I was born in Dublin in 1916, right in the middle of the rebellion. Our next door neighbour was McMullen; he was executed within an hour of me being born. We lived in the heart of the city, 5 minutes' walk from Guinness Brewery. My father was in the British Army in Mesopotamia at the time. He joined up when war broke out; he was in the cavalry and served mostly in the Middle East. He spoke Arabic, he was a very clever man.
The first school I went to was my father's knee, because there was a civil war going on and the schools were shut. The first school I went to was St Connaughtons in the old part of Dublin. It was a national school; everything was done in 2 languages, Gaelic and English. There was no segregation, you were what you were, religion didn't matter, that's the trouble in the North. Gaelic was my first language, I was 12 when I started to speak English, my father taught me. I've got a brother who speaks nothing else to me but the old language.
You couldn't go out because the country was in turmoil, especially in Dublin. Every day at school we got a ticket for dinner, we used to call them penny dinners. It was run by the church, and every day we got a pint pot full of stew.
I left school at 14 and went to the technical school. At that time you had to learn a trade. I served a 7 year apprenticeship to become an electrician; we had to pay for that! I was about 21 when I finished; 7 years was the term, no matter what trade you were in.
My father came back from the war in 1920, his health was bad, I remember going with him to hospital. He couldn't work for years he was that bad. He had a pension. We had to manage. We were better off when he was a soldier.
I went to work for the electrical board, you had to know your job or it was a tap on the shoulder and you were gone. My money before the war was about 32 shillings a week; that was good money. My dad got 27 and 6, and an ordinary working man's wages were 21 shillings.
In those days you did what your father told you, there was no arguing. My father came over first and we came after. My mother wouldn't come, she stayed. I came to Birmingham and got digs and a job, and then I joined up in 1942. It was my way of saying thank you. I was a volunteer, I was in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Italy.
No, I didn't miss home in Dublin. I was young, I was in the army, I had friendship there, home never entered into it. When I came out of the army after serving 7 years I had £74. I said to the wife, "get your coat on" and we spent the lot. I met my wife in Birmingham, we married in November 1942. She was from the north, from County Monaghan, we hit it off straight away.
I never found any discrimination, none whatsoever in all the years I have been here. I get on with people. I was in the Birmingham Irish Pipe Band for 25 years. My eldest son was in the band as well.
I never gave it a thought about going back to Ireland. Why should I? It's what they told me once, it's their country. I left it, they made it what it is today. It's gone full circle now, in Ireland, there are thousands of jobs and they are laying people off here.
All my lads are Brumies, all 4, and they were all sailors in the Navy.