A daily excerpt from a a historical edition of Punch – the greatest satirical magazine in history

Category: Ireland

28th June 1914: Franz Ferdinand shot dead

With it being the two hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the first world war, I thought that I would mark the occasion by going real time through the events that happened through the war, as chronicled by Punch.

It would of course be prudent for me to start at the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne whose death precipitated a series of events that lead to war the world over.

Yet, in Punch, the event scarcely makes a mention. In fact, by scarcely, I mean not at all.

With the benefit if hindsight, this seems like a glaring omission from the pages of Punch. In fact, regardless of the political backdrop, surely the assassination of any member of a European royal family should make major news?

This may well normally have been the case. There is, however, another enveloping crisis at the moment that is occupying much more interest in Punch. It is, of course, Irish home rule.

The situation here has rapidly been deteriorating of late. Later on, as we will see, civil war in the united kingdom seems to be the logical conclusion of the unfolding events.

As we know now, something rather large happened that distracted the country at large from the Ulster problem.

At the moment, however, the idea of a war in Europe is not being entertained. Certainly, diplomacy between the European nations is not at its best, but war in Europe – indeed, a world war – is utterly unthinkable.

So, unfortunately I don’t have an extract or cartoon for you pertaining to the second world war from Punch at all. Instead, I will provide you with this one, from around the time that the Archduke was murdered.


The Vatican? I have a cunning plan…

That chap is George Errington, and as you can see, he is on his way to the Vatican.

As a staunch catholic, he became the center of a Baldrick-style cunning plan by the Gladstone government to fool the Vatican. They had him send a deviously crafted letter to mislead the Vatican about conditions in Ireland, and to exploit them over other aspects of foreign policy. The extent of his dealings were not made public at the time.

Here are some of the best bits of the behind-the-scenes dealing that went on,

Dear Lord Ampthill,
You have taken so kind an interest in the question of relations with the Holy See, that I venture to give you few
particulars as to how things are going on. I am happy to say that a most satisfactory and genuine change has at length come over the Pope and his advisers as regards Ireland.

You are probably ware that up to last year the sympathy of Rome was entirely in favour of the National (we may now call it revolutionary) party. This was natural enough far in almost everything concerning England and Ireland information had always come from the most bitterly anti-English sources and through the powerful Irish faction here.

The Irish College with dear old Kirby at its head was a single hot bed of sedition and, to make matters worse, the latter had great personal influence on the present Pope. Every possible opposition has been offered, but I think we have now completely triumphed and are reaping the fruits.

It is often argued in the English press that an accord with Rome, even if desirable in itself, would now come too late, that the Irish clergy have lost their influence over the people, and that the little they still possess would be destroyed if Roman interference were supposed to be inspired by England.

But there could not be two greater fallacies. It is true the influence of the Irish clergy for good has immensely diminished but their influence for evil continues to be enormous and my real hope and aim for the present has been to control this: with what success is proved by the totally altered attitude of the clergy generally this winter. No one could more fully recognise this than Lord Spencer and he authorised me to express here in the warmest terms his appreciation of the results already obtained. I am sorry that the rather interesting details pf all this are too long to write.

On coming here last year I soon proved that the old despotic power of Rome to control by a stroke of the pen the views and action of so independent a clergy as the Irish had certainly passed away; but it was equally clear that its power, used in the only way the Pope now ventures to use it, viz, by judicious and repeated admonition and bye constant steady pressure, is still absolutely omnipotent and perhaps more so now than ever it was.

In dealing with Ireland, however, the ecclesiastical department (centred at Propaganda) comes into play, especially in all administrative matters, far more than the political department at the Vatican; and you know the two departments are actuated by very different and sometimes conflicting motives and influences.

Fortunately I am on good terms at Propaganda and they are very kind to me[…]

There is one risk I feel strongly in all this, viz, that the good dispositions of the Pope, though quite honest and genuine in themselves, are really very dependent unconsciously perhaps on the continued friendly attitude of the English Government. Hitherto my presence here, minimised and denied as it has been, is accepted as, under present circumstances, sufficient evidence of friendliness and my hope is that the government will see the importance of at least not further weakening this very slender thread.

Of course what the Pope wants are some sort of avowed relations; he recognised, however, the great difficulties at present in the way of anything definite and is content to go one with things as they are, provided he can say to his friends that everything is not broken off. It is not easy, however, to go on for ever in this way. I return to England after Easter but I shall promise to come back here for a week in July if I am allowed, end again in the Autumn, so as to keep up an appearance of continuity. I must apologise for going into this at such length: I only venture to do so knowing your interest in all Roman matters.

I am very sorry for the line our government seems to be taking about the Congo matter. You are probably aware of the interesting and complicated way in which the Vatican through Portugal is mixed up in this affair. An important and extensive question might now have been settled on broader lines than merely using Portugal, the least civilizing and most retrograde of powers, to topple France. I see there has been some talk in the House [of Commons] about it.

I am,
Dear Lord Ampthill,
Truly yours.

One thing needs to be said here, and that is that politics is a very dirty business.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Of Ireland.

NERVOUS we are not, nor ever needlessly alarmists. But we are living a doomed life, and so are all our English readers. There is no mistake this time about the fate which is awaiting us. We have long feared an invasion, and our fears will soon be realised. The foe is close at hand. Tremble, Britons, at his coming! Shake, Saxons, in your shoes ; for surely you must quake when you list to what the Dundalk Democrat has said of him :

” He knows all our weak points ; and our opinion is, that he would lose no time going round to land in Connaught or  Bantry Bay, but would dash boldly on the capital, and seize the Castle, and all the arsenals in Dublin. Ho would we fear strike at once at the heart of our power, and scatter us like chaff before the wind before we could organise our forces.  Among the Young Ireland party there was no one but he capable of leading an army of liberation. He was a man of iron  will and indomitable courage. We believe he possessed that boldness and energy which would inspire his followers to rival the soldiers of any other nation in deeds of heroism. He is a man to decide quickly, and to carry out his purpose with an unerring judgement and a vigorous arm. He would have the men of all districts either stand with him or against him, and would deal roughly with all who should desire neutral ground. Such a man as this would prove a formidable foe to English power in Ireland; and, although he might run some risks, it is certain that he would not be so easily caught as WOLFE TONE. If his visit to Eurupe be to aid the invasion which the English seem to expect, he will have no mercy for JOHN BULL and will more than rival GARIBALDI in his furious onsets against the Great Britons.”


And who, it may be asked, is this “formidable foe ?” Who is this indomitable, iron-willed invader, who “knows all our weak points,” and is to “scatter us like chaff?” The Dundalk Democrat does not conceal his name. JOHN MITCHEL is his name: merciless JOHN MITCHEL; maniacal JOHN MITCHEL. MITCHEL, he of vitriolic and of vicious memory. Transported he  was once, and now returns for vengeance on the sanguinary Saxon. “Some risks he may run,” but once caught makes twice shy. You may catch a WOLFE asleep, perhaps; MITCHEL is a weasel that you won’t again nab napping. As GARIBALDI to the Austrians, so JOHN MITCHEL to the English, he has armed him for the light. See, his lion’s skin hangs round him; and his voice sounds forth the war-cry of Young Ireland, “Erin, go Bray!”

Do I detect the subtlest hint of sarcasm?

(10th of September 1859)


Those Pesky Irish – again

13-11-1918 Home Rule

Britain is busy. The aftermath of the War is naturally a priority for the government, yet there is one issue that simply refuses to lie down and die. It is, of course, Irish Home Rule.

Though GUY FAUX be reckoned among the “has-beens” we shall still have reason to “remember, remember the 5th of November.” For on this day the PRIME MINISTER, fresh from Versailles, read to the House the terms, stern but not vindictive, on which Austria-Hungary has been allowed to go out of the War.

It was the worst day in the year that the Irish Nationalists could have chosen to put forward their amazing proposition that Britain should not be allowed to enter the Peace Conference until she had granted Home Rule to Ireland. Mr. T. P. O’CONNOR essayed the hopeless task of trying to rekindle in a thin House the dying embers of Liberal enthusiasm, damped almost to extinction by Irish apathy about the War. But even with some perfunctory help from Mr. ASQUITH and Mr. SAMUEL he could not blow it into a flame. In fact such heat as the debate engendered was supplied by the CHIEF SECRETARY and Mr. BONAR LAW, who told the Irish home-truths about their conduct during the War in language almost as vehement and volcanic as their own.

On the whole the Nationalists took their chastisement more quietly than is their wont. Mr. DILLON indeed seemed chiefly annoyed with Sir EDWARD CARSON’S silence, and declared that he was now “King CARSON and lord and master of Ireland.” Whereupon the monarch uncoiled himself from the seat whence he had watched the debate and quietly observed, ” May I say that this is the tenth year of my reign?” a useful reminder that Liberals as well as Tories had failed to find a solution for the Ulster part of the Irish problem.

The Resolution was watered down in deference to the objections of some British Home Rulers, but even in its diluted form was supported by only 115 Members, including Nationalists, Pacifists, and a few Liberal ex-Ministers, and was defeated by a majority of 81.

(November 13th, 1918)

Those pesky Irish

07-11-1918 Irish foodstuff

It seems like so far this blog has been mostly “Today in 1918”. Well, unfortunately that’s not going to change for a bit, because that’s the only edition that I’ve got as far as scanning. Moreover, I’ve only scanned as far as October and November. So that’s how it’s going to stay for at least a couple of weeks; sorry about that. I’ll get on to some different time periods soon enough.

But, all in all, it’s a pretty cool time period to be looking into. You’ve got the end of War of course, but, there are lots of other things going on that, looking back, are as historic as the War.

Like Irish home rule. I’ve heard it said that if it were not for the outbreak of War in 1914, the UK would have likely descended into civil war. The Irish Nationalist MPs are making their presence known.

Wednesday October 30th – Mr Bonar Law having literally flown away to Paris, Sir George Cave acted as leader of the House, and preserved his usual judicial calm even when a Nationalist Member asking him who would represent Ireland at the Peace Conference. A more sarcastic minister would have met the question by another, “What right does Ireland to be regarded as a beligerent?” Sir George merely pointed out it was too soon to say who would be the “delegates of the British empire.”

As if things weren’t bad enough for the Irish people, Irish pigs are also having a rough time because of a shortage of feeding stuffs. But Punch has little sympathy,

The Irish agriculturalist has for so long been the spoiled darling of the House that the Nationalist Members had quite a shock when Major Astor, referring to the shortage of feeding stuffs, said that it was “only fair that Irish farmers should share some of the inconveniences of the war.” This is, indeed, a cause for poetical justice, since the shortage is due to the diversion of ships to bring over American troops, many thousands of whom could have been spared if the Irish farmers’ sons had done their duty.

Other than the miscreant Irish who sided with Germany in an attempt to destabilise the UK, Ireland was also subject to conscription as part of Britain.

Thursday October 24th – If Ireland has made but a meagre response to the call for men, it is not the fault of the Army clothiers. It seems incredible that the Irish should have resisted the lure of Lynch’s Brigade, with its “head-ress of the Colonial type,” adorned with green band, green and white hackle and wolfhound badge. I trust that they were not put off by the prospect of being played into action by the “five pipers wearing the Irish kilt.”

As for a cartoon, I’m going to try and make it a policy to include one with every post. Even if they don’t make sense or relate to the rest of the post in any way, shape, or form.

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