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Thursday, 1 September 2011

Dublin's Hallelujah Lasses by Katheline Butler

In 1880 the Army came to Ireland. The General conducted a farewell meeting at Whitechapel on 3rd. May when Mrs. Booth presented to Captain Reynolds colours for corps to be formed in Belfast and Londonderry (as it was then called). With Mrs. Reynolds were four other women officers: Lieutenant Phoebe Strong and Sisters Spencer, Flinn and Marshall. "No one," said Mrs Reynolds in an interview in 1886 "will ever know what we went through. Our colours for Ireland had a green corner with the harp and no crown. We did not know that this was treason to Protestants. Then we had orange coloured hymn books. The Orangemen gloried in them but it brought all the "fenians" down on us."

When things were going along better in Belfast, Mrs Reynolds went to Londonderry where the Army once again met with great opposition. But by October this had died down and when the General visited them in Belfast there were 10,000 people present at the meeting where four different halls had to be the venues. Two years later Mrs. Booth saw 1,500 soldiers on the march. The Army succeeded here in the North, having 28 corps, including those from Newtownards and Lisburn. Dublin was Number 29, established 31st. May 1888. The issue of "The War Cry" of 16th. June tells us that: "the worldwide Salvation Army had at last got a foothold in one of the finest cities of the world and the capital of the Emerald Isle, Dublin".

Opening meetings were held at the EarIsfort Skating Rink, the Army headquarters where "the best of good order prevailed". Great attention was paid to the Lassies "for Dublin folk are noted for their politeness to ladies" and so a good start apparently was made. I say "apparently" for the reality was otherwise, and quite obviously the difficulties enormous - much as the Army had experienced when beginning in the East End of London. In a copy of "The Local Office?" another periodical, we meet our first Dublin Lass, Colour Sergeant Treacy speaking about "the battle still raging". The open-airs of Dublin II Corps were held on the steps of the Custom House and she continued: "You could hear the strongest voice a woman could not attempt to speak". The date of the article is June 1898, and she is actually referring to several years previously, at a time when she had only recently joined the Army.

One day, she tells us, when she was leading the procession carrying the flag an attack was made on the soldiers and an attempt made to snatch it, but she held on grimly although the crowd grew very excited. Sister Treacy, her flag and companions were escorted in safety to the police barracks. While the Inspector was speaking to the captain the Salvationists held a prayer meeting in the yard. Once a jug was hurled at her from a window by a woman, but there was no ill effect - it fell shattered at the feet of the captain. Another time a soldier got her eye hurt with a fish bone and this same lass had her shoulder bruised with a stone and was also hit on the arm with a dead rat.

By the time this article appeared, June 1898, the open-airs had improved considerably. "People came regularly," we read "and drank in every word", but Sister Treacy added that "results are so hard to get. However, we hear and see sufficient to justify our belief that good is being done". The desire of the Army was, to start Rescue and Social work but up to 1898 the open-airs were the Army's main activity.

We move the "To War Cry" of 13th. July 1901 where there is an intriguing article entitled: "The Battle of the Bonnet". The unnamed writer speaks about "a Lassie Soldier's brave stand for the Bonnet", and goes on to say "Such is the treatment accorded to our soldiers .... that with a few exceptions, they keep their uniforms at the barracks, donning them when they come to the meetings and doffing them when they leave for home". "In most districts if we visited in uniform, before we left the house, every window in the place would be smashed". "The Slum officers, of course, wear the regulation Slum hat, but even this does not protect them ......."

A Lieutenant Stewart described how she was given a "fearful punch" in the back, and also how she was totally ignored when she went to make some purchases in a shop. Yet despite all this there was an increasing determination to wear the uniform "boldly at all times and in all places" whatever the consequences. One girl who worked as a servant was transferred from Birkenhead to Dublin II Corps and although advised against it, said staunchly: "I have always worn my bonnet and shall continue to do so". The first Sunday night on leaving the hall after the meeting a noisy crowd followed her, but did her no harm.

The following week a gang of rough fellows jostled and pushed her as she made her way to her mistress's home in Grafton St. The bell was not answered immediately, and so the crowd, swollen now, shouted and hooted all about her. Someone called out: "Have her bonnet! Drag it off her head!" Willing hands rushed at her headgear, but they did not succeed. In the onward rush of the crowd her head was pushed through the glass panel of the door, and so her face was bleeding profusely. The door opened, she was pulled inside and the mob began smashing the widows until the police arrived and dispersed the hooligans.

The Dublin I Corps did not seem to have had such experiences, for we read that Sister Ham, the treasurer "whose husband is a member of the Dublin Stock Exchange has pluckily worn her bonnet daily to and from the meetings". Captain Jones, the first woman officer stationed at Dublin I was there for seven years, When she took command she immediately announced her intention of wearing full uniform. "How can I expect my soldiers to wear the bonnet if I discard it on occasions myself" she asked. Hampering restrictions were also imposed by the City authorities, allowing Dublin II Corps only one stand, that is a place to hold an open-air meeting, this, as was said before, was on the steps of the Custom House.

The Slum Corps was restricted to the Smithfield Market while Dublin I was allowed five separate stands. Every night before the meeting, there was a posse of the R. I. C. at the barracks door to escort the soldiers to the various stands. Strangely enough, the number considered for No. I was from 9 to 12 policemen where the bonnets could be worn and there was little trouble, while on the other hand, No. II and the Slumpost were only given four each, yet these were the ones where there was real need for stronger escorts. The Police stood about ostensibly keeping guard to see no one was injured, but being so outnumbered it was easy for the women to be punched and have their hair pulled unnoticed. The homeward journey was the worst, where with flags flying and drums beating that could hardly be heard, headed and flanked by policemen; the groups edged their way through vast crowds of screaming citizens. Rotten cabbages, fish heads, and horse dung were favourite missiles, as well as stones. Pill Lane, the most notorious thoroughfare where the Salvationists marched was at the back of the Slum Barracks at the rear of the Four Courts (now named Chancery St.). Perfect pandemonium broke out at the sight of the Army. Besides the shouts and boos, barrows, boxes, fish baskets, pails of water and refuse were often made into a barricade to stop the progress of the soldiers. The Police would then move up front and break through the piled up material. Yet despite all this the Army doggedly stuck it out, indeed many of the soldiers rather enjoyed the conflict and little physical damage appears to have been suffered on either side. So they battled on.

Another periodical, "All in the World" of September 1902 in an article entitled "Where the dear little Shamrock grows" gives us a more cheerful picture. The author, Lieut. Colonel Hoggard, who with his wife was 12 years in Dublin, sets out a clear description of the Army: "We have no politics and therefore cannot enter into discussions or, rouse enmity between man and man on that. point. We do not contend with other religious bodies or attack their creeds. We are not a sect but an Army of peace, whose duty is to preach the full, free, uttermost salvation of Jesus Christ to the souls of the people and to care for their bodies.... our religion is plain, practical, happy and bubbling over with songs".

He then appeaIs for a shelter for the homeless such as the Army have in many other places. He relates two incidents concerning Lassies. One was the case of some hungry women looking for money. The Sisters had nothing to give but suggested the women earn some by scrubbing the barracks. They agreed and when the time for payment came, the Lassies not only gave them the amount due, but half their food as well.... the inhabitants of this slum district were won over by this act of kindness and no one dare insult the Army in that street any more. The other incident was about three Lassies living in one very poor room "high up in an old house in a slum street of Dublin". One of these had already spent ten years in the city. Possibly she was Captain Wellbeloved (a delightful name) who when asked what she had done that day answered: "Just nothing .... been up and down lanes and alleys poking around to see if I could do anything. There is enough work in Dublin for half a dozen Slum Corps if we could get to work". Despite the brave efforts of earlier Salvationists, these no longer wore the Hallelujah Bonnets or even Slum hats.

One Lassie declared: 1 feel so out of place in these cloths" she wore a plain blue dress and a sailor hat. People responded gladly to their offers of help but on hearing who they were no longer required their assistance. It was all extremely disheartening, but on the whole understandable, and that on two counts. First, any person or group of persons who tries to do good in this world, will suffer, sooner or later. The Story of the Founder of Christianity bears this out.... can we expect better treatment? So the account of the Army's sufferings in Dublin was but an echo of their earlier persecutions on the Streets of London. Second, if we look at the history of our country we recall that for centuries we were a subject people, deprived of our language, our culture, the practice of our religion, our education. Our forefathers were without land, possessions, livestock, homesteads. Admittedly, by the time of which I write, these conditions were greatly alleviated, the Penal days and the famine and the "soupers" where just memories, kept alive down the ages, but memories form attitudes. So when the earnest and very genuine Salvationists came offering help, the moment they opened their mouths their speech betrayed them .... When it came to religion it was even worse, for whatever about the people listening to and enjoying the hymns, regarding preaching or praying there was an unbridgeable chaos. The words and expressions used were unfamiliar, alien. The citizens suspected proselytism proselytism supported by the force of an Army with uniforms, flags and banners, strength and power, and above all, police protection. The poor fought back the only way they could. It was all such a sorry business .... Vatican II was over half a century in the future.

In the April 1906 issue of "All in the World" the article "Where the dear little Shamrock grows" tell us that the Army had developed considerably. Mention is made of the South Ireland Headquarters in Lower Abbey St, from which the Divisional Officers operate; here too is the Citadel (formerly the Barracks) of Dublin II Corps where Captain Mary A. Patch and Lieutenant Alice Boulden are in charge. From here also go the Officers of the new Slum Corps on their daily round. There are now four Corps in the city and a small one in Kingstown, as it was known. then. Captain Ellen King and Lieutenant Margaret Robinson operate here, and we are told they have some of the finest and largest open-airs in the South. No I's Citadel reports that there has been the formation of a Sisters' String Band, a great attraction in drawing people to the meetings.

Here we meet again Captain Wellbeloved now with the title of Ensign. She had been with the new Slum Corps for about three years and nine months (the old Slum Corps now being Dublin Ill). "She has rendered conspicuous service chopping wood, scrubbing rooms, making beds, washing children, tending the aged, praying with the dying, performing the last office of all - at once chiropodist, doctor, nurse and angel of mercy There is also a description of an open-air meeting "under the shadow of the Bank of Ireland". The central ring numbered barely 40 people, including the drummer, the trophy with the flag and a man with the concertina, actually the chief speaker. The surrounding crowd was quite large, however, about two hundred with several members of the D.M.P. whose services in actual fact were not required, the people being both orderly and respectful. At the end of this short meeting we are told "The procession moved off, all sorts and conditions of people joining in along the way, while others lined the route, merry-eyed spectators watching the peculiar people who possess the rare gift of being always interesting". Finally the venue was reached, St, George's Hall, where an audience of 600 awaited a lecture describing the Army's work and progress throughout the world and even in Dublin, for by this time it was accorded a limited acceptance.

On 26th January 1911 we meet another former Hallelujah Lass, Adjutant Mrs. Dyling, in command of Dublin I Corps. She entered in diary form various events that occurred around that time and we see the same pattern emerging as in former days, failures laced with some successes. She writes of Self Denial Week, the target for which is £200. Her Corps only came up with £168.7.6d and she says regretfully that in all her experience in the Army she has never known the target not to have been reached. On 19 February there was a meeting in the Abbey Theatre which appears to have been "fairly good", but she adds sadly: "Nothing seems to move Dublin". On Saturday Ist. April there was a Specially United Meeting in Dublin which was really good, with plenty of joy and praise.

On the following day General Booth was in Dublin. There was a meeting in the Abbey Theatre at 10.30 a.m. and another in the Metropolitan Hall at 3p.m. Very full houses for both meetings. Other gathering are mentioned, but unfailingly at the end of each comes like a refrain the expression: "No visible results" or "very little result". "Results here meant that during the meeting people would come forward to the top of the Hall where there was a bench called a "Mercy Seat, and here acknowledge their sinfulness and seek the salvation of Christ. These were known then as converts, but for the ordinary poor of Dublin, their conversion would take place at the local parish missions with reception of the Sacraments.

However, if there were no results from the ordinary poor of Dublin, there were results in another religion's area, that of the Church of Ireland. Among a number of Hallelujah Lassies who began in Dublin but were appointed elsewhere, we have: Lizzie Howe who attended her first meeting in a cleaned out stable with whitewash walls and lit by paraffin lamps. During a hymn she felt God was calling her, and sometime later in 1891 went to the Training Garrison and Dublin saw her no more. With her husband, Commissioner William Maxwell, a lifetime of devoted service was given to the Army. Others included Margaret Devitt, Harriet Emma Rudd, Eileen Douglas and Sheila Donnen.

In 1903, entering the Abbey St. Hall "for a bit of fun" Margaret Devitt was astounded when the Colonel left the platform, put his hand on her shoulder and said: "You ought to be with us and you should become an officer". Despite great opposition at home, she obeyed and became an officer in Dublin, but in 1907 was appointed to Scotland, then to Yorkshire and Birniingham. Major Margaret only returned to Dublin after her promotion to Glory. Her committal service in Mount Jerome Cemetery was conducted by the Commanding Officer of the Abbey St. Corps.

Margaret Fitzgerald also encountered the Army in a converted stable. Her relations did not wish her to sever her connection with the Church of Ireland, but shortly after a serious illness she decided definitely that if her health was restored, she would dedicate her fife as a Salvationist. For a time she was in charge of all the Corps in the country. Her greatest work was when, as a Lieut. Colonel in London involved with the Life Saving Guard Movement, founded in 1915, she was the organiser for seven years.

Harriet Emma Rudd, a Dublin girl who worshipped at St. Patrick's Cathedral become a Salvationist at Abbey St. In 1918 she married Hugh Park Muir and served with him in the Men's Social Services in Cork, Belfast, Nottingham, Newcastle and London. Men's Christmas dinners were a speciality of hers and also soup kitchens for the homeless. Commissioner and Mrs. Muir were actively involved in the Hadleigh Farm Colony already mentioned. She was a great believer in the power of right thinking and the efficacy of prayer. She really lived up to one of sayings: "Never turn anyone away with a sad hear." C. Brigadier Eileen Douglas' special apostolate was that of the pen. She was for 10 years co-editor of "All in the World", gave highly effective service to the "War Cry", and wrote several well-known Army books and periodicals. Born into a Christian family, Sheila Donnen in answer to a deep felt need, attended a meeting in Abbey St., In 1954 she entered the Army Training College. Major Donnen worked in the Women's Social Services in Glasgow and Belfast, with unmarried mothers and eventide homes.

As we move towards the present we find there is only one Corps in Dublin now, with very few Officers, but together with the members a great deal is accomplished. At the hall in Abbey Street they conduct Services and Bible Classes, and have a very full weekly schedule which includes a Ladies' Prayer Meeting and a Home League Meeting, two Clubs one a luncheon one, and the other for the over Sixties. Something much appreciated by people around is the Nearly New Shop. There is visitation of homes and of the sick, and the band requires attention.

To speak of another important work we must go back to 1911 when a hostel for 200 men and boys was opened in Peter St. named Albert Hall. In 1948 it moved to its present location, York House, York St. in charge of Captain and Mrs. Warden, it is for temporary or permanently homeless men. There are 92 small single rooms, and residents are provided with breakfast daily. Other meals may be bought in the restaurant which is open to the public. Under the Eastern Health Board some 40 meals on wheels are cooked each day and the Dominican Day Care Centre is also supplied when the normal source is unavailable owing to holiday closures.. The age range of the men is wide, from about 17 to 87 years. A group of the oldest has lived there for over 20 years and additional facilities are provided for them by a case assistant who bathes and shaves them, launders their clothes administers prescribed medicines, and accompanies them to hospital and so on, generally seeing to their needs. The total staff number 20, some were onetime residents, but capable of being employed. This is seen as part of the overall plan for restoring them to a normal fulfilling lifestyle. Residents come from various backgrounds and for different reasons, broken homes or marriages, family rejection, some are ex-prisoners or former psychiatric patients. For many, York House can be their only refuge. The building itself is old, dating back to 1815. Much has been done to it over the years and at present some improvements include a new laundry, windows and showers. Group membership at the YMCA close by provides recreational facilities. In the summer a minibus brings parties of the men on outings and some of the long-term residents have an arranged week's holiday. This work recalls as incident in the life of General Booth, when on 1st. December 1887 he saw many destitute men sleeping rough in London, and the following day said to his son Bramwell "Go and do something" and he did. The first Army shelter was the result.

Again we move back in time to the early twenties when two sisters, Eva and Clara Stuar-Watts, daughters of missionaries in East Africa, came to settle in Dublin. Desiring to help the Kingdom of God in some way they obtained a small two-roomed house, number 9 Harbour Court near Eden Quay, and to here they brought in girls whom they had befriended, for simple meals and a chat. Other than a mattress on the floor in case of urgent necessity, there was no accommodation for visitors. Their work grew. They moved to 118 Eden Quay, how a chemist shop, where they opened a cafe and what would now be called "a drop-in Centre". After some time they opened a hostel for girls at Castlepark House, Haddon Road, Clontarf, and asked the Salvation Army to take charge. A young woman, Mary Millar, acting as house mother, in 1947 joined the Army and as Auxiliary Captain was appointed to the Women's Social Services, where she and a companion became voluntary Probation Officers. This entailed visiting the courts daily, interviewing girls and accepting responsibility for them where deemed necessary. They were the only ones in the country doing this work which they continued until approximately 15 years ago when the Probation Services changed and an influx of paid workers took over from them.

Another woman, very religious and given to good works was Helen Lefroy, wife of Lieut. Colonel Hugh Lefroy of Carriglas Manor, Co. Longford. A newspaper cutting tells us that she "had a mission to convert the Roman Catholics of Longford to Protestantism, but had more success in setting up the local district nursing service". On the death of her husband in 1945 she joined the Salvation Army, but was not stationed in Dublin. This did not prevent her from helping young girls of that city and she bequeathed money towards the setting up Lefroy House on Eden Quay to which the hostel in Haddon Road transferred. It was opened some years ago in the premises so fluniliar to every Dubliner, the Seamen's Institute. It is a residential-care centre for adolescent girls from 15 to 19 referred by the Probation department or by the Eastern Health Board. There is neither any racial nor denominational barrier, each girl is just someone m need, due perhaps to home problems, being disturbed and unmanageable or having come into conflict with the law. There is accomodation for 12. Unlike Haddon Road, Lefroy House is therapeutic in aim Girls have their own rooms, a welcome degree of privacy, many recreational in the city centre. There are outings of various sorts and a week at a holiday camp each summer. Ordinary school subjects are taught with the addition of typing and office procedures, and there is a Social and Lifeskills programme. All this is designed to help the girls mature and hopefully return to their homes or else prepare them to live independently as useful young adults in the community. How Catherine Bramwell-Booth, with her great concern for the young and their development would rejoice in this! Clearly the spirit of the Salvation Army remains to this day.

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