I coulda been, God Help US, but fate intervened
I have no family roots there. My mother’s were many generations in Dublin. My father was born in Kilkenny, his father was from Tipp and his mother from Leitrim. But my parents started married life in the Wesht.
My father had just been appointed by the newly state-established Turf Development Board as an engineer covering counties Mayo and Galway, a job which required a car. So he bought one, a Morris Oxford, had one driving lesson in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, and the day after his wedding in National University Church by Stephen’s Green set off into the wild Wesht with his bride. As the car bumped over hump-backed bridges my mother feared for the Belleek and the Art-Deco chinaware .
The chinaware survive and my parents rented a house in Claremorris.Twenty years later my mother, who rarely went to the cinema, gloried in THE QUIET MAN for she was familiar with the Connacht Eden it depicted and loved Cong (the place, not the Ape).
My father had chosen engineering after reading an article by Arthur Griffith saying that Ireland needed engineers, And he had read about the potential uses for turf, or peat as they call it overseas. You could run a car on it, converting it into producer gas. Anyhow my father settled into what he thought would be a productive enjoyable career and family life with apparent gusto.
My late brother Brian was born in October 1935, a Connacht man. A few months later a sibling, my sister Brenda was on the way. But she would be born, like her three younger siblings, in Dublin’s Holles Street. For there was a serpent in the Connacht Eden, directing the Turf Development Board like an Oriental despot, or a pre-Land League Landlord.
Under the terms of the contract between Engineers and the Turf Development Board, the Engineers had to provide their own cars and the Board was obliged to pay them expenses at the rate of one shilling per mile, The Board ratted on the deal, reducing the expenses to sixpence per mile, a 50% cut. There were only 12 engineers employed by the Board so they had no industrial muscle but they did try to make a stand.
They suggested that they sell their cars and that the Board should supply them and pay them the sixpence per mile rate. They suggested that the matter go to arbitration. Professor Alfred O’Rahilly of Cork, who had negotiated settlements in other disputes offered his services.
But the Board would have none of it and they cancelled their contract. My father, among others, lost their jobs, The engineers were members of CUMANN NA N INEALLTOIRI – the Engineer’s Association, which I think may have been founded by my father in imitation of his father, a founding member and first President of ASTI (the Association of Secondary Teachers) some 25 years earlier.
Anyhow that was the end of a Connacht idyll and my father was idle for some time afterwards and never had the promising career he expected.
Which is why I won’t be rootin’ for Mayo.