By Tom Nestor

Coming close to the middle nineteen fifties, a van would arrive at the chapel before mass, open up the rear door, slip the twine and open up the outside world with the Sunday newspaper. It was a striking sign of things to come.

Very few took a newspaper then, most of rural Ireland was too far away to make it a daily call. So we too, alongside most of our neighbours, bought the big newspaper on a Sunday, from outside the church railing.

Shortly afterwards, another symbol of our upward direction, the motor car, arrived. After Sunday mass it was always parked in the front of our house. We sat there, warm and snug, two brothers and I, sharing the newspaper between us, though there was one, whose head dropped several times, before eventually falling to sleep.

On one of those Sundays my second life began. I read about Brendan O’Regan and the developments he had made in Shannon Airport, through a business called Sales and Catering. Hundreds of people were working there, coming out from Limerick city, from Ennis, from rural Ireland everywhere, but mostly from the mid-west.

The newspaper story went on describe how the business had evolved through catering for passengers. Shannon was the last opportunity where long-haul aircraft, flying the western route, could take on fuel. Passengers had to leave the aircraft while the fuelling was taking place. And that’s how the business was created, as if it was made in heaven, passengers dined at the airport, and bought in the duty free shop.

After supper on most Sundays my father would seek someone to read the newspaper to him. Mostly that was my mother, but I was first sub when she went visiting her sister who lived ‘over the road’, as we described a short journey. My father was very taken by Brendan O’Regan and the Sales and Catering Company. And then he produced the knock out. “You should talk to that man. He might have a job for you.”

Rineanna, where the airport was, was only over the road, the way we would describe a journey of indeterminate length, and there were many. Going the direct route, it was three or four miles down the road to Foynes where, oft now and then, he would take us, by pony and trap, to see the Flying Boats, the beginning of what Rineanna would ultimately become.

He kept on reminding me. Every time we were alone, by turnip drills, when we two stayed behind to make a final design to a hay wynd, on our way home to the midday meal, what we called the dinner. I had other notions of what I might become but most of those had gone by the wayside.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own