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Tony's story (part 4, page 2)

I was on board the cattle boat - yes cattle boat! - not only did we export the cream of young Irishmen but also our finest livestock. Bobbing up and down on the Irish Sea is a tribulation; you must have your sea legs before you even attempt to cross the briny. I have always been a good sailor from the very start, maybe it’s because I have Viking blood in my linage. Great seamen, the Vikings, and I am very proud of my heritage. Three miles out and the bar would open; Lord above, you would think that they had not seen a drop for an eon. I was too young to partake of the black stuff - you had to be 18 years old to drink and this was a strict rule then [editor's note - you still have to be 18 to drink in ireland but it is not so rigidly enforced as in Tony's youth].

I met some other young men who were also travelling for the first time; some were bewildered, some were happy and excited at the thought of a different land. I recall we held an impromptu concert on the deck of the boat - someone produced a guitar and another produced a harmonica and a singsong ensued. I have always liked entertaining from a very young age. My Father, Lord rest his soul, was also a great minstrel he would sing at the drop of a hat (I suppose that’s were I got my voice from). Two-part harmony was the order of the day, "She’s Leaving Home" by the Beatles for going out, and "Homeward Bound" by Simon and Garfunkel was a particular favourite when coming back to Dublin. People did not travel very well in those days and the Irish Sea was very cruel sea to all who dared to cross her. Great rivers of vomit would rollup and down the deck, lots of people never made it to the side rail of the ship to exhume whatever they had eaten or drunk that day, so it lay were it fell. Stewards would clean the decks, reluctantly cursing and muttering under their breath about novice sailors - "Admiral Lord Nelson they were not" was one retort.

Sleeping on the deck was essential if you wanted to get any rest, for the great engines bellowed all the way across the sea and it was hard to sleep inside, the horrible wooden benches and chairs provided by the shipping company would leave you with lumbago for the rest of your life! Blankets were plentiful, rough hewn from old ticking, your skin would be red raw in the morning the idea was to keep your self covered regardless of the temperature on deck. You never forget your first real adventure to another land. It stays with you forever, even you travel to most exotic places your first adventure never leaves you.


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