Volume II. Guth na Bliadhna ' leabhar II.]

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volume ii.

Guth na Bliadhna

There is at present no public question which is of more importance to the Celtic people than that of education. The question of education overlaps and controls all others which are admittedly of the greatest moment to the Celtic public. In Ireland a particularly acute phase of the education move­ment is represented by the growing agitation in behalf of a Catholic and Celtic (that is, Nationalist) University. In Wales, where the national "con­science " has once more revolted against dominant Anglicanism, the position of affairs is admittedly critical. And in Scotland, although we have not at present any education question in the sense in which that expression would nowadays be under­stood in Ireland or Wales, yet we have a very de­cided account—if only we knew it—in the event of one at least of those truly national issues.

The question of a Catholic University for Ire­land has hitherto been treated as an exclusively Irish issue—a question it may be for English votes and voters to settle (which shows the irony, under the present ridiculous system, of calling any great national question, save, indeed, it happen to be an

English one, by its correct appellation), but yet, so far as Ireland alone is concerned, as an exclusively Irish issue. In Catholic and Celtic Scotland the question has not yet emerged from its academic stage. We have "views" on the subject, it is true; but hitherto our sympathies with our Irish co-religionists and kinsmen have not resulted in any definite expression—much less have they pro­duced any corporate and definite action. The question of a University for Ireland is felt by the majority of us to be an essentially Irish issue—one that is to say which the Irish must settle for them­selves, though how and when they are to do it, seeing that the public opinion of Protestant Eng­land is bitterly opposed to them, we Scottish Catho­lics have hitherto omitted to say. Speaking of Scotland as a whole, the movement in Ireland, in­deed, does not greatly concern us as a nation. It is rarely alluded to on political platforms in this country. The industrious and ubiquitous "heckler" would not appear to have discovered it, or, at all events, if he is cognisant of it—and he is generally a fairly wide-awake fellow—its merits, from his own peculiar point of view, are seemingly not to be compared with those of others he knows of, and which bring more substantial grist to his political mill. Besides, no one can pretend to be in doubt as to what Protestant Scotland will have to say on the subject, if ever, unfortunately, it be asked to register its opinion on the same. The recent "Church crisis"—we allude to the affair betwixt the "Frees" and the "Wee Frees"—has rather intensified than diminished religious bigotry, by means of drawing a general attention to the case, of raising a spirit of opposition to the recent judg­ment in the House of Lords, and, consequently, of whipping up the flagging zeal of the Protestant elect. Many Protestant Celts, it is true, are pro­bably theoretically in favour of a national .University for Ireland; but, unfortunately, in such matters it is not Highland but Lowland opinion that has to be consulted; and not only consulted, but allowed to do all the shouting and voting. Unfortunately, " Lowland " opinion (by which we intend to draw, of course, a racial rather than a geographical dis­tinction) has hitherto led Scotland—by the tail almost as much as by the nose—in all great ques­tions of Church and State; so that in the event of this question of a Catholic University for Ireland being raised—or shall we not rather say degraded?— to the level of political platforms in Scotland, our Irish co-religionists and kinsmen may know exactly what to expect.

The question of a Catholic University for Ireland is, however, from our own point of view, on a totally different footing. We have already observed that by the Catholics of Scotland the subject is still treated academically. Every Scottish Catholic hopes, of course, that Ireland may gain her just end in the agitation on which she has embarked; but, singular as it may seem, our attitude is strictly limited by this pious opinion. Here and there, no doubt, there are Scottish Catholics who recognise the gravity of this question, so far as we ourselves are concerned, and are prepared to act on the impulse which that knowledge imparts to them. But what we have affirmed above is certainly true of the vast majority of Scots Catholics, who treat this question, as we have said, academically. They do not recognise its practical importance and gravity from our point of view. Why should they? Our press approaches the subject only from the

Irishman's standpoint. That there is possibly a Scottish side to the question appears to have occurred to but few.

Now, in what respect, pray, is the Scots Catho­lic better off (from the point of view of University education) than his Irish co-religionist and kins­man ? Our Universities here are all in the hands of Protestants. The religious "atmosphere" of our Scottish Universities is quite as inimical to the Scots Catholic's faith as (say) that of Trinity College, Dublin, is to the religious convictions of the Irish Catholic. The Scots Catholic here enjoys neither greater nor fewer opportunities of bettering himself, by means of a University education, than his co-religionist does in Ireland : that is to say, the Scot and the Irishman, being Catholics, are as one; inasmuch as neither enjoys the opportunities or advantages above spoken of. The Scots Catho­lic and the Irish Catholic are, therefore, equally concerned in securing a proper University training for themselves and their children. The Scots Catholic, denied such advantages at home, either emigrates where he and his can obtain them, or —does without. A similar state of affairs obtains in Ireland; but the Irish Catholic being numeri­cally much more powerful and politically more robust than his Scottish co-religionist, the demand for a national University which shall be Catholic is the natural consequence of his educational disabilities.

But although the Scots Catholic is to the Irish Catholic as one to five or even more, the hardship and injustice involved by the total absence of all provision for Catholic University training is, pro­portionately, just as discouraging and severe in the case of the Scotsman as it is in that of the

Irishman. Unfortunately we are neither strong enough nor numerous enough to raise a demand in this country for a national Catholic University; and those whose Universities are largely supported out of grants and gifts made by the piety and gener­osity of our Catholic forefathers, would throw up their hands in pious and lively horror at the audaciousness of such an amazing request. But although the Catholic Scot may not hope to receive —at all events for many a long year to come—his University training on Scottish soil, what is there to prevent him from joining hands with his Irish co-religionist and kinsman, and fighting for the right to enjoy it on what is next best to it—on Irish soil? After all, Celtic Scot and Celtic Irishman are, racially considered, much the same thing; so that it would seem an absurd thing to do to allow the accident of a few miles of sea to come between the twain. In former and happier times, that circumstance formed no obstacle to the friendly correspondence between Scottish Gael and Irish Gael. Multitudes of Scots resorted to Ireland for educational purposes ; and it is no exaggeration to say that the compliment was fully returned by the Irish, who had at one time a very high opinion of our learning, and the facilities offered in Alba for the cultivation of letters, and the prosecution of the learned sciences. A glance through the pages of Bishop Healy's Ireland's Ancient Schools and Scholars shows how powerful was the attrac­tion which Inis nan Naomh, or to give her her time-honoured Latin appellation, Insula Sanctorum et Doctorum, had for the educated Scotsman, and for the youth who wished to push his educational for­tunes in that justly celebrated centre of learning. Our best-known historians, genealogists and poets

of a later age drew their principal inspiration, as assuredly they did much of their art, from Irish sources. Our MacVurichs, MacDonalds, and other hereditary historians, who correspond in every respect with the Irish MacFirbises, O'Flaherties, etc., probably studied in the Irish Colleges. The influence of Irish literature on Gaelic letters in Scotland is pronounced, and conclusive of the intimate relations formerly subsisting between men of Erin and the men of Alba. Was not our own Colum Cille—saint and scholar—an Irish Gael ? And when, led no doubt by God to begin the evangelisation of the Picts, he put forth from Ireland in his frail coracle, was he not inaugurating a two-fold mission—a mission of religion and a mission of learning ? St. Columba's love of letters and veneration for scholarship stand on ample re­cord ; and to his influence must be ascribed the origin of that movement which, in later years, was destined to draw so many of our countrymen to Ireland as to a spring from which they might quaff the pure and sparkling waters of knowledge based on faith and therefore undefiled. To Scotland came Maelrubha in the year 671, and it was he who founded the famous monastery of Apurcrosan. St. Adamnan was a native of Donegal. St. Comgan, another Irish Gael, chose the country about Loch-alsh as the scene of his religious labours. Hither, too, probably at the invitation of St. Columba, came Comgall of Bangor, Cainnech of Achaboc, Brendan of Clonfert, and Cormac, all of whom, described by Adamnan as " holy founders of monasteries," laboured for the conversion of souls and the spread of learning in Alba. What a glorious company of saints and scholars has crossed and re-crossed those narrow seas which separate Scotland from Ireland! As one looks back upon the centuries that have passed since Colum Cille first lighted the twin lamps of Re­ligion and Learning in his sea-girt Scottish home, the spectator, as it were, stands enraptured at the prospect of that narrow track worn through the misty years by the busy feet of so many saints and scholars, constantly passing and repassing on their holy and enlightening mission!

We have said enough, at all events for the present, on the historic aspect of this ancient cor­respondence. The advantages of reviving it are, it seems to us, no less susceptible to argument and proof. The cause of Catholic learning in Scotland would be enormously advanced by such a gain. Young and ambitious men, instead of being obliged to emigrate in quest of those educational advantages denied them at home, would go to Ireland, as to a congenial and appropriate sphere, for that higher University training which all are agreed is requisite to success in what is justly styled " the struggle for existence ". In a national University on Irish soil, the Scottish Catholic would be thoroughly at home. There, surely, if anywhere, he would breathe the pure and invigorating atmosphere of his holy faith. He would enjoy the advantages of associat­ing with individuals belonging to a nation whose gallant fight in behalf of religion and country is the admiration of the civilised world. He would enjoy every facility of acquiring a first-class Uni­versity education at moderate cost; for the essence of the Irish proposals (of which the Irish hierarchy is the guarantor) is that the education provided shall be thorough in every respect, and as inexpen­sive as is consistent with efficiency. The Irish scheme, as announced and approved by the Arch­bishops and Bishops of Ireland, includes ample pro­vision for the cultivation of the Gaelic language in Ireland, and for the study of the history and anti­quities of that country ; and we doubt not that, in the event of the University being established, and a Scots correspondence effected, a similar privilege in respect of the Gaelic language in Scotland and the history and antiquities of this country1 would be accorded to Scottish students resorting to Ire­land for the purpose of securing a sound University education.

Such are some—a few indeed—of those advan­tages, moral and material, which would inevitably accrue to the Catholics of Scotland by the establish­ment of a national—that is, Catholic—University in Ireland. Their name, indeed, is legion; but alas ! we have not sufficient space at our disposal in which to deal with them at large. It remains for us to make, by way of conclusion to this paper, a few observations touching the means whereby this great and glorious project might be realised.

Briefly, there are two ways open to the Irish nation in which to accomplish their object. The one is by political agitation; the second is by national endeavour minus political agitation. Until recently, the first of these methods, as being, per­haps, traditional in Ireland, was infinitely the more popular of the two ways. Indeed, the latter was scarce mentioned at all; but, lately, owing to the apparent impossibility of persuading the " pre-

1 We are not aware that any such provision exists at this moment in Scotland. The national college for the priesthood at Blairs has certainly no such provision. A Gaelic professorship— as supplying a much-felt want—was at one time under considera­tion, we believe; but nothing has been heard of the project of late.

dominant partner " in the British Imperial Concern to sanction (that is, to provide funds for) the erec­tion of a national University on Irish soil, the advocates of this method have considerably lost heart. Mr. Dillon, who is a member of Parliament, not unnaturally looks to political agitation as the channel through which a national University should be secured to his native land. The Archbishop of Tuam, and, if we mistake not, Cardinal Logue him­self, on the other hand, are no less firmly convinced that " unless a miracle supervenes" the English Government will never grant to Ireland the boon for which she craves ; and this opinion, it is worthy -of note, is fast gaining ground, not only in Ireland, but in every country in which the question is wont to be canvassed. " Is it likely," we quote from a recent article in An Claidheamh Soluis, the official mouthpiece of the Gaelic League, " that England will ever give to Ireland a University which will satisfy the lofty ideal of Mr. Dillon, and of us all— a University which shall be Irish and National through and through; a centre and rallying point for Irish nationality, an intellectual headquarters for our race? We cannot think so." In an article, redolent with despair, on the same subject, the London Tablet1 charged Mr. Balfour and Mr. Wyndham with something more than the usual want of courage touching their political convictions which one is apt to associate with the average English statesman, though, curiously enough, when, but a

1" We have no hesitation in saying that Mr. Wyndham's ■excuse is a disgrace to the man that used it. . . . How Mr. Bal­four, holding the opinion he admittedly does on this question, -can reconcile it with his own personal honour to remain Prime Minister ... is, we confess, for us an unsolved enigma" (10th December, 1904).

week or two before, a respected Irish ecclesiastic said similar unkind things about one or both of these twin political mountebanks, the Tablet went out of its way to raise its hands in lively and pious protest!

The hope, therefore, of forcing a successful issue of this question by means of the somewhat thread­bare device of political agitation is beginning to lose ground in Ireland, as, indeed, was bound to happen the more the obstinate character of the English opposition to this eminently sane and moderate de­mand became manifest. In no other country in the world, probably, were the chances of success by such means ever as highly rated as they were in Ireland, whose habits of self-reliance and faculties of self-development have been somewhat under­mined by an enervating and dangerous dependence upon the methods and tactics favoured by the party politician. The more, therefore, the people of Ire­land look into this question and study it, the more they come to understand the irreconcilable character of the English opposition to their demand, the more plainly will appear, we are convinced, the futility of appealing to England, and the consequent necessity for independent national effort.

Now, the alternative to political agitation as a means of securing this University, is, as we have already remarked, the will of the people of Ireland themselves. In other words, if the Irish nation wants a University it must set its shoulder to the wheel, and itself create it. Is this an impossible task ? Mr. Dillon, the spokesman of the recognised channel, says that that attempt has already been made, and has failed. Some of our readers may not be aware that an effort was made " in the dark days which immediately followed the famine," we quote again from An Claidheamh Soluis, "when even politi­cal nationalism was at a low ebb, and Irish Ireland was in the misty future," to establish a Catholic University in Ireland; and that after £200,000 had been spent on it, it failed. Accordingly Mr. Dillon's argument would seem to be that what has once failed must never be attempted again, an argument which strikes harshly on Scottish ears, accustomed from infancy to tales of the indomitable Bruce and his no less persevering spider! But apart from the obvious unsoundness of such an opinion, and its transparent absurdity in the case of a politician who believes in Home Rule,1 we have every reason to believe that satisfactory explanations touching the causes of that failure, grievous though we admit it to be, are easily found. As the official organ of the Gaelic League justly observes, "neither the internal nor the external causes which wrecked the Catholic University are likely to re-occur in our day. And because an effort on (more or less) right lines failed fifty years ago from causes which are no longer likely to operate, are we to lose faith in the policy of self-help, and continue to the end of the chapter to beseech a foreign State to do for us what it is
1 Mr. Dillon's patriotism is, of course, above reproach; but there are possibly some in Ireland, interested persons, who would resent any such general diversion of funds as an appeal to the Irish conscience at home and abroad would almost necessarily involve. After all, have not the Irish spent too much money on purely political agitation, judging that agitation, of course, solely in the light of its effects ? Half the amount so spent would have sufficed to create an Irish Ireland long ago. Make your country thoroughly national, and Home Eule must follow. To stake all on Home Eule whilst Irish Ireland languishes for want of funds is equivalent in our opinion to trying to put the cart before the horse.

12 The Irish (and Scottish) University Question

neither its desire, nor perhaps its interest, to do?"

Our opinion is, then, that, sooner or later—and the sooner the better—Irish Ireland will be obliged to set its shoulder to the wheel, to itself create that truly national University which is admittedly the most crying need of the times, so far as the Gaels of Ireland are concerned. We do not think that the Irish nation would ever have reason to repent of its efforts to repair the past in so signal and glorious a manner; and if the sacrifices involved in making good so gigantic an enterprise should lead to a temporary " shrinkage" in respect of the funds subscribed at home and abroad on behalf of the political agitation in favour of Home Rule (although we do not say that such need necessarily be the result of this unique appeal to the conscience and to the purse of a gallant and generous nation), we imagine that few Irishmen worthy the name would grudge the expenditure, or suffer a sense of tempo­rary personal inconvenience to interfere with the well-being of the nation at large.

In their appeal to the world, we should like to see the Irish people broadening their "platform" as much as possible. By offering to Scots Catholics a recognised place in their national University, and by providing for the study of the Scots Gaelic language, as well as for the study of the history and antiquities of this country, our Irish kinsmen and co-religionists would be taking a practical step in the direction of reviving that ancient correspond­ence between the two countries of which we have spoken above ; and, what is no less important, they would be considerably enlarging the area to which the inevitable appeal for funds to erect the Uni­versity should be addressed. We have every

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