Saturday, June 18, 2011

Big Man Tait: the beginning of the end.

The story started here.

It all had to go wrong of course. Nobody knows why Elvis threw it all away, nobody knows what Ruby had to hide, nobody knows why some of us get broken hearts and nobody knows what the blinking feck the Mayor of Limerick: draper turned shirt-pedlar, turned industrialist, turned Knight of the Realm thought he was at, by standing for a seat in parliament: someone must have talked him into it.

At least that’s the way I see it, imagination leaps in to fill the gaps that history creates when there’s part of the story that don’t make sense, and I don’t see why you shouldn’t be privy to my imaginings, but for the moment, I’d better get back to the facts.

The facts are as follows: Peter Tait, at the height of his success and popularity, stood for a seat in Westminster and by doing so went from his exalted status as the city’s Golden Boy to something more akin to a social pariah in a very short space of time.

The real kicker was the party that he stood for because the celebrated rags-to-riches man-of-the-people Peter Tait was the only the bleedin’ Tory candidate. At a time in Ireland when the Tories opposition to Home Rule wasn't exactly flavour of the month round these parts.

It may have been simple political naïveté that made him throw in his lot with the Conservative Party, or he may have been manipulated by those who sought to take advantage of his popularity among the common folk.

My imagination conjures up an Iago-like figure, a jealous schemer from the upper-classes who utterly despises this self-made man and resents both his wealth and his popularity with a deep and passionate hatred, that’s who I imagine talking Tait into it.

This island boy from Shetland ( who’s had to work all his life and then finds himself suddenly surrounded by a bunch of people who would have shared their view of the world with Jane Austen, i.e. 'looked down' on anyone who didn't get their money via inheritence ) would be lost in his new social world and easily manipulated by my imagined Iago. I’ve nobody in particular in mind for the role but I bet my Iago was there in some form or another, watching and hating.

Tait would definitely have been unpopular with a section of the snobs simply because of what he represented: smarts and industry over entitlement and privilege. Human nature being what it is, somebody would’ve wanted to see him fall from grace, and what better way to do it than by convincing him to do the one thing that the people of Limerick would never forgive him for.

Okay back to the facts then, Tait ran against the Liberal/Home Rule party in one of the dirtiest-fought elections that the city had ever seen. The Tories lost and called for an inquiry. That inquiry discovered bribery and intimidation by the Liberals and their supporters on a grand scale but upheld the election result because the Conservatives were demonstrated to have used equally unsavoury methods.

Tragically, a man was even killed in the faction-fighting in Tait’s square [which is now Baker Place] under the shadow of the clock that the city had awarded Peter Tait, a man who was no longer the city’s darling. Aware of the resentment, he resigned as Lord Mayor and increasingly began to turn his back on the City and gaze a covetous eye on a seat in Westminster...

And that was to be the ruination of the man.

Final instalment coming, er... soonish.

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