Wednesday, December 27, 2017

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John Twomey

Anthony McIntyre recalls his late father in law who died in 2016 in Los Angeles. 

I thought about writing this last year but held off just in case it was still too raw for my wife. It was her first Xmas without her dad and sensitivity trumped the compulsion to write.

He was always known as Poppy John, a name I gave him after the birth of his first grandchild. It was all the children here ever referred to him by. He adored his first grandchild, an adoration replicated for the three to follow, one here and two others in the US. He made his first journey to Ireland shortly after my daughter was born to be with her and his own daughter. I recall my own pride in walking out to the garden and showing my daughter off to him and his wife before they even got a foot through the front door. 

At the time Springhill was an uncomfortable place to live. Few there had any inkling of the de-republicanisation of the Provisional project taking place all around them and were not in any way enamoured to anyone who pointed it out. He arrived there months after the Provisional IRA killing of Joe O'Connor, a period fraught with tension. Still, there was no hostility towards him or his wife.

He travelled to Belfast on a few more occasions. Many evenings saw him and I going on the beer. My friends in Belfast enjoyed his company and would join us in the city’s downtown pubs or the Green Hut in Turf Lodge. With a US military background it was no great shock to learn that his views were right of centre, and he was no shrinking violet when it came to standing over them, although always polite and tolerant.

He was a Trump supporter, not that he had any great faith in Trump. It was just that he felt Hillary Clinton would be a disaster for Americans. He very much subscribed to Trump’s characterisation of her as "crooked Hillary." Ever since Trump was elected, I took the view that he only won because of the sheer implausibility of a totally untrustworthy Hillary as a president. Although I doubt had he lived to experience the Trump presidency he would have stuck with it. He did not suffer fools gladly and any typology of fools would have Trump included.

A well read and informed man, he would often discuss international politics with me, feeling that the big wars of the future would be fought over water. He would send me books as presents and I would do likewise for him.  

He retired from the Army a Command Sergeant Major, and he was a Vietnam veteran. While my political view and his were miles apart, it never came between us in any personal sense. We were firm friends. He loved the banter and would laugh like mad when I would wind his wife up, although played it cute by not overtly taking sides. And she could give as good as she got. 

He had lived with leukaemia for more than a decade and persisted throughout with dogged determination. He and his wife came to stay with us over Christmas in Drogheda one year and he never mentioned his illness. Nevertheless, my wife had always braced herself, and when his condition took a turn for the worse she travelled out to the US to spend three months with him during one of his last turns at chemotherapy. On return, when it became clear that he was not going to make it through she headed back out to spend his final days with him, being there when he passed. She delivered the eulogy at his funeral service in Los Angeles., which was largely a military affair as many of his former comrades had turned out for the occasion. 

If friendships are strong they will survive the strains of political differences. When Poppy John died I lost a friend, a good one. 

Anthony McIntyre blogs @ The Pensive Quill.

Follow Anthony McIntyre on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre      


Wolfsbane said...

A lovely tribute, Anthony.

AM said...

Thank you Wolfsbane.

My wife will appreciate that.

Christopher Owens said...

Yes, that is a lovely take on Mr.Twomey.

It's very cool to read that the two of you got on so well, despite the differing political outlooks. In my experience, too many people use differing views on such matters as a barrier for friendships. A lot of people can learn from this.

AM said...


thank you.

A close friend, Alec McCrory, would say to me that friendship is too wholesome to be destroyed by something as sordid as politics. It was good advice.

Organized Rage said...

That is an excellent quote from Alex but sometime, especially in the heat of struggle, it is very difficult to live by it. A happy new year AM to you and yours.

AM said...

Mick, that is often true. But the really sad thing is when the politics that cause personal fall outs end up being so shallow.