It is a shame really that when looking for heroes we tend to overlook the 'man-in-the-street'. That is the hunting ground for Saints more usually. The rough-hewn. But the everyday man is all so often quite a hero. (But don't say that to a feminist unless you are looking for a fight). (On second thought, go for it).
In the Irish Room we have a visitor behind the bar. A splendid lady, who has been here before, my friend Svetlana Voreskova has full run of the Tavern. Lana may be Russian but knows well and lives with the Irish and she brought us a tale.
|Meet Lana. |
You didn't imagine that the Southern Gal was the ONLY beauty
that graces the Tavern, did you? :)
Hugh Dotherty was an electrician, mechanic and and chief "Mr. Fixit" guy where I work. At 64, Hugh was close to retirement when, in January this year, he suffered from a stroke. He died in hospital a week later.
I didn't really get to know Hugh until about two years ago, when on a bus home from an event, I found myself sitting beside him. I got talking to him and he began to tell me his story. It was a long trip across the country and we spent it talking about many different subjects. I asked him his advice about a paper I was about to publish in the college magazine which I knew would rattle some politically correct cages.
Hugh fixed a long thoughtful look on me.
"Don't ever let anyone intimidate you into silence," he said.
"If you do then you have given them a license to silence you over and over again." It was a motto that Hugh certainly stuck to all his life.
Hugh could fix anything, from car engines to power-outages. The only thing that ever seemed to confound him was the coffee machine in the college library building. He would curse loudly when he would see someone carrying a styrofoam cup bearing the logo of a nearby cafe, grab his tool-box and set off to do battle with his mechanical nemesis.
Hugh had been part of the furniture here since long before I had arrived. Originally from Belfast, Hugh had moved to Dublin in order to take his family away from the violence that plagued Northern Ireland during the 1980's.
A large and muscular man despite his age, Hugh had lived through some tough times, including death threats against his family, several serious beatings and finally the fire-bombing of his house.
Despite all this, Hugh had remained a soft-spoken but confident man, self educated and capable of holding his own in a debate on Irish history, with any history professor.
A devout Catholic, Hugh had married a Belfast girl in the early1980's. His wife Caroline came from a Loyalist Protestant background.
Hugh recalled one day, a meeting between the two families in a Belfast restaurant just after the wedding had been announced. It hadn't taken long for the usual ancient hostilities to come bubbling to the surface; accusation and counter accusation; a pointless hatred reaching its clammy hand from the mists of a history that none of them fully understood.
Half way through the dinner, Hugh had caught Caroline's eye across the table. Words were unnecessary. Both stood up and walked out of the restaurant together. A few weeks later they were married in a simple ceremony in a small town on the south coast of Ireland.
Hugh had set up a youth initiative in Belfast to try to guide young boys away from predatory paramilitary groups and help them to focus on something more positive.
The club was open to boys from both Protestant and Catholic backgrounds, and although it was shunned by many, it also attracted a lot of enthusiasm from people from both sides of the divide, tired of the constant hatred. A huge rugby fan, Hugh turned to his passion for the sport to keep the boys occupied.
Hugh met his future wife through this initiative and Caroline threw herself into the project with gusto.
Neither Hugh nor Caroline were naive about the implications.
Both were well aware that they would be shunned by many people, but they were not quite prepared for the frightening levels of hatred that would be directed against them.
Hugh has often times in his life stood against bigotry and hate. He spoke out against the bitter sectarianism in Belfast. When his brother was bloodily beaten by a loyalist mob, he was furious, but when local nationalists retaliated, Hugh castigated them too. "This has to stop." he said in a radio interview. "People have to just stop."
Having resettled in Dublin, Hugh began to spend his weekends coaching and mentoring young lads from the more deprived areas of the city. "Better to have them playing rugby than robbing cars and stickin needles in their arms." Hugh would say. Hugh was convinced that what boys needed were male role models and peer activity that was male centric.
He never failed to be a good role model himself.
His new rugby club became quite successful with some of his young players even filtering through to the bigger clubs. He persuaded the college authorities to allow him to use their facilities as his teams expanded. Hugh also managed to arrange some visits to his rugby camps by members of the national team. On campus just over a year ago Hugh's boys were bused in to be put through their paces by rugby legends Brian O'Driscoll and Tommy Bowe.
Having stood up to sectarian bigotry and paramilitary thugs, Hugh was almost brought down by that most insidious of plagues, feminist ideology. "When they're wearing balaclavas, then at least you know what you're up against," he had joked to his wife. Hugh knew what intimidation was, and it wasn't someone calling you a mean name on twitter.
Hugh kept all his tools and equipment in the back of a van he would drive to work. A small sticker on the bumper depicted a sort of Lady Godiva figure; a decidedly non-graphic silhouette of a naked woman riding a horse. It was the logo of another rugby club that Hugh was involved with. It was quite harmless you would think.
But you would be wrong!
|Godiva. Patron of my Home City|
Several female students complained about the logo on Hugh's van and Hugh was asked to remove it.
He refused, pointing out that his van was his own private property.
His parking permit was revoked meaning that his van would be clamped if he parked in any of the staff car-parks. He responded with a solicitor's letter claiming that as a member of staff he had the same rights as other staff members.
One evening he returned to his van to find that it had been doused in white paint. He came into work driving a different car the next day.
The following Monday though, he returned to work in his old van, freshly spray-painted and with the logo of his rugby club emblazoned on each side, so large that it almost covered each panel.
The feminist society then began to demand that girls should also be involved in the rugby club. A club which excludes girls was against college policy and after all, the club was training on college grounds. When a group of feminists approached Hugh about this, he responded positively. "Sure," he said, "if you are setting up a club for girls, I will certainly sit down with you and give you a few pointers." The feminist societies continued to push for Hugh's club to accept girls, but his response was always the same. He posted it several times on the college bulletin board. "If anyone want's to set up a rugby club for girls, they can contact me and I will try to give them any advice I can."
Hugh didn't hate women.
Hugh didn't hate anyone.
After living with the violence and intimidation in Belfast, he didn't even hate those from the other side of the barricades.
A charming and generous man who was always willing to lend a hand to anybody who asked; who spent most of his life defying hatred and bigotry and working to help others.
He would meet hatred with reason, and lies with truth, but he would never allow himself to descend into bitterness.
Hugh is survived by his wife Caroline, his daughter Shiofra and his sons Niall and Cormac. I have their permission to write this little tribute.
................. The coffee machine still doesn't work.
An Old English Knight raises his glass and his sword in a salute to a fine Irish Gentleman Warrior: Hugh Dotherty
And in thanks to Lana for telling us of a Hero. Hugh may not make the Annals of the Heroes but he IS one. He may not be elevated in a papal ceremony to the Sainthood, but he IS one.
Not everyone gets the recognition and the applause they are due. But some are remembered fondly by people who matter.
Let his name be entered into the Book.