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John Daly: 'Dagenham Yanks ruled Rebel city'



Cork City. Photo: Deposit

Cork City. Photo: Deposit

Cork City. Photo: Deposit

Strolling along Cork's sun-dappled Marina, it's impossible not to absorb the heady hints of history reflected in the dappled waters of the River Lee. The majesty of Blackrock Castle, the towering buttresses of the newly minted Páirc Uí Chaoimh, even the perfectly placed bench where Cha and Miah, those witty Corkonians from 'Hall's Pictorial Weekly' back in the 1970s, prognosticated upon the peculiarities of mankind. Reigning over everything, though, is the shadow of the Ford factory, where the production line first began to roll a century ago in the late summer of 1919.

As embedded in the commercial soul of the city as Barry's Tea, Tanora orange and Beamish stout, Ford represented the best of times with its promise of a 'job for life' among the 20,000 who passed through its doors until the line closed in 1984.

A small town of eight acres under one roof, it obeyed a single golden rule amid the bustle, tumult and clamour of industry - 'the line never stops'. In an era where the average weekly wage was 19 shillings, Ford men ruled the roost on £5 in a generational occupation where sons followed fathers into decades of faithful service. A job on the Marina was a sign of upward mobility in an era when barefoot children were a standard sight across the city's impoverished back streets.

"If you got into Fords, you were made for life, absolutely." When the Great Depression and World War II brought layoffs at the plant, many headed for the huge Ford factory in London and prompted the arrival of another unique addition to the Cork lexicon - 'the Dagenham Yank.'

During the 1930s and '40s, scores of telegram boys became a permanent sight, fanning out across the city delivering money orders home - an estimated £3bn returned by absent fathers and sons.

It became an era where hundreds of families were rendered fatherless, with mothers running the household and thousands of children who knew dad only by the annual summer holiday.

While their extended absences may have caused many a sadness through missed birthdays and anniversaries, the Dagenham Yanks did bring a taste of the outside world during their annual holidays home.

Dressed to the nines in fashionable clothing, they frequented the city's pubs boasting in newly acquired English accents of the 'big money over', buying rounds with abandon and bravado.

"You'd think they were coming from a different planet," one local observed of this annual migration. "And, you know, they probably were."

Belief no longer needed

It's not easy filling church pews these days, and it's not just in Ireland.

Confronted with the reality of steadily dwindling audiences, Rutgers Presbyterian Church in New York has opted to adopt a radical approach to the problem - you don't have to believe in God. Offering a welcome to atheists, agnostics, sceptics and all variety of doubting Thomases, Reverend Andrew Stehlik sums up this novel approach: "We are not giving up on Christianity, but we're not dogmatic about it." You never know, he may be on to something...

Lomu tribute fitting

It's timely and fitting that a new film about the life and times of Jonah Lomu is premièring with the start of the Rugby World Cup this week.

When he passed away in 2015, aged just 40, it was a dagger to the heart of every sports fan across the globe. His best epitaph will always be the fax sent to the All Blacks squad before the 1995 World Cup semi-final: "Remember rugby is a team game - all 14 of you make sure you pass the ball to Jonah." A legend. Full stop.

Irish Independent