It’s almost 68 years to the day on 28th August 1945 when the photograph below of twenty-three Hong Kong Volunteer Defense Corps (HKVDC) prisoners of war (POW) who were on the verge of liberation following their internment at Yoshima POW Camp (Sendai No. 2 Branch Camp (#2-B)) in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture was snapped.
It was at this POW Camp where Private John Bernard PatrickByrne – Barney-, HKVDC #4732, and POW #96 was to spend:
“13 months incarcerated … nine months incapacitated by amoebic dysentery …. and five months used as a slave labourer inside the Iwake coal-mine run by the Furukawa Mining Company“
as written in ‘Diary of War: Private John Bernard Patrick Byrne (a.k.a “Barney”), HKVDC #4732, and Irish Prisoner of the Japanese in Shamshuipo and Sendai (1941-1945)’ https://nialljoreilly.com/2012/12/07/john-bernard-patrick-byrne-barney/ – “the remarkable account of life as an Irish prisoner of the Japanese by an extraordinary man, “Uncle” Barney Byrne“.
On 5th August, while perusing a photograph album dating back to the 1930s belonging to my late mother Kathryn O’Reilly, I came upon two photographs of Barney during his childhood and as a young adult.
Appendix 05: ‘I knew your Uncle’ in the Diary written by fellow POW Alfredo Jose Prata noted:
“… a tatamie bunkmate of Barney’s “(Barney) and others of the HKVDC (mixture of British, Polish, French Norwegian, Swede, Czech and a few Americans) shared the same No.2 (combined hospital) hut with some 120 odd Portuguese POWs from Nos.5 and 6 Portuguese Coy HKVDC (and worked in the same shifts in separate shafts in the coalmines).”
There are also a variety of nationalities in the photo. My attention was soon focused on the somewhat malnourished and tired looking man sitting at the far right of the bottom row.
Compare this man’s nose, the ears, the eyes and hair parting of to the two photographs from my mother’s album below. Re-checking his diary entries for 28th and 29th of August 1945 in one instance Barney Byrne complains of having gone 72 hours without sleep, while in another instance he notes: “Photographs taken today – personnel only” .
After sixty-eight years the face now has a name: Private John Bernard PatrickByrne – Barney – HKVDC #4732 – Irish Prisoner of the Japanese in Shamshuipo, Hong Kong, and Sendai, Japan (1941-1945)
“… when fighting was certain, and either capture or death highly likely (Barney) doesn’t show one glimpse of regret or self-pity. What a remarkable man…“
Sights:The scorching heat, the pickets, the helicopter, the blank stares of bus loads of apprehensive People’s Liberation Army soldiers surrounded by Beijing’s irate mothers and fathers, the water tankers, the chuandan (pamphlets), the handwritten messages on the school noticeboard, real tears, fleeing, panic, emptiness, dry tears, bloated bodies. How many more?
Tastes: Dry, salty and bitter.
Time:Central Beijing –3.45pm Saturday June 3, 1989, the first time I heard the traumatising sounds of teargas canisters exploding all around me, gunfire. A wave of spine-chilling panic and astonishment shuddered through the maddened crowd.
“Look at what the People’s Liberation Army are using against the people”, said my local friend.
I was standing near Zhongnanhai, the Communist Party of China and central government’s seat of power. Nine hours later from the safety of my dormitory my eyes were fixed on the horizon where a menacing, murky pall of orange hung over downtown Beijing. June 4, 1989, one month, two weeks, six days since the popular student-led ‘nothing to my name’ [Read more at: http://wp.me/p15Yzr-19] demonstrations began in Tiananmen Square. All was eerily quiet in the immediate vicinity, but we knew, the rumour machine knew, and it wasn’t long before the first of the bloated purples would be carried back to the campus. No wailing, just lifeless silence.
The most dramatic and formative event of my life, all permanently etched in my mind as if it was yesterday.
“You missed Woodstock” said my brother upon my return home.
In August 1969, forty-nine years ago this Summer, during the height of the Vietnam War, and a year after the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, a 450,000-strong hippie commune established itself at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair to hear rock legends the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” “Gimmie Shelter” and a feast of other rock bands belt out some of the most powerful rock music ever written. Braving rain, mud, heat, cold, poor sanitation, and food shortages it was just another typical rock concert they were all going to. None of them had come in search of a huge historical turning point, they just wanted to listen to what is still the most powerful rock music ever made. As it rained and rained the calmness and undisturbed feeling of the gathering grabbed the attention of the world’s media who gazed in grudging admiration at the 450,000 [the same as the number of American soldiers at the time fighting the Vietnam War] number spectacle.
People turned to each other and said “Can you believe this?”
It wasn’t a rebellion, rather the people doing as they pleased for the happiness of it, enjoying the freedom. Towards the end of the Fair when much of the crowd had already left, Jimi Hendrix, intoxicated by the mood, took to the stage: “No to the Vietnam War, No to racism...” and then came his 4 and a half minute rendition of the American National Anthem the “Star Spangled Banner“…. the culmination of a new patriotic counter culture that was questioning the direction of American society.
American journalist and educator Max Lerner summed up Woodstock as:
“a turning point in the consciousness generations have of each other and of themselves“.
People who were there spread out across America and the world to relate stories of an ideal and perfect time and place called Woodstock, where for three days everyone lived in harmony and everything was for the best in size and spirit surpassed all fantasies. They find themselves part of history.
Woodstock was proof that America was still big enough to contradict itself on a huge scale, and to stand up in the best possible spectacle against its worst excesses.
“We have kneeled down too long and are getting up to stretch our legs” (Anonymous 89er)
I recall the heady weeks leading up to June 4, 1989 as vividly as if it was yesterday: a passionate flowering of student idealism, mingling with the students, exchanging stories, philosophising about the differences between capitalism and socialism, how energetic, so full of life they were. Their thirst for information, their frustrations with the harsh restrictions of life, their optimism for the future, the music, the sense of intellectual excitement, a free-spirited atmosphere, more debates, pasting their manifestos on campus boards across Beijing, the marching, the banners, the hunger strikes, the city at a complete standstill, the enormous public compassion and understanding, being in Tiananmen Square staring at the statue of the lady in white and realising this was their rebellion not mine. The cry was for reform. An entire nation was about to blossom, but then came the cruel response, and with it the death of hope, romanticism and idealism in China.
China’s Woodstock? Yes, flattery indeed. The bands didn’t play on.
In the intervening time the Zhongnanhai Establishment still advocates the same lamentable verdict in relation to the events of June 4, 1989...
… Modern China’s enduring transformational pain. 遗忘症节快乐!
Reading through letters and other papers maintained by my late parents I found a half sheet of paper which I believe was typed in 1945. It looks authentic and I’m wondering who wrote / or spoke it. Given my interest in thehttps://nialljoreilly.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/niall-and-barney/ it’s highly probable my mother found it and left it for me to read…
“I would like to disclaim the many rumours about Ireland being a sort of espionage central for the Axis, According to the rumours, 4,000 Germans and Japanese were supposed to live in Ireland during the war. In reality there were three Japanese: the minister, his wife and secretary, and six Germans. The day we declared our absolute neutrality, the secret radio transmitters which were in the possession of the Japanese and German minister, were embarged by the Irish Government.
In relation to our population more voluntaries took part in the Allied Forces than from any other country [Note:* below], and likewise proportionally more Victory [Note: Victoria] Crosses were dealt out to Irishmen than to any other nation.
We are hoping for an invitation to the United Nations. Even if we are a small nation, we want to help build up the world again, and contribute to the world peace being secured and the banner of democracy being help high.”
*Over 50,000 Irishmen and women born in the Irish Free State joined the British forces during the Second World War.
[Source: http://www.historyireland.com/volumes/volume6/issue1/features/?id=181] More than 5,000, more then a 10th of the soldiers in the Irish Free State military left without permission to fight for the British forces. The returnees were branded traitors, and after the Japanese surrender in 1945, the Irish government drew up the “starvation order” list of so-called deserters, banning them from tax-payer funded jobs. On May 7th 2013, 68 years after the end of the Second World War, the Irish Parliament, or Dail, passed a bill into law pardoning the men posthumously (only about 100 are still alive) and apologising to their families “removing any tarnish from their name or reputation” Note: wording of the Second World War Amnesty and Immunity Bill.
“Had Germany successfully invaded Great Britain, Ireland was next on the list. These individuals made a substantial contribution to protect the sovereignty of this country”
[Source: Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Justice and Equality, Minister of Defence.]
* 8 Irish VCs were awarded in the Second World War
…………So there was I relaxing, minding my own business –actually melting would be a more precise description (a boiling 30 + degrees Celsius here) — drinking a mug of Barry’s tea (one of my little China foibles), Goggling “Genghis Khan”, when I accidentally typed my own name into the search….. and up pops this article from The People’s Daily (人民日报), the principal mouth piece of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, dated January 2006… My namesake Niall of the Nine Hostages, according to the People’s Daily was the Genghis Khan of Ireland….. Ireland’s most fertile man…… so now you know !
“DUBLIN: Scientists in Ireland may have found the country’s most fertile male, with more than 3 million men worldwide among his offspring.
The scientists, from Trinity College Dublin, have discovered that as many as one in 12 Irish men could be descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, a 5th-century (reigned 379–405) warlord who was head of the most powerful dynasty in ancient Ireland.
His genetic legacy is almost as impressive as Genghis Khan, the ancient emperor who conquered most of Asia in the 13th century and has nearly 16 million descendants, said Dan Bradley, who supervised the research.
“It’s another link between profligacy and power,” Bradley said. “We’re the first generation on the planet where if you are successful you don’t (always) have more children.”
The research was carried out by PhD student Laoise Moore, at the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity. Moore, testing the Y chromosome which is passed on from fathers to sons, examined DNA samples from 800 males across Ireland.
The results which have been published in the American Journal of Human Genetics showed the highest concentration of related males in northwest Ireland, where one in five males had the same Y chromosome.
Bradley said the results reminded the team of a similar study in central Asia, where scientists claimed they found 8 per cent of men with the same Y chromosome. Subsequent studies found they shared the same chromosome as the dynasty linked to Genghis Khan.
Surnames reveal secrets
“It made us wonder if there could be some sort of Genghis Khan effect in Ireland and the best candidate for it was Niall,” Bradley said.
His team then consulted with genealogical experts who provided them with a contemporary list of people with surnames that are genealogically linked to the last known relative of the “Ui Neill” dynasty, which literally means descendants of Niall.
The results showed the new group had the same chromosome as those in the original sample, proving a link between them and the Niall descendants.
“The frequency (of the Y chromosome) was significantly higher in that genealogical group than any other group we tested,” said Bradley, whose surname is also linked to the medieval warlord. Other modern surnames tracing their ancestry to Niall include Gallagher, Boyle, O’Donnell and O’Doherty.
For added proof, the scientists used special techniques to age the Y chromosome, according to how many mutations had occurred in the genetic material over time. The number of mutations was found to be in accordance with chromosomes that would date back to the last known living relative of Niall.
Niall reportedly had 12 sons, many of whom became powerful Irish kings themselves. But because he lived in the 5th century, there have been doubts the king who is said to have brought the country’s patron saint, Patrick, to Ireland even existed.
“Before I would have said that characters like Niall were almost mythological, like King Arthur, but this actually puts flesh on the bones,” Bradley said.
When international databases were checked, the chromosome also turned up in roughly 2 per cent of all male New Yorkers.”