Sunday 18 November 2018

'All three drowned' - Tearful Des Cahill reveals multiple tragedy happened in his family

Des Cahill revealed that his father's first wife and their two children drowned in the 1950s. Photo: RTE
Des Cahill revealed that his father's first wife and their two children drowned in the 1950s. Photo: RTE
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

RTE sportscaster Des Cahill welled up as he told Late Late Show viewers last night how his family had experienced a multiple tragedy in the past.

Des explained that his father’s first wife and two of their four children died by drowning after one of the children got into trouble while swimming in a lake.

He told host Ryan Tubridy how he first learned of the tragedy when he was around 11 years old, when he asked his sister why there were two old schoolbags in the attic belonging to Cahills he never knew.

“I had actually noticed them in the attic… and when I was 10/11/12 I sat and opened them and they were Cahills and they weren’t in our family, and I don’t know why but I sensed something unusual about them and I asked my eldest sister about them, so she would have told me what was appropriate to tell an 11 year-old, that they had drowned. And she didn’t go into huge detail.”

“But I had sensed… because it was strange, I had uncle Jimmy, I had aunties, but uncle Jimmy wasn’t my mother’s brother or my father’s brother. I did wonder, and I don’t know if a child can have that level of intuition at 11 but I just sensed, ‘don’t ask about it’ but it transpired anyway that my father had been married before, married again.”

“There were children from the first marriage. I was the first of the second marriage, and it was probably an Irish thing that he wanted the family brought up as one, not stepbrothers or stepsisters. When I reflect on it now at my age and having lived life, I liked… they were my sisters and brothers.”

“Eileen told me that they had been drowned and at 11/12, I knew something had happened, I just sensed it. So it made sense then why uncle Jimmy, because uncle Jimmy was a brother of my father’s first wife.”

Des’s father and his first wife had five children together, and one evening when Des’s sister Eileen and father were at school, the rest of the family went swimming in a lake.

“There was a dreadful tragedy. We’re a county Clare family. We subsequently moved to Dublin for a new life but back then in the 50s … my dad and the eldest Eileen – she was doing the primary cert which was an exam every sixth class student in Ireland did at the time, judging you or preparing you for secondary school and my father was the principal so he was overseeing it.”

“His wife brought the four other children to a lake near the house and one of them got into trouble, a girl. Her brother followed in, the mother followed in, and all three drowned.”

He added:: “It wasn’t my tragedy… well it became my life but I feel bad for them, and obviously in writing this, and I discussed it with the family, and obviously… it’s easy for some to discuss it… and it can’t have been easy.”

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