At the Villa Beaulieu where we lived, there were immense rejoicings that night. Of course all our crew dined there, and I was allowed to come down to dinner myself. Toasts were proposed; healths were drunk again and again. Speeches were made, and the terrific cheering must have seriously weakened the rafters and roof of the house. No one grudged my father his immense satisfaction, for after all he had originated the idea of winning the championship of the Mediterranean, and had had the boat built at his sole expense, and it was not his defects as an oarsman but his fifty-five years which had prevented him from stroking his own boat.
Long after I had been sent to bed, I heard the uproar from below continuing, and, in the strictest confidence, I have every reason to believe that they made a real night of it.
Two of that crew are still alive. Gallant old Sir George Higginson was born in 1826, consequently the General is now ninety-four years of age. The splendid old veteran’s mental faculties are as acute as ever; he is not afflicted with deafness and he is still upright as a dart, though his eyesight has failed him. It is to Sir George and to Sir David Erskine that I am indebted for the greater portion of the details concerning this boat-race of 1866, and of its preliminaries, for many of these would not have come within the scope of my knowledge at nine years of age.
Sir David Erskine, the other member of the crew still surviving, ex-Sergeant-at-Arms, was a most familiar, respected, and greatly esteemed personality to all those who have sat in the House of Commons during the last forty years. I might perhaps have put it more strongly; for he was invariably courteous, and such a great gentleman. Sir David was born in 1838, consequently he is now eighty-two years old.
One of my brothers has still in his keeping a very large gold medal. One side of it bears the effigy of “Napoleon III., Empereur des Francais.” The other side testifies that it is the “Premier Prix d’Avirons de la Mediterrannee, 1866.” The ugly hybrid word “Championnat” for “Championship” had not then been acclimatised in France.
Shortly after the boat-race, being now nine years old, I went home to England to go to school.
A new departure—A Dublin hotel in the “sixties”—The Irish mail service—The wonderful old paddle mail-boats—The convivial waiters of the Munster—The Viceregal Lodge-Indians and pirates— The imagination of youth—A modest personal ambition—Death-warrants; imaginary and real—The Fenian outbreak of 1866-7—The Abergele railway accident—A Dublin Drawing-Room—Strictly private ceremonials—Some of the amenities of the Chapel Royal—An unbidden spectator of the State dinners—Irish wit—Judge Keogh— Father Healy—Happy Dublin knack of nomenclature—An unexpected honour and its cause—Incidents of the Fenian rising—Dr. Hatchell—A novel prescription—Visit of King Edward—Gorgeous ceremonial but a chilly drive—An anecdote of Queen Alexandra.