Between August and October, 1969, I spent some weeks in Ireland, driving a rented car on the left side of the road (unexpectedly challenging) in order to interview government officials, principals, teachers, students—a diverse sample of people involved in Irish education. People there were marvelously kind, hospitable, and forthcoming, and they shared strong feelings (and some interesting theories) about the power of education to enhance their personal and national well-being.
Evenings, in the hotel just across the street from the famous Post Office, I devoured Irish history, less from any business motivation than out of general curiosity. One night, in particular, I read with particular interest about one Hugh de Lacy, who went to Ireland with my 26th great-grandfather Henry II in 1171 and who for sanguinary services rendered was made Lord of Meath. Turns out I had an appointment the next day with another Hugh de Lacy, Head Master of one of the Technical Colleges they were proposing to expand.

Can’t say I was sure what to expect to find when meeting a twentieth-century Dublin educator with an ancient Anglo-Norman name. Mr De Lacy’s physiognomy was definitely in keeping with his heritage, but he greeted me in a rich, Irish brogue: “Yes, I suppose if there were still a King of Meath, I might be he. But there isn’t, is there?…”
All went well until January, when one of our Metra colleagues1 was picked up at the airport with cannabis dangling out of his jeans pocket. The Ministry immediately cancelled its contract with Metra, which also dissolved Abt Associates’ subcontract. We never got back to Dublin, and I’ve regretted that we had to settle for a farewell exchange of letters with the charming Dr D Finbar O’Callaghan, our principal Irish host.

The project was a bust, alas, but I returned to Cambridge with everything my thesis required.
Guess this is the place to confess my reason for remaining a faithful holder of an American Express card, to this day. Scheduled to fly out of Dublin on Sunday morning, I suddenly realized a 4:45 on Saturday afternoon that I was down to a couple of sixpence coins. My credit card would settle my account at the hotel, but the cab driver to the airport would want cash. In some panic, I dropped a sixpence on the bus, which got me to the American Express office next to the Post Office, just as the chap in charge was locking the front door. He heard my tale with sympathy, unlocked the door, and seated me inside. Ten minutes later, I emerged with $400 in traveler’s checks.

While I’m confessing, it’s also true that I neglected to record that transaction in our family financial records. Then we wondered why we seemed unusually flush at Christmas, on my return. Until the American Express bill came. Hmmmm.

1I do remember his name (mirabile dictu), but I’ll resist the temptation to include it here.
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