John's extraordinary war gesture recalled
Published 30/08/2014 | 00:00
ONE of the most extraordinary stories of the Emergency in west Kerry was celebrated in a moving meeting in Cloghane on Sunday between the nephew of an English prisoner of war and the daughter of the local man who helped alert his family in the UK as to his whereabouts.
Síle Mulcahy met UK native Joseph Mort in an emotional scene in O'Connor's Bar in the west Kerry community on Sunday as they recalled the amazing story sparked by the crash of a BOAC Sunderland on the slopes of Mount Brandon in July 1943.
It was Síle's father and then school principal John F Courtney who found the scraps of a letter from Joseph's uncle, William Mort, strewn on the landscape. In an incredibly kind gesture, John Courtney went to the trouble of piecing them all together in a jigsaw that ultimately alerted Mr Mort's family to William's whereabouts - in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Java.
His letter home to tell his family the Japanese 'treat us well' was one of thousands of letters in the downed aeroplane. It was a message that would never have reached William's UK home but for John Courtney.
Joseph was delighted to pay tribute to the man who went to so much trouble for his family and to meet John Courtney's daughter Síle.
Sadly, William Mort perished in the Japanese camp in September of 1943 just months after penning the letter, in a reminder of the cruel conflict that tinged the otherwise vibrant atmosphere on Sunday.
'To get this postcard provided some comfort and solace for my grandparents and Bill was never forgotten about,' Joseph said.