August 10th, 1912
FROM THE ARCHIVES:A speech by Douglas Hyde criticising Irishmen who imitated Englishmen set off a lively correspondence from Irish Times readers, including this letter. – JOE JOYCE
SIR, - AS an Irishman teaching in an English public school, perhaps I may be allowed to say a word on the above subject. I know English education well, what is best in it and what is worst in it; I am very loyal to my own school and its best traditions; and I never hear of an Irish boy being sent to school in England without feelings of horror.
The point is this. The Irish people are an intellectual race; the English people are an unintellectual race. The Irish people are a spiritual race, and follow after the things of the mind; the English are not spiritual, and they tend to follow rather after the things of the body. These differences of the two peoples are reflected in their schools; the Irish boy sent to England is placed in a lower intellectual environment than that to which he rightfully belongs, and the parents who treat him thus do him an irreparable wrong. Moreover, English people are so much richer than Irish people that Irish parents can rarely afford to send their children to English schools where they would mix with people of their own class.
I turn with interest to what Mr. Dudley Fletcher [a previous correspondent] considers the three points in which English schools surpass Irish schools – attention to dress, good manners, and speech.
About the first a great deal might be said. That English schoolboys pay considerable attention to dress is certainly true, but those who pay most attention to dress are invariably the least intellectual; and personally whenever I see a boy with cunningly-brogued shoes and brilliant-coloured socks there comes into my mind an old saying that I learnt nowhere else but in Ireland – “A man without learning and wearing good clothes is like a gold ring on a grunting pig’s nose.”
I have travelled a good deal in Europe, and I know no country (with the possible exception of France) where such pleasant manners reign as in Ireland. Manners are of the head and of the heart: a man cannot be really polite unless he has the mental quickness to see what is the right thing to do or to say, and unless he has the fine feelings and delicate promptings of the heart to inspire him thereto.
[...] As regards speech, I am still more amazed. There is no standard English speech; there are only a number of dialects. Why should an Irishman give up an Irish dialect to learn an English one? The English dialects are certainly not prettier, nor are they more correct. I am sure Irish parents don’t want to hear their children dropping their “aitches,” or saying “the idear of it,” or saying “naow” instead of “no”. [...] To speak of Irish boys going to England to learn “speech” is one of the most preposterous things I have ever heard in my life. [...] – Yours, etc., E. Creagh Kittson, B.A. Carraig-na-Rone, Portrush, Aug 6, 1912.