Sir Horace Plunkett

Sir Horace Plunkett on ‘Is Ireland Worth While?’

From the Whitefriars Journal, vol. III, no. 13, June 1910, pp. 246-47.

On Friday, 29 April 1910, Sir Horace Plunkett was the Club guest, and took for his topic ‘Is Ireland Worth While?’ Sir Francis Gould was Prior, and there was a more than ordinarily large gathering of Friars and guests.

Sir Horace took up Irish problems in a speech that was at once philosophical, humorous, and statesmanlike. He confessed to the difficulty of talking about Ireland without infringing the understanding in the Club that religion and politics were to be avoided in conversation; It would indeed be impossible to conceive of Ireland without these considerations actuating it largely.
Sir Horace went on to discuss other characteristics of Irish life, and particularly the difference in temperament between the English and the Irish. Without expressing any opinion on the subject, he cited the remark of an observer that it was arguable that Ireland was never so near and never so far off Home Rule as she was at the present time. On the one hand, the position of political parties supported the belief that this method of dealing with the national problem was near. On the other, the passing of Mr Wyndham’s land measure, with the financial, obligations under which it placed Ireland to England, seemed to tighten the hold of this country on the other. The speaker also quoted the remark of an American that if he were an Englishman he should not want to keep Ireland, and that if he were an Irishman he should not want Home Rule. The agricultural conditions of life in Ireland were described – with the breadth of mountain bog in the West, relieved by the multitude of small holdings elsewhere. Sir Horace spoke modestly of his own work in fostering agricultural production, but none the less hopefully of the steady advance in cultivation and sales.

The discussion was continued with much interest by Friars Harold Spender, Shan Bullock, Robert Donald, Silas Hocking and others, and by guests, including Mr Sydney Brooks, Mr R. T. Cuddiky (of Funk & Wagnalls, New York), and Mr M. C. Seton. Friar Spender touched on the genius of the Irish for public service in different countries to which they emigrated, and of the work they had done for the Empire. Friar Shan Bullock, in a moment of amiable candour, said he had lived in England twenty-six years, and had got no nearer understanding the English people yet. Mr Cuddiky contrasted his impressions of Ireland on a return visit years after a long interval, and said he had come to the conclusion that the condition of the people was improving. Mr Brooks, in paying a tribute to the work of Sir Horace Plunkett, said it was an open secret that Mr Roosevelt held that the ‘Back to the land’ problem was the greatest one of our modern civilisation, and in his schemes to solve it for the United States was acting in consultation with and on the advice of Sir Horace. Eminently practical, Friar Silas Hocking testified to the good qualities of Irish dairy produce sent over to this country.

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Friar Clement Shorter sends me an amusing letter from Sir Horace Plunkett accounting for his non-appearance at the dinner to Lord Justice Sir Henry Duke [on 31 October 1919, when he spoke on ‘The Law and Social Stability’].

Dear Mr Shorter,

Your little note reached me by the third post yesterday (Saturday). I stupidly did not look at the date and turned up at Anderton’s Hotel, deposited my coat and hat, joined a corner of revellers (whose interest in law and social stability puzzled me) and on innocently asking if they were Whitefriars was in danger of being taken care of by the police! Pray forgive me, and, if you can, the P.O. I was very sorry to miss Duke’s avoidance of one rather intimate aspect of the issue he had to discuss! For I suppose he kept to this side of the Irish Sea?

Please make good my disappointment by paying me a visit next time you come Dublin way.

Yours sincerely,

Horace Plunkett