No. 182 UCDA P150/2183

Handwritten letter from Joseph P. Walshe to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)

Khartoum, 13 May 1938

My dear Sir,
I came down here by flying boat just a week ago, and have done quite a lot of exploring in spite of a shade temperature of 105 degrees during the day and 95 degrees at night. On Wednesday I went to Barakat 120 miles from here. It is the centre and the administrative headquarters of the great cotton growing area between the Blue and White Niles. We did the journey in an old Ford car following a desert track along the line of the Blue Nile. Were it not for the intense heat we should have given into temptation to continue for another two hundred miles to the Abyssinian border. The people, who get blacker and blacker, as you go further south are invariably very courteous and you are not in the least disturbed at not meeting any white people.

I called on the Governor General Sir Stewart Symes1 - a very decent fellow, a close friend of the Nuncio's. He invited me twice to dine to meet the principal Govt. officials and generally was most anxious to give me every facility to see and understand how British rule operates here. He is an idealist as is his wife - who is a R. Catholic - and his very long experience in the Near East Africa has not made him the narrow minded imperialist one expects to find in a post such as his. He can go where he likes here with a few unarmed policemen. The Festival of the Birthday of the Prophet is on at the moment and although there are tens of thousands of Arabs in the two adjoining cities of Khartoum and Omdurman there isn't a trace of disorder. The aim Symes has in view is to get into a position in which he and his successors will be advisers to the Sheiks. He is making no effort to anglicise the people. English is not taught in the schools though no doubt it will be when a Sunday school system has been established. He makes all the officials learn and speak Arabic and the local dialects. No doubt the British could stay here for centuries if they had always men of Symes' type to do the Governing for them, but with the growing power - especially cultural - of Arabia which is only just across the Red Sea and is their Religious homeland, one wonders whether any white nation can hold out in these regions for more than another fifty years. While the people move slowly they are accustomed to sudden and profound changes. We have only to remember that this whole area was Christian long before St. Patrick came to Ireland, and there isn't a trace left except a few recently discovered ruins of Churches of the 4th century.

Of course, I found Omdurman very interesting. I met some old warriors there who had fought against the British (under Kitchener)2 in 1898. The Sons of the Mahdi and of the Khalif who succeeded him are local potentates (no doubt enjoying fat salaries from the British) and close friends of the GG.

I have met a great many people with Irish blood among the officials - who all expressed unfeigned delight at the Anglo-Irish rapprochement. One result is that they tell you of their Irish blood after about two minutes. Before they waited about four days. Cairo has some Irish amongst its leading citizens - the two brothers Delaney being the principal. Arthur Delaney was present as an officer of the Dublin Fusiliers at the Easter week surrenders and he is most anxious to be received by you. As he is coming to Dublin in August I told him I felt sure you would be glad to see him. These two men have always proclaimed their Irish nationality in Egypt and have had no small trouble with the Freemason crowd. Naturally they are very proud of the results achieved by you in the Agreement with the British. This sentiment is very general even amongst British officials with Irish blood, and I find a new and very real desire to know all about the language and culture of the country. 'Éire' notwithstanding certain drawbacks is proving a god send in a lot of ways. It connotes a different language, a different people. It brings pride to these representatives of our people scattered in British spheres throughout the world.

I am going back to Cairo tomorrow morning. It is only six hours by air from here (four days and four nights by surface travel). I will write from there when I have talked with Lampson3 and some of the officials. I had only exchanged courtesy calls before leaving Cairo as I had to go to Alexandria for a few days.

Will you give a little thought to the question of a colony when you have leisure. It would be a splendid training ground for our people, and colonial budgets can be made to balance without subsidies from the home Government.

It was very consoling to read that you got the Agreement through without serious difficulty. I hope you are thinking of taking a holiday of some kind before long. This last year has been a time of very trying tasks for you.

I remain, my dear Sir, with great respect and esteem,
Yours very sincerely,

1 Sir Stewart Symes (1882-1962), Governor General of Sudan (1934-40).

2 Horatio Kitchener (1850-1916), born near Ballylongford, County Kerry. Entered the Royal Engineers (1871) and served in Palestine (1874-8), Cyprus (1878-82) and the Sudan (1883-5). In 1898 Kitchener became a national hero when he successfully led the British Army in the Sudan. As a result of his victory at Omdurman he was granted the title Lord Kitchener. Kitchener was later Commander-in-Chief in India (1902-9) and Military Governor in Egypt (1911-14) and served as Secretary for War (1914-16).

3 Miles Lampson, 1st Baron Killearn (1880-1964), British High Commissioner to Egypt (1934-6), Ambassador to Egypt (1936-46).

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