Wilfrid Scarwen Blunt on the other hand, far from being impartial, went in search of nationalists. He landed unannounced and unaided in Boyle, Co Roscommon in March, 1886, on what he considered to be a ‘wild goose chase for the bogs of Roscommon’ and, ‘having no other introduction, I went in search of the priest, taking my chance of his being a nationalist’.[i] He stayed at the Royal Hotel – an establishment, incidentally, that has only recently (circa early 2012) closed it doors – Blunt describes the hotel as ‘a little tumbledown inn by the riverside’. But it had a cheerful sitting room, even if it was adorned with a picture of King Harman, the ‘landlord and despot of Boyle’.[ii] In stark contrast to Wilkinson’s description of the desolation of the bog-lands surrounding Ballaghaderreen, Blunt found Boyle’s streets to be full of men and women, ‘well dressed enough’, and ‘quite as prosperous as in an ordinary South of England market town’.[iii] The priests name was Father O’Malley. Blunt got a cool reception from the priest and feared he had made a mistake in approaching the clergy-man. But Blunt gradually brought the priest round. He eventually explained to him that the Bishop of his Diocese in Elphin had forbade the priests ‘to have anything to do with the league, or with politics’.[iv]
Blunt later met ‘a little young man, Tully’, who told him he was editor of the Roscommon Herald. In Tully’s view, the people cared little for home rule. What they really wanted was lower rents, better living conditions and for the evictions to stop. In Tully’s opinion, if these issues were dealt with ‘that would be an end of the National movement and the Land League to’. Home rule, Tully reckoned, was seen by the people as just a means to an end; fair rent.[v]
Blunt also spent time in Ballaghaderreen – spelling it Ballaghderin – where he stayed in pleasant surroundings with Mrs Deane. She was a first cousin of John Dillon and very close to him in devotion and affection. Blunt enjoyed his time there, writing: ‘A great day in Ballaghderin, which we spent wondering how things would go in the House of Commons’.[vi] They talked also about Dillon’s personal problems and Parnell’s visits to her home, often arriving with just a spare shirt and a comb. In Mrs Deane’s view, Parnell had ‘ruined his fortune for the cause’.[vii] Before Mrs Deane was finished with him, Blunt had formed the view that, it was astonishing ‘what excellent, well-bred people’ the nationalists were. [viii]
[i] Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, The land war in Ireland: being a personal narrative of events (London MCMXII) P. 45.
[ii] Ibid, p. 46.
[iii] Ibid, p. 46.
[iv] Ibid, pp. 46-47.
[v] Ibid, p. 48.
[vi] Ibid, p. 59.
[vii] Ibid, p. 60.
[viii] Ibid, p. 60.