When my uncle looked at Mr de Valera, the former President at the funeral Mass of my grandfather, Padraig O Caoimh in September 1973, he wondered if he had thought of a morning long ago when Paidin brought him a message. It was the morning of Easter Monday 1916 when the latter arrived at Morehampton Terrace, Donny brook with a dispatch from Thomas McDonagh ordering Dev to mobilise the Third Battalion. Paidin had been there the day before looking for Dev and Sinead de Valera had asked him "Is he dead?" only to get the quick reply "Oh, not yet".
I wondered at the same time at the very presence of Dev at the funeral. After all, I had been led to believe since I had been in my pram that my grandfather couldn't stand Dev. At the outbreak of the bitter civil war they had parted, as Paidin was a staunch supporter of the Treaty. Little did I realise then that despite their differences, and there were many, neither man was bitter. The only thing Paidin hated was the civil war. I have a copy of a letter Dev wrote to Paidin on 3 March 1966 from the Aras:
My dear friend,
You know that the Government gave 6 Harcourt Street to Chonradh na Gaeilge as a main office. I shall be there on 12 March to open the office. I shall be on the boreen of memories that day and my hope is that you think the same as you worked there in olden times. I would like you to be there. Will you come? I heard that you have not been well recently. I hope that you will recover soon.
With every good wish,
Eamon de Valera.
The original letter was written in Irish and the words bhoithrin na smaointe (boreen of memories or memory lane) fascinates me as does the entire letter. It is almost a plea, an entreaty from one former comrade, turned enemy, to another. Paidin had been the general secretary of Sinn Fein from 1917 to 1922 and his office had been at 6 Harcourt Street.
My memory is that my grandfather didn't want to go, not because he didn't want to meet Dev again, but because he had been ill with a heavy cold and he didn't want to leave his warm house, his books and his comforts. The 50th Anniversary of 1916 was in full swing, he was 85 years of age and he rarely ventured out.
After some persuasion and the purchase of a new suit he did go to 6 Harcourt Street in a taxi with my mother. After the event he ended up in the Winter Garden Palace, a public house on the corner of St. Stephen's Green and Cuffe Street (long demolished), happily drinking whiskey with old comrades. Dev, however, did not join them.