherwick, saintly, gentle, good, and kind, a man who was consumed by the love of God and the love of his people, and gave himself up not only on the Sabbath, but on the weekday, to the service of his people and the Church. The relations between Dr. Morgan and his people were peculiar and special. It was not a case so much of pastor and people as of friend and friend, a sort of elder brother relationship, of which sincere and deep affection was the bond. Dr. Morgan did all his ministering so gently and sweetly that love went hand in hand with duty and grace with both.

Then there was the Rev. John Macnaughtan, Scotchman of Scotchmen, Presbyterian of Presbyterians, preacher of preachers, orator of orators. He was a man of small stature, but well-knit body and mind. He was a lamb in his normal state, but a lion when roused, and when roused his oratory was forceful and inspiring. On great public questions he was as firm as a rock, and in the defence of truth and principle his arguments and his oratory flowed like a torrent. A Liberal of Liberals, a great opponent of the Established Church, he was once attacked for his co-action with Roman Catholics in this matter. I can remember to this day the ringing cheers with which, replying to the taunt he justified his action, he wound up with the declaration that if at any time the action of the Church of Rome should threaten or endanger Protestantism he would be found with his back at the Cathedral wall.

Then, there was Wm. Johnston, not then doctor, full of youth and fire, restless in mind and body, his tongue and his heart alike rushing him into every activity that made for the good of his Church or his fellows. The youth in his case was father to the man, and the man was the faithful preacher, the endless organiser, the friend of all good work and good men, the founder of the Orphan Society, the Society for Widows and Orphans, and I do not know how many more beside. Of him, perhaps, more than of any minister of his time, it might be said that the good he did lived after him in the practical and material, as well as in the moral, religious, and conventional acceptance of the term.

But what shall I say of the others? Space would fail me to tell of T. Y. Killen, my beloved friend and pastor and valuable assistant and adviser till his death, a solid man in every sense of the word, a man of faith and of works, a man of heart as well as head, a lover of his Church as of his God; of Hugh Hanna, the man of wondrous energy, of fearless spirit, of undaunted courage, the man who feared not the face of man, and who, out of small beginnings in Berry Street, raised that magnificent pile at Carlisle Circus, a monument at once of his zeal and energy, his enthusiasm and loyalty to Church, and which overlooks that which was raised to him for his loyalty to the King and the cause of the King in Ulster; of Rev. Thomas Hamilton, now President of the Queen's University, minister of York Street, earnest, kindly, and able, who was my friend and colleague in "The Witness" for many years, to whom, indeed, I may say "The Witness" owes its origin, and who has earned many laurels since in educational and public life; of R. J. Lynd, who, gravitating from Whiteabbey to May Street, sustained the burden of that great pulpit for many years, and whose graceful compositions, reproduced with such polished elocution, rendered him a power in the pulpit and on the platform; of the Rev. James Martin, of Eglinton Street, a most faithful and earnest pastor and preacher, who laboured incessantly and successfully in connection with an interesting congregation, the pulpit of which is now filled by the Rev. Mr. Morton; of the Rev. Dr. Gray, of College Square, cultivated preacher, philosophic thinker, logical reasoner, loving his congregation and by it beloved, devoted upholder of Church and King, a man of many gifts and many graces; of the Rev. John Moran, a man of great culture and refinement, a poet in feeling and a Christian in spirit, who, by his great energy and high tone and character, built up the congregation of Belmont, of which Rev. Dr. MacDermott is now the able and popular minister; of the Rev. Geo. Shaw, of Alfred Street, the good, earnest, zealous, and faithful preacher of the Gospel, and the promoter of so much good work in his own congregation and in the Church.

Then there was the Rev. Henry Osborne, of Holywood, the cultured preacher, the graceful poet, the polished writer, with whom it was my privilege to be so long and so pleasantly associated. With the exception of President Hamilton, to whom I have referred above, Mr. Osborne is the only one of the ministers of the Presbytery at that period now alive. When I saw him recently he was as clear in mind as ever, and as interested in Church and public affairs, and looking wonderfully well for a man of four score years and five. The Rev. Henry Henderson I could not forget, as many a time and oft I listened to and reported his speeches in various assemblies of Orangemen, to whom he was devoted, and by whom he was idolised. He was a man of rare fluency and readiness of speech, who could say what was in him with fearless force. He was perhaps the most pronounced politician in the Presbytery at the time, but his politics were not those of the majority of his brethren, but he was liked by them all for his genial kindliness and good humour, and for the consistency with which he clung to the political faith that was in him. I should not forget the Rev. Robert Montgomery, of Great Victoria Street, whose work in the cause of his congregation and of education was unceasing and fruitful, and who left so many brave sons to the service of his country and Church, and a widow no less brave than any of them; the Rev. Dr. Knox, of Linenhall Street, the energetic and earnest worker in the Church, and the warm supporter of many of its best schemes; the Rev. John Moore, of Elmwood, the earnest preacher of a pure Gospel, and the man of sample faith and deep sincerity, the man of great originality, punctured with humour, the man who concerned himself more with the salvation of souls than with the clashings of controversy and the Rev. John Mecredy, the great advocate of temperance when the cause was not as popular as it is now, who built up and! sustained a fine congregation, that under the Rev. Samuel Thompson continues to prosper; of the Rev. Joseph Mackenzie, of Malone, who was a man of quiet earnestness and high Christian character; and last, but not least, the Rev. Adam Montgomery, of Ballycairn, who was for half a century Clerk of the Presbytery; an eloquent and scholarly, preacher, a man of unaffected simplicity of character, with a ready wit, much humour, and the kindest of hearts.

There are others I should like to dwell on, but space forbids. John Greenlees, the gentle and pacific; R. J. Arnold, eloquent and dignified; John Meneely, prudent, practical, and sagacious; Joseph Barkley, an earnest and practical preacher and worker; and James Young, who sustained a fine congregation in the Falls district; John Given, D.D., stately and dignified, yet simple and kindly, scholar and gentleman, who crowned his career as one of the first professors of the old Magee College.

There are two of special note at the time who differed from their brethren as much as they differed from each other; Isaac Nelson, forceful in expression, fertile in vituperation, a vigorous preacher and erratic thinker, whose prayers were sermons, and whose sermons were shafts of cynicism, satire, and railing; "Tommy" Toye, a child of nature and of grace, earnest, unconventional, more of an evangelist than a preacher, with eccentric characteristics relieved by an Irish brogue and Irish wit.

When I set out I had only intended to refer to half-a-dozen of these men, but as my mind was revolving the past I seemed to see a grand procession of old familiar friends and faces, which recalled traits of look, speech, and manner, that made it impossible for me to pass them over. This must be my excuse for recalling so many, names and in brief their characteristics as they appeared to me and, I am sure, to others.

To be continued...


From The Witness, 30th June 1916.

The "Man in the Street" was the pen name of Alexander McMonagle editor and manager of The Witness and Ulster Echo.






Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Fifty Years of Belfast Life (1866-1916)

By "THE MAN IN THE STREET."

I.


Fifty years seem an eternity to youth, but only a brief breathing time to age. I have spent the last fifty years of my life (save two) in Belfast, and at times it seems but yesterday since I first set foot on its hospitable streets, and found kindness and friendship from its people. Many of the events and persons of those days are fresher in my memory than those of yester-year, and when I awake from a reverie I almost feel like a Rip Van Winkle among strange scenes and strange people. I remember with what awe and admiration I made my first visit to the town, and contrasted its life, splendour, and activity with that of my dear Derry, where my boyhood had been spent. In those early days we youths of Derry regarded Belfast with respect and reverence, and imagined its streets as paved with gold and its inhabitants going about dressed in purple and fine linen. But when I visited it I did not find any gold in the streets, and discovered that my silver was swallowed up as the Scotchman found his sixpences swallowed up in London.

I propose now, by the favour of my readers, to repay back part of the kindness Belfast has bestowed on me by recalling such of the leading incidents, characteristics, and personages as I can remember, and give the men of the present generation some idea of the life, times, and characteristics of their fathers.

Perhaps nothing could better illustrate the changes of fifty years than Tennyson's "Locksley Hall" and his "Locksley Hall Sixty Years Afterwards." When the poet wrote the first poem the poet was young, ardent, fiery, and his poetry breathed in every line the spirit of youth; when he wrote the second fifty years had passed, and the poet had mellowed and his fire was subdued. The characteristics of the poet were manifested in the characteristics of his hero.

Fifty years ago the first poem was still a favourite reading of all elocutionists, and a gathering of an elocutionary, character was never regarded as complete without it. I remember one elocutionist who was known as "Locksley Hall" from the frequency with which he recited it. The poet and his hero had the fire of youth, and it kept burning. When the sequel was published the old men of the time did not take the poem as their own as the young men of half a century before did, and I do not remember hearing it even once read in public. Whether the fire had died out of the poet or out of the public I cannot say, but the second poem never acquired the popularity of the first.

This came into my mind as I was cogitating about the changes the last fifty years had wrought. To accept the illustration literally would mean that 1866 was full of the fire and ardour of youth, and 1916 was getting cold and mellow, without fire and without spirit. But I am afraid if I made such a suggestion I would have all the youth and all the spirit of the age against me; and, I would admit, with justification. The Belfast of to-day is not a city worn out by age, but one that every year is renewing its strength like the eagle, running without being weary, walking without being faint. It is quite true that when I first set eyes on Belfast and settled down in it I did not think there could be a finer town in the world – it had not risen to the dignity of a city in those days. And I suppose I would not have thought a greater possible if I had never seen other cities.

But that is the worst even of moderate travel. It may improve one's sense of proportion, but it is calculated to lower his self-esteem. I remember about fifty years ago, when the late Mr. W. D. Henderson, one of my earliest and best friends in Belfast, was advising me to see Paris and live – it was at the time of the Exhibition of 1878, the first after the great and desolating war – he said if a man never goes out of Belfast he will think John Macnaughtan's church a great cathedral. I doubt, even without travelling, I would have regarded that church as a great cathedral, but whatever my visit may have done in extending my knowledge of cathedrals, it never modified my opinion as to the excellence of Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church as a centre of vigorous life and power, or my high appreciation of the occupants of the pulpit or of the pew, past and present.

While I am prepared to make the concession to the present that in life and activity, hustle and bustle, go and dash, energy and prosperity, the Belfast of to-day far transcends that of fifty years ago, yet when I look back upon it all I must say that in all that makes for comfort and happiness, and relative prosperity, the Belfast of fifty years ago, for its time and opportunities, was as much deserving of praise and honour as the Belfast of to-day. It had many disadvantages, and when I think of the many things it lacked that it now has, I sometimes wonder how it was able to exist at all. I remember once hearing of a sermon preached by a well-known divine of the last half century on the importance of the study of the Scriptures. He told his hearers that Timothy and Paul had studied the Scriptures, and went over the long line of New and Old Testament saints who, he said, had all studied the Scriptures. At last he reached Abraham, and he told his hearers the limited Scripture he had to be content with – he had only the first eleven chapters of Genesis.

Now when I think of what Belfast had not then that it has now, I imagine that it would have been as ill supplied with the necessaries of life and enjoyment as, according to this divine, Abraham was with the Scriptures. Yet with all his disability Abraham seems to have done very well, and became the father of the faithful. With all its disabilities Belfast of fifty years ago did well, and laid strong and deep the foundations on which the city of the present has been built. We had no trams or motor cars in those old days. Those of us who could not afford a carriage or a ride on a hackney car had to walk to or from our business, a mile or two, be the same more or less. And yet we never grumbled or growled. We felt that feet were made for walking and time for slaves. Now we regard a walk of a mile or two as a Sabbath day's journey, and would regard it almost as a breach of the Sabbath to indulge in it. We must have our tram or our motor to take us to our own street, and grumble when the tram does not take us to our own door. Not only were we willing to tramp home for our meals, but we took time to consume our victuals in a leisurely and rational way, which all medical authorities tell us is the way to health. We were never on the strain or rush as we are now when we gobble up our chop in mid-day, grudging the time that it occupies. We were content to wait in those days, and our patient waiting did not seem to bring much loss, if we consider that at any rate comparative prosperity and content that existed.

We had no telephones or cheap telegrams in those days. Our merchants had to wait on their customers in a double sense, and the customers to wait on the merchants. Then an hour or a day was a mere speck in time; now an hour is an eternity. We were content to possess our souls in patience for forty-eight hours to await a reply to our business communications from London; but now we are in a fidget if we do not get a reply within an hour. In the old days the Commercial Newsroom was the centre of business exchange and activity, and on many a day I have seen the large building filled with merchants and customers, and humming with conversation, and many buyers and sellers crowded out into the street. Now what was the busy newsroom is no more, and its spacious hall is used as an auction mart, in which the periodical cry of "Going, going, gone" of the auctioneer tells the tale in a double sense of the departure of ancient glories.

We had no Royal Avenue in those days, but we had got a Victoria Street brand new, which it was expected would attract the trade from the centre of the city. But it did not, even though one of our leading banks took up its quarters in the new thoroughfare. We had not a City Hall. We had not even a Town Hall, though what was in the interval made into one has now become the old Town Hall, and the centre of a new form of activity that was not dreamed of in those days. We had a building that was called a Town Hall, no doubt in irony, as Mark Twain says St. Paul spoke of the street called Straight in Damascus. No doubt our small band of Corporators met in a building in Victoria Square which had neither dignity nor accommodation, though the officials of the body at the time thought it was much too good for them as many think the City Hall is now for the men who occupy it. That building has now been converted to a better purpose – namely, Messrs. Cantrell & Cochrane's mineral water manufacture. There is just this connection between the two, that the utilisation of gas is a feature of the new as it was of the old possessors.

We had no Lord Mayor; no High Sheriff. We had a Town Clerk, it is true, the late Mr. Joseph Guthrie, who was as particular as the present Town Clerk, Mr. Meyer, is popular, but he managed to drive two horses going in opposite direction as well as any of his successors. We had no Technical Schools, no Free Libraries, no Police Courts or Barracks worthy the name, no electric works to generate strife, and no abattoir to generate sound and safe meat; no Public Baths to promote cleanliness, and no public parks to promote health – and taxes; no palatial hospitals for old or young, no Picture Houses, no golf, no football, no Flag Days, no Rotary Clubs, no Home Rule, and no dirt destroyer.

We could not boast of the greatest shipbuilding yards in the world, the greatest ropeworks in the world, the greatest tobacco factory in the world, the greatest distilleries in the world; but we had, as we still have, and long may it remain, the greatest spinning mill in the world. At that time Harland & Wolff's works were in their infancy, and Workman & Clark's hardly in embryo. I well remember when much of what is now a hive of industry in the Queen's Island was simply a mass of grass and wild wood, and when the affairs of the firm that has removed everything green from the spot were conducted in what was simply a wooden Hut, a shed, instead of now in one of the most palatial set of offices in the kingdom.

We had not as many palatial public-houses as we have now. In those days, though, perhaps we did our share of drinking, but we or the trade were modest at the time, and did not flaunt it. The public-houses of the time were largely in entries or side streets. We had not the attraction of glaring glass and the inevitable barmaids, which seem to draw our young men, and some of our old ones, too, as by an invisible cord. I do not suggest that there was not a good deal of drinking in those old days; but think there was less among the young than in the present. And yet while that is true, the public sentiment is more temperance, I will add more teetotal than it was in those days; and I must say the war and the limitations it has imposed on the trade has led to a more healthful tone. But while I am sure the people are not perishing for lack of liquor, the liquor sellers are not perishing for lack of customers.

Now, when they think of what we lacked fifty years ago, that we have come to regard as necessities now, the young of to-day nay be inclined to wonder how or why their fathers lived. The majority of us today would regard life as hardly worth living if they were deprived of any one of their pleasures or luxuries of which their fathers knew nothing, and for which they would have cared little even if they had them. And yet, on the whole, they lived well and comfortably. If they did not live to work, they worked in those old days to live. It may be that because they had not so many opportunities to spend, they did more to save, and many of the fortunes and businesses that the present generation enjoy were built up under conditions in which the absence of rush did not lead to rust, leisurely movements did not lead to lackadaisical indifference, and the absence of means, if not taste, for spending money prevented waste. So that for myself in beginning my contemplations and recollections of the past, while I am happy to be alive in the present, I look back to the good old times of the past with thankfulness that I lived in them, and with grateful remembrance of the time and the men of the time.

To be continued...


From The Witness, 23rd June 1916.

The "Man in the Street"was the pen name of Alexander McMonagle editor and manager of The Witness and Ulster Echo.



Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Merchant Seamen


I've read about soldiers and sailors,
    Of infantry, airmen and tanks,
Of battleships, corvettes, and cruisers,
    Of Anzacs, and Froggies, and Yanks:
But there's one other man to remember
    Who was present at many a fray;
He wears neither medals or ribbons
    And derides any show or display.

I'm talking of A.B.'s and firemen,
    Of stewards and greasers and cooks
Who manned the big steamers in convoy
    (You won't read about them in books).
No uniform gay were they dressed in,
    Nor marched with their colours unfurled:
They steamed out across the wide oceans
    And travelled all over the world.

Their history goes back through the ages –
    A record of which to be proud –
And the bones of their forefathers moulder
    With naught but the deep for a shroud.
For armies have swept on to victory
    O'er the bodies of those who have died;
'Tis thus that the nations do battle
    For country, and freedom, and pride.

In thousands they sailed from the homeland,
    From Liverpool, Hull, and the Clyde;
To London, and Bristol, and Cardiff
    They came back again on the tide.
An old 'four-point-seven' their safeguard –
    What nice easy pray for the Huns
Who trailed them with bombers and U-boats
    And sank them with 'tin fish' and guns.

The epic of gallant 'Otaki',
    That grim forlorn hope 'Jervis Bay',
Who fought to the last and were beaten –
    But they joined the illustrious array
Whose skeletons lie 'neath the waters,
    Whose deeds are remembered today,
And their glory will shine undiminished
    Long after our flesh turns to clay.

They landed the Anzacs at Suvla
    And stranded the old 'River Clyde',
Off Dunkirk they gathered the remnants
    (And still they were not satisfied),
They battled their way through to Malta
    And rescued the troops from Malay;
They brought back the Eighth Army munitions
    And took all their prisoners away.

And others 'signed on' in the tankers
    And loaded crude oil and octane –
The lifeblood of warships and engines,
    Of mechanised transport and plane.
But these were the U-boat's chief victims;
    What death they were called on to face
As men were engulfed by infernos
    In ships that were 'sunk without trace.'

They were classed a non-combatant service –
    Civilians who fought without guns –
And many's the time they'd have welcomed
    A chance of a crack at the Huns.
But somehow in spite of this drawback
    The steamers still sailed and arrived,
And they fed fifty millions of people –
    And right to the end we survived.

And now that the turmoil is ended,
    Our enemies vanquished and fled,
We'll pray that the living will foster
    The spirit of those who are dead.
When the next generation takes over,
    This country we now hold in lease
Will be theirs – may they cherish its freedom
    And walk down the pathways of peace.

When the Master of Masters holds judgment
    And the Devil's dark angels have flown,
When the dark of the heavenly council
    Decrees that the names shall be shown,
They will stand out in glittering letters
    Inscribed with the blood they have shed:
Names of ships – and the seamen who manned them:
    Then the ocean can give up its dead.

by Edward Carpenter


This poem is taken from Voices from the Sea : Poems by Merchant Seamen, edited by Ronald Hope and published in 1977 by Harrap (London) in association with the Marine Society.