Upon returning from school for my first holidays, I learnt that my father [James Hamilton] had been appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland , and that we were in consequence to live now for the greater portion of the year in Dublin. …… It was the custom then for the Lord-Lieutenant to live for three months of the winter at the Castle, where a ceaseless round of entertainments went on.
The Castle would have made the most ideal place for playing hide-and-seek, with its vast extent and endless staircases had it not been that there were people everywhere; uniformed police, messengers, footmen, and a peculiarly officious breed of uniformed busybodies, who lived in little glass hutches, and pounced down upon little boys at unexpected moments with superfluous inquiries as to what they wanted there…….
My brother and I were not allowed in the throne-room on ordinary days, but it offered such wonderful opportunities for processions and investitures, with the sword of state and the mace lying ready to one’s hand in their red velvet cradles, that we soon discovered a back way into it. Should any of the staff of Mr. Healy, the present Governor-General, care to examine the sword of state and the mace, they will find them both heavily dented. This is due to two small boys having frequently dropped them when they proved too heavy for their strength, during strictly private processions fifty-eight years ago. We had seen our father conferring knighthoods, and were quite familiar with the
procedure. My brother and I must have mutually knighted each other dozens of times before the “Rise, Sir Frederic,” or “Rise, Sir Ernest” had lost the charm of novelty. I often wonder what a deputation from the Corporation of Belfast must have thought when they were ushered into the throne-room, and found it already in the occupation of two small brats, one of whom, with a star cut out of silver paper pinned to his jacket to counterfeit an order, was lolling back on the throne in a lordly manner, while the other was feigning to read a long statement from a piece of paper. The small boys, after the manner of their kind, quickly vanished through a bolt-hole……
…..a battlemented terrace, probably a modern addition, runs the full length of the back of the Castle. We called this “the ramparts,” and my brother, a child of the most fertile imagination, suggested that if only we could borrow some of the old armour which hung on the grand staircase, we might hold the most splendid tournament on these ramparts. There were, however, always two uniformed policemen on the grand staircase who were unsympathetically inquisitive when we tried to unhook the armour. We gradually realized that for us the Castle was to be a place alike of endless opportunities, and of thwarted ambitions.
‘The Days Before Yesterday’, Lord Frederic Hamilton (1856-1928), Hodder and Stoughton, London.