In 26 days, Deo Volente, if I’m spared, I’ll be starting my 80th year.
I’m not wearing too badly.
But I got off to a great start. Thanks to Connolly and Pearse, MacDonagh and Macbride, the Boys of Kilmichael, Eamon de Valera and others I was born in an oasis of peace when most of mankind was embroiled in a merciless war.
Three weeks to the day before I was born the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. India, Burma, Vietnam and the rest of Indochina, Indonesia and Malaya were still suffering under European tyranny, as they were to continue doing for years after Japan’s defeat. Irishmen, to our shame, participated in the crimes of the Empires, some even deserting the Irish Defence Forces to do so. But nobody living in Ireland,was conscripted North or South.
I never tasted spam or snoek, nor powdered eggs, unlike my contemporaries in Britain. We had hens in our garden and bought fresh cows’ milk from local farms and goats’ milk from neighbours. And fish landed down the hill in Howth. Again thanks to our freedom-fighters (and the rifles landed at Howth in 1914).
If you think I’m romancing in my dotage you can find the Howth Regatta of August 1942 on YOU TUBE, shot in colour with a recently added soundtrack.
Memory though frequently fails me. I’m continually forgetting where I’ve put my spectacles, my hearing aids, my wallet and my slippers.I’ll go upstairs to the bathroom and, having got there, forget what I’d gone up for. And since this blasted COVID lockdowns I forget what day of the week it is. But I think I remember certain things which I suspect my contemporaries also remember- things that academics and other paid commentators deplore, or would deplore
if they knew about them.
The President of Ireland when I was born was the Protestant son of a Protestant clergyman, fluent in many languages, a keen cricketer and a crack shot with a shotgun. He had co-founded the Gaelic League in 1893 to preserve the Irish language where it was still spoken and revive it where it had been lost.
The head of the Government, Eamon De Valera, all of the Cabinet and most of his Dail Colleagues were veterans of the War of Independence (having served on the IRISH side!) Most of the main Opposition Fine Deputies, and Labour ones had served with De Valera on the same side until 1922.
When I left Ireland in November 1964 De Valera was President and the Fianna Fail Cabinet led by 1916 veteran Sean Lemass, included Sean MacEntee, James Ryan, Oscar Traynor, all veterans of Easter Week, plus Frank Aiken, a hero of the ‘Tan War. I’m sure there were others, as there were in the ranks of other parties.
It was customarry for the Defence Forces to parade at Easter to commemorate the Insurrection, and the Dublin units of the part-time FCA (Territorials) to commemorate Dick McKee and Peadar Clancy of the Dublin Brigade IRA, who, together with the civilian Conor Clune, were murdered by British officers in Dublin Castle on Bloody Sunday 1920.
As a member of the FCA I took party in the Easrer and November commemorations. Veteran Dublin Brigade men took part with us in Dublin Castle. I regarded it as a privilege to stand near them.
On the 12th June 1954 an illegal 0rganisation which I thought was safely locked in the history books pulled off a brilliant coup in Gough Barracks, Armagh.
An IRA unit from Dublin, wearing British uniforms captured the sentry and posted their own, took over the Guardroom, and the keys to the armoury and removed enough rifles and Bren guns and ammunition to arm a regular army Battalion. They didn’t fire a shot nor hurt anyone and left, undetected within half an hour and crossed the Border and left the arms in a secure dump or dumps.
The coup was reported with obvious relish in Dublin’s Sunday Press. Britain still had an Empire and was hanging Kenyans by the score (1,100 between 1952 and 1960) and torturing them by the hundred. Similar atrocities continued in Malaya and Cyprus. Many ageing men in Ireland developed an extra spring in their step. Some local authorities passed votes of congratulations to those who pulled off the coup.
Micheal Martin, today’s leader of the Legion of the Rearguard, God help us, hobnobs with the Royal British Legion in their Blimpish Jingo celebrations and wears a poppy. Time was when the British Legion marched with the Dublin Branch of the British Union of Fascists.Not even the Blueshirts in their heyday stooped to Micheal Martin’s level. Mr Martin is shocked to his rotten core that not all his compatriots mourn the rotten corps of terrorists given their come-uppance at Kilmichael in 1920, nor their later incarnations.