Dickie Rodgers has suffered a few strokes recently and this is on top of a serious illness he has been fighting for more than a decade. But Dickie is nothing if not a fighter and even in his eighties he is a lively conversationalist.
I led him with a few questions – his memory has been affected – but he quickly settled into his old self. I started with shared memories of old Labourite colleagues from the late 50s – early 60s.
‘They were all great people. I don’t remember all the names, but you know who I mean. You were in the Irish Labour Party at the time too, John!’ he rightly pointed out.
‘Tom Kelly, who was a Councillor from the 50s on. Tommy McGrath. Tommy was a great Socialist – like his father Rabbie. Hugh Golding. Hugh was always a good man of the people and strong for Labour. Young Hugh too. Frank Patterson – a relative of my own. The father, I mean. A great man of Labour.
Then there was Colman Rowntree. He was very good. Many more whose names don’t come immediately to me.
We would go to the Labour Party’s Annual Conference in the Four Courts in Dublin. But they were a bit embarrassed by us. There were only two Northern Branches, ourselves and Warrenpoint.
You know, they threw us out because of Internment!’
I certainly cannot vouch for that, but Dickie was among the first interned. And our welcome at the Dublin Ard Fheis certainly did quickly wane! There were splits in Newry Labour, with Tommy Markey’s faction dominating and taking that name.
‘There were good men in the Warrenpoint Branch too!’ he added, though he was unable to remember any names at all.
‘There’s none now for Labour or the working people.
Especially that Liar from England, the stooge of Bush the Warmonger!’
Dickie relapsed quickly into the colourful language that is so characteristic of him. The last line above has been thoroughly – and of necessity – cleaned up!
I waited to quietly steer the conversation into quieter waters ….
…. More from Dickie Rodgers later ………..