Bishop Amigo, Cardinal Bourne and Terence MacSwiney
The relationship between Roman Catholic Bishop Amigo and Cardinal Bourne in connection with the hunger strike of Terence McSwiney Commander of the IRA 1918-1920.
1. Introduction and Background
Bourne was an English Catholic Cardinal immediate successor to Herbert Vaughan who had opened and consecrated Bourne’s Cathedral before Bourne acceded. Amigo was a Gibraltarian and appears to have had a leaning to the independent of “the Rock” school of thought at that time not achieved then but now attained never to be joined to Spain through Britain, The EU, Referendums nor any other means. Gibraltar is fiercely independent of Spain and Britain yet proud of its British maritime colonial roots and English culture which defines its character as a city state not a nation (sometimes known as Gib). All these features would have been nascent if not explicit in Amigo. Another Archbishop of Southwark Roman Catholic also had Gibraltarian connections namely Michael Bowen retired, who presided 1977 to 2002 approximately with military lineage and successor to Cowderoy in turn successor to Amigo. Bourne was photographed preaching to the troops in France out of the back of a trailer in World War 1 about 1916. Clearly Bourne supported the War effort and the British Soldiery be they Catholic or non Catholic. You could not and should not discriminate with men dying in droves day in and day out - he would have believed.
There was dreadful carnage and the last Rites (extreme unction) were absolutely crucial to Catholics and Anglicans and other non Catholics wherever they may lie on the battlefields. The Anglican Church was much more pervasive in the 1914 – 1918 War than now and many a soldier pronounced himself Church of England to the recruiting Sergeant. Roman Catholic was the exception particularly among British Officers. The Anglican padres had a Chaplain General in France (Gwynn later Bishop of Cairo 1939) and the Anglican prayer book included the last Rites right up to World War 2 (as quoted by Reverend A L Burrell (padre) to R M Lamb his son in law and confirmed by his daughter Angela Lamb Richard’s spouse).
2. Terence McSwiney
The matter of Terence McSwiney Mayor of Cork – Commander of the IRA in county Cork 1918 – 1920 (War of Independence) – died on hunger strike in Brixton Prison South London about 1920 having been taken in military custody from Cork and surrendered to the Civil governor of H M Prison Brixton to be tried at Central Criminal Court – (England and Ireland were one state) (NOTE Brixton was not a military prison).
McSwiney never faced trial in London but that had been intended by his translation from prison in Cork to Brixton Prison London – not by air (prison lorry: military guard and civilian ferry I expect).
3. Easter Rising
The Easter Rising in Dublin had erupted in 1916 during World War 1 and Bourne would have regarded it as traitorous and very disloyal to England and the Crown taking resources and troops away from the War effort. It was therefore put down brutally in Dublin – drum head court martials – the Defendant organizers rightly put to death by firing squad (reserved for deserters in France World War 1) Bourne would have concurred in that process even though these Irish rebels were Roman Catholic – in his eyes they were renegades. So many young Catholic Irish men were dying in the British Army in Flanders and France World War 1. War is brutal – treachery is worse. The Irish dead in the British Army (eg: George and Reggie French – killed in action on 9 May 1915) Battle of Loos/Ernest French 1917 died of his wounds in Bolzenhiem Belgium and Ernest Fulke French 13 November 1918 2 days after the Armistice – disease. All four sons of Marie de Freyne my grandfather Major Stephen Lamb’s sister – their father was an Irish Peer Lord de Freyne who had predeceased them I believe. This connection would have been known to Bourne as my grandfather Stephen Lamb was a devout Catholic and attended the Cathedral for Mass and my father told me his father knew Bourne. They were on more than speaking terms. Indeed they would have been nearly the same age and Bourne would have enjoyed the Cardinal Newman link and the Oratory Edgbaston too. Moreover my grandfather Major Stephen Lamb lost his own 1st cousin in action on 1 November 1914 – killed in action – Northumberland fusiliers – Captain Everard Joseph Lamb – education Oratory School post Newman. The stage is set for a powerful union between Bourne and S E Lamb Major in all these connections. Bourne would heed the word of Major S E Lamb veteran of the Dorsets Ret’d 1898 – served 20 years from 1880 Egypt and India. Stephen trained as an officer Royal Military Academy Woolwich. They must have met in peacetime pre World War 1 and the friendship persisted through World War 1 in to the War of Independence of Ireland in 1918 – 1922 through to 1927 when my grandfather died in London probably before Bourne died.
4. Westminster Cathedral
It appears according to Bishop McDonald of Southwark (living) the first choice of McSwiney’s family for the body to lie in state was Westminster Cathedral. Refused rightly by Bourne and clearly an attempt at propaganda by the Irish Nationalists. The funeral itself would inevitably have been in Ireland – Cork. Bourne could see it coming and was not deceived however powerful the Irish/English party may be. The Major S E Lamb would have supported Bourne’s veto. The terrible shame was Bishop Amigo’s capitulation to the Irish Nationalists and his permission for McSwiney’s body to lie in state in Roman Catholic Southwark Cathedral contrary to the wishes declared of Cardinal Bourne of Westminster and Senior English Catholic prelate at the time (1920 I believe). The Irish interpreted Amigo’s decision as a blessing on his hunger strike. It must have rankled with Bourne and Major S E Lamb (strong British military connection) who were both devoted and practising Roman Catholics in the deepest sense.
5. Black and Tans
The misdeeds of the black and tans (auxiliary police not soldiers) was being aimed at Bourne to weaken his resolve (even my own father said Major S E Lamb disapproved of the deployment of these badly trained ill disciplined soldiers as auxiliary police). Thus Major S E Lamb was a fair-minded man who understood soldiering and trained soldiers for World War 1 according to my father. Major S E Lamb would have been shoulder to shoulder with Bourne over McSwiney – the IRA had resisted the defacto and de jure power in Ireland for their own ends. Clearly autonomy was near at hand. The IRA violence against the Crown in Ireland was gratuitous therefore. It was a mistake to deploy the black and tans but clearly the Governor-General was short of men as we always were in Colonial disengagements and major campaigns in the 19th and 20th centuries and even earlier.
All four of the Frenchs who died in World War 1 were in the South Wales Borderers a Welsh regiment (not an Irish regiment within British Army World War 1) save for Edward Fulke French (Artillery – English regiment). Thus Major S E Lamb had an impeccable English military background and both his sons J C Lamb (Border Regiment) and R A Lamb (Royal Horse Artillery) were to become Majors in British Army World War 2. The essence lies in the military rank and service and the Catholicism (the officer class). (George French was a private and Reggie a Captain – Ernest a Private). With S E Lamb Major and Captain E J Lamb and my father and his brother it was the military Catholic Cadre which stiffened Bourne to refuse McSwiney to lie in state. Amigo appears to have lacked judgement and true strength of purpose in not following what was in effect a command from Bourne – we will not see behind the scenes. Never pander to violence particularly Irish Republican violence and what is more never dress the English Roman Catholic Church in the foolish clothes of Republicans starving to death – in effect a suicidal end to life on earth. From Terence McSwiney to Bobby Sands it is misguided valour. I will drink to their valour but not to their decision making and their consciences. They were not guided by God and Amigo should have revealed and taught that. We always drink to those who die in prison. As a Bishop Amigo failed to feed his sheep by distancing himself from McSwiney’s fundamental sin in not preserving and conserving his own life. Bourne could see you pray for the dead of World War 1 including the Irish Nationalists who died in Ireland in 1916 and 1918 – 1922 – that is our duty he would say. But he would also argue the living matter more than the dead and the Intentions of the living are crucial. McSwiney snuffed out his own life and its purpose and aim. McSwiney died for himself not for his neighbour and he was popular – elected Mayor of Cork and could have influenced events positively had he lived. He threw away his life (very recklessly) and wantonly in the way he died to prove he would not face the music. He paradoxically was cowardly and an embarrassment truly to his compatriots. He refused to follow the lead of the English and Welsh Catholic martyrs. His surviving IRA members mythologized his hunger strike unto death to conceal as always occurs in these circumstances its weakness in moral terms eg: also John McDaid – 1970’s blown up by his explosive device (IRA Operative). There is no dignity in ending your own life in these self inflicted ways.
I do dispute the internet interpretation regarding MsSwiney and his move to Brixton prison in 1920 but the fact he was transferred to Brixton the holding prison for prisoners awaiting trial at the Central Criminal Court leaves a doubt in my mind such a trial may have been contemplated. Why transfer him to Brixton otherwise? McSwiney felt hard done by a Court Martial in Dublin (seditious material) and the Crown may have wanted to uphold and ratify the process of his incarceration through arraignment and trial according to the ordinary Criminal Law in London. He was mounting an insurrection in Ireland in the 1916 uprising and later in 1918 – 1920 as the authorities knew from their Agents in Ireland (1918 – 1920). Without doubt there would have been credible evidence against him that could have been adduced in a Criminal Court in London to convict McSwiney possibly of a capital crime. Clearly the cabinet had this course of action in mind to counter the IRA propaganda slanted against the Court Martial judicial process meted out to McSwiney in Dublin in 1920 when he was found in possession of Seditious documents and material. Clearly no Irish Jury would convict him. McSwiney was fighting a losing battle and rather than be humiliated in a grand trial in London he decided to end his own life. He feared he would put a foot wrong in an English Court.
Sir Roger Casement Irish Nationalist (and protestant) tried in London for High Treason and hanged at Pentonville Prison on 3 August 1916 (implicated in smuggling arms in to Ireland with German assistance).
It has been bought to my attention the following errors appear in my McSwiney essay of 19th June 2013 issued on Kindle Amazon:
- Lord de Freyne was an English peer not an Irish peer as I described him in my essay wrongly.
- George and Ernest French were serving Lieutenants like Edward Fulke French when they died in World War I. I wrongly described George and Ernest as privates in my essay. Reggie French was a Captain as stated by me in my essay.
- Edward Fulke French was no Ernest as named in my essay. He was a prisoner of war at Mainz in Germany who tragically died of disease two days after the end of the hostilities on 13th November 1918.
- Together Reggie, George, Ernest and Edward Fulke: these four sons of Marie de Freyne all died in the Great War and they were all Frenchs.
I apologise to all concerned for these mistakes and omissions and any injury caused thereby. All these errors have been corrected and the essay reissued as amended through Kindle Amazon on 3rd January 2014.