Halliday Sutherland

"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.

The Abbey Theatre

In August 1904 Halliday Sutherland, aged 22, was a 4th year medical student at Edinburgh University. He went to Dublin to learn practical midwifery at the Coombe Hospital.

One evening we go to the Abbey Theatre. What the play is about I do not remember, this is not surprising. When the curtain falls on the first act, a general discussion begins in the audience. The discussion becomes acrimonious. All over the theatre men are standing. Blows are given and, I regret to say, received. We are in the centre block of stalls. I am one seat from the gangway on the left. Next me on my left is a huge Irishman who looks like a heavy-weight boxer. He says the play is rotten. I say the first act is very good. Soon we are standing face to face. I tell him I am dramatic critic on the Student, the undergraduate magazine of Edinburgh University. This news annoys the man. He shouts, “To hell with you.” He pulls me into the gangway. With his great fist, he grabs the back of my coat collar. He propels me towards the exit, through the foyer and out of the theatre. At the top of the steps he gives me a dunt on the backside with his right knee. This sends me from the top of the steps to the pavement where I land on my back. From Rugby football I fortunately knew how to fall without breaking my bones. A tall Dublin Metropolitan policeman helps me to my feet.

“Are ye hurt, sorr?”

“No, I am not hurt.”

“Then stand out of the way. Here’s another one coming.”

I stand on the pavement until some fifty people including my two friends are ejected. We three, somewhat breathless and dishevelled, proceed to the nearest pub. We have lost our hats in the mêlée. In the pub we drink Guinness. I say we have discovered Ireland. Those who liked the play were thrown out, those who disliked it stayed in the theatre. This must be typically Irish.

From Irish Journey by Halliday Sutherland.

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This entry was posted on 1 July 2019 by in Halliday Sutherland biography, Ireland, Irish Journey.

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