Noel Fitzgerald was aged 21 in 1941. On the night of the bombing, he was standing at the door of his family home at 43 Summerhill Parade. The house collapsed inwards and family members had to be pulled from the rubble by the rescue services. Noel’s grandmother was taken to the Mater hospital, where she died of pneumonia two weeks later. Noel’s family were later rehoused in Cabra.
Listen to Noel’s story here:
Project Name: North Strand Bombing Oral History Project (Part 1)
Track Number: 01
Name of the Interviewee: Noel Fitzgerald
Name of Interviewers: Ellen Murphy and Andrew O’Brien
Place of Interview: The Lab, Foley Street, Dublin 1
Date of Interview: 9 April 2009
Name of Transcriber: Andrew O’Brien
Length of Track: 12 mins, 37 secs
Ellen Murphy (EM): Interview with Mr. Noel Fitzgerald on the 9 April 2009 and also present is Ellen Murphy, Dublin City Archives, Andrew O’Brien and Ulrika Nilsson, also of Dublin City Archives. So, Mr. Fitzgerald what age were you in 1941?
Noel Fitzgerald (NF): 21.
EM: And where were you living?
NF: In 43 Summerhill Parade. At the corner of North Circular Road, you know, just to locate it.
NF: And, you asked what was I doing? Well, actually, my mother and I were there. My grandmother was in bed and my sister was in bed and a first cousin, who was quite young, lived in Rathfarnham, and came to stay for the couple of days with us, you know, and they were in bed and when the sort of noise went outside we looked to see – we didn’t even think that it was a bombing – but there was noise – and….. we came out there were flashing lights in the sky which I assumed were anti-aircraft guns which we understood were located in the Phoenix Park. And we had barely got to the front door looking – when the bomb fell and the building came down and collapsed. We went outwards like, and the remainder of the house just collapsed. So, that was really all I know of the actual bombing.
Then subsequently they fell on the North Strand. We didn’t know what had happened really. Then, we assumed that they were anti-aircraft guns and it must have been an air raid. That really is my longest memory of it, there wasn’t much to see or hear. But of course, after that the A.R.P. – Air Raid Precaution, yes. They came, all fuss and bother. I was trying to see where my relations were. My mother was with me, and my sister – the others they were dug out while we were there, they got them out – pulling bits of masonry and all that, and ambulances everywhere and my grandmother, she would have been in the 80s I think, she went off in an ambulance. From memory we had cousins down near Clonliffe Road, Ballybough somewhere, the Parkers, and they came up and brought us down but I said I’d better try and find out where my grandmother was. A lot of them said Jervis Street so I went to Jervis Street – no sign. Anyway, went up to the Mater and she was located there. So she was alive alright but she died about two weeks later from pneumonia of all things – but that was the only casualty in the family and literally speaking that’s all I can tell you about it.
EM: It was some experience. Was there a great sense of panic?
NF: Oh, there was, people shouting, roaring, crying and that but I was sort of more intent on finding where my grandmother was – the others were alright but in any event they were dug out safely, so that was that. There was another, a chap lived beside me named McCrann, Rory McCrann and I never saw sight or sign of him, you know, whether he was at home on the night I don’t know. So that’s about all.
EM: That’s great – the next day – how did people feel about it?
NF: Oh, they were bewildered I think more than anything else and then there was a big disturbance on the North Strand of course and quite a few deaths there. I went down to have a look, there was desolation there, houses on either side of the road knocked down but I didn’t know anybody there. I was most worried about my own family. So that’s, as I say, I think all I can tell you.
EM: Did you receive compensation then or did the house get re-built?
NF: No, there was no compensation. I stood of course without a suit coat on me just a shirt and pants and we had to get these things I think in a hurry, some clothing. There was no compensation. Subsequently I think there was something ridiculous like £20 a person or something offered – So that was about all I can tell you.
EM: Andrew, do you have any questions?
Andrew O’Brien (AOB): Mr. Fitzgerald you don’t recall what time the bomb fell at?
NF: I think midnight, around that time, because my mother and I were still awake at that stage.
AOB: Did you work in the area at this time?
NF: No, I had gone to England. I worked in Cooks Travel Agency. We were all fired except the manager and a typist, just to keep the place open, we were all fired and of course there was no hope of a job anywhere at that stage so I went off to England to work. I was on holiday here.
AOB: You mentioned the anti-aircraft guns.
AOB: Do you recall hearing a noise of the bomber-planes themselves?
NF: No, no. I can’t say I did. I probably did at the time but I don’t recall that. I just remember you know, when I saw the shells firing I assumed it was an air-raid. I’d got to the front door really when it all went down.
AOB: What was your immediate reaction do you recall, because we weren’t at war with Germany or Britain?
NF: I didn’t think of that at all. Being neutral, we were still favourable towards the British. We just knew there was a war with Germany – we didn’t know very much about Germany at all.
AOB: But your perception of the war – did that change dramatically or not after this?
NF: No, it didn’t I must say – I suppose probably in your mind you were cursing the Germans for the damage they’d done but it didn’t sort of mentally affect me in any way.
AOB: Now you mentioned obviously your first priority is to look for your family and sort that out. Did you find yourself getting involved in the charity aspect of it, the refugee situation or the Red Cross?
NF: No, the Red Cross were on hand but there was such excitement as soon as we were okay. I think the Red Cross moved on to another house, the remains, you know.
AOB: And the funerals then, of course…
NF: That was my grandmother, as I say she died from pneumonia and she was buried in Glasnevin – we were very sad about that because sometimes your grandmother is closer nearly to your family, your immediate family but.
AOB: And the funerals of the victims, did you attend?
NF: I didn’t attend any of the others only my grandmother. My father, he wasn’t there, he was a civil servant in Britain. He had been transferred years ago, with the change of government when Britain finally left, you know. We were part of the Commonwealth at that stage. No, I think what’s done was done; we were a bit philosophical about it, you know, so that was that.
AOB: Did it surprise you that you were philosophical about it, as you say?
NF: No, I didn’t dwell on that, kind of, you know, well it’s done, you can’t sort of do anything but rebuild the house or that sort of thing, that’s about all you can do.
AOB: And did you stay home for the summer then?
NF: No, went off again.
AOB: Okay, that’s great – you mentioned the damage to the house, was damage done to your house?
NF: Flattened. Some damage to the house next door but I don’t think it came down like that.
AOB: Where were you housed temporarily?
NF: To cousins, the Parkers, at Ballybough – down there at the corner of Clonliffe Road.
EM: You mentioned you went to their house that evening…
EM: Had they come down to you – had they heard the news?
NF: Yes, they had heard. So, we went there and we stayed there for some weeks and that was that, then we moved to Cabra, and the Corporation provided us with a house immediately and of course quite a number of others from the North Strand went up to Cabra.
AOB: Did the atmosphere in your circle change much in the aftermath, in the immediate aftermath, of the bombing?
NF: No, just the usual, how awful it was, we’re sorry for you, all this sort of stuff. That’s, that. I think people were more shocked than anything else. They didn’t realise, you know, the extent of what had happened. So, there we go.
AOB: And of course as you say you went down to the bombsite on the North Strand – that must have been quite a scene.
NF: Oh, devastation of course and weeping and wailing looking to find relations and this, that and the other.
AOB: And the biggest crater I think was at Newcomen Bridge would that be right?
NF: From there down to before the Five Lamps down to about North Clarence Street, there down that far – I think most of it were there – the houses on either side.
AOB: And was there much talk then in the days and weeks after of the war effort and the war coming to Dublin, the Germans and the Brits, political debate must have been quite intense I’d imagine.
NF: I didn’t read to tell you the truth about it. I didn’t read about it. It about it happened to us. We were more concerned about ourselves than anything else.
AOB: And when you look back at it now from this vantage point now for many years and all down the years since, did your views change after the War about your views at the time of the bombing?
NF: No I don’t think I ever was anti-German as a result of that you know. I actually felt that we were unlucky that it might have been a mistake
AOB: What that the general talk that it was a mistake, or was it deliberate?
NF: Some people thought it was a mistake that it might have been Liverpool. Others thought that if the anti-aircraft guns hadn’t fired it mightn’t have happened that it might have…provocation. Others said no, that they were nearly at the end of the distance of the bombing mission you know to get back again to Germany they felt that they were shedding the bombs more than anything else – this was the thoughts at the time.
AOB: No talk of Belfast and what had happened there?
NF: No, That was. This is part of the U.K., and big shipbuilding up there, it could be expected you know, that was as I say only supposition.
AOB: Thank you.
NF: So there we are.
EM: Well, I think that’s about it, that was really good – thank you so much do you have anything you want to add yourself before we turn off the tape?
NF: No. I’m not getting any rewards from Dublin City Council for my clothes and my bike (laughs)
EM: Your bike was destroyed too?
NF: I had left my bike there and it was fairly new, and it was all gone (laughs)