DOWN THE YEARS

For­mer Guin­ness em­ployee Kevin Gren­nan has a life long pas­sion for learn­ing

Bray People - - FRONT PAGE -

IN A house packed full of books in Charles­land, Grey­stones, oc­to­ge­nar­ian Kevin Gren­nan proudly dis­plays his re­cently- earned de­gree.

Over the space of around two decades, Kevin amassed cred­its at his leisure from a se­ries of evening cour­ses taught at ‘ Saor Ollscoil na hÉire­ann’ the ‘ Free Univer­sity of Ire­land.’

The learn­ing in­sti­tu­tion was es­tab­lished on Dublin’s Prus­sia Street in the 1980s by a small group of ed­u­ca­tion­al­ists ‘ with the cre­ative vi­sion of a life- long learn­ing process.’ The lec­tur­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors give their ser­vices free of charge in the spirit of ac­cess to a pool of knowl­edge for ev­ery­one.

A Guin­ness lifer, Kevin started work­ing for the fa­mous Dublin brew­ery when he was just 14 and re­mained there un­til he re­tired at the age of 55.

To­day, he is ra­zor­sharp, charm­ing and a man who re­mains in pos­ses­sion of an ex­pan­sive joie de vivre.

A na­tive of Inchicore, he was born in the shadow of Kil­main­ham and came from Guin­ness stock. His fa­ther had worked there, as had sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of his mother’s fam­ily. It was his mother who got him into a shirt and a tie and sent him off to work for a com­pany which en­sured he got an ed­u­ca­tion, as well as a life­long love for the black stuff.

Life even­tu­ally brought him to live in Grey­stones af­ter his late wife Pat passed away around a decade ago. Kevin’s daugh­ter Tina was liv­ing in the north Wick­low area and the fam­ily home in Tem­pleogue was too big for just him­self. ‘ I saw a big spread in the paper pro­mot­ing Charles­land,’ he said, and here he is, set­tled and happy.

From his first job as post boy as a teenager, Kevin’s fi­nal po­si­tion at St. James’ Gate was su­per­vi­sor in the vat house.

In those days a job for the com­pany was ‘ money dead or alive,’ and one stayed for an en­tire ca­reer.

There was a ‘ lun­cheon room’ with a so­cial ecosys­tem all of its own. There were dif­fer­ent times and rooms for the ladies, the brew­ers and the se­nior man­agers, def­i­nitely with ma­te­rial for a book in its in­tri­ca­cies for some­one in the know like Kevin

‘ It was the most en­joy­able life ever,’ said Kevin on 40 years at Guin­ness. ‘ We used to love go­ing in to work.’ The hours could be long and they worked hard, how­ever they had their two pints a day, and formed last­ing friend­ships. They were sent to the ‘ tech’ in the evenings to learn such sub­jects as arith­metic, book­keep­ing, com­merce and Ger­man, and the older work­ers and coun­try­men gave their own ed­u­ca­tion to the younger lads.

‘ I had a love af­fair with Guin­ness,’ said Kevin, who still en­joys a can of the stout in the evenings when watch­ing the tele­vi­sion. ‘ O’Casey called it “the wine of the coun­try.”’

He ex­plained some of the in­ner- work­ings of the vat house, with grav­ity and its part in the brew­ing process, or ad­ven­tures look­ing for a leak or ‘ fol­low­ing a main,’ with a blow­torch and hope.

He first met his wife Pat at the gates of Trin­ity af­ter they were set up on a blind date. They ended up get­ting mar­ried in 1958 and went on to have three chil­dren - Caitri­ona, Mary and Paul. They have four grand­chil­dren, Aoife Dar­ragh, Óran and Kate. Their pho­to­graphs lit­ter the mantle­piece in Kevin’s home and he is deeply proud of all of them.

‘ The first book I ever read was by a man called Richard Hal­libur­ton,’ said Kevin on the roots of his thirst for knowl­edge. ‘ I read it on the banks of the canal and I was 14 or 15.’

Hal­libur­ton had flown a plane from Canada to Greece. He vis­ited Troy and a num­ber of other places, Kevin re­called.

This must have been ‘ The Glo­ri­ous Ad­ven­ture’ in which the ex­plorer fol­lowed the path of Ulysses.

So Kevin later em­barked on his own glo­ri­ous ad­ven­ture of the mind. He ul­ti­mately pub­lished a the­sis on Jim Larkin to earn his BA in Lib­eral Arts. It’s bound and on the book­case along with his daugh­ter Mary’s the­sis.

‘James Larkin 1876 - 1947 Mil­i­tant or Syn­di­cal­ist’ was his cho­sen topic.

He fin­ished it and grad­u­ated last year and spent time on his other pas­sion - trav­el­ling. He went to Aus­tralia and trav­elled back through Thai­land with his part­ner and fel­low- ex­plorer Doreen. They also spend time in Por­tu­gal and love to watch the world go by.

Mean­while, Kevin still loves to learn and his in­ter­est in phi­los­o­phy, his­tory, the clas­sics and more has not waned.

It was said that the more Hal­libur­ton trav­elled, the more he wanted to do so. Kevin’s jour­ney seems to be made of the same stuff and a masters and Phd await at the Saor Ollscoil if Kevin wishes to choose that par­tic­u­lar path.

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