Rev. Brother Gerald: Leitrim man who made his way from Vichy France, back to Ireland, via Spain, Portugal, England and Scotland, writes Con McGrath
Last week readers learned the story of Brother Gerald’s experiences in Vichy France, following the Nazi invasion.
This week’s story takes up the remainder of his interview, which originally appeared on the front page of “The Offaly Independent”, dated May 10, 1941, where he describes his remarkable journey home, and the many ‘friends’ of Ireland he met along the way.
The remainder of that interview is as follows:
BROTHER GERALD described his efforts to obtain an exit permit from unoccupied France. After six months trying—from June until January of this year—he eventually got away to Spain; wholly and entirely due to the fact that he was an Irish citizen.
On the first stage of his journey to the frontier a railway bridge had been swept away by floods, necessitating the laying of a pontoon bridge across the floods and passengers were conveyed across in single carriages drawn by a small engine to the waiting train at the other end.
ARRIVES IN SPAIN
At the Spanish frontier he went through the usual formalities and his papers were in order. Arriving in Barcelona he went to a brother house and remained a week there. When in Barcelona he was shown a very interesting relic of the civil war. It was a kind of chair in the side of which was a handle which when turned pressed the bones of the victim seated on it. It was known as the “checca,” and was a kind of third degree method used by the Reds to obtain information. In front of the chair was a table containing a 300 candle power electric light and in front of that again was the judge’s seat. Behind the table was a gauze netting dividing seats for short-hand typists who took down everything that was said.