Osama's Irish tutor shocked at path taken by 'inoffensive' pupil
Published 04/05/2011 | 05:00
THE WIDOW of an Irishman who taught Osama bin Laden English said her husband had always described him as an "inoffensive young fellow".
Breda O'Brien and her husband Seamus worked in Jeddah on the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s where Seamus was employed as a private tutor by the Bin Laden family at their home.
Although her husband passed away two years ago, Mrs O'Brien said it had always shocked him when Osama bin Laden's name came to prominence because he was so "quiet and inoffensive".
Speaking to the Irish Independent at her home in Glenane near Killeagh in east Cork, Mrs O'Brien prefaced her comments with her own views on how news of the death of the world's most wanted man had been greeted.
"I don't like the media gloating over Bin Laden and it has become a gloat fest," said the retired English teacher. "They'd be better off saying a prayer for him and for the people he allegedly killed."
Mrs O'Brien and her late husband spent seven years in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s. The couple both worked as English teachers, Seamus in the Al Thaghr School for boys which was attended by the male members of the Bin Laden family.
"Seamus got a job in Al Thaghr School and taught Osama Bin Laden there. The school was for the rich and the thick and it was a difficult post, they were also very arrogant of course."
She said her husband remembered Bin Laden well and what struck him about the teenager was that he was very quiet and reserved, unlike some of his more arrogant peers.
"His father had his full quota of four wives, which is allowed for Muslims. Their house was very dour and there was no sign of ostentation whatsoever. It was very austere.
"When we saw clips of him on television all those years later, he still had that face of austerity."
Mrs O'Brien had been invited to the Bin Laden household with her husband and remembers their house as "an unimposing building" in a compound behind high walls.
"Seamus was the Bin Laden's private tutor and taught English to Osama and some of his brothers."
"I suppose he would have got to know him better during this time but you have to remember the Saudis are a very closed society.
"Seamus taught him English and said he was reasonably good."
"The father was I suppose, was what we'd call a 'cute hoor' and as a merchant he would have started with a desk on the side of the street and dealt with whatever was in demand, usually a money exchange.
Mrs O'Brien said that years later when they heard the name Osama Bin Laden again in connection with Al Qa'ida and September 11, her husband was surprised.
"He was surprised because as a young fellow the lad was inoffensive and didn't show any hostility towards Seamus."