I first saw the light of day on 28th December 1941 – the Feast of the Holy Innocents in the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street Dublin
My mother used jokingly refer to that location as “Holler” Street. The much older Dublin lying-in Hospital was, by happy coincidence, called the Rotunda.
Holy Innocents were being massacred at the time in less happy locations. Three weeks to the day previously, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and Nazi forces had reached suburban bus stops at Moscow.
The senior physician responsible for my care and that of my mother was named Eamon de Valera. And my arrival in an oasis of peace, in a world of unparalleled cruelty, is owed to his father Eamon de Valera Senior, together with Connolly and Pearse, MacDonagh and MacBride, their precursors and followers.
All the Monstrous Regiments of Revisionists can stick that truth in their pipes and smoke it.
A few days later I was baptised in St Andrew’s, Westland Row, where one of my mother’s grandmothers had been baptised in 1841.
My godparents were my father’s sister Maeve, and her husband, Bill O’Connell, Doctors who had qualified in UCC two or three years earlier. But, as they lived in England, proxies stood in for them. Bill was serving with the Royal Army Medical, Corps, and I have heard he was the first doctor from that Corps into Belsen on its liberation.
My mother’s brother, Jack Burke, aged 42 was in the Home Guard in London. He had been badly wounded in May 1916, six weeks shy of his 17th birthday when some of the Kaiser’s shells hit the Battle Cruiser PRINCESS ROYAL, off Jutland.
Uncle Leo,aged 38, was serving as a Senior Warrant Officer in Britain’s Royal Army Service Corps in Singapore. It wasn’t until five years later that his fate was confirmed. He was evacuated in February 1942 and he died when his ship was sunk by the Japanese.
Another of my mother’s four brothers, Ned, had played the bagpipes and Gaelic games, signed his name in Irish and drilled with Fianna Eireann and as senior member of that body had helped unload the rifles from Erskine Childers’ yacht ASGARD from Howth’s East Pier on June 26 1914. Whether he was let down by a girl, as my mother thought, or was persuaded by the rhetoric of the scoundrel John Redmond, didn’t he join the ROYAL DUBLIN FUSILIERS. He was badly gassed during the great German counter-offensive of Spring 1918, when he said he threw away his rifle and ran for miles in retreat to keep up with the rest of the British Army in his sector. He was invalided out and nursed back to life by his family, who burned his lice ridden uniform in their garden in the Burrow Road, Sutton. He was, like his father and grandfather, a master bookbinder, a craft for which Dublin was long renowned.
As was printing. It was said that in the 18th Century pirated copies of books published in London were selling in Dublin within a couple of weeks.
Though three of my mother’s brothers served in the British Forces, only the eldest, Denis Burke would qualify in revisionist circles as a man of violence. For he was an Irish Christian Brother.
At the time of my birth my father worked as an engineer with the Board of Works. Though we lived on the Hill of Howth, he worked in Donegal and, though he owned a car there was no petrol. But like many a man he used a pushbike in that wild and mountainous territory. Lest anyone think I paint too rosy a picture of a country led by de Valera, and a diocese in thrall to Archbishop McQuaid I suggest you look up HOWTH REGATTA and LAMBAY RACES 1942 on YOUTUBE. It was shot in Colour and has had a musical soundtrack added in recent years.
It is a good antidote to misery memoirs such as Angela’s Ashes. Not to mention unreliable diatribes praised by the allegedly Catholic periodical COMMONWEAL in New York.
The first memory of mine to which I can put a date is 28 December 1944, my 3rd Birthday. I had apple pie and I was given a model aeroplane which my 9-year-old brother excitedly told me was a FOUR-ENGINED BOMBER. I didn’t know what a Bomb or a Bomber was. At this stage the Battle of the Bulge was raging in France but we were warm and snug away from such unpleasantness.
Less than half a mile up the road a token anti-aircraft battery on the Baily Green, “guarded” the North arm of Dublin Bay, and white-painted rocks on the cliffs spelt out “EIRE” to errant aviators. My mother once saw a German plane so low that she could see the pilot’s face, and warning small-calibre fire was occasionally directed near the intruders. I remember the security I enjoyed at the time. We used have our bed- linen laundered by a Dublin firm founded in 1912 whose trademark was the Swastika. When Hitler’s gangsters misappropriated their Trade Mark they left it as it was. For years when I saw pictures of the gangsters in magazines and newpapers I thought of their going round with laundry tags on their clothes as a sartorial faux pas.
Seven years on, 28 December 1951 there was a sensation in Dublin. Not because I was 10 years old. But there was an armed bank raid. I could remember no precedent, nor can I now recall another armed bank raid in all of Ireland before 1970. I know that a distinguished lady historian maintains that Connolly
and Pearse, MacDonagh and MacBride ushered in a century of violence in Ireland but I cannot recall witnessing any of it. When Albert Reynolds ran dance-halls, he would sometimes leave takings totalling thousands of pounds in the boot of his unlocked car overnight, And when Terry Wogan worked in a Dublin bank, he would sometimes have a few thousand pounds, the price of a couple of bungalows at the time, in a hold-all beside his feet in Bewley’s Coffee House when transferring money between branches .Anyhow the Bank Bandits of 10 December10th 1951 were amateurs armed with a harmless starting pistol. But they were soon caught, brought to justice and covered with acres of newsprint.
But December 1951/January 1952 witnessed the heroic saga of the FLYING ENTERPRISE, not an airship or plane, but a surface ship of 6,700 tons on its way from Hamburg to New York with a cargo of 1,300 tons of pig-iron, 900 tons of coffee,10 passengers and a crew numbering about 20 which got into difficulties in storms.The passengers and all of the crew except the Captain Kurt Carlsen were rescued. The Captain remained whilst tugs went out to rescue the vessel.
The saga lasted for a couple of weeks but the story was covered by radio as planes with journalists linked up with the captain and the tugboats to give round the clock wireless coverage, It was probably the biggest news story since WWII. But this story was played out to the world in real time. It proved impossible to save the ship but Danish Captain was given a ticker-tape parade in New York. He was offered a fortune to tell his story, but refused. He had gone to sea at 14, captained his first ship at 22 and resolved to stick with what he loved best. The FLYING ENTERPRISE sank on 10 January 1952.
That same day 10th January 1972 Aer Lingus Dakota “St Kevin” on a flight from London’s Northolt to Dublin crashed in Wales with the loss of its crew of 3 and all its 20 passengers. It was the first loss of an Aer Lingus plane. By the Grace of God and the skill of its workforce only one further such disaster has occurred,That was in 1968.when an Aer Lingus Viscount crashed near the Tusker Rock off the Wexford Coast..
At the age of 80 I have lost some of my former strength. And memory for recent things -where I put my glasses, my dentures, my hearing aids, my keys.. I go to the bathroom and forget what I meant to do there. My spelling is not as good as it was. And I forget the names of people I worked or socialised with within the last forty years. But I have a very good memory for books I read, and of my formative years. And when I know for a fact that much of what is presented as history by well remunerated experts are damnable liars and that the “experts” , for the most part know that they are lies.
One particular faithless scribe takes so much trouble to stress that she is an atheist that I suspect she gets great comfort in the belief that lying is no sin and she need not fear the punishment that might otherwise arise from it.
I am not knocking honest atheists. If, as I believe, a Good God indeed exists, all Souls of Integrity will be rewarded right Royally.
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