The Bands of Ballyguttery by George A. Birmingham
The Wolfe Tone Republican Club has its headquarters at Ballyguttery. Its members, as may be guessed, profess the strongest form of Nationalism. There are about sixty of them. The Loyal True-Blue Invincibles are an Orange Lodge. They also meet in Ballyguttery. There are between seventy and eighty Loyal Invincibles. There are also in the village ten adult males who are not members of either the club or the lodge. Six of these are policemen. The other four are feeble people of no account, who neglect the first duty of good citizens and take no interest in politics.
Early in September the Wolfe Tone Republicans determined to hold a demonstration. They wished to convince a watching world, especially the United States of America, that the people of Ballyguttery are unanimous and enthusiastic in the cause of Irish independence. They proposed to march through the village street in procession, with a band playing tunes in front of them, and then to listen to speeches made by eminent men in a field.
The Loyal Invincibles heard of the intended demonstration. They could hardly help hearing of it, for the Wolfe Tone Republicans talked of nothing else, and the people of Ballyguttery, whatever their politics, live on friendly terms with each other and enjoy long talks about public affairs.
The Loyal Invincibles at once assembled and passed a long resolution, expressing their determination to put a stop to any National demonstration. They were moved, they said, by the necessity for preserving law and order, safeguarding life and property, and maintaining civil and religious liberty. No intention could have been better than theirs; but the Wolfe Tone Republicans also had excellent intentions, and did not see why they should not demonstrate if they wished to. They invited all the eminent men they could think of to make speeches for them. They also spent a good deal of money on printing, and placarded the walls round the village with posters, announcing that their demonstration would be held on September fifteenth, the anniversary of the execution of their patron Wolfe Tone by the English.
In fact Wolfe Tone was not executed by the English or anyone else, and the date of his death was November the nineteenth. But that made no difference to either side, because no one in Ballyguttery ever reads history.
The Loyal True-Blue Invincibles did not tear down the posters. They were kindly men, averse to unneighbourly acts. But they put up posters of their own, summoning every man of sound principles to assemble on September fifteenth at 10.30 a.m, in order to preserve law, order, life, property, and liberty, by force if necessary.
Mr. Hinde, District Inspector of Police in Ballyguttery, was considering the situation. He was in an uncomfortable position, for he had only four constables and one sergeant under his command. It seemed to him that law and order would disappear for the time, life and property be in danger, and that he would not be able to interfere very much with anybody's liberty. Mr. Hinde was, however, a young man of naturally optimistic temper. He had lived in Ireland all his life, and he had a profound belief in the happening of unexpected things.
On September the tenth the Wolfe Tone Republicans made a most distressing discovery.
Six months before, they had lent their band instruments to the Thomas Emmet Club, an important association of Nationalists in the neighbouring village.
The Thomas Emmets, faced with a demand for the return of the instruments, confessed that they had lent them to the Martyred Archbishops' branch of the Gaelic League. They, in turn, had lent them to the Manchester Martyrs' Gaelic Football Association. These athletes would, no doubt, have returned the instruments honestly; but unfortunately their association had been suppressed by the Government six weeks earlier and had only just been re-formed as the Irish Ireland National Brotherhood.
In the process of dissolution and reincarnation the band instruments had disappeared. No one knew where they were. The only suggestion the footballers had to make was that the police had taken them when suppressing the Manchester Martyrs. This seemed probable, and the members of the Wolfe Tone Republican Club asked their president, Mr. Cornelius O'Farrelly, to call on Mr. Hinde and inquire into the matter.
Mr. Hinde was surprised, very agreeably surprised, at receiving a visit one evening from the president of the Republican Club. In Ireland, leading politicians, whatever school they belong to, are seldom on friendly terms with the police. He greeted O'Farrelly warmly.
"What I was wishing to speak to you about was this--" O'Farrelly began.
"Fill your pipe before you begin talking," said Mr. Hinde. "Here's some tobacco." He offered his pouch as he spoke. "I wish I could offer you a drink; but there's no whisky to be got nowadays."
"I know that," said O'Farrelly in a friendly tone, "and what's more, I know you'd offer it to me if you had it."
He filled his pipe and lit it. Then he began again: "What I was wishing to speak to you about is the band instruments."
"If you want a subscription--" said Hinde.
"I do not want any subscription."
"That's just as well, for you wouldn't get it if you did. I've no money, for one thing; and besides it wouldn't suit a man in my position to be subscribing to rebel bands."
"I wouldn't ask you," said O'Farrelly. "Don't I know as well as yourself that it would be no use? And anyway it isn't the money we want, but our own band instruments."
"What's happened to them?" said Hinde.
"You had a lot. Last time I saw your band it was fitted out with drums and trumpets enough for a regiment."
"It's just them we're trying to get back."
"If anyone has stolen them," said Hinde, "I'll look into the matter and do my best to catch the thief for you."
"Nobody stole them," said O'Farrelly; "not what you'd call stealing, anyway; but it's our belief that the police has them."
"You're wrong there," said Hinde. "The police never touched your instruments, and wouldn't."
"They might not if they knew they were ours. But from information received we think the police took them instruments the time they were suppressing the Manchester Martyrs beyond the Lisnan, the instruments being lent to them footballers at that time."
"I remember all about that business," said Hinde. "I was there myself. But we never saw your instruments. All we took away with us was two old footballs and a set of rotten goal-posts. Whatever happened to your instruments, we didn't take them. I expect," said Hinde, "that the Manchester Martyr boys pawned them."
O'Farrelly sat silent. It was unfortunately quite possible that the members of the football club had pawned the instruments, intending, of course, to redeem them when the club funds permitted.
"I'm sorry for you," said Hinde. "It's awkward for you losing your drums and things just now, with this demonstration of yours advertised all over the place. You'll hardly be able to hold the demonstration, will you?"
"The demonstration will be held," said O'Farrelly firmly.
"Not without a band, surely. Hang it all, O'Farrelly, a demonstration is no kind of use without a band. It wouldn't be a demonstration. You know that as well as I do."
O'Farrelly was painfully aware that a demonstration without a band is a poor business. He rose sadly and said good night. Hinde felt sorry for him.
"If the police had any instruments," he said, "I'd lend them to you. But we haven't a band of our own here. There aren't enough of us."
This assurance, though it was of no actual use, cheered O'Farrelly. It occurred to him that though the police had no band instruments to lend it might be possible to borrow elsewhere. The Loyal True-Blue Invincibles, for instance, had a very fine band, well supplied in every way, particularly with big drums. O'Farrelly thought the situation over and then called on Jimmy McLoughlin, the blacksmith, who was the secretary of the Orange Lodge.
"Jimmy," said O'Farrelly, "we're in trouble about the demonstration that's to be held next Tuesday."
"It'd be better for you," said Jimmy, "if that demonstration was never held. For let me tell you this: the Lodge boys has their minds made up to have no Papist rebels demonstrating here."
"It isn't you, nor your Orange Lodge nor all the damned Protestants in Ireland would be fit to stop us," said O'Farrelly.
Jimmy McLoughlin spit on his hands as if in preparation for the fray. Then he wiped them on his apron, remembering that the time for fighting had not yet come.
"And what's the matter with your demonstration?" he asked.
"It's the want of instruments for the band that has us held up," said O'Farrelly. "We lent them, so we did, and the fellows that had them didn't return them."
Jimmy McLoughlin pondered the situation. He was as well aware as Mr. Hinde, as O'Farrelly himself, that a demonstration without a band is a vain thing.
"It would be a pity now," he said slowly, "if anything was to interfere with that demonstration, seeing as how you're ready for it and we're ready for you."
"It would be a pity. Leaving aside any political or religious differences that might be dividing the people of Ballyguttery, it would be a pity for the whole of us if that demonstration was not to be held."
"How would it be now," said Jimmy Mc-Loughlin, "if we was to lend you our instruments for the day?"
"We'd be thankful to you if you did, very thankful," said O'Farrelly; "and, indeed, it's no more than I'd expect from you, Jimmy, for you always were a good neighbour. But are you sure that you'll not be wanting them yourselves?"
"We will not want them," said Jimmy Me-Loughlin. "It'll not be drums we'll be beating that day--not drums, but the heads of Papists. But mind what I'm saying to you now. If we lend you the instruments, you'll have to promise that you'll not carry them beyond the cross-roads this side of Dicky's Brae. You'll leave the whole of them there beyond the cross-roads, drums and all. It wouldn't do if any of the instruments got broke on us or the drums lost--which is what has happened more than once when there's been a bit of a fight. And it'll be at Dicky's Brae that we'll be waiting for you."
"I thought as much," said O'Farrelly, "and I'd be as sorry as you'd be yourself if any harm was to come to your drums. They'll be left at the cross-roads the way you tell me. You may take my word for that. You can pick them up there yourselves and take them back with you when you're going home in the evening--those of you that'll be left alive to go home. For we'll be ready for you, Jimmy, and Dicky's Brae will suit us just as well as any other place."
The Wolfe Tone Republicans are honourable men. Their band marched at the head of the procession through the streets of the village. They played all the most seditious tunes there are, and went on playing for half a mile outside the village. The police, headed by Mr. Hinde, followed them. At the cross-roads there was a halt. The bandsmen laid down the instruments very carefully on a pile of stones beside the road. Then they took the fork of the road which leads southwards.
The direct route to Dicky's Brae lies northwest along the other fork of the road. Cornelius O'Farrelly had the instinct of a military commander. His idea was to make a wide detour, march by a cross-road and take the Dicky Brae position in the rear. This would require some time; but the demonstrators had a long day before them, and if the speeches were cut a little short no one would be any the worse.
Jimmy McLoughlin and the members of the Loyal True-Blue Invincibles sat on the roadside at the foot of Dicky's Brae and waited. They expected that the Wolfe Tone Republicans would reach the place about noon. At a quarter to twelve Mr. Hinde and five police arrived. They had with them a cart carefully covered with sacking. No one was in the least disturbed by their appearance. Five police, even with an officer at their head, cannot do much to annoy two armies of sixty and seventy men.
The police halted in the middle of the road. They made no attempt to unload their cart.
At 1.30 Jimmy McLoughlin took council with some of the leading members of the Loyal True-Blue Invincible Lodge. It seemed likely that the Wolfe Tone Republicans had gone off to demonstrate in some other direction, deliberately shirking the fight which had been promised them.
"I'd never have thought it of Cornelius O'Farrelly," said Jimmy sadly. "I had a better opinion of him, so I had. I knew he was a Papist and a rebel and every kind of a blackguard, but I'd never have thought he was a coward."
While he spoke, a small boy came running down the hill. He brought the surprising intelligence that the Wolfe Tone Republicans were advancing in good order from a totally unexpected direction. Jimmy McLoughlin looked round and saw them. So did Mr. Hinde.
While Jimmy summoned his men from the ditches where they were smoking and the fields into which they had wandered, Mr. Hinde gave an order to his police. They took the sacking from their cart. Underneath it were all the band instruments belonging to the Orange Lodge. The police unpacked them carefully and then, loaded with drums and brass instruments, went up the road to meet the Wolfe Tone Republicans.
Jimmy McLoughlin ran to Mr. Hinde, shouting as he went:
"What are you doing with them drums?"
Mr. Hinde turned and waited for them.
"I'm going to hand them over to Cornelius O'Farrelly," he said.
"You're going to do nothing of the sort," said Jimmy, "for they're our drums, so they are."
"I don't know anything about that," said Mr. Hinde, "all I know is that they're the instruments which O'Farrelly's band were playing when they marched out of the town. They left them on the side of the road, where my men found them."
"What right had you to be touching them at all," said Jimmy.
"Every right. O'Farrelly was complaining to me three days ago that one set of band instruments had been stolen from him. It's my business to see that he doesn't lose another set in the same way, even if he's careless enough to leave them lying about on the side of the road."
"Amn't I telling you that they're ours, not his?" said Jimmy.
"You'll have to settle that with him."
"Sure, if I settle that with him," said Jimmy, "in the only way anything could be settled with a pack of rebels, the instruments will be broke into smithereens before we're done."
This seemed very likely. Jimmy McLoughlin's bandsmen, armed with sticks and stones, were forming up on the road. The police had already handed over the largest drum to one of the leading Wolfe Tone Republicans. It was Cornelius O'Farrelly who made an attempt to save the situation.
He came forward and addressed Mr. Hinde. "It would be better," he said, "if you'd march the police off out of this and let them take the band instruments along with them, for if they don't the drums will surely be broke and the rest of the things twisted up so as nobody'll ever be able to blow a tune on them again, which would be a pity and a great loss to all parties concerned."
"I'll take the police away if you like," said Mr. Hinde, "but I'm hanged if I go on carting all those instruments about the country. I found them on the side of the road where you left them, and now that I've given them back to you I'll take no further responsibility in the matter."
The two sets of bandsmen were facing each other on the road. The instruments were divided between them. They were uttering the most bloodthirsty threats, and it was plain that in a minute or two there would be a scrimmage.
"Jimmy," said O'Farrelly, "if the boys get to fighting----"
"I don't know," said Jimmy gloomily, "where the money's to come from to buy new drums."
"It might be better," said O'Farrelly, "if we was to go home and leave the instruments back safe where they came from before worse comes of it."
Ten minutes later the instruments were safely packed again into the cart. One of the Loyal True-Blue Invincibles led the horse. A Wolfe Tone Republican sat in the cart and held the reins. Jimmy McLoughlin and Cornelius O'Farrelly walked together. It was plain to everyone that hostilities were suspended for the day.
"I'm thinking," said Jimmy, "that ye didn't hold your demonstration after all. I hope this'll be a lesson to you not to be trying anything of the sort for the future."
"For all your fine talk," said O'Farrelly, "you didn't stop us. And why not? Because you weren't fit to do it."
"We could have done it," said Jimmy, "and we would But what's the use of talking? So long as no demonstration was held we're satisfied."
"So long as you didn't get interfering with us, we're satisfied."
Mr. Hinde, walking behind the procession with his five police, had perhaps the best reason of all for satisfaction.