Laurence Cox: Empire, Sedition and the forgotten Irish Buddhist monk who faced down the British in Burma

January 28, 2021 00:59:04
Laurence Cox: Empire, Sedition and the forgotten Irish Buddhist monk who faced down the British in Burma
The Plastic Podcasts
Laurence Cox: Empire, Sedition and the forgotten Irish Buddhist monk who faced down the British in Burma
/

Show Notes

Dr Laurence Cox is an associate professor of sociology at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth. He is also one of the three authors of “The Irish Buddhist”, the story of U Dhammaloka and his clashes with the British Empire in the early 20th century.

We talk about Dhammaloka (born Laurence Carroll in Dublin, or so we think), Buddhism among the Irish, going native, Kipling’s “Kim”, the Irish in 19th Century America, and what stories like these mean in the aftermath of the Mother and Baby Homes report and the death of George Nkencho.

Plus Zoe Lyons raises a small fleadh onto The Plastic Pedestal…

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:03 <inaudible> Speaker 1 00:00:22 How you doing I'm Doug <inaudible> and you're listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora. Now in its fourth series, count them Jim four we're journeying back through time on today's passive podcast, even more so than usual as we traveled to 1911 in Rangoon Burma, the British establishment is trying to bring a case of sedition against a Buddhist monk. <inaudible> who is an activist who challenges the empire, his attempt to dominating Burma through in his words, the Bible, the whiskey bottle and the Gatling gun. Now, if this trial is unusual enough in itself, it's made even more so by the fact that <inaudible> was born in Dublin, probably with the name Lawrence Carol, his radical opposition to the British empire after years as a hobo in the States, marks him out as a particular member of the diaspora. But there's even more to his story or stories than this. Lawrence Cox is an associate professor of sociology at the national university of Ireland and may Newth. And one of the three authors of the Irish Buddhist, the forgotten monk who faced down the British empire. He's also our first guest of 2021, and I'll let him set the scene in Burma. So, Speaker 2 00:01:28 So, um, he's being put on trial in the chief course in rendezvous, by an Irish judge. It should be sad, uh, Daniel to me from Carrick too. Um, and when he goes to the court, the streets are packed. So of course there's Buddhist monks, there's Buddhist laity there, but the Chinese bizarre has shot though. The Indian bizarre has shopped down Rangoon at this point is less than 50% Burmese. The dock workers are mostly Indian Muslims and Tamils they're there in the streets. He's supported by one of Gandhi's closest associates. So Indian nationalists, the cinemas given two days of its takings to his defense fund. So literally the whole of colonized Rangoon is there to support this guy, whether they're Buddhist or not. This is not just a trial about religion. It's a trial about the power of the empire. Speaker 1 00:02:32 It was the course of the trial itself. What had happened in order for him to be accused of sedition. Speaker 2 00:02:36 So he'd given a talk in move Maine, Southeast Burma, uh, where there was incidentally quite a strong Irish presence. That was the St Patrick school, which was struggling with the fact that, uh, some of its opposite Burmese students were starting to set up Buddhist associations. And you can imagine how well that went down, uh, in St. Patrick's school. And he a talk, which is like a talk he'd given, you know, for the past 11 or 12 years in Burma, he was a celebrity preacher. When he toured people would travel for three days on foot in oxcarts or whatever, he would have thousands of people listening to. So he's not really saying anything new. And he says, you know, as you've said in your intro, pretty much, they're going to come for you with the Bible. They're going to come for you with a whiskey bottle. Speaker 2 00:03:26 They're gonna come for you with the gasoline gums. So colonialism has these three elements, Christian missionaries, military conquest, and cultural destruction. Remember the Burmese Buddhists are these theoretically teetotal. So he says this, but this time they decide to make an issue of it. They bring him to court in Maine. He appeals it winds up in Rangoon. And part of this is probably because the year before he'd done a very high-profile tour in Ceylon today's show Lanka say in the same kinds of things, uh, on behalf of the sort of radical anti colonialists Buddhists there. So it's become a bit too hot to handle. Part of the reason for that is also that the empire as a whole is struggling. So the Irish party has done very well. The Irish party actually holds the balance of power, uh, in Westminster and it's extracting home room. The Ulster volunteer force is about to be formed on back of this, uh, Dockers and railway workers are starting to go on strike. Speaker 2 00:04:38 There's a gunship because of the mercy suffragettes or challenging male supremacy. Uh, there is, uh, a huge suffragette demo, uh, outside the house of parliament in which lots of sexual assaults are carried out by the police and by vigilantes and India, the radical Indian nationalists whose newspapers supporting him here in Rangoon, um, Gandy is taking Indian nationalism further and further down the path of boycotting, British goods of civil disobedience and so on. So the empire which had looked so solid is suddenly looking rather rock here. And here's this opposite celebrity monk going around, challenging it publicly. So they stick them on trial Speaker 3 00:05:31 More than an operatory celebrity monk, an Apache celebrity Irishman. Speaker 2 00:05:34 He's an Irish monk and an ex Docker. And you've got to remember that a good chunk of the British military in India and Burma are Irish. Yeah, there is a whole moral panic going on about what happens if the Irish become Buddhist, which we think of as a very weird thing, but Kim Kipling's absolute seller. It's about the son of an Irish Sergeant and the quote, Indian bizarre, a woman, and really loyal to the British empire, or is it really low to his Tibetan Buddhist teacher? This is a big, best seller that phrase the road to Mandalay is the title of a book by the wife of an Irish officer, um, which is again about an Irish soldier in this case directly of the soldier, not his son, uh, who becomes a Buddhist and which side is his heart on? So what happens if the Irish who are holding the guns refuse to obey orders, if they go native, if they make alliances with the natives, the other side. Speaker 2 00:06:46 So Irish Buddhists are worrying and Irish Buddhists who used to be Dockers in a town that is basically an enormous port and whose Muslim Dockers are themselves. Um, increasingly allied with counties wing of the Indian national Congress. That's all a little bit worried. That's the kind of thing you want to nip in the bud sooner, rather than later, it seems so it would appear then that this would have been almost like some kind of pretty much. Yeah. And they have a problem with it, which is already in Moodle. Maine, the streets were packed. They have to fill the town with soldiers, with armed police. And then they had to defer the trial because the crowds were so big. They deferred the trial to avoid the damage. They do exactly the same thing in Rangoon. So the trial date was set for today 110 years back. Speaker 2 00:07:43 Yeah. 13th of January, 1911, the crowds turned up at woops. This trial has to be deferred for the week. And then whoops, I have to defer judgment till the end of the month. And when they do bring judgment, it's the lightest possible thing they can get away with. They can't back down, they cannot let them off, but they also can't make a martyr of him. And remember, he's Irish, he's grown up in the second half of the 19th century. He knows all about what you can do with being a marshal. So that got is really, really awkward. What do you do at this point? Right. They bind him over to keep the peace. Yeah. Slap on the wrist. Don't be a naughty boy again, or will come down on you. Okay. Pretty much like being Santa had to have Buster's office. We don't do it again. So it's a very strange moment. Speaker 2 00:08:39 And how effective was that judgment? Um, the judgment itself, not at all, but the wider crisis of the empire continues. The wider repression continues. And the day that is binding over finishes, he leaves Burma. So you have to assume that there were other threats conveyed. We will come after you one way or another, and those don't need to be official threats because he's made himself so unpopular. He is famous for rooting out corrupt officials. For example, one of the big issues in the empire of the day is, uh, officials and officers of all kinds, uh, half native wives, quote unquote native families. But, uh, after that 20 years services up, they ditch them. They go back home, they marry a nice English or Irish gal. Okay. So this is very much kind of in keeping with the best borough and the mixed race, Irish and so on. Speaker 2 00:09:48 They abandoned them. But one of the things that Tom Aloka has done apparently is to force the Viceroy to say, well, uh, any official, uh, who is married to a native woman must make an honest woman for her by actually legally, properly marrying her. And that screws all their plans, all their family's plans for inheritance and how the future is going to go itself. If they are actually tied down to this woman and their kids in Rangoon or wherever it is. So he's got a lot of enemies while they are at other, and yet he disappears. And so he leaves pyramid. He goes to Australia and then this letter arrives from Australia saying this, this rather queer character calling himself, <inaudible> Kurt who's died here. Uh, and if anybody wants his, uh, effects, uh, give us an address. So we'll send them on. So here's a bitcher. He goes around the place. Now that letter bus to been sent by hip, and there's a kind of, sort of Interpol request sent to the Victorian police. Has anybody seen this guy? But then just a couple of months after that, he swans into a newspaper office in Singapore, it says I'm not dead. So there's a whole background story that we will presumably never done. It's like, why did he FLI? Why did he fake his death that they wanted to go? Actually, this is all right. Speaker 4 00:11:20 We're talking, it's like a 19, 11, 1912 thereabouts. And so that's a really, if I may say so advanced sense of one's profile in the media, Speaker 2 00:11:31 He is an absolute demon in the media. Uh, so he's got, um, good connections with a number of newspaper editors. Sometimes they fall out. There's an Irishman from Killarney who edits the straits times in Singapore, a man called Morphy, who first loves him and then turns totally against him. But he's those kinds of relationships. He publishes his own stuff. His events are major issues in the newspapers, an awful lot of what we know about him. We know because the colonial press hated him. So they report what he did in the most pejorative possible ways. So that's a lot of the evidence that survives is actually the missionaries and the gentlemen in the clubs. And so on talking about this guy, uh, he also writes for the papers under false names. Now he's got several different false names. One of them rather wonderfully captain daylight. Uh, you might know that captain Moonlight is the kind of name that you would sign an anonymous letter with back in the day in the countryside. Speaker 2 00:12:42 If the landlord is raising the rents and you send a letter saying these rents are too high, they're not in keeping, uh, it's really important to lower these rents or your hay rigs might suddenly accidentally go up in flames, signed captain Moonlight. So he says these things did side capita daylight, or that letter from Australia claiming his dad, uh, is sent by, um, uh, Mr. Larkins, this is a year before the Dublin lockout. I think John Larkin has done chip Larkins, but there's a whole kind of, you could imagine this stuff playing out on social media today. Speaker 1 00:13:21 Also though it seems to be involved in an awful lot of transgressions in as much as I actually being a westerner and an Irishman to actually adopt, not just Buddhism, but also the, the, the clothing and, and, and practices of the Buddhist monk is, well, it, it, it, it, it, it runs, it runs, runs upstream when everything else is going downstream. Doesn't it? Speaker 2 00:13:40 So total transgression. Yeah, because after the big Indian rebellion of 1857 white people in Asia, kind of look at each other and go, there's not an awful lot of firsts, and there's an awful lot of that. Yeah. So there's various strategies. One of them obviously is to get, uh, to build up the local forces in the army. That's another big one is to try and big up whiteness to try and make being white look like something really, really special. Um, so whereas previously, uh, it was a lot more okay to blur some of those boundaries say back in the 18th century, by the late 19th, early 20th century to be white is to dress in a certain way. It is to behave in a certain way. It's to try and act like this Sahib, this gentleman who is totally different from other people. And that's always easier if you're rich and if you're poor. Speaker 2 00:14:45 Yeah. An awful lot of poor whites don't particularly want to play that game. Okay. They actually have local families that they stay with. They're not going back anywhere. They probably sooner or later, why dope code along to the local temple, they bag, they fight. Um, and if you're a Buddhist monk, of course you are literally visibly publicly bagging every day. It's as dramatic as the hairy Christian is used to be on the streets of Dublin, really, really startling here. Isn't white person, an Irish person, bagging wearing robes going bare foot Europeans do not go bare foot with a shaved head, uh, bowing down to a grave, an idle, you know, they talk like this. There are literally reports of Europeans become the goodest where they're just like, Oh my God, he's actually doing it. He is actually bowing down to, uh, this idol. And you could sense the shock that people are stepping over those lines of race, religion color. And so, so yeah, he's going absolutely in the opposite direction, he is going native. And this is a thing that is really disturbing in a world. That's trying to hold the empire together by really, really reaffirming those lines. It's like not sitting at the back of the bus stop kind of thing. Speaker 1 00:16:26 You listening to the plastic podcasts. We all come from somewhere else published by Oxford university, press. The Irish Buddhist tells the tale of a radical at a time when the empire was in turmoil, who challenges the presumptions of that empire, who has a huge amount of local revolutionary and populous support, and who is also a master of dealing with the media. Naturally, I want to know what's attracted Lawrence and his co-authors to this story. Speaker 2 00:16:51 Well, it was just so boring, you know, so doubles so conventional to say, yeah, we should just tell us, cause it's so typical. Uh, so well, I was looking at, um, the relationships between Ireland and Buddhism. Okay. For a good long time. Um, for a couple of reasons, one is, um, Buddhism starts at the opposite end of the continent, the opposite end of Eurasia from Ireland. So it's really interesting to see how the ideas get from one end to the other, but also how people move in both directions. It's a way of telling the story well, what is Ireland anyway? What is Irish culture? Of course, particularly when religion looms so large and colonialism blooms so large as a shared story, in fact that we don't think of it today, but, um, in the 1930s or even the 1940s, uh, Asian antique colonialists looked to Ireland because Ireland had broken free from the British empire. Speaker 2 00:18:01 And they were familiar with the Irish through the Irish presence in Asia. So, you know, they translated books about Dow, bream, Michael Collins, or whatever into burpees with <inaudible> covers back in the 1930s. Um, so Buddhism in Ireland. But then when I was looking at this in the 19th, early 20th century, a lot of the stories that were easiest to find were stories of gentlemen. They was stories of the kinds of people who wrote books and whose archives tend to be preserved, who were parts of the establishment, but had this sort of genteel scholarly, spiritual interest in Buddhism, but actually kind of, didn't kind of struggled to get on with actual Asian Buddhists. So, you know, loosely what we call cope, cultural appropriation and start should go well, are there any other kind of Irish Buddhists? And what happened was I came across this story in an American atheist journal. Speaker 2 00:19:10 So this is really like being on Twitter today. There's this American atheist publication in 1909. This has a letter from somebody who is an apparently an Irish Buddhist in Rangoon saying, you think Tom Payne is great. We think Tom paid correct, great big hero of atheists. And my first thought was this can Tucky atheist. He's just made up this guy because it's his story. This guy doesn't exist. Um, and then on eBay, I found an envelope, postmark Rangoon with the logo of his Buddhist tract society. Okay. He really, really did exist separately. Alicia Turner had discovered him and Brian balking put the three of us together. So we started going, what can we find out about this guy? What, what is an Irish put is doing in Ragu corresponded with American atheist? How does that even make sense? Given the unusual Speaker 5 00:20:18 Nature of his story though? Why do you think it kind of disappeared into fragments and so forth before you behold, the three of you Speaker 2 00:20:24 Started to put it together? Well, one of the reasons is that he isn't a gentleman he's totally from the other side of the tracks. Um, but he's pretty inconvenient. Yeah, because Burma later goes through the Tigerland goes of moving from being empty colonialists to being nationalists going. We want to state of our own. And you've got to remember in 1900, it's not at all clear that the future after empire is a world of independent nation States structured around the nation or that the nation is going to be identified with a religion, which is what happens then in Burma, as we know with the written gear today, Interline Kurth. And of course in Ireland, yeah. The history that we're talking about in relation to Baspar. And so, so when that's happens, suddenly an Irish Buddhist becomes quite inconvenient in Burma. As you know, the guy who launches this shoe issue. Speaker 2 00:21:30 One of the key issues in, um, the struggle towards Burmese independence is Iris. That's not great, but it's also true in Ireland. Cause this guy, he's not a problem in Ireland in 1911. Yeah. He's in the Sunday independent for God's sake. And then a summary of it in the independent afterwards, arch people in 1911 are actually really interested that there's an Irish guy. Who's a Buddhist. Remember, like I said, you know, Kim is a bestseller, including in Ireland, Irish Buddhists, they're weird. They're striking. They're not hard to think about. So he becomes forgotten afterwards in both countries. That's really important. One of the big issues in Burma for the first two decades of the 20th century is can you wear shoes on pagodas? And it sounds very trivial, very silly, but here's the thing, uh, in Burma, like so many Asian countries, you do not wear shoes in sacred places. Speaker 2 00:22:36 You just don't. You remember that Iraqi journalist throwing shoes at George Bush, they're not just a missile, they're an insult. You don't point your shoes at people. You don't bring them, wear them into people's houses. You take your shoes off when you come inside as a matter of common courtesy, certainly not into peoples temples, but of course the British military and police do wear their shoes. When they're walking on the temp on the pagodas, right. And it's not officially allowed, but in practice, it is that, uh, Oh, officers that girlfriends tourists and so on wander around the pagodas in shoes because they are Europeans because no European would demean themselves by taking their shoes off, simply because of the fence, the natives, that would be totally inconceivable. And so this is really like, you know, Chinese officers and their girlfriends wandering around Tibetan Buddhist temples, except that it's not the presence alone. Speaker 2 00:23:42 It's the presence with the shoes that is blatant sign of disrespect and DeAngelo can makes this an issue on the shredder gun. Now the shredder gun is it's in Rangoon. It is the holiest site of Burmese Buddhism. It's such a symbolic thing that the British army apparently have cannon pointed at it. It's a defective threat to say, if you guys kick off, we're going to blow up your precious pagoda, right? And on the full moon festival, one of the big days of the year, he stops an off-duty copper. Somebody who doesn't have a legal right to be there wearing shoes, says you can't come onto the pagoda wearing shoes. Speaker 2 00:24:29 And this is literally one of those moments when, what do we do? Yeah, yeah. A sensible copper would kind of walk away and come into the other in, through another entry or not made an issue of it afterwards. This guy makes an issue. So double Oak has chosen the right person to challenge you. Maybe he knows it. Maybe he knows that he's at the fish is sort of a bitch who knows, but it becomes this huge issue. Is it okay to walk on? Pagodas wearing shoes, it's a national issue. And it stays a national issue until 1919. And that's really so back in 1901 when DAMA loca does this, this is really what propels him to national fame. As somebody who's actually able to use religion to challenge the disrespect and behind the disrespect, the conquest, you know, so he supposedly apparently says the British have taken Burma from the Bermans that's the dominant ethnic group. Speaker 2 00:25:38 And now that trampling on their religion, it's a very visceral image. We are treading dirt on your Holy places. And of course that's something that he knows from mine, right? Yeah. So it's going to say, it sounds like a very Irish argument. It's a totally Irish argument. And of course either this is though more than half a century after, <inaudible> the question of respect for the local religion and the way in which you can use that to say things about empire that you couldn't say outcries that's really important. So Berman's only just finished being conquered. Yeah. There's a nasty, nasty counter-insurgency war, uh, in central Burma in the late 1880s. So this is not much more than a decade after that. You can't stand up and actually say the Brits should believe Burma you'd be strong up, but you can say, I'm sorry, sir. You may not come on to the pagoda wearing shoes that everybody knows what you're talking about. Speaker 1 00:26:51 You're listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora. And now what's described as a call to action. If you haven't subscribed to the plastic podcasts already. And frankly, why the heck not? Then it's a simple thing to do. Simply go to our [email protected], scroll down the homepage to the form at the bottom, insert your email address and press submit one confirmation email click later, and you'll be getting details of each fresh podcast straight to your inbox. It's as simple as that, we'll be back with Lauren's Cox in a moment, but first it's time for the plastic pedestal, where I asked one of my interviewees to name a member of the diaspora of personal or cultural significance to them this week, comedians, Zoe lions with not just one pedestal, but an entire band Speaker 6 00:27:41 Music is a big thing for me. And I love music. I love listening to music and there is something about listening to Irish music that just absolutely sets me off. Um, and uh, we listened to a lot of folk music when I was growing up. It was the only thing wasn't it? It was jumpers and folk music set. The seventies were basically our neck sweaters, beards, the persistent smell of heavy smoke and folk music. That's what it was. It was all on the distant Bauer on banging away somewhere. Um, so it would probably be Christy more for me, uh, um, just because his voice is so beautiful and it, it it's, it's, it's just got that beautiful velvety nurse. It's almost like a sort of oral pint of Guinness listening to Christie Moore. Um, and, uh, yeah, so it would probably be him or, or the, can I have a bad, can I have an entire band? Yeah. So it'd be the chieftains, the fury brothers and Christine Ball. That would be, that would be my pedestals, my musical pedestals. That would be it for me. Speaker 1 00:28:52 Yeah. Zoe lions. And if you want to hear more of what Zoe has to say, want to hear the rest of her interview, simply go to www.plasticpodcast.com and click the episode button. You can also hear us on Amazon, Apple podcasts and Spotify. We're everywhere. Now back to Lawrence Cox, along with Brian balking and Alyssia Turner, Lawrence has spent 10 years researching and writing the story of DEMA loca. That's 30 years in total between the three of them even bearing in mind. There are other commitments. That's a huge amount of, Speaker 2 00:29:25 Well, look, there's two things. One is this guy tells fantastic stories. Every time he would say something, it would be like, you know, this, uh, barricade atheist did can hockey. Is that really true? I'd that half the we'd fight, actually. Yes, it is so fantastic stories. The fun of chasing them down and he tells these stories, beautifully. People say it together to get, you know, he could charm the heart off a wheel bar. Remember this is the guy is be the sailor. He's beat a hobo. He's Irish for God's sake. And he's an Irish man who's gone native. He speaks maybe eight different Asian languages. Not because he's learned them in school, but because he gets on with people, yeah. He can carry on conversations in an everyday way. So he tells stories. It's what he does. It's one of the big things that core Irish people have is a fantastic ability to tell stories. Speaker 2 00:30:24 So we loved that. But the other thing is his life really is extraordinary because I've talked to you mostly now about Burma, but we've mentioned he's a big deal in Sri Lanka. He's a big deal in Singapore, in Thailand, he's active in Malaysia, he's active in Japan, he's active in today's Bangladesh. And then other bits and pieces around the place is extraordinarily, uh, mobile. And chasing this down in all these different countries, through all the different languages, with all the expertise you need to dig up the archives to interpret who on earth are these people? What is going on here? That's what's 10 years of work for us, but it's also a huge Testament to who this guy was that he could actually land in Singapore or Sri Lanka as it is today or Thailand, and do something significant with Japan. Speaker 4 00:31:24 Th this brings me onto the question of actually what we know all of his life and water, what are the stories of his life? And we believe that he was born in, um, just outside of Dublin, uh, under the name of Lawrence Carol. I mean, so how, how, how sure are we at that Speaker 2 00:31:39 Reasonably? Sure. So genealogists, tell us, look, this is as good an identification as you're going to get. Uh, so that Killarney editor, uh, is happily saying, well, uh, he comes from Buddhists tailed or BlackRock or whatever. Yeah. It was first time being a part of BlackRock postal district, but they're two separate places. So we have this Lawrence Carol from Bruce risk town Avenue, BlackRock, uh, who is growing up, literally in the shadow of the church. The church has set back from the road because it was built far back enough that his grace who funded it, the local knob didn't want to offend his process terms, uh, friends and relations. So he allowed a Catholic church there, supported it, but set it back from the road. And in the shadow of this church is where Lawrence Carol grows up. So there may be quite a background. Speaker 2 00:32:29 We have no idea, but we, you can imagine, uh, that he didn't have a neutral relationship to the church growing up. But if you stand there and literally just go down the road, cause it slips down Hill towards the sea, there's the railway line. And as a kid, if you mid-shaft school, it's not very far to walk to Kingstown today's Don leery. If you turn right, if you turn left, it's not very far to walk to, um, the South side of the lithium, the docks there. So, uh, he's taken out of school at 12 to work and around the age of 14, 16. So this is the early 1870s goes to Liverpool. Can't make a living, works his way across the Atlantic, um, and starts working as a sailor up and down the East coast of the States. And then he's a migrant worker across the States. Speaker 2 00:33:29 So New York, Chicago, Montana, California, which we don't know, but that's, uh, that's uh, a sea transport route. Yeah. So that's the great lakes. Montana is where you would make the passage across to the upper reaches of rivers that flow down. Then westwards across the Rockies. So he may have been in fact, working on boats all that time. We don't know. We know he says that he was working on boats on the East coast, and then again on the Sacramento river. And then he winds up in San Francisco, working on the docks and gets a job, uh, on the ships going across to Yokohama to Japan. Then somehow he appears in Rangoon in 1,901 way or another, there's kind of two 25 years suspiciously missing from his biography then. So you start to get a picture. Yeah, it's got all these different, you know, at least five pseudonyms that we know of his got this in Asia. Speaker 2 00:34:36 We see this trial for a sedition. We see him under police and intelligence surveillance. We see him faking his death. We see him eventually disappearing, but we also see, see this interesting little quarter century gap, which he never told me for somebody who was very happy to talk about himself and loved stories. He doesn't talk about us, but somehow he appears yeah. Rangoon in 1900 as somebody who is really quite a seasoned activist, who knows how to hold a public meeting, knows how to put an organization together. Who knows how to choose his moment for a source of direct action. Like that one on the shredder with the shoes. He knows just how far to push it with the British empire. So now we funded people to spend like a year trying to track him down in the States. And it's bloody hard work. Yeah. Speaker 2 00:35:36 Working men in this who have reasoned to kind of go under the radar, changed their names and so on. They did. Yeah. So that five pseudonyms, it's not uncommon for the arrest record, say in San Francisco. And that's why this is the period of Sherlock Holmes and the mugshots of the fingerprints and so on. Who are these people, particularly when they move from country to country, it's a huge source of anxiety. We don't know who they are, but we do know this is the tail end of the Siemens, this period of the stars plan, the grail, it's the period of the Molly. Maguires so Irish secret societies, uh, in the battles between the miners and the mine owners, there's a general strike as anarchists, the socialists and the atheists, which is the one thing where we really come in and down there in the middle of all of this. So we don't know what he was up to, but we do know that he went to great lengths to keep it quiet. Yeah. Maybe he was the hay Barkat Baba for all leader. Speaker 5 00:36:41 It is. Life starts with a mystery and kind of ends with a mystery as well, because you just alluded to the fact that he disappeared. Speaker 2 00:36:48 He drops out of sight. We see him in late 1913 after all this business with the fake laughter. And so he's just, he tells us, he's just come back from Cambodia. It may be true. It may not be true. And that he's going on to do a tour, another tour of Schleicher and he beats the Sri Lankan guy who records it. And then he kind of faints that maybe he's in Thailand, there's a little fragmentary record. So we literally don't know. Did he change his name again? Reinvent himself. Did he die quietly in some backwards temple should maybe he went back home to Ireland and bought himself a little white washed cottage in the quarter of the gland. Does he go eastwards and settled out with Barry who broke his heart all those years ago? Who knows? Yeah, I do. Of course, world war one comes up. So he's out of the colonial newspaper. So they're deadly case. They're mortified. Cause some of them were published a picture of a guy who's not dad. So we don't have, you could make up your own vending to what happened to him. Speaker 5 00:38:05 Would he have been in that case when he, um, when he did disappear. Speaker 2 00:38:08 So if he's born in 1856, which is what we think, um, he is um, around 56, 58. Yeah. So he has had health issues. He's had a tough life. Maybe he does. Maybe he doesn't, Speaker 5 00:38:26 But there's a 25 year period out of those 56 years. As you say, where, where, where, where you can make broad sweeping generalizations, but like, um, but there's Speaker 2 00:38:36 Nothing specific there. Yeah. And I mean, th and this is absolutely not uncommon for migrant workers in this period, you know, for the Irish who don't settle down, who don't keep the same name that they had back home. I think the one thing that we do know is that he's, you know, he never denies being Irish. He's happy to be Irish, but he's not the kind of, sort of Boston Paddy's day parade. Irish is not that source of when the Irish became white gangs of New York, uh, it's us against the world. We marry among our own. We're all Catholic, et cetera, et cetera. He's not fast. So, you know, like I've said, by the time he's in Rangoon, he's clearly he's gone. Native is totally stepping over those race boundaries, but he moves through a world that is a world of ethnic conflict. So the Liverpool docks, this is the period when he's there. Speaker 2 00:39:42 When the Irish are battling the English to control the Liverpool docks. Um, his New York is the New York of gangs of New York. And then when he's on the road, this is the period after the civil war, um, there are severe conflicts between the Irish hobos and black hobos. The Irish are trying to monopolize even this for themselves, really tight, ethnic closure, Montana. This he goes through. So I'll, I'll say first Chicago that he goes through notoriously the I it's one of the places where the Irish built institutional power Montana is where the Indian Wars are happening. And it goes, so it's between the two big Indian Wars, this, you know, the battle of the little big horn and then wounded me, that's where he's going. The Irish are battling the Chinese, uh, on the railways. So Irish gangs and Chinese coolies, uh, the Irish are leading anti-Chinese riots in San Francisco. Speaker 2 00:40:46 And there is specifically racist conflict about using Asian workers on the ships. So there are attempts made to keep the Asians off the ships. So somewhere in all of this, he defects from BAPS idea of this is what it is to be Irish. You know, if he ever bought into it, he goes, I'm not doing that. I'm sorry. I like these people. And I think it is as simple as that, you know, he's, you know, he's clearly got some political awareness, but he's not, he's not an intellectual, he's not a member of an organization. Uh, but he is somebody who actually just likes people. And I think long before he becomes a Buddhist, he's coached, you know what? I worked with these Chinese guys. I like them. Yeah. I'm not going to join your mob. I'm not going to say they shouldn't work on the ships. Speaker 2 00:41:38 I'm very happy working with them. And that I think is what brings them to Buddhism as well. Is that when he comes to Asia, he actually likes people because, Oh, this is all right. And you know, here's somebody who's left school in an increasingly repressive Ireland at the age of 12, the monks take him in, they teach him, he learns his lashes properly. He's really proud of that. So he comes across like, you know, some of the tourist students that I've worked with, people who never had chances in life who left school really early enter and are delighted to be back in college, they're delighted to be studying something that matters to them. Yeah. And I think that's what brings him into it is, Oh, I like these people and they're treating me like another human being. I think we've got something going on here. Speaker 1 00:42:39 You're listening to the plastic podcasts. We all come from somewhere else. It's more than just a hashtag having talked about the stories of Udimi loca. It seems only right to ask Lawrence Cox for his favorite in this last section of the interview. We also talk about why discovering and telling tales such as these are important, not just for the sake of history, but also for today, Speaker 2 00:43:02 But there is a fantastic story, um, about him on a boat, crossing the Ganges. And we have this from a great book, which is called a vagabond journey around the world. So back in 1904 or five, uh, there's this working class guy, who's got a scholarship to Chicago, uh, but he paid to the university, but he pays his fees by working all summer. And then he goes back and he bets, uh, the nice gentlemen who are most of his classmates, that he can go around the world with nothing in his pockets. And he does. Yeah. He works his way around the world in about a year. So he gets to meet the most extraordinary people. It's a fantastic book guy called Harry Frank. This is the best seller that then hits, uh, the Sunday independent and the independent when it's published, uh, in 1910, 1911, that story goes around. Speaker 2 00:43:58 So, uh, dumb, Aloka sorry, not tumble. Okay. Harry Frank, this kind of hobo journalists guy, uh, has hooked up with another couple of white hobos and they are bombing it around India and they run into this guy and they get chatting and they checked him out and they go, yup. He really was a hobo. So this was one of the reasons why we're certain about the hope of it. Irish people check out that he's Irish, the hobos checkout. Oh yeah. I was there. I heard that kind of story about the railway police in such, such across the girl, whatever. Yeah. So they recognize each other and then there's a ferry across the Ganges and the Ganges is huge, right? These ferries take a long, long time to cross. And it's these three hobos and this Irish Buddhist and a bunch of Bernie's pilgrims. In fact. So yeah, people kind of on holiday, let's say, cause that's what pilgrimage is. Speaker 2 00:44:57 It's an excuse, you know, like going to lurid or whatever, it's an excuse to go on holiday, but with a religious aspect to it, of course. And there's this Indian Christian. So an Indian peddler who is now flogging Bible pamphlets, and your man is going around the boat, trying to sell his Bible pamphlets to people. You know, like somebody would all the cuddle street or whatever Talbert streets at that corner there. And he sees this white guy and put his throat because who, what, what are you, who are you? Where are you from? And he goes, I'm Irish because Irish, you're a Christian. All SABES are Chrystia. Yeah. He's, he's as shocked as the Columbia to say, here's, here's an Irish buddies change. Who's gone the other side. And <inaudible> tell me about these pamphlets of yours. And he's an atheist. He knows chapter and verse of what is wrong with the Bible. Speaker 2 00:45:56 He picks this poor guy apart and your man retreats into speaking Hindu Stanley. We call it Hindi origin today. Adama loca carries all the conversation that hid the order. He's got phased out at the birdies are in the background, gritty go away. So you've got to understand these Burmese culture is not about direct confrontation, know very common in Southeast Asia, the sort of Western display of macho aggressiveness. It's not what you do. And of course, they've just been conquered, but watching this white guy turned Buddhist, take down an Indian, who's converted to Christianity. Oh, they love that. And they will come to hear this guy talk and they will donate, or they will come out to support him when he's on trial. So that's part of what his use is to Burmese people is he can do this kind of polemic that they can't. And don't want to, that you wouldn't, if you were a Burmese monk in this period, Speaker 7 00:47:03 But you, uh, if you were an Irish radical who crossed the States, uh, during a time of incredible turbulence. Oh yes. You know, like this is Chris to the mill, isn't it? Speaker 2 00:47:16 Absolutely. But it's, you know, it's fun and it matters. Yeah. Because know this is really important for, you know, what it means to be Irish today. You know, that we are breaking out of that very kind of monolithic oppressive definition, um, of the present and of the past. So one of the things Don Maloca does, you know, in the context of the mother and baby homes, or, you know, recent discussions about Ireland and empires. Okay. No, actually not everybody did go along with this stuff. Be it not everybody felt it. You have to be Catholic, you could do different things or not. Everybody felt honored to be on the side of the empire. It wasn't just the morals of the time. And you know, the people who challenged that maybe they were extraordinary. Maybe they paid a price, but you can't just dismiss it by saying nobody knew any better everybody was doing it. Speaker 2 00:48:18 It was just the day. So we can say that we can unpick a bigger sense of who we have been, but then also to unpick a bigger sense of who we are. So, you know, we're talking now just a couple of weeks after George and Kensho was shot at, um, on the Dublin border. And we're starting to see a new wave of organizing, uh, among, um, second generation Irish kids who hadn't previously been in political organizations. There are obviously migrant led organizations, but we're seeing a lot more of us, a lot more people speaking for themselves. So bringing out that complexity of voices, the complexity of who does it mean to be honest on the Island, off the Island, uh, and putting it the poor people's voice is much more strongly in there because those are the voices that get lost. So, you know, one of the appalling things about this report, uh, is that it says, Oh, well, we found no evidence of forced adoptions. Speaker 2 00:49:27 And do you have story after story from surviving fear of babies being torn out of their arms of them being tricked into signing stuff, they were told us for something else of being bullied or whatever, whatever. So there's a real question of how do you listen to poor people's voices if they didn't do the paperwork afterwards? How do you collect the story of the people? Accounts of things are not naturally archived that do not become part of the architecture of official Irishness. People who are disruptive people who very often have gaps in their lives because they were on drugs or alcoholic or in a psychiatric institution or whatever it is. How do you allow those people to be real? If they don't appear in the record, uh, the newspapers in the way we'd like them to, how do we have a story of what it is to be Irish? That's not just a kind of new establishment taking on board, the convenience stories and excluding really all the victims, you know, because that's what we're talking about. It's the people who left school at 12, the people who had to leave the country, the people who have gaps in their lives, the people who disappear, the bodies, that we don't know where they are Speaker 4 00:50:52 In response to that. And then I have to ask what would be your answer to your own question? How do we gather those stories Speaker 2 00:50:59 In the short answer, of course, is we do the bloody work, you know, like Catherine chorus. Um, but the longer answer is we think about how those stories exist, what form they exist in. So we do the consortia work say that Terry Fagan and the North inner city folklore project have done for decades of collecting, working class oral history of saying, how do people tell their own story? Um, what does it look like? Collecting it, putting it together, even if it wasn't previously written down, you can go and up, this is not the distant past. You can go and ask people, tell me about this stuff. And there's a kind of moving wall there as well, because it becomes more possible some of the time for people who are still alive to tell their story, as they hear that more people want to hear it as the shame. Speaker 2 00:51:58 And so on starts to lift. As we've seen more and more survivors organizations come forward, as this stuff has become acknowledged more publicly. It does become possible for people to tell those stories. But you do have to have that question of what is evidence. So here's the story of my, uh, not, uh, not directly agree in warm. Okay. Uh, I used to teach in Waterford it and Waterford it, uh, taught care workers who worked among other places in fairy house. That's a whole different story. Um, but it was in the good shepherd convent, the old Magdalen asylum of Waterford. So we were teaching care workers in this old Magdalen asylum. And many of the office stores had boats on the outside. Speaker 2 00:52:54 Right. Nobody talked about it. It wasn't embarrassing enough to anybody that they would take action. Even just to remove that it was just left there in plain sight. Yeah. A historical fact, which is evidently straightforward. Evidence of abuse. Yeah. You are locking people. And we have to remember microloan asylums were false imprisonment, right? So we know from Jonestown, that's a major offense. You can get life for fault for false imprisonment. There was no legal basis ever for incarcerating anybody within the institution let alone in a room within the institution. And yet it happened. And when people escaped, the guards caught them and brought them back. And they're in the building. This, at that time was training care workers in Ireland in the late 1990s, thirst was built on the door and people just walk past it and don't even see it. So we have to develop the capacity to actually see that. Yeah. And to keep on asking questions like, so where are all those parties from desperate? Yeah. Where are they? What happened? Speaker 2 00:54:12 So it can be done, but you have to decide to do it. And you have to try and see things, not from the point of view of the state, not from the point of view of the church, not from the point of view of professionals, but from the point of view of the victims and to go in what ways could they tell our story? What kinds of evidence do we expect to find and go out and look for those rather than saying, there is no evidence of forced adoption. There is no evidence of money changing hands. Speaker 5 00:54:42 Uh, um, when we see, um, and, and, and you talk about, uh, the second generation, um, groups forming, and then we also see, um, mixed race, Irish groups and, uh, and survivors groups forming and so forth. And, and you, you say that you, we, we see the off, the, off the decades of silence and collusion, what then do you think is the reason why that then heads all being popped above the parapet? Speaker 2 00:55:07 I think it's two things. In the first instance, it is these extraordinary brave survivors. Yeah. So some of the people who came forward as individuals, right at the very start people like Christine Buckley, for example, mixed race, uh, column a Gorman and so on. And then the various survivors organization. So people who had survived, the Magdalenes who had survived, the industrial schools, uh, who had survived the mother and baby homes, we have yet to hear from the people who survived, forced psychiatric incarceration. Ireland had the highest rate in the world in the 1950s, something like 0.9% of the entire adult population were forcibly psychiatrically, incarcerated. They were sanctioned in the 1950s. Yeah. And of course, that's a group where the capacity to speak or indeed just to survive is extreme. Yeah. Right now the old central mental hospital is being redeveloped, uh, at, it's probably going to happen before. Speaker 2 00:56:18 There's a survivors group to say it. So that's one whole bottle, which has just got layers and layers and layers to us of the survivors organizing and coming to speak and finding allies. The other thing is feminism and LGBTQ battles. Um, so breaking the stranglehold that the church and our politics of sexual respectability had, and then also new Irish groups breaking the stranglehold of a certain definition of what it is to be Irish, because you know, the kinds of conversations that were going on in different Irish families around this, the way people are minimalized minimizing, the way people are dismissing the way the report itself says, Oh, the nuns were doing a much needed service for these poor women who were cast out, you know, that kind of, you know, this politics of memory. Yeah. It, it goes in generations and we're comparable to where say Argentina or Spain are countries where the dictatorships go through to the seventies and the eighties also with forced adoptions through religious agencies. Speaker 2 00:57:31 Yeah. And there are generational things, both of the survivors, but also of establishments because you are now at the point where if you were to ever do somebody for forced imprisonment, they wouldn't have been a senior person at the time. Those people are safely dead. And the mid rank people are safely retired. There may be some elderly nuns and guards who were involved in forced imprisonment. So there's a generational thing, um, that has to be gone through as well. Uh, but yeah, that, that politics of memory that saying again, and again, these things happened and we actually have to really take that on board and we have to try and think about what that means and change, change ourselves by sense of who we are to a more generous one in the more open mode Speaker 8 00:58:28 You've been listening to the past week podcasts with me, Doug Giovanni, and my guest Lauren, the plastic pedestal was provided by Zoe line music by Jack Devani. You can find the past [email protected], or you can email [email protected] all simply follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, the plastic Polk, it's all sponsored using public funding by arts council, England.

Other Episodes

Episode

September 30, 2021 00:48:09
Episode Cover

Ruth McHugh - The View From Paddy's Wigwam

Dublin-based artist, photographer, film-maker and documentarian Ruth McHugh tells of her forthcoming project looking at the curious history of Liverpool Metropolitan Catholic Cathedral. Plus the mystery of “her grandfather’s Caravaggio” and the last days of the Ballymun towers. Meanwhile Anthony Ekundayo Lennon pays tribute to great-great-great-great grandfather James Doyle with his Plastic Pedestal. ...

Listen

Episode

December 17, 2020 00:58:35
Episode Cover

Zoe Lyons: Stand-up, Passport Paddies, Just A Minute and Gingsters

One of the country’s leading stand-ups, Zoe Lyons tones’ have been heard on everything from Clive Anderson’s Chat Show to Just A Minute. A fixture on the comedy circuit, her 2007 debut show “Fight or Flight” saw her nominated as Best Newcomer at Edinburgh Fringe. A second generation member of the diaspora, she recorded a personal documentary series “Zoe Lyons: Passport Paddy” for Radio 4 in 2018. 2021 will see her game show, “Lightning” broadcast on BBC2. Plus Dame Elizabeth Anionwu raises Conrad Bryan onto The Plastic Pedestal ...

Listen

Episode

June 30, 2022 00:56:27
Episode Cover

Warren Reilly: Design, Discovery and a Duchess

Designer Warren Reilly is a rising star in the world of textiles and fashion. A queer, gender-fluid artist of Irish and Afro-Caribbean heritage, his work examines the intersections of identity, taking particular inspiration from the 18th Century. He has been creative director of Fashioning Our History, a headliner for the Queer Georgian Social Season at Burgh House and is currently the curator of the digital exhibition By The Cut Of Our Cloth at The Mixed Museum. He also has strong views in gravy. And as we head towards our second birthday, we return to the first ever Plastic Pedestal - John O' Donoghue on Brian Behan ...

Listen