Fam­ily for­tunes

The day I saw deValera be­ing driven through our coun­cil es­tate and no­body be­lieved me

The Irish Times - - Lifefriday - Mar­tin Nugent

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.

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‘I knew im­me­di­ately that he was dif­fer­ent. He was deValera, Pres­i­dent of Ire­land’

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