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At The Rock of Cashel

(The following anecdotes illustrate Arnold's dual personality.)bax tf af cashel 1936


Once I told him that I could never understand why England didn’t abandon partition, that an all-Irish Republic would stand shoulder to shoulder with her in any trouble. He answered jocosely that “England couldn’t trust Ireland” that the latter might turn round and conquer her. That remark reminded me of an amusing story and I told him how an old priest, Dr Hennebrey, a Celtic scholar, related that when he was dining in New York one day, a waiter serving him at dinner said: “In fifty years time England will be Ireland's coaling station.” I took it as a joke, but to my surprise Arnold seemed both annoyed and upset. He had a dual personality. His loyalty remained with England but his heart was in Ireland.
In 1933 Maura O'Connor took Arnold, my husband and myself to see the Rock of Cashel. I had never been there before and knew nothing of its history. We wandered round the place admiring the Hiberno-Romanesque architecture with the wonderful 10th century Cormac's chapel, reading the inscriptions on the old tombstones etc. After some time a man came on the scene, I think he must have been an official guide. He spoke to us and gradually unfolded the history of the church. We were all most interested but when he came to the massacre of the women and children within its walls, I noticed Arnold getting very uneasy. In fact it was the only time I ever saw him change colour. Only then did I realise how painful the story was for him. I tried to interrupt the man and put him off the track, but I didn't succeed and he kept on until he had finished his tale.
When we gathered to leave the rock Arnold was missing. We searched for him for nearly an hour. Finally Moira found him in a field a good bit away and in a very agitated and depressed condition. She brought him back to the car, and we drove home talking about everything and anything to distract him but it was useless.
For some days after this episode he didn't return to his old self. He knew the history of Ireland and in 1916 he felt it was a repetition of what had gone on centuries before. Hence his striking patriotic and fiery poem which he wrote under the name of Dermot O'Byrne beginning with the lines:
O write it up above your hearth
and troll it out to sun and moon
To all true Irishmen on earth
arrest and death comes late or soon.

GHOST STORIES
Arnold loved listening to ghost stories. Anne Crowley told us while we were staying at Vale Cove in 1937 that there was an old man living up in the hills at Borlin, one of the loneliest districts near Glengarriffe, and that he had marvellous stories. He was over eighty years of age, and lived all alone in a little cottage. There wasn't a living soul anywhere near him. Anne went up to him a few days beforehand to ask him if she might bring us, and if he would tell us some stories. He said he would, provided of course that he was “in the humour for telling them”. She had to tell him who we were, and he said that he wouldn't open his mouth if he thought we were coming out of curiosity or to make fun of what he had to relate.
Anne reassured him of our integrity. So we purchased a bottle of whiskey, tobacco and matches and set out on our journey.
It was a lovely drive right up the mountain. One could see little farms and cottages here and there far away below in the valley. (Poor Jack Moeran liked Berlin better than any place in Kerry).
We were all keyed up on entering the cottage. He welcomed us as all these peasants in the west of Ireland do in a dignified, simple, I might even add, royal manner.
He didn’t look his age. I would have thought him about 60 years old. Erect in figure with a kindly voice, but with extraordinary penetrating eyes. He spoke in Irish first, and addressed himself to Anne. Then a few words to us in English. We sat around the turf fire where there was a cauldron simmering, hanging from a hook. Arnold spoke a few words to him in Irish, and we did likewise in English. He pulled out an old clay pipe, signifying that Arnold and Aloys should do the same, and lit his pipe with a sod of turf.
We waited in suspense. No story. Anne reasoned with him in Irish and in English, so that we could understand. Not a word out of him even after we had helped him to some whiskey. He just made ordinary remarks about the weather, and enquired about some people he and Anne knew. After staying about an hour or so we went home, he sending us away with the warmest farewells in both Irish and English.
Anne could never make out why he didn't talk. He was known to be the best storyteller in that part of Ireland. It was a mystery to her and to us. She saw him a few times in later years but whenever she asked him what had happened to him that night that he wouldn't tell us “all sympathetic people” his life's stories, he gave her no answer.

THE HAUNTED PIECE OF MUSIC
One of the nicest and most intelligent pupils I ever had was M - . When she came to me she was married and had three children. All her life she was anxious to study music, but her parents would not allow her to do so, although she loved it more than any of the other arts. She was practically a beginner but her innate love of music combined with a brilliant mind and hard work enabled her to make rapid progress.
After about 5 years of study one day in 1916 she brought me a piece of music – “Threnody” (song of lamentation on a person's death). It was composed by Ludwig Thuille of Munich. Where she got it I don't know. Technically and musically it was beyond her but as she was so keen on studying it that I agreed. She told me she wanted to play it as a surprise for an uncle in Birmingham, the only one in her family who encouraged her and of whom she was more fond than of her own parents. This uncle was very musical himself, and a friend of Arthur Nikisch.
There were three movements in the work: Allegro Appassionato, Adagio and Allegro Molto. She got as far as she could with the first movement, and after some weeks she said that she would like to study the Adagio for the next lesson.
She didn't turn up for it owing to a death in the family – that of her uncle! Later on she said she would never play it now: that it would always remind her of him, of how she had been looking forward to his hearing it, and how she would never really recover from the shock and grief of his death. So the piece was laid aside.
Two years afterwards, early in 1918, she brought it to me again, saying she liked it better than anything she had ever studied or heard, and would like to go back and study the first movement. She thought she might be able to play it better now she had acquired more technique.
About a fortnight afterwards she should have played the Adagio for me. She didn't come, neither did she telephone, an unusual procedure with her. On my enquiry she got agitated, wouldn't speak about it, and played a Mozart sonata instead. From that time onwards I thought she had changed somewhat towards me, When I asked her about my sister Wally, her answers were curt and rather hard.
I must explain here that Wally was the eldest in our family of nine children, and was my favourite sister. Besides having a most angelic character, she was a brilliant scholar, and after studying at University College Cork, Heidelberg, and the Sorbonne was appointed Professor of German in Cork. At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 she was on holidays with an aunt in Crefeld, Germany. She couldn't get back to Cork. Sir Bertram Windle, President of the University, would not accept her resignation, which she sent him through the War Office, and he told my mother that if the war lasted ten years he would keep the position open for her.
After the first year of the war, we heard no more. My husband was interned in January 1916, and as all prisoners of war were allowed to correspond with their relatives in Germany he heard from Wally from time to time. After 1918 he ceased mentioning her in his letters to me but he evidently wrote to M about her.
I remember going to see M one afternoon in May: I went to her especially to get news of Wally. She left the room abruptly saying she was going into town, and would I come with her. At that time I had a flat in the Western Road (we had to give up our home when my husband was interned). Next day about eleven o'clock after finishing my practising I was going out through the sitting room door when I saw a huge spider, a ‘Kreuzspinne’ with a cross on its back, creeping down the wall and it stopped just near me. I still remember how I shuddered. A few minutes later I saw Mrs Stockley, and Professor Elizabeth Sullivan coming up the garden with a large basket of beautiful roses. When I opened the door – they didn't have to tell me – I knew poor Wally was dead. For years after I couldn't bear the sight of roses.
Now comes the strange part of the story. The hour that M took out the Adagio, and was just sitting down to study it her maid brought her a letter from my husband in the POW camp, telling her that Wally had died on the 12th January 1918. He told her on no account whatsoever to let me know until after the church services of the Holy Week were over (I had the Cathedral Choir while he was interned). And that was the cause of M's strange behaviour. I was always asking her for news of my sister. The day I arrived and she went down to town with me, she went straight to Mrs Stockley at Woodside and told her that she could stand it no longer. Mrs Stockley should break the news to me.
Well, “Threnody” was put aside for the second time until 1920 when one day early in July, to my amazement, she brought it again. This time I didn't like it. “Oh,” she said, “nothing can happen now. The war is over and Aloys is coming home in September. What a surprise he will get when I play for him!"
So she started the Adagio for the third time, and came to play it for me at the following lesson. I shall never forget it. It was as if she had written it herself. She played it in perfect time and rhythm, and with an extraordinary depth of feeling and concentration. I couldn't make one suggestion. It was incredible for she really was not advanced enough in her playing to play it at all. She was delighted with herself and so was I with her.
We had a ‘Play Day’ as usual the last week of July. M was third on the programme. She had asked me if I would allow her to leave out the other two movements, and play only the Adagio. A strange request – however I agreed. These play days were always held in my home, the pupils waiting below in the sitting room until their turn came.
The music room door was opened, and she came in. She was dressed in a deep red silk afternoon gown. No ornaments of any kind. Her face was as pale as death, but I had never seen her look so beautiful. She looked like someone from another world. And so was her playing. It was not M – it was her spirit – and that was the last time she put her fingers on a piano.
She went to London on a visit to her sister a few days afterwards, in the best of health and spirits. On her return from there she was taken ill and never recovered. She died on November 10th 1920 in her 33rd year. May she rest in peace.
After hearing this story Arnold said to me: “You must write that story and call it the ‘Haunted Piece of Music’.”Later he told me he had incorporated the mood into his Sixth Symphony - or was it in his Threnody and Scherzo? – it is so long ago now I forget which.

CHOPIN PRELUDE No 15
This story has no direct connection with Arnold, but he and Jack Moeran were the very first people I told it to. They were very much impressed, and Arnold said it was the most extraordinary and interesting ghost story that he had ever heard, and that I should write it down. Arnold knew Doctor H personally, the latter having driven him to some beauty spots in Kerry in 1930 and judging from the doctor's character he knew that the story was a true one.
Dr H. was a well known medical practitioner in Cork. He came to study with me when he was well over middle age. He was passionately fond of music, and had been playing all his life, but had never studied music seriously. Owing to his mature mind, deft fingers and artistic temperament he got on remarkably quickly. He was the only professional gentleman in Cork who ever gave a public piano recital. He gave it for the Art Society of the University in 1931. His programme was of Mozart's Sonata in A (K330) and Chopin's 24 Preludes. Some years before this event he was studying the Preludes with me. One day he came to his lesson as usual and I told him to bring the 15th Prelude for the next one. I didn't see him for some weeks, and when he returned to resume his work he brought me No 16. I said: “What about No 15; I haven't heard that yet.”. He said curtly: “I can't play it.”. I was surprised, and was just going to ask him why, when he interrupted me and said, I thought rather rudely: “I am not going to study it.” It was so unlike him, I couldn't understand it. However I said no more, although I felt rather annoyed. I would like to say here that Dr H was a quiet self-possessed gentleman, not an emotional, airy or romantic character. Being a surgeon and a scientist in his own particular branch of work (gynaecology) he had his head well on his shoulders, in fact to people who didn't know him he seemed rather a Philistine. But he was always appreciated as one of Cork's best and most conscientious doctors.
About two years afterwards we had finished the Preludes, and he was working on a Beethoven sonata, when one day he said he would like to study Prelude No 15 for his recital. I had forgotten the incident in relation to it, but he reminded me of his apparent rudeness and refusal to study it. “Well,” he said, “it is only now that I can tell you the cause of my behaviour. I had a terrible experience and it upset me so much I thought I should never recover from it. But I have and now I will tell you my story.”
“Some years after the first world war, my best friend, of the same age as myself, retired from the Army and bought an estate near Cork, a lovely house with some land and a farm. He came to see me the day he went to live there, and said: ‘As soon as I am settled down you must come and spend a weekend with me.’
“To my surprise, two days afterwards I got a wire asking me to come and see him at once. I thought he might have been taken ill although he always enjoyed rude health, and I had never seen him looking better and happier than when we parted two days before.
“I arrived in time for luncheon and he was delighted to see me. On my enquiry about his health he said he had never felt better. Well, he showed me over the attractive lovely old house. I then said I must be going as they were expecting me at home but he asked me as a great favour to stay for tea, which I did. After tea I got up ready to go, but he implored me to stay for dinner. I looked at him closely but he showed no trace of anxiety or worry of any kind.
“However, I stayed for dinner, he enjoying the good food as much as I did. After dinner I said I must really be going now. They would be wondering at home what was keeping me. He begged me to stay a little longer. We spoke about old times when we studied together at Oxford, mutual friends etc etc. It was coming near midnight and I said determinedly that I must go immediately – he implored me to stay and for the first time I noticed that he had become agitated.
“At about half past twelve he came down the broad staircase with me to the hall door. There was a porch outside it with glass windows, flowers and plants. The hall door was open. Half way down the stairs I saw a figure standing in the porch. ‘My goodness,’ I said, ‘what an hour to have a visitor!’ He trembled and pushed me over towards the figure. It was a monk with his cowl over his head. He had his back towards me but he slowly began to turn round. I felt that at that moment if I saw his face and looked into his eyes I was a dead man. So with all my strength of mind and will I grasped my friend by the arm, and rushed him upstairs. We were both in a state of collapse. I looked around for some brandy, and though we were both teetotallers, I made my friend drink some.
“He told me that the first day he spent in the house was a happy and uneventful one. He was busy all day and it was late, long after midnight that he went downstairs to close the hall door. (The porch door was locked much earlier on). He saw a figure standing in the porch and asked him rather indignantly what he was doing there at this time of night. There was no answer but the figure began to turn around slowly. Then he had exactly the same experience as myself. He couldn't move and felt chilled to the bone.
“He rushed back upstairs shivering all over, and couldn't make out what had happened to him. He never thought of a ghost because he didn't believe that such existed. He reasoned with himself. Was he overworked or overstrained – was he going mad? So he determined to go down again the same time the next night and see what this was all about. He had the same experience. He was transfixed. He tore himself away without looking at the figure. He felt ill and spent a sleepless night. Next morning he thought perhaps it was all imagination although he could not recall anything like that having ever happened to him before. So he determined to send me a wire, thinking: If H sees nothing, then it must be an overstrained mind.
“I stayed the night with him. Neither of us slept, but when in the morning the sun shone through the windows of the lovely old house, we felt normal again but not cheerful.
“I had to leave after breakfast, as patients were waiting for me in Cork. But I wired as soon as I got there to his brother to come at once, as the matter was an urgent one. He didn't arrive until the following morning, not being able to get away earlier. Next day at luncheon I received a wire saying that my friend was dead. He was found sitting in an armchair in the drawing-room, fully dressed. At the coroner's inquest the verdict was ‘heart attack’. But I knew that that was not the cause. Whether he went down into the hall again or whether the figure appeared in the room, nobody will ever know.
“When you suggested the 15th Prelude you had already told me of its origin when you spoke of the tradition connected with the monks of Valdemosa and I couldn't bear the thought of playing it.”
Some time ago I met Dr H in town. He told me the house was closed up, and so were all the rooms except a few on the ground floor at the back and that an old rector and his wife lived there. He knew them personally. They had often asked him to come and see them but he couldn't go within miles of the place. He also told me where the house was and the name of the old couple, but asked me not to disclose either name or place for the present.

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(c) Tilly Fleischmann
We gratefully acknowledge the very kind permission of Ruth Fleischmann to print her grandmother's memoirs.