20th July - Fourteenth Letter to Poppy
Secret diary: Tues. Poaching Ambush & expected Raid Staff car
Official diary (20th July): The gang who were guarding me expected the house to be raided and they therefore laid an ambush 2 or 3 miles down the Limerick Road
Location: Waterpark House, Hartigan’s near Castleconnell
My darling old Pip,
Got my first batch of letters Sunday night; several from the family, and also from Sir Thomas, Evelyn Harter, John Collins, Doly Lucas and from the brigade. I also got your post card addressed to the "Irish republican army" which was a brilliant inspiration on your part, but took some time to be delivered.
I am sure that Dina wouldn’t prefer something else rather than a broach, it would be best to sound the family on that point and find out if there is anything else she has a craving for. How very nice of the old people at Ascot Priory to think of us, I feel a very undeserving proud over it, but I am sure it made things more comfortable for you.
The weather has been perfectly foul the last two days, it seems as though it would never be fine again. Have been trying my hand at a little poaching, a very interesting occupation.
Have you found suitable houses yet, it will be your house, so you had better buck up and select one.
Best love to young Atty, and look after yourself.
Fourteenth Letter sent to Mrs C.H. Tindall Lucas, 1 Cleveland Gardens, Hyde Park LONDON W2 postmarked EASTBOURNE 9:30AM 24 July 1920.
In spite of the Smyth assassination, which CHTL would have known about considering that he was seeing newspapers regularly, the tone of this next letter is very relaxed. Smyth's 'orders' to shoot first would have been known to CHTL. If he had ordered the machine gunning of Sinn Feiners he couldn't have possibly been so at ease. He would have been extremely anxious that his orders would have been known about and that he would be the next British officer to face the assassin's bullets.
He was not being held by ignorant or incompetent men. The IRA had their finger on the pulse and their informants kept them abreast of all that was going on. The slightest whiff of murderous threats issued by their captive in the past would have completely changed their attitude to him. They would not have indulged him in a spot of poaching for instance with all the risks that entailed.
The Volunteers must have chuckled reading CHTL's description of his nightly activities.
This was the one time when the British General and the Irish lads were united as subversives, albeit their subversion was merely to ignore a few rules and regulations about who was entitled to fish in the Shannon. Being on the wrong side of the law together and sharing the naughty secret brought out the small boy in all of them. It's no wonder that none of the Sinn Fein guards wanted to shoot their prisoner when the British refused to play ball and exchange Irish prisoners for him.
Back home Poppy was struggling to cope. CHTL's persistent pressure on her to find a house and in the process to 'buck up' sounds a little harsh. However he knew that she had to find a way to carry on. He couldn't do anything to help her other than to stay relentlessly positive himself and push her to make preparations for their future together. He'd have been aware that she would have read the news about Smyth and focusing her mind on their life together when he was free was his way of assuring her that he wasn't in danger. It was extremely tough for Poppy. She'd shown another flash of fighting spirit with a postcard sent via 'The Irish Republican Army', which the Sinn Feiners would have enjoyed especially as it showed that a woman could do more than the whole British army could do - make contact with the missing general.
Still the strain was beginning to show and Poppy was physically and emotionally exhausted. If anyone was a victim in this drama it was her. CHTL was really not suffering in any great way, in fact he was greatly amused by his experience. The IRA had chosen their path and even though it hadn't given them the desired outcome, which was the release of their comrades, they had scored massive points in the propaganda war. Their prisoner had turned out to be a pain in the nether regions, who prevented them from doing their usual raids and attacks, but he had also proved to be a nice chap, who greatly amused them and was very good company.
The British had egg on their face and were smarting badly from the sheer humiliation of it all, but that was all part of the game they were playing. For once, in this tragic period of history, no one lost their life and apart from Colonel Danford, who recovered, no one was seriously hurt. CHTL's parents and siblings were staying strong, Cuthbert had been in worst scrapes and survived and even grandmother was holding onto life to see her grandson free. But the emotional roller-coaster of the last few years; plus the energy torn out of her by childbirth and having to deal with a demanding baby; threatened to sap the last remnants of strength from Poppy.
Ascot Priory was an Anglo-Catholic priory in Berkshire, established in 1861. It was the mother house of the Society of the Most Holy Trinity, a community of nuns within the Anglican Communion. It now serves as a church and spirituality centre. In it’s time it was an orphanage, a convalescence hospital, a girl’s school and a place for spiritual retreat. It was possibly those being cared for in the convalescence hospital, along with the nuns, who were praying for Poppy and her missing husband. The nuns at the time couldn’t be described as “old people” as there were at least several very young nuns there at the time. Poppy would have taken great comfort from hearing that these ladies were supporting her in prayer.
Relationships with CHTL
Out of all CHTL’s guards, Joe ‘Rasin’ Good has left the most insightful descriptions of the general. I never knew my grandfather but from what family members said and from knowing my father, CHTL’s son Bob, these descriptions capture my grandfather well.
… During our first conversation, Lucas was looking down over the valley from that hill at Templeglantine. It was a very beautiful view, and from where he stood we could see a number of counties. He remarked to me, ‘This is a country worth fighting for.’
‘That's a peculiar comment’, I said. ‘It reminds me that another general -your predecessor Cromwell -once made a similar remark.’
Lucas smiled slowly and he said, ‘Yes I believe I remember reading something about that somewhere’.
Then, curious I suppose about my accent, which which was still then much more London than Irish, he asked, ‘But what, if your pardon my asking, has you so far from home?’
I explained that my mother's people had been exiled from County Cork just to the south of us, and my father's family had originally had their homes in County Tipperary- just to the east- before being driven out in the famine years. Lucas remained quietly thinking for some time, before smiling more broadly and saying, ‘Well, that's a long way back, it would appear, to Tipperary.’
Enchanted by Dreams, Joe Good p166 - 171
The thoughtful pause and then the smile resulting in him saying something which he thinks is witty, is a typical ‘Lucas’ trait. CHTL was, very surprisingly, quite a shy man. One of the pieces of advice that my father Bob gave me was to make friends it’s always good to get the other person to talk. This is what CHTL was doing with Joe Good, possibly without Joe realising that he was doing most of the talking.
We continue to talk, casually but with increasing familiarity after sunset over that landscape of the Golden Vale of County Limerick. I pointed out that we were within spitting distance of the lands confiscated by Elizabeth and handed to Spenser, where he had retired to write his Faerie Queene. Lucas quoted some stanza from Spenser’s poem, and then stopped abruptly and after a long pause, ‘I suppose it's high time that the natives resumed care of the Four Green Fields.’
This, I remember, surprised me even more: an English officer being familiar with that idea of the Four Green Fields, the old image in Irish poetry of the four provinces of Ireland, those four ‘fields’ of ‘Cathleen Ni Houlihan’…
Enchanted by Dreams, Joe Good p166 - 171