After an absence from Ireland Thomas Francis Meagher wrote his impressions on returning to his home city. One I read during the week was an account of the City and County Club ( site of the present Tower hotel). In this piece he shows his eloquence and humour.
Purely a social club- a club for pleasant intercourse and merry meetings- politics were rigorously excluded from its walls. No one entered with his repeal buttons or Orange Sash. Both were left in the umbrella stand at the outside door. Whatever they were without- however widely they differed in the streets- within all were Irish gentlemen, cordial, generous and jovial. Very nearly three-fourths of the club were Conservatives or Tories. Only two or three were repealers. I had the honour to be one of the latter. Politically considered, it was a desolate minority. But so true were the members to the fundamental principles of the Club, that they might all have been Repealers for anything offensive ever heard to the contrary. The Majority were loyalists to the marrow and never lost a opportunity to assert the fact. They were sincerely so. Truthful, high-toned, gallant, their loyalty won my respect, though it failed to invite my concurrence. Loyal as they were however, they were friendly and affectionate to the rebel. Inwardly condemning his insubordination to the Queen, they openly loved him for his fidelity to the club. A staunch friend of a pleasant institution they knew me to be. Of the principle on which it was established they knew I warmly approved. They knew that in public, over and over again, I had prayed for that tolerant, genial, generous brotherhood amongst Irishmen, of the feasibility and beauty of which, in a little sphere, they themselves had furnished such delightful evidence, and, to the last moment, for these reasons, I believe I continued to be their favourite.
Well do I remember how cordially they used to drink my health and cheer my stammering speeches at their dinners. Well do I remember the jovial welcome and the shuffling of chairs around the fireplace every night I came in. Early or late- the latter the better-they always had a chair and a cheer for me.
Of this club and all belonging to it I cherish the liveliest remembrance. Many a time do the old faces I so often saw there re-appear to me, sparkling and laughing, grinning or frowning, darkened into horror at some catastrophe. Or bursting into boundless mirth at some rich joke, as they used to do night after night, in that magic circle round the fireplace in the smoking room.
It was indeed a pleasant thing to drop in there about nine or ten o’clock at night. A little while after you opened the door, you could discern nothing plainly. The smoke was dense filling the four corners. The group about the fireplace was but a darker cloud. As you approached it resolved itself into several distinct fragments. Each fragment was a gentleman; the gentleman had his cigar, his short clay pipe, his manila or his chibouque. Night after night for the twelvemonth, it was always the same. For the last twenty years it had been the same. The habitués of that cosy and capacious fireplace formed a stock company of the pleasantest performers on the provincial stage of life.