I was born in Cork in 1941 as my Father was the Manager in the Eagle Printing Works. In 1943 my Dad moved to Dublin to take up the position as Manager of Cahills Printers. So I became a Dublin Man at 2 Years of age. life was normal for the next few Years until I was 16years of age and my older Brother Austin while working in Cahills Printing as a Compositor arrived home one evening with a sack full of clothes. It was the following Monday he arrived from his Bedroom with a Sailors Uniform. He had joined No 2 Company of the Naval Reserve called “An Slua Muiri” In march 1958 at 17 Years of age I too joined An Slua Muiri. In July I applied for my first 2 weeks of training at Fort Camden in Crosshaven in Co Cork. When July arrived all the group from Dublin who had applied for the First Period of Training I.e. last 2 weeks in July travelled as a group by Train to Cork. At the Station in Cork a double deck Bus was waiting to take us to Camden Fort. We checked in and assigned to a Billet. I had then to withdraw my bedding from the stores 2 sheets and a Pillow Case. Our Beds consisted of 3 wooden Blanks sitting on two wooden stilts. This was our bed for two weeks. 3 Blankets were sitting on our Bunks as part of our Bedding. This was my introduction to 38 happy Years in An Slua Muiri.
During these years I served my 7 years apprenticeship to qualify as a Printer. So I worked as a Printer during the week but Monday night in Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin was our meeting night. Nearly every weekend we trained at the Coast Guard Station in Dun Laoighaire. This would be on Whalers which had a crew of a 7. A coxswain to steer and six to row., sometimes rowing and at other times rigged for Sailing. In my early years this was our general mode of local Sea Training. In my first Year in An Slua Muiri on Monday nights we drilled and Drilled in Footdrill to learn to march as a unit. Then we were introduced to rifles and started rifle drill i.e. marching carrying rifles. In April in my second Year of service we marched in the Easter Parade up O’Connell Street in Dublin and did this every Year at Easter giving eyes left as a salute to Sean T O’Kelly President of Ireland and the Eamonn DeValera and all future Presidents. After passing out as a Recruit I opted for signals and became an ordinary Signaller referred to as O/S Cummins. Back to Fort Camden for my second year it was great using an Aldas Lamp and up at the old Gun Turret we would as arrranged with the Signal Tower in Haulbowline Signal in Morse Code between Fort Camden and the Naval Base in Cobh. This I really loved and I soon got promoted to Able Signaller A/Sigs Cummins. In 1961 I was promoted to Leading Signaller I.e. L/Sigs Cummins. I must mention at this stage that all Branches of An Slua Muiri we’re instructed by Regular Naval Service personnel usually either a regular Leading Seaman or Petty Officer who would oversee the training until an An Slua Muiri Member was qualified to take over the training. In 1963 I was promoted to Petty Officer P/O Cummins and now in charge of training our Signallers. It was at this time I got very interested in Radio and bought a radio transmitter/receiver so that using a Morse Key could communicate from my back bedroom at home with other countries around the world this was possible as I erected a large aerial across the length of my back garden. It was at this time I decided to enrol in the Radio College in Dublin and over a 3 Year Period 3 hours 2 nights a week I passed as a qualified Marconi Radio Officer first class. It would have been my intention to go to see as a Marconi Radio Officer, but that soon had to be put aside as I got engaged to be married which I did in 1966. In 1972 I was one of three NCO,s (Non commissioned officers) to be chosen to go on an Officers Course in Fort Camden there was 10 on the course picked from Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Limerick. The course over the 2 weeks in Camden included some trips over to the Naval Base for instruction by other Naval Officers in the Naval Base.
In 1974 I set up my own Printing Supplier Business and called “Cummins Graphic Supplies” My Company supplied Printing Machinery And Supplies to the Printing Industry for the next 30 Years and included setting up a Branch in Belfast in 1979 in the height of the Northern troubles and my Northern Branch in the middle of a Loyalist Area in Belfast but I must say this did not cause me any problems and my best customers and for paying their accounts were staunch Loyalists. Back to my An Slua Muiri and training in Cathal Brugha Barracks I was giving a lecture on the Monday night on stripping and assembling a Gustav Machine Gun so had several instruction manuals to hand to my class to read before and during the lecture. When the Lecture was over I held onto the Manuals as I was to continue the class on the following Monday so but the manuals into my brief case and placed in the booth of my car. It was the following Thursday I travelled to my Office in Belfast and after crossing the Border I was stopped by the British Army at a check point. They asked to open the booth of my car for checking saw my brief case and asked me to open it. It was then I realised I had the manuals on the Gustav Machine Gun. How do you in the height of the Northern troubles explain these manuals. I was fortunate that I had been issued with An ID Card with my rank and service number, so I explained to the British Officer that I was an Instructor in the Naval Reserve and had forgotten they were in my Briefcase. The British Officer made a call on his Radio Phone to someone and after 10 minutes accepted my story and told me to carry on.
Back to our normal day while on training in Fort Camden. After arrival on the Saturday you came into Fort Camden through the Main Gate and on the right was the Guard room housing the Duty Petty Officer And 4 quartermasters on 24 hours duty from 9 in the morning until nine the next morning. All arriving for training would look at the noticeboard outside the toilets (toilets were referred to as “the Heads”)on the notice board all attending for training for the next two weeks would be divided into two groups referred to “Watches” so you were assigned to either the Starboard or Port Watch and you would see immediately what watch you were in and if on duty immediately. You were also assigned to a Billet were you would live for the next two weeks under the control of the NCO in charge and always with the rank of Leading Seaman L/S. After we drew our bedding from the clothing stores and made up our beds we would then hear over the Loudspeakers “Hands to Tea” at first we thought there was a German on training but realised we were called “Hands” and not “Hans” so we all made our way to the dining Hall for our tea. The dining areas were divided by ranks. The main dining hall was for “the Men” as we would referred to and then the NCO.s had a separate dining area and the the commissioned officers had their separate dining area. Breakfast was 0800hrs Dinner was 1300hrs and Tea was 1700hrs the last meal of the evening. Sunday morning 0750 the loudspeakers would call out Hands to Breakfast. 0850 “Hands fall in for divisions” after breakfast we formed up along the Baselines opposite the Gun Turrets and facing out to Sea looking at the Navalbase on Haulbowline Island and Spike Island also out in the middle of the Harbour. We were then brought to attention and all marched up onto the Main Square. The Senior Chief would Hand over the parade to the C/O (commanding officer in charge of the camp) who would welcome us to Camp. We were then marched up to the Camden Fort Chapel for Sunday Mass. After Mass only those on duty had to stay in the Fort the rest were free to head off down to Crosshaven to have Drink and to enjoy the entertainment in Merry’s the Summer Carnival always there during the Summer Months. If it was a drink we needed it was generally Ma Buckley’s or Kennifics. Irrespective of what we did or “Who we Met”???? We have to be back in Camden by 2359hrs. We had 5 Whalers down alongside or at Anchor in what we referred to as the “Camber” So after Parade on the Monday morning the Signallers went to the Signal Bay, the Seaman’s Division went down to the Camber to take the Whalers for a rowing race or rig the Whaler for a few hours Sail. This was generally our Daily chores for the next two weeks. However every second Day we would row out to our Naval Corvette waiting to pick up the men sent for a day’s training on the Corvette. On board the Corvette Signallers went to the Visual Signalling Bay And Mechs Division Down to the engine room for training. All An Slua Muiri members while on training in Fort Camden also received training in the Naval Base and on board the Corvettes.
We all looked forward to Fridays as we had Pay Day so for each weeks training you received a weeks pay equivalent to your rank and pay similar to the pay in the Regular Naval Service. You also received an additional gratuity as a compensation for any expenses during your training year. To receive this additional gratuity you had to have a minimum attendance at your local training area of 40hrs January to December
It was in early 1983 I received a letter to my home from the Dept for Defence to inform me I was to be promoted to the Officer Rank of An Slua Muiri. I had to sit down to let all this sink in as it was 11 years since I did the Officers course but promotion to this rank was dependent on a vacancy within your Branch. The Officer commanding No 2 Coy Lt Cdr Frank Lynch was due to retire on age grounds so promotions upwards would leave a vacancy for me to be commissioned an Officer. As I was again going to Fort Camden for my 25th Camp it was decided I would be commissioned in Fort Camden in July 1983. It was a wonderful Day to be commissioned as an Officer in Forth Camden.
In Dublin no 1 and 2 Coy An Slua Muiri trained in Dun Laoighaire and when we received our Sail Training Yacht STY Creidne within 3 Years I qualified as An Offshore Skipper following an examination by the Irish Yachting Association and subsequently received my notification from Naval Headquarters that I was appointed as a Skipper of STY Creidne
We would arrive in Dun Laoighaire on Thursday evening at 0600Hrs and an Army Truck would arrive with 3 Days rations for our crew of 10 and at 1900hrs we would head off and sail overnight to the Isle of Man somtimes over to Holyhead.
During Annual Camp in Camden we would Sail Creidne Down to Fort Camden and during the two weeks training would take out 8 every day on Creidne for a Days Sail.
It was a sad day for me in July 1996 after 48 years I had to leave An Slua Muiri on reaching the retirement age for an officer.
These were surely the happiest days of my life and so not to miss my colleagues I joined the Irish Naval Association, where we still have wonderful times particulary as just prior to my retirement from An Slua Muiri I carried our national Flag at the head of 180 of our members in the Boston Saint Patricks Day Parade