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(madison icon)1902

Patrick Walsh

from The '99 Badger

ONE night, many years ago, in old Hesperia, when the motion before the house embodied a request on one of the professors for his picture to hang on the walls, somebody observed that "we hadn't Pat's picture." Whereupon honest featured Alex. Flemington arose to add to the motion a request on the genial janitor for his picture also.

We sat around in tolerant and amused groups, while some over-wise but erring youth raised the objection that the dignity of the Faculty was concerned in this indiscriminate selection. But when the motion was put it was carried with such acclaim that the secretary recorded it as unanimous. The boys had not yet gone out into the world of petty social distinctions, where they were constrained to think at times otherwise than that

"The man's the gowd for a' that."
This was always the attitude of the students and the alumni toward our old janitor. They had him classed with the best beloved of the professors, not thinking at all of the position of the janitor, but always of the sterling qualities of the man.

When I read in the accounts of Pat's funeral last November that all University exercises were suspended, that President Adams and forty members of the Faculty and many students marched in a body from Library Hall and attended the funeral; that the pall-bearers were Professors Birge, Gregory, Parkinson, Daniells and Williams and E. F. Riley, Secretary of the Board of Regents, I felt that, after all, the University but honored itself in paying such honors to its old janitor. Indeed, it is gratifying to note, in these times, when we are said to be losing our democratic sturdiness, the sincerity of this tribute to a man, whatever his position, and to a blameless life rather than to great possessions.

Patrick Walsh was with the university from 1861 to 1897; he bade farewell to the students who left their classes to go to the war, welcomed them back under Johnson's administration, and saw their sons and daughters graduate in the 90's. He was the link that bound the old with the new, a more than honorary member of every class, a personal friend of every former student who wandered back over the old hill. Every graduate and thousands of the old students of the University knew "Pat" and always paid him their respects on visiting the University. He never forgot the boys who left the University; and his welcome to them was that kindly, genial Irish greeting that the returning student does not forget. I am told that the alumni never sent out a notice that had a heartier response than that for the fund which gave old Pat his jaunt to Ireland in 1893.

When we come together and talk of the familiar and kindly memory of Patrick Walsh, the old boys are always reminded of incidents; and one anecdote suggests another. Particularly the lads who inhabited the former dormitories are full of these yarns, many of which, I am forced to say, would not look as funny in print as they seem to the narrators thereof. But I suppose there could be set down and preserved from oblivion dozens of "Pat answers" that were not half bad. Pat's wit had nothing acerbic in it. It was always naivety, such as the student mind likes because it is "so different."

"We used to judge a new comer in the faculty very largely by the way he got on with Patrick," says one of the present faculty of the university. The few students who could not get along with Pat were usually those who were in danger of being hazed on general principles. The boys recognized that when Pat interfered with their sport it was always because the rules obliged him to do so; like a former governor of Wisconsin, he might declare: "I seen my duty and I done it." "He was popular with the girls because he was a gentleman," said one of the fair alumnae to the writer. Without seeking to be profound or to find an ethnological basis for the natural courtesy which always characterized Pat, I think there is at least something apropos in the following passage from a chapter on "the Irish" in Louise Imogene Guiney's new book, "Patrins:" "Time, which was expected to bring about no Ireland, has in reality engendered a national life more intense than ever. The physical strength, the patience and passion of the common people, the grace, loyalty and play of thought of gentlemen, have in that national life come together. Unique patrician wit, delicacy of feeling, knightly courtesy, have run out of their allotted conduits, and they color the speech of beggars. Distinction of all sorts sprouts in the unlikeliest places. Violent Erin produces ever and anon the gentlest philosopher, recluse Erin sends forth the consummate cosmopolitan hunted and jealous Erin holds up on its top stalk the open lily of liberality,

"'courteous, facile, sweet,
Hating that solemn vice of greatness, pride.'"

"Patrick Walsh." The '99 Badger. Madison, Wis., 1898. 36-7.
from the UW Archives: UW Badger, 1899