The 'Voice of An Oige' who was an extraordinary ambassador for Irish youth hostelling all over the world
Published 10/01/2010 | 05:00
MOST men can be categorised quite easily. Usually they have one or two traits which stand out in their personality. We can say he was an excellent husband, a good footballer or golfer, a first-class performer at his chosen profession.
Eddie McGrane, the vice-president of An Oige, the Irish Youth Hostelling Association, who died recently, was such a remarkable man with so many talents that it is not so easy.
Eddie was a joy to know and an inspiration to many. He was the essence of the great voluntary worker remarkably skilled in so many ways. He was the great all-rounder, walk leader, a tour organiser, a lecturer, a publicist, a newsletter editor, a photographer, an archivist.
The opening up of new horizons through youth hostelling was a great contributor to the character of thousands of young Irish people, not alone in the places and heritage seen, but in the meeting of people and cultures. Eddie was the man who opened the door to such experience. Eddie organised group travel for An Oige for decades.
The snows of Norway, the deserts of Australia and the mysteries of China were experienced by the many individuals who participated in some of the 85 tours he ran over the years. Eddie's marvellous work on behalf of youth was recognised when he was presented with the Lord Mayor's Award in 2007.
One of the great secrets of his success with groups was his ability to bring people in from the edges. He could sense immediately if a person was unhappy and not integrating so he would quietly dispatch someone to offer a kindly ear and lead them into the centre of activities.
Eddie's interest in youth development stemmed from his involvement in scouting and, in particular, the Sea Scouts at Ringsend. There he saved the life of a boy who fell into the water. Eddie, who had his life-saving badge, dived in fully clothed.
He got three rewards for his bravery -- a Chief Scouts Medal; a thank you from the boy's mother who said when he got the boy home she gave him a clip on the ear; and the third was when Eddie got on the bus dripping wet and the bus conductor threw him off after first giving him a clip on the ear.
From scouting to An Oige was a natural progression for Eddie. He joined the Association in 1948 and by the early Fifties was actively engaged in An Oige publicity and was recognised as the 'Voice of An Oige'. He was always ready to travel around the country armed with his notes and his magnificent slides to give lectures on An Oige and our rich Irish heritage.
His weekly newsletter, which he produced for almost 50 years, was a fund of knowledge about the activities of the association, listing walks, trips, useful tips etc and up to a short time ago, these notices were published each week in the Evening Herald.
He was without doubt An Oige's best known member both at home and abroad. He was known internationally as he attended many of the great international hostelling rallies. In Terry Trench's book on the history of An Oige, Fifty Years Young, the story of An Oige, there is a picture of Eddie dancing a reel in Salzburg's Town Hall in 1966. At the recent Centenary Celebrations of the founding of youth hostelling in Germany, his name came up in several conversations.
He was truly a hostelling ambassador extraordinaire. In addition to his newsletters and press notices, Eddie also became An Oige's unofficial archivist -- he threw nothing away. The attic room over his bed bulged with material. Fortunatelyfor history, these, and other official records, all now reside in the National Archives fully catalogued.
In one of his newsletters, Eddie added in a quotation of wise words, "It is not how long you live but how well". Eddie McGrane did both for over 80 years.