ST PATRICK’S DAY 1943 by Donal Kennedy


St Patrick’s Day 1943 was the 50th Anniversary of the founding of The Gaelic League, and the co-founder Douglas Hyde, the Protestant son of a Church of Ireland clergyman was President of Ireland. Virtually alone in Europe the Irish State was at peace.

Before the outbreak of war in 1939 most of the world was going through hard times. Orwell had perhaps over-egged the story on the Road to Wigan Pier, but I don’t think Steinbeck was essentially lying about the Grapes of Wrath.

Modest comfort had been beyond the dreams of most people in 1930s America and Europe. The idea of being beyond the range of artillery and bombers was nearer to Irish experience and to much of Europe.

Those who sneer at de Valera know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

When Dev came to power in 1932 he reduced the salaries of Government Ministers, saying that if the poor had to wear hair shirts it was only fair that there should be hair shirts all round, but he hoped that in better times there could be silk shirts all round.

Dev was never a flowery orator. He was no John Redmond nor even a James Dillon. Dev had his head and his heart in the right place, and confound the begrudgers.

My paternal grandfather (1866-1949)  was educated, like Dev, in Blackrock. He never used a stronger word than “Confound.” I spent 1957-1959 at Rockwell, its sister College, where if someone unknown had passed wind it was said that someone was “off side”. 

I suppose that sounds like language from Jane Austen’s time.


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