Sunday, 21 February 2016


The doting parents
After about four years training in London mostly in the National Heart Hospital, I returned as a cardiologist to my old teaching hospital, St Vincent’s in Dublin. Amongst my colleagues there was Jamesy Maher, the youngest surgeon of the staff.  We became very friendly, played a lot of golf in Portmarnock, dined occasionally together, went to the races and often finished one way or the other, rather late at night!  He lived in one of the large Georgian houses in Fitzwilliam Place.  He was unmarried but his two sisters had recently moved to a suburban house in Blackrock.  On frequent occasions he was obliged, because of his late work or other activities, to remain in his city house without returning to his family.  We occasionally visited his house late at night for a drink, perhaps with a few other colleagues.  His favourite drink was Guinness and champagne mixed and it was not normally refused by his friends when offered!  He also had an unusual habit of locking the front door so that we could not easily return home too early.   

The house
On one occasion at about seven o’clock in the morning I escaped and was walking up the rather long, slightly curvaceous avenue of our two acre home in Rathmines when I found myself passing my father on his way to seven o’clock mass in the church across the road from our house.  It’s the church with the big green dome.  He passed me by without any comment except ‘Goodnight’ as he exited the gate - embarrassing but not the first time this had happened,  having uttered the same greeting under even more embarrassing circumstances a few years previously.

In my earlier years in the university, as was our custom in the rowing club, we were all teetotallers during the six months training season.  But after each Regatta we were inclined to let our hair down.  At that time in the late 40’s there was a custom in Ireland that the pubs closed at 10.30pm but that if one could claim to live three miles or further from the pub, one could remain legitimately until 12.30.  You were considered a traveller.   

The Clock
We visited a well known pub on these late occasions up in Rathfarnham.  As a result, my arrival home could be as late as 2am.  Once, when I arrived at the gate of the house and looked up the avenue I could see that the lights were still on in the drawing room and therefore my parents were still up.  I was very surprised at this so I decided to wait my time until the lights turned off – about 5 minutes later and then I waited until their bedroom light, which was above the drawing room, went on.  Again, I waited a few moments before approaching the house as I assumed that they were either in bed or on the way. 

The Culprit
After a few moments and with some difficulty I managed to insert the key in the front door and quietly opened it and probably fell rather than walked into the hallway.  I was shocked to find both my parents standing up at the top of the stairs watching me.  They must have been watching me all along but not a word was said.  I knew I was in an awkward situation and I realised that I must do something sensible and rational which I would have done under normal circumstances.  It occurred to me that our big grandfather clock in the far corner of the hall might need to be winded, so without a word to my parents I rushed across the hall to the front of the clock.  The glass covering of the clock face was closed.  I took a good hold of the covering catch and pulled it vigorously in order to open it but in my vigour I pulled the cover so thoroughly that I threw its glass right across the hall with a loud smash as it disintegrated.  I felt immediately embarrassed, looked up at my parents, saw them standing there watching without a word, felt like a living statue standing in their presence and waited interminably until my father said ‘Goodnight’, and left quietly.

The clock now lives in Strasbourg with  my daughter Tina who sent on the following account of her own escapades:

When Dad's parents replaced the broken glass they put a flat glass on it with the result that for 72 years or so the door in the face did not close.  I got the clock in 2008 following mum's death and spent 6 years looking for a new oval shaped glass which I eventually found and had fitted by the clock man who repairs Strasbourg Cathedral clock.  So the clock face door was able to close again... for six months when I discovered that the top of the door's wood had warped!  He had obviously used some glue that had an effect on the old wood.  I am now trying to find a way of unwarping the wood.  I should have left it as it had been for over seventy years! 

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