A young lad from 1930s Clonroche who grew up to travel the world

Family Fortunes: After my Leaving Cert I left Wexford for London in the 1940s

Clonroche, Co Wexford, in the 1940s. Photograph was taken on a box camera

Clonroche, Co Wexford, in the 1940s. Photograph was taken on a box camera

 

It was a small, very poor, but happy little village called Clonroche, on the main road near Enniscorthy, in which I spent my early years back in the 1930s. There was neither main sewerage nor electricity.

We got the former when Wexford County Council built new houses in 1939 in a field behind our house, sold to them by my father. But “rural electrification” did not reach Clonroche in my time.

My grandfather, born in the Famine years of the mid-19th century, had a farm but my father was no farmer so he sold it off. He made a good living selling things that were very advanced then: battery powered radios (then called “wireless”, a word now back in fashion), bicycles and new-fangled dairy equipment such as milk separators and churns that took the drudgery from the farmers’ wives. He covered a large area with a radius of over 10 miles and to do this he brought the first motor car into the village, a bull-nosed Morris. I have been driving since my feet could reach the pedals.

No income

Unfortunately, the second World War, we called it the “emergency”, cut off his supplies. These had come into Ireland on British ships; we had none of our own then. Suddenly, we had no income; there was literally no work available. So, in common with so many others, he emigrated to London.

After my Leaving Certificate, there was nothing available in the Wexford of the late 1940s, so I joined my dad in London

Fortunately one of his suppliers, a big electrical works in Acton, gave him a good job, because of his knowledge of their products. Most of their supervisory staff had been conscripted, so he was put in charge of a production line that churned out vital equipment for the war effort.

He didn’t know that and had no interest in it, so was amused when, shortly after it ended he was summoned to Buckingham Palace to be awarded a framed certificate to commemorate his contribution to “the War effort”, by a member of the royal family – I think it might have been the present Queen, then Princess Elizabeth. He often laughed at that.

8 mile cycle to school

Meanwhile, I remained back in Clonroche at the village school. About 1945 I went to the Christian Brothers in Enniscorthy. This involved a cycle ride of 8 miles each way in all weathers.

I was always amazed that a young lad from Clonroche, who had not seen Dublin until he was 18, managed to travel the world

After my Leaving Certificate, there was nothing available in the Wexford of the late 1940s, so I joined my dad in London. Because of my interest in travel, I joined Thomas Cook’s travel agency and progressed to Aer Lingus in its London office.

In my 40 years in Aer Lingus I travelled the world: Asia, Africa, America, you name it. I was always amazed that a young lad from Clonroche, who had not seen Dublin until he was 18, managed to travel the world. And loved it.

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