Thursday, 20 February 2014

Berlin - the Downfall 1945.


Berlin – the Downfall 1945.
By Antony Beevor.  Viking, Penguin Books, London 2002. Pages 37 in introduction and 434 in text.

This review was written on June 3rd 2004


This is a horrific account of the capture and destruction of Berlin by the Russians in May 1945.  It seems a well researched if somewhat bitty account and, as seems inevitable in a relatively short account of the war on the Russian front during 1944 and 1945, it can be difficult at times to follow some of the campaign episodes.  There is relatively little reference in the book to the approach by the Western Allies and most of this deals with the American advance.  The capture of Berlin, with the appalling destruction and inhumanity of the campaign as the Russians steamrolled their way into East Prussia and the eastern part of Germany, was prolonged by Hitler’s obsessive belief up to the end that the German’s would eventually win. Hence his refusal to allow a surrender.  It was prolonged by the fierce German resistance, thanks to Hitler’s intransigence and to the leadership vacuum created by his dominance, the extraordinary influence he had over the SS and the Gestapo leaders, and the failure of the German army leadership to influence him.  German fear of the Soviets, the background to their suicidal resistance, resulted from the Nazi propaganda, particularly emanating from Goebbels, that the Germans would be treated with the greatest severity if they were captured by the Russian Army - rape, widespread mass murder and all the horrors of the Russian Gulag - was the constant reminder of the Nazi spokesmen. It would be a repeat of all the cruelties which the German SS and the Gestapo, with the connivance of many of the army leaders, had inflicted on the Poles and Russians during the German/Russian campaign. 

Red Army soldiers place flag on Reichstag 
Like the SS and the Gestapo among the Germans, the Russian Secret Police represented by the NKVD and Smersh exerted a baleful influence because of their infiltration of all branches of the Russian army, leading to politicising of the military and sharing the indifference to international law with their German counterparts.  By 1944 and 1945 the Russian army had become colossal in terms of numbers and in the amount of equipment it possessed.  Stalin showed little concern about the huge losses of Russian soldiers as he continued to urge the Russian commander in chief, Zukoff, and the other generals to capture Berlin before it was reached by the Allies from the West.  Apart from the prestige value of capturing Berlin, which urged Stalin to drive his generals, he was also aware of the research into atomic energy which was centred close to Berlin and which contained, amongst other valuable material, badly needed quantities of uranium which were in short supply in Russia, a shortage which was impeding Russian research aimed at developing the atomic bomb. He was aware of the progress being made in developing the atomic bomb by America, thanks to American spies. He feared the Allies would reach the centre first and thus bring the Russian research to a halt.  

Hitler treated his generals with increasing contempt as the war deteriorated. He attributed the blame for the German losses to the Army and its leaders whilst most of the blame was his as he insisted on directing the German military campaign.  Some of his decisions lead to disastrous results and his total lack of insight into the realities of the war lead to the view by many observers that Hitler was mad by the time he reached the bunker in Berlin. 
   
An important political aspect of the time was Eisenhower’s lack of insight into European politics and his ignoring the Western countries natural fears of communism.  Eisenhower appeared to do all in his power to please Stalin. His reluctance to alienate him was based on avoiding a possible conflict between the Allies and the Russians as they met in mid-Germany.  His yielding to Stalin’s wishes was a source of great anxiety and, at times, fury to Churchill but perhaps Eisenhowers’ softly, softly approach to Stalin may have avoided a serious clash between Russia and the Allies.  As the war came to an end Stalin was deeply suspicious that the Allies might join the remains of the German army to fight Russia. In fact, there was apparently little conflict between the Allies on the one hand and the Russian’s on the other as the German war came to an end and as the Yalta agreement came into force.

This book reflects my reading of other books on the subject of the Second World War.  The appalling violence, cruelty, loss of life and indifference to international and Christian morality among the Germans and Russians does not auger well for the future of humanity, particularly as we are likely to face increasing political stresses as a result of over-population and the loss of the planet’s sustainability.  Nevertheless, there were many examples of heroic behaviour and of kindness and concern among the Russian soldiers, particularly in relation to women prisoners and the wounded. 

Irish ration book
In my book Improving With Age, I recounted the quiet, peaceful, almost surreal life which we had in Ireland during the war.  We were totally oblivious to the horrors of the German concentration camps and the Russian Front.  Beevor, in his summing up of the origins of the war, stated that Stalin was a practitioner of political genocide while Hitler was a practitioner of racial genocide.  This is a very accurate summary of the behaviour and policies of these two dictators.  Both had the support of their populations and both were sustained to the very end of their careers by a significant group of dedicated and blindly committed adherence.  Beevor believed that Stalin would stop at nothing in terms of lives and political deceit in his ambition to capture Berlin and to claim the primary credit for beating the Germans. This was apparent in his dealing with the Allies,  

This book confirms the appalling treatment the Poles received from the Germans and the Russians.  When I hear people complain of Ireland’s misfortunes during the last five centuries, I think what a haven of peace and security this country was compared to Poland and the other Eastern European countries.  The final Russian invasion of Germany and capture of Berlin took place during the winter of 1944 and the spring of 1945.  The hardship endured by the German and Russian armies during this time as well as the appalling circumstance of the populations of East Germany and Poland are impossible to imagine, at least to those of us in Ireland who were well fed, who knew little about the affairs of the outside world and who were more concerned about such trivia as the shortage of spare parts for our bikes and our ersatz golf balls.  The description of the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing to the West and the suffering under the Russian advance can do little justice to the misery, terror and degradation which these people suffered. 

Monday, 10 February 2014

A son’s Tribute.


              

In 1994 my friend and colleague, Ian Graham, wrote to me after the publication of the first biography of my father by Maryann Valiulis (1). Maryann was an academic from Chicago who had already published Almost a Rebellion about the Army Mutiny in 1924 which led to my father’s resignation from the Cabinet (2). Ian had read the biography with  interest but he wished to have a better insight into my father’s character and ‘’the qualities which brought him to such prominence, his innate integrity and his role in preventing the  Irish Army and its predecessor, the IRA, from leading us to a banana republic.’’

My father was in many ways a remarkable man. He was quiet, sober and peace loving but he could respond firmly and trenchantly if he thought it necessary to deal with a current crisis however unpopular might be deemed his decision by others. He had an excellent record as a pupil at the Christian Brother schools in Waterford and Thurles. He was awarded an exhibition following his intermediate examination but despite an unusual invitation from Rockwell College to spend his last two years as a free boarder, he was obliged for family reasons to leave school early. He shared the traditional Victorian values of his family - hard work, a life-time of self education, self-discipline, punctuality and integrity. He differed from his contemporises, Catholic and Protestant, in that, while still in his teens, he developed an interest in the Irish language and in the early writers and activists in Sinn Féin such as Griffith in Dublin and Denis McCullough and his colleagues of the Dungannon Clubs in the  North 

At the age of 17, shortly after spending six months with his father who was postmaster in Thurles, he went as a post office learner to West Cork in Bantry where his interest in Irish and the culture of Ireland was greatly advanced in the Gaeilteacht there. In keeping with this his interest in Griffith and Home Rule continued.

He was transferred to Dublin in 1909 at the age of 23 where he came close to other revolutionaries in the Keating Branch of the Gaelic League. He was soon encouraged to join the IRB and joined the Irish Volunteers at its inception in November 1913. He was a first lieutenant in the 2nd C Company of the Dublin Brigade by 1916. He spent his first six years in Dublin while in the post office attending night classes in the third level institutions at Kevin street and Bolton Street as part of his general and engineering education. By then he spoke excellent Irish, formal or academic French, had mastered shorthand and continued his fondness for poetry as well as his regular training with the Volunteers. His shorthand was a curious mixture of Pitman and Gregg but it allowed him to record the speeches of others long before the availability of a personal or hand recorder.


He was perhaps perceived by the unfamiliar during his earlier years as being formal and shy, but he was affable and popular with his close colleagues and with his family and friends. That he was capable of enjoying a laugh and being in good humour is evident from some of his tape recordings with Páidín O’Keefe, the long-term secretary of Sinn Féin during the revolution, and other contemporaries after his retirement.  Within the domestic scene he was considerate and indulgent, at least to my mother and my three sisters, and quick to oblige if asked to assist.



He married in 1919.  Mother, with her heavy domestic duties, the quick arrival of six children and a chronically tight budget, could be a little irritable when under pressed and might be a little vexed at times. He would touch her lightly on the shoulder and say ‘’Now Min -----‘’ and all would be well. I never heard them having a dispute.  However he was capable of rebuke in the event of an inappropriate remark or unmannerly behaviour by any of his children as we grew up to adulthood.  As I can recall, his only domestic duties were to prune the roses on St. Patrick’s Day and to repair the then primitive electric fuse system

RM and Min
His life and his idealism and those of his family in Thurles were largely influenced by the Church, by the Catholic schools established after Catholic Emancipation and the introduction of compulsory primary education in 1831, and by the Victorian virtues of their Protestant neighbours of the late 19th century. The ambience at that time in Ireland was devoid of political radicalism and virtually all Catholics were loyal supporters of Redmond and Home Rule. Apart from the brief Young Irelanders’ Rising in 1848 and the equally brief Fenian Rising of 1867, there was no interest in violence among the people of Ireland nor was there any among the relatively few supporters of Griffith’s more radical Sinn Féin.

His life of self-education led him from being a post office learner to become the head of the post-1916 revolutionary army and later a prominent politician, and to remain deeply immersed in the culture and language of his country. I was aware of his intense desire to ensure that the state must be based on our Gaelic culture and on a democratic mould and that he was incapable of allowing personal advantage to obtrude on his political vision. His devotion to the Irish language did not obtrude on his interest in English or French nor was he or his contempories critical of the English people whatever about his views of certain members of the Tory Party, He had a lifetime interest in the poetry of the three languages and I have described elsewhere how he learned to recall many of his poems in Irish and French while he was in solitary confinement for three weeks without book, pen or paper in Knutsford Prison in 1916. He was even deprived of a Bible by the prison authorities ‘’because he was a Catholic’’ During his retirement I often heard him repeating poems aloud in his big study upstairs in Lissenfield.

He played a leading part in the Ashbourne battle on the Friday, the last day of the 1916 Rebellion. It was only a few days before Easter Monday that he knew that the ‘’manoeuvres’’ described by Pearse were likely to be more serious than their normal weekend outings.  He had intended being on holidays for the weekend but pressure from Sean McDermott, one of the signatories of the rebellion, forced him to change his mind as he was needed to cut the telephone wires to Belfast and London at the start of the ‘’manoeuvres’’. (McDermott was unofficially engaged to Dad’s future wife, Min Ryan, my mother! I have McDermott’s last letter to her on the Friday preceding the rising). Little could Dad guess that he was to lead to the death of nine RIC men, most of whom were as Irish as he?  He never denied the heroism of the signatories or the ethics of the Rising but I always wondered about his refusal to attend the celebration of the Ashbourne Memorial in 1955 which was graced by the presence of the President, his brother-in-law Seán T. O’Kelly and where Dad would have been deemed the hero of this military event, unique in military terms in the history of the Rising. .

After his return from prison in Wales in Christmas 1916, he was soon to be appointed head of the Irish Volunteers because of his reputation earned during the Rebellion. He was described by a well-known colleague as ‘’the only Volunteer who emerged from the Rebellion with a military reputation’’. He remained the military and later the political head of the army until 1924 and then spent his entire professional life as a fulltime politician, mostly on the opposition benches.

There is some lack of understanding about the date of onset of the War of Independence. It is sometimes described as beginning with the unsolicited shooting of two RIC men at Soloheadbeg in Tipperary in January 1919 but that event as well as other isolated ones during 1919 were not war decisions accepted by GHQ nor by the political leader of the army, Cathal Brugha. Both Brugha and my father did not feel that the Irish people were ready to accept open warfare with the British at the time. Dad was certainly less bellicose than Collins and was aware that many ardent nationalists were opposed to war. He was particularly careful to avoid alienating the community.  He went, possibly reluctantly, into war at the end of 1919 but there was little alternative by then.

The War, according to him, commenced with the decision to advise Terence McSwiney of Cork to start the attack on the RIC barracks at the end of 1919. War was by this time forced on GHQ, firstly by the British failure to accept the results of the 1918 election and some of the post-war bye-elections, and later by the constant harassment and jailing of Sinn Féin deputies, speakers and supporters by the RIC from late 1917 to 1919. Most important, according to McSwiney, was the mounting impatience of the volunteers in the provinces and the suppression of several Irish cultural and sporting bodies in the summer of 1919 and, particularly, the suppression of the Dáil in the autumn of the year. Both Brugha and my father were conservative about official military intervention because of their belief that the people were slow to accept war until British intransigence became too oppressive.

RM on extreme right. Best man at Terence McSwiney's wedding
He was a superb organiser and as the head of the revolutionary army from March 1918 he organised a force along the lines of a peacetime army despite the gathering conflict with the British forces and the increasing disturbances in the country. For example, no executions were permitted among the city and country forces without permission by GHQ during the War, although with some notable exceptions, this order was generally adhered to. Executions were related to spies and other local people who were deemed to be a threat to the volunteer forces. My father’s pride in the army extended beyond its strictly military functions and his devotion to the rule of law. It was consistent with his organisational skills that they were able to carry out a census of the entire National Army on the occasion of the 12th and 13th of November 1922 in the height of the Civil War and considerable details were collected about more that 30,000 members of the force.  He envisioned the army as more than a fighting force. During the Civil War he set up the Army School of Music which is still the pride of our citizens and he presented a silver trophy for the best athlete of the forces which is still competed for to-day (although the definition of athletics has been somewhat extended to other sporting activities). And during the Civil War he established an Irish speaking brigade in Galway. If history had been different, he had ideas that a peaceful army could be mobilised to assist in the restoration of our almost totally depleted forests!

In February 1923 while the Civil War was still continuing he sent the following letter to his soldiers

What did I do yesterday and  to-day to make myself a more effective soldier at my work – a more tolerable person in ordinary barrack life – a more welcomed person in and ‘off duty’ group? To help in that general achievement which causes people to remark as they see our men pass individually or march in bodies thro’ our streets or throughout the country ‘’They’re certainly making a job of the Army’’.

Am I thoughtful of what an army means for the country - what the country wants it for – what it can effect for the people and their character? Am I working in the steady spirit of service of Pearse and Tom Clarke and Seán McDermott?  These are thoughts that must find a place in the minds of every officer and man who wishes his work of to-day to be a source of happiness to himself and of usefulness to his country.

Every time I see the army on parade I always think that he left his mark of discipline and integrity on our soldiers to this day

During the War of Independence (January 1920-July 1921) there was a close personal contact between the Chief of Staff and the other members of GHQ and, in many matters, with the leaders of the IRA in the provinces. His great strength was his success in delegation. He was always vocal in praising those whom he found efficient and reliable. His praise of Collins was evident in all his writings and conversations as was his praise of McKee, O’Duffy, Seán McMahon, Seán O’Murthuile, Seán McEoin and others, including Liam Lynch. He was mute about the less efficient;

He thought Lynch was the outstanding leader of the volunteers in the provinces during the War of Independence. Much to my father’s disappointment, Lynch opposed the Treaty and was to lead the irregular forces and to be most responsible for the prolongation and the ultimate futility of the Civil War which had after a few months degenerated into widespread vandalism, arson and destruction of property and pubic transport without any semblance of an organised military force. This situation was aggravated by the absence of a police force and during the later days of the Civil War the army was much involvied in restoring the damage to our railways, roads and bridges and public utilities

RM and Collins at Griffith's funeral
My father's relationship with Michael Collins has always intrigued me. As chief of staff and therefore Collins's military superior, he had an intimate association with Collins during the entire War of Independence. At all times he showed an extraordinary sensitivity to criticism of Collins by some of the leading politicians during the War of Independence and particularly on the Treaty issue and its aftermath. It is clear from the tape recordings that he believed Collins could do no wrong.  The deaths of Griffith and Collins in August 1922 at the height of the Civil War were in his view the ultimate tragedy for the new Irish State.

 I have no knowledge of any reference by Collins among his papers to his chief of staff either during the War or the subsequent Truce and early Civil War periods. As a man of action Collins was Churchillian in his self-absorption, his energy and self confidence, and he rarely spoke of the contribution of others.

Just as I came across Ian’s letter in my file, I had a message from my daughter, Tina, who sent me this email she had received from a friend in California:

Hi all. Tina's grandfather is my hero and I don't have many heroes. How remarkable that such a mild mannered and completely decent man would have become a general able to lead a successful guerrilla war and then keep his country whole through a much more difficult  and nasty civil war.

I first discovered Richard Mulcahy about 6 months before I met a striking quote posted in the prison museum in Dublin. Usually everything in a museum becomes a jumble but this stood out. Mulcahy's quote strictly enjoined the victorious pro-treaty army to have no enemies, to take no revenge, and always to act honourably toward the defeated. It echoed Lincolns- ‘’with malice toward none, with charity to all."

The biographies have rounded out the man and increased my esteem. The biggest surprise is his writing style. Your dad is somewhat apologetic about RM's frequent use of metaphor and elaborate sentence structure. I felt completely charmed by it and amazed at the consistent grace of his style and vividness of expression in even the most routine of military dispatches. RM gives new meaning to the adage that people can accomplish great things in proportion to their not needing credit for them. Has there ever been a less narcistic (sic) leadeThe great remaining mystery is RM's choice to participate so fully in so violent a life. I think it must be the psychology of the Christian soldier or righteous medieval knight - an ideal too often used as an excuse for selfish or unworthy ends but embodied in its purist (in both senses of the word) form in RM. A man for all seasons and all times. Congratulations to your father and to you to carry his legacy.

I expect Tina’s friend had read Dad’s message to the army issued in the early morning after hearing of Collins’s death. I have not seen the quote at Kilmainham Gaol but I expect he was referring to Dad’s stirring message. The message hangs in my study, printed by Yeats’s two sisters of the Cuala Press in the 1920s





To the men of the Army
Stand calmly by your posts.
Bend bravely and undaunted to your work.
Let no cruel act of reprisal blemish your bright honour.
Every dark hour that Michael Collins met since 1916 Seemed but to steel that bright strength of
his and temper his gay bravery.
You are left each inheritors of that strength, and of that bravery.
To each of you falls his unfinished work.
No darkness in this hour – No loss of comrades will daunt you at it.

And no doubt his reference to my criticism of my father’s frequent use of metaphor, and his length and complexity of sentence structure, refers to his many references to Collins in my two biographies (3,4) and his extraordinary oration over Collins’s grave which redounds with references evocative of dad’s love of the Irish language, his sense of Irish history and mythology, and particularly his deep spirituality based on his devotion to the life of Christ. UlicK O’Connor, the author, once told me he thought the oration was one of the finest pieces of oratory he had read.

The shortened version of Dad’s oration reads as follow:

Opening in Irish, he said that there was a burden `of sorrow heavy on the hearts of our people today, that our minds, like the great Cathedral below after the last Mass had been said, and the coffin borne away, and the great concourse of people emptied from it – our minds were dry, wordless, and empty, with nothing in them but the little light of faith.

Continuing in English, he said: - Our country is today bent under a sorrow such as it has not been bent under for many a year.  Our minds are cold, empty, wordless, and without sound.  But it is only our weaknesses that are bent under this great sorrow that we meet with today.  All that is good in us, all that is strong in us, is strengthened by the memory of that great hero and that great legend who is now laid to rest.

We bend today over the grave of a man not more than thirty years of age, who took to himself the gospel of toil for Ireland, the gospel of working for the people of Ireland, and of sacrifice for their good, and who has made himself a hero and a legend that will stand in the pages of our history with any bright page that was ever written there.

Pages have been written by him in the hearts of our people that will never find a place in print.  But we lived, some of us, with these intimate pages; and those pages that will reach history, meagre though they be, will do good to our country and will inspire us through many a dark hour.  Our weaknesses cry out to us, “Michael Collins was too brave”.

Michael Collins was not too brave.  Every day and every hour he lived he lived it to the full extent of that bravery which God gave to him, and it is for us to be brave as he was – brave before danger, brave before those who lie, brave even to that very great bravery that our weakness complained of in him. 

When we look over the pages of his diary for 22nd August, “Started 6.15am Macroom to Ballineen, Bandon, Skibereen, Roscarbary, Clonakilty,” our weakness says he tried to put too much into the day.  Michael Collins did not try to put too much into the day.  Standing on the little mantle-piece of his office was a bronze plaque of President Roosevelt, of the United States, and the inscription on it ran: “I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labour and strife; to preach that highest form of success that comes, not to the man who desires mere ease in peace, but to him who does not shrink from danger, hardship, or bitter toil, and who, out of these, wins the splendid ultimate triumph.”

“Mara bhfuigheann an gráinne arbhair a theiheannn sa talamh bás ni bhion ann ach e féin, ach, ma gheibheann sé bás tugan se toradh mór uaidh.”

“Unless the grain of corn that falls into the ground dies, there is nothing but itself in it, but if it dies it gives forth great fruit.”
   
And Michael Collins’ passing will gives us forth great fruit, and Michael Collins’ dying will give us forth great fruit.  Every bit of his small grain of corn died, and it died night and day during the last four or five years.  We have seen him lying on a bed of sickness and struggling with infirmities, running from his bed to his work.

On Saturday, the day before he went on his last journey to Cork, he sat with me at breakfast writhing with pain from a cold all through his body, and yet he was facing his day’s work for that Saturday, and facing his Sunday’s journey and Monday’s journey and his journey on Tuesday.  So let us be brave, and let us not be afraid to do too much in the day.  In all that great work, strenuous it was, comparatively it was intemperate, but it was the only thing that Michael Collins was intemperate in.

Yes, get up to read, to write; to think, to plan, to work, or, like Ard Riogh Eireann long ago, simply to greet the sun.  The God-given long day fully felt and fully seen would bring its own work and its own construction.  Let us be brave, then, and let us work.
    
“Prophecy”, said Peter, who was the great rock, “is a light shining in the darkness till the day
 dawn”.

And surely “our great rock” was our prophet and our prophecy, a light held aloft along the road of “danger or hardship or bitter toil’ and if our light is gone out it is only as the paling of a candle in the dawn of its own prophecy.

An act of his, a word of his, a look of his was day by day a prophecy to us that loose lying in us lay capabilities for toil, for bravery, for regularity, for joy in life; and in slowness and in hesitancy and in weariness half yielded to, his prophecies came true in us.  And just as he as a person was a light and a prophecy to us individually, he looked to it and wished that this band of brothers, which is the Army, will be a prophecy to our people.  Our Army has been the people, is the people, and will be the people.  Our green uniform does not make us less the people.  It is a cloak of service, a curtailer of our weaknesses, and amplifier of our strength.

He is supposed to have said, “Let the Dublin Brigade bury me”.  Michael Collins knows that we will never bury him.  He lies here among the men of the Dublin Brigade.  Around him there lie forty-eight comrades of his from our Dublin battalions.  But Michael Collins never separated the men of Dublin from the men of Kerry, nor the men of Dublin from the men of Donegal, nor the men of Donegal from the men of Cork.

His great love embraced our whole people and our whole Army, and he was as close in spirit with our men in Kerry and Donegal as he was with our men in Dublin.  Yes.  And even those men in different districts in the country who sent us home here our dead Dublin men – we are sure he felt nothing but pity and sorrow for them for the tragic circumstances in which they find themselves, knowing that in fundamentals and in ideals they were the same.
    
Michael Collins had only a few minutes to live and to speak after he received his death wound, and the only word he spoke in these few moments was “Emmet”.  He called to the comrade along side him, the comrade of many fights and many plans, and I am sure that he felt in calling that one name that he was calling around him the whole men of Ireland that he might speak the last word of comradeship and love.

We last looked at him in the City Hall and in the small church in Vincent’s Hospital.  And, studying his face with an eager gaze, we found there the same old smile that met us always in work.  And seeing it there in the first dark hour of our blow, the mind could not help travelling back to the dark storm-tossed Sea of Galilee and the frail barque tossed upon the waters there, and the strong, calm smile of the Great Sleeper in the stern of the boat.

Tom Ashe, Tomas MacCurtain, Traolac MacSuibhne, Dick McKee, Michael O’Coileain, and all you who lie buried here, disciples of our great Chief, those of us you leave behind are all, too, grain from the same handful, scattered by the hand of the Great Sower over the fruitful soil of Ireland.  We, too, will bring forth our own fruit.

Men and women of Ireland, we are all mariners on the deep, bound for a port still seen only through storm and spray, sailing still on a sea full “of dangers and hardships, and bitter toil.”  But the Great Sleeper lies smiling in the stern of the boat, and we should be filled with that spirit which will walk bravely upon the waters.

As far as I know this oration is only available in the limited publication Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins, published by Martin Lester, Ltd, Dublin sometime in the 1920s and in my own biography of my father in 2010 (4).

I ponder about my father’s character as it appeared to me from my intimate knowledge of him as one of his sons and as his literary agent and one of his biographers.  He survived ten years after his retirement from parliament in 1961 and it was at this time that I got to know him and his career best.  With his newly appointed secretary, Chris O’Doherty, we helped him to put his extensive army and personal papers in order before they were deposited in the archives of University College.

His papers start as far back as November 1920 while he was Chief of Staff of the IRA. His extensive tape recordings covered the first six or seven years of his retirement.  He failed to release his papers and recordings until the year before his death in 1971. This left a serious lacuna for historians about the revolution and particularly about the early years of the Army.  And it was to take even more years after his papers reached the University before his archive became freely available. It was also evident, most importantly, from the little information about the origins and the early years of the army included in Lt. Col. John P. Duggan’s history of the Irish Army published in 1991. And It is likely that the first detailed and authoritative account of the history of GHQ during the War of Independence was not published until 2013 by Pat Taaffe (5)

Dad’s philosophy was based on the welfare of his country; the Irish should be in charge of their own affairs; democracy should be a sine qua non. The army’s role was to protect our democratic institutions. His conception of the role of the army was evident by his determination that we should have an army structured as early as 1918 on the integrity and the service of a peacetime army, on international law and military discipline.  Such an ambition might have been unrealistic during the early days of the War of Independence, and was not always appreciated by his more active and restive fighters, particularly in  west Cork, who were critical at times of his caution and his numerous communications. But during this time and during the six months of the Truce, the army, or such of it as remained loyal to the Treaty, was advanced enough in organisation and leadership to deal with the more numerous but less organised men opposed to the Treaty in arms.

Mulcahy’s concern for his officers and his men was readily apparent in his communications with them. His caution frustrated some; His insistence on procedure annoyed others. But he patiently reiterated the reasons for his actions and even those who disagreed had to admit that he wanted to understand their point of view, their concerns, their problems (1).

My Father’s determination was to win the Civil War and save the Treaty on behalf of Griffith and Collins and the great majority of the people. Because of this I can understand why a man of my father’s modest, self-facing and spiritual nature could be so determined and draconian during the crisis days which involved him and his leadership during the revolution.

His message to the Army and his subsequent homily over the grave of Collins led to a comment in the Times by its Dublin correspondent that Mulcahy, as head of an army conducting a bitter civil war, was perhaps ‘handicapped by the temperament of a philosopher’. This evoked a reply in the letter columns of the Times newspaper from the writer KatherineTynan

Your Dublin correspondent, writing of the calamitous death of Michael Collins, said of Richard Mulcahy that ‘he is handicapped by the temperament of a philosopher’. Well, he may well have the temperament of a philosopher – though I should not call that a handicap in Irish politics – but he has also the temperament of a poet, without which no Irish genius is complete. I listened at the Dail meetings last autumn to speech after speech which seemed to me, brought on the traditions of Irish oratory, deliberately commonplace and dull. Then came Mulcahy and the whole thing was changed. He was not ashamed to put his emotions into oratory; listening to him one was back in the great days. His address to the army on the death of Michael Collins seems to me admirable as poetic prose. Nothing could be finer. There is no higher type of man in our history than the man who is at one a poet and a man of action, as witness the great men of Elizabethan days. Ireland has suffered a terrible calamity in the death of our two leaders (Griffith and Collins) but while such men as Richard Mulcahy and the Brennans of Clare lead her army, we may lift up our heavy hearts.

The Civil war petered out with the death of Lynch in May 1923. My father then retired from the army leadership but remained in the Cabinet as minister for defence until March 1924 when he resigned in protest when the Army leaders were sacked at the time of the Army Mutiny. When asked why he had resigned he replied that it was the Grace of God he had done so. ‘’Otherwise his refusal to accept the Government’s decision might have lead to a recrudescence of the Civil War.’’ Although he and the army leaders were badly treated by the Cabinet, he was aware of the fragile state of the new Free State Government. He did not desert his party; he remained a full-time politician and at times an impecunious one until the end of his career in 1961. 

During his entire political career he avoided discussing the revolutionary period in public and he refused to review books and other publications which bore on the revolutionary times. His view was that we had enough problems in post-Treaty Ireland without becoming involved in such controversial issues.

He was rational in his attitude to national affairs and he was a realist in terms of what we could or needed to achieve. In conversation with him he said he had no squabble with the English people; his only objection was to the Tory Party and some of its leaders who over so many years were opposed to Irish self-rule and failed to understand Ireland’s unique culture and traditions

 In the summer of 1921 during the Truce he was asked in the Dáil to second Seán McEoin’s nomination of Dev as President of the Republic. When I asked him how this was consistent with his support of the Treaty, he answered that they had little insight during the War of Independence into the future standing of the country in relation to Britain. He explained his reasons for his support of the Treaty. His only wish was that we might be allowed to run our own country. He had no interest in the symbolism of the Crown, the Northern counties had by then been established before the Treaty by the Government of Ireland Act, and a republic would have worsened the division between South and North, as indeed had the effect of the Civil War. He did not think the agreement about the three ports was important.

These were the conditions which induced the IRA dissidents to fight the Civil War - the rhetoric of the Republic, the Crown, the ports and the implacable opposition to the earlier and firmly established Northern settlement; and these were the circumstances leading to the rejection of the Treaty by De Valera whose political leadership was vital but who would not accept a settlement which gave Ireland the freedom to run its own affairs, a settlement which satisfied the desires of the great majority of our citizens. And no doubt Mulcahy must have been influenced, like so many others, by the joyful reception the news of the Treaty settlement received from the public, the media and the outside world.

Dad’s modesty was at times a source of irritation to his family and close friends such as his refusal to defend himself against his critics during his active political career, his refusal to attend the ceremony to commemorate the Ashbourne affair in 1955, his tributes to Beaslai and other authors who paid little or no attention to GHQ and its chief in their writings of the revolution, his decision to forego the role of Taoiseach in 1948 and to welcome Jack Costello in his place, and to forego the more prestigious ministries for that of education in the two Inter-Party governments because of his interest in the Irish language and in Irish culture, interests shared by few of his colleagues in government.

He was by nature a backroom boy, private and unostentatious during his public life. However, he was not slow to adopt a vigorous response if his role in politics during his active years was threatened, such as his demand to be readmitted to the Cabinet before the 1927 election, a demand opposed by Cosgrave but supported strongly by the Party, and his Herculean success in restoring the fortunes of Fine Gael which was in serious decline in 1944 when he replaced Cosgrave as head of the Party.  He was remarkable in cobbling together the five different parties, as different as chalk and cheese in terms of policies, to bring about the defeat of the de Valera Party in 1948 and spawning the first Inter-party government. Again, as head of Fine Gael he fought a vigorous and successful campaign in the late 1950s to defeat de Valera’s attempt to abolish proportional representation.

As a soldier he had a commitment to political authority. At times I thought he showed an excessive loyalty to his superiors, such as Cathal Brugha during the Truce when the latter ignored the Chief of Staff in two important matters of protocol. When I questioned him about these issues, he replied that he was concerned a conflict about their differences might have endangered the fragile Truce which existed at the time.  

Costello in 1949 announced our departure from the Commonwealth without discussion with my father, who as head of Fine Gael was fully committed to the Commonwealth as a matter of party policy. I did not question him on this at the time but I expect he was aware of the very fragile nature of the inter-party government existing with only a few deputies for its survival and with some of the more republican members of the government breathing down his Civil War neck.

de Valera and RM in later years
He could never forgive de Valera for opposing the Treaty and thus precipitating the ‘’compound disaster’’ of the Civil War’’. Some historians believe that Dad had an obsession about de Valera’s failure in leadership. There is no doubt of the strength of his conviction but it was not mentioned in public during his active life and only became an obsession with him at his later and declining days  when he became more vocal about Dev as his discretion suffered during his last few years.  His view was shared equally by his colleagues in Cumann Na nGaedheal.

The decision by the cabinet to execute the four prisoners in November 1922 was his decision. It was highly controversial but was based on Lynch and de Valera’s policy of shooting Dáil deputies and senators and destroying the thin structure of the new state. His resignation at the time of the Mutiny was based on the prevention of a recrudescence of the Civil War. His willingness to forego the role of Taoiseach in 1948 was to prevent the re-election of de Valera

I have already referred to his early interest in Irish and Irish culture learned in his ‘’university’’, the house of Siobhán an tSagairt in Ballingeary in the heart of the West Cork Gaelteach. In 1925, when he was relegated to the back benches, he was appointed unpaid Chairman of the Gaelteacht Commission and provided a comprehensive report by 1927, in double quick time.

My father was still alive, and living in the mundane political world of post-Treaty Ireland with its chronic problems of recession and reconstruction, made worse by the bitter political divisions and the vandalism of the Civil War. His reputation slowly atrophied as he faced the problems of the Truce and the Civil War and as his admirers and those contemporaries who thought so highly of him gradually parted the scene. After 1924, his reputation began to yield to the influence of the commonplace. He himself, because of his tendency to self effacement, his lack of political mystique and personal ambition, and his inability to have recourse to the devices that make a politician popular with the crowd, was at least partly responsible for his own declining reputation. Despite his undoubted ability as an organiser and his life-long commitment to self education, he devoted his whole life to politics, mostly as on opposition deputy, and lived for years on the paltry income of a deputy’s salary and a small army pension. Despite an improvement in his fortunes when ministerial pensions were introduced after the War, he died with just enough capital to pay for his own and, later, his wife’s burial.

It is said that the true revolutionary is one who succeeds in achieving freedom and who subsequently devotes his life to the well-being of his country. Apropos of this maxim, Maryann Valiulis published the first biography of my father in 1992. It received several reviews. The following are contrasting excerpts from two of the reviewer.

Her book concentrates almost entirely on the ’20s which is just as well as Dick’s career was one of those which peaked early and dragged along rather boringly thereafter.

and  

It was he with his close friend Michael Hayes, who did most to establish the dignity and authority of Dáil Eireann from 1923 to 1933. He gave the impression of having more respect for Dáil Eireann than any other of its members and he used it to considerable extent during the long years of his membership. (Professor Michael Hayes was chairman of the Dáil from 1922 to 1932 and retired in 1933)

My father had a quiet but deep devotion to his religion, never missing his 7.0 clock mass in the Church of the Immaculate Conception across the road from Lissenfield. He enjoyed the ceremony of Benediction on the odd evening with the priests close to Palmerston Park and twice a year he would spend a weekend with the Jesuits in Milltown for a retreat and for quiet prayer and contemplation.

His devotion to religion was combined with a complete tolerance and understanding of those of other persuasions. This is noted by Maryann in her biography (page 239) when she quoted his statement as minister for education at the Limerick Holy Year Exhibition in 1950:

Now that we have achieved freedom for ourselves, for our spiritual values and for our native way of life, we know too, and we are glad, that we have great tolerance and that we respect and would always safeguard the religious beliefs of those who differ from the majority.

It was his determination that the army must remain the servant of parliament and a guarantor of democracy. It was his commitment that, under the difficult circumstances of insurgency and the later civil war, the army must maintain the ethical standards governed by the rules of international warfare. It was his action at the time of the Army Mutiny and during the first difficult ten years of the Irish Free State to do all in his power to prevent the government being de-stabilised by inner as well as outer forces. Dad fought the civil war to uphold the principle of majority rule and affirm the right of the people to choose a government that would carry out their will. He would not, two years later, repudiate those principles for personal ambition or power. The resignation of my father and his generals upheld and affirmed the supremacy of the constitutional rule in Ireland, finally and firmly deciding the question of who would rule the Free State

What was most striking to me about my father was his self-effacement in terms of advancing praise to others and in diminishing his own role during his long military and political career. His praise of Collins, his tributes to Béaslaí despite Béaslaí’s sparse reference to GHQ in the Collins biography, his eloquent address at Béaslaí’s funeral, his life-time loyalty to Cosgrave and his Party despite being forced to retire as minister of defence in 1924 and Cosgrave’s reluctance to have him in his cabinet in 1927,  his decision to forego his right to lead the government during the two inter-party governments, his choice of the Education Department in the cabinet, situated in Marlborough Street far from the corridors of power in Leinster House, when he had the choice of all other departments. and finally his open support of Alfie Byrne, Lord Mayor of Dublin, in the Dublin North-East constituency in the 1943 election which lead to his own defeat and his removal  after 25 years from the Dublin constituency to  South Tipperary for the rest of his political career.

Army bands 1,2 & 3, 1929
His image was tarnished by the people’s reaction to militarism during and after the Civil War, although he emerged from the Army at the War’s end with huge support in the subsequent 1923 election. History tells us that civil wars are the most brutal forms of human conflict and, as in our own war, neither side wins. It is a loss to the whole nation. In 1924 he was sacrificed by his colleagues on the altar of political expediency and neglected by historians because of his modesty, his refusal to defend himself during the post-civil war period; his refusal to release his extensive collection of papers until the year before his death, his lack of personal ambition and political radicalism, and, like his other colleagues in the Cumann na nGaedheal cabinet, his opposition to political patronage. Neither did his strong commitment to the Irish language and to Irish culture have a great appeal to his colleagues in his political party, in the Cumann na nGaedheal cabinet and, indeed, to most of our electorate.

His memorial, the Richard Mulcahy Park, is on an 11-acre site in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary where he had been a Dáil deputy for his latter years. It was presented to the town by the family and friends with the support of the Local Town Council. His is buried with my mother in his father’s grave at Horse and Jockey in Tipperary..

(1) Richard Mulcahy and the Founding of the Irish Free State. Maryann Gialanella Valiulis. the Irish Academic Press, 1992. pp 283

(2) Almost a Rebellion, the Irish Army Mutiny of 1924. Maryann    Gialanella       Valiulis, Tower Books, Cork. 1985, pp 138.

(3) Richard Mulcahy (1886-1971). A Family Memoir. Risteárd Mulcahy. Aurelian Press, 1999. pp 432.

(4) My Father, the General. Risteárd Mulcahy. Liberties Press, 2010, G.H.Q. and Richard Mulcahy in the War of Independence.

(5) Pat Taaffe. The Irish  Sword, Vol 29, 2013, pp 201-217.


Postscript: To return to the role of Ian Graham in stimulating my response with this essay, he read the final copy and among his comments about my father he said

Generosity of spirit combined with loyalty and a total inability to entertain envy or jealousy- perhaps excessive at times. Collins's self absorption seems in stark contrast. Supposing your Dad had been shot and Collins gave the oration. I think that it might have been very different.

As well as his military involvement during the post-1916 period, Collins played a leading role on the political side, unlike my father whose political linvolvement  in the early years was much less important.  In responding to Ian’s comment I believe that Collins’s greatness would have been acknowledged even if he had survived, however unkind survival might have been under the difficult and bitter circumstances of the early years of the Free State.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Masculinity in Crisis


Dear Eileen,

Thank you for Anthony Clare’s On Men – Masculinity in Crisis (Random House, London, 2001 [2000], pages 262, SB Illus) which you were kind enough to let me read and which I now return.

Anthony Clare, in his book, is generally equivocal in his opinion of men in modern society. He is highly critical of them in some respects and yet he tends to be protective of them in what he perceives as man’s struggle against women, and his vulnerability in the face of the inexorable march of the feminist movement.

The first chapter of Clare’s book is entitled The Dying Phallus. His chapter titles certainly ensure that the book will appeal to those searching the popular bookshelves. It is essentially about the male role in the modern world. He is an excellent writer, clever and entertaining, but he clearly writes and entertains through the means of strongly held opinions and, not infrequently, through overstatement. This first chapter generalises about the male’s aggression and his propensity to violence, and his dominance over women and the family. Clare perceives women as being passive and being badly done by in society but I wonder if we shall have a better society when women adopt more of the male role and men adopt more of the traditional responsibilities of women. Will our society be an improvement on the traditional family group as we knew it in my early years?

The second chapter Why the Y? is an interesting account of the genetics of sex. It is quite esoteric in places and certainly exposes my ignorance of genetics. He deals very much with the role and effects of testosterone and of the androgens in determining structure and function, and in influencing the brain and the mental processes. He includes some sentences which may be meaningful but which are nevertheless stark such as ‘the relationship of testosterone and the penis is very complex’. In this sex orientated age, such writing would certainly hold one’s attention.


In chapter 2 he states that males have more testosterone in their circulation than females and that this may be one reason why men are more aggressive. It is not surprising that men are more aggressive and violent than females. Since the beginning of history they have been physically stronger nor is it surprising that women have played the role of the weaker sex. It is not necessarily a response to circulating hormones in the blood. To relate the high testosterone, which is at its highest in young men, to the increasing anti-social behaviour of this age group may be stretching credulity a bit far. This chapter is essentially one dealing with the relationship between hormones and such male characteristics as aggression. However, he deals fairly with the putative question of the link between testosterone and aggression, and he makes it quite clear that there is disagreement about the relationship and that contradictory findings have been reported.

I found the chapter The Waning Y confusing and at times contradictory, with many generalisations about men and women, and the changing role of the two genders in modern society. If I can understand the gist of what he is getting at, it is the effect of the profound and apparently inexorable deterioration which is taking place in the family and the extended family. He takes a rather self-conscious and ‘clever’ stance, stating that men are under increasing threat by the advance of feminism and that eventually the man may become irrelevant, at least in terms of procreation and childcare. He finishes the chapter with the following

According to some prophets of the human condition, if men do not engage in serious revaluation and reconstruction, they will become utterly irrelevant as social beings. Women can do without them in the workplace. Even more significantly, women can do without them in their beds.

Chapter 3 on Man and Violence includes a detailed analysis of the genesis of male violence. He believes that men are more prone to violence than women although he gives generous space to the views of others who believe that women are far from uninvolved and may equal men in certain circumstances such as within marriage. We certainly had our fill of viragos during the Civil War period who espoused violence against those who supported the Treaty and who encouraged the anti-treaty resistance. He mentions the concept of ‘doubling’ where men, otherwise gentle and humane, can behave violently as members of a group or movement. They feel thoroughly justified to commit the most barbaric and murderous actions against those perceived as the enemy. Witness the Nazi doctors and many other precedents of mass murder and ethnic cleansing. And what about the prospects of Bush and the American military/industrial complex? In group violence at least, there is a culture of honour associated with those people who respond to the threat of a perceived enemy, as we have seen in so many wars, and particularly in civil war. It is this aspect of violence, as well as paranoia which is an inherent part of the human condition, which makes it virtually impossible for humans to shed their propensity to react violently to opposition. As long as men have wars, so will boys be violent.

He deals in some detail with the reported increase in violence in children and teenagers. He seeks to identify the causes of such a disturbing trend in our modern world and he attributes it to psychological, social, existential and constitutional factors that account for disturbed boys and girls. The lack of loving, caring and supporting adults, drug and crime infested neighbourhoods, alcohol abuse, physical and sexual abuse within the family and elsewhere, and bullying contribute their share, and the lack of philosophical and religious beliefs to add meaning and a purpose to life must lead children into anger and aggression.

He emphasises that we are a society with an appalling hypocrisy which makes children responsible for their actions, ignoring the influence on young people of anti-social adult behaviour.  Children’s behaviour too often reflects that of their parents. The binge drinking among our young in Ireland, now apparently the worst in Europe, is a clear simulation of adult behaviour. It is also a symptom of the insecurity inherent in a materialistic and greedy society. The high prevalence of suicide in young people is also a symptom of insecurity and the emptiness of a secular philosophy.

Clare gives an excellent insight into the background of aggression. He notes the important contribution that organised sport brought to society for the first time in the 18th and 19th centuries. He underlines how the adverse effect of professional sport, with its passions, its money, its tribalism and its national exaltation, simulates modern war and all its evils. Winning is everything; sportsmen are aggressive; to lose is a catastrophe; it’s no longer a game; it’s war! The ideals of chivalry and fair play are no longer the outstanding norm.

We may know the solutions of current problems associated with materialism and greed but we do not give sufficient attention to the causes of these social evils. Perhaps it is now impossible to reverse the trends in our increasingly materialistic and destructive society. The independence of the individual in our democratic system is not always associated with a corresponding sense of responsibility. This latter factor may hold the seeds of the destruction of democracy. We in Ireland in recent years have experienced a burgeoning in our material acquisitions which we attribute, among other reasons, to our low taxation policies. But these policies lead to the neglect of our obligations to the less privileged in a prosperous and caring to society. By pursuing a compulsive advance in our standard of living without the priority of caring for every citizen’s welfare, we are simply amplifying a senseless materialism and consumerism. We need a taxation system which encourages family solidarity and the strength of local communities, and where the adult population gives first priority to the growth of a happy and secure childhood. Must we have bigger and more powerful SUVs on the road and must we go on holidays several times a year?
 
Before the great war of 1914-1918 many thought that war was inevitable to solve the increasing tensions which then existed in Europe. In Britain alone there was the turmoil of the suffragette movement, mounting labour troubles, and the apparently insoluble Home Rule conflict. Civil war and the breakdown of Parliamentary system were possible consequences.  A war might have a cleansing effect! Or was the sense of inevitability based on fatalism? Perhaps the same could now be said about the early 21st century. Only a highly destructive nuclear conflict may solve the fundamental problems now facing Nature and the human race.

Chapter six Farewell to the Family Man deals with the gradual disintegration of the family in the modern world, with divorce which has doubled in the last thirty years and with the increasing numbers of single parent families. He believes separation and divorce adversely affect children. He analyses the poor performance of children after their parents had divorced or if they are living with a single unmarried or deserted parent. The children of single parents, like the children of divorced parents, do less well than the children of two parent families, but the children of single parents, where the father has died rather than deserted, do as well as the children of two family parents. He attributes the poor performance of children of divorced parents to financial problems but also to the family background leading to divorce. As well as financial problems, there may be major psychological and sociological problems in divorcing families.

I would say the latter is the major factor, that dysfunctional families are prone to divorce and are also prone to having problem children. He describes the genesis of such problem children as being very controversial but it is clear to me that dysfunctional families, whether divorced or not, are likely to produce dysfunctional children. And the conflict between parents after divorce often persists, which also affects the children and supports the view that the dysfunctional element in the equation is important.

However, many divorces and separations occur without any ill effects on the children, as in my own case. I would attribute our good fortune to the fact that both Aileen and myself continued to be interested in the children and to have a say in their education and their future, and that we were both generous in our dealings with each other. Generosity in reaching a settlement is the single most important element of an amicable settlement and the greatest source of protection for the children afterwards. Just as the children of a family who have suffered the loss of one parent are not adversely affected, the children of a stable family where divorce is inevitable because of the incompatibility of the spouses, and where a generous settlement is arrived at, should not suffer any adverse effects.

In the Age of the Amazon he talks about the emancipation of women. He believes the contraceptive pill was a major factor in emancipation and the forerunner in the downfall of male dominance. The man plays little part in the practice of contraception, being reluctant to use the condom and being twice as reluctant to have a vasectomy. The matter of contraception is entirely in the woman’s hands. Chapter five also deals with artificial or non-sexual fertilisation in the forms of IVF, AIH and AID. He sees these as further evidence of the irrelevance of the male in the areas of procreation and the family. This is an informative chapter on fertilisation and also on problems of infertility. He finishes the chapter when he deals with cloning, again with a certain emphasis on the decreasing role of the male in the family and in the creation of children.


Clare does not refer to the adverse effects of our modern way of life in an economically and professionally driven society on the stability of marriage. With many women working, with the many opportunities of meeting people in the workplace and during travel, with easy communication, and with the shedding of religious and moral strictures on sex as a source of pleasure, it is inevitable that marriage as a permanent status in life is under serious threat. Marriage evolved over history to ensure the orderly distribution of property, to prevent sexually transmitted disease and to establish more orderly birth control. Except for those fortunate enough to live in perpetual affection and tolerance, financial considerations now remain as the only compelling reason to retain marriage.

Chapter 8, Men and Love contains many generalisations about men and sexuality, and about the degree of selfishness in male attitudes to heterosexual sex. Much of this may be true but he probably overstates his case. He links the male preoccupation with sex with a sense of power, aggression, social status and life’s accomplishments. Men have no interest in their partners’ wishes or in their orgasms, the main function of sex being to gratify a man’s physical needs. When I think of my own lifetime sex experience, I can say that I have no recollection of having sex with any woman who did not at least desire it and find it a fulfilling experience. Without my partner’s willing participation I could not derive pleasure from the act. The real satisfaction of sex, apart from the sensual gratification of the orgasm, was the loving and intimate bonding shared with one’s partner.

Clare talks about the male attitude to sex and its performance, and the male preoccupation with his penis, its size, function and macho symbolism. He goes so far as to accuse men of hating women, I suppose because deep down we resent our dependence on them for sexual gratification. His views are rather dismissive of men and their introverted attitude towards their sexuality. We may indeed be natural sex abusers! He mentions the major contribution Viagra is making to enhancing sexual performance among men, and particularly among the older population. For the active elderly it is little less than a social revolution.

I enjoyed the book. The author has been described as eloquent, intelligent and dispassionate by a reviewer. I would agree with this. His writing provides some new insights about western society, even if his many generalisations can lead to moments of uncertainty about his purpose and about solutions of his many discontents. I believe that little can be done to remedy the problems he perceives in our society without rejecting the materialistic philosophy which is driving the world towards ecological and human disaster.

PS:  I borrowed this book from my masseuse, Eileen Fitzsimons, with whom I have a very close but not intimate relationship. I first met her in the lift of the Hilton Hotel in Singapore in 1972 when, as President of the Irish Medical Association, I was attending the Commonwealth Medical Association as a guest of the British Medical Association. I immediately fell in love with her, a response to such meetings with members to her gender which was all too common during my later adult lifetime.   From the moment I met her my association was platonic but I fear that I neglected the meetings of the Association which were to continue for the week of my stay in the city. I spent more time in parks, rose gardens and places of entertainment than at meetings and lectures.

She was a lovely young flaxen blonde with an attractive smile, a soft northern accent and with the figure of an athlete, a feature I have always admired in both men and women. She was a stewardess in Quantas Airlines at the time. We have kept up a close association since then, particularly since she returned to Ireland about twenty years ago. Our conversation can cover many topics. She is particularly interested in complementary medicine and has strong and critical opinions about certain aspects of conventional medicines, with some of which I agree.