Noel Brady was 24 at time of bombing, and a member of St. John’s ambulance brigade. He participated in the rescue effort in the North Strand after the bombing. His role included treating the injured, and listing the patients being transferred to hospital. He recalls the co-operation on the night between the LDF , LSF, and the Brigade, and also some of the tragic sights that he witnessed. He also recalled how the Brigade were responsible for fitting and disinfecting gas masks during the Emergency in Ireland, and
Olive Murphy was 6 at time of bombing, and speaks about her fright on the night of 31 May 1941. She also recalls the kindness of the Sisters of Charity in assisting many of the victims of the bombing, and the death of a school friend. Olive also shares her memories of the glimmer man, Lugs Brannigan and Alfie Byrne.
Listen to Olive and Noel’s story here:
Duration: 00:45:22 mins
Project Name: North Strand Oral History Project Phase 2
Track Number: 06
Name of the Interviewees: Olive Murphy (OM:) & Noel Brady (NB:)
Name of Interviewer: Marc Redmond (MR:)
Place of Interview: The Lab, Foley Street, Dublin 1
Date of Interview: 13 April 2010
Name of Transcriber: Marc Redmond
Length of Track: 00:45:22
MR: This interview is taking place on 13 April 2010 at the Lab in Foley Street, present are Noel Brady and Olive Murphy, who for the purposes of this interview, will be interviewed, and recount their memories together. The interview is being carried out by Marc Redmond on behalf of Dublin City Archives.
MR: Thanks for coming in Olive, very nice to meet you. Can I ask you about your own personal situation in 1941, what was your date of birth and what was your age at the time?
OM: Well I was born on the 17th June 1934, I was six years of age then, and I lived with my mother and father and my brothers and sisters. I was sleeping downstairs that night. I was restless and mammy and daddy were downstairs and I sneaked in beside them. With this we heard an unmerciful bang, unmerciful bang, and mammy shouts out “Oh God, we’ll be all dead, we’ll be all dead”. I got so excited too, and we all jumped out of bed at the same time, and then I remember I fainted when I got into the hall … conked out, and came around eventually anyway. All the commotion that was in the street, women crying and the kids seemed to be happy that they were enjoying something. They didn’t understand what was happening and they were running up and down breaking the glass worse than what it was, getting a kick out of it.
MR: Did you have any brothers or sisters?
OM: Yes I had three brothers and four sisters.
MR: Can you recall seeing planes?
OM: No we didn’t actually but we heard the whistles. Every time we heard the whistle we knew there was going to be a bomb, and then we heard the explosion. Now we were about five minutes walk away from where it was all happening. The next morning, no a few days later, Mam and Dad brought us out on a walk to see all the damage that was done. I remember seeing a big hole. Where the Memorial Park is now, for the bombed people that were killed in it, there was a big hole from where the bomb must have dropped, and all you could see was parts of the houses in it where it must have nearly swallowed the house up nearly.
NB: That was on the brow of the bridge, the bomb, and there was a phone box there, a yellow phone box, and there wasn’t a bit of glass broken on the phone box.
OM: It’s hard to believe isn’t it?
NB: Well it all depends on where the blast goes, you know? You could be standing beside it.
MR: You said you walked around in the aftermath the next day, can you give us a description of what it was like. Was there a lot of damage?
OM: Oh there was an awful lot of damage done. Light bulbs hanging from the roofs, and clothes hanging, curtains everywhere, it was terrible to see it.
MR: Did you know anybody who had been injured or killed in it?
OM: Yes I did actually. At the corner house there just beside Charleville Mall where the shops started. Roddy’s post office was there, and the girl was in my class in school. All that family were wiped out in it apparently. It took an awful effect of us, I needn’t tell you. Then, we started trying to help our neighbours; they were upset, when we went back to the street. The nuns, the Sisters of Charity, they came helping all the people that were injured. They made soup and all and helped the people an awful lot in the area. They were very good.
MR: Can you remember at the time, was there anything said in school with the other school kids?
OM: I don’t remember no, it was very…we said prayers. Prayers were definitely said for them alright, as far as I remember. No it was, well I don’t know whether the parents wanted to talk about it in front of us, that wouldn’t be natural.
NB: Did you go to Williams Street School?
OM: I did
NB: I did too, for a while (laughs)
OM: Sister Mon…
NB: Sister Monica
OM: Monica, I liked her.
MR: Do you remember the LDF guys or Air Raid Wardens?
OM: We had one man, a Mr. Gooden was his name and he lived about three doors away and he used to make sure that the place was swept right and all, and [he was] very diligent, and that night he came out and marched up and down and had his helmet on him and his arm band. All he kept doing was walking up and down the street but the kids were laughing at him at this stage, like why was he walking up and doing and doing nothing sort of apart from…
NB: Like, their duty was very limited.
OM: It was of course.
NB: Like, it was more or less their job going around for blackouts, seeing everything was blacked out, things like that you know?
OM: It was. Yes I remember shouting, come to think of it now.
NB: But the main warden he was in charge of the whole….
OM: Facility, yes. Come to think of it now I remember we were warned not to have the lights on alright, and keep the place in darkness
MR: And Noel, what’s your own date of birth?
NB: 24th December 1919, I think it is.
MR: You were around 25 at the time?
NB: I think I was around, I’m not sure, I wasn’t married at the time. I wasn’t married until I was 29 (laughs). Lord rest Maura.
MR: Did you remember seeing planes or anything?
NB: Oh yes I…my father and myself seen two planes going across. I was after coming home from the brigade [St. John’s ambulance brigade]. We used to meet on a Friday night, and we were having our supper. It must have been around 12 or after 12. We heard the planes coming over so we went out to the door, and looked up and we seen them pass, and just like when they were over there like, we seen the little flashes, you know? We didn’t figure what it was but we knew then when we heard the bombs, and that and then the whole place lit up red and we could see the sky was red over Leeches Public House. It’s before you come to the bridge, and so we went back in then. In the brigade there wasn’t many phones then. Then there was two other lads in the brigade, a chap named John Flanagan, he lived at the end of the road. John Cunningham lived half way up the road on this side of the road and I lived at the top of the road at the corner of St Ignatius Avenue. John Flanagan was got. Somebody went to him and told him, and he went up to John Cunningham and told him, and he went down … then John Cunningham told me. We didn’t wait on one another, we went on our own.
OM: Phones were very scarce then weren’t they?
NB: Yes. We had a kind of a chain of communication more or less.
OM: What age were you then?
NB: I…I think I was about 24 or 25 I’m not really sure you know.
MR: What was your own situation at home? Were you living with parents, where you married at the time?
NB: Oh no I wasn’t married I was living at home in St Ignatius road, at the top of the road, the corner house. Milroy’s factory was behind it
OM: Oh Milroy’s yes
MR: Was that with your mother and father? Did you have any brothers and sisters?
NB: Yes my mother and father and I had three brothers and two sisters and one of my sisters was making her communion the next morning (laughs)
OM: That’s what I was thinking yes; my neighbour’s girl was making her communion. Did they cancel it I wonder, that’s what I always wondered?
NB: No, ah no they couldn’t cancel it that late, and besides like up where we were, you wouldn’t know anything happened at all.
MR: What do you remember Noel, about the damage?
NB: Well there was damage, rubble and there were bricks everywhere, you know.
MR: And you were involved in the services, is that right?
NB: Yes we were doing the first aid for the city.
MR: St John’s Ambulance?
NB: St John’s Ambulance and the way it was like. We were told that when it started if anything happens that we weren’t to go but stay where we were until we were called, because if you go, now the idea was, that if we were all to go to where the bombing was, and something happened in your own area, you’d be caught out. The next morning, Saturday about two o’clock, we were all relieved; a fresh bunch came in then.
MR: And can either of you remember what your neighbours would have talked about, or the general conversation? Was there any fear that there was going to be another bombing?
NB: No, there was like, as a matter of fact like, down there we were kind of worried would there be another wave. But when you go down there, as I said the only thing I was worried about was, would I get weak from seeing blood? (Laughs). Once you got stuck in you weren’t thinking. The only thing you were thinking was, if there was bleeding, stop it. Get the patients out of the way to hospital, or to the first aid if they were only cuts and bruises, or short things like shock just bring them up to the church. You went to the A&E in the ambulance of course. I was taking off the cap everytime I was going in, and the nun says to me (laughs) “Son” she said to me (laughs) “leave your cap there, don’t be taking it off for me, leave it there or leave it on” but the nuns were very good, they gave us tea and everything.
OM: Oh they were very good but they went through a very good stage of helping. They had the orphanage there, St Agatha’s, they had to move all the orphans from the top bedrooms down to keep them all the in the dormitories because they were all so frightened and they had to comfort them. They played an awful big part in helping all the people that were injured.
MR: And was there any damage to either of your own houses at the time?
NB: No there was none. That was one thing I didn’t have to worry about, I didn’t have to worry about home, because there was no damage there. When you left the North Strand area you wouldn’t know anything had happened.
MR: How about you Olive?
OM: There was glass; everybody got their windows broken.
MR: Slates and that kind of thing?
OM: I don’t remember slates being broken, maybe a few houses probably had alright, but, all I could hear was the glass breaking and you know that…no it was hard to believe.
MR: Were you able to spend the night in your own house?
OM: Oh yes we went back, we couldn’t sleep naturally, but I think the parents were so busy trying to console us “everything is all right, everything is all right”. That helped us so much; the fear went out of us sort of then.
MR: Did you attend any funerals, did either of you attend any funerals for the victims?
OM: We did but I don’t remember; we did alright.
NB: Nobody I knew, none of my relations or neighbours in our area, we were at the beginning of the country when you came out the Strand area, and there was very little talk about it.
OM: The church wasn’t damaged, though that’s the gas thing about it, it came through grand the church did.
MR: Big old building probably.
OM: Yes and it was right beside where the houses were really demolished.
NB: That all depends on the way the blast, when the blast goes up, it goes out, and you could be standing beside it and nothing happen, and you could be miles away and the house would come down on top of you, you know?
OM: That’s true yes and that church was built after the houses, I’d say it was stronger, better foundation probably on it too.
NB: When the bomb went off on the Strand, there was an officer of the brigade lived on Ossory Road, and he was an inspector for the gas company and there was gas escaping there, and he put a light to it.
OM: Oh no
NB: Because when it spread around
OM: That’s what they were up against
NB: It’d cause an explosion. And he caught it when it started, the flames kept coming out, you know?
MR: Up out of the ground? The girl I spoke to this morning [see Alfreda O’Brien interview] I think it was probably her grandfather who did that (laughs)
NB: Frank O’Brien was his name.
MR: That’s his name yes.
NB: He was an officer on my division
MR: Yes I spoke to his granddaughter this morning.
NB: they used to call him “The Galloper” in the gas company.
MR: That’s right, she told me that because he …
NB: and he was called the “Glimmerman” too
NB: Actually I was in the ARP for a year. I joined through the ARP, filled in the forms to do first aid and I was sent down to Croke Park to do a course, and Mr O’Brien, he was the Treasurer of the Division. So after I was about a year in the ARP he talked me into joining the brigade, so I’m in it since then, thank God. He proposed me and another seconded me.
MR: Can you remember what the atmosphere was like in the days and the weeks that followed in terms of … were there more precautions, was there more notice taken of things like blackout curtains, in the weeks after. How was it? Was there much of a difference in the general attitude before and afterward?
NB: In my area it didn’t seem to change. The wardens were going around, and if your light was exposed they’d knock in and say “pull across your curtains, pull down that blind” you know?
MR: Would you remember how people felt about the bombing generally? Obviously it was a complete surprise, were people more afraid generally about the war, whether the war was going to come to Ireland?
NB: No, well I might have been too young to notice at the time. But it didn’t seem like that, but we didn’t do any extra training in the brigade or anything like that. We had done that, like we had to do the course on the gases, phosgene, mustard and luicide and things like that but, I can’t say as a young fellow I seen anything, people could have been worried.
MR: Were you on duty yourself on the night, or were you called out?
NB: I was called out
MR: Called out? So obviously when you saw the bombing did you take it upon yourself to report in somewhere?
NB: No, no I just went back in with my father, and about an hour and a half after, John Cunningham came up in his uniform, his tin hat and all. You see, we were issued with a tin hat and rubber boots and the service gas masks, the same as the army. A haversack and you had it at the alert position at the front. Put the sling over and put the strings to the back and tied it to the front and kept it. You took it out with your hand and pulled it over you. We went up the North, I wasn’t on duty in those days that they went up. I used to sleep in at the weekends in Strand Street. Sixteen of us used to sleep in Strand Street.
MR: That’s down near Jervis Street, isn’t it?
NB: Well it is but it’s just off Capel Street Bridge, it’s the first town on your right coming up from the bridge.
MR: I know it
NB: A big hall there. We haven’t got it now. We’re in Leeson Street now. We were in Strand Street at the time and some of the people that were bombed out in the North were brought down to Strand Street, to help them out, you know?
MR: Olive you mentioned earlier the kids lampooning the guy in the uniform. Was there much of that kind of thing, did the war come into playground games, like playing the Brits and the Germans?
OM: They were so busy enjoying walking on the broken glass, the longer they were walking on it and the more cracked noise, the more they were enjoying it. No I remember there was about ten of them, and I probably did know them, but probably my own brother was there, playing out too but maybe the parents let them, and god love them it was distracting them from the bombing sort of, and they let them be.
NB: Up where I lived you wouldn’t know there had been a bombing at all and it didn’t affect me.
MR: Just generally other things about that time, about the emergency, you were in the services here Noel, did you have any relatives in the forces in England or fighting in the war?
MR: Did you know anybody?
NB: my sister’s husband now, he was in the British army. He was only young fellow too at that time.
MR: How did rationing affect both of your families? There were a lot of things rationed.
OM: Oh an awful lot, and the ration books
MR: And how did it affect things, like if you had any kind of, like a wedding or anything like that in the family, coming up.
OM: Well you’d have to save up our rations, you’d have to sacrifice…
NB: We used to swap coupons. We had a book of coupons, and you could only spend so much. Well, I’d get a lend of some of your coupons to help me out, and when you’d get your next ones then you’d give them back to me. (laughs)
OM: And bread too we used to go up to, my father was a baker in Downes at the time, and he used to insist on us buying our bread in Downes shop. But with the ration book, I was sent up, and my brother was brought up to help me.
MR: So you had individual books for everything?
OM: Oh yes everything, tea, sugar butter, everything.
MR: Clothes were rationed as well were they?
OM: They were, they were yes.
NB: You had to have coupons for clothes.
OM: Yes that’s right
NB: That’s the same, when they’d be buying anything big they’d have to be lending one another coupons. (laughs)
OM: But I don’t think the clothes coupons, we didn’t buy many clothes, you know. Those ones lasted longer than the food coupons.
NB: I don’t remember getting a new suit or anything during that time (laughs)
MR: So a lot of stuff was handed down?
OM: Yes it was only when a communion was coming up
NB: Well I wouldn’t have noticed anything like that.
MR: And I’d heard stories if you knew the shopkeeper, he’d be able to sell you cigarettes from under the counter.
NB: Ah yes a lot of that was done with cigarettes and tea.
OM: Oh the tea that’s right yes. Like that song they sang “Bless them all, bless them all, the long and the short and the tall”
MR: They changed that didn’t they? A man sang it for me this morning [see Ron Black interview] “Bless our kind minister Sean McEntee, for giving us brown bread and a half ounce of tea”
OM: “And they’re starving us all in the Dáil, the army, the navy and all”
MR: Was there much black market activity? with stuff coming down from Northern Ireland?
OM: Oh there was a lot of it, there was an awful lot of it.
NB: We hadn’t got enough money to play with it (laughs)
MR: So you did have a lot of bartering and that kind of thing going on?
NB: It was hard to get tubes for bicycles and tyres.
MR: And other things like the pawnshop was a big feature wasn’t it?
OM: Oh that was very big.
MR: It was a kind of a currency thing?
OM: Yes, yes
MR: Was that kind of commonplace?
OM: Yes it was common.
MR: How did that arrangement work, you brought something down and?
OM: Yes and they’d give you so much, and you’d hold on to your receipt.
NB: You’d go down with your watch and they’d give you three or four pound off it, and they’d give you a ticket for it and they you could redeem it, and if you’d didn’t have enough to redeem you could just pay the interest.
MR: Oh right
OM: My husband was a Guard then and he was stationed in Fitzgibbon Street, and his night duty was with Lugs Brannigan [Note: A legendary Dublin Garda] I don’t know if you know Lugs Brannigan?
MR: I’ve heard of him alright.
OM: He was on duty too, and they were walking up by Summerhill and Lugs says “It’ll be a quiet night tonight, you needn’t have any worries it’ll be very quiet tonight” and my husband says “why?” and Lugs says “It’s raining they’ll all have their suits in the pawn” (laughs)
NB: He was in the brigade too, Lugs Brannigan.
OM: Lugs Brannigan, oh they need him, we could do with another Lugs.
NB: I seen him and I was coming home and I seen him outside the Leinster cinema, and he beaten the tar out of a fella, and then he just bunged him into the back of a car (laughs) you know?
MR: How did things like the blackout affect crime?
NB: You’d have to be in the black market to know.
OM: Robbery wasn’t a big crime then was it?
NB: No like people had more understanding and feeling for one another. Now if we were playing football on the road, and an old person passed coming up, our house as I said was on the road, there was no gardens in front of them, and we’d be playing from one lamppost to the other, the lampposts were the goals, and an old person would come and you’d stop the ball going across, or if there was a blind man around you’d show them across, but now they’d rob them!
MR: Yes, yes back then you’re saying the community would pull together when this happened?
NB: Ah yes
OM: More so definitely
NB: And the children were aware. When we were coming home from doing duty in the car a chap named Harry Lombard, well he’s dead now, and I was in Sinn Féin and there was a céile on in the Sinn Féin place on the square. In the back room there we had a party. They used to have céiles and a cup of tea. We were coming past and there was a kind of a crowd outside with a passage left. A fella came running out through the crowd, and we just went along, but they caught him up the road a bit and they had him up against the railings, and another man wiped his face with a broken bottle. When we came in they just spread out and walked away and said “you can have him now”. But if that happened now, we can’t wear our caps or anything in town now, they’re taken off our heads. Like even those tough fellas walked away “there you can have him now”. They respected our uniform. I went into the céile once coming home from duty in the pictures, and I went in, and I had my uniform on me and one of the fellas said “I’m not playing until Noel takes off his jacket”. Well, Noel would have took off his jacket anyway, doing céile dancing.
OM: Was that in the Galway Arms by any chance?
NB: So he said that we were police informers during 1916. So anyway another fella stood up and said, “If Noel takes off his jacket then he wasn’t going to play” and he said that his father was brought to hospital by us, and your man said, “Then he went to jail”. Then he said “no! they just brought him in left him there and went off”. The other fella was trying to make out that we were police informers. The whole thing that was bugging him was on our badges. A lion unicorn is on the badge, and that’s what was bugging him. Anyway Noel was dancing with his uniform on all night. He was broke bunched, with the heat (laughs)!
MR: What was the general feeling back then? Was there a Pro German feeling, or was there an Anti English feeling? Or was it a bit of both?
NB: Anti English
OM: Oh anti English, yes very much so
NB: Oh yes, the Germans were the favourites.
MR: Did it look like from the early part of the war, did it look like, on the off-chance that the Germans were going to come in here, do you think people would have co-operated with them? Or?
NB: Yes I think so. Like, listening to the talk and everything else. Lord Haw Haw, they all used to listen to Lord Haw Haw, including my father (laughs)
MR: A lot of people mentioned Haw Haw. Would you have remembered anything about him on the radio?
OM: Yes that name … I don’t know much about it though. It came up a lot
NB: He said “The stuttering King and the bandy Queen”
MR: Apparently he used to insult the queen on the radio, in a way that was never heard before, and a lot of people were shocked by that.
NB: Oh yes, he gave them a terrible life. I know because my father used to always listen to it, you know? We always heard Lord Haw Haw.
MR: “Germany calling Germany calling?” on the radio?
NB: “Germany calling” yes.
MR: Are there any other general things, first Olive, that you can remember, just about your family life back then, how Christmas time and birthdays were, if there anything that sticks in your memory?
OM: Well Christmas time, we had no money, daddy was a baker and money was scarce. There was eight children in the family and money was very scarce. If I’m not mistaken daddy used to enjoy going out to Hector Grey’s getting Christmas presents. You know Hector Grey?
NB: Ah yes Hector Grey. He used to be in Forster Place and then he got a shop in Crumlin Supermarket. He had a place there.
OM: Daddy had a last for mending shoes, and he used to go up to Talbot Street. There’s a little street off it, I don’t know if you know it or not? There’s a big supermarket beside it now, and he used to buy all his leather there for mending the shoes on Saturday night, so’s we’d have them right for Sunday. We used to get a kick out of watching him with the tacks in his mouth and the nails.
MR: Hammering the nails in?
OM: “We’ll put the black stuff round the soles Daddy for you”. That was our job. We used to love to put the black imitation polish round it, you know?
NB: My father used to mend all our shoes for us, and cut our hair (laughs)
OM: and cut our hair, that’s right, and daddy being a baker he used to make beautiful bracks, yeast bracks, and he always had a big tin basin, and we had an old black range that he used to get great kick out of, because he’d always put it on the range for the dough to swell with the yeast. Something happened the basin, so he went out a bought a plastic one, a red plastic one. So he had the yeast all ready and we were watching him to see what he’d do. The sense that we had, I don’t know, we knew that if he put that on the range that it was going to melt, but he didn’t seem to think that. And we said “Don’t do it Daddy, don’t put it on”. “You’re codding yourselves” he’d say. We didn’t say anything then, time for it to set and he lifts it up and then “uuugh” the whole bottom: was stuck to the range.
MR: Stuck to the range?
NB: Wasn’t too clever! (laughs)
OM: We got a good laugh out of it though all the same (laughs)
MR: Any other general things about that whole period?
OM: Oh gas meters, gas meters. That was a hobby youngsters had breaking into the gas meters, wasn’t it?
NB: Yes that was a hobby.
OM: It was always somebody you knew that did it (laughs). The mischievous one you know?
NB: Something you heard every day, “Mr So and So’s gas meter was done last night ”
OM: Yes that’s right (laughs)
MR: And I believe you had people going around checking whether you had a radio licence?
OM: Oh that was very common; it’s as good as a television licence now, yes that’s right.
MR: And obviously the same…. did you have any bad experiences with him or the glimmerman?
OM: Oh he went around all right, he definitely went around.
NB: He came to our house I think about twice. He came at a very civil time of the day, when there nothing doing, you know? (laughs)
OM: (laughs) There was a thing they had when the kids were playing skipping “I like coffee, I like tea, I like sitting of the gas man’s knee”, the glimmerman’s knee (laughs) whatever was happening there I don’t know (laughs)
NB: Oh the glimmerman yes…
OM: He was common; he was, very common wasn’t he?
NB: When he came into our house he put his hands over the thing and put powder on it then…
MR: Checking the pipes, checking the ring to see whether it was still warm?
NB: Yes, with the powder, I don’t know what time it would have to be since they were on, but he’d put the powder on, but we never got in any trouble over it. After a while everybody got to know them (laughs) “it’s the glimmerman” and you’d be pouring water over it. Yes, yes, and as soon as he’d go into one house…
MR: The word would go around to say he’s on the prowl?
OM: And strangely enough, they didn’t go around looking for dog licences as much, and there was a lot of dogs then weren’t there?
NB: Yes, yes but they didn’t go after them.
OM: No they didn’t go after dogs that much no.
MR: Just in general, about the night in question. Did you know anybody that had to be moved out, did you know any families who had to be moved out to Cabra? I’d heard people were moved out to Cabra and Finglas.
OM: Yes I believe that all right
NB: That was after the Strand bombing when they were moved to Cabra
MR: And did you know any families that had to be relocated?
OM: Well I didn’t know them that well but my parents would have known them better. There was Jordan’s, the pork shop. They survived it, they jumped out through the front window, they were sleeping overhead. You wouldn’t have known that place in the North Strand?
OM: Jordan’s the butcher? It was nearer the Five Lamps end.
NB: The only butchers I remember there was Fitzpatrick’s, because I was outside waiting for the rescue squad to take your man out. It was Friday night and he went in to suss out the stuff for the Saturday, you know? And of course he left the (freezer) door open, because he had to leave it open, but when the bomb came, he was locked in the fridge, and he was taken out, he just looked like he was asleep. You’d just think he was asleep.
MR: He suffocated in the fridge?
NB: Yes, yes.
MR: Wow! So he must have been in there all night?
OM: ah God love him
NB: Ye see he couldn’t get out, the fridge door caught him. There was nobody in, there was nobody in the house.
MR: Nobody knew he was in there?
NB: Nobody knew, I don’t know whether all his family was injured or not. I’d say they must have been or they would have known he was down there.
MR: Noel on the night in question, there must have been a lot of confusion and that type of thing. What kind of experience was it to be going around? Did you have any idea what you were dealing with?
NB: I thought it was very well handled. There was no rushing, or bustling, or shoving people out of the way. I think the police did a good job there. The police were there and the LDF, the local security force, the LSF, they were the reserve police and then the wardens. No I didn’t see anyone getting lynched for pilfering. I thought it was very well handled. There was no rushing here, or rushing there, and shoving everybody out of the way. Everyone seemed to….
MR: It just kicked in?
NB: You see the thing there was, there was no more bombs coming, because they had cleared the area and there was no more expected. Like, the idea was get the people out, get them fixed up with something. There was no panic, I thought it was … it was first big trick that I was in, you know? (laughs). We had a trailer, a canteen thing, they used to bring around, we got fed from that. I don’t know whether everyone that was down there got a bit I suppose they did, but we had our own thing there.
MR: Can you remember anything Olive about the general panic on the night?
OM: Well we didn’t leave the street, we weren’t allowed leave the street sort of thing.
NB: I’d say there could have been panic outside the area, but in the area where the bombs went off there was definitely no panic, because if there had have been panic, my nerve might have went (laughs).
OM: It was very well drilled.
NB: I thought it was, thinking back, I think it was …
MR: I believe people didn’t like going into the air raid shelters?
OM: Oh they were frightening things.
NB: They were used as toilets.
OM: They were terrible.
MR: Did you have any idea of how the war was going? Did people have any idea of what was happening outside of Ireland?
NB: I thought the Germans were winning hand over fist (laughs) and I was hoping they would. I’m glad they didn’t now because what you seen happened was…we heard all about it but you don’t believe everything that you hear
MR: Yes until you see …
OM: And all the photographs you see on television, it must be reality, it has to be.
NB: But the IRA were definitely behind the Germans.
MR: And do you reckon they were going to try to help them out if they came in?
NB: Oh I’d say they would, I’d say they would. I was in Sinn Fein but I wasn’t in the IRA (laughs). They wanted me to join the ‘army’, as they call it, and I said no. I was in the brigade, saving lives was my trick, not taking them.
OM: Exactly yes
NB: I left it then, I didn’t mind them blowing up the electric stations, taking the men out of the petrol stations and blowing them up, you know? But when they started killing the people, that was uncalled for. They said that the idea was to put England to as much expense as possible. That was alright as long as they weren’t taking lives. I never believed that. I came home one evening to my tea after the war was over, my father was reading the Herald, and he says to me “Look at that” and across the paper was “St. John’s Ambulance to be disbanded” and the Commissioner thought he was going up to get a clap on the back, because we fitted the gas masks and everything during the war. I was on duty in Gardiner Street School, a few nights putting the gas masks, they were in brown boxes. There was only the mask and the thing, there was no bag or anything, only the filter on the front. You had to fit them, and you’d get them to blow, then breathe in, the mask had to be tight to the face when you’d breathe out. So we used to fit them, and then we disinfected them and put them back on the shelf. Anyway the Commissioner went up [Note: Summoned by the Govt Dept], and as it said in the paper it said “St John’s Ambulance to be disbanded”, and he told us we could join the Red Cross, or the Order of Malta. When I joined the brigade there was no Red Cross or Order of Malta, there was only the St. John’s. So our Commissioner went over to England and got an agreement, that we could wear the uniform, and the name, providing we kept the same rules and regulations, but we had to change our whole constitution. We were the St John’s Ambulance Brigade in Ireland when I joined but it was changed to the St John’s Ambulance of Ireland. We only have friendly connections with England. Now, if I was a younger man and I went over to England, I’d be an officer over there too. It’s the same any officers from there who would come over here to live, they’re fitted into some division as an officer too, but we can’t enter their competitions or anything now. We’ve our own rules and regulations.
MR: Do you have any final thoughts Olive?
OM: None that I haven’t mentioned now, I’m just thinking, we were so isolated when this happened because we weren’t allowed leave the road. The parents were so busy keeping an eye on us, and consoling us, you know?
NB: As I said I was on the ambulance crew, there was one Red Cross man down there, only one, and he had an ambulance, so I was orderly for him for a while, and then I was changed, somebody else got the orderly job and I got put up into the church [The church was used as an aid station]. When I was on the ambulance the old Drumcondra Hospital, you know the way you go in that door?, it was one of the emergency ambulances with a canvas back on it, just canvas rolled down, and there was two stretchers. There was no equipment in it. I had the ambulance full, and I’d take their names and write out three lists – one for the hospital, one for myself and one for the brigade. I was sitting in the back of the ambulance and he swung round into the thing, and I fell out of the ambulance (laughs)
NB: On the grass, you know Drumcondra hospital?
OM: Yes, yes.
NB: Because he swung in, and they turned short they’d nearly turn over, and he came out and said “where did you come from?” (laughs). But when I got home later in the evening the people that I had on my list were missing so I had to go back to the hospital with my list and give them another copy of it.
MR: On the night of the bombing itself, were you involved in any rescues, digging people out of rubble?
NB: No, no the rescue crew that done that. They’d take them out of the buildings and everything else. No I was waiting, as I say, for Fitzpatrick to be taken out. Before he was taken out I was moved, and somebody else was put there. Because you could be standing there for hours (laughs) waiting to get him out, because they had to dig in to get him out.
MR: A lot of people buried under rubble?
OM: Would the army have played a big part there in doing that?
NB: The LDF and the army were there but they weren’t doing any work as far as I could see, other than keeping the crowds back and things like that you know.
MR: There would have been a lot of other situations with dangerous buildings as well, that had collapsed?
NB: Yes Alfie Byrne was down there, he was a great aul fella wasn’t he?
OM: He came in the floods too, right [Fairview floods in 1954]
NB: (to MR:) You don’t remember him do you?
MR: Alfie Byrne? Alfie Byrne?
OM: A big scooter. He used to go round with a moustache and a black felt hat.
NB: He used to round on a bike, I think and then he got an auto cycle
OM: He always had a “grush” of money when the kids would come out [when pennies were thrown in the air for the children to collect feverishly]. They’d come out of the woodwork wouldn’t they?
NB: Ah yes. He had the moustache with the handlebars on it. He was a great man though.
OM: Ah he was a good worker definitely.
MR: I suppose the general rescue and clean-up operation must have gone on for days.
NB: Oh yes.
OM: It was cleaned up fairly quickly
NB: All the bodies and all that was cleaned up by the second day.
MR: They would have found anybody that was …
NB: Anybody that was gone to hospital, that was getting treated, it was cleared on the Sunday. There was nothing doing on Sunday only.
MR: There was a public funeral on 6th June, I think. The parts of the North Strand now, where they have the flats there were….
OM: Yes, they were built in the Marian Year those flats, in aid of the bombing. It took a long time to have them done there was great emotion. You know the way when somebody wants something else put there instead. The flats went up anyway.
MR: Generally the North Strand area there, how would you describe it street wise, were there a lot of different shops?
NB: OH there was a lot of different shops there yes.
OM: On the left hand side of it, passed the bridge, there was a lot of houses, ordinary, they weren’t tenement houses, they were good big family houses really, and I’d say now if there were refurbished today, they could look lovely.
NB: Most of the damage done, coming from town, was on the left hand side of the road. Because the bomb hit the brow of the bridge, and there was tram tracks there too, but as I said, the phone box hadn’t a bit of glass broken in it.
OM: On the other side of the bridge nothing went at all, sure it didn’t? That was perfect except for windows breaking.
NB: There was a man blown from the bridge. You know the post office there? there are two gables and a valley in the roof. There was a man’s head blown up there from that bridge. He was blown off the bridge.
MR: Would it have been a busy part of town before the bombing? Was there a lot of hustle and bustle around there?
NB: There was a fair amount of traffic on it.
OM: A fair amount, yes, it was a good little shopping area round there, people didn’t want to go into town.
MR: Little local shops?
OM: Vegetable shops, groceries, post office, and chemist.
NB: It was a busy part, Fairview and the Five Lamps.
OM: That’s right. It got it rough all the same.
NB: The library didn’t get any damage either, that was very near it
OM: Yes it’s hard to believe it, and the church around that area. The convent got all the windows shattered and the fright that the poor orphans got really. The nuns played a very big part in it.
MR: How long would the nuns have kept the orphans there, would they have been there for the weeks afterwards?
OM: Oh no there were permanent there.
MR: They were already living there?
OM: They were already there up to the age of 14 about.
NB: It was already an orphanage.
OM: I had a few in my class. I had two or three orphans in my class. They were kept very well.
MR: Did the nuns take in anybody after the bombing or did they help to house them?
OM: Oh they helped the families alright, but they didn’t house them but they’d visit them, they were very considerate now.
MR: Neither of you had to be relocated or anything like that? A few people were saying that they were brought up in the inner city, and although the houses out in Cabra were beautiful houses, there wasn’t the same sense of community.
NB: No, you see the community was all broke up.
OM: A lot of them were related to each other, and then it broke up the families.
NB: Yes there was a big crowd brought out to Cabra. We moved up to Cabra but it was a good while after the bombing.
MR: I’d like to thank you both for coming in; it’s been great to talk to you.
OM and NB: You’re welcome.