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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 16, 2003

Irish had dim view of Hawaiian royalty

By Bob Dye
Kailua writer and historian

A great potato famine and other indignities suffered a century-and-a-half ago made the Irish the cheapest laborers in the world. And they were willing to travel for work.

So why did Hawai'i's plantation owners send first to Asia and then continental Europe and the Caribbean for cheap labor? But never — not once — to Ireland. Although the "Help Wanted" sign was out in Hawai'i, Irish need not apply. Why would parsimonious planters pass up such a bargain?

For two reasons: a Paddy was not easily controlled and, more than likely, was a Catholic. So low were they on the desirability scale that King Kalakaua's commissioner of immigration, William Armstrong, said he wouldn't recruit them if they were the last laborers on the face of the Earth, or some such palaver.

Nevertheless, the Emerald Isle was to be the last European stop on King Kalakaua's circumnavigation of the globe in 1881. But because of some ill-conceived though well-received remarks the king made at a banquet in London, the proposed visit to Dublin was abruptly abandoned.

Since he visited so many British colonies on his trip, the king was invited to attended a meeting of colonialists at the Guildhall. In an impromptu speech, he made a passing remark about Irish Land Leaguers who wanted to own their own land: "I would not permit such men to trouble my people," he said.

The morning after, Kalakaua was warned by Armstrong that upon the royal party's arrival in Dublin, an angry mob would pelt them with garbage. "You have unintentionally insulted those people; if you are willing to be the target for dead cats, I am not." The king, who may have joked he was fond of dogs but not dead cats, agreed to stay away from Ireland.

With no target, the Irish vitriol was verbal. Describing the king as a "great grandson of the Anthropophagi," (a florid 19th-century way of saying cannibals) an editorial in a Dublin newspaper suggested he be punished with a "rap over the knuckles" for indulging in "a sneer at Ireland." The prose in the paragraphs that followed read like an Irish curse and is not suitable for reprinting.

Because of other security concerns in 1887, Kalakaua's Queen Kapi'olani and his sister, Princess Lili'uokalani, didn't go ashore either time their ship anchored in Ireland's Cork Harbor. Royalty was not welcomed by Irish people then, especially royals who were on their way to help Queen Victoria celebrate her Golden Jubilee of rule over too much of the world, including Ireland.

With the Hawaiian ensign flying from the mainmast, on the morning of July 3, their ship, Servia, entered Cork Harbor. From there, immigrant ships had departed for America and convict ships for Australia, but no coolie ships for Hawai'i.

When the royal party first glimpsed Ireland on the way to England, nearly five weeks earlier, it was midnight. Then, Jimmy McGuire, a member of the Hawaiian royal party, could only see dark shapes of his ancestral home. Now, in bright mid-morning light, he gazed upon a brilliant green landscape dominated by the blue granite Cathedral of St. Colman. McGuire went ashore and picked a shamrock as a memento.

As the ship made ready to sail, panic broke out aboard the guard ship Revenge, which was to hoist the Hawaiian flag and fire a royal salute. There was no Hawaiian ensign in the flag locker! Nor could one be found in the locker of any other ship in the harbor. The officer in charge, hoping no one would notice its absence (it kind of looked like a British flag, and there were plenty of those flying) ordered the salvo fired. But a superior officer demanded another salute, this time done by the book. A frantic junior officer found a Hawaiian flag at the Hawaiian Consulate and rushed back to the guard ship. Just as Servia steamed out of Cork Harbor, Hae Hawai'i was hastily hoisted and British guns roared a proper salute to the royal Hawaiian visitors.

Without such incident, Hawai'i's Queen Emma had departed from Cobh in 1866 and Princess Pauahi had landed there in 1875.

Queen Emma, described by the Cork Examiner as having "a very pleasing countenance," was heavily guarded during her weeklong visit to sights in counties Cork and Kerry. Wherever she went, an escort of mounted police accompanied her carriage, and at each railway station squads of police were drawn up.

Princess Pauahi, who prudently swapped her royal title for Mrs. during the trip, was accompanied by her husband, banker Charles Reed Bishop. The incognito couple was not so zealously burdened by police as was Emma. But if guards had been present, Mr. Bishop might have saved some money.

As did other tourists, Pauahi and Charles wanted to kiss the famous stone at Blarney Castle. Alighting from their carriage at the castle gate, they were taken under the wing of an old crone. The stone that gave grandiloquence to those who kissed it was at the very top of the castle, she said.

Was the climb dangerous? Pauahi wondered.

The crone confided that the stone was "ready to tumble down from its dizzy height." Close by on the ground were other stones of "the same virtue," she said. She could point them to them, she offered, holding out a twisted hand for a small gratuity.

All coins, even the coppers, stayed in Charles' pocket, and the couple began the climb. They had taken 108 stairs when they pooped out, only 19 steps shy of their goal.

Back on lower ground, the couple was greeted by a local man. Knowing that a pigeon in hand is worth two in the bush, this crafty Paddy eschewed other tourists to show Mr. Bishop a piece of wood carved "from the trunk of an Irish oak that drowned in Noah's flood." Bishop bought both the story and the wood.

If an Irish rustic could dupe the tight-fisted Bishop out of a few bucks, think of what thousands of them might have done to the overlords of Hawai'i's plantations.

A blessing, some might say, that Irish weren't brought here to labor in the sugar fields. If they had been sought instead of shunned, one speculates that their children would not have allowed sugar to be shipped for processing on the Mainland but kept it at home to be turned into rum. Economists may call that entrepreneurial spirit "value added," but God kept the Irish out and us from demon rum! Or so said prohibitionists.

But those of you who "drown the shamrock" tomorrow may raise a glass to the Hawai'i that might have been. And with no apology for alteration by addition of ethnocentricities, recite this paraphrase of a traditional toast:

St. Patrick was Hawaiian

Who through cleverness and

Drove the snakes from these fair

Let us drink to his good health;

But not too many glasses

For we'll lose our legs and then

Forget our good St. Patrick

An' see those damn snakes

May we all live another year to
repent. Slainte!