Dalrymple in Dublin

Mullet’s bar, Amiens Street

Renewing his acquaintance with the city, Dalrymple

can’t help feeling that it has lost some of its savour, its soul. Smoky bars are no more: smoking has been banned and the Irish public has obeyed the law without a murmur. I don’t understand why there can’t be bars for smokers; no one would be forced to go into them. Bars in which there is smoking are better fun than bars in which there is none.

When Dalrymple first came to Ireland,

the clergy were the aristocracy. A priest’s word was law.

The Parish Priest, from a painting by Jack B. Yeats

Now in Dublin,

priests do not dare wear clerical garb outside church grounds. It is not yet illegal for them to do so, as in Mexico, but they think it prudent to do so; for these onetime demigods, deputies of God on earth, are regarded with such distaste by some of the population that they are likely to be insulted, spat at or punched as they walk down the street.

Indeed, Dalrymple notes, it is now

much safer for a Catholic priest publicly to avow what he is by his dress in England — traditionally a virulently anti-Catholic country — than it is in Ireland, where Catholicism was for years the bastion of Irish resistance against English domination.

Dalrymple has this to say of the Christian Brothers:

They inculcated learning by means, or at least with the assistance, of the cane. They were dedicated teachers, and they gave an opportunity to many children of the poor to rise above their social circumstance. If they were bigoted, they were also enlightened.


Postcards from Bradford

Caelum, non animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt

Dalrymple writes that not since he lived and worked in South Africa

have I seen a city as racially segregated as Bradford.

There is no law to separate the races,

but stone walls do not a ghetto make.

An outpost of Islam

It is possible

in one part of Bradford to conclude that it is a typical northern British city, dominated almost completely by a white working class, and in another (reached by driving along a single major road that bisects the city) that it is an outpost of Islam, whose people have changed their hemisphere of residence, but not their culture or way of life.

Females excluded from this gathering

Rotten grandeur

Dalrymple explains that the city

reached an acme of prosperity in the second half of the 19th century, before its success evaporated, leaving behind a legacy of municipal pride and magnificence, of splendid public buildings in the Gothic and renaissance-revival styles. (It was on the head of a Bradford millionaire that Eliot sarcastically stuck a silk hat in The Waste Land.)

Even many of the terraced working-class homes

are elegantly and expensively faced in stone, so that large areas of the city resemble nothing so much as Bath with textile mills added.

Hanover Square

One part of Bradford, Hanover Square,

is a small masterpiece of Victorian town architecture: it was long the residence of Margaret McMillan, who some 90 years ago founded the British nursery-school movement and agitated for improvements in working-class education.

The streets of Bradford: strictly men only

Women prohibited from this march

Nowadays, Dalrymple notes,

there is not a white face to be seen in the square, nor that of any woman. It is strictly men only on the street, dressed as for the North-West Frontier (apart, incongruously, from their sneakers).

A group of them

perpetually mills around outside the house that functions as a madrassah.

‘Buckshot’ Forster, who represented Bradford in the House of Commons between 1861 and 1886, was among other things Gladstone’s chief secretary for Ireland

The Victoria Monument is today spoiled by the hideous modern building in the background

The W.E. Forster statue is today spoiled by a monstrosity of a shopping centre

Britain’s bone-headed prison system

Many British jails, writes Dalrymple, are characterised by

  • squalor, moral and physical
  • brutality
  • lack of any rehabilitative function whatsoever

Harmless convicts are sometimes sent to

wings with the worst criminals, some of them in the Hannibal Lecter class. The prison officers are indifferent to their plight, when they do not derive pleasure from it.

Rooftop protest at HMP Cordingley

Daily life, Dalrymple notes,

is made up of arbitrary regulations of which new and inexperienced prisoners are not informed: they have to discover them for themselves as best they can. This gives the officers opportunities for sadistic nit-picking.

HMP Coldingley is an example of a jail where the prisoners rule. Here, says Dalrymple, is

a Hobbesian world, where each is the enemy of all, and every moveable object is a potential weapon. The majority of prisoners are black, and each is allowed his ghetto-blaster.

The resultant noise is a torment.

Dalrymple points out that there is

  • bullying
  • violence
  • extortion
  • suicide attempts

Drugs may be smuggled into British prisons with the greatest of ease.

There is a complete lack of effort to prevent it: it amounts to complicity on the part of the prison system.

Prison bureaucracy is

casually inhumane, imposing pettifogging rules while ignoring gross abuses. The most ruthless and psychopathic rule the roost.

This is also, it occurs to Dalrymple,

how our unimprisoned underclass lives, where the Housing Department and the Department of Social Security are the prison warders. For our underclass, England is a vast HMP Coldingley.

Infantile but lethal fantasies of the Left

Socialists of the upper crust and their love of faraway génocidaires

The UK left-wing broadcaster Channel 4 has put out a documentary in praise of Sendero Luminoso (‘Shining Path’), the Maoist cocaine-smuggling group of Peruvian mass murderers.

Richard Willoughby-Gott (educ. Winchester and Corpus Christi College, Oxford), the upper-class English journalist, is currently literary editor of the London newspaper the Guardian. A onetime spy for the Soviet Union, Willoughby-Gott describes the documentary as

a magnificent coup de théâtre.

Dalrymple comments:

Theatre is what Latin American guerrilla movements have always been to this type of west European intellectual. All their mind’s a stage, the ideas and concepts merely players. Guilt-laden that they are excluded by their

  • tastes
  • interests
  • inclinations
  • education
  • dress
  • mode of speech

from communion with the common people of their own country, they project their infantile fantasies of union with the people on to distant lands, from whose peasantry they need fear no rejection.

The Wykhamist-Leninists: Richard Willoughby-Gott speaks in praise of the Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez. To his right is Seumas Milne (educ. Winchester and Balliol College, Oxford), the upper-class ‘executive director of strategy and communications’ for the UK’s Labour Party

The need to put Mao Tse-tung Thought before legal niceties

Dalrymple writes that at the height of the Cultural Revolution,

I found it difficult to believe that anyone outside China could take Mao’s Little Red Book seriously. A platitude, after all, does not become an apothegm when a million people wave the volume in which it is contained in menacing synchrony.

Nevertheless, one of Dalrymple’s medical student colleagues

converted to Maoism and threw a brick through a police-station window.

Next morning,

he harangued the magistrate for three-quarters of an hour on the need to put Mao Tse-tung Thought before legal niceties. Eventually, the magistrate leant forward and said, ‘That’s all very interesting, Mr D—, but I’m afraid it’s time for lunch.‘ When the Maoist medical student — now probably an exemplary general practitioner — refused to desist from his harangue, he was carried to the cells below screaming.

For anti-imperialist solidarity, peace and friendship

Dalrymple is in Pyongyang to attend the World Festival of Youth and Students

World’s most exclusive airline

The most conspicuous of Nauru’s investments, writes Dalrymple,

is undoubtedly its airline, Air Nauru. A nation of 4,000 people has a fleet of five passenger jets, which operate at a loss generally thought to be staggering (the airline does not publish accounts) on routes unlikely ever to be profitable. Planes are sent 5,000 miles with two passengers. They have also been used as private taxis for the president, leaving would-be passengers stranded for days.

The US imperialists: a reckoning

Yankee go home!

Arriving in Uyuni, Potosí, Dalrymple heads for the cinema, where he enjoys a viewing of The Giant Spider Invasion (Bill Rebane 1975), in which arachnids from outer space occupy Merrill, Wisconsin, after a meteorite falls in the area. He writes:

The whole town turned out to cheer the spiders on to victory against the American middle class.



The main harm of European colonialism in Africa

Jean-Bédel Bokassa

It was psychological, Dalrymple points out.

Working as a doctor in Rhodesia, he noticed that

black doctors were paid the same as white doctors; but while I lived like a king on my salary, the black doctors on the same salary lived in penury and near-squalor.

The reason was that while Dalrymple had only himself to consider, the black doctors,

being at the peak of the African pyramid, had to share their salary with their extended family and others. It was a profound social obligation for them to do so and was, in fact, morally attractive.

Idi Amin


did not prevent them from wishing as individuals to live at the European standard; but this was impossible so long as the colonial régime lasted.

Once this élite had its hand on power, Dalrymple notes,

it had both the means and opportunity to outdo that standard to assuage its humiliation, but the social obligations to look after the extended family and others remained. There was no legitimate way to satisfy these demands other than by gaining and keeping control of political power, which is why the struggle for such control was often so ruthless and bloody.

When the model of power they had in their minds

was that of the colonial ruler, salaried philosopher-kings whose prestige was maintained by a lot of ceremonial flimflam (white helmets with egret feathers, splendid uniforms), it was hardly surprising that the dance of freedom was a bestiary of bizarre rulers.

Robert Mugabe

Ahmed Sékou Touré

Mobutu Sese Seko

Islam’s appeal to convicts

The many Muslims in the prison in which Dalrymple works are, he writes,

largely indifferent to their religion, except in one respect. The prison imam, a mild-mannered man of peaceful disposition, has little influence over them; and they are the reverse of pious.

However, they are

keen on the system of forced marriage which, rightly or wrongly, they associate with their religion, and are angry if their sisters are reported to be enamoured of someone not chosen for them. The system is convenient to them; it provides them with a sexual partner and domestic, while leaving them free to participate in debauchery.

A Muslim prisoner who testified for the prosecution in a case of honour killing

had to be removed because of the threats he received: he had let the side down.

Crime, Dalrymple points out, is overwhelmingly a young man’s game, but some prisoners

need a pretext to give up their life of crime. They don’t like to feel that they have been defeated by the ‘system’. This explains the attraction of Islam, particularly to black prisoners. Like other ageing men, they want to give up crime. At the same time, they remain hostile to the society in which they grew up.

It is not, therefore,

to their parents’ (particularly their mothers’) Pentecostal Christianity to which they are drawn, but to a religion that they know frightens the population round them. It allows them to give up crime while feeling that they have not surrendered to the criminal justice system: they can have their cake and eat it.

Another advantage is that

their womenfolk may follow them. It stabilises their relationships, which until then have usually been conspicuously unstable.

It is only to be expected that

those who undergo religious conversion also give up the life of crime (except for the kind of belief than enjoins violence to others as a religious duty).