The day I saw deValera being driven through our council estate and nobody believed me
Walking to school along slushy streets; wet-corn flake-likel eaves, slick under foot. It always seemed to be raining; probably because it always was. We had no school uniform but uniformity was everywhere.
Our house was on a council estate and every boy who came from there wore the same dr ab clothes.
Wellington sin winter time, grey short pants, duff le coat sand wool len balaclavas. Balaclavas–I vivid ly remember being lashed across the face by one that had been soaked under theta pin the school playground–blinded and stung, unable to open my numbed eyelids.
Numbness was a familiar feeling. The stocky Christian Brother raised himself on his toes, straining as he positioned the leather strap as far a she could behind his ar ching back.
If you moved you received another las has punishment. Red welts formed immediately; such was the severity of pain there were very few boys who didn’ t cry. All would seek comfort in the cold metal of the school desk.
The school itself was located on affluent St Michael’ s Road, not far from working-class St Michael’s Avenue; socially and were miles apart.
It happened on a Sunday afternoon in them id-1960s; the privet hedge hadn’ t yet grown high enough to obscure the view of the road–the “mainroad” as we called it, between Tipperary and Cashel.
I saw him for a split second. It was the huge black car that I noticed first.
Cars were a rarity then, allowing us to play “goals to goals” from our railings to the ones directly across the road. He looked like any other old man– dark-clothed and serious of face. I knew immediately that he was different. He was de Val era, president of Ireland.
The most exasperating part was that no one believed me .“It couldn’ t be. What would he be doing passing our front gate, and how would you know who he was anyway?” So, that was it. They thought I was too young to re cog ni set he famous man in the backseat.
Everybody was talking about it next day at school.
It seems that “The Long Fellow” was tired and needed to find some place where he could rest awhile. I’ m sure his driver never considered stopping in St Michael’s Avenue.
A class mate, whose dad was a vet, lived a short distance from the town; theirs was a pleasant house –safe and set back from the road. It was there that Dev had his afternoon nap.
I was vindicated.
We would love to receive your family memories, anecdotes, traditions, mishaps and triumphs. Email 400 words and a relevant photograph to familyfortunes @irishtimes.com. A fee will be paid ‘I knew immediately that he was different. He was deValera,...