Thursday, 26 November 2009


The Village


The narrator was born in 1923 in Wexford and lived his early life in a very small village near the sea. There were four public houses, three shops, a post office, a creamery, a village school and two Churches, a Catholic church, which was well attended, and a Protestant, which was invariably almost empty. The public houses had an area for groceries and a separate area for the consumption of alcohol and there was always a “snug” for anyone who needed more privacy, or for a lady who didn’t want to be seen.
The Protestant church had been Catholic before the Reformation and there were several old graves there, including some with vaults. However there was an even older cemetery just over a mile away, where there was a well, which was supposed to be a holy one, the waters from which were reputed to effect cures. This cemetery had been closed for years as it was full, but in 1930 a very old person, who had a right to be buried there in a family grave, died, and when he was buried in the area near the well it was found that the bodies in the grave, which had been there for over thirty years, hadn’t decayed. Some very old people in the area were able to relate that their parents had mentioned years before that decomposition didn’t occur in a part of that cemetery.
The pace of life was slow in the village and surroundings. Very few people got up early, except for the farmers who needed to attend to their animals or to work in the fields. There was almost no motor traffic and horse drawn vehicles tended to amble as there was no rush to go anywhere in a hurry, so the general atmosphere was one of tranquillity, as if everyone was completely laid back. Incomes were low but the cost of living was also very low, but the quality of food was excellent, as most people grew their own vegetables and kept hens and made their own bread, and meat was easily obtainable from farmers who killed their own animals.
The civil war wasn’t over until 1922 and while it lasted there were skirmishes all over the county and it wasn’t long since the rebellion of 1916. Petrol was still scarce, but the headmaster managed to continue his weekly trip to Wexford town, starting the car with a little petrol in the carburettor and then running it on paraffin oil. Almost every week he would be stopped by small groups of men asking to be driven to some location. He never asked what side they were on, remaining strictly neutral, and he would just drive them to their destination and continue his journey.
There were visible scars of the war for independence, like the ruins of the coastguard station and the ruins of a few of the beautiful Anglo Irish homes, which had been destroyed during the ‘Trouble Times.” In spite of the fact that some of the local population must have been on different sides in the civil war there was no animosity apparent and everyone lived in complete harmony, apart from the natural rivalry between the owners of the main centres of business.
The nearby beach was really magnificent, with miles of soft white sand and wonderful sand dunes. It had been the site of a big battle during the great rebellion of 1798 and again a smaller battle during the fight for independence. In the latter the forces of the crown were the Black and Tans, who were the lowest scum, who had been released from jails in England and given two weeks training as soldiers and given free rein to use any tactics to suppress the rebellion. Some of the crimes they committed in the county were indescribable in their atrocity, but fortunately not in the immediate village. However on one occasion they were on their way to do some damage in the village when they were intercepted and decisively beaten. By 1924 the civil war was forgotten and apart from the fact that the northern six counties remained part of Britain, it might as well never have taken place.
Near the beach was a ruined castle, which had been one of many similar ones owned by The Mc Murrough, king of Leinster. Legend had it that there was an underground tunnel between it and a similar castle in Ferns, nine miles away, but it had never been found. The small river or stream in the centre of the village had at one time, centuries ago, been a much bigger river and at that time the village was called The Ford, which name still exists on old maps. It was named thus because the stage - coaches found difficulty crossing it, necessitating a stop for a drink in the local inn. The coast road was used for stage - coach traffic, and the village as the last unyoke before Wexford town, until a better road was made between Gorey and Wexford. This was a big setback for the village, the travel facilities disappearing and a loss of business by the shops and pubs. Folklore tells us that there were two wrecks of Spanish ships, which had been driven on shore by the gales and high seas during the great Armada, but there are no records of survivors.

The most important person in the village, at least in his own opinion, was the Parish Priest, ably assisted by his Curate. To the majority of people his word was law and he lived in absolute luxury compared with most of the other residents. The second most important person, in the eyes of the Parish Priest at least, was the local schoolmaster. In everybody else’s eyes he was really the most important. Apart from teaching and giving extra tuition to aspiring youngsters he gave legal advice, made wills, settled disputes and gave first aid and medical attention to all except the most serious cases. The nearest doctor was six miles away and the nearest solicitor twelve. He was also head of the local coastguard service and later, during the war, the local defence force.
He also found time to modernise his home, putting in running water, flush toilet and electric light, which was produced from a wind-mill on top of a large pole, using several car batteries joined together to act as a generator. He had the seventh motor - car in Ireland, top speed ten miles per hour, in the early1900s, and toured Ireland, being followed in every town by the local youths trying to keep pace with the car. He wrote and produced plays, painted oil and water-colour paintings and could play
many different musical instruments, including the violin, guitar, mandolin, piano and even the musical saw and the harp.
In the mid 20s however he had a model T Ford, which was one of the very few in the district.
In the early1920s Sir Alan Cobham brought his “Flying Circus” to an area near Wexford town. He and another pilot had bought a few aeroplanes after the war and toured with them showing their skills in the air. They did stunts, looping the loops, flying upside down, figure of eight, etc and after some time they asked for a volunteer. The headmistress of our village volunteered and went through the full routine with them in a tiny biplane and enjoyed every minute of it. She was regarded as quite a hero afterwards as she was the only volunteer! The headmaster was known by everybody as “The Master”, and his wife as “The Mistress”. Children attended school from 9am until 3pm,with thirty minutes break for the children to eat lunch, which was usually a sandwich. The master was very strict, but very fair, and managed discipline without having to use his cane. The children thought he had an eye in the back of his head as he managed to see behind himself by using his bifocal spectacles. They were both held in high regard by the whole local population as well as by the children.

The village was situated in a shallow valley with four roads radiating from the centre, with a small stream running through, and a village pump at one side from which everybody had to draw water, as there was no other water supply. Local farmers sank wells for their homes and livestock. The only telephone was in the post-office. There was no electric light, so that the streets and roads were dark at night. The houses used oil or petrol lamps, while the poorer people used candles for lighting.
There was no television and very few radios and only the more well off people had gramophones, Pianos were to be found in some homes and at weekends groups gathered to sing and play, often with violin accompaniment. Occasionally concerts were held in the village hall, organised by the headmaster who was usually the person to organise activities of any kind.
Transport was by pony and trap by the more affluent, and by donkey and cart by the less affluent, while the younger generation sported bicycles. Many of the men rode their horses into town and the farmers used horses for almost everything, ploughing, harrowing etc, as the tractor was only just becoming popular. Hay was taken in on special hay carts and all farms had a hay barn for storage. Corn was cut on the field by mowing machines, tied into sheaves by hand and left to dry and when taken home was threshed by old fashioned threshing machines, with a mill into which the sheaves of corn were fed by hand to separate the grain from the stalk. The thrashing machine had a large engine, which operated a moving belt to feed the mill with the sheaves, so it was quite dangerous and occasionally there were accidents. Thrashings lasted anything from three days to half a day according to how wealthy the farmer was, but there would always be a party or dance on the final evening attended by all the neighbours, with music and plenty of alcohol, mostly Guinness. The dancing would often go on until the early hours of the next morning.
Cows were milked by hand as milking machines had not been invented and most farmers brought their milk in large churns into the creamery by horse and cart every day, often taking home butter and buttermilk, which was used for bread making by the housewives. The creamery was a great place for friends to meet and usually they would go afterwards to one or other pub to have a pint of Guinness.
There were two blacksmiths in opposition, both kept busy putting on new horseshoes and making or repairing tackle and there was always a small queue waiting for service, much as there is today at the petrol pump.
Once each month a fair day was held, with farmers selling their livestock, with bullocks, heifers, horses, donkeys and mules etc lined up by the side of the road for inspection. Cattle dealers and horse dealers from all over the province would attend and deals were done after long negotiation, with much spitting on, and eventually shaking of hands. Money would be passed over immediately and usually both parties would adjourn to the pub for the inevitable pint. It was many years before cattle marts were built with proper auctions, necessitating long transportation of their beasts by the farmers. The traditional fair day disappeared, the local pubs and shops lost business, but the roads were less dirty.
Villages in the county are roughly five miles apart and delivery of the post was done on foot or on a bicycle covering quite a mileage, when you take into account all the side roads and laneways to be traversed. One of these postmen also acted as a hairdresser, the main style for boys at that time being very short back and sides and for girls, ringlets or fringes.
The nearest railway station was in Wexford town and there was also a bus service. The snag about the latter was that it stopped at every village along the way and the drivers tended to have a few drinks, so the journey took much longer than it might have done. Wexford was often called the model county, as the land was rich and good for both corn and livestock, so farmers were mostly pretty well off, with farms being from 100 to 200 acres. Wheat and barley were the main crops but a lot of vegetables were grown, and some farmers, who didn’t mind very hard work, grew sugar beet. Cattle were kept for fattening and for sale, and a few cows for providing milk. Hens, ducks and turkeys were kept for providing eggs and for providing meat for the table. Some kept pigs, which were killed and cured to produce bacon and ham. One enterprising man killed his sheep, lambs and cattle and set himself up as a travelling butcher, the only snag was that he didn’t allow his beef to hang long enough.
Most houses had a large metal bath, which was brought out for use on Saturday evenings so that everyone could use it. Some of the farms had a special out - house to use as a bathroom, but it meant bringing large containers of hot water from the kitchen fireplace. These fireplaces were on an open hearth which took quite large blocks of wood to burn, encouraged by an underground air system acting as a fan operated by a large wheel beside the fireplace. It was quite ingenious and as a result these large fires heated the whole house. There was a system of swinging iron bars supporting pots of various sizes to swing into position for cooking. Village houses, and all houses other than farm-houses, had ranges which took coal, when it was available, or timber for cooking. It was many years before Aga cookers became available. Fields were comparatively small and were surrounded by ditches well covered by timber, which was very much in demand and trees were replanted regularly.

There were three large estates of approximately 1000 to 1500 acres, all owned by Anglo Irish families. One of these still had the manor house intact and the farm was in full production, giving employment and producing well. The family were held in high respect though they didn’t mix with the locals. The only person to be invited to the house was the headmaster occasionally to give legal advice or to make a will. On the second estate the manor house had been only partially burnt down and the owner lived there alone, allowing the land to be neglected and eventually over run by rabbits. He encouraged young men to come to try to shoot them, an offer the sons of the headmaster snapped up. The house on the third estate had been destroyed, but the gate-lodge had survived.
This estate had been owned by a Colonel Bryan, who had died during the war from an illness connected with aging. His son had inherited the estate and was called Major Bryan, as the son of a Colonel !!! but he was usually simply called “The Major” He was probably the third most important person in the area and he was certainly the most colourful. He renovated and extended the gate-lodge and fitted massage tables, large baths, billiard and table tennis rooms and started a Spa. He advised cold baths as good for the health, but the real reason was that he had no way of heating the water. He bought and renovated four nearby cottages and started to bring visitors from England during the summer, much to the delight of the local lads, who vied with one another to entertain any young ladies who arrived. The Major was a handsome man in his fifties but he certainly had a way with the ladies and all his visitors seemed to be female. He then bought the old coastguard station and surrounding land, which verged on the seashore, and he renovated the old officer’s quarters. Having fenced off a large part of the sand dunes, probably without having any right to do so, he started a nudist area for his visitors, all of whom seemed to welcome the idea.
The beech stretched for ten miles and the sand dunes were wide, but apart from the Headmaster’s family it was deserted except by a few people on Sundays, so very few local people knew what was happening. In all probability the parish priest knew, but didn’t want to risk a confrontation with someone over whom he had no authority. In later years it was rumoured that The Major had connections with the famous Happy Valley in Kenya. He also had a sister who flew her own plane regularly from London to the village during the mid1930s, sometimes in tandem with her friend, Amelia Eirhart, the famous aviatrix. It was amazing to see two small bi-planes land in a flat field near the Spa, and the landing usually attracted several of the local youths as spectators. After World War 2 The Major was seldom seen in the area and after a few years his Spa and farm were auctioned, but didn’t sell because bids didn’t reach the reserve. He was then advised to auction it without reserve. Very few people turned up on this occasion and the place was sold for a very small sum to a local farmer who turned it into a restaurant very successfully.

The county library arranged for a library van to call to the local school and the headmaster selected approximately 150 books, which were changed at monthly intervals. The Master produced plays, some of which he wrote himself, and these were performed in the village hall during the winter. In the same hall ceidhle dances took place, again regularly during the winter. In summer each year a travelling cinema would spend two weeks, packed out each evening, attendance guaranteed by the fact that a serial picture was shown at every performance for the two weeks.
There was a men’s club attached to one of the village pubs, where men gathered to play cards and listen to the news. Radios were scarce in the late 20s. The headmaster had been experimenting with sound and finally had a break through and got the first sound radio in the country, having made all component parts, including the valves, by hand. Thousands of people gathered around his house, by previous arrangement with him, to hear this. He agreed that a fellow experimenter in Dublin, called Digby, would start a factory to manufacture radio, while he would become the agent for the south of Ireland. This factory became “ Pye, Ireland ltd.” He made money for a few years until radio became popular, but missed out on the big time.
There was a dreadful storm during the winter of 1931, with very high seas.
The headmaster’s eldest son thought he would play a trick on those gathered in the club by breaking in on the 9 o’clock news immediately after the announcer said “this is the 9 o’clock news and this is Bruce Veltbridge reading it.” This was easy to do as the actual radio was in the pub, with only an extension to the club itself. He cut in on the transmission, saying, ”before the news tonight I must announce that there is a ship wrecked off the coast of Wexford, and we advise the local coastguard to start rescue operations.” He had intended to tell them that it was a hoax, but before he could do so the club was emptied, as all hands had started hurrying to the beach to launch the lifeboat. The only thing he could do at that stage was to go to his father and tell him what he had done. His father got the car out and drove as fast as he could, arriving just in time to halt the actual launching. Everybody got a good soaking in the heavy rain and the son wasn’t too popular for a few weeks!
The son of one of the shopkeepers was a priest attached to St Peter’s college. He kept a small yacht and did a little sailing, though quite inexperienced. By chance he met the narrator and a friend on the beach one morning and thinking they might make a good crew he invited them to join him and his sister and mother to sail to a race meeting, which was being held at the other side of Wexford bay. They duly set off at noon and all went well until they were opposite the harbour about two miles out to sea. He mustn’t have known of the existence of the submerged sandbank as suddenly the boat went aground and turned onto it’s side and started to fill with water. The priest made no attempt to do anything and started to pray, saying Hail Mary etc and the ladies started to scream. The two young men got into the water and found they could stand with the water about chest high. They tried to push the boat upright and they encouraged the ladies to start bailing out the water, and it wasn’t until then that the priest started to help. After about half an hour they were ready to resume the journey. They would all have drowned if it hadn’t been for the narrator as it transpired that none of them could swim, including his friend. As far as is known the priest didn’t resume his sailing as the boat was to be seen beached and housed for years. The friend in later years became a trawler fisherman, owning two boats and in his middle years he was drowned when he went overboard in a storm, still being unable to swim.
In August every year Duffy’s circus called to Blackwater village for two weeks and people from all the neighbouring villages attended. During their last visit to the area a couple of young lads were satisfying their curiosity watching the Big Top being erected. At a crucial moment one of the lads fell over a guide rope upsetting the work. One of the circus hands caught the boy and gave him a couple of hard smacks, thinking that would be the end of it. However the boy told his father, who then came to the tent and had a fight with the circus man and only succeeded in getting beaten up. He then got a few of his friends to help and during the opening performance, when everyone was busy watching a spectacular act, they cut guide ropes allowing the canvas to come down on the audience. They then opened cages and let animals escape, causing panic and many injuries. It took four weeks for the animals to be caught and during those weeks a tiger killed several sheep, before he was finally shot. Police were called, but the culprits were never found. However Duffy’s Circus never visited the area again.
Wexford town boasted two cinemas and during the late 20s introduced talkie films for the first time, much to the delight and astonishment of the town’s people. The first film shown was “The Street Singer” with Al Jolson. On Saturday afternoons there was a matinee attended by all the youths in town, all of whom could be heard shouting “come on the chap.” At around that time also electric street lighting replaced the old gas lamps, and over the following few years all homes and shops followed suit. Flush toilets replaced the old privy-middens, which had been sited at the bottom of every garden, and bathrooms were introduced into all houses. Motorcars gradually replaced the horse drawn vehicles and the town became much busier. At that time also the harbour was full of foreign ships, as many as twenty-five could be seen along the quay at one time, bringing timber and foreign goods and exporting machinery and corn etc. There was a lot of trade to Newfoundland where many Wexford people had settled in previous generations. Sadly in the 1930s the harbour began to silt up and form a sand bar, which gradually got worse in spite of very expensive dredging. Most of the shipping transferred to Waterford harbour.
It took a long time to get macadamised roads, so the minor roads continued to be made of rough stone and hardcore and punctures were commonplace, which meant that several spare tyres had to be taken along with every journey. Young ponies and spirited horses didn’t like motorcars very much and proved very difficult to control when meeting on the road and as a result there were frequent accidents and the headmaster had to give medical attention and often had to settle disputes.

Wexford was settled originally by Celts who started to trade from the harbour, a race called the Firbolgs. They were small in stature but with square shoulders, the modern description would be small mesomorphs. The next people to arrive were the Milesians, probably also Celts, arriving about one thousand years later. They were much bigger in stature, being well over six feet in height. They tended to settle in the countryside, but they became the overlords. They lived in tents and didn’t build towns. Land was not individually owned but was owned by the whole clan, so there were no disputes. The Danes or Norsemen raided Ireland over centuries from the eight to the twelfth, especially raiding Wexford because of the wonderful harbour. Over time some of them settled there and intermarried with the locals and their descendants became known as the Ostmen. The Normans were invited over to settle a dispute in 1172, landing in Wexford, and quickly subduing their opposition because of superior arms and the wearing of coats of mail. They had recently taken England as part of the Angevin empire. By the end of the following century they were recognised as English and it was the beginning of centuries of struggle and warfare to try to subdue Ireland. Those who settled in Wexford were Catholics, speaking a mixture of old English and French as the Normans had originally come from Normandy in France. They intermarried with the Irish, who spoke Gaelic, so a strange language emerged in south Wexford as a mixture of all three languages, English, French and Gaelic, and it was spoken there until the beginning of the twentieth century.
Wexford was the scene of a famous battle against Cromwell, who won after a tough fight, and who afterwards dispossessed many of the large landowners and razed their castles to the ground and hanged the leaders of the opposition on Wexford bridge, and slaughtered hundreds of their families, men, women and children in the famous Bullring in the centre of the town.
Wexford was again the scene of two big battles in 1798 in the struggle for independence.
The people of the town were very nationalistic but still many of them joined the British navy. Practically every family in the town had a member in either the British Navy or the merchant navy and some of them distinguished themselves in the World Wars. The most famous naval man from the town was John Barry, the founder of the American Navy. Another was Evans Furlong, who was one of fifty-one survivors from “The Glorious” in the North Sea in the early days of the last war. He also survived having been torpedoed in the Atlantic and having been adrift for two weeks in a small boat. He served on The Illustrious” through the Mediterranean campaign and assault on Malta. Being a brilliant photographer he was attached the fleet air arm to take photographs of enemy ships and ground installations. He took part in the attack on Iyo Jima and other islands and was seconded to the American Navy to photograph Hiroshima and Nagasaky before and after the atomic bombing, and of the Japanese surrender.

In the early 1920s the parish priest in the village was very gentlemanly and was almost a saintly individual, respected by all, but when he died his successor was the complete opposite. He was very small, fat, and to say the least of it, eccentric. The clergy in Ireland wielded great power in these years and priests felt they could get away with anything. The Curate was an ex All-Ireland footballer, well over six feet in height. He tended not to interfere with the parish priest at all, but on occasions he really threw his weight around. He was a most boring man who visited one or other of the better off people every evening without an invitation, always arriving around meal time expecting supper and then proceeded to bore them, regaling them with the most uninteresting stories about people in his previous parishes. People would actually hide, pretending they weren’t in, to avoid having to spend an evening in his company.
Mass on Sundays was at 7am and 10am. Most people came with ponies and traps, tying them by the side of the road on the hillside approaching the church. One Sunday during the Mass some youngsters unyoked several ponies and mixed up the tackling and put the wrong traps with the wrong ponies, causing absolute chaos, which took several hours to sort out. The Parish Priest was furious on the next Sunday, threatening dire punishment on the perpetrators if caught, while literally dancing around the altar in garments much too big for him, almost tripping up several times.
There was a collection during every Mass, but also special collections were held for Christmas, Easter, Spring or Hay collection, Peters Pence, and at least four other times a year. People gave according to their means, but the Parish Priest decided he could shame some to contribute more by reading out on the following Sunday the names of those who contributed and how much they gave. That was bad enough, but he also stressed the names and amounts given by anyone whom he thought should have given more. It was really most annoying to many people and he became unpopular very quickly.
He cut the supply of coal to the school so that the children and teachers were very cold during the winter and he refused to supply more until the “Mistress” threatened to report him to the Bishop. When the chimneys in the school needed to be swept he got into old clothes and tried to do the job by himself, causing quite a mess, which then had to be cleaned up by expert chimney sweeps. He merely succeeded in getting himself covered in soot, much to the amusement of the few people who saw him.
At the confessional he called out the sins which were confessed loudly so that others waiting for confession could hear everything that was being said. He could be heard saying things like “how many times” or “you did what” or “ was there more than one girl involved” after which the person would emerge very shamefaced. One story told, which is very difficult to believe, is that a young man confessed that he had intercourse with a girl, at which the priest said, “This is a serious sin boy, was it Mary Murphy?” The boy said, “I wouldn’t like to tell you father.” The priest went on “was it Joan Burke or Bridget Daly” The boy said, “ It wouldn’t be fair to tell you father.” The priest gave him absolution and a short penance. The young man’s friend was waiting outside and asked how he had got on, to which he replied “it wasn’t too bad, I only got three our fathers as penance, but I got a few very useful names.”
During one autumn the parish priest decided that all people over 70 should receive the Last Sacraments, so he spent a couple of weeks visiting every household where there was someone of that age, even sometimes calling them in from the fields for the Sacrament. Nobody thought of refusing him but when the “Mistress” heard of it she took it upon herself to report it to the Bishop. The visiting stopped forthwith.
The Curate was a very big man of 6 feet 4 ins. and was broad in proportion, an ex. All-Ireland footballer, and looked as strong as an ox. There were several of the local men who were as big or bigger, and one of them was one of the local blacksmiths, called Joe. The Curate caused quite a stir one Sunday by commenting after his sermon that there was a certain young girl in the parish who was pregnant and that everybody knew which man in the parish was responsible. He continued, saying that if the banns for the wedding weren’t announced within three weeks he would personally beat that man out of the parish. Everyone knew of course that it was Joe the blacksmith, and the church was packed each Sunday for the following three weeks to see if the banns would be read. After Mass on the second Sunday the Curate said that a certain man had only one more week to do the right thing and that he must remember that if not he would have to face the consequences. The church was thronged the following Sunday and no banns were read, so everybody waited to see what would happen. Fifteen minutes later the Curate walked to the village with a hurling stick in his hand, followed by practically everybody in the area. He went straight to the smithy where the blacksmith was waiting and without delay set about him with the hurling stick, striking him around the chest and shoulders. Joe said, “I will not fight with you Father as you are a priest, but if you take off your collar we could then have a fair fight”. The Curate didn’t even listen but continued to strike Joe, forcing him to retreat up the hill for about one hundred yards. Eventually someone gave him a bicycle on which he rode away to the next village. He didn’t attempt to strike the priest even once, and had to be treated by the doctor for several stitches in wounds around his arms, shoulders and back. The banns were never read and the girl had her baby five months later. Joe started a smithy in the next village and a year later proposed marriage to the young lady.
The priests never mentioned any of the activities of The Major, but constantly spoke in their sermons of the dangers of dancing, company keeping, card-playing, gambling etc. To give them their due they carried out their priestly duties without any scandals of sex, involvement with children, homosexuality or alcoholism, at a time when these practices were rampant through the country, as we have learned in recent years. Once each year a missionary priest would visit for a week or sometimes two weeks and hold evening service, with a long sermon each time, usually threatening hell and damnation on anyone who transgressed or strayed from the straight and narrow. Every one in the parish was expected to attend and the church was usually packed.
One story told, but not necessarily true, was that on one occasion Paddy and Mick were sitting in the side aisle while there was a particularly tough but interesting sermon being given by the priest. Two young girls were sitting in the front row on the centre gallery listening very intently, so much so that one of them toppled over. Fortunately she managed to catch and hold on to a light fitment as she fell. It became apparent immediately that she had no knickers on and the priest was the first to notice. Without hesitation he said “ if anyone in this congregation as much as casts one glance at that poor unfortunate girl up there may he be stricken blind.” There was dead silence in the church for a couple of minutes and then Paddy turned to Mick, covering one eye and said “Jesus I think I will chance one eye.”
On one Sunday each year all the cemeteries in the area held what was called a Pattern day and all the relatives of those buried there visited, accompanied by the priest, to say prayers at the graveside and to leave flowers. On the 1st Sunday of September the locals celebrated what they called “The Big Sunday” at the local beach by spending the day there and possibly having a dip in the sea, probably the only trip to the beach for the whole year.

In the early1900s a tug of war team from the village had won the world championship two years in succession and in the 1920s and 30s these men were mostly still alive, ranging from 40 to 50 years of age and all roughly six feet six in height and around twenty stones in weight. One of them was a man called Big Red Paddy, because of sporting a mop of red hair and a red pointed beard. He was six feet seven inches in height with a massive pair of shoulders and was regarded as the strongest man in the area.
On Sundays after Mass he sat on a chair outside his house waiting for anyone who had a toothache to consult him. There was no such thing as filling a tooth at that time so it meant having the offending tooth extracted. There were usually one or two people needing this and Paddy obliged, using a small pliers without anesthetic! His daughter, who had a similar red mop of hair, was called Red Biddy. She was a seamstress who spent all day seated at her machine, which was placed strategically so that she could view the two main roads, one going into the village and the other towards the church. She never missed a beat and lost no time reporting to all and sundry anything of note which happened, who was meeting whom and how long they spent together, and sometimes putting two and two together, not always correctly, sometimes making five.
His son was Red John who was comparatively small at six feet three inches. His grandson was Little John as he was only six feet in height. He was absolutely brilliant in school and could have gone on to university to study almost anything, but he refused in spite of the headmaster’s advice. He said, and maintained all his life, that he was one of nature’s millionaires, being able to have horse riding, shooting and fishing any time he liked, as he could take time off when he liked, being his own boss, working his market garden. In common with many of the men in the area who courted their girlfriends for many years, he courted his girl for ten years before asking for her hand in marriage. The parish Priest held forth on the altar frequently condemning this practice to no avail. The reason for this practice was the reluctance to bring another woman into a house where there were probably a mother and two or three daughters, who would have to get married off first.
It was different in the towns, where the custom was to marry at eighteen to twenty years of age, and then of course they tended to have large families.
In Wexford town all traffic avoided the main street after 6 pm, striving to be the nearest to the ring as all the young unmarried people from twelve years upwards paraded in small groups, completely taking over the street, which was over a mile long, from 6pm until midnight. This was how they made contact with the opposite sex and arranged dates etc, after a lot of conversation, some singing and much fun, and fortunately very little consumption of alcohol. The clergy encouraged this practice knowing that it led to early marriage.
In the village card playing was very popular, games like Twenty-Five, Nap and Whist were played in most houses two or three days a week. In the early evening the men gathered to play Horseshoes, having a small gamble, until it got dark, when they gravitated to the pubs or the club. The game was played by men trying to throw horseshoes over a metal ring sunken into the ground and trying to be the nearest to the ring. Each player threw three horseshoes and it was even allowed to try to knock the opponent’s horseshoe away.
Drinking was mostly very moderate, but there were several who habitually drank to excess. One of the pubs was owned by an elderly lady of eighty-five, who employed a pretty young lady to help her in the bar. The pubs officially closed at 10pm and the old lady closed hers exactly on time and then went home. The young lady waited until she was out of sight and then went around to the back door and allowed her customers to come back in, where they continued to drink until after midnight. The Guarda Civil made the pretence of raiding every few weeks, but accepted several drinks from all present to help them to forget the breach of the law. One of the customers every night regularly was a widower who got very inebriated by around midnight when he was helped into his pony’s trap by his friends, who put the reins around the saddle horn so that the pony could take him home. The journey was uphill for the first half mile so the pony walked slowly, but at the top of the hill he trotted the rest of the way. At the brow of the hill was the house of the headmaster. Night after night for about a year his young six year old son listened with mounting fear to the slow grinding of the trap wheels on the road, thinking that it was the sound of the Headless Horseman, whom he was told passed by at that time every night. Eventually the young man plucked up courage enough one moonlight night to pull the curtains aside and have a look, and he must have been greatly relieved to see an innocent explanation. He never experienced fear again.
Sport in the village was mostly football and hurling, played only by men. The ladies never got involved in sport at all and almost none of either sex went to the beach or knew how to swim. In Wexford town however as well as football and hurling there were tennis and rugby clubs and also camougie for the ladies. In spite of the fact that almost every family had a member in either the Royal Navy or the Merchant Navy very few people knew how to swim. There was one family from which nine men went to sea, most of them becoming Captains in one of other of the navies. The eldest brother joined when the youngest was very young and because of the war he didn’t meet him again for twenty years and that was on 5th Avenue, New York where they recognised one another from themselves!
One of the farmers whose farm bordered on the coast took his horse and cart one day to collect gravel and found a strange object, a very large round metal ball with spikes sticking out of it. He got his two brothers to help and succeeded in getting it into the cart and headed for the village to display it. Luckily one of the headmaster’s sons happened to cycle by and recognised it as a mine. The men ignored his warnings so he rode fast to his father, who hurried in his car to the village to where they had arrived by that time. He took charge of the situation, isolated the cart, and kept all villagers well away, and using the telephone in the post office, he contacted the army in The Curragh. It took over four hours to get the proper people who could take care of transporting the mine and render it harmless.
During the war pieces of wreckage were sometimes found and also plenty of thick glass floats used for sea mines and on one occasion a full case of Scotch Whiskey completely intact was found. When word of this spread it caused a rush of sea prizing enthusiasts to the beach for a few months. The enthusiasm quickly wore off when nothing further of interest was found.
The rivers in the area at this time were full of fish, trout, salmon and salmon - trout, as the latter were to be found near the mouths of the rivers. Fishing was preserved by ”The Major” or by business consortiums from Wexford town, but that didn’t deter some lads, including The Master’s sons, from poaching. They were so successful at this that they were never caught. After some years The Major contacted The Master and said he knew that his sons were the main culprits and offered to give them the shooting rights of the last two miles of the main river, provided they would only use a point 22 rifle and promise not to use any other method. He thought of course they would never manage to conquer the difficulty of judging the angle of deflection of the bullet as it struck the water. The Master put it to his sons who agreed to do as suggested. “The Major” however didn’t appreciate that two of these boys were crack shots and it was only a matter of a little practice until they became very proficient and were able to provide a liberal supply of fish for the table and for some of their friends.
However, with a regular supply of fish assured, they started to poach on the shooting areas, which were preserved by the same groups as the fishing. These areas were three large ponds, not quite big enough to be called lakes, surrounded by high reeds, and they were a real Mecca for the twilight flight of wild ducks. The brothers constructed a raft, which they polled into position to hide in the reeds and wait for the flight of the birds to start as they came back in to land on the ponds. Being crack shots they invariably shot several birds, which were then retrieved by their dogs. Nobody ever suspected that they would retreat through the water on the raft so they were never caught. Shooting of pheasants was encouraged by all the farmers so they were given a free rein over the countryside, and similarly rabbits were fair game, so the brothers were even able to sell some of their catch to supplement their pocket money.
There were five men of the area who had served in the first would war and two of them had been shell shocked and gassed, and as a consequence had a permanent tremor and suffered from shortness of breath. One of the others was still only in his late thirties in 1030. He was a tall handsome man sought after by all the ladies, though he resisted all advances, not that he didn’t like the fairer sex. In fact he was renowned for being the man who deflowered most of the young girls almost as soon as they reached puberty. In spite of the fact that there was no contraception in those days there were very few pregnancies outside marriage. When any young girl did become pregnant she was quietly sent to one of the town’s convents to be looked after until the child was born. The child was then adopted and the girl returned to her parents. All the neighbours of course thought she was away for a prolonged holiday with relatives. It was firmly believed throughout the country that the youth of Ireland were almost celibate and that pregnancy outside marriage was rare.
Living close to the village there were three prostitutes, a very pretty young looking lady in her mid forties and her two equally pretty daughters of about twenty, who had been on the game since puberty. They lived a mile outside the village, down a laneway near an s-bend commonly called The Devil’s Corner. Anyone passing by at night tended to hurry by, just in case. It was very likely that the girls got plenty of custom as men didn’t tend to marry until their mid thirties.
There was a lovely orchard beside a remote farmhouse and the aging spinster who lived there tended to bring tasty apples to friends whom she met at Mass. One day a youth of fourteen decided he would go to the house and ask for apples. He knocked on the half door several times and getting no reply he went into the kitchen and looked around. He heard a noise coming from a room with an iron grill inset at head height and to satisfy his curiosity he looked in and obviously frightened the inmate, who screamed loudly. It was a man with wild staring eyes, an unkempt beard and long hair. He sprang at the door hammering and shouting and frightened the young man who ran as fast as he could and almost knocked down the spinster who was running to see the cause of the screaming. She stopped the boy and explained that the man was her brother who was insane and had to be locked up. It emerged that he had been insane since his youth and had spent thirty years locked up in that room, cared for by his sister and another brother, both of whom had never married so that they would never have to face what they perceived as the disgrace of having a lunatic as a relative. As a boy he had never gone to school and nobody in the parish knew he even existed. Cases like this were not uncommon in Ireland at that time, a reluctance to admit that a member of the family could be mentally ill, or that it was possible for a family to have a baby outside marriage.
There was another orchard where there wee particularly sweet apples, which attracted many young men to rob them. One moonlight night two of the teacher’s boys were filling a basket from the sweet tree when they heard others talking softly as they neared the orchard. The boys quickly climbed the tree and hid until the others had nearly filled their container and then with a frightening roar they jumped down from the tree. The others fled as quickly as their legs would carry them, very frightened until they had covered several hundred yards. It then dawned on them that their apparitions were human rather than spirits. They returned to the scene but by the time they arrived the boys had disappeared with all the apples. The boys brought some home and hid the remainder in a large container deeply in the hay in a barn, intending to retrieve them at Christmas. When they did so however the rats and mice had got them and almost no trace remained. So much for robbing orchards!
On the other hand crime was practically non-existent, there were no burglaries, doors were not even locked at night, no muggings or assaults, no rapes or sex attacks. At the same time in the institutions like the Christian Brothers and certain convents the most dreadful crimes against children that were in their care were rampant. Sex abuses of every imaginable kind took place by the Christian Brothers and Nuns on children from the age of two or three until the children were old enough to leave their care, these were accompanied by cruelty, beatings and semi-starvation. These children didn’t know to whom to complain, and if they did tell anybody they weren’t believed.
In this way the general public were completely unaware of what was going on and it didn’t come to light until recent years when those who had been abused plucked up courage to speak, and until the fear of speaking out against anyone in holy orders had disappeared. A wealthy family who lived four miles from the village had several thrashing machines and as there were six men in the family they travelled all over the county to thrash corn in the autumn. They had an aging spinster aunt who was rather eccentric, so much so that she refused to live with her relatives and refused help from them. Somehow she managed to procure a very large wine barrel, which she placed on its side on a paved area opposite the church She brought a mattress and all the essentials which she put in the barrel and, then rigged up a pole and canopy as an extension and went to live in the barrel, where she continued to live until she died several years later, apart from one week when she moved into a new house which her relatives built for her, but which she then refused to continue to use even for cooking etc. She had a primus stove for cooking until she got quite old. The house remained empty until after she died. When she got older and infirm the headmistress sent a tray of food for her for dinner every day without fail.

With a small local population marriages were uncommon, but when one took place it was an occasion to remember. The celebrations went on for two full days, with dancing in the house or barn, and barrels of Guinness on tap and lots of whiskey available and food put on at regular intervals. Wakes were to honour the dead and took place for the two days while relatives waited for the funeral. Everyone visited the house where the corpse was laid out, food and alcohol were available all day and there was a general party atmosphere, which seemed to help the relatives.
Hunting was available for the wealthy, the famous Island Hunt met locally for years until the meeting was moved to another village nearer Wexford town, The younger local people could follow the beagles. The hunt got its name from a large Anglo-Irish house in the area. Badger baiting was common with many dogs getting killed or injured and setting of snares for rabbits was also commonplace. Ferreting was also popular and the rabbit population was in that way contained.
Many families kept and trained greyhounds and frequently took them to Enniscorthy town to race them. One of the local dogs held the course record for years.A few farmers bred and broke horses for hunting and one local farmer bred racehorses, which he sold as yearlings and which later often went on to win races. In other parts of the county there were several stud farms and one or two of these became very famous in later years.

Tuberculosis was widespread all over Ireland in the 1920s and 30s and the method of spread wasn’t really known at that time. The disease is spread from droplet infection, but the bacillus can then live in the house in furniture, curtains etc for years. In the village practically every family had lost at least one member from the disease, and at times whole families were wiped out. Sometimes unfortunate sufferers would linger for years and on the other hand others would die within weeks, depending whether they had previous exposure to the disease or not. It became apparent eventually that those who lived in the countryside tended to escape. Many years later all these village houses were demolished and replaced by modern houses and of course inoculation against tuberculosis was introduced and many lives were saved.
Diphtheria was another disease which was fairly widespread and which caused many deaths until immunisation became popular. Pain relief for cancer etc was very inadequate so people died most unpleasant painful deaths, and many doctors were loath to use too much morphine in case patients became addicted to it, as if that mattered at that stage.

The sea wasn’t polluted and fish were plentiful, particularly herring and cod, and consequently there were four fishing fleets between Wexford and Dublin. The river water was pure and salmon and trout were available for many fishermen who came from all over the country to indulge in the sport in the smaller rivers where fishing was not reserved. All these fishing fleets have now disappeared and the river fishing is practically non existent, because of pollution, mostly from Sellafield.

Golf clubs were convenient to all the towns and the game was not confined to the more wealthy people and the most unlikely men were often found to have handicaps of scratch or even plus two. On one occasion two local men, both playing off handicaps of plus two, were playing the final of a major knockout competition over thirty six holes. They attracted a crowd of about two thousand people and the match had to go on to the sixth extra hole before the match was won. The winner was asked afterwards what was the most poignant moment in the match. He thought for a moment and replied “ it had to be on the short fifth extra hole where the audience were all on top of the surrounding hills and the silence was so intense that you could hear the bees fart.”
The summer of 1939 was beautiful and there was a nice group of young people in their late teens and early twenties in and around the village, including the seven children of the headmaster and their friends and a few visitors from England. They played tennis together and spent time on the beach swimming etc and in the evenings went to Courtown to the dancehall and sometimes to parties held in some of the summer houses, getting home at around 2am One of the group was a fine young man of twenty called Pat Dempsey, who was the liveliest of them all, full of life and fun.
World War 2 started on September 3rd 1939 and coal and tea became scarce early on and eventually just not obtainable. Wexford had no turf, so all householders had to cut timber, transport it home and make pieces small enough to fit into the cooking ranges which were mostly still in use. It was very hard work using crosscut saws, wedges and sledgehammers, axes and bushman’s saws. Farmers usually sowed young trees to replace those cut down.
Two hundred and fifty thousand men from the south of Ireland joined the British forces to serve in the war, many of them dying in the battle of the Somme.
A couple of young men from the village, including Pat Dempsey, went to England as soon as war broke out to volunteer for service, and just before the following Christmas the sad news of his death reached his relatives. He was one of the first people to die in the war. It was a sad blow to everybody and brought home the stark reality of war.
During the battle of Britain on a cloudless day the dog fights between the British and German planes could be seen clearly as they looped, scrambled and dodged in the air until one or other of them was shot down. Most of the unfortunate pilots drowned in the early days until a pilot called Mindy Blake was shot down into the Irish sea twice, and survived and managed to persuade the Admiralty that he had worked out mathematically the angle at which the plane should be ditched into the water. Having instructed all pilots on the method many survived from then on.
Many of these pilots were able to get their rubber boats floated and land along the coast. On apprehension they were taken to the headmaster who was in charge of the local defence force. He sent them all to The Curragh army camp where the British were quietly returned to their homeland while the Germans were interred for the duration of the war.
Many Wexford men were already in the Royal Navy and many more joined one or other of the British forces, some of them distinguishing themselves. The most decorated and distinguished of these was a young man called Evans Furlong who was aboard the Glorious when it was torpedoed in the North Sea, early in the war. Forty men survived out of around two thousand, mostly from exposure to cold. He managed to get onto a raft with over forty others from which only he and one other survived.
He was torpedoed again in the Atlantic and was one of around three hundred from a crew of fifteen hundred to survive, after exposure in a small boat for three weeks.
Afterwards he joined the famous aircraft-carrier ‘Illustrious” as chief petty officer and was with it until the end of the war. As a great photographer he was attached to the fleet air arm to take the photographs on flights, spotting enemy ships and land installations. He served through the battle of the Mediterranean where his ship sank so many enemy vessels and again on its escape to Malta after being attacked and damaged and again during the bombing there, when nearly two thousand of the crew were killed. After many more exploits his ship joined the American attack on Iyo Jima and other islands. Eventually he was invited to be the person to take the photos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki before and after the atomic bombing, and also the photos of the Japanese surrender. After the war he joined the Admiralty.

Secondary Education

The majority of children left school at fourteen, but were pretty well educated, with a good knowledge of geography, world history, mathematics and English. There was no illiteracy and these young people could hold their own in any society. Some of them were farmer’s sons and the eldest usually settled down to help run the farm, while the younger ones either went to Dublin to work in a factory or shop, or emigrated to England. The girls who didn’t marry with farmer’s sons went to work in hotels etc in Dublin or England.
Those who went on to secondary education usually went to St Peter’s college in Wexford town but the standard of education there wasn’t great and there were many rumours of cruelty, and later it was known that there had been cases of sex abuse.
Knockbeg Collage in Carlow was the next choice and there the narrator spent his formative years. It was a very tough college with very strict discipline, but fortunately no sex abuse. The narrator was fortunate, or unfortunate, according to how you look at it, to win a scholarship on his entrance examination, which entitled him to free education. He was also very intelligent, so didn’t have any problems with teachers or lessons.
There were approximately 120 pupils with classes of around 20 in each, three preparing for Intermediate exams and three for leaving certificate. Teaching for all subjects was through Gaelic, which made it very difficult for all. From the 6th year boys six were picked as prefects, with the onus of giving notes to anyone making a breach of discipline. These notes had to be signed by the dean of discipline and brought back to the prefect. Each note carried a punishment of three flogs. The teachers were called professors, and they also had the power of giving notes for both discipline and study. The notes had to be signed in the same way. Punishment was carried out after dinner on Sunday by both deans using flexible canes. The dean of studies obviously hated having to slap the boys but did what he thought was his duty, slapping across the hands. The dean of discipline on the other hand took a pleasure inflicting the maximum amount of pain and made sure that he struck the cane over the whole forearm. It was bad enough having three flogs but some unfortunate boys had nine or even twelve. If this dean couldn’t make a boy cry he put his full effort into the remaining strikes and was furious if he failed to get the result he wanted. There were a few boys who were not applying themselves in study and consequently getting plenty of notes, while at the same time they were in frequent breach of discipline. The punishment was so frequent and so severe that they ran away one night by climbing down from the dormitory window with the aid of a large ivy climber. Two of them who hadn’t too far to go got home easily and fortunately their parents didn’t send them back. The parents of the third, a boy called Eddie, sent him back with a letter of apology. The president of the college greeted him by lifting him in the air by his side-locks, and holding him erect for several minutes with the full weight of his body hanging from these pieces of hair. He then handed him over to the dean for even more punishment and the poor boy couldn’t use his arms for days. During the next four months he ran away three more times receiving more punishment each time.
Eventually his parents took him away from the school. On Sunday morning each week all the pupils had to gather in the study hall for what was described as judgments, with the president holding the chair. Each pupil’s name was called out and the boy had to stand up while the president announced his results in class and performance in sport and discipline, and how many notes he had received, and how much punishment he was to receive. Sport was mainly Gaelic football as the president didn’t have any interest in anything else and games were played during Sunday afternoon, with everyone aware of the punishment awaiting him that evening.
There were minor, junior and senior football matches every Saturday and Sunday and no hurling matches. Soccer and rugby were forbidden completely and tennis was only played in May and June. However junior and senior hurling teams were still entered in the provincial and country competitions and they had to take part without any practice. This didn’t give them much chances of winning. When the football teams won any match they got a free day and if they got to the later stages of a competition the whole school got a free day. On the other hand if the hurling teams won anything there was no mention of it, and if they got through a couple of rounds and then lost they would get extra study.
Similarly there was no practice for athletics, and competitors who took part on sport’s day who won races etc never knew whether they were good or even average. One case to bring to attention was that of a young boy of almost seventeen who jumped 21ft 9 ins. in the long jump, winning very easily. He was never told that this was really good and only found out sixteen years later when the university record was broken with a jump of 21ft 10 ins.
Handball was popular and played throughout the year, but tennis was only allowed in late May and June. All fights between the boys had to be settled in the gym with the sports master in charge and he insisted that boxing gloves were worn. He gave lessons to any boy who wanted to learn and in this way some of them became quite useful boxers, which was often useful to them in later life.
Academically the college excelled and results were exceptional. A large proportion of the pupils became priests, but many went on to university in Dublin to become doctors, dentists, accountants etc, and some went into politics.
Food in the college was poor, there was plenty of bread and potatoes, but very little meat and almost no fish, Eggs were served occasionally and vegetables served sparingly, and butter was just enough to cover one piece of bread only. The boys on one occasion went on strike for more butter, showing their displeasure by throwing their scarce butter on to the ceiling or on the clothes of the master controlling the dining room when his back was turned. After three days and a lot of extra study their demands were met with butter supplies being increased threefold. The only dessert served was on Sunday when a good helping of apple pie or similar was served.

Children born out of wedlock, orphans, and sometimes children of large families, whose parents wanted them to get a good education were sent to be educated by The Christian Brothers, a secular order of men who felt they were attracted to a religious life for one reason or other, but at the same time not feeling good enough to become priests. They gave a reasonably good standard of education and some of their graduates went on to university and a good standard of living. However they quickly got the reputation of violence, and tales of most severe punishments became common knowledge. People in authority in government and in the church did nothing to stop this. During these years there was no suspicion of sexual abuse and those who were abused didn’t speak out fearing they wouldn’t be believed, and frightened to say anything against the Catholic Church. These abuses went on for many years all over the country and very much so in Wexford and didn’t come to light until the early 2000s. The suffering sustained by thousands of these boys was almost unbelievable. All kinds of sexual depravity were practiced and most severe punishments inflicted, and even starvation was employed. Similar suffering by girls took place in some institutions with nuns and priests involved.
The State and Church must share the responsibility for non-interference and for their silence, as there is no doubting the fact that they knew what was going on.

University Life in Dublin in the 1930s and 1940s

There were two main universities in the city, Trinity College and University College Dublin, part of the University of Ireland, with Galway and Cork colleges. There was also The College of Surgeons, which dealt only with the study of medicine.
During these years Trinity educated only English students and children of Anglo- Irish parentage, all of whom were Protestant, as Catholics were not allowed to attend.
Protestants were allowed in U.C.D. but of course very few did so. This caused great rivalry between the students with no fraternisation at all, as they frequented different areas, different dancehalls, different hospitals, and different lodgings or digs, as they were known. In this way students from one univ. never met those from the other. Trinity had a campus with facilities for accommodation and most magnificent buildings and was situated in the centre of the city.
UCD on the other hand had very limited accommodation, mostly limited to one large building in Earlsford Terrace, no campus, and their sports ground was in Belfield, on the Wexford road, four miles from the city. There were a couple of hostels for UCD students but the vast majority of them had to find digs. Belfield has now of course seen the growth of a most wonderful campus encompassing all faculties.
First year students reading medicine and dentistry attended classes in the college of science in Dawson St. On the first day of term they assembled in the great hall where the professor gave his introductory lecture. He started with “ladies and gentlemen, you must understand there are around three hundred of you starting this year, fifty percent of you will get through to next year. I suggest that the other fifty percent should start a novena to the Blessed Virgin immediately, perhaps one or two will get through”
As there were only two hostels, students had to stay in digs. A list of suitable accommodation was available but mostly students looked for their own digs. As there were no grants, fees had to be paid and pocket money, laundry money and the cost of digs, all had to be met by the parents, who often had three or four children attending at the same time. This frequently meant that the student didn’t get much pocket money. It wasn’t the custom for them to get part time work, mostly because nobody would employ them. Dublin was a very different city in the 1940s.There was a lot of poverty and very little wealth. Most people struggled to make ends meet, incomes were small and there was very little industry and very few chances of advancement. Education was regarded as being vital for making a success in life and the professions were regarded as being the best way to do it. Every middleclass family strived to get their sons and daughters into university or into holy orders as priests or nuns. Emigration was rampant, and over fifty percent of graduates had to go overseas, simply because they couldn’t become absorbed in Ireland. Farming wasn’t very profitable either and for some time there was an economic war between Ireland and England, with cattle selling for as little as £5--£10 because they couldn’t export to England, and European markets hadn’t yet opened up. In reprisal Ireland wouldn’t buy anything British, including their coal. Laborers and younger sons had to emigrate, mostly to England and America, where they worked in the building business or on the roads or railways.
There were very few cars in the city or for that matter in the country, so traffic in Dublin was light, which meant that parking was easy. One could park directly outside hotels or restaurants, though no students owned cars. They either walked or cycled, as did the majority of employees in the city. There were trams running all over the city, even around St Stephen’s Green and up and down Grafton St, where there was still two-way traffic. This was a wonderful method of transport and it should never have been dismantled. The trams radiated from the middle of O’Connell St where Nelson’s Pillar still stood. The latter was situated opposite the GPO and was blown up and completely dismantled many years later. Dublin Port was reasonably busy, mostly used by vessels exporting Guinness or importing coal. The canals were still used, mostly for the delivery of turf or peat to the city and the typical barges could be seen daily. During the war years and for a few years after, when coal wasn’t available, the turf was soaked in water for days to make it weigh heavier, adding to the problems of all residents who were already finding it difficult to keep warm in the winter. During one particularly cold winter people tore down wooden fences, and broke up wooden furniture to burn in their fires. Gas and electric heating were almost unknown. Students used to go to the cinema every time they could afford it simply to keep warm.
There were slums in several parts of Dublin, the Coombe area probably being the worst. Whole families lived in one room, doing all their cooking, eating and sleeping and even lovemaking. There were several cases reported of women having twenty- four children while still living in one room. When eventually these people were given nice council houses in Crumlin some of them kept their coal in the bathtub, as they had never had a bath in their lives. Slums were also in York St, beside St Stephen’s Green and in Ringsend and in the Liberties, and also in Gardener St near O’Connell St
There were no nightclubs, no gambling clubs or strip clubs, no television, no DVDs, no portable telephones and very little radio. There were no house telephones, so telephoning could only be done by using public telephones, placed conveniently on every street. The main amusement to be had was the cinema or the dancehall. Cinemas were mostly in and around the centre of town and were packed out every evening. Dancehalls were scattered throughout the city, but there were a few very popular ones, the Adelaide in Adelaide Rd, and the Olympic in St George’s St, both packed most nights, particularly on Saturdays. Dancing started at 7.30 and finished at 12.0, midnight, so most young people got to bed reasonably early.
The public houses did a great trade every evening and closed at 11.0. Most young people would have a few drinks before going to the dance. The Pill hadn’t been discovered and sex before marriage was rare, with the vast majority remaining virgin. This meant that youngsters learned restraint and respect for one another and marriages tended to successful, with separation seldom taking place. Divorce was illegal and families tended to be large.
Medical students at the College of Surgeons did their clinics and interns in Mercer’s hospital and in the Meath hospital. Students in Trinity College went to St Patrick Dunn’s hospital. Those in UCD went to St Vincent’s hospital, which was situated at that time at the corner of St Stephen’s Green, or to the Mater hospital in the north side of the city. These latter two were the best and better equipped and they served the majority of the population. The Coombe hospital was regarded as the best maternity hospital, even though it was situated in a bad part of town. The Rotunda and Holles St hospitals were two others.
O’Connell St was a much more upmarket area than it is today, with it’s shops, business clubs and cinemas and the Gresham hotel, which was regarded as one of the best in the British Isles. The Russell hotel in St Stephen’s Green was excellent and quite expensive, but it has been gone for years The Shelbourne was the other expensive hotel, housing the very popular horseshoe bar and two restaurants, which attracted all the businessmen of the city at lunchtime. Other cheaper hotels were the Wicklow and Juries in Wicklow St, and Power’s Royal in Dawson St.
Tourism hadn’t really started to take off, apart from a few American visitors, and the only people using the airport were those Irish people travelling to and from England and America. Consequently the airport was small and underused.
To supplement their income students played cards, mostly poker or auction solo and for the better players this proved very successful. They bargained with those in charge of admissions to the dancehalls. They also succeeded in crashing entry in many different ways, not too worried if they were caught, as they would only be thrown out.
However the vast majority of students were almost penniless.
The army provided one way for students to have a free holiday, in this way. There was a medical corp called the regiment of Pearce and another called the second line medical defence force. If a student joined he had to attend a military barracks once a month for exercises and could go to an army camp for two or three weeks in the summer. There was a special uniform and they had to join in all the routine exercises and assault courses etc. The good thing was that from 4pm they were free to go out until midnight and as the camps were situated in Bettystown and Bundoran there were a lot of activities, dances, pubs etc, which they could frequent.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Mc Donald Family History

I think it might be of interest to the younger generation of the clan to put in writing the interesting episodes of my life and what I know of the family history, and also some details of the earlier life of my lovely wife, Teresa. After we were married of course our lives have been intertwined and we have shared all our experiences, so much so that we only spent about seven nights apart during 58 years together. Before I start on our personal story I will recount what I know of the family history.
The Mc Donald family came originally from a small village in county Wexford, called Kilmyshal, where they can be traced back as far as the 16th century, from church registers and from tombstones in the old cemetery in that village, which cemetery has been closed for almost 150 years, so that most of the tombstones are no longer erect. Before the 16th century there are two possible routes to trace the family further back. The first is that we were possibly descended from a part of the Mc Donald clan of The Isles, who came to Ireland under the leadership of Sorley Boy Mc Donald, as mercenary soldiers to help the O’Neill and the O’Domnaill in their struggle against Queen Elisabeth, at the time when the crown forces fought to take control of the north of Ireland. After the flight of the Earls O’Neill and O’Domnaill, Sorley Boy settled in the glens of Antrim and later was granted an Earldom, and in time some of his descendants drifted south and possibly some might have come to live in Kilmyshal. The second theory is that in fact we are part of the O’Murrchu clan, which can be traced back to the year 200. In the factual history of that clan the chief’s son Domnaill, had a terrible row with his father and declared that he would never call himself O’Murrchu again, and it is known that after leaving the family home he settled with his wife and children somewhere around Kilmyshal. His sons of course would be called Mc Donald, sons of Donald or Domnaill. To my mind it is too much of a coincidence not to be the more likely history!
My great, great grandfather was a farmer in Kilmyshal, having probably been born around 1795, and there are McDonalds living in the village today. My great grandfather came to Bunclody, a small town about four miles from Kilmyshal and had a small shop in Irish street and about seven acres of land at the top of that street. I don’t know how many children he had, but my grandfather was born there around 1855. His name was Patrick and he must have had at least two sisters, as my father had cousins called Coughlan and Caulfield. Patrick married a lady called Mary Wall from Bunclody and they had three children, my father William, his sister Maggie and a younger brother John. Patrick became farm manager and head gardener at the Halldare estate, owned by an Anglo Irish family, the head of which was Lord Halldare. At the same time his wife ran the shop and they cultivated the few acres of land, and she was the person who really brought up the children. Patrick and Mary died within a few years of each other in the mid 1920s.
My father was born in 1884 and was educated in the local school and later attended St Patrick’s teacher training college in Dublin, and shortly after graduation while in an assistant teacher position in a small town in Wexford he met May Furlong from Wexford town and fell in love. She had graduated as a teacher from the only ladies training college in Ireland at the time, in Belfast, after which she had been working also as an assistant in a nearby village. When they decided to get married they were jointly appointed to Kilmuckridge national school as joint head masters, she as head of the girls school and he as head of the boys. A few years afterwards they joined the two schools together and it became a mixed school where they worked until they retired at the age of sixty- five. For their honeymoon they planned to go on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, and before it left Belfast they paid a visit there to arrange reservations, but were horrified to find that there were anti- Catholic graffiti and writings on the docks and even on the ship, which made them change their minds about the voyage, which was just as well, as if they gone we might never have been born. My parents were supplied with a house, which was rather small until my father put on a substantial extension which gave them five bedrooms, a large kitchen with a separate utility area, a good sized dining room and a nice sitting room. There was no running water, no toilet indoors, no lighting either inside or out, a range for cooking which took coal or timber, and no facilities for washing or drying, which meant that all had to be done by hand. However they were glad to have a home and they started to try to have a family immediately, but before I start that saga I will try to fill you in with my mother’s family history.

My mother’s maiden name was Furlong and she was born in number 2 Old Pound Wexford on 24th February 1887, the second youngest of seven children. The Furlongs had first come to Wexford in 1172 with Strongbow and his Norman knights to aid King Dermot Mc Murrough in an internal struggle with another Irish leader. When they were successful in their battles Strongbow married the king’s daughter and settled in Ireland and granted his fellow knights land, and built castles throughout the county. John Furlong was granted lands in south Wexford where he built castles in Horetown, Polehore, Foulkes Mills and other places in the south of the county, where his descendants lived in comparative luxury until 1649 when Cromwell attacked Wexford town. The Furlongs, like all people of old English descent were Catholics and naturally sided with the majority of actual Irish descent in their struggle against Cromwell, and helped to defend the town, and might have succeeded if it hadn’t been for a traitor called James Stafford who admitted Cromwell’s troops to the town. What followed was a massacre, with hundreds of women killed while praying before a cross in the Bullring in the centre of the town, and the local leaders hanged on Wexford Bridge – among them was a John Furlong. The Furlong lands were forfeited and their castles razed to the ground, and the various branches of the family scattered, most of them through the county, but some settling in County Clare. My mother’s family stayed in the town and several generations later around 1865, my grandfather, John Furlong married a lady called Barbara Lawlor and they had seven children. Barbara Lawlor was the daughter of a Barbara Lawlor whose husband was a solicitor in Dublin living in 44a Lower Leeson Street in1800. She was a personal friend of Daniel O’Connell, the famous Irish patriot, and letters he wrote to her still exist in the family. As a strange coincidence I stayed with my sister Rita in a flat in the same house when I was a student in university in 1946.
My grandfather John had a wonderful tenor voice, reputedly as good as that of John McCormack, but he died quite young around 1892, leaving my grandmother to bring up her seven children. She lived in 2 Old Pound and also owned and ran the County Hotel near the Bullring. She managed to give all her family a good education, three of them becoming teachers, one a priest, one a customs and excise officer and the other two girls marrying, one to an RIC officer and the other to a wealthy farmer, but unfortunately dying on delivering her first baby. The priest Michael went to New Zealand becoming parish priest of Davenport, which was a tiny town in his early days, situated across the bay from Auckland. He had the foresight to buy up most of the surrounding land and became extremely wealthy when the small town grew to become a city. During his lifetime he spent six months holiday in Ireland every four years, staying a lot of that time with my mother and promising to leave his millions to the family. However just before he died after a visit by his Bishop he changed his will and left it all to the Church.
In Kilmuckridge my father set about improving the house and grounds, firstly building four big outhouses and two large greenhouses, in which he grew tomatoes and cucumbers and later on grapes. He later built three large tanks, one of them on a height, so that water would flow to the house. All three collected the rainfall from the roofs of the house and school. He then installed a flush toilet and water flow to the house, at the same time as these things were being done in Wexford town. He also sank a septic tank deep in the garden. At the time the Shannon Scheme for generating electricity was getting underway he thought of generating our own electricity from a fast flowing river nearby, but some local farmers objected because it would have put a small increase on their rates. Instead he erected a high windmill in our garden and made his own electric supply, using several car batteries joined together as a generator. This lasted for several years until the windmill blew away in a severe storm. He then installed Calor gas to all rooms, doing all the actual piping work etc alone, and this served the house until the gas became unavailable during the war, when he was forced to rely on oil and petrol lamps. He bought his first motor – car, a Peugeot in 1906, it had no roof, a bench seat, solid tyres and a steering rod rather than a steering wheel. He later took my mother on a tour of Ireland before they had children, doing it’s top speed of ten miles per hour, and with the total population of all the towns they visited running after them to see the horseless carriage. He later had a three-wheeler, a Morgan, and several others before graduating to a model T Ford by the time I arrived on the scene. With the condition of the roads and the type of rubber used in the tyres, punctures were an everyday occurrence, so it was necessary to carry three spare tyres every time he went to town. He often had to replace tyres in spilling rain at night. When he read of Marconi he got interested in sound and actually made the first sound radio in Ireland, making all component parts, including valves, by hand. At the same time a man called Dillon Digby was also experimenting in Dublin, trying to get sound, and Dad and he met frequently. When Dad succeeded he invited this man to hear the sound, and arranged the meeting for a Saturday. Word got around and thousands of people gathered outside our house to hear this sound, which they heard from a large loud - speaker sited at the window. Afterwards Dillon Digby suggested that they should form a partnership to produce radio, but my father said Digby should form the company and that he would be the agent for the south of Ireland, as Digby lived in Dublin while he lived in Wexford. So it was arranged and for some years my father made money as agent, but eventually competition became too successful. The company on the other hand went from strength to strength and became Pye Ireland Ltd.
My father found time to write several short stories, which were published in various magazines, and he also wrote a couple of plays, the best being “The Rose of Tralee”. He painted dozens of Watercolours, none of which have survived, but all were very good. He could play every musical instrument, including the violin, the mandolin, the guitar, the piano and even the musical saw and the harp. At the same time he grew every type of vegetable in his three acres of garden and had almost every type of fruit and looked after the two green houses. He also gave extra tuition to many students, encouraging pupils to become doctors or vets or to study accountancy. Most children leaving his school would have acquired as much knowledge as pupils with A Levels today. He was a wonderful father and was complemented by an equally wonderful wife who was beautiful, highly intelligent, kind and gentle and the best mother that anyone could have, my mother, May. My father died at the age of 79 on 1st Nov1953, while my mother lived to the great age of 93. Of their seven children Rita became a teacher and died at the age of 88, Jack became a doctor and died at the age of 61, Kevin also became a doctor and died at the age of 67, Barbara lived as a wife, and later as a widow and died at the age of 64, Billy became a chartered accountant and eventually became a director of Jefferson Smurfit and Co, and also acted as company secretary. He was a very successful man and died at the age of 83, Eva also became a doctor and lived in Canada where she became chief of Public Health in Toronto, after a very successful life she died at the age of 75.

In our youth in the good days when children could roam the countryside in safety we had the freedom to do so, and as Kilmuckridge was near the sea we spent the whole Summer on the beach where we learned to swim almost before we could walk and where we played football and hurling, and did a little fishing. We all acquired bicycles as we got older, having travelled by donkey and cart when quite small. Our parents played cards as a hobby, the favourite game being Nap, and there was always a game in our house on Sunday evening. On Monday morning there was a rush to the sitting room to find the small pieces of silver on the floor.
Saturday was the day for the weekly trip to Wexford town, leaving the house around 10 o’clock in the morning, always bringing three spare tyres to cope with the inevitable punctures, and arriving home around midnight. My mother would stock up with food supplies for the week and my father would buy what he needed for the car or radio etc and then we would have a big meal with my uncle Jim Furlong and go to the cinema. My day would be spent visiting the various ships in the harbour, as Wexford was a very busy port in those days and there might be as many as twenty ships from all over the world in port at the same time. Unfortunately the harbour became silted over later and large shipping couldn’t dock. There was a pump near the village from which we had to carry two buckets of drinking water every day. We also had a hand pump to fill from the low tanks to the high one to keep water to serve toilets etc, so we boys had to spend twenty minutes every day at this exercise. A travelling library visited the school once each month, so I had plenty of reading matter. There were three local men who had served in the first world -war, and they had returned suffering from shell shock, and I can remember feeling very sorry for them as they suffered so much. Tuberculosis was a scourge of Ireland when I was young and in our village every family lost at least one child, sometimes after years of illness. I remember five of one particular family dying from it, including a friend of mine. As we lived on top of a hill we all escaped thank God. The village consisted of three general stores, two of which had licences for alcohol, two other public houses, a creamery, a post office, two forges, a Catholic church and about thirty houses. It was a busy place serving a wealthy farming area. Farmers brought their milk in large churns to the creamery every morning and returned with their butter and cream. Some of them made their own butter and some killed their own cattle and sheep, so we could buy our meat from them. Two postmen delivered post on foot every day covering an area of four miles in either direction-they didn’t graduate to bicycles for many years. In my early years there were only three or four cars in the area so travel was by pony and trap or by horse and cart, or even donkey and cart. There was a monthly fair at which farmers sold and bought their animals along the roadside and where the bargaining was worth seeing with spitting on and slapping of hands to cement the bargain. These days always ended with a long sojourn to the pub. Men drank in moderation and ladies almost not at all and drunkenness was rare. There was only one man who got absolutely incapacitated every night and was put into his pony and trap with the reins wound around the collar, so that the pony would take him home safely. I can remember wakening up at night listening to the wheels coming slowly up the hill past our house, and quaking with fear, until one bright, moon-lit night I plucked up courage enough to draw the curtains and see for myself that there was no headless coach. I have never been afraid again. Sunday Mass was at 6 am and 10 am and as youngsters we served Mass. One Sunday when I had the early duty I recruited my sisters and brother to play a trick on the people attending the 10 o’clock service. Farmers tied their ponies and traps all down along the hill so, when all was quiet we exchanged their ponies and tackling, which caused the greatest confusion when people were leaving. We watched from the top of a haycock and enjoyed the chaos and were never suspected. After the later Mass anyone who needed attention to teeth gathered at “the half way house” to see the “dentist”- a man with no qualifications, six feet nine inches in height, who did extractions with a special pliers! In the autumn every farmer had a threshing, lasting anything from a half day to three days depending on how much corn needed to be done. The old fashioned threshing machine was used with sheaves of corn being fed in by hand. I often helped at this work. After the bigger threshings there was always a barn dance and a big meal, to which all the young people gathered. The banns for intended weddings were always read from the altar at all Masses for three consecutive Sundays. On one occasion a local girl became pregnant and everyone knew that one of the local blacksmiths, who was single, was the responsible man. The curate priest waited a few weeks for the couple to come forward and when they didn’t do so he announced off the altar that” it has come to my knowledge that a certain young lady is pregnant and we know well who is responsible and I give that man three weeks to have the banns read, and if he hasn’t done so by then I will personally beat him out of the village”. The curate was an ex all- Ireland footballer, a big man of over 6 feet, but the blacksmith was also about the same size, so when the banns weren’t read on the third Sunday everyone in the parish gathered to see the outcome. The curate got a hurling stick and went straight down to the forge where the blacksmith was waiting and immediately set about him, hitting him around the chest and shoulders so that it was impossible for the poor man to defend himself. He had no option but to retreat up the hill where there was a bicycle on which he escaped. He went to the next village where he set up business. He actually married the girl a year later without being coerced! My father told me he drove the car on paraffin oil during the first world - war, having used a little petrol to get the car started. He recalled seeing some of the lovely homes owned by Anglo Irish families being burnt down during “The Troubles”, and of watching the local coast guard station burning to the ground, leaving the staff homeless. He had played cards with the officer and his wife. During the civil war, on his journeys to and from Wexford town he was stopped frequently by people from both sides asking him to drive a group of them to some particular destination. He always did as requested without asking questions and remained absolutely neutral. It wasn’t long after this time that I grew up, and in my youth I saw no evidence of any enmity between local people, though there must have been divisions at the time. The same thing applied to Wexford town where there certainly were great divisions during the fighting.
One Anglo Irish house that was destroyed was Upton House owned by a Colonel Bryan who left and returned to England, where he died soon afterwards. His son, calling himself Major Bryan, as the son of a Colonel, returned to the village a few years later and built on to the gate lodge, making it into what he called a Spa, and until the 2nd war started he brought visitors from England to have his particular treatment, massage, the waters, and sun, which they got from sun beds. He fenced off an area of the beach for nude sunbathing, and as a youth I often spied on the bathing beauties. After the war he reopened the Spa, but this time it wasn’t successful, so eventually he sold the property and land to a local gentleman for quite a small amount of money. His sister had her own plane and was a great friend of Amelia Earhart the famous aviatrix, and both ladies often flew their planes towards Kilmuckridge, landing on a flat field near the house. The major and his sister were friends of the members of the famous Happy Valley group and often spent time in their company, but were not involved in the murder in any way. The world champion tug of war team who won two years in succession, sometime in the early 1900s, came from Kilmuckridge. Their combined weight was something over 2 tons and they were all over 6 feet 6 inches in height. Two of them, the Mangan brothers, were also world champion weight lifters, holding the record for many years. The well - known Island Hunt gathered almost outside our house for years until they moved to meet in Crossabeg. In the 1930s one of the local pubs opened a room to be used as a club where local men met to play cards and to have a drink and listen to the news on the radio. Not many people had radio at that time. My brother Jack thought that he would play a trick on them one Winter’s night when there was a severe storm. He intercepted the news buletin, cutting in to speak himself immediately after the announcer said” This is the 9 o’clock news from the BBC, Bruce Veltbridge reading it”. Jack continued from another room,” Before the news there is one SOS message, there is a ship in distress and sinking off the coast of Wexford near Morriscastle.” Before he could finish or explain that it was a hoax, the room had emptied, as most of the men belonged to the local coastguard. He had continued speaking not knowing that the room was empty, and when he emerged no one was there. The damage was done, several people had gone straight to the beach and started to float the lifeboat, others had alerted my father, who was in charge of the coastguard and local defence and he was on his way to the lady in charge of the post office to get her to telephone the Arklow lifeboat service to liaise with them. Luckily Jack met my father and told him the true story, so they were able to contact Arklow and tell them it was a hoax. They then had to drive down to the beach and supervise the beaching of the boat. All this was in heavy rain, so you can imagine how pleased the local men were, and I don’t have to tell you how annoyed my father was with Jack.
When I was fourteen I was sent to boarding school in Carlow to Knockbeg College, which was an A school, which meant I had to study everything through Irish, including Latin and Greek. It was a very tough school with rigid discipline and severe punishment, but in spite of this I managed to get 10 honours, with almost 100 per cent in each subject. The president of the college was Father Swain, who was a Gaelic football enthusiast who encouraged it and frowned on hurling, which was my game. We were not allowed to practice and were not allowed to play or practice rugby, but were obliged to play football, a game at which I was hopeless. Nevertheless we entered the league games every year. If the football team won a match they got a free day, but we never got one, On the other hand if we lost a match we would get extra study. Athletics were allowed but not encouraged and I managed to win most races at the sports day in my first two years. I started as a hot favourite the following year but was beaten in all but one, by a newcomer who was a year younger than me. I managed to jump 21feet 9 inches in the long jump to get first prize by a distance on my last year, just before I was seventeen. It just shows the poor state of Irish sport at the time- I didn’t even know that was a great jump and that it could have won the University record at the time. This record was established at 22 feet 10 inches six years later. On Sunday mornings the president held what he called “Judgments in the study hall. He took class by class and read out results in studies, in discipline and in sport. Prefects gave notes for breaches of discipline during the week, and these had to be returned signed by the president or dean. There was also a points system for achievement in class and if anyone didn’t achieve the desired figure he would be punished. The punishment was three flogs for each note and three for each lack of achievement. All this was read out at judgments with the pupil standing up, following which he would be told how many flogs he would get. That evening all those to be punished would queue up at the rooms of the deans of studies and discipline and wait for the sentence to be carried out. There was one dean who was really a sadist and seemed to take a delight in administering punishment, making sure that the cane would go right up the arm. On several occasions I watched fellows getting up to nine on each arm by this Father Meagher. The other dean, a Father Powell, almost cried having to administer the punishment.
The food was dreadful and we were all hungry most of the time, the only thing in abundance was bread, which had mostly to be eaten dry because of scarcity of butter. The only good meal we got was on Sundays, but that had to suffice for the week. We went on strike once for more butter, refusing to eat at all until we succeeded.It was a great school academically, getting great results, but from every other point of view it was a dreadful place. I won a scholarship at the entrance examination and got free education so I never told my parents of the harsh treatment, in case they would take me away. However being clever I seldom got any caning except for discipline. Many years later when I was in Cheltenham Races with my wife I saw Father Meagher coming down a stairs towards me with his hand outstretched to shake hands, and I gave me great pleasure to walk on by as if I had never seen him before. When I was seventeen my father suggested that I should sit the matriculation exam which I passed, even though I hadn’t seen the curriculum, and with this I gained admission to university, University College Dublin, or U.C.D, as it was known, which in many ways is one of the finest Medical schools in the world.
My eldest brother Jack studied chemistry for some years but later started Medicine, only two years before me, although he was eight years older than I. My other brothers and older sisters had started on their various careers before I started studying medicine so I was thrown in contact more with Jack than with the others. When I was fourteen my father bought a large bivouac tent, large enough to stand upright in the centre, and Jack and I spent our Summer holidays sleeping in this in a sheltered spot in the sand dunes at the beach, from June to September. We had a large mattress with damp proof underlay, a primus stove to cook on, two point 22 rifles, and a shotgun, so that we could shoot rabbits and pheasants and wild duck when in season. We did a deal with a local farmer to acquire vegetables in return for rabbits and in this way we were almost self sufficient, with the help of supplies from our mother after the weekly trip to Wexford town. We always went home on Sundays to spend the day with the family and to have the traditional family lunch. We became completely bronzed and very fit by mid September, when we had to end our camping. Courtown Harbour was only nine miles away so we cycled there to the dances twice a week, and there were always some visitors staying in local farmhouses during July and August, with plenty of parties being held in the evenings. Shortly after the beginning of the war coal became impossible to obtain and there was no turf available in our part of the country so my father was forced to buy trees from the local farmers and Jack and I had to fell them, split them into lengths with sledgehammers, and then saw and axe them into pieces small enough to fit into the fireplaces and into the range, having first transported them home and packed them into the outhouses. This may sound easy but was terribly hard work which made us really strong, and I attribute the fact that I can still hit a golf drive 235 yards at 83 years of age to the muscles and strength I built up doing timber work. I had a wonderful youth in Kilmuckridge, in a very happy home with lovely parents and loving brother and sisters. I had swimming, shooting, fishing, football and hurling and in short everything a young man could ask for.
In U.C.D. between medicine and dentistry a large number of us started in 1940. I was the youngest ever to start medicine in Ireland up to that date, starting on my actual seventeenth birthday, 3rd September. I remember the professor saying on our first day “ ladies and gentlemen you must remember that at the end of the year 50% of you will fail the exam. I suggest that the other 50% should start a novena to the Blessed Virgin immediately, perhaps one or two of you will get through.” In fact that proved to be true, so the following year we were reduced considerably and many were doing dentistry. That year we started anatomy, a subject which didn’t suit the ladies at all, with most of them fainting as soon as they started dissecting the cadavers, which resulted in most of them giving up thoughts of continuing the study of medicine. Anatomy of the head and neck, and physiology occupied us in our third year, very difficult subjects which weeded out all the weaklings, so that by the beginning of our fourth year our numbers were reduced even more. That year we started clinical work in hospitals, being taught by surgeons and physicians, and learning how to examine patients. Fifty percent attended St Vincent’s Hospital and the other fifty attended the Mater Misericordia at the other side if the city. I was assigned to a very famous surgeon, a Mr Barneville, and an equally famous physician, a Dr Murray Hayden in the Mater Hospital, and from these two eminent gentlemen I learned all my medicine, and considered myself very lucky to have had such wonderful teachers. I studied my Midwifery and Gynaecology in the old Coombe Hospital and saw life in the raw in one of the worst slums you could imagine, but managed to get wonderful experience. That hospital has gone and the slums have disappeared and a new modern hospital has been built in the suburbs. I have been told that the people, having moved to accommodation with bathrooms, didn’t know how to use the baths and for some time instead of bathing they stored their coal in the bath.
I got Diphtheria in the middle of my third year and was obliged to miss the rest of that year, which meant that I had to spend seven years studying, rather than six. I graduated in July 1947 with the MB, B.Ch, BAO degrees, the latter being considered a consultant’s qualification in England, and I got honours in Pathology, Phamachology and Materia Medica, which is really the medical treatment of disease.
In secondary school I had been good at athletics, particularly the long jump, but in U.C.D.I didn’t continue, as there was no encouragement in the early days after registration. I went to Belfield, which was the sports ground in those days, to find no organisation and no attempt being made to start games etc After a month of inactivity I gave up trying and decided to take up boxing as my sport and managed to box light -weight and win 11 out of 12 bouts, being beaten by the Irish youths champion. I also was good at table tennis and managed to beat the Irish champion in one game out of three. I also managed to make a lot of pocket money playing cards, poker and solo, which helped with bridge in later life. The final medical examination was very prolonged in those days and when I graduated in 1947 it was spread over six weeks. Three weeks before the actual exam I was sent by Mr Barneville to get some notes which he required urgently, as he wanted to look at them before starting an operation, from a Dr Freeman who was conducting a clinic in another ward. I interrupted Dr Freeman saying “excuse me sir, Mr Barneville needs the notes for Mr x urgently as he is waiting to start an operation” He said “you have a confounded cheek interrupting me in the middle of my clinic, so just wait until I am finished”. I said “but it is urgent sir” He ignored me completely, and immediately he finished the clinic he dashed off down the corridor. I followed and passed him out and said, “you have forgotten the notes sir” Without further ado he pushed me against the wall, and being a very big man it was with considerable force, and said” what is your name young man.” When I told him, he said he would remember it when I came in front of him in my final in three weeks time. In fact I was examined by him and two externs in one medical oral exam and was asked every conceivable question by him for almost two hours. Eventually one of the externs said, “I think Dr Freeman you have asked every possible question of this young man and we think you should let him go”. He had done everything he could to fail me and I awaited the results with trepidation not knowing if he had succeeded. Life in Dublin as a student in 1940-1947 was very different from life there today. Most students stayed in lodgings or digs as we called them, at a cost of around £1.5 per week to include all meals. There were no grants, so parents had to pay fees, digs, and supply pocket money. It was impossible for students to get part-time or holiday employment, so most of them were very impoverished. The main way to enjoy oneself was to go to the cinema, which cost one shilling, the equivalent of 10p today, or to attend a dance at one of the dozens of dance halls scattered through the city. Dances started at 7pm and finished at 12 mid-night, costing 1-2 shillings. There were no discos and no nightclubs. The average pocket money was between 10s and £1 per week and in those days everybody smoked, which cost 3.5s per week. The routine for the average student was to go out on Thurs and Saturday evenings to have a drink and to crash a dancehall around 10 pm. Crashing meant getting in through a window or slipping in unnoticed when one of the group would distract the doorman. If it became impossible we could then try to bargain, but usually we were successful. Everybody had a bicycle, so there were hundreds of cyclists on the roads. The old trams served almost all parts of the city, and there were still hansom cabs available. There was also some transportation by horse drawn vehicles, particularly Guinness owned. There was no central heating in houses, which therefore had to be heated by turf fires. Landladies didn’t take kindly to supplying too much turf, and unscrupulous dealers watered the turf well to make it weigh heavier. There was no coal available as the war was on. There was one very severe Winter during which poor people had to break up everything made of wood to burn it to keep warm. There were far more cinemas than there are today and there were always queues for admission and there was usually a short supporting stage show. At one such show in the Capital Theatre a hypnotist from England asked for volunteers for his act and had eventually got six people on stage. He had four of them hypnotised, one imagining that he had a lepracaun resting on his arm, another imagining that she was holding a baby in her arms, a third trying to correct a naughty child, and the fourth cleaning a dirty surface. At that stage there was a sudden cry of “fire, fire” and immediate panic with everybody rushing for exits, including the hypnotist and those hypnotised and all mixing with the crowds. The Guards got the scene under control and dispersed the people and those still in a trance went home. Their relatives of course knew nothing of the cause and thought that they had gone mad and soon afterwards sought the advice of the medical profession. Hypnosis wasn’t suspected for almost a week and then it was found the hypnotist had returned to England. Local experts didn’t succeed and it took a further week to trace the man in England and get him back and to take those involved out of their trance. I don’t think they ever had a similar show. I joined the Second Line Medical Defence Corp in 1943 mainly to get to the annual camp at Grangegorman to where I went in July with my friend Jim Friel. It was fun though we had plenty of marches and assault courses. We were allowed out to town three evenings per week to be back by midnight, so on the other evenings we had to steal out through a Commando camp. All went well until one night when returning around 2am one of our lads tripped over a guy rope and brought down one of the Commando tents. We ran of course, but the Commandos knew that one of our group was responsible, so they waited to try to get their revenge. The opportunity arose a few nights later when Jim and I were having a quiet drink in a local pub. Six Commandos came in and spotted us and immediately set about us. We were outnumbered and didn’t have a chance and I soon found myself being thrown through a window onto the road and Jim after me. I cut my Medial nerve at my wrist and soon developed a paralysed hand. A local doctor put a few stitches in the wrist but didn’t diagnose the nerve severance, and although I attended the Army doctor during the remaining four days of our camp he didn’t diagnose it either. However the Commanding officer got me to sign a statement that I was satisfied with the medical attention I had received. I attended the surgeon at St Vincent’s Hospital a week later, but it was too late to suture the nerve endings by then. This meant that I had to have extended physiotherapy for months which resulted in recovery, except that ever since I have had mixed sensation in my fingers. If I get an injury to one I get pain in the other, and I have a residual semi- numbness in my index finger. As a result I do all my intimate examinations with my left hand, which is now as strong as my right and I have become almost ambidextorous.
I met Teresa in 1944 in June at a dance and managed to persuade her to dance with me three times, much to the disgust of the young man she was with. I met her again in the following October, this time without a partner and we started to meet almost every day after that, attending all the dances and cinemas in town and spending most of the fine Summer, in my spare time, in Killiney on the wonderful hill with the beautiful view of Dublin bay. We became unofficially engaged the following year, without a ring, as I couldn’t afford to buy one. Teresa helped me with my studies, asking relevant questions and patiently sitting quietly while I read medical books.
I made some very good friends during my time in Dublin and have remained in touch with some of them, but as Ireland couldn’t absorb all her graduates it was inevitable that we would become scattered through the world. For me to consider staying in Ireland after graduation in 1947 would have meant staying in hospitals for at least eight years working for a pittance. As Teresa and I wanted to get married I couldn’t do this so I decided to go to England and get into general practice, but I had to earn some money first to pay my way. I couldn’t ask my father for more support, as he had been wonderful to finance me, and six others of the family, through university, paying all fees, lodgings and pocket money, without any grants or help of any kind. There were six of us in University together at one stage! My parents and Teresa attended my graduation and joined in the celebrations. I took a summer holiday, most of it with Teresa, and then did a locum in the midlands and earned enough money to pay my way until I got a job in England, which happened on the 1st November, on which date Teresa and I said a sad farewell to one another, and I took the boat to Liverpool en route for Rotherham in Yorkshire, listening to the band on the boat play “Now is the hour for us to say goodbye” all through the journey.
Rotherham was a dreadful city in those days, with coal mining all around and coal dust constantly in the air, and to make things worse there were dozens of steel chimneys belching smoke to mingle with that dust. It was a most unhealthy atmosphere and a large proportion of the population suffered from chest diseases of one kind or other. Poverty was evident in the majority of the population but in spite of that people were generous, kind and hard working. They tried to escape from the depressing atmosphere at the weekend by spending every penny they had on beer and getting very drunk, so that on Saturday night one would find people drunk and sick all over the streets, and almost without fail I would be called out to a suicide during the night. This meant I had to attend the coroner’s court weekly, in eight months totalling more than I did during the rest of my life in practice. I missed Teresa so much that before Christmas I asked her if she would marry me immediately, although we had no money and no home. She agreed without hesitation and we got married from my brother’s house in Mossley, near Manchester, on the 28th January 1948. Kevin was in practice there and he and his wife Mary put on the reception for us with most of the family present. We had just enough money for a week’s honeymoon in St Anne’s on Sea and returned to Rotherham with exactly £5 left between us, with four weeks to go before I got paid again. There was snow and frost on the ground in Yorkshire that Winter from November until April so I had chains on the wheels of the car, and even with that I slipped and slid down the side streets, struggling to see the dozens of patients who needed attention every day. I found that I was quite a good diagnostician, and over the coming years I came to the conclusion that UCD graduates were better qualified than those of English Medical schools. There were a few things lacking however, experience in giving anaesthetics, doing actual post mortems, and the art of writing actual prescriptions. These were minor things if you like, but essential just the same. I learned two of these from an old dispenser in Rotherham, but never learned how to do a post mortem. I was once instructed to perform one in Ireland but fortunately the Coroner changed his mind before I had to do so.
On 31st May I was offered a partnership to join the father and son who owned the practice. The old father did no work but drew his share of profits, and the son was a cheat, who put fictitious patients on his visiting list every day and also several pubs, where he consumed quite a lot of alcohol, so that he was almost incapable of doing any work in the evening surgery. Consequently I was doing nearly all the work. As the health service was due I considered taking the offer which would have given me a very large income, thinking of staying a couple of years to get a bit of money together and then to head for America, so I told the senior partners that I would consider their offer and let them know in a couple of days. They were astounded that I needed time to think it over and tried to persuade me to give them an answer there and then, but I insisted that I had to discuss it with my wife. It happened to be Teresa’s birthday so when I got home, before I mentioned the offer, I suggested that we should go down town to buy her a birthday present. Teresa’s immediate response was “I don’t want any present, all I want is to get out of this horrible town as soon as possible”. I didn’t tell her of the offer for weeks and I went straight down and gave a month’s notice of my intention to leave. I applied for twelve partnerships and got offers from all, and finally accepted one in Dagenham in Essex, to join a Jewish doctor, offering a very good income and supplying a beautiful house, and promised to start on the 5th July when the health service was starting. Fortunately we went down to London a week early and visited the Jewish doctor, who astounded me by telling me that he had to give a half of my share to a fellow Jew who was a refugee from Europe. I refused to start of course and the doctor told me that he would sue me. Without hesitation I threatened to counter sue for loss of income for every day I would be out of practice, which of course created a deadlock. All the other practices were filled and employment was impossible with the onset of the health service, so we had no option but to return to Ireland where we decided to have a very badly needed holiday. We spent the rest of July and some of August with my parents in their nice bungalow in Courtown Harbour, to where they had retired, and then we went to Teresa’s parents, on their farm in Offaly. It became necessary to earn money and look for work as August faded so I took a locum in Celbridge, a small town near Dublin, where Teresa and I stayed in lodgings. On the very first evening I got a call to see Lady Carew, a lovely old lady of 100 years of age, who was in reasonably stable health but who insisted that I should see her every morning and night. She seemed to take a great liking to me and spent a lot of time just holding my hand, and she sent me all her wealthy friends as patients during the five weeks I spent there and warned me to charge her and them really well. I didn’t need much persuasion and left the town with more money than I ever had before. Lady Carew cried when I left and tried to persuade me to stay, saying she would set me up in practice and guarantee my success, but I had signed an agreement not to practice within five miles of the town so regretfully I had to leave.
We decided to return to England late in September and stayed with my brother Kevin in Mossley and did two locums near the area while I applied for assistantships, as partnerships were out of the question so soon after the inception of the health service. Eventually I got an offer of an assistantship, definitely without a view of partnership, to start on the 1st November in Ashford Middlesex. I accepted, thinking to stay a year or two and then go to America, not for a moment realising that it would be my practice for the rest of my working life.
I joined a Dr Pickett, an exceptionally nice man of 58 years, in quite a small practice with approximately 2000 patients. We stayed as paying guests with a pleasant family in a very old house, which had seen better days, but found it very dull as we were expected to be in bed by 10 o’clock at night. After a year I said we would have to leave and go to America as there wasn’t enough income, so Dr Pickett offered me a one third share of the practice, which I accepted, and as he sensed that I still wasn’t happy about the income he raised my share to a half a year later. Our first baby, Marion, arrived on the scene on the10th April 1950, a beautiful little girl who took three days and three nights to make it into the world. We didn’t have enough money to celebrate in any way but we didn’t worry, as we were so happy. It became necessary for us to have our own home, so on the strength of the increase in practice share I approached the manager of the Nat West bank in Staines to ask for a 100% loan. On being asked what security we had I replied “myself and the prospects of taking over the practice in due course” Teresa was asked what furniture she would need, to which she replied “I will not need anything except a bed, two chairs and a table” We got the loan and never had to repay any capital, being asked to pay only the interest, which helped us to survive until I built up the practice. On 14th March 1952 another lovely baby, Sheila, was delivered by me, in our own home, 33 Fordbridge Rd., Ashford, and we were now as happy as it was possible to be, even though we had very little money. Marion was so pleased that as soon as she saw Sheila she brought all her toys and deposited them into the cot as presents. In 1954 we joined Ashford Manor golf club and Teresa wasn’t long in becoming quite proficient at the game and during the next ten years she won almost every cup and prize that could be won in that club and in several golf societies. I became reasonably good and won a couple of things but didn’t really conquer the game until much later in life.
In 1952 I was offered three fifths of the practice, and by accepting this I became senior partner. Between 1948 and 1958 I worked really hard and built up the practice to 6500 patients and established rotas and introduced a nurse and secretary and a practice accountant, so when Dr Pickett retired I was ready to expand and modernise. During these years we made two groups of good friends, one through the National University of Ireland Club and the Irish Club, who were all Irish and mostly either doctors or dentists. We joined both clubs and met there every Thurs and Sat and through these clubs we played golf in their outings to most of the courses around London, followed by dinner and consequently had a lot of fun. Our closest friends were the Burbages and Cassidys and Drislanes, but unfortunately all three men died between 1962 and 1970
Our other group of friends were all English, most of whom we met in the 1940s, and these became our closest friends and we have kept a close relationship with these all our lives, but sadly they are all gradually dying off in recent years. Gil and Pam Bengry, and Bob and Mary Deed we met at least once every week to dine or dance, and with them we went to Point to Point race meetings and to Balls, and we enjoyed many holidays with Gil and Pam in Spain, exploring the Costa Blanca and elsewhere, in the early days before Spain became spoiled. Sadly poor Gil passed away in 2004, quite suddenly, fortunately without suffering. We miss him a lot, as I considered him to be my closest friend.
In 1951 a Dr Clem Geraghty came to Ashford with his wife Eithne, and it was with him that I started a rota. We did not become partners but worked as friendly colleagues and through them we met his brother in law Rory Rooney, and his wife Carmel. It was politic to entertain one another and to keep up friendly relations but we never regarded them as real friends, and it transpired that our children felt that they were being bullied by the slightly older offspring of both couples when they were small, but at the time we never realised that fact.
Teresa had two very close friends in Dublin, Mary Gibson, who married Derry Culligan, with whom we kept in contact throughout our lives, and Peggy Monaghan who married Padraig Ferguson, of whom you will hear later.
In 1958 we had a very sad personal loss, our lovely baby son, Mark, died a day after birth on 1st November – that day again- from a cerebral haemorrhage brought on by a difficult delivery. It was terrible experience and it took us a long time to come to terms with it, and it took great courage for Teresa to decide to have another child. Fortunately she found the strength to do so, and Claire was born on 30th January 1962, another lovely girl. We are blessed with three beautiful children, not in any way alike, and all extremely clever and successful and we are very proud of all of them.
In 1960 I made contact with the chief nursing officer and arranged to have two full time district nurses attached to my practice on a trial basis, and this was so successful that they then gave me two attachments of health visitors. This enabled me to start preventive medicine, by starting screening sessions for almost everything, with wonderful results, and at the same time leaving the doctors free to see serious cases only. In this way patients became very satisfied and the practice grew to almost 8000. Finally I had three doctors as junior partners, three health visitors, three district nurses, two practice nurses, a practice manager, two computer trained girls, and four receptionists. We also had the services of two auxiliary nurses and a psychiatric social worker when we needed them. We became fully computerised shortly afterwards, the second in the country, long before either the local hospital or public health. As a result we had a much bigger income, great job satisfaction, and the knowledge that we were giving a great service to our patients. Towards the end of my career we even had the consultants coming to see our patients in our premises, cutting out waiting lists at hospitals. As a result of all this we succeeded in reducing strokes from three per year to one in fifteen years, reducing heart attacks dramatically and also deaths from lung diseases including Bronchitis, Cancer and Emphysema. Screening for Cancers of the breast and cervix also produced early treatment due to early detection of abnormality.
During my career I had over twenty doctors working for me or with me, some of them excellent and some indifferent, and some with personality or health disorders. My final partners, Asu Das and Peter Draper were excellent and I was pleased to leave the practice in their capable hands. It is sad however to see the sorry state of affairs that
The Labour government has made of the health service, including general practice.

Our Homes
In 1958 we bought Birchwood, no 2 Fordbridge Rd Ashford, having to overbid the Post Office who were interested, and getting the opportunity to do so because Dr Pickett had promised me first refusal. Teresa and I had spotted development potential from the first time we saw it and were prepared to borrow to the limit to acquire it, and actually had to take a huge loan on top of what we owed on our previous home, which didn’t sell easily. Having exchanged contracts Mrs Pickett said that while she liked me as a man, she hated to sell her lovely home to an Irishman, and worse still to a Catholic! This was the only time I experienced bigotry of any kind in England. The house was a six bed-roomed home with three reception rooms, set across the corner of the main street on almost two acres with a lovely garden. To lessen my debt I sold off two plots on the residential road for two nice houses and as the income increased I paid off the loan fairly quickly and we enjoyed six happy years before looking for development. There was a separate entrance to the practice rooms, so disturbance to the home was minimal. During these years Teresa was very involved in practice matters and telephone manning, and without her help life would have been much more difficult.
We got the planning permission we wanted without difficulty, but now had to find alternative premises for the practice and fortunately the house which was built on the site I had sold became available and the owner accepted my offer, which was a little above the asking price. It was obligatory to live within two miles of the centre of the practice in those days, so we then looked around every house within a two mile radius to see if we could do the same again, finding twelve with possibilities, and we wrote to all the owners offering to buy. We got one reply from the owner of a lovely house on the river, Beechtree House in Laleham, again with two acres of garden, and once again we had to pay a little over the odds to acquire it. It was a lovely home to live in and we enjoyed eight years there. It was easy to divide up the garden keeping privacy, consequently soon after taking possession I built three houses, two of which I sold off easily, but the third didn’t sell until we extended it to a four bed roomed home, which then sold without delay. At the end of the eight years we applied for planning consent to build eight town houses on the main road and four detached houses on the river, with access from a side road. Having got this permission I sold it all off to a developer and looked for a house in the Wentworth area. We never had any real interest in the river although at one time I though of buying a boat which would serve on the river and yet could be towed to the Mediterranean. Having found exactly what I wanted, a lightweight unsinkable with sleeping facilities for five and easy to tow, I told the family, and was astonished that they all agreed that they would have no interest. That was the end of my boating career!
I put in an offer for six acres of land around and with the manor house, which is now Foxhills, and was in negotiations to buy it when we found Bluebell Wood, a magnificent house on the East course in Wentworth by sheer accident. We went into Chancellors in Virginia Water at five minutes to closing time on a Saturday and were told that there was nothing new on the market, but as we were leaving were told that there was a rumour that Bluebell Wood would be coming for sale soon. The agent then gave us an old brochure showing the house and cottage, and we went immediately to see it from the outside, and immediately fell in love with it. We knocked at the door but got no reply, so next morning Teresa went to see it alone, with my agreement that if the inside of the house was as good as the outside she should agree to buy it immediately. The interior of the house was even better than expected so Teresa agreed to the asking price and shook hands with the vendor, a Mrs Slater. Next day the senior agent in Chancellors tried to say that the price didn’t include the cottage. But we had the old brochure to show that this wasn’t so and Mrs Slater agreed that the house was sold to us and we took possession in April 1972.
It was a most magnificent home with five large bedrooms, three on suite, four large reception rooms and a large kitchen, all set on three and a half acres of beautiful garden rolling down to the golf course. There was an acre under wood bordering on the course with thousands of Daffodils to which I added 2000 myself, the flowering of these was followed by thousands of Bluebells from which the house got its name, and these Bluebells were in turn followed by ferns. All this area was surrounded by Azelias and Rhododendrons, which helped to make it all a wonderful spectacle when in bloom. There was also a formal Rose garden with Yew hedge surround and an ornamental pond stocked with fish. The cottage had it’s own entrance and garden and there were two greenhouses and a large double garage approached from a York stone courtyard through antique iron gates. We were lucky to have a great gardener, Tad Szadorski who had been with us since 1958, but I still had to do a lot of work in the garden myself, to maintain three and a half acres.
Teresa became very active in Wentworth Club and soon became lady captain, the first Irish person to do so, and we were all very proud of her and she continued winning many competitions. As we were both golfers this was our dream house and we had sixteen years there enjoying every moment of it. It was perfect for entertainment and Teresa was famous for her wonderful parties and dinners. In 1973 Marion got married in Ireland where we had the reception and a party down the country for the many people who couldn’t attend the wedding. However in Bluebell Wood we had another wedding party, which coincided with our 25th anniversary, for all our friends. Among the guests were Michael and Kathleen Clancy, whom we had met the year before through Derry Culligan and these two were to become our close friends for many years until unfortunately Michael died from a heart attack. Kathleen remains a close friend as I write. I will enlarge on our friendship later.
To prevent the cottage from deteriorating we rented it out for several years to a very nice American couple Mr and Mrs Helms, closely related to the famous Richard Helms of the CIA.
In 1973 we also bought a fine Georgian house in Dublin, close to Dun Laoghaire and divided it into three flats, two of which we gave to Marion as a wedding present, renting out the third for a couple of years before allowing Marion and her husband John to buy it at a very reduced price. Unfortunately things didn’t work out well for the young couple and they separated, with Marion being left very badly off, while the equity of the house was diverted to John’s mother’s house. Today the house we bought would be worth £3,000000 and should still be in Marion’s possession.
Michael Clancy had a nice holiday home in Lahinch in the west of Ireland in Co Clare and in 1974 we were invited to stay with him for two weeks. We were very impressed with the area and decided to buy a site on the golf course close to Michael’s and with his help we found a builder and I designed a house which was built without problems during the following months. It was a beautiful house with five bedrooms three bathrooms, two large reception rooms and a large kitchen with a golf course directly behind and the championship course immediately in front, with a magnificent view of both. We enjoyed many good holidays there at all seasons of the year often in the company of Michael and Kathleen Clancy and frequently with Tim and Anna McHale, finding the course very challenging because of the wind and rain from the Atlantic, but having to cope with atrocious weather, no matter what time of year we were there. Unfortunately my good friend Michael died in 1985 and a combination of that and the weather persuaded us to sell the house. We made a nice profit and decided to confine ourselves to the continent for holidays in future.

In 1968 we bought a very nice little flat with three bedrooms and a very large living room with a large balcony overlooking the harbour, from which a big fishing fleet operated. It was situated on an isthmus in Ifach with the famous Penon D’Ifach at the end of the isthmus, with the most magnificent view from both sides, of both sea and mountains, and we had a lift bringing us directly down on to the beach. Ifach is a mile and a half away from Calpe in Spain, and in those days the whole area was completely unspoiled, with almost nobody on any of the three beaches. The swimming was wonderful, on one side we could swim into Calpe, a mile there and a mile back, and from the big beach we could swim around the Penon and back, a swim of about four miles. I took all my holidays together in those days and in that way was able to spend six weeks at a time in Spain. Claire had most of her childhood holidays there and she and I swam and snorkled around that Penon every day and often climbed it, not an easy climb of just over 1000 meters. Our good friends Gil and Pam had a flat there, and later they converted an old farmhouse into a lovely villa, so over these years we enjoyed their company and had many very memorable evenings out together. From our balcony we could watch the catch from the boats and select our fish as it appeared and just go down in the lift to bring it up for the grill! Claire and her friend Teresa, who often joined us for holidays, had trips out with the fishermen in the trawlers, and she and I had trips with a young Spaniard in a small trawler, catching plenty of fish, which we then took up into the mountains where we had a barbecue. Gil and I climbed all the foothills of the mountains of the nearby Sierra Bernia, looking for suitable sites to build villas. Eventually we found two lovely sites a hundred yards apart with views over the valley and the sea and with the mountain towering behind. We contacted the developer, an Englishman, who promised to build for us the following year, but unfortunately his wife died later that Autumn, so the development never took place. With Gil and Pam we often visited plots1 and 2, as we called them, by moonlight as we returned from our various restaurants, to admire the view at night. When Claire became eighteen and no longer wanted to spend holidays with us, we decided to sell, and to look for a place on a golf course, and we were fortunate to find a doctor who bought it on first sight. This was in 1978 and we were happy to make a very good profit, which took us to our next project. We loved the place and often visited there over the next fifteen years and saw it develop and gradually become spoiled like most of Spain today. In May 1978 Michael Clancy invited us to stay in the villa, which he had just bought in Villamartin at the lower end of the Costa Blanca. It was on an excellent golf course in a completely unspoiled area, and as we were looking for a place we looked around and found a perfect three bed -roomed apartment on a hill directly on the golf course with a wonderful view. Several of our friends already had or acquired apartments or villas in the area, so that we had great fun and plenty of golf during the next twenty years. Unfortunately poor old Michael didn’t live to enjoy much of it though Kathleen continued to join the group there. Eventually of course like the rest of Spain it became spoiled with excessive building, and golf became almost impossible, and as Marion and Stephen didn’t play golf we asked them if they would like to buy it. They were delighted and enjoyed the place until the area became completely overcrowded and traffic impossible so four years later they were forced to sell.
In 1986 I began to plan for retirement and as our gardener Tad Szadorski had died, leaving me to look after over three acres of garden, we decided to sell Bluebell Wood. We were lucky to find the penthouse apartment in which we live, Richmond House, Sunningdale. We bought it from the plan and were able to arrange our own floor space, and in that way we got large rooms and high vaulted ceilings and a large roof garden. It has been a great success and we have been very happy here.

In 1963 we bought a farm in Co Offaly near Teresa’s parent’s home and her brother Willie agreed to look after it for us and to buy, fatten and sell cattle. A few years later we bought a second farm with the same agreement and continued making some money from cattle until poor Willie developed Malignant Melanoma and died. We sold one farm at a good profit and kept the other as Teresa’s nephew agreed to look after it. We allowed him to run some of his own cattle on it and all went well for about five years. When land prices went very high we decided to sell it and found a ready purchaser, but Teresa’s nephew wasn’t pleased, feeling that he had some right to it himself so he did his best to disrupt the sale, even involving the Land Commission. We were lucky to get the sale through, with significant profit.
During this time I ventured into a partnership with a Dr John O’Sullivan importing cattle into England, and for this purpose we rented land in Norfolk and we both took beautiful country cottages where we spent some very pleasant long weekends and did some shooting. We took seventy- five cattle over first, intending to keep them for three months and then sell them at a big profit and also gain a subsidy on each beast. Unfortunately there was a very bad drought and the grass became very scarce so we tried everything including hay, pea greenery, and later straw, but we had to sell cattle some at a big loss, some breaking even and some at a profit. In the end we made the large sum of twenty pounds in profit after paying expenses. So much for cattle!
In 1973 we explored Sligo,at the invitation of Patrick Ferguson, of whom I have already spoken. Sligo and its surrounds were very beautiful and we were encouraged to invest in the area, and as we were partially independent of medicine, we decided to do so. I found rooms in which to practice medicine and bought a lovely site on a hill overlooking the lake and the mountain, Ben Bulbin, planning to build a villa. I also bought a bakery in partnership with Ferguson, whose wife I had saved from death a few years earlier, and I also paid a deposit on a site, where we intended to build apartments. When we returned to England and sat at the fire one Autumn evening, we both came to the same conclusion, that we didn’t really want to leave our nice home, our practice and all our friends. We sold the sites but kept the bakery for about eight years, as it was a good money- spinner. Towards the end of that period I discovered that two sets of books were being kept and income had dropped to nil, so I decided to sell my share. It was very sad having to suspect a friend and in the end I had to threaten to take him to court, and with our solicitors it was finally agreed that I should get my original investment back plus interest. The lesson to learn is never to go into business with friends and to keep full control of any project oneself. We never saw those erstwhile friends again.

My first experience of the sport of kings was when I was fifteen. When I was returning to boarding school my father stopped to get some petrol and met a friend who was going to Carlow where my school was. This man suggested that I should return to school with him to save my father the journey. As we neared the school he said it was a pity that I would miss the races next day. A little later he said that I should stay the night with his family and go racing with him and that he would leave me into school next evening. This we did, and next day I had my £1 pocket money for the racing and managed to leave the racetrack with £45!
My second experience was with Teresa, when I took her to Fairyhouse, with the large sum of £5 in my pocket, having made it playing poker. We planned to go out for a meal that evening, something that we couldn’t often do, but after all £5 was a lot of money! Having lost a little on the first few races we met the five card trick men with their scam, and being convinced that I could find the elusive queen I lost all my money. I was very disconsolate and walked on, kicking the grass, and found a half a crown and on looking around found seven more, which meant I now had £1. This I put on a horse called National Lad, which won at eight to one. I then put £5 at even money and won again! I finished with a £10 winner at five to one, so went home winning £50!
The next experience of note was in Ashford in Dec the first year we were there. My father sent me two tips, one for Russian hero in the Grand National which was 100 |1 anti post and the other for Fair Judgment which was 25|1 in the Lincoln. I put £5 on each and didn’t know enough to do a double. They both won! My information had been given to a lot of people, so the bookie paid me out, but failed to do so for many people and as a result he went bankrupt. With my winners I bought my first motor- car, an Austin.
During the next six years we visited Ascot races with Marion and Sheila when they were young and went to the Royal meeting on the heath, having seen the Queen and her guests change from their cars into the carriages. On a couple of occasions the Queen patted the girls on their heads and admired their dresses. One day the Queen spoke to the Duke of Edinburgh, and Marion said, “did you hear the Queen saying, did you see Marion’s pretty hair”? We also took them to Goodwood, where we enjoyed picnics before and after the races, and there we met a good friend of the famous Darky Prenderghast, who gave us many good winners. When the children got bigger we became members of Ascot and started to go to the Royal Enclosure for the Royal meeting. We also started to go to the big Cheltenham meeting for the three days, staying at the Queen’s Hotel. We never missed Cheltenham for forty- five consecutive years and actually got a big write up in both the Irish and English papers! We attended Royal Ascot for fifty-one consecutive years until they started to modernise the racecourse and moved the meeting to York! Benny Burbage joined us in Cheltenham for several years, going dancing with us in the evenings and dining in all the good restaurants in the surrounding towns. After Benny died Gil and Pam Bengry and Bobby and Mary Deed came with us and we had many great picnics before the actual races, almost floating into the scene. In 1975 I suggested to Michael Clancy, Derrick Russell and Tim Mc Hale that they should join us at Cheltenham, which they did, staying with us in the Queen’s Hotel. The weather that year was the worst you could imagine, so Michael organised a box in a hospitality tent the following year where we were able to entertain and where we had our own bookie. We did this for several years until Tim Mc Hale got a box overlooking the track for the Allied Irish bank, who employed him as a manager in Bruton St. We were his guests there for the rest of our trips to Cheltenham.
In 1973 Michael Clancy invited us to join him in his box at Ascot and was kind enough to invite us to almost every meeting there until he died. Kathleen continued to entertain us there until the new development took place. Through Michael we met the Russells, the Mc Hales, and the Wogans and we have continued to be friendly ever since. We were at Royal Ascot one very wet day about ten years before we met Michael. I went to the £5 window to place a bet with the Tote, wearing a black coat buttoned up to the neck. As I turned away the girl behind the window said, “ I hope you will be lucky father”. I made the sign of the cross over her and said “God bless you my child” The man leaving the window beside me said “you are one of us then”, and asked me to join him for a coffee. When I did so I had to tell him that I wasn’t a priest and he was very amused. We became very good friends over the next ten years and it transpired that he was a missionary priest travelling all over the country and consequently meeting all the Irish trainers, jockeys and head lads. From them he got information that was invariably good and he passed it on to me, so I got anything from one to four winners every week. I didn’t gamble heavily but managed to win quite a lot of money every year, which paid for many expensive holidays. Unfortunately the priest, Father Cantwell, rang me one day to tell me that he was being made a Canon and that he would have to give good example and not go racing any more. It certainly was great while it lasted.
I had another five years of good information from the famous the official Irish handicapper’s brother, Paddy Byrne, who was a great friend of mine, and who was friendly with the famous Vincent O’Brien. We were lucky enough to get all ten of his winners at Royal Ascot the year he broke the record. We made enough money to more than pay for Sheila’s wedding, which took place that Saturday.
One final source of information was from a private patient of mine, a man who paid large sums of money to head lads for the information, and then gambled heavily on the horse involved. He passed on the name to me when he had his money placed with the bookies, having eight men ranged up to approach the bookies at the same time to get the best odds. We both made a lot of money for two years until the big owners laid traps through the head lads, resulting in big losses. My patient gave up racing altogether.
In 1963 we bought a horse called Kay’s Vulgan, through the famous horse dealer Jack Doyle. We had it trained by Paddy Slater in Ireland and it had its first race in Dundalk, which it won easily, but unfortunately was disqualified for interfering with the next two horses. It was placed last. Soon afterwards we went to the big meeting in Killarney, where we were told that it would certainly win, and that I should gamble enough money to get my purchase price back. I was introduced to a bookie who took us out to dinner the night before the race and who told me that he would give me even money that evening, but that it would start at money -on next day. I took the big bet, having won over the first two days of the meeting, mostly through information from the stable. Next day it rained heavily so we had umbrellas etc., Kay’s Vulgan came over the last fence fifteen lengths ahead and came into the straight near the rail. Someone let up an umbrella, frightening the horse, which turned at right angles allowing the following horse to catch up. They raced in beside one another and we won by a short head! During the next two years we had great fun racing our horse all over Ireland. We had two wins, ten seconds and nine thirds, after which we were advised to sell. Taking everything into account, including information from the stable, we just about broke even. However we had great fun while it lasted.
There is one other story about racing. In Cheltenham on the Thursday in the days before credit cards I was with Teresa in a shop feeling a bit bored and sitting down while Teresa browsed. As I watched a man nearby selected a dress for his wife after a lot of searching and produced his cheque- book to pay. The attendant said she couldn’t possibly accept it, and no matter what the man said she wouldn’t budge. He said he couldn’t go back to Ireland without a present for her and looked so disappointed that I said “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation, and I am prepared to pay the lady for you and you can give me your cheque”. He was very pleased and said “I will return a favour for you and give you the winner of the big race today, Put on a big bet as it will win.” At the track the horse, whose name was The Boll Weavel, was quoted at 33 \ 1 but I managed to get the bookie to give me 50\1 As they came over the last our horse was leading but it made a mistake and slipped and was just beaten. However I had backed it £100 each way, which meant I had won £1250. It just shows you that you can trust some people! For years we went to Kempton Park on Boxing Day until it got overcrowded and the same thing applied to the Derby where we enjoyed many good days, particularly when the children were young.

Teresa and I started golf in 1951 and after learning how to hit a ball we went to Bill Cox for lessons. Having taken Teresa for an hour he said he would have her playing to single figures, and playing for the county within a year. After my hour with him he asked me if there was any other game I was interested in? Teresa went on to win almost every cup and prize in Ashford Manor Golf club, where she also joined the committee. She later joined Wentworth Golf club and became the first Irish person to be Lady Captain – a great honour! She also won many cups and prizes there and also at several golf societies where she was a member.
I remained an average golfer for years, but got my handicap gradually down to 12, winning a few things along the way. After I retired my golf improved immensely and I actually got down to 9 for a while and won several competitions. With Michael Clancy and a group of friends in England we formed a friendly society, calling ourselves The Doves. At the same time our friend Derry Culligan formed a similar society in Ireland, calling themselves The Goats. We had eight on each team and our wives played golf also. We met for competitions for a week each year either in England or Ireland, playing for a shield of a goat’s head, and had great fun, serious golf, but great hospitality and wonderful parties We had a few trips abroad together for golf and again with good fun. Michael Clancy and I, with our wives, had several golf trips to Spain, Portugal, and Ireland where we played in most of the better clubs, and in Portugal we played with the famous Henry Cotton! I qualified once to play in the Smurfit Golf Day in the K Club where I got second prize in the morning, and where my brother, Billy and I got second prize in the foursomes in the afternoon. I also had the honour of playing with the equally famous Bernhard Langer in Moore Park on the day he broke the course record. Michael Clancy made up the team with us and we came second as a team overall.

During our first eight years of marriage we had very little money and were confined to holidays in Ireland, spending two weeks with my parents in Courtown Harbour by the sea and two weeks with Teresa’s parents in Offaly on the farm. We had lovely times and Marion and Sheila enjoyed the farm and animals and the seaside, though having to put up with the very cold water when swimming.
We took them both on our first long holiday abroad in 1962 staying in Zarauz in the Basque region, where I taught them how to swim properly and to surf ride. The following year we returned there, but as the weather was bad, we drove on down to Portugal and continued along the coast, eventually staying in Sesimbra, south of Lisbon, in the days before the bridge over the Tagus. It was a most wonderful holiday and we found the people friendly and hospitable and the most we spent was £7 per day, including two double rooms with balconies, and all food included, with wine for both lunch and dinner. Claire was with us as a baby of 18 months. The following year we returned there and were welcomed by hundreds of people waiting for us on the hillside. They took the girls onto their shoulders and carried them into town. Again we had a wonderful holiday and this time even Claire learned to swim, at two and a half years of age. The following year we drove to Italy over the St Goddard pass, and through the Dolomites, down the Adriatic coast and on to Rome, where we had an audience with the Pope and visited Castel Gondolfo. We even swam in the Pope’s private lake, without his permission of course. We saw all the wonderful sights of Rome and the Vatican and then travelled home along the Mediterranean coast visiting Pisa en route. The next trip was to Majorca where we took a villa in Cala D’Or for six weeks. Claire managed to swim all the way across the bay. I gave my junior partners the same length holidays as I took myself, so I could then take six weeks at a time without causing ill feelings. We spent the holidays over the next four years touring Europe in a caravan, visiting Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Spain and Portugal, so that we managed to see most of the sights of all of these places. One of the most memorable was to take the caravan over the Abatone Pass in Italy, arriving in Abatone at midnight and being lifted shoulder high next morning and taken to the mayor to celebrate the fact that we were the first people to take a caravan over the pass!. It took us all day to descend to Pisa on the other side next day, having to manhandle the van over innumerable sharp hairpin bends.
On another occasion we camped on a supposedly extinct volcano in Sulfatara near Posuoli in Italy. One week after we left it erupted, destroying the site and a lot of the surrounding town. A small island to which we swam every day disappeared completely. One year we had a semi- private audience Pope John Paul 2nd. We were in Lido de Jesolo near Venice the year of the torrential floods, when Florence was damaged so badly. We had to drive at five miles per hour through eighteen inches of water for hours to get out of the flood. I think these trips gave our children a great sense of adventure and made them very independent, as well as giving them a great knowledge of Europe, and the confidence of handling people of all nationalities. We had looked for sites to build a villa in every country, even in Corsica, where we had a holiday with Marion and Claire. After many superb holidays with Sheila and Marion the time came when they wanted to go with their friends. I found a lovely apartment in Ifach near Calpe, with a superb view of the rock of Ifach, over 1000 feet high, and of a big bay on both sides, as it was situated on an isthmus. We had a lift directly down to the beach, wonderful swimming and snorkelling and great meals, mostly of fish, which we picked directly from the trawlers as they came in. At that stage of my life I swam anything from four to six miles per day with Claire, snorkelling right around the rock and back, and also across the bay and into Calpe town. Our friends Gil and Pam joined us on many of these holidays. Marion and John had some of their honeymoon there, and Sheila and Pete and their family spent many memorable holidays there. Marion also spent several short holidays with us there.
Eventually Claire wanted to spread her wings, so we were alone on our main holidays for the first time. As the beach wasn‘t important any more and our interest was golf, we sold the apartment and bought a beautiful three bed-roomed apartment on Villamartin golf course. This was a great success for ten years until it became spoiled by over development and too many people of the wrong type. However we had a great innings there and Sheila and Pete had many great holidays when their children were young. Marion also joined us on several occasions and eventually bought it from us when we found it difficult to get onto the golf course. During these years we had many trips overseas. We went to the Far East in 1970, visiting Hong Kong, where we stayed in the Peninsula Hotel, which is supposed to be the best in the world. We went on to Singapore and from that to Bangkok where we stayed in the Oriental Hotel, one of the best six in the world. This was a trip of a lifetime!
We had a great tour of the Canyon Lands in America where we saw the Grand Canyon, Brice Canyon, Zion Park and Lake Powell. We took a trip in a Chesna plane over the Grand Canyon and on over the Painted Desert and on to Monument Valley, where we met the chief of the Navaho tribe and had a conducted tour. We went white water rafting down a bit of the Colorado, and went boating down the lake. We visited Las Vagas, and also on the same trip we went to Yosimite, where we stayed in the famous Awanee Hotel. This trip was one of the best!
The next trip of consequence was to Egypt with Billy and Peggy. Again this was a trip of a lifetime. We stayed in Cairo and saw the Pyramids and Sphynx and visited the museum. We took a boat trip down the Nile and visited all the major sites, staying in Luxor and Aswan, being very impressed with the tombs and temples, particularly Karnac and Luxor. We took a small plane to Abu Simbal to see the temple there, and from there we flew to Cairo and home. Our next major holiday was over the Rockies, having flown to Calgary where we joined a coach trip, visiting Bamph, Jasper, Kamloops and Whistler and continuing to Vancouver. From there we took a sea- plane around the islands and landed in Victoria to tour the island. We had planned to carry on to Alaska but felt a bit tired so we flew home. We had two trips to Toronto and Niagara Falls, and a couple of trips to New York, on one of which we stayed in the famous Westin Plaza Hotel. We also visited New Orleans, which was very disappointing. We had a couple of memorable trips around Ireland, being very taken with Kerry and Cork, finding the scenery wonderful and the food magnificent.
We had holidays in Corfu and in Crete, which we thoroughly enjoyed, but we had a disappointing trip to Madeira, which we found to be uninteresting, even though we stayed in the famous Reed’s Hotel. The last trip I will mention was to my friend Des Mc Conn’s wedding in Brittany. It was a truly magnificent affair lasting all day. We had twenty- one different courses, each with three different wines, and followed by dancing and late supper. We went on to Paris with Mc Conn and his new wife at their insistence and had a great week, starting a love affair with Paris, which has lasted ever since. We always stopped in Paris for a few days on our various trips. I think I can safely say that I am the only one who has parked a caravan on the Place de la Concord all day without getting a ticket!

I have already given a lot of information about my lovely wife, Teresa. Her maiden name was Colgan and she was born and brought up in Co Offaly, Ireland, where her family were farmers, and where her forebears had farmed for generations. The original Colgan had been King of Leinster in the early fifth century, and had settled in Offaly when defeated in battle. Teresa was educated in The Convent of Mercy, Moate, and later joined the Civil Service in Dublin. She met me a year later and helped with my study of Medicine. After over three years courtship we married and we have shared our lives ever since. She has been a wonderful wife to me, and mother to our three children. She has impeccable taste and dress sense, and has been a great hostess, renowned for her dinners and parties. Her love of antiques has helped with her furnishing of our lovely homes, and she has enjoyed the acquisition of every item. She has excelled at golf, winning many cups and prizes, and she has the honour of having been Lady Captain of the prestigious Wentworth Club, the first Irish person to be selected. She has also been an excellent Bridge player and has enjoyed with me many competitions and trips both at home and abroad. She is kind and gentle and loving and I consider myself lucky to have been able to share my life with her.

Our Children.


Marion was born after a prolonged labour, lasting three days and nights, in the Woking Maternity Hospital. She was a beautiful baby who gave us very little trouble as a child. She went to St Teresa’s Convent for her early school days and later to St Maur’s Convent in Weybridge, firstly as a day- girl and later as a boarder. She became head girl and was the first to lead the girls, to join with the boys, in St George’s College, also in Weybridge. She got first class results in her A- Level exams and got a place in Trinity College Dublin to read English and French. Again she graduated with honours and went on to study for M. A. and H Dip degrees. She met and married John Armstrong, a journalist with the Irish Times, at this stage and soon afterwards produced her first daughter, Katy. The young family went to Oran, where Marion became a lecturer in English, and where she also became expert in Yoga, having learned it from a fellow lecturer. On her return to Ireland she eventually joined the School of Languages and quickly got promotion and soon became second in seniority. She also became one of Ireland’s leading Yoga experts and continued practicing it for years. A few years later she brought her son David into the world, and not long after that Rachel was born. Marital problems led to a separation from John, but despite many difficulties and financial worries she succeeded in bringing her children to adulthood, as well educated, responsible and caring individuals. She lectured in University College Dublin and in Dublin University at various times. Bad health led to a change in career, which resulted in having to become a psychotherapist, so that she could work from home, a job at which she has been extremely successful. After several years she and John divorced. She has now just retired and has found an extremely nice man, Stephen, to share her life. She is a very intelligent person and has a very happy disposition, which has been a great help to her during the many set backs she has endured. Katy married a promising young architect and lives in Dublin. David is working at town and country planning, and after a year’s experience in Dublin, has started working in London. Rachel is studying to be a teacher in London, with the intention to specialise in Dyslexia. She has a fine young boyfriend.


I delivered Sheila myself in our first house, 33 Fordbridge Rd Ashford, after an easy labour. She was another lovely baby, not at all like Marion, but equally beautiful. She was a very happy child and thrived from the start, becoming almost inseparable from Marion during their early years. She also went to St Maur’s Convent, Weybridge, and later to St George’s College, from which she graduated with honours. She went on to study Dentistry in Birmingham, getting a first class degree. After a short break she started in practice in Oatland’s Park, near Weybridge, where she became most successful. She later moved her practice to New Haw, near Woking, and continued her success until her retirement, which was necessary due to postural problems. Sheila met her future husband, Pete, while in Birmingham and married him shortly after graduation, and in due course produced three lovely children, Kerry, and twins, Lisa and Gemma, all of whom have grown into well adjusted, talented and caring individuals. Pete is a chartered accountant and worked in the corporate field for several years. They have recently started a business importing goods from the Far East, and we all wish them every success. Sheila has inherited her mother’s ability at golf, and following in her mother’s footsteps, has also had the distinction of becoming Lady Captain of Wentworth Golf Club. She has an excellent singing voice and has once had the honour of singing a solo in The Albert Hall. She is a very intelligent person and could have been successful at almost anything. Their three daughters are very attractive and we hope to follow their careers with great interest.


Our son Mark was born on 31st Oct 58, but unfortunately died from a cerebral haemorrhage the following day. It was a sad blow to us and it took us a long time to come to terms with our loss.


After the loss of our baby son it took great courage for Teresa to have another baby. Fortunately however she plucked up courage enough to have a Caesearian Section at the Great Northern Hospital in 1962. Our friend John O’ Sullivan operated and presented us with Claire, another lovely girl, again not in any way like her two sisters. From the start she was happy and good- humoured and never gave us a moments trouble. She followed her sisters to St Maur’s and St George’s and went on to study dentistry in Manchester. She practiced this for some years but never really liked it, so she changed careers and went into health care. She was given the opportunity to run BUPA Dental Health Company, but it would have meant moving to live in Bournemouth, which was not acceptable. She then joined Blackwell Health Care and went on to become an account holder. During this time she had met and married David Smyth, a very successful corporate lawyer, working with Barlow, Lyde and Gilbert, one of the biggest firms in London. While living in Teddington she produced her lovely daughter, Anna. Soon afterwards David was offered the post of managing the firm’s office in Hong Kong, a post of great responsibility, so they decided to move out there to live. Having studied Spanish and Italian, and seen Anna through early health problems, she decided to study Psychotherapy and has recently graduated. Claire is a keen sportswoman, promising at golf, and now getting involved in sailing. They have just invested in properties in Wengen, in Switzerland, and apartments in Phucket, near beach and golf. They are an extremely intelligent couple and yet interested in, and good at, sport and it looks as if their daughter Anna, apart from being pretty, will follow in their footsteps in both fields.

We are very fortunate to have three such beautiful and talented daughters and we are very proud of them, and grateful to have had such happiness in helping to form their characters. Our grandchildren are all beautiful and talented and I am very confident of their success. Katy has presented us with a lovely great-grand-daughter, Evie, and we pray to God that we may survive to see our other grandchildren marry and continue to enlarge the family.