In a Word: Memories

Man walked on the moon and Mayo drew with Galway on this day 50 years ago

“In our part of the world, it was really July 21st, 1969, when Neil Armstrong took that “one small step”, in inglorious black and white.”

“In our part of the world, it was really July 21st, 1969, when Neil Armstrong took that “one small step”, in inglorious black and white.”

 

Today’s the day. So many memories. So little space.

July 20th, 1969, was one of those historic days when most of us alive can truly say of it: “Yes, I remember it well.”

Mayo drew with Galway in the Connacht final and we were there because local Ballaghaderreen club man John Morley was on the Mayo team. Great local clubman Jack O’Donnell drove us there.

He has since died, as has John Morley, a Garda later shot dead along with Garda Henry Byrne in July 1980 when they intercepted armed raiders who had robbed a bank in the town. Who would have thought that on July 20th, 1969?

Besides the drawn Connacht final there was the matter of Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to walk on the moon at 3:56am our time. So, in our part of the world, it was really July 21st, 1969, when he took that “one small step”, in inglorious black and white. (Mayo beat Galway in the replay on August 3rd.)

July 20th, 1989, was a Thursday. I remember it well, there on top of the St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre in Dublin where we opened Ireland’s first independent radio station that morning with Phil Lynott’s Old Town.

I was head of news and we had spent weeks previously setting up the State’s first independent newsroom. Frenetic does not do it justice. The station was Capital Radio, since renamed FM104.

Its opening was the culmination of years of campaigning for independent radio by pirates such as ourselves over previous decades, in my own case since 1983.

The birth was fraught and painful, with blood on the floor, but after a rocky start the sector has thrived despite the recession, particularly all along the west coast from Donegal to Kerry, outside Dublin, but even in the city itself.

July 20th, 2016, is a date I prefer to forget but it won’t go away you know. My brother Pearse died in Sligo hospital on that day after a painful struggle with lung cancer. We were with him there as his breath was taken away, slowly, slowly, slowly. Hard on everyone, our mother, his wife and family in particular.

All so fast too, from diagnosis to death within eight months.

For most of those memories, thank you July 20th.

Memories. Plural of memory, from Latin memoria.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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