The writer of this work first saw the light on a modest farmstead in the parish of Droumtariffe, North Cork. He came of a stock long settled there, whose roots were firmly fixed in the soil, whose love of motherland was passionate and intense, and who were ready "in other times," when Fenianism won true hearts and daring spirits to its side, to risk their all in yet one more desperate battle for "the old cause." His father was a Fenian, and so was every relative of his, even unto the womenfolk. He heard around the fireside, in his younger days, the stirring stories of all the preparations which were then made for striking yet another blow for Ireland, and he too sighed and sorrowed for the disappointments that fell upon noble hearts and ardent souls with the failure of "The Rising."
He was not more than seven years of age when the terrible tribulation of eviction came to his family. He remembers, as if the events were but of yesterday, the poignant despair of his mother in leaving the home into which her dowry was brought and where her children were born, and the more silent resignation, but none the less deeply felt bitterness, of his father - a man of strong character and little given to expressing his emotions. He recalls that, a day or two before the eviction, he was taken away in a cart, known in this part of the country as "a crib," with some of the household belongings, to seek a temporary shelter with some friends. May God be good to them for their loving-kindness and warm hospitality!
He wondered, then, why there should be so much suffering and sorrow as he saw expressed around him, in the world, and he was told that there was nothing for it - that the lease of the farm had expired, that the landlord wanted it for himself, and that though his father was willing to pay an increased rent, still out he had to go - and, what was worse, to have all his improvements confiscated, to have the fruits of the blood and sweat and energy of his forefathers appropriated by a man who had no right under heaven to them, save such as the iniquitous laws of those days gave him.
It was something in the nature of poetic justice that the lad whose family was cast thus ruthlessly on the roadside in the summer of 1880, should, after the passage of the Land Act of 1903, have, in the providence of things, the opportunity and the power for negotiating, in fair and friendly and conciliatory fashion, for the expropriation for evermore from all ownership in the land of the class who cast him and his people adrift in earlier years.
The writer has it proudly to his credit that, acting on behalf of the tenants of County Cork, he individually negotiated the sales of more landed estates than any other man, or combination of men, in Ireland, and that with the good will and, indeed, with the gratitude of the landlords and their agents, and by reason of the fact that he applied the policy of Conference, Conciliation and Consent to this practical concern of men's lives, he secured for the tenants of County Cork a margin of from one and a half to two years' purchase better terms than the average rate prevailing elsewhere.
For the rest he devoted himself during the better part of a quarter of a century to the housing and the social betterment of the workers in town and country, with results which are reflected in their present vastly improved condition.
But his greatest effort, and what he would wish most to be remembered for is that, with a faithful few and against overwhelming odds, he took his stand for Mr William O'Brien's policy of National Reconciliation, which all thoughtful men now admit would have saved Ireland from countless horrors and England from a series of most appalling political blunders if only it had been given fair play and a fair trial.
It is no use, however, in a very sordid and material world, sighing for the might-have-beens. What the writer seeks in the present work is to give, fairly and dispassionately, a narrative of what has happened in Ireland since Parnell appeared upon the Irish scene and the curtain was rung down upon the tragedy that brought the career of the one and only "Uncrowned King of Ireland" to a close - and until, in turn, the downfall of Parliamentarianism was accomplished by means which will, in due course, appear in these pages.