Patrick Joseph Whitty, class '12
Readers of the 1966 Chronicle may recall the opening section of the 'News of Pastmen' which dealt with the last surviving M.P. of the old Irish Parliamentary Party, Patrick J. Whitty. The candour and humour with which he recalled his days as a reluctant Nationalist candidate in North Louth —just three years after leaving school — were characteristic of the man:
In a vital election Tim Healy, leader of the splinter group known as the 'Healyites' was narrowly defeated.
However, on polling day his Nationalist opponent 'Dandy' Dick Hazelton was on the high seas returning from South America. The Healyites promptly lodged a petition, and in racing parlance the objection was sustained. 'Dandy' Dick was disqualified on a technicality and was debarred from standing again until the next General Election. At the by-election the Irish Nationalist Party retained the seat but their candidate, Gussie Roche, who was returned unopposed, died soon afterwards and another by-election was necessary.
A convention of local party leaders, including the cadre of the influential Ancient Order of Hibernians was hastily summoned, and among those present was one Dandy 'Dick's nephew, me. 'I had no active interest in politics, had no thought of Parliament, and had not made a single public speech when I was suddenly called upon to return thanks for my unanimous adoption, as Nationalist candidate. I nearly fainted'.
However, he charmed not only his supporters, but also the local electorate, and was returned with a majority of more than 400, virtually a landslide in these days of limited franchise. By the standards of the day it was a quiet by-election. There were some disturbances at meetings, but hecklers were promptly knocked on the head and carried out.
Life at Westminster was not too arduous. Home Rule for Ireland was the sole plank in the Nationalist platform. Only the leaders made formal speeches and the activities of the backbencher were restricted to questions.
I never got round to making my maiden speech.
By-elections provided the excitement, and the advent of the Sinn Fein candidates brought these to life with a tremendous Irish bang. In a Galway constituency, he recalled a polling day when hordes of imported Sinn Fein 'workers' armed with sticks and cudgels, came to patrol the booths. The men of substance, the only ones to have the vote, promptly decided that a broken head was too high a price to pay for the exercise of franchise, and the Shinner was duly elected.
Incidently his election in 1916 was much to the chagrin of another past man, one D.P. Moran, who in his paper the Leader, railed against it as nepotism of the worst kind. One suspects Patrick probably agreed with him. In 1918 Patrick lost his seat with the rearrangement of constituencies, and after the war he decided to settle in Jamaica as an accountant and later became a Justice of the Peace. He retired back to England, in Birmingham to live with his son Brian J. Whitty,
It is with deep regret that we announce his death, which took place in July of last year. With him goes the last link with a transition period in Irish political life.
Requiescat in Pace.