Personal Stories

Mary O’Brien’s Story

My mother in law, Mary O’Brien (nee Mockler) from Two-Mile Borris in County Tipperary, lived in both London and Dublin during 1940-1942 period of WWII. I had several long chats with my mother in law about her wartime experiences prior to her passing away.

Mary worked “in service” in central London between 1940 and 1941. Mary worked as a cook in “an upstairs/downstairs” arrangement for a very wealthy English family. The family lived in a big house near Hampstead Heath. Mary told us about the bombing raids in London and how she and the household had to evacuate the house that she worked in and went to the London Underground for the duration of the bombing.

Mary’s family in Tipperary were very worried about her (she was only 19 at the time) and her father wrote to her telling her to come back to Ireland. Mary handed in her notice with her employer and returned to work in service in a place called Darwin Hall in Rathfarnham. Mary worked as a cook also at Darwin Hall. Darwin Hall was owned by the Kinlen family and it is located at what is now 200 Rathfarnham Road. Darwin Hall was a big house which had a lodge and it had an air raid shelter at the back of it. The old lodge is still there – it is a blue cottage.

Mary told us that the night of the bombing of the North Strand were vivid memories for her.

Mrs Kinlen told Mary that Terenure had been bombed some time previously and when they heard the aircraft coming over prior to the North Strand bombing attack Mrs Kinlen asked Mary “is that the sound of English planes or German planes, Molly?” Mary, having heard the sound of the German bombers said in London “Mrs Kinlen they’re German bombers, I heard the same engine sound when I was over in London working”. Mrs Kinlen got all the occupants out of the house and in to a tiny cramped air raid shelter as the sound of the bombers got louder.

When news of the North Strand attack was reported on the radio and in the newspaper, Mary’s father ordered her to return to Tipperary immediately. Mary hadn’t been back to Rathfarnham since she left Darwin Hall.

Mary also said that one day she saw the black cross (Balkenkreuz) on the German planes (Messerschmidt? Stuka?) during an attack because the plane was flying so low during an attack in London! She said the sound of the bombs exploding was terrifying and it was sound that she never forgot.

Editor’s Note: Mary O’Brien sadly passed away on 29th October 2010. The above story was submitted by her son-in-law Seamus Weber.