Conversations with Grandma: Part 2
Last week I spoke to my grandma about working on the wards of the TB hospital during the war. But what about life outside of the wards? She tells me her and her brother, Paddy, would go to Hyde Park on a Sunday to Speaker’s Corner.
‘Paddy would say, ‘There’s a very good Irish chap speaking today, you should come up’, so I did.
There were a lot of Irish and of course a lot of Americans who had Irish parents.’
And didn’t you have a boyfriend who was American?
‘Oh I did. The Americans would be walking around Hyde Park like we were. One of the nurses, a girl from Northern Ireland would walk up to them and speak! She met a man called Dave Moore. She introduced us and then he said to me, could he see me! Her man, she lost him! We didn’t speak for ages…’
So, did he go back to America after the war?
‘No, he didn’t love. He was in the air force and was shot down.’
Oh, that’s so sad.
‘Yes it was, it was very sad. And his family, from Ohio, would have been devastated. They said he went out one night and never came back. He went out on a mission. They were over the Channel, in Germany, bombing actually, was what they were doing. If one plane failed, the rest carried on. I don’t know how they managed it, but he never came back anyway. But that was quite common. And in a sense, if it wasn’t for people like him, we would have been under the Germans.
As my Grandma says, loss like this was not unusual.
‘My cousin Tommy Twomey, from America, came to the hospital to visit me. That ward sister was so nice to me after, just because he was an officer. “So, how is she your cousin?” she asked him, trying to make out I was telling lies! He explained it to her and oh, she was hanging on to him, keeping him there, talking - he didn’t come to see her obviously!
I was only allowed an hour and a half with him, precious time she was snatching from me. That was the last time I saw him. And from there he had to go back. He came to Salisbury Plain, that’s where they were based. And of course, he never went back to America. After D-Day, they were on their way back to Paris, and he was shot in the leg. And he managed to keep going. Then he was shot again, at Toulon, and he died. He was decorated of course, he’s buried in Arlington National cemetery, where the eternal flame is.’
There was little time for grief and my Grandma had to carry on. Every day people were losing loved ones. The destruction of war came to West Cork and shattered its tranquillity, not with bombs and air raids but with news of loss.
‘I had a neighbour called John Collins at home. They said his father was planting potatoes when the telegram came. It was delivered to him in the field to tell him that John was dead.’
That little slip of paper carried so much devastation.