Lynda Walker reviews An English Woman In Belfast, Rosamond Stephens' Record of the Great War, Oonagh Walsh (ed.), Cork University Press, IR£8.95 pbk
THIS PERSONAL narrative by Rosamund Stephens gives some insight into politics in Ireland and England at time the time of the Great War.
Written though the eyes of a woman whose family was part of the political and intellectual elite on England in the 19th and early 20th century, the descriptions of her work and the people that she worked with is illuminating.
Rosamund Stephens was a Belfast missionary who was stationed on the Shankill Road. She viewed herself as a person with all the answers -- in that respect she would have made a typical politician, the voice of sanity and education attempting to unite Protestants and Catholics.
She worked avidly for conscription and was convinced that 'Sinn Fein is Germany'. She treated the working class like naughty ignorant children who should do as she tells them.
On the other hand she writes sympatheticaly of Constance Gore-Booth, daughter of Sir William Booth of Lissadell, Co. Sligo, "and she is about my age" -- obviously she found some common class ground there.
She finds it "so awful" that Countess Markievicz is sentenced to death for her part in the Easter Rising, while noting that Mrs McBride "a lady too" is a prominent supporter of the Irish national cause."This is not a poor peoples affair", she opines.
One of a series of Irish narratives edited by David Fitzpatrick, this book is part of a wealth of material that is being retrieved from diaries and personal letters of public figures and obscure witnesses.
December 2001/January 2002
Connolly Publications Ltd, 244 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8JR
Copyright © 2001 Connolly Publications Ltd