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The unscheduled speaker, it soon became plain, was not saluting Ronnie Delany, but a local hero of legend, "the immortal Steve Conniff, who held every Irish record from one mile to 10." As he went on and on he made it clear that, in his opinion, no man—past, present or future, and present company included—could have beaten Conniff in his prime. (I found this to be a common occurrence all during Ronnie's stay. With a little stimulation, patrons in the pubs would recall somebody out of the past who could beat Delany. With a little more stimulation, they were ready to take him on themselves, given "a week to train and proper shoes.")
At last, with Billy Morton blowing his whistle to clear the way, the official party reached the cars, and the motorcade resumed its journey. There were no further stops scheduled until Dublin itself, but people continued to shout and wave along the roadside. Finally, Dublin's city limits were reached and cyclists by the score swung in alongside Ronnie's car and little boys and girls ran alongside and a pretty colleen climbed upon the rear bumper and rode resolutely and unsmilingly along like Joan of Arc going into battle. "Terrific show, Ron!" the people cried on every side, and Ronnie, when he wasn't signing autographs, waved and smiled to them. When the car pulled up in front of the Lord Mayor's Mansion the crowd swept over the lawn, and the police, in the good-humored way of Dublin guards, cleared a path for Ronnie, who raced up the steps to shake the outstretched hand of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Robert Briscoe.
"It is my great privilege," said the Lord Mayor when the crowd had quieted down, "to be in office when a Dublin citizen has brought so much credit not only to Dublin but to Ireland by his wonderful accomplishment. It gives me the greatest of pleasure, Ronnie Delany, to extend to you the warmest congratulations of all our citizens."
He stepped away from the microphone, and Ronnie took it over.
"My Lord Mayor," he said easily, as though he were accustomed to speaking from the steps of the Lord Mayor's Mansion every day of the week, "ladies and gentlemen, young boys and young girls. Thank you for this wonderful reception. I thought I might have created a bit of a stir, but I never expected anything like this. I sincerely hope that in the future I will be able to bring further honors to Dublin and to Ireland."
The Grand Reception
Then everybody went into the Lord Mayor's Mansion for a reception. It was a grand affair, with drinks for everyone's taste. Ronnie's father, Patrick A. Delany, who is a customs official, stood chatting with the Lord Mayor and Lord Killanin and other notables and Ronnie himself sat on a sofa talking to Eamon Kinsella, the hurdler of the Irish Olympic team.
A little later when Ronnie was talking to another group, a Dublin pressman came up and asked him who the man (Kinsella) on the sofa was. Ronnie looked at him incredulously. "Well," he said, the color going out of his face as it does when he is annoyed, "if you, as a Dublin pressman, don't know who he is, then I'm not going to tell you." And he turned away.
But, altogether, it was a day that no small irritation could spoil. The next morning, refreshed by 10 hours sleep, Ronnie drove in his hired car from his home, a brick house in a row of identical houses on St. John's Road in Sandy-mount, a suburb of Dublin, to the General Post Office on O'Connell Street. There, in the studios of Radio Eireann, he sat down with Philip Green, the sports broadcaster, and told the story of his victory in the 1,500 meters at Melbourne (see box page 61) as it had never been told all the long way home.
That afternoon I visited Ronnie at home, and his mother served tea and biscuits and buttered bread in the parlor with its fireplace and piano and comfortable furniture and Ronnie's trophies everywhere. Ronnie's father brought out some of the letters he had received after Ronnie's victory, and among the letters was one from Eamon de Valera, the former head of the Irish government, who lives not far away from the Delanys. In his letter Mr. De Valera compared Ronnie's great victory to the exploits of Matt Donovan, the legendary Irish plowman celebrated for his ability to plow a furrow straighter than a straight line. Like Matt, said Mr. De Valera, Ronnie had won "for the credit of the little village."