For the second time in six months, thanks to the great Irish miler, Ronnie Delany, I found myself high over the Atlantic, staring out the plane window, looking down on the clouds that hid the sea below. I had tried to sleep in a berth forward, but I couldn't. There was too much to think about: large, wonderful thoughts that grew in the mystical beauty of the night. Suspended in space and time, I gave myself freely to a dream. The son of a County Clare man, I felt that I was returning to the Old Country in the vanguard of a crusade to rescue modern Ireland from the troubles that sorely beset her. Savoring the fancy, I thought back over the way in which it had all come about.
One day I received a telephone call from a man who introduced himself as Bernard P. McDonough of Parkersburg, West Virginia. He said he had read SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S account of Ronnie Delany's welcome home to Ireland last December (A New Irish Hero Goes Home, SI, Jan. 21, 1957). He was calling me, he went on, as one who had recently visited over there and, presumably, had more up-to-date impressions of the country than his own.
Mr. McDonough said that, as the grandson of a County Galway man, he was distressed by reports that he read about Ireland's economic plight. He understood that young people were leaving the country in great numbers because of lack of employment opportunities. He had thought about the problem so much, Mr. McDonough said, that now he was seriously considering starting some kind of business in Ireland in order to give jobs and perhaps set an example that other American businessmen might follow.
I asked Mr. McDonough what his business interests were.
He said he had a number of interests, including the largest shovel factory in the world.
I asked him to repeat that.
Mr. McDonough did and explained that the largest shovel factory in the world was the O. Ames Company of Parkersburg, founded in 1774, presently turning out 10,000 shovels (1,800 varieties) every day.
Did that mean, I asked, that he proposed to start a shovel factory in Ireland?
Possibly so, he said.
We chatted on and discovered we had a lot in common. My mother, Margaret O'Connor, was born in West Virginia, not 60 miles from where Mr. McDonough was now speaking. Moreover, it developed, both Mr. McDonough's grandfather and mine had helped to build the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad through West Virginia, and, we agreed, had almost certainly done so with Ames shovels.