4.15pm May 8th 1973

Liam O'Reilly 26th March 1913 - 8th May 1973
Liam O’Reilly 26th March 1913 – 8th May 1973

46 years ago today I remember looking up from the kitchen window, the stepping (why did he always walk that way to work, or was it just this morning?) over the wire holding up the tennis court net (it must have been nice weather because it was unusual for the grass tennis court  net to be set up so early), the walking stick, the wave by Mum and I from the kitchen, his cheerful smile… Then I remember being in our next door neighbour’s — the Breen’s — house, their formal drawing room, which we were always forbidden from playing in, the gilt-painted chairs and chaise longe. All so surreal.  The three of them looking at me. Poor Mum in the middle. The story that I didn’t really understand about Dad going to see “holy god” and “heaven”.

May 10th arrived, Blackrock Church, the cemetery Deansgrange… I can’t remember my unilateral placing of a red rose on his coffin.
There were so many people… they all seemed to want to distract blond and blue-eyed me..
Why so many people?
Where was he?
That big box they were lowering into the hole in the ground.
The Study (a room in our house Avoca Lodge) was so crowded with grown-ups.
I overheard stories about an afternoon tea of chicken sandwiches at a New Ireland Assurance Board of Directors meeting, a chicken bone, a traffic jam, a hospital called Meath and 4.15pm… the time he suddenly met his maker.
My favourite beverage Schweppes bitter lemon …… laced… the first time I tasted alcohol (someone else’s drink or a well-meaning prank by one of my brothers?)…everything became hazy and very numb…
None of my teachers in either St Michael’s College or The Oratory School knew or cared about the anguish within. I was asleep, anaesthetised, numb…for eight years…. Perhaps quiet Niall was always like that… maybe not quite the full shilling.
I was about 19 when I awoke from the haze thanks to an amazing duo: Dr. Stephen Barcroft and Senator Maurice Rickard O’Connell (The great great grandson of Daniel O’Connell, “The Liberator“). They cared, they understood, and they were both hugely influential in opening my eyes to the world.
… The trauma each one of my father’s sons and his wife had to bear alone in our own silence: Unmerited, totally.
All because of a chicken bone.  What a waste?
Liam Sean O’Reilly (26th March 1913 – 8th May 1973), son of Dr. Michael William (deceased 21st November 1971) and Catherine “Cathleen” Mary O’Reilly (deceased 5th July 1957), a son of Synge Street CBS and Clongowes Wood College (1928 – 1931),my father, RIP.
My father died on the 112th anniversary of the birth of soon to be canonised Blessed John Sullivan SJ (8 May 1861 -19 February 1933), who in his role as spiritual director of Clongowes Wood College spent most of his life as a Jesuit at the school. Known for his virtue, goodness, and holiness Fr Sullivan had a great desire to bring out the best in the boys. Unmistakable from my father’s refined and honourable character, Fr John’s influence as a role model and mentor is a legacy I continue to stand by every day
Related reading: ‘A Meal On A Spanish Tramp Steamer’ – By Liam O’Reilly http://wp.me/p15Yzr-Fb
Liam O'Reilly (26 March 1913 - 8 May 1973).  Clongowes Wood College Senior Rugby Team (Top row, foirth from right)
Liam O’Reilly (26 March 1913 – 8 May 1973).
Clongowes Wood College Senior Rugby Team (1929-1930) [Top row, fourth from right]
Liam O'Reilly 26th March 1913 - 8th May 1973Liam O'Reilly 26th March 1913 - 8th May 1973Liam O'Reilly 26th March 1913 - 8th May 1973

A Meal On A Spanish Tramp Steamer – By Liam O’Reilly

“Caught in the throes of a revolution, I found myself at the Spanish port of Valencia after a tedious 16 hour train journey. After six days and nights a tramp steamer put in, and I succeeded in getting taken aboard to enjoy (sic) the pleasures of a cruise to Liverpool.

I wish the boat wouldn’t roll so much! Down she goes, now she is up again. Still I do not think the rolling is as bad as yesterday, so I will get up and try the Spanish breakfast.

“Buenos Dias” Captain,

“How are you this morning?”

“Oh! Not so bad. I feel I can eat a little to-day”.

“Si, it is nice now”.

The table is set, with places for the captain, first and second mates, and myself. There are two decanters of Spanish wine, a plate of rolls in the centre, and ranged around these are several small dishes. At each place there is a knife, fork, and soup spoon (the same knife and fork is used for all the courses), and four plates, one being for soup.

The “entremeses” or entrée this morning consists of sardinas (sardines), anchoe (anchovy), and hamon (raw ham). Having tasted a little of each, we really started the meal.


The second course is “Sopa de ajo” in a large earthenware dish, and all that meets the eye at first is about a dozen-and-a-half eggs joined together and lightly fried.  Having taken three or four eggs you find underneath a coloured liquid, which is oil, and pieces of bread and garlic. You put this on your soup plate, mix it up, and eat it with your soup spoon. (The boat seems to be rolling more now that I have tasted this dish).

And now for “Bacalao,” or Swordfish, follows. This is served in another earthenware dish with oil or sauce. You eat the fish with bread and wash it down with wine.

While the captain and the others are eating this I take a course in Auto-suggestion, and I find the boat must be now in a calm spot, she is so quiet.

Here is something I can try to eat, it is named “Abichuela con Verza.” This is really a very simple dish, although the name is long, and the recipe is: baked beans decorated with large slices of fat.


We are slowly coming to the end, as I find I have only one plate left in front of me. At last something I will feel at home with, “Patatas y Cerdo” (chips and pork). But I am afraid there is something wrong, because it is definitely not the same as Irish pork – still, I can get my teeth into it.

“Yes! I will have some Membrillo” (this is a type of solidified jam, and it is cut into small pieces, and placed – not spread – on the dry bread).

“Queso?” (cheese).


“Frúta” (fruit)


“Ouva” (grapes), “Manzana” (apples), “Melcotones” (peaches), Castañas (roasted chestnuts).

“Ouya, por fabor (please).

To conclude this early morning feast we will have some black coffee, and a Spanish cigarette, which must be tasted to be known – and will be known at a range of 20 yards ever afterwards.

It is now 10.45a.m., an hour and three-quarters since we sat down, so I’ll finish my cigarette in the air.


I am glad I was able to eat some breakfast because the next meal is timed for 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It is an “old Spanish custom” that you only get two meals per day when at sea. When I eat again, if I am able to, I shall spend about two hours at the table, for at the later meal there will be two other dishes in addition to those I have mentioned.

This article appeared in the newspaper the Irish Weekly Independent on November 24th, 1934. It was written by my father Liam O’Reilly who was 21 years old at the time of writing.

Travelling in the Basque region of northern Spain my father Liam O’Reilly became caught up in the turmoil that was the Asturian miners’ strike of October 1934, an armed uprising by miners and other workers in the mining towns of Asturia in north west Spain, known as the Revolution of Asturias, which developed into the class and regional conflict that became the Spanish Civil War two years later.

In response to a call by opposition anarchists and communists opposing the rising power of the catholic and right-wing Confederation of the Autonomous Right (CEDA) party, on October 4th the armed Asturian miners occupied several towns, while the provincial capital Oviedo was taken by October 6th.

The revolt was finally crushed on October 19th by hitherto unknown General Francisco Franco y Bahamonde. 3,000 miners were killed in the fighting and another 30,000 taken prisoner. Convinced the revolutionary uprising had been meticulously planned by Moscow, General Franco felt the brutal use of colonial Morrocan regulares and the Spanish Foreign Legion troops from Morocco, and the Spanish Navy to repress the revolt (including the torture, rape, and summary execution of Spanish civilians) was wholly justified.

A Meal On A  Spanish Tram Steamer - By Liam O'Reilly: Asturias-miners
October 1934 – Asturian Miners surrounded by troops

Comparable to my own experience in Beijing in June 1989 (read more at http://wp.me/p15Yzr-r), it is easy to imagine the turmoil, fueled by the Spanish Navy’s bombardment of the Asturian port of Gijon, rumours and counter rumours of port blockades, frontier closures, troop movements, and escalating general strikes which would have caused my father to take flight for the eastern port of Valencia: His Tiananmen Square moment.

My modern day equivalent of a Spanish Tramp Steamer was a Cathay Pacific Boeing 747 from Beijing to Hong Kong (to evacuate about 10 members of the Irish community in Beijing). Unfortunately I don’t recall the menu!

Related reading: ‘4.15pm May 8th 1973’ http://wp.me/p15Yzr-y recalls the day my father Liam O’Reilly went to meet his maker.

Steamer typical of the tramp ships operating between south European ports and Liverpool in the early 1930s
Steamer typical of the tramp ships operating between south European ports and Liverpool in the early 1930s

Today 66 years ago – 14th January 1953

Today 60 years ago – 14th January 1953 Wedding Of Liam OReilly Kath Bryne - My Father and Mother
The best kind of kiss is the unexpected; unplanned ones that pounce as you would expect, like in the middle of a cigarette….
Today 60 years ago – 14th January 1953 Wedding Of Liam OReilly Kath Bryne - My Father and Mother
“…The bride (my mother) wore a gown of oyster slipper satin, with an old Limerick lace veil and a diamanté coronet. She carried a bouquet of yellow roses…”

20130528_133611 Today 60 years ago – 14th January 1953 Wedding Of Liam OReilly Kath Bryne - My Father and Mother 20130528_133350 Today 60 years ago – 14th January 1953 Wedding Of Liam OReilly Kath Bryne - My Father and Mother Irish times 150153 Mum and Dad Wedding 001

Irish Times 15th January 1953 - The wedding of  Liam O'Reilly and Kath Byrne
Irish Times 15th January 1953 – The wedding of Liam O’Reilly and Kath Byrne





Where Mum and Dad’s Journey Finally Ends and Sweet Eternity Begins

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow,

I am the sun on ripened grain,

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circling flight.

I am the soft star-shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there;  I did not die.

 Mary Frye (1932)

How many loved your moments of glad grace

Directions - Grave # 149-JO-St Brigid