Ireland’s rail lessons for India


Sir, – I refer to Frank MacGabhann’s review of Conor Mulvagh’s Irish Days, Indian Memories (January 30th), about VV Giri, president of India from 1969 to 1974.

I met Mr Giri, then vice-president, at the St Patrick’s Day receptions I gave at the Irish Embassy in New Delhi in 1967 and 1968. He spoke to me of his years in Ireland, and of his contacts with the labour movement and the circles planning armed rebellion. As a result of these contacts he was “externed” after the Rising. I took this to mean that he had to leave Ireland, but apparently it applied to the UK as a whole.

How did he get back to India in wartime? Did the authorities provide him with passage by putting him in a ship heading that way?

During the Rising, he was struck by how rapidly the authorities (after a slow start) moved troops by rail through Britain to Holyhead and from Kingstown and the Curragh to Dublin.

He resolved to unionise railworkers in India, so that, if it came to a war of independence, army logistics could be disrupted by strikes and/or sabotage. Hence his foundation of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation in 1923. – Yours, etc,