The flags of our heritage.

 

Dad 1950 Bray, Co. Wicklow.

My Dad’s Father, was from Hollywood, Co Dublin. He was a Dairy Farmer and in due course married a girl from Cincinnati Ohio named Annie O’Brien whom he met while visiting Ireland. The story goes that as a young person, she went blind and was taken into a convent in Ohio. Her family and the Nuns prayed for a cure, and when she was nineteen all of a sudden her sight returned. Annie vowed never to look in a mirror again so her vanity would not offend God who had been so kind to her. She bore four children of which my Dad, William Henry or Bill, was the youngest. He and his brother Frank were natural sales people as Frank soon got the agency for Jaguar Cars for the Republic of Ireland. Bill, when he got out of school, spent time at competitive oarsman at Island Bridge. Then he approached the AIB bank South Richmond Street, and was granted a loan by the then manager George Watson - just enough to purchase number 39 lower Camden Street to run as a grocery shop. He had a great personality, very honest and up front with people and therefore attracted a large number of regular customers, made up of residents in the area and from lower Rathmines.

 

At a dance in the Shanganagh hotel he met a girl from Belfast called Vera Smyth. Soon after that they got married and moved to Saint Anne’s 17 Cowper Drive, Rathmines. This was a small white Corbusier design house with a walled in flat roof on which one could walk out  in safety. They had two sons, me and six years later my brother Colm. Prior to that and during the war in 1944, Bill got into making Mayonnaise for Aer Lingus airlines as Cross and Blackwell’s would not supply at that time. Their home was next to the Harcourt Street rail line and as children, got into such pranks as putting stones on the lines so as to make what we thought would be gun powder. This got out of hand when one of the trains stopped and the inspector came down the line after the culprits. My mother discovered that she had to be train wise and know the schedules as the washing had to be removed from the clothes line before the thundering arrival of every puffing engine, so that the flying smuts would not blacken the linen. This often let to acrobatics of comical proportions, though we did help when we could.

Bill was so successful because of hard work and an incredible way with people that he was able to buy a hotel in Bray Co Wicklow. Over the years it grew from fifteen bedrooms to a hundred and twenty rooms, restaurants, function rooms some at roof top level that he named the Starlight Room.

The family moved to a large Georgian residence called Mount Herbert on Herbert Road, Bray, to be nearer his business. This had large gardens and a wood land at the back sloping down to a mill race and the Dargle River. It was isolated from the world but a great adventure land for kids. Mean while Bill had a deep knowledge of wines and decided to change his grocery shop into one of Dublin’s first wine shops – W.H. Cavey, Wines and Spirits. This proved to be an instant success and it enhanced his reputation as having a hotel with fine wines on the menu. Major Riale, from Borie-manoux wine shippers in Borbeaux became his favorite wine supplier. Not only did Bill ship casks of his wine and bottle them in his shop, but he also had a wine in his name and with his label - St Emilion was what he liked best. As the hotel grew he built a ballroom and dining room attached. At the time only the Gresham hotel in O’Connell Street were running dinner dances, but Bill did just that and became the second to do so. His clientele came from far and wide but also he gained from the bona vides law that enable people to partake in extra drinking time at night, if outside the city limits. Bill was four miles beyond the limits and developed a great trade as a result.

 

With Mom, and Bonny, Hotel Associate in the background

Very often people would say in passing how great Bill was for remembering little things that mattered in their lives and asking about them. He also was a great employer and had a devoted staff who were mainly living locally. Among the greats were Helen and Dick Talbot, Miss Warren, and Dan Keating. These names stand out in lights in my mind. Ardmore Film Studios soon opened and he had such stars staying or visiting as, George Peppard, Peggy Cummins, Terrance Morgan, Aldo Ray, Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn, to mention a few.

Frank Cavey, Bill’s brother, eventually gave up the Jaguar agency and took on Aston Martin instead but unfortunately for Bill and family, in the early 70’s the hotel was sold by receivers as the bona vides laws had changed for the worse, competition increased, and the trouble in the north of Ireland took its toll on tourism. That was the end of the good days now times and circumstances would change.

After training in Switzerland, I joined my Dad’s hotel and later on my brother Colm did likewise. It was during those years that the lure of the ocean and of the Hawaiia Islands captivated my fancy. Bill did what he could as a truly creative professional who was not only good at his trade but was an artist to his finger tips. He doodled when on the phone and always wore a garden flower in his lapel when going to work – little things mean a lot. He was a sort of cross between Poireau and Winston Churchill – very precise and very determined and a man for show and demonstration, yet charitable by nature. He brightened up the world by always wearing a flower in his suit button hole.

When he bought the Royal hotel as it was known in 1940, it had only 12 bedrooms. Over the years he extended his hotel several times, till he ended up with a Rooftop Restaurant incorporating a separate Breakfast Room. Also ground floor Restaurants and Bars along with 160 rooms and two elevators to all floors. He also went the extra mile and copied the Stardust Hotel Las Vegas sign with his version, as seen in the photo above. He did the best anyone could do in the times that were in it, so well done Bill!

In 1969 I married a pretty lassie called Ann Kelly but sadly in 1973 the hotel fell on hard times due to a down turn in tourism caused by sectarian violence in the North of Ireland. From then onwards, tourism declined sharply from mainland Britain and Northern Ireland. This brought about bank receivership and though married a short time and with a baby girl (Carolyn) we sold our home and immigrated to Canada for six years.

We were kindly accommodated by a relative of Ann’s family, a Dr Brian Beirn who had opened the Anthropology department in Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

After Vancouver we lived in  Calgary and I worked with the Four Seasons Hotel and Western International, Calgary Inn. I managed to get a few days surfing at Pacific Rim on Vancouver Island before moving east. Our son Paul was born in Calgary and then we became citizens. We quickly took to skiing which we happily performed on great slope in the Rockies. Eventually after having a good vacation in Oahu and Maui with lots of surfing as a bonus, we eventually came back to Ireland. Now it was time to re join the work force which amounted to Bloom’s Hotel, De Beers in Shannon, but also to catch up on what had been happening in the surfing world and get some traction once again. Some years later our daughter Georgina was born, I retired from Beaumont Hospital where I finally had worked for fifteen years, joined Marriot’s Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, and also became a voluntary surfing instructor in Lahinch Co Clare during the summers. (I still do lesson for one or two people on the east coast, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) Our eldest two offspring married and settled down in this area, to live and sail in Dun Laoghaire and Greystones while at present Georgina is based in London. The family never took to surfing but one and all like skiing when possible.
‘Go neirig na tonnta agus an sneachta linn’

Ann, Self, Georgina, Olivia, Matthew, Simon, Baby Lara, Paul, Emily, Eva, Carolyn.