Beloved Corry thrived af­ter the hor­rors of World War II

Bray People - - NEWS -

IT’S one of the high­lights of the an­nual sum­mer fes­ti­val, but the Bray Air Dis­play held no joy for lo­cal res­i­dent Corry van Emb­den. Every July, as spec­ta­tors gazed sky­wards, the Dutch na­tive would close all her win­dows and doors, pull the blinds and switch on the TV to drown out the sights and sounds of the two-day ex­trav­a­ganza that served only to re­mind her of the ter­rors she’d wit­nessed as a teenager dur­ing World War II.

‘I saw ter­ri­ble things,’ she’d say. Born in the east­ern Nether­lands town of Ni­jmegen in 1924, Corry Janssen’s ear­li­est mem­ory was of a slow thun­der­ing noise that brought her out­side to catch her first glimpse of a mas­sive cigar-shaped ves­sel creep­ing low in the sky above.

‘It was the same zep­pelin that ex­ploded in New Jer­sey in 1937 – the Hin­den­burg,’ she said.

By the time she reached her teens, the deep, fore­bod­ing sound of the zep­pelin gave way to the pierc­ing call of the air raid siren that reg­u­larly sent peo­ple rush­ing for cover be­fore a ter­ri­fy­ing round of bomb­ing be­gan.

She re­mem­bered in par­tic­u­lar the bleak ‘Hunger Win­ter’ 0f 1944-’45, when she worked as a child-min­der with a fam­ily in the town of Epe, near Arn­hem, not long af­ter the in­fa­mous bat­tle that took place there.

‘My em­ploy­ers ran a food-pro­cess­ing f fac­tory,’ she said. ‘Be­fore Christ­mas 1944 they slaugh­tered a pig and we w set up a soup kitchen. We made pork with peas, leeks and cel­ery, cooked it in huge pots in the fac­tory, and handed it out from the porch of the house. The Ger­man army had eaten all the food and peo­ple were starv­ing.

‘ The own­ers hid 30 peo­ple in i their at­tic. Among them was a boy who had walked ten days from his board­ing school in the Hague, and his shoes were worn out. One night a Ger­man made a run for the air raid shel­ter where I was, but he was shot. He lay on the street with his boots on. It was dark. I ran across the road and took his boots off and gave them to the boy.’

Af­ter the Nether­lands was lib­er­ated li in 1945, Corry be­came a so­cial worker with the Dutch rail­way com­pany, and started dat­ing her neigh­bour Bert van Emb­den, one of the first of his gen­er­a­tion to be drafted into the Dutch army. In De­cem­ber 1946 he was sent to In­done­sia where he spent four years serving as an en­gi­neer.

The pair mar­ried in 1951 and lived in a small apart­ment in Schevenin­gen with their first two sons, Bert Jnr and René while Bert Snr worked as a graphic de­signer with the Dutch na­tional air­line KLM. When a head­hunter scout­ing for tal­ent for Aer Lin­gus of­fered him a job in Ire­land, the one ques­tion the cou­ple had was, ‘Can we get a house there?’

They moved to Dublin in 1955 and a third son, Jan, was born in 1959. De­spite not hav- ing a word of English when she first ar­rived on these shores, Corry rose to the chal­lenge with her own inim­itable style. She re­counted tales of go­ing to the butcher’s where she’d moo and point to her back to or­der a piece of steak, or darn an in­vis­i­ble sock to demon­strate the thread she wanted at the fab­ric shop.

Bert worked as a graphic de­signer in Sun Ad­ver­tis­ing and later Arks Ad­ver­tis­ing, where he and his con­tem­po­raries in­clud­ing Piet Sluis, Ger­rit van Gelderen, Jan de Fouw, Guus Me­lai, Ries Hoek, Wim van Velsen, Cor Klaasen, Louis Pi­eterse, Piet Stroethof, Chris Vis and Nick van Vliet, brought their in­flu­ence to bear on the Ir­ish de­sign and ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­tries. For a time, he spent evenings draw­ing weather maps for The Ir­ish Times.

Hav­ing lived in Enniskerry for 10 years, Corry and Bert set­tled in Bray where they cher­ished their friends and neigh­bours. Fol­low­ing his death in 2013, Corry re­flected fondly on hav­ing moved to Ire­land all those years ago.

‘It was a dream come true to be able to raise our chil­dren in a house with a gar­den,’ she said. ‘I thought I was in heaven. It was a long way from war­time Hol­land, where I still re­mem­ber the RAF drop­ping food and the women step­ping over dead bod­ies on the streets to get it.

‘Dutch women had to be fiercely in­de­pen­dent, and af­ter the war, they would rou­tinely ar­range job-shar­ing with friends. Once they worked out the de­tails, they’d bring the plan to their em­ploy­ers and say, “I’ll work morn­ings and she’ll do the after­noons,” or, “I’ll do three days and she’ll do two.”

‘When I came to Ire­land I felt women were treated like sec­ond-class cit­i­zens. With the mar­riage bar in place un­til 1973. Well-ed­u­cated, pro­fes­sional women had to give up work when they mar­ried, they had enor­mous fam­i­lies and didn’t know how much their hus­bands earned. I never un­der­stood that. To­day, Ir­ish women seem to work all the hours god sends and un­less they make a com­mo­tion, they’d be left to do most of the house­work too. Women need to make ar­range­ments with other women to make things hap­pen. Don’t leave it up to the men or the politi­cians. Do it for your­selves.’

Corry died at the age of 93 in the care of Black­rock Hos­pice on Jan­uary 30. She is sur­vived by sons Bert, René and Jan, grand­chil­dren Josie, Rowan, Mieke and Corinne, great-grand­son Os­car, and daugh­ters-in-law Tessa and Ce­line. One of the last things she said to her fam­ily was, ‘I know it’s the end, but I’ve had a great life. I’ve been very lucky.’ We hope she knew that we all felt the same about her. In mem­ory of the late Corry (Cor­nelia Mathilde Janssen) van Emb­den, Oc­to­ber 17 1924 – Jan­uary 30 2018.

The late Corry van Emb­den, above, and on her wed­ding day and as a young woman, left.

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