From Dar es Salaam to Dublin – an adventurous woman looks back on her life

Family Fortunes: ‘I have memories of African wild life, safaris, paraffin lamps and mosquito nets around my bed’

Wendy Airey (6) with her father Seymour Webb in Tanzania

Wendy Airey (6) with her father Seymour Webb in Tanzania

 

I was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, East Africa to Irish parents who worked in the British Colonial Services. Dad was a District Commissioner in various “stations” in Tanzania.

Initially I was educated by mum through correspondence courses sent from London. I have memories of African wild life, safaris, paraffin lamps, the sound of crickets, and mosquito nets around my bed at night.

During the war, at seven years of age, I was sent to boarding school in Bray on board a troop ship via the Suez Canal. There were walks to Bray promenade before school every morning and frost on the inside of the dormitory windows. We had stews or mince, tapioca or semolina for meals.

The sports field were too bumpy for hockey so we had to play lacrosse. I travelled back to Tanzania by flying boat from Southampton every three years during school holidays to see my parents. Christmas and Easter holidays were spent with my grandparents in Glenageary with my brother, and two cousins whose parents were prisoners of war in Singapore.

I had plans to go to sports college in Limerick, but dad died suddenly in East Africa. Mum returned to Ireland and we both took secretarial jobs in Dublin. I joined Aer Lingus as an air hostess, mostly flying DC3 aircraft. I took “winter leave” from Aer Lingus to fly out to Dar es Salaam to visit friends of my parents. While there I met Richard – airport manager for East African Airways – whose mother came from Limerick. We got married in 1959 in Dar es Salaam and worked in the American embassy. Our first son was born in Ocean Breeze Hospital – the same hospital I was born in.

We decided to make our new home in Dublin and Richard diligently worked his way up the ranks in the laundry business. They were happy days with three children, dogs, cats, hamsters and African Grey parrot. We had holidays in caravans and cruises down the Shannon. There was schools rugby, hockey and cricket matches to support. Life continued on with weddings, grandchildren, retirement and golf. We downsized to a bungalow just around the corner with wheelbarrow loads of our favourite plants to be transported to the new garden. We enjoyed holidays in Holland, Madeira, South Africa and Morocco.

Richard died in Blackrock Hospice. No more tomorrows for us to share but yesterday’s memories will always be there.

Wendy Airey

The fee for this article has been donated to the Alice Leahy Trust for the Homelessaliceleahytrust.ie

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