Letter written by my cousin Raymond (Rory) E Marshall born in Minnesota, USA in 1942. In 1964 Rory enlisted in the U.S. Army and attended basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, MO, and the Army Language School in Monterey, CA, where he studied Persian (Farsi). He served for three years in Germany with the Army Intelligence Service and completed his enlistment at Fort Dix, NJ, in 1968. During his stay in Germany he took a trip to his ancestral home in Meenleitrim, Knocknagoshel, Co.Kerry and his observations in this letter are a very interesting history and quiet humorous. Raymond and I are both descendants of the Reidy’s of Meenleitrim. Raymond sadly passed away in 2017 may he rest in peace. Rory didn't share any photos from his visit so I have added some from my own collection from a more recent visit to Meenleitrim.
The following is the Army leave letter by Raymond (Rory) Marshall
20 June 1967 (letter was typed on 6 part carbon interleaved forms sets we used in "ops" - operations)
I know this is a rather crude way to write a letter, but with so many people interested in my leave to Paris, England, and Ireland, I would die of writer's cramp if I tried to hand write 6 letters or so, or even type them.
First of all, the generalities. I made successful contact and had a wonderful time. The weather during my leave period must have been the 18 most beautiful days that Europe has seen since I don't know when. I will try to go through the leave chronologically to avoid forgetting anything.
We left Bad Aibling about 7 o'clock in the evening on June 1. We reached the French border about 1 o'clock the next morning and were immediately struck with the run down look of things compared to neat and clean Germany. The French Border Patrolman who stopped us looked like the typical Frenchman with a weak chin and a sickly mustache.
Without incident, we reached Paris about 7 in the morning and caught a little rack time in our tent (we camped the entire way, except for when I went to Ireland) and then went downtown for a little sightseeing. We tried to take a downtown tour of Historical Paris and almost were thrown off the bus by rather impolite tour guides but did manage to see a few sights. I was rather struck with the way the Louvre Museum looked more like the Minnesota State Fair than a museum. there were thousands of people trying to see the few (Mona Lisa, Venus D'Milo, Winged Victory) real masterpieces around. Although the atmosphere wasn't quite conducive to proper contemplation, I must admit that they were worth the trip.
I heard from one American couple taking the tour with us that the Sistine Chapel in Rome is even worse with respect to crowds. You stand around looking up at the ceiling and more or less sway back and forth with the crowd.
The next morning began the excitement. We went to the Eiffel Tower and walked up as far as we could (not bad) and got a nice view of the city. Unfortunately it was too hazy for real good pictures. After a couple of hours, we decided to head back for dinner and decided to walk across the Seine. In doing so, we happened to look down and discovered that the body of a dead man was floating in the river, stuck on the pier, about 100 yards down from the excursion dock. After informing a tour ticket seller who called the police, who after about 30 minutes, finally did come to pull the man out. I never did hear any more about it, and probably never will. But it certainly livened up our trip to Paris.
Sunday, the last day in Paris, we decided to go to the Air Show at the Airport. It is supposed to be the best in the world, and it probably very well is. We saw the Russian rocket which launched the Vostok satellites into orbit, a few Soviet and American satellites, the TFX, the Vertical takeoff and landing plane and the Air Show. The Air Show was climaxed by the crash landing (and death) of a French flier who was performing his last stunt before the end of the show when he was unable to pull out of a dive. Fortunately, none of the crowd (approximately 200,000) was injured. We immediately took off for Boulogne, where we were supposed to catch a ferry the next morning.
We made it to London about noon on Monday and I there found out that I couldn't get a ticket to Dublin until Wednesday night. We piddled around for two days and I caught an Aer Lingus (Irish Airlines) flight for Dublin. Arrived in downtown Dublin around 3 in the morning and caught a hotel. I took the train for Limerick the next morning and there my Irish Journey begins.
I first had noticed the difference between peoples and languages when the stewardesses aboard the flight greeted me with "good night." I thought it rather amusing.
On the way to Limerick, I began to have the feeling (which never did leave me while in Ireland), that I was more or less reliving John Wayne's movie "The Quiet Man", about that fighter who killed someone in New York and then returned to Ireland to live.
I noticed a track gang of about eight or so while going through a small town. I wanted to shout with laughter and joy when a couple of them (all wearing caps like Grandpa used to wear, as do all Irishmen) greeted me with an exaggerated, rather sarcastic bow, as if I were the local landlord or something.
I had already begun to notice the amazing friendliness of the Irish people, of course, by this time.
I noticed another thing on the train which was to be repeated three or four more times almost in the same words while I was there. During some form of a political argument between two fellow passengers, one came out with a statement to the effect that Ireland was a little country and couldn't do much about anything without support from Britain or America. It was very refreshing to visit a people who weren't always worried about righting the wrongs encountered at every turn, etc. etc. etc.
At Limerick, I had to catch a bus for Tralee, on the western coast and arrived there about 4 on Thursday afternoon.
About 6 I caught a train for Castleisland, about 15 miles or so distant. Then, I discovered Meenleitrim (Meen LEE thrim) was a very small farming community stuck out about eight miles north of Castleisland. I got a room for the night and struck out the next morning.
By now I was in the heart of County Kerry and boy oh boy, what a brogue. They speak a tremendous amount of Irish (Gaelic) there (it is required to be taught in all schools) and speak English so fast that I really didn't understand them very well at all. I never did get to understand the women as well as the men.
I hitched a ride out to Meenleitrim the next day and found the farm of Michael Reidy without delay. Before I get into personalities, let me describe the area, if I can.
The area is kind of hilly, almost treeless, quite rainy, as evidenced by the fact that even the tops of hills are almost too wet to walk on. The land is largely peat and very poor soil, thus almost no profitable agriculture is carried on. Crops planted are generally potatoes and vegetables for the family use. Dairy cattle are the one large source of income for the people in the region. Michael Reidy and his family have 21 cows and a brand new tractor and thus are probably fairly well off.
Many (I should probably say, some) of the people still live in homes with thatched roofs, and others, most certainly a larger number, burn peat (as did the Reidy's) which is cut in the early summer, left to dry and then brought in for the winter.
Although many of the people still don't have cars or tractors, television antennas are quite common, even on the poorest of houses sometimes. I guess it is a good way to pass the time.
But come what may, the people are fantastically friendly and are not really poor for this is all they want. They generally have no real ambitions. Drivers rarely go over 30 miles an hour. What's the rush? As one said to me, "You can only eat three or four meals a day, and only wear one suit of clothes." There is just no hustle-bustle as we know it. But still, it would be hard for us to get used to the area.
Michael Reidy (whom I thought to be about 20) looks like he is 20, but is actually 30 and still single (as all Irish males - almost - at that age are. He lives with his 34 year old sister, Peggy, also unmarried, and a 37 year old brother, John, unmarried, too, and their widowed mother. A brother, Jerry, works as a bodyguard for the Irish Parliament in Dublin. He is getting married in August. Two more brothers live in Australia and Chicago.
Mrs. Hannah O'Sullivan, who I guess is my 3rd cousin, is 63 years old. Her husband, Paddy, of course, is still living and she has a daughter, Mary Bridget, 21, and Pat, 15 [who was adopted]. As both Mr. and Mrs. O'Sullivan are getting on, their place is rather small with only three or four cows and a small garden patch. I spent most of my time with her or the Reidy's.
I ran into a few more relatives around there, but the brogue and the beautiful weather, the Guiness and the tea, all ganged up to make me forget much of what I heard (mostly the brogue was to blame). Brosna, where the Hartnett's came from is about 10 miles distant, Knocknagashel is actually the parish in which Meenleitrim is located, Castleisland, Tralee, and all kinds of other places. One could spend weeks there just looking up all the people who were even remotely related even from that side of the family.
Again, I say, the friendliness of the people was unimaginable. As an example, on my second day there, 5 people I didn't even know walked out to their gates to talk to me and eventually invited me in for tea (Incidentally, I drank more tea during those few days than I had previously in my life). I was averaging 10-12 cups a day.
Before Rory travelled to Meenleitrim he sent a letter from Germany to his cousin Michael Reidy on April 21st, 1967.
RIP to Raymond Marshall