13 July, 1920

13 July, 1920

13th July - Tenth Letter to Poppy

Secret diary: Tues Corbett arrest. Back to cottage. Hay. Croquet.

Official diary (13th July): No entry

Location: Hasting’s


My darling old Pip,

No letter from you last night, so the mails cant have turned up; they are very irregular just now. I still have no news about myself. Am getting fatter every day. Got a little exercise hay making today. You might look through all the advertisements of houses in Country Life each week and if you find anything that you like, write for particulars.

You have still told me nothing about the new nurse and what she is like. You must be very pleased to be up and about for a bit now, at least I suppose you are up. Do you feel quite fit again now, and only just a bit weak, you haven’t really told me much about yourself yet. Is the boy quieting down a bit or still a bit noisy.

Cant tell you much about myself, I have breakfast in bed and usually get up about 12 which helps get through the time. Sometimes we get a game of bridge in the evening and to bed about 11.

Have had no letter from the family as theirs are all being held up at Fermoy. Am longing to see you both, don’t think it will be very long now.

Lots of love.

your c

P.S. Just got your letter of Sat. Your account of yourself is most satisfactory. I should like Lady Constance to be a godmother if we have two. I think one of the girls should be one. What do you think about two godmothers. You neednt bother to put any notices in the Irish Times now I am getting you letters regularly. Am taking very good care of myself so you neednt be anxious about me.


Tenth Letter sent to Mrs C.H. Tindall Lucas, 1 Cleveland Gardens, Hyde Park LONDON W2 postmarked EASTBOURNE 7pm 16 July 1920

'Back to the cottage', probably refers to a return to Hasting's farmhouse, where 'helping to save the hay' would have been a likely form of 'healthy exercise’, for the active CHTL to jump at the opportunity to participate in. He enjoyed taking part in labouring on the land, it was in his Quaker, beer brewing genes, his grandfather and great grandfather had both had a strong attachment to the countryside and the rolling seasons that culminated in the long awaited harvest. In the past he had instructed Poppy to ask her brother Toby to find him some farm work to do when he visited the family home on leave:

I must have some healthy exercise, can Toby find me work on the land when I am home.

Letter to Poppy August 15th 1918

He loved the strenuous physical activity and the feeling of companionship working alongside others, achieving a communal goal to provide for the basic needs of the community.

CHTL was far from being above getting his hands dirty; his strange request must have created puzzlement at first, followed by respect and admiration as his captors were once again taken aback by this strangest of 'enemies'. Those he worked alongside must have wondered at this tall imposing stranger, who worked as hard as any of them and yet was obviously not a regular labourer. 'Saving hay' is not an 'individual sport' it's a 'team game' where working closely together, helping each other out leads to success. Camaraderie, banter and humour fuel the 'players' and CHTL would have been in his element, retiring to his bed at the end of the day rewarded with the satisfaction of a good hard day's work.

Instructions to Poppy to search for houses, when she was struggling to cope with a new baby were a little insensitive, but they also were a way of keeping Poppy focusing on the future. Life must go on and making positive preparations kept the dream alive and hopefully aided its metamorphose into reality. This was something concrete that Poppy could do for CHTL and at times of mental stress and anguish, down to earth tasks, no matter how frivolous they may seem at the time, could help to keep Poppy on an even keel. It had been a long held dream to find somewhere for them to settle down together to build a home for their longed for family.

I wonder what we shall do then, what job we shall get & where we shall live. You will have the joys of running a house of your own then, & we shall not be able to take estates in Scotland. We shall enjoy ourselves in a quiet way all the same, even if I do annoy you by sniffling. Anyhow its something to look forward to.

Letter to Poppy January 9th 1918

"Bed by 11"

Having a game of bridge and getting to bed by 11 was CHTL being very economical with the truth! Michael Brennan reported that the general stayed up until 2am playing bridge. The card games stretching on into the night would explain the late mornings. CHTL had been chided by Poppy before for his nocturnal habits and had promised to try and get to bed earlier.

Darling old Pip. I’ll try and turn over a new leaf by drinking less and going to bed at 10.

Letter to Poppy, dated Nov 13th 1918

Now he could be excused for his late nights although he realised that Poppy had enough to worry about so he gave her a censored account of his day - this was as much for his own benefit as for hers!

According to his son, John, James Brennan was:

"the only one of the people who were minding him who was able to play bridge, that was the only game he was able to play and he was mad for playing cards. But they taught him how to play 45 and he was as good as any of them after a short time.

I always thought he had only one hand but it seems he was missing fingers on one hand but he was quicker to deal the cards with his one hand, you know. He had a big hand and he could deal off the full hand."

John Brennan, Shannon Social History Project

"The trouble was that they couldn’t keep him (General Lucas) he used to drink a bottle of whisky every day."

Jack Hogan, Shannon Social History Project

"...and he used to beat them at Poker. He cleaned them out at Poker."

Nuala Hogan Shannon Social History Project

Lucas was an enormous headache for the IRA Volunteers, they tried their hardest to provide for him but he was draining all their resources. Michael Brennan struggled with the demands of the general: The I.R.A. men treated their prisoner with casual respect and did their best to keep him in the manner to which he was accustomed. Lucas enjoyed his whiskey and it was this item particularly that Brennan found expensive. He had to keep Lucas on the move because troops, and even aeroplanes, were searching for him, and this meant that valuable men were needed to guard him.

“I was asked to take Lucas over from the Cork fellows for a couple of days,” recalls Michael Brennan, then Commandant of East Clare Brigade. “Then he was to be handed over to the fellows in Limerick. They brought him across the Shannon and just dumped him on me. I had the damned fellow for nearly a month, Funds were low and it was ruinous.”

And yet Brennan still couldn't help liking his captive, shooting him would have been the simplest way out of the problem and Brennan was not above getting blood on his hands, but there was something so likeable about the general that he couldn't do it and he also felt compassion for the man: 'life as a closely guarded prisoner was tedious and Brennan was sympathetic.' (Ireland’s Civil War, Calton Younger Fontana Press p106-7)

CHTL saw the good in those around and in some strange way actually drew it out of them. Lieut. General. W.R. Marshall, writing in a reference for CHTL in March of that year described his personality:

"which was so valuable – determined, cheerful and tactful, he inspired confidence wherever he went… He possesses a great and varied knowledge of his profession – is full of resource and initiative & most tactful in his dealing both with his subordinates & those over him."

(Reference from March 1920 F Shaw Lt General Com in Chief Ireland)

At Home - Poppy and Cutlett

Little Cutlett not only took after his father in the noise department, but he was also picking up on his mother's stress and anxiety. Coping with the dramatic change to her world with the constant demands of a new born was one enormous challenge; but with the prospect of having to deal with the bawling of her baby and keep her in-laws sweet as well; plus the over-whelming fears about her beloved 'C'; Poppy was not a calm and relaxed mother. Consequently Cutlett was not a calm and relaxed baby which added to the traumatic situation.

It is well-known these days that babies pick up on the stress and anxiety of their mothers: 'During their early months and years, children are very sensitive to problems affecting their parents... which may include fear, sadness or being overwhelmed.’ (Source)

Poppy was extremely anxious about CHTL and must have felt totally overwhelmed by the situation: with no close family near at hand and still grieving for her mother who would have been her rock in the past. Now in her greatest time of need, she was reliant on the kindness of strangers and her in-laws. She did have some good friends in London and they would have all rallied round to support her as best as they could, but she was not in her own home with the comfort of familiar surroundings, Poppy's life was living out of a suitcase always knowing that she was in temporary accommodation.

Little Cutlett had made his bewildering entrance into the world in a startling rush and was confronted with a very confusing melee of emotions from those around him. Lots of love and joy but mixed in with sobbing and fear. Babies in these circumstances often react with unusually high levels of distress when they are separated from their mothers; they can have trouble feeding and become more unsettled and difficult to soothe. Cutlett was not just a 'noisy baby' he was distressed, picking up on his mother's anxiety. Poppy had mentioned in an earlier letter that she was having trouble feeding him as CHTL had replied: 'The boy will no doubt thrive very well on the bottle.' On top of everything else, Poppy was possibly feeling a failure at not having mastered breast-feeding.

Poppy and 'Cutlett' (Bill) in December 1920. Bill looks like he is thriving and Poppy looks calm and enjoying motherhood.
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