FOLLOWING the publication in a London newspaper of some of the foregoing chapters, an official statement was issued by General Pierce Beasley, Chief of the Irish Censorship Bureau, charging that what had been published was " a deliberate forgery," and threatening to use " all the powers of international law " to prevent publication of this book. Immediately I learned of this repudiation I furnished the newspaper in question with irrefutable proof of the authenticity of what I had written proof furnished by Michael Collins himself in a series of letters and telegrams covering a period of six months.
At that time I wrote as follows :
" After twenty years of newspaper work in almost every part of the world I have finally won the distinction of being called a liar, a forger, and a defamer and the charges emanate from Irishmen.
" The fact that I have worked twenty years for one newspaper organisation would seem in itself sufficient proof that I am neither a liar nor a forger nor a defamer. Therefore what I am now about to say is less a refutation of these patently absurd charges than an attempt to arrive at the probable motives actuating those who have made them.
"First, Colonel Commandant Joe O'Reilly a youngster with qualities as loveable as those of Collins himself says that my account of Collins' escape from the Mansion House is ' pure fiction and adds that Collins never had ' a bodyguard.'"
(In my hastily -written notes, made while Collins was telling me this narrative, I find that I have used the expression "bodyguard" referring to O'Reilly, and "Black and Tans " referring to the British forces engaged in hunting down Collins. In deference to O'Reillys, extreme sensitiveness I have corrected these two inaccuracies in the narrative as published in this book.)
" If the story, as published, is fiction it is fiction that was supplied to me not only by Collins, but also by O'Reilly himself !
" It was O'Reilly who knew all about his chief's working with me on his memoirs who suggested that I persuade ' the big fellow ' to tell me about the Mansion House escape and it was O'Reilly who contributed the amusing feature of his use of the germicide sprayer !
" Is it possible that O'Reilly was indulging in that delightful trait of romancing ? Sure, if he was I'd not hold it against him but in all fairness he ought not to label as a lie my recital of a tale which he himself was primarily responsible for my hearing !
" Come now, Joe, be a good lad and admit what you know is the truth that your late Commander-in-Chief was closeted with me many, many hours in many, many different places, at all times of the day and night and almost always it was you who were close by ; and if you were not acting as bodyguard to the big fellow, how did it happen you were carrying that service revolver that you playfully ' drew ' on me one day because of the extra work I was causing you by these many conferences ? Was it just to keep your hand in, Joe ? Or was it because you were, in fact, Collins' bodyguard ?
" One word more, Joe, and then we can get on to the next calumniator. What of the letter I have now before me which you sent by my private messenger, August 29, 1922 ? Does it begin ' Dear Hayden and does it include a final paragraph reading, ' I would like to see you as soon as possible ? ' Does it, Joe ?
"And does it say that you cannot give me certain information because ' anything that has to be done must be done with the permission of the Government ? ' Is that right Joe?
" And did you underscore the following sentence in that letter :
" ' You are requested to write nothing and publish nothing about our late Commander-in-Chief for the present.'
" Is that right, Joe ? If it is how does it happen UNLESS YOU KNEW I HAD SOMETHING TO WRITE ?
" As for General Pierce Beasley and his accusation that what I have written is ' a deliberate forgery ' let us see. Beasley I hardly know. During the sessions of Dail Eireann, early in the year, I met him once or twice. I know something about him, however. So do most of the London correspondents of American newspapers.
" For a year past Beasley has been trying to negotiate in these quarters and with the Dublin newspaper correspondents as well for the publication of ' inside stuff about Michael Collins. So far as I know, he has failed to sell a single story.
" I do know and I challenge him to deny it that in the past nine months I have been alone with Michael Collins more days than he has been minutes. I don't need his permission to write Michael Collins' memoirs. I have Michael Collins' permission. And if the greatest, kindliest, squarest Irishman who ever lived had not been struck down by the other kind of Irishman I could safely leave General Pierce Beasley to him ! Michael Collins had no patience with self-seekers !
"Finally, the Irish Republic a venomous publication then edited by Erskine Childers characterises my articles as ' A Defamation of Michael Collins.' Surely comment is superfluous.
" These are the charges. I offer a few facts of an affirmative kind in the belief that they may not lack interest.
" The last night I was with Collins August 2, 1922 just twenty days before he was killed there were two others who saw me with him. One of these was McGann, once upon a time De Valera's private secretary, and at this time serving Collins in the same capacity. I have seen a statement attributed to McGann quoting him as saying that Collins had not 'authorised ' me to write his memoirs. Let me jog McGann's memory.
" As Collins' private secretary , it was McGann who notified me of most of the appointments his chief made with me. In the six months that McGann occupied the post he advised me at least thirty times of such appointments and I purposely understate the number. He knows because he heard the conversation the whole story of my obtaining Collins' autographs on four big art photograph mounts on that occasion.
" McGann heard me ask Collins to do this, and he heard me explain that one of these autographed mounts was to be used as the frontispiece of the memoirs. It was McGann who, talking with me before Collins' arrival that night, bewailed the fact that there was not one photograph in existence that did Collins justice, and certainly not one good enough to be used as a frontispiece in his book ! It was McGann who had been trying for a month to persuade Collins to go to a photograph studio to pose for a portrait for this
" Finally, it was McGann who helped the private messenger I sent from London to Dublin immediately after the murder of Collins to recover these autographed mounts from the photographer with whom I had left them. McGann had planned to have this photographer make the frontispiece portrait and affix it to the mount but after the death of Collins the value of each mount alone had jumped to 100. It was McGann who knew that my ownership of these mounts was indisputable, and it was he who enabled my messenger to get them from the photographer.
" This last interview with Collins was arranged with a twofold purpose. As I have earlier stated, Collins had been planning for a long time to have me meet Sean McGarry ' the man,' according to Collins, ' who was closer in the confidence of the Easter Week martyrs than any living Irishman In order that my story might be as comprehensive as possible, Collins insisted that I hear McGarry's account of the famous Howth gunrunning exploit. The other object of this last interview was to get Collins' tale of his birth and boyhood the only part of the whole narrative that remained to be told.
" McGarry arrived before Collins. He and McGann and I sat in an outer office in the Provisional Government headquarters and chatted. Eventually Collins came in a magnificent figure of a soldier-statesman in his general's greatcoat. He bade McGarry and me to follow him into an inner room.
" There he told McGarry that I was writing the inside story of Ireland's fight for freedom that he had furnished me with most of the facts and that he wanted ' Sean,' as he called him, to supply the unpublished details of the Howth gunrunning. And Sean McGarry thereupon did as Collins ordered.
" Now, General Pierce Beasley, you need look no further. Although I am not sure of McGarry's rank, I think he must be less than a general. As his superior officer, call him before you and let him tell you what I tell you that you are not telling the truth !
" Michael Collins is dead, but Sean McGarry is alive, and from what I saw of him and from what Collins told me about him I am willing to leave the matter to McGarry. Collins could not have been so fond of him if he were not both courageous and honest, and he would now have to be both a coward and a liar if he contradicted one word of what I have written about that last interview at which he was present. Call Sean McGarry before you, General Pierce Beasley, and then write the apology you owe me ! "
(Although this was published several months ago, the only response I have had from Beasley was indirect contained in a letter sent to the proprietor of the newspaper which printed my statement, in which Beasley contented himself with merely denying my charge that he had ever attempted to negotiate with London correspondents of American newspapers. If it were worth while, I could prove this charge by the sworn statements of these correspondents, but after all, I have no interest in the matter beyond establishing my own integrity.)
" McGarry had not begun to tell us all that was on his mind when Collins interrupted sharply, saying it was late and he had little time left in which to tell his own story. To the best of my recollection McGarry then left although of this I am not positive and Collins began to answer my typewritten questions about his ancestry and boyhood. Fortunately I preserved my lead-pencil notes of this last interview. In themselves they prove conclusively the authenticity of these memoirs. For it was when I stumbled over the spelling of " Clonakilty " misunderstanding Collins to have said " County Kilty " that he took the pencil out of my hand, and wrote not only that word, but two additional lines citing the Irish pronunciation of his birthplace.
" So much for that.
" Now as to the motives actuating these various persons. I want to make it clear that I am very fond of Joe O'Reilly, and know him to be made of the right stuff. But he is suffering grief beyond the comprehension of any man not Irish born. In the hour that my messenger was with him the day following Collins' funeral he never spoke above a whisper, and never raised his eyes from the ground. He cannot understand the ruthless demands of journalism. To his mind it is profanation to utter the name of his late Commander-in-Chief in an ordinary tone. A single inaccuracy in a printed narrative concerning the man he loved finds him honestly, deeply resentful. And I should be a very young, inexperienced journalist if I insisted any fact-narrative of my writing could not contain inaccuracies. Those of us who have grown beyond the ' cub ' stage in newspaperdom know better than to make any such claim.
" For inaccurately describing the uniform in which Collins made his escape from the Mansion House as that of a Black and Tan officer, and for denominating his pursuers on that occasion as Black and Tans (when, according to O'Reilly, there were no Black and Tans in Ireland at that time) I apologise, Joe. I should have said as I have now done in the narrative as it appears within these covers ' British ' instead of Black and Tans. And I quite appreciate what an important distinction this is in your mind, Joe.
" McGann's statement that Collins did not authorise me to publish his memoirs puzzles me. Although I never got so close to McGann as I did to O'Reilly I always found him to be gracious and helpful. I like to believe there was no ulterior motive behind his making this statement if, indeed, he ever made it. I do believe that sober reflection will serve to make him realise the injustice he has done me and in time he will either repudiate the statement attributed to him or admit its untruthfulness.
" As for the motives of Beasley and the renegade editor of the Republic of Ireland, Childers, it is possible they may be discovered in the story an Irishman of my acquaintance just arrived in London from Dublin has told me.
" ' Sure, it's plain as the nose on your face, said my friend. ' You can go to Dublin tonight and make yourself persona-grata all over the place IF YOU WILL SPLIT WITH SOME OF THE BOYS ! That's what the matter is. They don't like to think of all the money you're making out of these Collins articles with never a penny of it spent in Ireland and with many of them badly in need of a few pounds ! I don't know do you intend returning to Ireland but there is how you can do it and find yourself with as many friends as you could hope to have ! '
" I wonder ! "
I loved Ireland. In all the world there can be no fairer scene than the gently curving crescent beach from Killiney to Bray no more beauteous home site than on the luxuriantly wooded slopes of Killiney Mountain, almost as tropical as Southern California. For nine months I wandered afoot, and rode in jaunting-cars, through a countryside as gloriously rich as any I have ever seen. I dreamed of a home in Ireland. But that dream was shattered at 4 o'clock in the morning of August 22, 1922, when an editor of a London newspaper told me over the telephone of the murder of Michael Collins.
The assassination of my friend, Dr. Walter Rathenau, did not surprise me. It was understandable. It left me unchanged as regards my feelings towards Germany.
Not so with the murder of Michael Collins.
" Had he fallen at the hand of an external enemy, we could have borne it, but that such a rich and bounteous nature, such a triumphant and romantic battler for Ireland's cause, such a glory of our race and nation, such an idol of the people should be slain by a spiteful faction of our own countrymen is a chagrin, a bitterness and a shame too heavy to bear.
" Sooner or later, and the sooner the better, the people will get going in earnest, and when they do, they will make short work of the wreckers. Then will the heroic figure of Michael Collins tower high in glory, while they who contrived his death lie buried in shame."
I quote from a statement issued by Most Rev. Dr. Fogarty (Bishop of Killaloe) in Dublin the day of Collins' funeral.
Until the Irishmen I know " get going in earnest " until they prove themselves fit to have been followers of their great leader until they avenge his murder in the only way possible to avenge it until they adequately punish a crime as unnatural and as hideous as incest the Ireland that Michael Collins typified, the Ireland that Michael Collins would have recreated, the Ireland that Michael Collins gave his life for, will never be.