No. 25 UCDA P24/2252

Handwritten letter from Ernest Blythe to Anne Blythe1 (Dublin)

Geneva, 7 September 1926


I attended the meeting of the Assembly yesterday. It is held in a biggish and ugly hall called the Salle de la Réformation which has two narrow galleries running round it, one given up entirely to the Press and the other accommodating the public. Each delegation has four seats with desks on the ground floor - supplementary delegates have to stand round the walls or struggle for the inadequate number of desks less seats under the galleries. Delegations have their places in the hall allotted to them on some sort of an alphabetical principle. We sit between the Indians and Italians and have the Finns and Ethiopians (Abyssinians) in front of us. The Abyssinians have unbelievably kinky hair. They seem to be wearing wigs of peculiarly fine close and curly Persian lamb. The ground floor has not quite so varied an assortment of people as the public gallery where there [are] large numbers of Indian ladies, rather good looking Chinese girls, Americans in their horn rimmed glasses and other curiosities.

The Assembly on the whole is disorderly and unimpressive. A buzz of talk goes on continuously. French is really the language of the Assembly and when speeches are being translated into English nobody pretends to listen but talks at the top of his voice to his neighbours about anything that interests him or goes round and picks up long-lost friends amongst the other delegations. Even during the delivery of the original French speeches there is a good deal of noise. This is said to be due to the fact that the acoustics of the Hall are so bad that delegates at the back could hear imperfectly even if there were silence. The Swiss authorities it is said have refused to spend any money on improving the acoustics of the hall or the ventilation (which is worse) because it was their policy to force the League to spend £100,000 or more on the erection of a special building of its own. All the business of the Assembly seems to be arranged either by the Committees or by backstairs canvassing. A man called Vintchinch, a Serbian, was elected president of the Assembly yesterday by 42 out of 48 votes. No names were proposed but the chief delegate of each country wrote a name on a voting card and dropped it into a box. I would swear that not 15 delegates had ever heard of Vintchinch until the canvassers went round the night before. It is said that he was promised presidency of the Assembly as a reward for taking a pacific attitude some months ago when a violent dispute had arisen between Serbia and Bulgaria.

The business of the Committees will start to-morrow. I understand that their proceedings are much better conducted than those of the Assembly and have some reality.

I am going out to bathe this afternoon. I have to buy a new garment. Bathing here is partly sunbathing. Even the women wear a quite small garment with the addition of a band round the breasts. Joe Walshe says if I went bathing in my Malahide costume I should get a paragraph in the papers on the subject of manly modesty. The weather here is frightfully hot. We are thinking of leaving this hotel if we can get accommodation elsewhere so that we may all be together and have a sitting room.


1 Anne McHugh, Blythe's wife (married 1919).

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