Wednesday 21 November 2018

Martin recalls fond Enniscorthy memories of old

Martin White at the Athenaeum recently during a visit to his home town
Martin White at the Athenaeum recently during a visit to his home town

Town and Country Life with Maria Nolan

About two weeks ago I had a call from well-known Enniscorthy man David Hasslacher, asking if I would be interested in meeting him at the Athenaeum to take a photograph of someone who had performed on the stage there back in the 1940s.

The person in question, a lovely, genteel man, Martin White who now resides in England was on a visit to Enniscorthy with his daughter Deirdre Thomas and her husband Keith, and had the good fortune to come across David, son of the late Betty Hasslacher, who had made such an impression on Martin in his youth.

In fact, one of Martin's abiding memories from his Enniscorthy schooldays was playing a small part as a Roman slave in a production of Caesar's Friend at the Athenaeum theatre, where the star of the show was none other than the same Mrs Betty Hasslacher - 'a charming and highly attractive lady who helped me through my stage fright', as Martin recalls.

Martin White, otherwise known as Joseph, or as a boy growing up in Enniscorthy, Joe White, spent much of his boyhood here in the 1940s, where his father William White was the local Customs & Excise officer. His mother Ellen Kavanagh from Killincooley near Kilmuckridge sadly died when he was just four years old leaving his father a widower with seven children.

The White family lived in a town house on Cathedral Street, formerly the Bishop's house. Martin and his two brothers attended the local Christian Brothers School where they were taught by Mr Michael Tobin, father of the writer Colm Toibin, while his sisters attended the Loreto Convent in Enniscorthy. Martin told me that the late Michael Tobin was 'the best teacher he has ever had'.

In Enniscorthy, Martin spent most of his spare time fly fishing on the river Slaney and while he loves all sports, fly fishing for trout and salmon remain his favourite.

His mother Ellen Kavanagh and her brother John Kavanagh were the seventh generation of the Kavanagh family to have farmed at Killincooley and its adjoining farm at Tinnabearna. The Tinnabearna farm adjoined the sea, and thus the White family had the opportunity every summer of having both a farm holiday and a seaside holiday at the same time.

Martin remembers these days as idyllic.

On leaving school, Martin began a banking career with the Bank of Ireland in Waterford. After two years with the Bank of Ireland he joined Standard Chartered Bank, a British overseas bank based in London. His Standard Chartered career took him to India, Pakistan, Dubai, Sri Lanka - where he told me he enjoyed trout fishing in the mountains - and Iraq, where he met and married an English lady named Patricia.

Standard Chartered at that time was interested in business in the Middle East and sent Martin to the Middle East Centre of Arab studies MECAS, in the village of Shemlan in the Lebanese mountains for 10 months to study and learn the Arabic language and culture. Although it is a very difficult language for Europeans to learn, Martin said that when he became familiar with it he found it had 'some very attractive poetry and prose'.

After 20 years with Standard Chartered, Martin was recruited by a large American bank where he looked after the bank's interests in the Middle East and Africa and regularly attended and spoke at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund in Washington.

After all his years away and all his travels around the world, Martin, now a retiree, tries to visit Ireland as often as he can and was hugely impressed with his tour of Enniscorthy Castle, especially when accompanied by former Castle resident David Hasslacher, and also with the newly refurbished Athenaeum where he was delighted to once again grace the famous stage over 70 years after his debut there and where I was delighted to photograph him and capture a small snippet of personal history at the iconic theatre at the heart of Enniscorthy.

Enniscorthy Guardian