Personal Stories

Dermot Moran’s Letter

Dermot MoranDermot Moran (d.2003) was living in Drumcondra the nights the bomb fell. He wrote the following letter on  1 – 2 June  1941 to his parents in Kerry in which he vividly described the sights and sounds that he heard from the bedroom window on the 30/31 May 1941. The letter was kindly donated to Dublin City Archives by the Moran Family.

Transcript of Original Letter Page 1

58, Upper Drumcondra Road,
Dublin 9.
2nd/1st June 1941,

Dear Dad,

I got your letter and was right glad to hear from ye and to learn all the news. We’ve been having pretty good weather here during the past week though last Sunday was not so very good. As a matter of fact it started pouring, and it was 8 o’clock in the evening before it cleared up. The new church at Drumcondra – Corpus Christi was consecrated that day and & ’tis many the person that got the bad drenching at it. Yesterday, on the other hand, was a really glorious day. In fact ’twas the nearest approach to Summer we’ve had yet.

Dermot Moran Letter page 1
Original letter page 1. Click on image to view larger size

A glorious day after a dreadful night. I suppose by now ye’ve got all the details about the bombing. Its terrible to think that those who have nothing at all to do with the war suffer as much as those who are the root cause of it all. But the details in the paper and over the radio were mere statements of facts, nothing at all compared to the real thing. They excite sympathy, horror, perhaps dread, but after that the reader complacently goes his way saying Thank God they didn’t fall here. To those living in Dublin it was a different thing altogether. It was a real vital terror. Something which actually made one sit up and take notice. It meant that – but I mustn’t say anything – any one of the half a million living in the capital of Eire will tell you what it was like.

The planes were flying over and around the city from about 12 o’clock on Friday night on. Nobody minded them very much, because it was thought that no one would dare to do anything to a country like ours which, ever since the beginning of the war, has preserved the strictest neutrality. I went to bed as usual. But somehow I wasn’t able to sleep. The drone of the planes produced a sort of head-achy feeling that was anything but pleasant.

Suddenly about [1.20?] the drone became louder and more constant.

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It took on an ugly, snarling sound. The air became charged with an electric tension. One felt that something was about to happen, something awful, something to which would bring ruin and desolation to many. The drone of the planes became louder. I couldn’t stay in bed any longer, so I threw off the bed – clothes and, feeling sort of muzzy about the head, staggered over to the window. I looked out. Then I saw three red flares bursting in the sky. The sign of a neutral country! Surely those devils up there will go away now I thought. But no they still continued to circle around.

Dermot Moran Letter page 2
Original Letter page 2. Click on image to view larger size

Then the searchlights began to search the sky. Long beams of light shot out in a vain endeavour to locate those who dared to infringe on our jealously-guarded neutrality. The anti-aircraft went into action from Collinstown. Coastal defences were in action. And all the while that demonic purring sound from overhead threatened our fair capital. More anti-aircraft guns went into action and then! the sinister whine of a falling bomb. I scarcely knew what to expect but waited, nerves taut to almost snapping point for the explosion which I knew must surely come. And come it did. The blast was terrific. I staggered back a few paces from the window, and thanked God I was still alive. The explosion still echoed and re-echoed across the stricken city.

Immediately lights were switched on in all the windows around. A.R.P. wardens and L.S.F. & L.D.F. were soon in the streets ready to proceed by the shortest route possible to Summerhill. For a while I sat on the edge of the bed, scarcely knowing what to do. Then I went over to the window again and looked out. The ground forces were still vigorously pounding away and then! A squat shape is caught in the beam of one of the searchlights. Shells immediately start bursting around it. Then another explosion, not as loud as the first is heard. A second bomb has been dropped on Dublin. ! Surely no more I said to myself.
People were becoming hysterical by [now]. The three girls in our…

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house came downstairs. I heard one of them tell Mrs. Murray that she wouldn’t go back to their own room for anything again that night. They told me at breakfast the next morning that they sat at the foot of the stairs ’till there could be no doubt but that the raiders had departed from their mission of destruction.

Dermot Moran Letter page 3
Original Letter page 3. Click on image to view larger size

In the meantime I had gone back into bed, waiting for something, expecting something and not knowing exactly what to expect. Then at about 2 o’clock it came. The whine of the bomb, the wait, a second that seemed to last for centuries, nerves strung as tight as the string of a fiddle, then, the explosion and the overpowering sense of relief. The echoes of the bomb resounded across across the city like the morbid chucklings of a ghoul. A fourth bomb fell then all was quiet again, The drone of the planes died away in the distance and (Dublin crossed out) Ireland was left to mourn her stricken capital and her dead.
For a long time after I could’nt go to sleep. I still seemed to hear the […] whine of the falling bomb. The second wait, surging with […], terror and dread, the flash, the explosion and the echoes [afterwards]. You know the rest of the story from the papers. They were able to give facts better than I but I hope and pray that such a disaster may never again befall this fair city of ours and that Ireland may be preserved from the horrors of bombing .

The next morning speculation was running rife in the office. Everybody had their own theory. I kept in my own mind about it but the general opinion was that the bombs were German which they were but I would’nt be a bit surprised if the job was a put up one by our friend Winston.

However that ‘s only my opinion

Well, to depart from these morbid subjects. I saw a very funny picture last night and if you want a laugh you should…

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go to see it too. The name is The Ghost Train with Arthur Askey and Richard (Stinker) Murdock. It’s a howl from beginning to end and it would be well worth going to when it gets to Tralee, if it does.

Dermot Moran Letter page 4
Original Letter page 4. Click on image to view larger size

I was talking to the Chemist who is a bit of an expert on these matters, and he said that he could’nt make out what was wrong with the camera or how the light had got in. As regards the extension apparatus he said that he would get Kodak to quote a price for fixing it and I could then decide whether it would be worthwhile getting it repaired.

By the way do you see anything of the King family in Glen these times or do they show up at all. They would be nearly cutting the turf now would’nt they. If they ever come in you can tell them that I was asking for them and put in a word for Josie too.

I took off a day from my studies (?) Saturday last and gave the bike a great overhauling. I took out the wheels and cleaned each ball-bearing and what I did’nt do to it! Do you know one thing I’ve found out about taking things apart and putting them back together again is this – it’s easy enough to take a thing apart and it’s easy enough to put it together again, but when you’ve fixed everything and still find yourself with half-a-dozen or so nuts and bolts in your fist and apparently no place to put them, well what do you do? – you’re either a mechanical genius or there is something radically wrong with your reconstruction. Not that such a thing happened to me last Saturday – no sin! I was more careful than that.

Well I’ll have to close now. So with best love to Mammie and Marie.

I remain, your loving son,

One reply on “Dermot Moran’s Letter”

It is wonderful to be able to read my Dad’s letter to his Dad. He would love the fact that his words are recorded and included in Ireland’s history.

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