May 8th 1945,
The steel fabrication factory was a hive of industrial activity with the sound of banging, clattering and other various noises filling the air. As sheets and boulders were being transported around the premises in one corner of the workspace Karl was busily welding another sheet together as he shielded his eyes from the blinding flame. For the past year he had been taking refuge in this German speaking city in neutral Switzerland as courtesy of contacts in the foreign diplomatic service he managed to obtain residence and employment under false documents which claimed that he was a Swiss citizen. He managed to obtain lodgings in a modest Lucerne apartment with beautiful views of the overlooking Swiss alps which enhanced the city’s picturesque appearance and before wartime managed to draw countless wealthy tourists to the locality where they could engage in skiing and other winter sports. Karl didn’t care much for skiing or any excessive social activity since his arrival in the central Swiss city only to keep a low profile and blend into the landscape until the war ended which according to the news he was hearing was about to come any day now. Karl was worried for his family back in Germany and missed them terribly, he had not been back in his homeland for five years now and he realised a lot could have happened since then if indeed any of his loved ones were alive at all.
Despite Karl’s concerns for his family in Germany his thoughts were drawn elsewhere to another neutral country where he obtained refuge prior to his arrival here, Ireland. That lush green landscape, the easy pace of life, the hospitality of the people and a certain beautiful young lady who captured his heart were always at the forefront of his mind. He wondered if he ever could return there but because of certain events which occurred he reckoned that might not be a good idea, not for a while anyway. Suddenly the young German’s attention was drawn was drawn to a hive of excitable gossip on the factory floor as his co workers rushed to clamour around a wireless radio. Karl removed his mask and calmly walked over to where the huddle was as he enquired with another worker as to what was happening. “It’s over” he declared to Karl with excitement as he suddenly heard the voice of Winston Churchill being beamed through the radio via a BBC world service recording in which he announced
Yesterday morning at 2.41a.m at headquarters, General Jodl, the representative of the German High Command and General Admiral Doenitz, the designated head of the German state, signed the act of unconditional surrender of all German land, sea and air forces in Europe to the Allied Expeditionary force and simultaneously to the German High Command.
The announcement of the surrender continued to detail the specifics involved until a definitive line from Mr Churchill drew a loud cheer from the listening crowd present
The German war is therefore at an end
It was clear to Karl that it was now time to go home.
October 11th 1974,
A gentle autumn breeze threaded softly through the countryside making its subtle presence felt among the amphitheatre of golden leaves, the sunlight dancing along a serene horizon and the musical ensemble of the lark, sparrow, wood pigeon and blackbird to name a few. Such a setting is omnipresent across rural Ireland in its pantheon of seasonal delights but the country roads of Kilkealy, Co Wexford were witnessing something less than usual if not entirely strange this morning.
The pale blue Ford Cortina glided stealthily along the back roads, the driver less than familiar with his surroundings, taking care to avoid any perilous encounters on a journey which was culminating in intrigue for the curious traveller. Already he had encountered cows with their drovers being briskly moved along a winding by road on their way back from milking, the slovenly but courteous men nodding in appreciation as he passed them for his patience in the matter. Along with tractors, potholes, foxes and rabbits scurrying frantically for survival, the sounds, the smells and the hazy tranquility this was for the driver proving to be a journey not just of fond stimuli to awaken the senses but one of profound and deeply personal nostalgia.
These memories were partly the reason why this traveller found himself in this hired mode of transport he was operating as he negotiated these unfamiliar roads. The German drove with a sense of mindfulness on one hand as he blissfully observed his surroundings and on the other hand with a deep rooted sense of trepidation as he pondered on his planned destination and whom he would potentially meet there.
The man in the driver’s seat of the Ford Cortina, known as “the German” is Karlheinz “Karl” Schroder a 55 year old factory technician from Gelsenkirchen in the heart of the Ruhr valley, West Germany. On this crisp autumn morning the German pondered over the many memories he accumulated of this sleepy part of the world he encountered many years ago. Since then so much has happened over the course of his life, a career, marriage, a family, annual skiing holidays in the alps, university graduations, divorce and most cruelly an abrupt and sobering decline in his health.
No longer is the German the same youthful, athletic and vigorous man that once graced these shores he suddenly had returned to with a mission. Since receiving the devastating news in the office of Dr Abitz that the diagnosis was lung cancer, the German has had a renewed perspective on his life and wishes to make good the limited time he has left. For so long his cigarette obsession had been a source of ire and concern for those around him and despite continued voices of didactic lecturing assaulting his ears regularly such warning has regretfully proved to be in vain.
Life since the terminal diagnosis has for the German been one of sombre reflection and preparation for the inevitable. Along with practical matters such as his last will and testament and ensuring that those dearest to him are provided for in his passing, the German has been overcome with feelings that have compelled him to make the journey he has found himself on.
One day in his plush residence in a charming suburban neighbourhood in Gelsenkirchen the German was sorting through some old items of his personal effects boxed away in his cellar when there he saw it. The item concerned was so simple to look at but to him so profound, as he continued to look at that grainy old black and white photograph of the man he once was an avalanche of memories ambushed his train of thought. He reflected on the people he met and befriended in this rustic but charming place. He remembered one who he had loved and left behind so cruelly which was now compelling him to make amends.
The German considered his life as it was now, living alone after an amicable but none the less painful divorce, his children now grown to honourable adulthood whom he missed terribly. He had accumulated enough wealth to see him through a second lifetime but now that had little relevance. The photograph was a haunting reminder of the grave wrong he had committed so long ago, now he felt he had to make whatever attempt he could to reconcile remote a prospect as it may be.
The German had been thinking of little else since he boarded the flight for Dublin and made his way upon arrival through the airport to the arrivals area for his car hire transport. His mind fixated on her smile, that infectious laugh, her raven hair, he sculpted beauty, her innocence and most pertinently her kind disposition, such an element of human nature he had not encountered beforehand and rarely had since. As the Cortina slowly moved along the bumpy country road the German suddenly felt a wracking anxiety cultivate within him. It started with a twitching uneasiness before developing into a sensation of warm “light headedness” as he recognised it before manifesting into a state of nausea which compelled him to pull the car in to a nearby laneway and disembark the vehicle.
The German coiled over anticipating an onslaught of vomit which never came so instead he stood upright and drew in the cold autumn air into his lungs slowly and gradually in, out, in, out. Then he removed a cigarette from the inside pocket of his tweed jacket and looked at it reflectively. He knew in his predicament that this was a habit he should have kicked a long time ago but it was a little late for such lifestyle changes to be invoked now, besides, this was a smoke he really needed. As he lit the cigarette and took a drag from it he pondered his imminent house visit, who he may encounter there and what their reaction to his presence might be. Again he reminisced on the fond memories of youth this place had instilled in his mind particularly his memories of “that woman” which in turn drew pangs of apprehension from deep within him. Pensively he wondered, “will she remember me” and “how will she feel after all these years”.
He took a moment to observe his surroundings and appreciated the endless lush green beauty which seemed to permeate the landscape. He saw a mare horse with her foal close behind in a nearby field as they serenely wandered through their surrounding meadow which made him realise how this humble land made him appreciate the simple beauties of life. The German however had no time to muse over the many philosophies this tranquil setting had to offer, he had an important visit to make as he extinguished his cigarette and got back into his car.
The old farmhouse was up an old country lane long and isolated enough to make the German wonder if he was at the right place at all. Prior to arriving here however he had sought directions from the local shop and petrol station in Kilkealy which were concise so he reckoned he must be in close proximity to his destination if not already there. As the Ford Cortina approached the front yard of the farmhouse a border collie sheepdog approached it menacingly, barking loudly to exude a protective disposition. The German however was no stranger to canine encounters having owned German shepard and Springer spaniel dogs for leisure and for hunting trips to the woodlands of Bavaria which he regularly made with business associates down through the years, as a result this animal did not intimidate him.
As the German got out of the car he straightened his tweed jacket and took another long deep breath as he could feel the proverbial butterflies reverberate within the inner contours of his stomach, there was no backing down however. He approached the large pine door with its square brass knocker and gave it three thuds. A matter of seconds felt like an eternity for him as he could hear the front door being opened with an air of caution to be met by a middle aged yet to him timelessly beautiful woman, the very sight of her drew his eyes close to tears as he uttered “Guten tag, frau Kitty”.
August 19th 1940
The sleepy village of Kikealy sits aptly in Ireland’s sunny south east approximately 5 miles from the town of New Ross, Co Wexford. Like most rural villages on the island nation it is generic in its appearance but rich in its charm.With a sparse population of approximately 200 residents, the majority Roman Catholics and agrarian in nature, this village has been beset with it’s share of emigration decimating its demographic of youth as a result.
As the rest of Europe descended into the destructive myriad of war and the threat of Nazi Germany’s totalitarianism across the continent became ever more ominous, Kilkealy slept under the blanket of De Valera’s neutral Ireland. For the unsuspecting populace of the village the pace of life was not disrupted, instead their way of life inconvenienced by heavy rationing on most foodstuffs particularly tea, sugar and fresh fruit. The inhabitants of this village lived lives with benign, abstract notions of the great chaos that ensued around them, the daily reminders being the rationing of fuel and the scarcity of luxury items such as tobacco, Belgian chocolates and nylon stockings. As a result of such deprivations the resulting vacuum left in the chain of supply and demand meant a thriving blackmarket economy not just in Kilkealy but across the continent.
Among the residents of the village were the McCarthy family who owned a large farm holding of approximately one hundred and fifty acres of land located one kilometer from the village. The patriarch of the family was Patrick “Paddy” McCarthy, a 52 year old man of a taciturn nature but strong disposition. Paddy hailed from Skibbereen in West Cork of a heritage steeped in the farming and Irish republican tradition. As a young man he served in the West Cork flying column, which under the leadership of Tom Barry and the tutelage of the charismatic Michael Collins, aided in a guerilla war against the British forces of occupation in Ireland at the time during the war of independence in the early 1920s. Paddy was remembered by his cohorts as having fought valiantly during that conflict which concluded with the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921. The outcome of this treaty was limited independence for the south of Ireland in the form of a “free state” and the partition of the island with the six counties of the north remaining part of the British empire to appease the predominantly loyalist population there.
For men like Paddy such development represented a betrayal of the ideals of what he and his comrades fought for,an Irish republic, and subsequently Paddy and men like him bore arms against the new free state in the vain hope of obtaining the ultimate freedom. This conflict came to be what is known as the Irish civil war which resulted in the pointless taking of many lives and the heinous destruction of much of the country’s infrastructure. Paddy and many of his comrades were imprisoned for a short while after the anti treaty forces were defeated in the civil war. After his incarceration Paddy left for England where he found employment in navee jobs on construction sites of the cities of Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. During those insufferable ten years Paddy was often the recipient of anti Irish sentiment at the hands of the locals which merely stood to reinforce his negative view of the British nation, its public and its imperialist nature. Although his sympathies to the Irish republican movement coursed through his veins like an inferno at times Paddy was determined to leave the way of the gun and its bitter legacy behind him.
Eventually the call of the land proved too ubiquitous for Paddy to ignore so he returned to Ireland to help with the running of the family farm. Faith would eventually bring him to Co Wexford in what was customary at the time he was subject to an arranged marriage with a much younger lady. Kathleen “Kitty” Doyle at the tender age of 19 years was the eldest of three sisters and the heiress to a large farm in Kilkealy after her father Jack had recently deceased. Her mother Bridie was in ill health and the presence of a strong male hand around the farm was badly needed. As a result the union of Paddy and Kitty was arranged with the farm proving to be a most handsome dowry for Paddy.
Kitty unlike Paddy was a charming lady with a very outgoing disposition, her sculpted features exuded a beauty that made her the subject of many potential male suitors. Petite and of five foot five inches tall her presence was dwarfed in comparison to Paddy’s tall, masuline presence. Her raven black hair, eyes as blue as the Pacific ocean and infectious laugh aroused from her a feminine presence so intoxicating that many a red blooded male felt captivated in her company. As a young lady Kitty regularly frequented the dance halls of neighbouring parishes, often drawing the scornful look of the local parish priest or curate present at such events to ensure the young men and women of the did not engage in any “impure behaviour”. However despite the presence of the morality police this did not deter Kitty whenever she went to these dances from enjoying herself and she was the subject of much jealousy from other females, including her sisters Mary and Sheila, for the male attention she was able to draw.
After Paddy and Kitty got married on a sunny spring day in 1935 they settled on the Doyle family farm in Kilkealy where afterwards they welcomed four children, Jack, Anna, Peggy and Liam. Paddy tended to the land growing and harvesting corn, barley and sugar beet along with tending to a large herd of dairy cows. Kitty meanwhile grew vegetables on a plot of ground at the rear of their farmhouse including cabbage, turnips, carrots, kale and most common to the Co Wexford landscape, strawberries. Such cultivations allowed for a greater self sufficiency among the family and provided much needed sources of nutrition for a growing brood. Along with the vegetables Kitty also reared chickens and geese on the farmyard providing a steady supply of free range eggs which she often provided to the village shop and sold at the farmer’s market in the village on Saturday mornings, supplementing the farm income.
Although family and farming life proved taxing at times for Kitty in combining the two, her children were a source of great joy in her life and the epicentre of her happiness. Her vivacious spirit however often got bored at the daily humdrum of her domestic existence, the heart yearning at times for a life that could have been. Her marital union with Paddy served more as a source of companionship rather than one of romance. The intimacy in their lives was performed in a spirit of conjugal duty towards one another, stale and formal. Kitty had a deep respect and admiration for Paddy as a man,a father, a hard worker and provider for the family but that is where the depth of her feeling ended. Paddy in contrast felt privileged to be married to such a beauty like Kitty and in his affection undertook to be kind to her. The considerable age gap between them however, Paddy being almost three decades Kitty’s senior meant that a gulf often eclipsed their understanding of one another and their views on matters contemporary and social. As was customary of the age however in a community where Roman Catholic ideals and values were the order of the day, for one to be involved in a marital break down or extra marital relations was heavily stigmatised meaning that such unions would remain intact out of necessity if nothing else.
In 1940 a bizarre sequence of events would start which would indelibly affect the McCarthy family forever. In September of 1939 the headline that emblazoned the newspapers was “Chamberlain Declares war” for Paddy however his attention was drawn to the wireless for different reasons as his native Cork faced off against Kilkenny in the All Ireland hurling final. The Germans, in Paddy’s view were a proud and misunderstood people humiliated in the wake of defeat in the first world war and under the direction of the eccentric Adolf Hitler they would inflict a long awaited reckoning on the British empire. As events gathered momentum heading into 1940 however, Eamon De Valera declaring Ireland’s neutrality, the conquest of Poland, Denmark and Norway by Nazi Germany, the capitulation of France, the rescue at Dunkirk, the defiant oratory of Winston Chuchill to “fight them on the beaches”, the havoc created by German u boats on merchant shipping in the Atlantic and the battle of Britain meant that the perils of this war were drawing closer to Ireland’s doorstep and becoming more difficult to conveniently ignore.
As far as Kitty was concerned from the limitations of her own horizons such events were elementary, for her there were more pressing matters of children being clothed and fed, butter to be churned and vegetables to be attended to. The imposition of rationing made life all the more harder for her and the children but the fact that they were self sufficient in the provision of food eased that burden slightly. The war news however was proving to be more disconcerting with its output and the grim outlook cast a cloud of uncertainty over the Irish nation that could only be described as worrisome.
On one late summer day in 1940 the war would vicariously be brought to the McCarthy family. It was a sultry morning and Paddy along with the labourers were bringing the cows in for milking. Kitty was in the backyard of the home hanging out clothes after laboriously toiling over the washing board with them, keeping one eye on the children as they cooed and played around her. It was then that it happened a loud, thundering sound tearing through the Kilkealy skies as Kitty rushed to see what was happening. Then she saw it, the large metal bird descending nearer to the ground as it hovered over the family home towards the surrounding fields. In Kitty’s sheltered country life she heard of aeroplanes and saw them in pictures, in books and newspapers and in cinema newsreels but this was something else. A feeling of terror and intrigue engulfed her as this flying contraption kept descending with it swiftly moved out of her vision, the distinctively loud humming noise lasting for another 30 seconds before ending with a sharp crashing sound.
Kitty McCarthy gazed with trepidation from her living room window as the blue Ford Cortina pulled into the driveway in front of her farmhouse. Her trusted dog Skipper was an effective deterrent in the past for any potentially unwanted visitors calling to the house but with this particular caller he was having no such effect. The caller, a middle aged man well dressed in a tweed suit with a sweater underneath appeared apprehensive with his face displaying a distinctively sickly appearance. Nonetheless to Kitty his features were strikingly handsome as he made his way to the front door.
As three loud knocks were made at the front door Kitty shuffled apprehensively towards it, her curiosity superseding her fear. She slowly opened the door to see the strange man sporting a pensive appearance standing before her, his expression suddenly managing a wry smile. It was however when he uttered the words “guten tag, frau Kitty” that the identity of this man became frighteningly clear to her and three decades of memories assailed her mind. Here standing before her was a man who came into her life with a bang many years ago and invigorated her young life mired in the mediocrity of her personal circumstances, he was a man who swept her off her feet in a way she felt she would never experience in her hard life and never experienced since then. Here though was also the man who unceremoniously and in a most pernicious way broke her heart in ways she would never have imagined and left a legacy in her life so harmful she dared not utter a word of her experiences to anybody ever since.
Kitty, as outgoing a person as she was stood with tacit apprehension trembling profusely. She was for all intrinsic purposes frightened yet here was the only man she ever loved, for once in her life she was lost for words. In a blind panic she screamed and slammed the door shut in the man’s face. She felt her stomach suddenly heaving and her legs go weak underneath her as she slumped to her knees. Suddenly hyperventilating she took some deep breaths in and out before weeping bitterly and thinking to herself why had the German returned and what could he possibly want with her. As she pondered over such questions she heard further bangs at the door.
Outside the German continued to knock hard at the door as he pleaded with her in his distinctively foreign accent. “Please Kitty, I know it has been a very long time and I am very sorry to have frightened you, but I have come all this way and I need to talk to you”, he added “I know me being here will be a shock to you and I understand why you hate me but I am here to tell you that I am dying and I am here to reconcile with you in whatever way I can”. He went on, “that’s right Kitty, I am dying. My physician in Germany has given me a diagnosis of lung cancer, it is terminal and it is doubtful that I will live another year”. He concluded “I have come here in good faith, I just want to talk to you that’s all, time is not a luxury I have and I am here now as I will not have this opportunity again, however if you do not want to talk to me I understand, I will stay outside here for another five minutes and if you do not answer the door I will leave and never bother you again”.
A distressed Kitty listened attentively to what the German was saying and was taken aback when he declared that he was dying, but was he telling the truth?. As she pondered her next move her curious nature instinctively came to the fore as she rose to her feet, still trembling and went to the front door. The German stood at the other end as he heard the front door opening again and that beautifully feminine face appearing before him once more. Her eyes were red from crying and her expression still one of upset as she looked him in the eye and said, “you better come in”.
Paddy was in the shed in the middle of milking cows when he heard the loud distinctive noise followed by a crash. He rushed outside leaving the labourers to the task at hand but when he did the skies were clear and everywhere eerily silent. He ran back to the house and discussed briefly with Kitty about what had happened and ensured that she and the children were unharmed. Once satisfied that this was the case he went inside the house to retrieve his shotgun and raced back out across the fields to investigate further.
The plumes of smoke gave a definitive trail to follow as Paddy wandered nearer not knowing what to expect. When he discovered what was causing the smoke he discovered that it was the wreckage of a plane, by its appearance a military one, up in flames. As Paddy wandered nearer to discover more he observed that the distinctive black crosses on the wings of the aircraft meant that it was a German plane. He kept abreast of developments of the war through the national newspapers and through photographs he had seen previously he recognised that the remains of the aircraft in front of him was a Messerschmidt BF110, a fighter plane currently being used in the skies above England in the battle of Britain. Paddy moved nearer to the wreckage and to his horror found that there was the corpse of a man inside badly burned from the crash. Such appalling sights did not perturbe Paddy however as his past experiences with conflict and the death and brutality that resulted from them had on a visceral level desensitised him to images of mortality.
Paddy’s attention was then brought to the fact that the area on the plane where the other seat was situated was empty. It was apparent that the other occupant of the plane had ejected the aircraft prior to landing via parachute so he wandered off to investigate further. With his shotgun clasped closely across the front of him Paddy moved briskly across two fields hoping to see any trace of what might have become of the other occupant of the plane, his boots rustling through the grass underneath. As his curiosity raced feverishly through his mind he was suddenly drawn to the sound of a shrieking roar nearby. He continued to follow where the sound was coming from when to his alarm he discovered what he was looking for. There lying close to the perimeter of the field he was in was the distinctive sight of a parachute lying flaccidly on the grass and its trail leading to that of a man rolling on the ground in obvious distress.
With his heart pounding in his chest and panting from his physical exertion Paddy moved cautiously towards where this man was. As he became more transparent in his vision it was clear that the man was from the aircraft that had crashed nearby. His clothing was distinct, a black fur lined leather jacket emblazoned with the distinctive eagle over swastika on the sleeves which was worn over a grey flight suit also adorned with such symbols. He was still wearing his leather pilot hood and goggles and as he rolled on the ground shouting in agonising pain he clasped onto one of his legs occasionally muttering in German “scheise, scheise”. Paddy approached the man with his shotgun pointing towards him so as not to take any chances, it was clear that the aviator’s leg was broken.
The German followed Kitty into the living room of the farmhouse. His hostess offered him some refreshment to which he replied, “I think in the circumstances we would both prefer something strong”. Kitty went to the drinks cabinet and removed two glass tumblers followed by a bottle of Jameson whiskey. She poured two glasses and offered her guest a seat after handing him his glass. “Danke” replied the German as they both sat down on chairs upholstered in an emerald green cloth which complemented the carpet design. “So” exclaimed Kitty still trembling as she took a swig from her glass to calm her nerves, “you say you are dying and you have the nerve to show your face here all these years later after what you have done”. “I know” responded the German in a deep state of trepidation, “I know that after all this time I would be the last person you would expect to show up in your life, but I had to see you”. “What” replied Kitty sounding annoyed “so you can carry out some other devious plan, finish me off this time maybe?, how do I even know you are telling the truth when you say that you are dying?”. The German reached into the pocket of his well pressed tweed trousers and removed what appeared to be a document, he unfolded the paper and handed it to Kitty. She looked over the document and indeed it was what appeared to be a certification from a medical professional in West Germany of the terminal diagnosis her guest claimed to have, after perusing through it she handed it back to the German.
Kitty then felt an inkling of sympathy for the man in front of her, but only briefly, “I’m sorry for your misfortune” she told her guest. “It has been my own fault” replied the German, “bad lifestyle choices that have cost me dearly, the smoking, I should have listened to what friends and family were warning me but I took no heed”. As he spoke about his health Kitty noticed that the German had improved his oral English significantly compared to all those years ago and for a second, she was impressed. “Yes”, she replied, “I do recall you being fond of the Woodbines, I did not reckon then that it would become a lifelong habit with you”. “Sadly that was the case,” sighed the German folornley.
As she looked at him silently dumbfounded for a while, Kitty noticed that her trembling stopped and her feeling of fear gave way to one of sorrow, one that stimulated her compassionate nature, either that or the intoxicating qualities of the whiskey she just threw back with gusto was having its effect. “So”, she asked her guest, “ what have you been doing with yourself all these years?”.
Paddy stood with an expression of incredulity etched across his face at the sight that lay before him. The man who he understood to be the pilot of the fallen aircraft was strewn in agony on the grass alone and lost in an alien landscape. Paddy had to think quick, the sight and sound of the aircraft falling he realised would have drawn a lot of local curiosity to what was happening in the area, including that of the local law enforcement. In no time at all this man soon would be in a custody of sorts facing an unknown fate. It was then that Paddy’s benevolent nature came to the fore along with his sympathies for the German cause in the ensuing war, here was a man who was bringing the fight to those imperialist beasts from across the Irish sea. Personal memories of black and tans and racial discrimination came to the forefront of Paddy’s mind as he pondered his next move.
The pilot was a young man, Paddy reckoned early to mid twenties, and appeared more preoccupied with his physical pain than he was of his physical surroundings. Communication with the pilot was difficult as he had a poor understanding of English so Paddy would have to improvise. He took out a pen knife from his jacket pocket and cut away the straps of the parachute confining the pilot. He then looked for a long, thick branch from a nearby and when he found one broke it off to be used as a mock crutch. Paddy helped the German to his feet and explained to him as best he could that he was going to move him to a place of safety . He handed the pilot a large stick for him to balance himself on and grabbed his other arm placing it over his shoulder. Paddy then walked with the pilot, they moved as quickly as they could with the invalid still wincing and groaning in pain. Despite the urgency of the situation they faced movement was slow across the fields in the circumstances, the pilot often having to stop to catch is breath. He was in too much pain and distress to question this man of simple appearance who he had encountered and besides, he was armed. Paddy carried his shotgun in his other hand as he helped support his patient with the other.
As the farmhouse came within view Paddy exclaimed to the pilot, “we’re nearly there” as they shuffled closer. Approaching the house Paddy roared “Kitty, Kitty”, the pilot looked up to see a pretty young lady emerge from the house and run towards them. “He was in the aeroplane”, explained Paddy, “I’ll tell you about it all shortly but quick, help me get him into the house”. Kitty asked no questions, she simply moved to the other side of the pilot who was nearly passing out from the persistent pain he was in and took the stick he was holding as a mock crutch from him, throwing it away. She then grabbed hold of his other arm and put it around her shoulder as the couple moved the man in through the door of their humble cottage towards a bedroom they kept for guests. The children looked on puzzled yet in their youth oblivious as to what was happening before them. The couple helped the injured man onto the bed as he lay there in a semi conscious state groaning and muttering some gibberish in German.
“I found him in one of the fields a good bit away from where the plane crashed” Paddy told Kitty. “There was another man in the plane with him but he’s dead, I saw his body burning up in the wreckage, there was nothing I could do,” he added. “He managed to parachute out of the plane before it crashed, he must have broken his leg as he landed on the ground” he further informed Kitty. As she looked over the injured man before her, with a bemused expression KItty asked her husband “how on earth did he get here?”. “They must have been heading for, or coming back from England and got lost along the way” he said in a sense that he was making more of a random guess more than anything.
“What are we to do with him?”, Kitty asked her husband with a deep sense of concern, her mind was still trying to process what had just happened. Suddenly a strange man was brought into the family home wounded and in distress after being involved in a plane crash, with a war plane nonetheless, such a scenario Kitty would only imagine being played out in the cine reels she went to see in the parish hall from time to time, not for it to unravel on her front door step in sleepy old Kilkealy. “Just take care of him as best you can for now” replied Paddy, “I have a few things I need to do outside urgently”.
Paddy ran out of the house and over to the milking shed to where the labourers were to ensure that the work was done without difficulty and to allay suspicion as to what was exactly happening from the workers. He then as swiftly as he could ran back across the fields to where the pilot had landed to gather his parachute and for now find a concealed place where it could be hidden. Once he managed to achieve this in nearby bushes Paddy ran back to the site of the crash, it was then that he noticed that the local law enforcement, an Garda Siochana, the Irish police force had arrived at the scene. Paddy was met by the local Garda Sergeant Tom Butler, a rotund man with a glowing, cherubic face and a cheerful disposition, his trimmed moustache giving him an appearance of seniority. He was the local Garda for the village of Kilkealy for a number of years and had an innate knowledge of the area and his people, he had known Kitty’s family, the Doyles, for a number of years and had gotten to know Paddy quiet well since he moved to the parish. Accompanying the sergeant was a younger, tall and well built male Garda with a stoney faced expression. He was examining the wreckage of the plane intensely and frantically scribbling contemporaneous notes in his notebook, what he was writing was anybody's guess. Both men were wearing their navy blue Garda tunics with shiny buttons, navy pants and Garda hats which portrayed a vision of authority. "Well hello gentlemen, what can I do for you this nice day?", Paddy asked the two policemen. "I bet you never thought we would be meeting for something like this,'' replied the Sergeant. "Aye",replied Paddy, " shur this is only something you read about in the paper or hear on the wireless" . Sgt Butler surveyed the wreckage again briefly before asking Paddy "so, tell us what you saw". "Not a huge amount", replied Paddy, "I was inside the shed milking the cows when I heard this loud sound in the sky, I ran outside and just saw the tail of the plane before it crashed". The younger Garda then looked at Paddy and asked "and what were you doing just there now before you came across the field?". Paddy paused before answering, "I was just looking across the fields to see if any other parts of the plane had scattered across them , just making sure that the livestock were safe that's all. The younger Garda nodded and continued, "it appears that there's only one body in the aircraft, did you come across anything at all while you were looking?". "Nothing at all sir" replied Paddy, although I didn't get a chance to have a proper look around yet, the whole thing is quite a shock for us all, poor Kitty is up in the house terrified". "Indeed she must be, God love her" said Sgt Butler, "she's a fine woman, your wife" he added, "and I am a very lucky man" replied Paddy.
“I guess this is a bit different to a few stolen cattle or no lights on a bicycle” Paddy said jovially to the unsuspecting policeman in an effort to humour him, Sgt Butler looked again at the smouldering wreckage, sighed and replied “that’s true, not something you see every day but who would have thought that it would have happened in this little village of ours, and in a neutral country!” . “So what happens now”, Paddy asked the sergeant inquiringly. Sgt Butler looked at the younger Garda who was with him and directed him “Firstly contact Fr Ryan to come down here and offer some absolution for the poor unfortunate soul in this wreck, regardless of what catechism he learned, it’s the least we can do for him”, “yes Sergeant” replied the eager Garda. “Secondly,'' added Sgt Butler, “I want you to make contact with the undertaker and tell him to come here as soon as he can to remove the remains of the deceased, I’ll make contact with the Superintendent and with Dublin and brief them on what has happened”. Sgt Butler then looked at Paddy and informed him, “there will be an air traffic collision team down here in a few hours to investigate the crash, they’ll probably be around for a few days”, “I understand” Paddy replied. “Also you and Kitty will be required to give a statement about what you both saw, nothing to be alarmed about, just standard procedure” added Sgt Butler, “ok” responded Paddy nodding thoughtfully. “I’ll be up at the house if you need anything gentlemen” Paddy then said as he moved away from the two policemen, “thanks for your cooperation Paddy, I’m sure you’ve all had quite a shock but I’m glad that you and your family were unharmed.'' “Thank you Sergeant” Paddy replied as he walked back towards the farmhouse.
Back in the McCarthy homestead Kitty attended to the wounded pilot who continued to writhe in agony on the bed in the spare room where the couple had placed him for now. A good friend of Kittys Maura O’Brien, also living in the village, was a nurse and had supplied her with a great deal of practical advice and medical essentials regarding first aid to persons in need. In another life Kitty dreamed of being a nurse or a midwife, one where she fulfilled her life’s vocation, a life she often yearned for, yet circumstances ultimately stood in her way as she settled for the life of a homemaker and a farmer’s wife. Kitty went to the room she shared with her husband and took out a well concealed metal box she kept in a cupboard and opened it, inside contained a number of items used for first aid purposes including rudimentary medicines. She had to find some way to calm her patient otherwise it would be impossible to do what was necessary to treat him, luckily there was a bottle of morphine in the box and a syringe. She removed both, applying a sterile needle to the syringe and drawing the appropriate dosage into it from the bottle. She then went back in to the room where the patient was and using hand signals and key words in English indicated to him that she was just giving him something for the pain as she injected the needle into one of his muscular pecs and administered the dosage. Kitty was quite taken aback by how handsome her young patient was as he slowly developed a more calmer disposition once receiving his hit and slumped into a state of sedated sleep. Kitty then removed the pilots overalls and applied a number of thin sticks she found around the broken leg of her patient as she then tied a number of bandages around them to form a splint. Kitty then straightened the pilots leg, “that should help it heal”, she thought to herself. A few hours later the pilot awoke , he looked down to see his leg in a sling and his flying slacks were removed. He found himself in a strange looking farmhouse in a location completely alien to him with no notion of how he got here. Although intimidated he remained calm as the door of the bedroom opened and a pretty young lady entered holding a glass of milk and a small plate with what appeared to be bread and cheese on it. She placed both on the small bedside table and said to the man, “here have something to eat, you must be hungry”. The pilot looked at the pretty lady as she gave him a friendly smile, suddenly he could feel all prior intimidation inside him dissipating as he ravenously consumed and drank what was placed beside him. He then heard the lady ask him a question he understood, “what is your name?”, he looked her in the eye and replied “Schroder, Karlheinz Schröder”
The German sipped his whiskey as he looked at Kitty pensively, his mind continued to be assailed by a combination of profound nostalgia and guilt that threatened to overwhelm him at times, the kind of overwhelming feeling that would cause him to take flight from that farmhouse without an explanation for the fair fraulein before him as fast as he could and get the next plane, boat, whatever he could, back to West Germany. His sense of duty however compelled him to stay put in that parlour where he sat, a duty that in his terminal state he felt he had a moral obligation to fulfill.
In answering Kitty’s question as to what he had been doing with himself all this time he delved into his story, a story taking him right back to when he left the McCarthy family suddenly back in 1944. He detailed as to how he stole a sum of cash from their farmhouse and fled on foot in the middle of the night across the country roads and fields of Kilkealy and neighbouring parishes an alien fugitive. How he hid in sheds and ditches and stole food wherever he could for sustenance for a number of days prior to obtaining transport for Dublin where he had a contact in the Swiss embassy there. The contact managed to get him on a chartered flight to neutral Switzerland on false travel documents, with the Allied forces advancing through Europe at the time and Hitler’s third reich crumbling it was seen as best at the time that he not return to his homeland. The German then managed to find refuge in Lucerne where he found work as a welder in a steel fabrication company. In these surroundings he saw out the war through the remainder of 1944 and into 1945.
Upon the cessation of the conflict after Adolf Hitler’s suicide and the surrender of the high command of Nazi Germany to Allied forces, the German returned to Gelsenkirchen in the once prosperous Ruhr valley anxious to discover what had become of his family there. With the ensuing melee of refugees and the dispossessed moving throughout Europe seeking repatriation the task of travelling was made a simpler one for the German as he relocated without difficulty. Once back in Gelsenkirchen the sight that greeted the German was not a pretty one as the streets were strewn with bombed out buildings, hordes of dispossessed, hungry, discombobulated and homeless people wandered the streets begging, those with shelter did not have the most rudimentary of utilities like running water and British and American troops in their pomp patrolled the city as they began the onerous task of bringing some semblance of order to chaos as local women prostituted themselves to them for food, chocolate, alcohol, cigarettes anything they could eat or trade on a black market that was towing the line between life and death. “To the victors go the spoils”, thought the German bitterley as he made his way past such incredulous scenes.
His reunion with his family was an emotional one as he embraced his mother Marlene and sister Heidi at their home, the very sight of him was a beam of light in their world of darkness, here was a son and brother they assumed dead who had risen and returned to them in what they believed was a divine miracle. With devastation the German learned that his younger brother Klaus was killed while fighting on the Russian front in 1942 and worse still his father Ludwig was one day arrested by the gestapo, interrogated under torture, falsely convicted and executed in a suspected plot to overthrow the Furher, Adolf Hitler, such plots becoming more daring and commonplace towards the end of the war as the nation’s situation became increasingly desperate. In such an appalling vista driven by fear and paranoia the German’s father was sadly one of it’s innocent victims although his family had grown to despise the third Reich at its bitter end. The German went on to hear about his mother and sister’s current struggles, how his sister was one of the many local women prostituting themselves to the Allied visitors for essential provisions and how his mother was growing sick and weak through hunger and exposure to the elements.
The German continued to relay his story to Kitty teary eyed as he told of his disillusion with what his country had become and his hatred of the Nazis . He expressed his horror of the heinous crimes committed by this regime on the Jewish people as he learned of the death camps and mass exterminations. He clasped his whiskey glass tightly, his hand now shaking and took another swig as he went on to portray to his hostess what life was like for him in a post war Germany. He told her of how he found employment in a factory manufacturing engines and carburetors for vehicles as the Western powers aimed to get the German nation functioning again., a job that would in time accrue him much self advancement and material wealth.He told her of the leading lady that entered his life for quite a while, his ex wife Freda, and how they made a life together with their children, son Sebastian and daughter Gertrude, and how they both made him very proud. He detailed to Kitty how the breakdown of his marriage came about through an obsession with work and an eventual infidelity both of which he came to later profoundly regret. He told of his anguish for friends separated from him on the other side of the iron curtain which now divided Germany into East and West and he concluded with how his terminal diagnosis had forced him to take stock of his life and to attempt to right some of the wrongs he had made which is what compelled him to return to Kilkealy before it was too late.
Kitty looked on in dumbfounded silence at her visitor as he relayed his story to her, indeed, she thought, his was a tale of suffering but a deserved one for what he had subjected her to all those years ago. “You’ve been through an awful lot” she told the German, “but you’ve ultimately done well for yourself,'' she went on “but what exactly has brought you back to this place and into my life, what made you even think of me after all this time?”. It was then that the German removed the grainy old black and white photograph from his jacket pocket and handed it to Kitty. As she examined it the German could see her eyes well up and her bottom lip began to tremble, it was clear that the photograph has struck a chord with her. Kitty handed back the photograph to the German and burst into tears as she yelled “how dare you think that you can waltz back into my life after what you’ve done, how dare you”.
Paddy entered the spare room of the farmhouse where Kitty was tending to their patient. He was sitting up in bed now, clearly in agony as he tried to communicate with the farmer’s wife as best as he could in broken English. Kitty relayed to Paddy what she had learned about her patient, “his name is Karlheinz Schroder”, she informed Paddy, “he was flying back from a mission over England when the aeroplane he was flying got lost in fog and he crashed, he says he does not know much after that”. “I gave him some morphine to help with the pain” Kitty went on, “I’ve set his leg into a splint, hopefully that will assist with his recovery”. “Very good” replied Paddy, clearly in admiration of what his wife had done, “but I’m afraid we’ll have to move him to a barn for now, it’s not safe leaving him here as there are detectives all over the place and other official looking fellas in suits examining the wreckage in the field, reporters from the national and local papers are here too, he’s too likely to get found if we leave him here”. Kitty agreed with her husband’s conclusion and he explained as best she could to Karl what was going on outside and why they had to move him. Karl seemed to understand what was being explained to him and asked “vot haz happen to Dieter”. Paddy took this to mean his comrade who was on the plane with him when it crashed, he explained to Karl that Dieter was killed in the crash with which upon hearing the news the guest became visibly emotional for a while, it was clear that he had lost a good friend.
The couple extended their sympathies to Karl but went on to inform him that they would have to move him to the barn quickly to avoid any suspicion being drawn upon them. Kitty quickly went to another room and retrieved a pair of crutches which belonged to her late father, she was glad now that they were not disposed of or moved elsewhere, she went back to the guest and gave him them to him as she and her husband helped Karl move with them from the house back outside and down the yard to a nearby hay barn where a makeshift bed was already made up for him. Karl lay down on the bed, although rustic in appearance his found it quite comfortable and there were extra blankets and straw laid on for him if he got cold. Kitty explained to him as best she could that this was only a temporary measure until they found a safer solution for him. Karl acknowledged that he understood this and thanked Paddy and Kitty for their help. The couple then introduced themselves to Karl, “I have not told you our names” said Kitty, “this is Paddy my husband and my name is Kitty, pleased to meet you”. Karl repeated the names to himself out loudly, “Pa-aa-dee, Ki-tt-ee”, he repeated this a number of times before smiling at both husband and wife. Kitty informed Karl that it was getting late, outside dusk was falling on a fine August evening, and that they were going to leave him to get some sleep, but that they would both check up on him during the night and over the next few days. The couple then bid Karl goodnight before heading back into the farmhouse.
Inside in the kitchen of their farmhouse cottage in front of an open hearth fire Paddy and Kitty discussed what had just happened throughout the day and pondered on what to do next. “This boy is lost, wounded and alone in a strange country in the middle of a war, I feel that it’s our christian duty to help and protect him, surely you remember the story of the good samaritan?” Paddy argued with his spouse, “yes I do” replied Kitty, “but can you not see this man is not our problem, he landed here out of the sky possibly after killing people, he is a man of war, do you really want us to shelter a killer?”. “That’s not the real problem though Kitty is it?” Paddy retorted, “after all I was a man of war once myself”. “You’re right” replied Kitty with a reflective sigh, “the real reason is I am worried for the children, what will they make about a strange man wandering around the place and worse still he is a stranger for heaven’s sake, we don’t know his past and worse still what he is capable of now”. “I understand your concern” replied Paddy, “but we can watch him closely, give him a chance at least, what I fear is that if we hand him over to the guards or the army then God knows what will happen after that,'' “I’ll tell you what” Paddy went on, “I’ll make a few inquiries as to what we can do to help get this boy home and if we can we’ll send him on his way, I think we’ll all be happy with that `,''absolutely`` replied Kitty. Paddy looked at his wife with a distinct expression, an expression that meant he was determined to help this man by whatever means necessary, Kitty in the past drew comfort when her husband was in a determined mood as this was what he derived his inner strength and resourcefulness from, on this occasion however such a trait was worrying her. “Why are you so concerned for this man anyway?” Kitty asked him “is it because he is fighting the English and as your enemies enemy he is your friend, is that it?” Kitty continued demandingly. “No, I’ll tell you why” Paddy retorted, “because I was once in the situation he was in, frightened and at war, not knowing who to trust, where to seek refuge, not knowing which moment will be your last” he continued “I like to think that if me or you were in the same sort of trouble that he would help us, I have taken life in the past as a young man, this time I’d like to think I can save one”. Kitty now started to understand her husband’s argument and his perspective on the matter and accordingly she acquiesced. “Ok” she responded softly, “he can stay here and we will help him as best we can but the first sign of trouble and I want him gone” she informed her husband. “I knew you would understand” Paddy replied with a wry smile.
In the nearby hay barn meanwhile Karl settled down for the night, although his surroundings were considerably more rustic to what he was used to he felt comfortable. His first impressions of the peasant couple who had come to his aid were one of confusion but also predominantly positive. There was an innately kind nature with these people which he found endearing and they did seem genuinely motivated to help him, besides his broken leg had immobilised him to the point that the very notion of an impetuous flight was infeasible. All Karl could do now was trust these seemingly good people and hope for the best. Right now his eyes were heavy and his mind and body exhausted as he went to sleep.
August 20th 1940
In the hazy early hours of a late summer’s morning the McCarthy family were abruptly awoken by repeated loud knocking on the front door of their humble farmhouse. A half dressed and bleary eyed Paddy made his way to the door to answer it where he was greeted by a smartly dressed man in a sharp grey suit and bowler hat. He was of medium build and modest physical stature but his clean shaven and sombre facial appearance and expression portrayed the image of a man on a mission and not to be trifled with. Accompanying the man were a number of uniformed gardai all of which were also sporting a stern expression. “Mr Patrck McCarthy?” inquired the man in the suit, “yes” replied Paddy both puzzled and worried now, his unwoken mind still trying to comprehend what was happening. “My name is inspector Larry Redmond, these men and I have a warrant to search this house and the surrounding buildings, we are looking for a fugitive of the German Luftwaffe”.
October 13th 1974
Matthew McCarthy laughed in half hearted amusement at the levity he was being subjected to by his ill humoured friends. He was out socialising in one of his regular “watering holes” O’Shea’s public house in New Ross,a place he would regularly frequent at weekends, public holidays and special occasions. At 30 years old Matthew seemed to be destined for the category of “eternal rural bachelor” although it wasn’t for the lack of opportunity. Matthew is 5’10 and with an athletic build largely obtained through working on the family farm and playing hurling and Gaelic football with the local GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) club in his home parish of Kilkealy. His fresh faced complexion, dark curly hair sporting fashionably long sideburns and dreamy blue eyes combined with a charismatic personality made him perhaps the most eligible bachelor in the area. Indeed he had drawn the admiration of potential female suitors in recent years however his carefree, fun loving disposition, his dedication to the family farm which he was now in charge of and his undying loyalty to his ageing and widowed mother Kitty acted as barriers to him settling down in the past.
Matthew was the youngest of four children born and reared on the family farm in Kikealy, his father Paddy he did not know or even have the mildest recollection of as he died of consumption when he was merely a toddler. Because of this he had a deeper and more profoundly personal relationship with his mother Kitty who single handedly reared him and his siblings in difficult circumstances whilst managing the farm. His oldest brother Jack when old enough looked after the far for a number of years before meeting his wife Eileen who had inherited a large farm close to Gorey in north Co Wexford where they both settled. His older sisters Anna and Peggy, as appeared customary for the age, both emigrated to New York and Chicago in the USA respectively where they gained employment as nurses and settled with their respective husbands accordingly. Matthew only occasionally heard from his sisters due to the distance between them although he had planned to one day make a visit to both, God willing. His other brother Liam, who he was closest to, joined the priesthood at a young age and was currently a curate in a Co Wicklow parish.
Life in the old house in Kilkealy could be lonely at times for Matthew with just him and his mother there but with the work to be done on the farm and an active social life he kept his mind busy. Kitty was often seen travelling around the local roads on her bicycle, whether it was travelling to the local shop for groceries, travelling to bingo in the parish hall on a Friday night or going to early mass each morning and on Sunday she had an active constitution that defied her years and an inner resilience that those of a younger generation could not comprehend. Whilst widowed a few male suitors over the years tried to win favour with her through helping her with the farm and providing a source of much needed companionship for her but Kitty in her own mind would always be loyal to Paddy’s memory and could never find it in her heart to marry another, or at least that’s what she told her admirers when she left them disappointed after a proposal. Her demeanour however concealed something more personal, more troubling, something she could not find within herself to confide with anybody in. Her pride and joy was in her children however, particularly Matthew, whom as the youngest and if she was honest with herself a surprise birth caused her to dote over him more as he grew and in her eyes spoil him more than her other children. She took great comfort in the fact that Matthew had developed into quite a capable farm hand and felt a great sense of security with him being around the house. Kitty prayed for Matthew to meet a nice young lady, preferably one with an understanding of the farming way of life, to settle down with. Until that day however she would enjoy having her son to herself.
Tonight in O’Shea’s pub though Matthew had his eye on something else which caught his attention. Whilst negotiating a pint of Guinness with a few of his friends from the GAA club he was taken aback when perhaps the most beautiful woman he eve saw walked in to the bar appearing lost and confused. Suddenly his train of thought veered from talk of goals and points on the playing fields, changing room jokes, cars, tractors, the weather and gravitated instead to the pristine beauty that had presented herself before him, was this an act of fate?. Either way he could not let the opportunity pass him by. His eyes were captivated by her golden hair, her hourglass figure and voluptuous bosom. The floral patterned dress and nylons she wore was a dress sense unknown to other females in the area, or so Matthew thought, which permeated an alluring image of seduction that compelled this young man to feel that this was somebody he had to approach.
Matthew excused himself from his company and made his way to the bar where this young woman appeared to be appealing to the barman for information. He approached her and asked “is everything ok madam” , to which the lady turned to him with a curious look and said “ I was just asking this man as to where a place called Kilkealy is”. It was clear from the way she spoke and struggled to get her tongue around the pronunciation of Kilkealy that she was foreign, an intrigue that drew Matthew’s attraction to her even more. He replied with a smile “well you are in luck, I am actually from Kilkealy and it’s not far from here”, the lady sighed with relief and with a wry smile said “thank you, I only just arrived here and I thought I was lost”. She then went on to detail how she had flown over from West Germany to Dublin and had gotten the bus to New Ross, after that she was completely at odds as to where Kilkealy was and she saw O’Sheas pub as a potential port of call to put her in the right direction. “Well luckily”, said Matthew, “I was going to be heading back that way shortly, if you wanted we could share a taxi, it would save you some expense”. The young lady looked at him in appreciation and smiled, “why thank you, you are very kind” she responded. “But first” he said “it would be very rude of me not to offer a lovely lady a drink, what would you care to have?”, she blushed and smiled responding “well I don’t know but what the hell, I’ll have a glass of white wine”. Matthew relayed her request to the barman and ordered himself another pint of Guinness before introducing himself to her “my name is Matthew, Matthew McCarthy, but my friends and family call me Mattie, what’s yours?”. The young woman responded “hello Matthew, I’m Gertrude, Gertrude Schroder”, Matthew smiled at her and said “well there’s a name you don’t hear too often around these parts, pleased to meet you Gertrude”. They both laughed and shook hands as Matthew continued chatting with her at the bar before their drinks arrived and Matthew suggested that they sit somewhere more comfortable, “Sure” she responded, and they went over to a quiet corner of the pub.
Matthew and Gertrude chatted merrily between themselves in the pub and enjoyed each other's company so much that for a while time lost all significance to them. Gertrude detailed to the handsome young man of how she had come from Gelsenkirchen in West Germany and explained to him where thatw as and the sights and attractions there. They talked briefly of the political situation there regarding the partition of the country and the erection of the Berlin wall and the significance it had for the citizens there. She informed Matthew that she was 21 years old and was studying for a degree in Physics at a university in Hamburg. Gertrude spoke about her hobbies and her privileged childhood which included skiing holidays in Switzerland, water sports in Florida and pony trek in the hills of Bavaria, Matthew was impressed. She went on to inform him that she was visiting Ireland to find her father who was not well but said he was going to Ireland for a while to “sort out a personal matter”, after that he would not go into much detail. She was clearly concerned for him and informed Matthew that she had made some inquiries as to his whereabouts and discovered that he had located in Kilkealy. Matthew went on to tell Gertrude a few things about himself which subconsciously imposed a sense of awkward inferiority within him as he did so as he felt his life story was nothing compared to that given to him by this impressive young lady, Gertrude looked on with interest as he relayed it though. His story was that of a tough rural upbringing, one that was lacking in privilege but nonetheless rich in love. He informed Gertrude what life on the farm was like and living with his mother along with his interest in Gaelic games and how they worked, what Matthew was lacking in a story he made up for in charm and an endearing sense of humour and had this young West German lady captivated in laughter and intrigue as a result.
After a while Gertrude looked at her watch and exclaimed “oh my, look at the time, I better be getting on”. “Let me arrange that taxi for you” replied Matthew as he went to the bar, “where did you say your father was in Kilkealy?”, “I don’t know” replied Gertrude with concern, “that’s what I’m still trying to find out”. “‘I’ll ask around here” said Matthew, “it’s a small place, somebody’s bound to know”. Matthew inquired with the barman if he heard of any West German staying in the area, to which he called over to an elderly punter at the far end of the bar who happened to also be from Kilkealy. The man said he heard there was a visitor from overseas staying in a rented accommodation, a place called Thorn Cottage, not far from the village. Matthew thanked and man and informed Gertrude “ I think I know where your father is”. The young lady looked at him gleefully and followed him out of the pub where their taxi was waiting. After they both got in Matthew informed the driver where to go, it was dark outside so Gertrude did not get to witness yet the rural delights that Kilkealy had to offer to the eye. The taxi travelled for about ten minutes before pulling up outside a small country cottage close to the village of Kilkealy. “This is where I believe your father is staying” he informed the young lady, “knock on the door and if you don’t have any luck I’ll be waiting here, you can stay over at my place and we can try again in the morning”, “thank you” replied Gertrude as suddenly the pair were magnetically drawn to a kiss. “Would it be ok if I could see you while you are here in KIlkealy?” Matthew asked her, “of course” Gertrude replied as she got out of the taxi.
Gertrude approached the front door of the cottage, there were lights on inside and smoke billowed from the chimney meaning there was somebody there, she heard the pebbles crunch under her feet as she approache the house. She knocked at the door and it was answered soon after, there to greet Gertrude was her father, the German. “Guten abend Papa” Gertrude said in delight as she threw her arms around him in a warm embrace.
Inspector Redmond forced his way past Paddy into the farmhouse waving the warrant in his hand, his air of authority conveying an image of ill disguised conceit. “Excuse me” said Paddy the pitch of his voice rising now in irritation with the intrusion, “is all this really necessary, you’ll wake the children and frighten my wife”. “I’m afraid so” replied Inspector Redmond, “we’re sorry about the intrusion but this is as much for the safety of you and your children more than anything, fugitives like this could be hiding out anywhere, including this house unbeknown to you, we cannot leave any stone unturned, I hope you understand”. Paddy gave him a resigned look, there was little he could do even if he wanted to, this was the law afterall. “At least give my wife and I the chance to get the children up and get dressed”requested Paddy who was starting to sound increasingly desperate. Inspector Redmond not wanting to be unreasonable sighed and said “ ok”.
Out in the barn Karl was awoken by the commotion going on outside, he looked through a gap in the wall to witness a number of policemen outside of the farmhouse with a look of intent etched across their faces. It was then that it hit him, “they’re looking for me” he thought to himself, the possibilities ran through his head of what may happen if he was caught,could he be accused of espionage?, could he face interrogation and imprisonment in Ireland or worse?, could he be handed over to the British?, could he be deported back to Germany and face a court martial for cowardice and desertion there?. Either way Karl knew he had to think and act fast, it did not help though that he was incapacitated with his broken leg in a sling. He did though have the crutches that the kind lady had left him, he gathered them quickly and forced himself to stand upwards which he managed to do. With the help of the crutches he managed to limp over to a nearby hay stack and hide himself in the middle of it, concealing the crutches also. He listened as best he could for what was going on outside and hoped for the best.
Inside the farmhouse a number of burly uniformed Gardai followed Inspector Redmond in, their boots thudding off the concrete floor. They were instructed to search the entire house and outhouses as Paddy and Kitty looked on in horror at the blatant invasion of their privacy which was taking place. The children looked on confused and frightened with what was happening too, the youngest child Liam was crying in his mother’s arms as she tried to comfort him. The imposing men searched around the house diligently and assiduously, turning over beds and pulling out the contents of wardrobes. When they were satisfied that there was nothing of interest for them in there they made their way out in unison, as they were doing so Kitty shouted after them “ Sgt Butler didn't say anything about the likes of this going on, I thought the guards were supposed to help people like us, I hope ye’re all proud of yourselves”.
Back in the barn Karl lay in a prostrate position in the hay and remained completely silent, the dusty environs he found himself in assailed his nostrils and he was sure he felt a rat scurrying near him in the pile but he still retained a deathly silence. He could hear voices becoming louder as a number of people seemed to be moving closer towards his location. As the sounds appeared to enter the barn Karl’s heart was in his mouth, he closed his eyes in anticipation and dread. He could hear what he assumed to be policemen talking among themselves, “we won’t be long going through here lads, Willie you search along that side, John you look along there and me and Timmy will search along the middle here,keep your eyes peeled”. There was silence for a second before Karl heard something else being said by another policeman, “you can stand down from there lads, I just got word from the bossman that a parachute was found in a ditch in a field about half a mile from here, we’re moving the search there”. Karl felt a rush of relief engulf him but would not dare to move a muscle as he waited for the voices and sounds of movement to die out.
Paddy and Kitty waited anxiously at the front door of the farmhouse for the law enforcement ensemble to move on, as they were doing so Inspector Remond approached them and said “we’re sorry to have intruded on you like this but we are only performing our duty”, “I’m sure ye are, and is tearing our house apart included in that as well?” Kitty retorted angrily, “Kitty, be quiet” Paddy said to her in an attempt to avoid more trouble, it was on occasions like this that he resented her direct manner and intemperate spirit. “Anyway” Inspector Redmond went on, “I’ll be over in the next day or two to ask you a few more questions, in the meantime, take care of yourselves,'' he then turned and walked away following the uniformed Gardai. Paddy ran over to the barn where Karl was to locate him and ensure he was alright, inside he found the pilot lying beside a haystack he was clearly hiding in a few moments earlier. Karl was breathing heavily but otherwise appeared none the worse after this episode of evading the local law enforcement. “Are you ok?” Paddy asked him loud and clear in the hope that he could understand what he was saying as he crouched down beside him, “ja” replied Karl nodding, he appeared to be in distress over his leg again though. “Here, let me help you up” Paddy said as he helped Karl to his feet and got his crutches to support him. “We’ll go inside to the house” Paddy informed his guest, “it’s safe now. We’ll have breakfast, you must be hungry”. “Danke” replied Karl in appreciation as he hobbled along on his crutches following his host.
Back in the farmhouse Karl sat at the kitchen table with the McCarthy family where he was treated to a breakfast of boiled eggs and fresh soda bread which Kitty had baked herself over the open fire, a skill bequeathed to homemakers in rural Ireland by the generation before them. Karl ate his breakfast with gusto and expressed his appreciation to Kitty, “sehr gut, sehr gut” he said to her with a smile. “Thank you” Kitty replied, “I’m glad you like it, it’s not much but we do our best, most of what we eat here we create ourselves, eggs, milk, bread, meat, we consider ourselves lucky though, since the start of the war we’ve had rationing here, if we didn’t have the farm we would have much less”. “You are all very kind” Karl said in reply, starting to demonstrate what ability he had with the use of the English language. “You speak English?” Paddy asked his guest as he sat across from him at the kitchen table supping from a cup of buttermilk, ever since the introduction of rationing at the start of “the emergency” Paddy had got used to its taste, tea had been reserved for the weekends and was becoming as much of a delicacy as whiskey. “I do” replied Karl, “but not very good, my father thought it useful for me to learn it so I did, I have not had the chance to speak it much with anybody though”,”well now you do” replied Paddy with a smile. “Those policemen” said Karl “will they be coming back?”, “don’t worry about them” interjected Kitty, “they have no business being back here and if they do we will protect you”, “I cannot thank you enough,” replied the guest.
“For now” said Paddy, you will stay her until you get better, “I will see what I can do to get you back home safely”. “No” replied Karl, “I cannot do that, I cannot go home”.
November 15th 1974
“You appear to be in good spirits” Kitty said to her son Matthew as she poured him a cup of tea from the pot, Matthew meanwhile was indulging himself in a hearty Irish breakfast of bacon, sausages, eggs, pudding, baked beans, fried tomato, scrambled eggs and a slice of toast that his mother had cooked for him. If there was one thing he loved about his mother it was her cooking, savoury on the pallet and forever on the mind, whether it was her home baked soda bread or home made jam, her Sunday roast, her bacon and cabbage or her homemade pavlova for dessert, the culinary delights his mother served up made coming home after a hard days work a pleasure for Matthew. “Why wouldn’t I be” he replied with a cheeky grin while negotiating mouthfuls of scrambled eggs. “Are you trying to tell me something?” his mother asked him, her face beaming with a hopeful smile. “Lets just say” responded Matthew “that I’ve met somebody who I feel very special about”, Kitty’s heart lifted upon hearing the news and her mind flooded with curiosity, “really” she said excitedly, “who is she, is she local?”.”Never you mind” replied Matthew teasingly, retaining the cheeky grin that was stretched across his face. “You’ll find out in time mammy, it’s early days yet, I just want to see how things play out between us” he said with a tone of caution in his voice, his previous experiences with affairs of the heart had kept his expectations in check. “Well make sure to bring her over here for tea, I’m dying to meet her” Kitty replied with glee, “don’t worry Mammy, you’ll be the first to meet her when the time is right, I promise,'' said Matthew . “The important thing is to enjoy yourself, you’re only young once” Kitty said to him, for Matthew this was a forewarning of a never ending mantra of didactic but well meaning motherly advice once she got started, he took this as his cue to move so he swiftly finished his breakfast. “Anyway I’m off Mammy” he said cutting her off in mid sentence as he got up and grabbed his jacket, “that silage wont feed itself to the cows”. Kitty smiled at her son proudly and said to him “take care Mattie, and remember whatever happens I’m here for you”. “Thanks mammy” Matthew said to her as he gave her a kiss on the cheek and headed out the door.
Kitty looked reflectively through the window as she watched her son walk down towards the farm yard, Skipper the dog following him. She hoped he would find love and understand it’s real beauty in a way she never could, that he would find someone who he could share his feelings, emotions and life experiences with, that he would experience a deep intimacy that she could only dream of, a life that never was. Kitty went to the mahogany desser table in the corner of the parlour and looked in the mirror over it, despite being in her mid fifties her greying hair and furrowed lines on her face portrayed an image of an older woman. A life of struggle, toil, worry and often hardship meant that some of her physical elegance had to be sacrificed. In spite of this however she always tried to look her best while out in public, bringing her naturally radiant beauty to the fore. She kept good clothing for occasions that merited wearing them and the jewellery to match. Her daughters Anna and Peggy knew her exact tastes and although she rarely saw them, when they visited her from America they brought nice gifts with them, the most elegant finery in clothing, cosmetics and jewellery. As she pondered over her appearance in the mirror she thought to herself , “you can still turn heads in spite of everything”.
The visit of the German to her just over a month ago had let her reeling, his was a face she thought she would never see again and did not want to, yet when he showed up suddenly on that day an overflow of memories and an onslaught of emotions left her in a state of confusion, and fear. That old grainy black and white photograph he showed her tipped her over the edge with her emotions and she reacted in a manner which now she felt was somewhat excessive. She wondered if he still had feelings for her, was that why he was really returning?, for one last “fling” before he died?. She was becoming increasingly concerned as to why he was staying on in Kilkealy after she told him straight out that she did not want to speak with him again. He was playing a shrewd game however, making the odd telephone call in which she hung up on him abruptly and the occasional call to the house in which she did not answer the front door, though his contacts were unwelcome they were not persistent enough to constitute harassment. Besides, she did not want the Gardai involved, there were proverbial skeletons in the closet she did not want revealed and secrets she wanted to remain buried. She knew however that he was in for the long haul having heard that he had leased a cottage near the village and that his daughter had followed him over to look after him, “if only she knew the full extent of her father’s past” she thought to herself. She knew however with his declining health that time was not on his side and that if she continued to ignore him that eventually he would realize his efforts were futile and return to West Germany, leaving her in peace.
Her greater concern however was for her son Matthew, luckily he was not around the house when the German called or telephoned and she did not want him to be either. She knew though that in the current prevailing circumstances that her son would be alerted to the presence of this visitor, the dread inside her over this realisation was all consuming and was primarily why she was rejecting the German’s advances. Matthew was too young compared to his siblings to remember when the German last visited Kilkealy three decades ago, in fact he was not even born. This was a time when Kitty experienced romance and desire through this man that was unknown to her before and ever since in her life, ultimately however it left her in a state of emotional pain and heartbreak that never really left her, if she was honest with herself. The greatest legacy from that era, however, was what she discovered when the German abruptly left her broken hearted, she found that she was pregnant with her fourth child. This time though the father was not her faithful but passionless husband Paddy, but the German. At the time though, in fear of the consequences which would befall her if word of her extramarital liaison got out she lead Paddy to believe that the child was his which he believed until his death a few years later when consumption took him from this mortal world. The baby she had was another boy which she named Matthew, after a favourite uncle of hers, a boy who was now a man, a man who she did not now want discovering the true identity of his father.
August 24th 1940
Inspector Redmond sat with Sgt Butler in the kitchen of the farmhouse conducting an informal witness interview with Paddy and Kitty who sat across the kitchen table from them. Reluctantly Kitty used the rationed tea as a source of refreshment for the visitors, after the last visit of distinguished officers to her house Kitty in her ire would not dream of displaying such hospitality to these individuals for any future visits, but as Paddy reminded her they were in a precarious position with the law by harbouring Karl on their property in such a clandestine manner, accordingly by displaying such niceties to the Gardai they might allay suspicion from their activities. Sgt Butler took notes of what was being said whilst Inspector Redmond asked the questions, his piercing glare staged so as to put those who may not be truthful in their accounts to him in a state of unease. “What did you do after you discovered the wreckage of the aircraft?” the detective quizzed Paddy, “I walked further along the fields to see if there were any other parts of the plane anywhere, I was concerned as to the safety of my livestock,” he replied. The Inspector nodded and went on, “did you interfere with the wreckage of the aircraft in any way?” he asked, “no” replied Paddy, “did you come across anything else when you went looking through the fields” he continued, “no” replied Paddy, “did you remove anything from the scene of the crash? he asked, “no” replied Paddy again. The Inspector continued with this rapid line of questioning in the hope of identifying any inconsistencies in Paddy’s version of events, a technique he often used when questioning suspects and less than forthcoming witnesses, on this occasion he was having no success however. Sgt Butler remained predominantly silent whilst taking notes, only interjecting to clarify details when necessary an tacitly following the “good cop bad cop” routine so often used in situations like these.
On this occasion Karl was hiding in a loft down on the farmyard used for storing grain which Paddy had taken him down to beforehand. The loft enjoyed a relative anonymity among the other farm buildings and apparatus and was empty at present prior to the forthcoming harvest. Karl was becoming used to the discombobulation of staying with the McCarthy family although it wasn’t doing his broken leg any favours. Paddy and Kitty allowed him to stay in the house when it was safe but on occasion had to accommodate him in the outhouses on the farm when suspicion of the presence of inquisitors arose. Karl had already explained to the couple why he could not return back to Germany after what happened prior to his aircraft crashing on their land, he feared that Hitler’s third reich would court martial him for desertion and cowardice, the shame he would bring on his family in Gelsenkirchen would be immeasurable and he most likely would be sentenced to death. Karl detailed to the McCarthys the totalitarian state that was emerging from Hitler’s Germany and the growing tide of anti semitism that was being cultivated by it, how Jewish families living in his neighbourhood were forced to sell their properties and move away after being stripped of their livelihoods, how children were being indoctrinated into the Hitler youth regime in which their undeveloped minds were ubiquitously exposed to its odiously febrile group think, how for some there seemed little option only to be complicit with this regime or suffer the consequences, the Schroders were such people. From an early age Karl had a passion for aviation and aspired to be a pilot, he was studying for an engineering degree in a university in Frankfurt when word came through to him that the Luftwaffe, the air force of Hitler’s Germany headed by his trusted deputy Herman Goering, was looking for recruits. He did not desire to be enlisted in the army or the dreaded SS, so he applied for and was accepted into the Luftwaffe who aptly trained him for fighter combat training.
Karl had come to like the McCarthy family and even though their agrarian surroundings were simple, there was an abundance of kindness within them which he admired, a trait that was becoming sparse among German society. He also admired the dedication they had to the ethos of hard work and that of family along with how devout they were to their religious convictions. Each evening the couple in the presence of their children around them would kneel in the kitchen and recite the rosary, as a Lutheran Karl could not relate to this but could respect it. Karl also had a fondness for the McCarthy children particularly the eldest child Jack who he showed how to make paper aeroplanes and intrigued with stories of his exploits as a pilot. Karl could envisage himself getting used to a life among the McCarthys as the chaos of war wielded its destruction across the rest of Europe.
Back in the kitchen Inspector Redmond interrogated Kitty on her version of events when the aircraft crashed. She exerted her feisty personality throughout but had little to offer as she was at the back of the house when the crash happened and was preoccupied with her children. When Inspector Redmond was satisfied that their was little of interest to be gained from this woman he concluded proceedings, to the relief of Sgt Butler alongside him, his hand aching from the constant repetitive writing. As they were leaving the house Inspector Redmond reminded them, “if you hear of anything or come across any information at all it would be in your interests to inform us of such developments that might assist our investigation, failure to do so constitutes a criminal offence as I’m sure you are aware” Inspector Redmond paused with silence after he said this, maintaining a menacing glare at Paddy. “Absolutely” responded Paddy nervously, “we’ll keep you posted, good day to you both” Inspector Redmond said as he headed out the door. Sgt Butler followed him in tandem giving an awkward smile as he left the couple, as much as to say “I don’t like this anymore than you do”. Paddy waited for the police car to pull out of the yard and wheel itself down the long driveway before heading to the farmyard towards the grain loft.
In the loft Karl waited anxiously as he heard footsteps approaching him, he was hungry and anxious to lie on a soft surface as he rehabilitated from his wounded condition. He heard the loft door open as the reassuring presence of Paddy’s head looked in on him smiling, “coast is clear, you can come out now” he said.
November 17th 1974
It was a crisp winter’s day at Thorn Cottage as the German drew his axe down on another wood log, splitting it in two. For over a month now he had been trying to gain the attention of Kitty McCarthy in the hope of making some semblance of reconciliation for his past transgressions, but frustratingly for him to no avail. With his ailing health he knew that time was a luxury he would not have for much longer but his resolve of spirit was absolute, bolstered even more by the surprise visit of his daughter Gertrude a few days after she arrived to”look after him” as she put it. Although overjoyed to see his darling girl unexpectedly he was less than impressed with her abandoning her studies to come and see him, however this was spontaneous, vivacious, charming and fun loving Gertrude who ultimately would do her own thing no matter what he or her mother would say to her. His ex wife often accused him of being too soft on her as she was growing up and he didn’t disagree with her, but his daughter always knew when to draw on his affections even in the least deserving of circumstances, she was after all his only daughter. In spite of his misgivings of Gertrude neglecting her studies to visit him he was glad to have her around the place, ever since Kitty unceremoniously told him to leave her house when he visited her he was overcome with the most desolate feeling of loneliness as he found board in the humble cottage. He was contemplating whether to return to West Germany or not when the surprise visitor convinced him in his own way, a sort of fortunate act of fate was how he saw it, to stay.
Today as with most days he was keeping himself busy in the great outdoors, often he would go shooting pheasants with the local gentry in the area, Lord Townsend, whose impressive estate at Kilkealy house boasted a plentiful source of game. Here the German,who became acquainted with the aristocrat through contacts in West Germany, would acquire a good local knowledge of the area regarding its population, history and culture. Lord Townsend and his family had eyes and ears all over the village which kept them as much abreast of developments as the local Catholic priest. It was through the courtesy of the Townsend family that the German found lodgings in Thorn cottage on the perimeter of their estate bordering the village. This afternoon he found himself outside at the back of the cottage chopping firewood, a winter ritual he enjoyed of late as he found the repetitive motions of swinging and carrying a useful exercise and if nothing else it was something to do. Right now he needed some mode of distraction as his mind contemplated a lot of things, his own mortality, his attempts to reconcile with Kitty and the latest development,this mystery man that Gertrude was besotted with of late. He as well aware that his daughter was now a young lady and he respected her privacy but this revelation had him curious and somewhat perturbed of late. “Who could Gertrude possibly meet around these parts, a strange land and peculiar people,that she could become so enamoured with in such a short space of time,” he thought to himself, all he knew from what she was willing to tell him was that he was a local man and that he was a few years older than her, but not that much. As he split another log with his potent axe the German sighed and thought to himself “well at least she is happy and hopefully has found somebody special in her life, for I will not be around for much longer as she well knows”
On the McCarthy farm Matthew was on in his International tractor drawing in square bales of straw to be used as bedding for the cattle. His mind was aglow of late with images of Gertrude, little else had occupied it of late, she had enriched it in ways that he thought no woman ever could. Ever since she arrived in Kilkealy the pair had gone on a number of dates, for dinner, to the pictures, for romantic walks by Hook head watching the sun go down, for a while Matthew dare not say it to himself, even contemplate it but he could not hold it in any longer, he was in love, and he was convinced she felt the same way about him too. He knew it by how they both revelled in each others company and how he had formed a bond in understanding with her that felt unnatural but pleasantly true. More than anything else he ached for when he would meet her again at times when they were apart, here was a woman he wanted to share every sunrise and sunset with for the rest of his days. Matthew finished bringing in the straw bales and dismounted the tractor, he then dismantled a bale with a pitch fork and spread its contents around where the cattle were to provide them with fresh bedding. As he was finishing with the bale he heard gentle footsteps approach from behind him and the feeling of two soft feminine hands being placed over his eyes in a playful act of temporary sensory deprivation that awakened his senses. “Guess who” said the sultry voice he instantly recognised as he took her hands away and turned around to embrace Gertrude in his strong mascuine arms. “What are you doing here” he asked her with a smile, “I just couldn’t stay away” she replied as the sexual tension between the couple reached its zenith and they kissed passionately. Matthew felt his loins ache for the young lady as she grinded her shapely figure against his body, in an act of unbridled passion he guided her to a nearby straw bed as their lips remained amorously fused to one another. What followed next was a spontaneous array of unrestrained sexual activity driven by the couple’s carnal desires for one another. They deftly removed each others clothing as a shirt, blouse, trousers, boots and undergarments were strewn around the straw as the cattle wandered close to them in their bedding lowing peacefully, oblivious as to what was taking place close by. Their bodies became entwined in a crescendo of lust, kissing, biting, caressing, grinding which culminated in an orgasmic delight neither of them had ever experienced before.
Matthew and Gertrude lay naked on the straw bed for a while fondling each other affectionately as they got their breath back after their exertions. They both had experienced something of profound carnal and emotional significance which had elevated them to a new level of ecstasy. Matthew turned over and gazed lovingly into the eyes of the West German beauty before him, here was a love that he wanted to last a lifetime, somebody he wanted to grow old with and although it was a whirlwind romance he was never more sure about anything in his life. As he pondered what had just happened between them Matthew decided that he could not wait any longer as he blurted out, “Gertrude, this may seem like a surprise to you but I have to ask , will you marry me?”
October 22nd 1940
Karl accompanied Kitty to the milking parlour to assist her with the morning farmyard ritual, and to learn a new skill. The young aviator had been in Kilkealy for three months now and a lot has happened since then, to begin with his broken leg had healed thanks to the astute attentiveness shown by Kitty towards him. Throughout his recovery she ensured that he received adequate rest and that he took the necessary steps to enable a successful recuperation, through him not exerting himself unnecessarily and by making sure that the splint he wore was properly secured to his leg at all times. Through the ample supply of milk, eggs, cheese, butter and fresh vegetables the visitor had a diet rich in calcium, protein and the necessary vitamins which accelerated his recovery process. Since he became mobile again Karl was more than happy to assist Paddy and Kitty around the farm even though he had no prior experience of such endeavours. He had a talent for fixing things however along with carpentry and Paddy was delighted to have him around when it came to fixing farm utensils and machinery, barn doors or beams, furniture and best of all as a mechanic for Paddy’s pride and joy, his Wolseley Hornet car. In the current age of “the emergency” and strict rationing, fuel supplies were limited which meant that Paddy only used the vehicle where exigent situations demanded it. He took great pride in the machine however which he kept sheltered in one of the barns and had regularly serviced, since the arrival of Karl Paddy had his own personal attendant for the vehicle.
Due to the risks posed by Karl being a potential fugitive from the law and the McCarthy family his accessories, he did not wander off the grounds of the farm and both Paddy and Kitty exercised due diligence in ensuring that his presence did not raise the awareness or suspicion of any locals or visitors. Since the last time the couple were interviewed by Inspector Redmond back in August the police interest in the McCarthys had lessened over time as they pursued new lines of enquiry. There was the presence of an air traffic collision investigation team on their land as they examined the crash site and removed the debris from the field where it landed. Karl for the time being was happy to take sanctuary with the McCarthys as the battle of Britain still raged over the neighbouring skies and the fate of Europe continued to look grimly ominous he had his own reasons for staying with this kind family. One of these reasons was Kitty, since Karl arrived in Kilkealy he was quiet drawn to this young lady and her fiery, independent disposition. Despite the fact that she was a married woman, mother and homemaker, this did not deter the young German from behaving flirtatiously in her presence when Paddy was not around.He often paid her compliments about her appearance, her beauty, her fun loving nature, anything to command her attention, in response she smiled awkwardly and blushed, Karl could see he was making an impression on her.
Today however Karl was going to experience something new, for the past few months whilst in Kilkealy he had for the first time experienced close encounters with farm animals when he carried out his tasks, these included feeding chickens, geese and pigs along with herding cattle. As he saw the cows lined up in the parlour awaiting milking however, Karl knew that a different task awaited him this time which left him intrigued more than anything. Kitty adjusted a small milking stool beside one of the cows and placed a pail under its udder, she looked at Karl and smiled. “There’s nothing to be worried about, it’s perfectly safe, come closer here and I’ll show you how it’s done” she said to him reassuringly as he moved beside her and hunched down to get a better view. She went on, “it’s quite simple really, you just grab the teats like this and keep pulling until the milk is drawn from them” she demonstrated what she was instructing accordingly as the the white milky substance was discharged from the cow’s udder into the pail, she continued “and you keep pulling until all the milk has been drawn from the udder, here you have a try”. Karl took Kitty’s place where she was sitting on the stool and nervously bought his hands to the cows udder, as he clasped hold of the teats the feel of the cold, coarse skin sent a shiver up his spine. He followed Kitty’s instructions and tugged at the teats repeatedly but no milk came from them, he looked at his mentor with bemusement. “You’re not doing it right” Kitty giggled at him with amusement, “here let me help you” she said as shuffled in behind him clasping his hands. Karl could smell her faint feminine aroma as she moved behind which suddenly aroused him, a tingle then danced down his spine as he felt her hands touch his, the sexual tension growing within him, he knew this lady’s motives were innocent but he wondered if she had any idea of the carnal attraction that was growing within him towards her.
Kitty guided Karl’s hands along the teats of the cow as she showed him how to properly complete the task, pulling, caressing and stimulating them until more milk was discharged, “see you’re getting the hang of it already,” she said to offer him words of encouragement. Suddenly the cow kicked its leg in agitation as a spittle of milk was sprayed in Karl’s face causing him to fall over backwards on the stool on top of Kitty who was still behind him. “Oh I’m so sorry” a shocked Karl said as he turned around to face her, they were both still lying on the ground, “are you ok?” he asked with concern, “don’t be sorry it’s not your fault” Kitty replied as she laughed merrily. Karl noticed her reaction and laughed in turn realising how comical the moment was, they both continued to laugh uproariously for about a minute after which they both looked at each other intently,it was clear the sexual tension between them was rising as Karl moved in to kiss her.
November 16th 1974
“The mass is ended, let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord” Fr Brennan announced as he brought Sunday morning mass to a close in Kilkealy parish church, “thanks be to God,'' responded the congregation as they then shuffled for the exit chattering among themselves about anything that came to mind. Among the congregation was Kitty McCarthy who remained seated silently in prayer as the exodus from the pews took place. When she was finished she vacated her seat and went to where the statue of her favourite saint, St Therese of Lisieux also known as “the little flower”, was situated at the back of the church and lit a candle. Kitty stood silently for a few moments in prayer and contemplation, musing over the predicament she perceived herself to be in. It was clear to her now that the German was not going anywhere soon and the longer he stayed the greater the risk there was of the past they shared and the secret she harboured of being exposed. He seemed intent on reconciling with her however despite the numerous rejections she had given of his attempts to do so. As she looked up at the statue of St Therese for inspiration she thought to herself “ I know it is my Christian obligation to forgive but I simply cannot find it in my heart with this man, he is not sorry, not truly anyway, only sorry for himself because he realises he is dying”. Kitty wished she had the strength and conviction in her faith as St Therese had to help her deal with this problem, she always remained steadfast in her faith throughout the years despite the challenges and hardships she faced, indeed her faith was what sustained her in mind and body, so she believed and protected her from the perils of despair. As for now though her heart was consumed with a combination of worry and anger that she felt she was becoming increasingly engulfed in and simply did not have the answers.
“A true inspiration she is, the little flower” said a male voice that Kitty heard behind her, she turned around to find that it was the parish curate, Fr Robet Brennan, who was back in his customary clerical clothing of his black suit and white collar having changed from his vestments for celebrating mass. He was a young priest in his late twenties, of a somewhat academic appearance wearing thick rimmed spectacles, only ordained two years previously with Kilkealy being his first ministry, Kitty found him to be quite a pleasant and approachable young man if a little naive for her liking. “Oh sorry Father Rob” she replied awkwardly, “my mind was a mile away there”, “don’t be” he replied with a smile, “that is what the house of the Lord is for,to reflect as well as worship”. He could clearly see that this middle aged widow was worried about something and endeavoured to be a confidant, “is something the matter?” he inquired, “you appear to be a little uneasy”. She gave him an apprehensive glance and responded “no, nothing at all father, I was just saying a little prayer”, “are you sure?” continued Fr Rob, “ I know when somebody feels troubled and you have that expression”. For a moment Kitty was tempted to respond to him angrily and inform him to mind his own business but she would never have the temerity to speak with a member of the clergy in such a manner, nobody in the parish would. “ To be honest father” she replied cautiously “there is something that is bothering me but I’m too afraid to tell anyone what it is, I don’t know what will happen if certain people find out”, Fr Rob looked at her tenderly and said “would you care to have confession, anything you tell me will be dealt with in the strictest confidence,it might do you good to get it off your mind” he informed her in a reassuring tone. Kitty hesitated for a while, not making any eye contact with Fr Rob as she contemplated what to do next, finally she looked at him and said “ok”. “Follow me this way” Father Rob informed her as she walked with him to the confessional.
“Bless me father or I have sinned,it has been a month since my last confession” Kitty started as she spoke to Fr Rob from behind a wooden screen, “recently I have been paid a visit by somebody from my distant past, a man, who I fell in love with while I was already married”. Fr Rob listened attentively to her as she spoke, “go on”, he interjected when she stopped, she continued “ I developed impure thoughts and feelings for this man and I even considered leaving my husband for him at one point but for the sake of my children I couldn’t, but this man betrayed me in a most hurtful way,the pain of which I still feel to this day father”. Fr Rob remained silent for a moment whilst taking a deep breath and exhaling before asking her bluntly “did you commit adultery with this man?”, Kitty hesitated for a moment before answering “I, I did father, the shame of it all still haunts me to this day, you are the first person I have spoken to in thirty years about it, also, I feel that I have sinned because I have not found it in my heart to forgive this man for what he did to me and I do not think I ever will be, I fear hell now more than I ever have in my life father”. Fr Rob again remained silent for a few moments after hearing this as he contemplated on what to say before speaking, “ You have committed a most terrible sin, an affront to the sacrament of marriage and the shame you carry is understandable, however you must not let this shame stop you from living a truly Christian life now and in the future”, Fr Rob paused briefly and continued “you must atone for the sin you have committed and move on with your life, conscious that you will not commit this sin again, as for you forgiving this man, the greatest attribute of the Christian faith is our ability to forgive no matter how difficult the circumstances are, you must search inside your heart and pray to the Lord and his blessed mother Mary to help you to find the strength to forgive”. Fr Rob again paused for a few moments before concluding, “only by doing this will you be able to feel the power of Christ’s love within you and find peace in your mind and in your life, for your penance I want you to say a decade of the rosary and give serious thought to what I have just told you about forgiveness”. The confession concluded with Kitty saying the act of contrition to Fr Rob before he absolved her of her sins, “go in peace Mrs McCarthy” Fr Rob told her as she thanked him before leaving the confessional,knowing full well that there were other truths that she had not disclosed to him.
June 29th 1941
Fair day in Kilkealy on a gloriously sunny summer’s day, a day always looked upon with a sense of delight and excitement by the McCarthy family. Karl Schroder has been with his hosts now for almost a year and quite a lot has happened since then, firstly he has adapted admirably to farm life, from fixing machinery to erecting fences to milking cows Karl has taken the transition from growing up in a Germanic industrial heartland in the Ruhr valley to the experience of rural living seamlessly and has enjoyed it. Secondly he has developed a friendship with Paddy through their mutual interests in machinery and handiwork and the indebtedness that Karl feels towards him for giving him refuge since he crash landed into Ireland in his Messerschmitt BF 110. Thirdly, and most significantly, Karl and Kitty have developed an attraction towards one another, the kind of attraction that could compromise everything. Ever since that moment in the milking parlour, when she reciprocated his kiss, Kitty had been feeling a desire towards the young German, the kind that she had never felt before and now made her feel, finally, like a young woman.
During the course of Karl’s stay Kitty had been helping him to improve his spoken English and pronunciation, he had an admirable ability to learn and as he progressed the charm of his personality came to the fore. With this magnetism came a chemistry between the pair that they both realised was evident early on in their interaction. That moment in the milking parlour was a shock for Kitty but the flattery overwhelmed her as their lips fused to ignite a repressed desire. Karl’s stories of Germany and his travels along with his experiences as a pilot captivated Kitty when they were together in her husband’s absence, but the captivation was more in the way that he told the stories to her, with a masculine swagger and an omnipresent glint in his eye. For Kitty here was a man who understood her in ways that her husband never could, here was a man of a similar age to her who could understand her free spirit that due to her domestic circumstances she had to conceal. Here was a man who wished to know the woman that was Kitty and not just the homemaker and mother she felt her husband only perceived her as, most of all though here was a man whose company she revelled in as he made her laugh and the element of mystery around him brought a sense of excitement which juxtaposed her humdrum existence.
Karl on the other hand was driven by the pursuit of this pretty Irish lady, the kind who brought out the charming rogue in him. He made subtle hints to convey his attraction for her, the odd flirtatious comment and wink, coming back to the farmhouse with a bunch of colourful wild flowers for her he had picked whilst out in the fields and being complementary towards her in a way that her husband simply would not. The fact that he bonded well with the McCarthy children whilst maintaining his friendship with Paddy provided a subterfuge from his true intentions towards Kitty.
Today was the fair day however, a day to forget the worsening war news as Hitler was turning his attention to invading the Soviet Union when his Operation Barbarossa offensive was launched, whilst the appeals from Britain to the Americans to enter the conflict were becoming more prominent after their lend-lease agreement. For Ireland on the other hand the prospect of a potential invasion by Nazi Germany or reoccupation by British forces seemed to be dissipating to the relief of everyone, particularly Karl. Besides the presence of Irish army drills across the countryside, the absence of road signs and the ever present rationing, there was little else to suggest there was a war on as the McCarthy family got ready for the fair. In more recent times Karl had slowly been accompanying Paddy and Kitty in public view to places like the farmers market in New Ross or to Sunday mass in the local church. He was appearing under the guise of Paddy’s “nephew” from west Cork and that he had speech and hearing impairments since birth inhibiting his ability to communicate. As a result the majority of local people they encountered gave him a wide berth or a simple smile and a greeting, more from a sense of sympathy or awkwardness or both more than anything. The McCarthy family and Karl had their story well rehearsed in their respective minds before they went anywhere, the mysterious young man with them was Paddy’s nephew who had come to give him help on the farm as his family in Cork were unable to manage him at the time and accordingly Paddy was looking to assist them, hence he suggested him coming to Kilkealy to stay with them for awhile. Karl at all times was to remain silent and make as little eye contact as possible so as to support the image that was being portrayed of him. He certainly drew the curiosity of the people in the parish, most “outsiders” generally did, but the time that had elapsed between the plane crash and Karl’s first appearance in the public gaze meant that they did not suspect any association between the two.
Karl got himself attired for the fair in an old suit Kitty managed to acquire from a neighbour, which she managed to do good repair work on with a needle and thread, another one of her unheralded skills. Since the young German aviator arrived at the McCarthy residence Kitty had managed to source him clothing during his recuperation, in this age of the emergency affordable new clothes were not for sale in the conventional sense, nonetheless Kitty did manage to get hold of shirts, trousers, shoes, jackets and other rudimentary items to ensure that her guest’s needs were met. As Karl saw himself in a looking glass wearing the humble peasant attire of a second hand shirt with no collar, a tweed trousers supported by braces, a flat cap and a pair of black second hand leather shoes he felt a million miles away from the Ruhr valley and the horror taking place across the continent. Kitty looked at him while trying to muffle a giggle and complimented that he looked rather handsome to which he blushed and thanked her for providing him with the clothing, they both gazed at each other silently for a moment smiling. Paddy entered the kitchen from outside asking them both if they were ready to which Kitty gathered the children and they all headed off in the sunshine in Paddy’s horse and cart to the parish fair.
The Kilkealy locals looked on curiously at the stranger in the company of the McCarthy family as Karl partook in the hammer throwing and tug of war competition. Indeed this handsome young man had a strange demeanour to him but what puzzled them most was that he did not appear to be from a farming background as Paddy had previously professed him to be. Although he was strong and athletic his hands did not have the coarse feel when he shook them with others, a universal trait among manual workers and he had an awkward manner about him which seemed to suggest an unfamiliarity with his rural surroundings. There was innocence he portrayed however which allayed any predominant feeling of suspicion others may have had about him. The fair day itself was memorable for all the McCarthy family, as the children played in the meadow with their parish playmates Paddy was a proud man as he won first prize for a number of his vegetables along with Kitty, who won the local jam making competition. Towards the end of the day a photographer for the local newspaper took a picture of all the McCarthy family with their prizes on display, as they were gathering for it Paddy beckoned Karl over to them with a smile as he told him “you’re one of us now”.
November 18th 1974
The German sat quietly in O’Shea’s pub at a quiet corner next to an enticing open turf fire as he read his newspaper with a cup of coffee on the table in front of him. The stories were predominantly about the IRA’s bombing campaign in London at the time and the troubles in Northern Ireland. Such harrowing accounts brought the German’s mind back to the second World War particularly the bombing blitz over London and how the city was reliving such an ordeal again. He recounted their pervading collective resilient spirit back then with the “keep calm and carry on” slogan, they would surely win this battle of attrition now he thought.
Right now though the German had more pressing matters on his mind as he sipped his coffee before it got cold. Yesterday he received a telephone call at the cottage from Kitty in which she said that she wished to meet him but only “somewhere public” as she phrased it because there were issues she felt they “needed to discuss”. Although Kitty sounded cold and business like on the phone when she spoke to him the German’s heart was nonetheless filled with hope from the communication. After their initial meeting when he returned to Kilkealy the German felt that he was up against a stone wall of silence and rejection which had left him dispirited and heartbroken. He did not seek the lofty aim of a reconciliation with Kitty or have the temerity to think he could after he heartlessly abandoned her three decades ago, he did feel though that he could have a civil and objective conversation with her, the kind that could result in him leaving this mortal world on peaceful terms with the woman he once loved.
The German looked at his watch, he had arranged to meet with Kitty at the pub he was in at 2p.m, it was now five minutes to that time. “She’ll be here shortly,'' he thought to himself, the Kitty he knew was always efficient with time keeping. True to his conclusion Kitty arrived in the pub approximately four minutes later smartly dressed in a navy blue jacket and skirt with a white blouse accompanied by a pearl necklace her daughters had got for her as a present one Christmas, bought in one of the many upmarket jewellers of downtown Manhattan. The make- up she wore was modest but her presence still commanded he German’s attention as he alerted her to him by giving a wave. She walked towards where the German was sitting, the expression on her face stern but pleasant, “hello, thank you for coming” he told her as he got up to shake her hand, Kitty kept her hand firmly by her side however. “May I get you something to drink,'' he asked Kitty nervously, “thank you” she replied, “I’ll have a gin and tonic with a slice of lemon”, the German beckoned to the barman who sent a young man in his late teens, who was nearby collecting empty glasses, over to them. “A gin and tonic with a slice of lemon and a Jameson on the rocks please” asked the German to the young bartender who appeared as clueless as he was gormless, “on the rocks?” he asked the customer scratching the back of his head. “Christ” thought the German to himself, “the youth of today, do they know anything?”, he looked back at the adolescent bartender with a wry smile, “with ice” he said to clarify his order, the youth nodded back at him with a dumbfounded expression and headed for the bar.
“I’m glad we can finally talk again” the German told Kitty, “ I’m not here for social niceties” Kitty retorted sternly, “I came here to tell you that for your sake and mine, go home, there’s nothing left for you here and there never was”. The German looked at Kitty with a forlorn expression and nodded quietly to himself before replying, “ I understand with the way I left you all those years ago that you would not wish to be friends with me again, all I ask for Kitty is that we can have an agreeable conversation with each other and let me try to resolve some of the wrongs of the past, enough so that I can leave you on less hostile terms, as dying man that’s all I request”. Kitty could feel her eyes well up with tears as she heard this, again she felt her anger for this man conflict with strange feelings of sympathy, she was determined however to control her emotions on this occasion. She changed the subject in an effort to attain a brief emotional respite, “I hear your daughter is with you here in Kilkealy, that must be a comfort”, “it most certainly is” replied the German with a smile, “Gertrude can be somewhat impulsive and full of surprises but she’s a good girl who means well, I’d be lost without her” he continued “I think she gets her free spirit from her mother”. “I don’t know” responded Kitty “ I recall her father having the same free spirit many years ago” the German smiled at this comment. “So how is your daughter finding her stay here?” asked Kitty, “not too boring I hope”, “no, not at all,” replied the German, “actually she’s fallen in love, even though she has not said as much,'' he said with a chuckle, “she does tell me it’s a local boy though”. Kitty froze when she heard this and remembered what Matthew told her about his new love interest, who’s identity he was still concealing, “no way” she thought to herself with worry, “it couldn’t be”.
That same afternoon at Duncannon beach in Co Wexford the newly engaged couple strolled hand in hand barefoot as they watched the foamy tide wash up on the sand whilst the winter sun set on the horizon. The beach was sparsely occupied at the time due to it being the off season for visitors and the sea breeze gave a distinct winter chill whilst also being somewhat invigorating to the senses. Matthew and Gertrude had their minds filled with other things at that moment however, predominantly each other. Ever since Matthew made his spontaneous proposal to the young West German maiden and she blissfully accepted their whirlwind romance had taken on a new trajectory and their infant relationship was accelerating at a pace neither of them could have foreseen from the outset. They stared adoringly into each other's eyes as they walked on the wet sand, neither of them could scarcely believe what had happened recently but if it was a dream it was one they didn’t want to wake up from. “I suppose we better tell our folks the good news” Matthew said to Gertrude as he pondered the immediate future, “yes, I suppose we will have to” Gertrdue responded with some trepidation in her voice, worried as to how her father would respond to the news. “How about this weekend?” asked Matthew, “we’ll pay a visit to both houses and make our introductions, after that we should just come straight out with it, things will be much easier after that trust me”. Gertrude considered what her fiance was proposing and agreed with him, there was no point in keeping the engagement secret for any longer than was necessary, the truth would come out eventually. “There’s something else I need to tell you also” Gertrude informed Matthew with a distinctly uneasy tone, her fiance did observe that she did appear to be somewhat preoccupied with something on her mind during their beach date but then again they both had a lot to consider recently. “What is it?” inquired Matthew curiously, Gertrude remained silent for a moment which suddenly felt like an eternity before she blurted out “I’m pregnant”.
December 25th 1943
A lot has happened in the world over the past two and a half years, the course of the war has changed and the forces of the Third Reich are in perennial retreat. Paddy and Karl sat curiously by the wireless on December 7th 1941 as news came of the attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii by Japanese air and naval forces prompting America’s entry into the war. Karl followed the war news anxiously as the Lutwaffe abandoned their plans for Britain and concentrated their resources into the invasion of the Soviet Union in which victory seemed at one point inevitable. A war of attrition prevailed however as the German invaders succumbed to defeat in Stalingrad amongst appalling levels of human tragedy leaving Karl concerned for hs fallen comrades in the snow. For Germany the bad news would continue in North Africa as the Allied forces went on the offensive in Operation torch and the distinguished Africa Korps under the command of the esteemed Erwin Rommel were finally defeated at the Battle of El Alamein. As the American forces gained the upper hand over Japan in the pacific one thing was now certain, an Allied victory, the only question that remained was when. Karl feared for the safety of his family and friends in the Reich every day as he followed the news, utterly frustrated with how powerless he was to do anything about it.
In Kilkealy however life for Karl was quite different, he had become an efficient farmhand under the guidance of Paddy and the clandestine romance he had developed with Kitty was blossoming. As he one day ploughed and harrowed the fields under the sunshine the young farmer’s wife gazed in a silent state of hypnotic lust as she watched the young German shirtless, following the humble workhorse with a plough across the furrowed soil. His bicep, pectoral and abdominal muscles glistened with sweat as Kitty bit her lower lip in a bid to control her inner juvenile delirium. She broke her silence to draw Karl’s attention as she brought him some much needed refreshment in a bottle of water. “Well hello there, I was not expecting to see you” Karl said to her with a flirtatious glint in his eye, “ a hard working man needs to keep hydrated” Kitty replied with a cheeky grin etched across her face. After Karl drank the water he pulled Kitty next to his manly, semi naked frame and they kissed passionately. Their romance moved in the shadows of their daily domestic existence, the pair meeting in quiet places whenever the opportunity arose, the barn, the milking parlour, the loft, the bedroom to passionately embrace and caress one another. The enticement of this forbidden fruit was too much for Kitty, the excitement of meeting Karl in secret as she took every preventative measure from having her unsuspecting husband find out gave her an adrenaline rush she felt her life needed. She knew that if the local community became aware of this liaison, let alone Paddy, she would be sent to a virtual exile initiated by the clergy, above all else for the sake of herself and her children she had to keep the affair secret even though she had no idea what direction the romance would take if indeed it had a future at all.
It was Christmas day 1943 and another day of respite for the McCarthy family and Karl in a grim world. A few days before the young German helped Paddy to cut down a small pine tree in a nearby forest to bring back to the house to be used as a Christmas tree, or Tannenbaum, as Karl liked to call it in his native tongue. Kitty and the children excitedly made decorations for the tree as between them all they managed to have it sitting proudly in the corner of the kitchen to give the simple farmhouse a distinctly festive look. Karl assisted Kitty with killing and plucking a goose for Christmas dinner whilst Paddy tended to the livestock blissfully unaware of the cavorting his wife was doing with someone, who he now considered to be his best friend, under their roof. On Christmas Eve the family went to mass in the local church and enjoyed a carol service beforehand, whilst Karl posed as Paddy’s mute nephew he listened to carols in a state of melancholy and nostalgia, of Christmas past singing Stille Nacht and O Tannenbaum, the German variants of what he was listening to now. His mind turned to his family back in Gelsenkirchen who would have assumed he was dead by now he reckoned, he wondered if they were still alive,if they were safe and he prayed that this was so. On Christmas day the children awoke early to discover what Father Christmas had brought them and Karl brought out a surprise of his own for them, a wooden rocking horse which he had made himself through his newly acquired carpentry skills, much to the delight of everyone. The house was filled with laughter and yuletide joy as the McCarthy family later feasted on a dinner of a roasted goose and vegetables. In the evening whilst the children played with their toys Paddy, Kitty and Karl sat in front of a turf fire with an open hearth in the kitchen as Paddy produced a bottle of brandy he had been saving for the occasion whilst Kitty produced a box of biscuits she had also been holding on to for today. They shared songs and stories from Ireland and Germany as they forgot about the trouble that was going on in the world around them for a while.
Later on Karl rose from his chair, “I think I’ll go and check on the cattle outside” he declared, “might be a good idea” Paddy replied, “I’ll go with you”, “no” Kitty sharply interjected, “it’s Christmas day Paddy, why don’t you have a break for once, I’ll go with Karl and you can get the children ready for bed”. Paddy smiled and looked at his wife “ok, if that’s what you’d prefer, I’ll take care of the kids for a change and you can make sure our friend here is safe out in the dark” he replied with a chuckle. Karl got the oil lamp and went to the shed where the cattle were being housed on straw bedding, Kitty enthusiastically followed him in and the pair embraced again with their lips passionately entwined in affection. When they concluded the kiss Karl blurted out to her in excitement “I love you Kitty, I’ve never met anybody in my life quite like you, these last few years have been a blessing to me and I don’t ever want them to end” . Kitty looked at the handsome young German rather puzzled now as she asked “what exactly are you trying to say Karl?”, “I mean come away with me,” said Karl, “you me and the children, we can get away from here and start a new life together”
November 19th 1974
“Well, what can I say only here’s to the happy couple” the German said as he proposed a toast to his daughter Gertrude and her fiance Matthew. The couple revealed the news to him at Thorn Cottage over a smoked salmon lunch which proved to be quite a shock at first, initially he did not know how to react to the news but he reflected on his own terminal predicament and the fleeting nature of life along with how happy his daughter appeared and he warmed to the notion. How his ex wife would react to her daughter’s news back in West Germany was another matter but for now he would be happy for her and her fiance Matthew who on first impressions to him appeared to be an admirable young man. During lunch Matthew informed the German of his family circumstances and history and the young man was quite taken aback by his astonished reaction. “I knew your mother well” the German told him, “but it was a long time ago before you were even born, your brothers and sisters were quite young and I remember them too”. “Wait a minute” interjected Matthew, “I’ve heard stories here in the village over the years of a German plane crashing on my family’s land during the second world war, my mother never talked about it much and my brothers and sisters were too young to remember”. Well, replied the German with a smile “the stories were true, I was a pilot for the German air force during the war and the plane I was flying crashed whilst I was returning from a mission over England, where did I crash land only here in Kilkealy” he said with a chuckle “I survived the crash but my comrade was not so fortunate, your father Paddy helped me when I was injured and he and your mother took me in to your home, they were the kindest people I ever met” the German said this with a sad tone as he stared at the wall in front of him, appearing to be in deep reflection. “Well you are full of surprises Papa” said Gertrude with amazement, “you never told me that story before, you never told any of us anything of what happened during the war”. The German sighed “some things darling are simply too painful to talk about, especially what happened during the war”, Gertrude nodded silently, “I understand Papa”.
“So what has brought you back here to Kilkealy” Matthew asked the German, “I assume Gertrude has told you that I am not well” he informed him, “and I have come back here to catch up on things, out of curiosity if nothing else, I fell in love with this place all those years ago and made so many happy memories here that I felt compelled to return to see how much it had changed before I part from this world”. “I was sorry to hear about your illness” Matthew told the German, “ it’s ok” he replied, “ I met with your mother while I was over here, she’s a fine woman, your father Paddy was a gentleman too, I can see that you take after them” he said to his daughter’s fiance with a smile, “anyway” he went on “ let’s finish our lunch, we have some celebrating to do”. After they had concluded their lunch the German along with his daughter and prospective son in law went to O’Shea’s pub where he bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate the occasion, “why not” he thought “I will probably not be around for the ceremony and to give Gertrude away to this young man, I may as well make the most of things now”. It was with this thought that he was inspired to propose a toast.
November 20th 1974
Kitty prepared the dining table for dinner at the farmhouse in Kilkealy, she got the good cutlery out along with the crystal glasses she kept on the shelf of the kitchen dresser above the fine china which were both reserved for use in the event of distinguished guests calling to the house and a distinguished guest was calling this afternoon. For quite a while now Kitty was quizzing her son about his new romantic interest and who he seemed to be engrossed in, his tacit replies and insistence on secrecy however had only made her more determined however to discover her identity. Recently however after her conversation with the German in O’Shea’s pub she had become more concerned with whom her son may be liaising with, he had told her that she was quite enamoured with a local young man and they’re were not that many in the parish, not single men anyway.
As for the rest of the conversation she had with the German it had ended more amicably than the previous one when he called to her home. He agreed after the meeting to return back to West Germany, he informed her that he had plans to do so as it was because he could feel his physical health declining by the day and he wished to be back with family and friends with Christmas approaching, which he doubted he would live to see. A feeling of sympathy came over Kitty when the German spoke of his terminal illness and in spite of what had occured between them in the past she wished him a safe journey back home and gave her regards to his daughter. Kitty did inform him however that she could not forgive him over what had occurred in their past, she simply could not find it in her heart despite much searching to do so and she advised him not to return to Kilkealy and to leave her in peace. The German was saddened upon hearing this but glad that they could finally speak amicably with one another, he told her that he would respect her wishes and not bother her again. Prior to parting ways with Kitty in the pub the German put his hand into the breast pocket of his tweed jacket and removed the old black and white photograph he had previously shown to Kitty and handed it to her, “here, I believe this belongs to you,'' he said, “auf wiedersehn”.
Matthew drove pensively in his Ford Escort with Gertrude beside him in the front passenger seat. The meeting with Gertrude’s father yesterday had been a resounding success but this was a different proposition altogether, Matthew did not know how his mother would react to the news of the couple’s sudden engagement and the less said about Gertrude’s pregnancy the better. That was news Matthew was still reeling from and his fiance did not know quite how to feel about it either, they both agreed to keep their silence about it for now until after news of the engagement was revealed to everyone and figure out where to go from there. As they approached the long laneway leading up to the farmhouse Matthew gave Gertrude a reassuring smile and told her “don’t worry, everything will be fine”.
Kitty went back into the kitchen to check on the dinner she had cooking for her son and his guest whom she was expecting to arrive shortly, she had roast beef in the oven and was preparing vegetables to go along with it and Yorkshire pudding, which Matthew loved. Whilst she was in the kitchen she heard Matthew and his guest arrive through the front door, “hello Mammy, are you home” Matthew said loudly, “I’m here in the kitchen” Kitty replied “you’re just in time,dinner is ready”. Matthew brought Gertrude to the kitchen table, they both admired the display Kitty had laid on for them, the fine white linen tablecloth laid out complete with the good cutlery and crystal, there was a centrepiece consisting of a lit candle in a silver holder along with bottles of Chardonnay and Merlot wines and a selection of condiments to compliment the meal. Kitty turned away from the stove where she was cooking to greet her son and the mysterious lady who was accompanying him, after she hugged Matthew he made the introduction to her, “Mammy, this is the special lady in my life I was talking to you about, her name is Gertrude, Gertrude Schroder from a place called Gelsenkirchen in West Germany, she has been here with her father visiting for the past few months”. It was at that moment Kitty’s worst fears were realised.
February 21st 1944
Karl Schroeder and his comrade Dieter Raener were partaking in an escort of Stuka bombers over the skies of England in a successful bombing raid on London in their Messerschmitt BF109 fighter plane and were on the return journey back to the fatherland with the convoy. It was then that they encountered stern resistance in a number of RAF Hurricane fighters and a frantic dogfight ensued. Karl in his plane managed to shoot down three enemy aircraft in total and with some skilled maneuvering managed to avoid becoming a casualty in the melee, four Messerschmitt fighters and a Stuka bomber were not so lucky though. Having broke free of the skirmish in his aircraft Karl and Dieter then encountered heavy fog and having lost the convoy veered off in a westerly direction towards Irish airspace. Whilst they were trying to find their bearings Karl noticed that the plane was losing fuel rapidly most likely as a result of damage sustained to the fuel tank by enemy gunfire in the skirmish. Within a short space of time the Messerschmitt was rapidly descending toward the ground with an empty fuel tank and it was clear that Karl and his comrade would have to eject quickly if they were to have any hope of survival. “Auswerfen Dieter auswerfen” he shouted at his comrade in German for him to evacuate the aircraft, a frantic second or two passed before Karl manage to open the canopy door on the cockpit and free himself from his seat as he took a frightening leap of faith. As he saw green fields underneath him whilst suspended from thin air Karl quickly looked around him to find there was no sign of Dieter.
Karl awoke suddenly shouting “Dieter, Dieter” and sweating profusely, quickly he realised that he had experienced another nightmare, the events of the crash still playing out in his subconscious mind. The young German took some deep breaths to calm himself again and looked around to find himself back in the sanctuary of the spare room of the farmhouse which was the McCarthy residence. For the past few years Karl had been having traumatic flashbacks of the crash which initially had been causing him insomnia but had recently become more intermittent. He looked out the window and found that it was morning as he arose and dressed himself, when he went into the kitchen Paddy and Kitty were at the table having breakfast with the children where he joined them. “This came for you today Karl” Paddy informed him as he handed him an envelope which appeared to be from Dublin, more specifically from the Swiss embassy there. “Looks interesting” Paddy told him as Karl glanced at the front of the envelope, “it must have something to do about what we were talking about”. Karl remained silent for a moment looking at the envelope before replying “I believe it is, I’ll read it after breakfast though” as he dipped his spoon into his oatmeal to retrieve a mouthful.
For the past two years Karl with the aid of Paddy had been making attempts for him to be repatriated to his homeland discreetly through diplomatic circles. The young German had an old friend working in the foreign service who had a contact in the Swiss legation in Dublin, Mr Marcus Zuelle. Through clandestine means a line of contact was made between Karl and Mr Zuelle via coded or vague letters and telephone calls in which false documents i.e passport and a visitors visa could be manufactured for him to travel to neutral Switzerland and make the necessary plans to return to Germany via the border there. With rumours of an Allied invasion of France being planned and the Soviet Union advancing through the East it was clear that the war was entering its final phase and Hitler’s days were numbered and Karl was anxious to return home to discover what was left of his family.
He opened the envelope after breakfast and found that it was a letter from Mr Zuelle in German which translated into English read as follows,
Mr Karl Heinz Schröder,
Further in reply to our previous correspondence please find enclosed the number for my direct line at the Swiss consulate should you feel the need to make contact with me. With regard to the matter we previously discussed all necessary arrangements have been made and I await your further instructions.
This was exactly the correspondence Karl was looking for, now there was a matter of getting to Dublin to collect his documents and arrange to secretly leave the country without Paddy’s knowledge, for there was a travelling companion he wished to take with him on a one way ticket, Kitty.
Kitty’s blood ran cold as she looked at her son’s fiance, still oblivious to the news of their engagement. Indeed she could she that she was pretty and how Matthew could fall for her but through no fault of his own he had become involved in a forbidden liaison for here standing beside him was his half sister. A panic surged through her as she reacted hysterically towards the couple, “no, no, it can’t be, get her out of here” she screamed. Matthew was dumbfounded, “what the hell is wrong with you Mammy” he responded angrily. “There’s nothing wrong with me at all, what is wrong is you two, you’re all wrong for one another” Kitty shouted back, Matthew had an expression of incredulity strewn across his face whilst Gertrude’s was one of horror, she was nervous calling to the house to meet Matthew’s mother for the first time and now all she felt like doing was running for the door. “What do you know about us” Matthew shouted at his mother angrily, “I don’t know what is wrong with you Mammy but you have no right to speak to Gertrude the way you did after I just introduced her to you”. “Just get out, get out, get ouuuut” Kitty screamed back at her son deliriously as she turned and sat down on a chair by the kitchen, buried her face in her hands and bawled uncontrollably. The couple stayed looking at Kitty for a few seconds in a state of shock at what had unfolded in front of them before Matthew looked at Gertrude and said, “come on let’s get out of here, I don’t know what has come over my mother but it is clear we are not welcome”. The couple left the house and went away in Matthew’s car whilst Kitty remained seated in the kitchen weeping to herself in desperation.
“ I really don’t know what came over my mother there, I mean she went to all that bother of preparing dinner for us and then she behaves the way she does, I really don’t know” Matthew said with a sigh as he drove Gertrude back to Thorn cottage, his mind transfixed in a state of bemusement, embarrassment and worry. “ I was really scared of your mother there Matthew” Gertrude replied still trembling, “what did I do wrong?”, “you did nothing wrong at all dear” Matthew told her reassuringly, “something must be wrong with her, I don’t know what it is though” he said with an air of confusion. “Do you think it may be something to do with her and my father?” Kitty asked “he did say that he had met with her while he was here”, “I really don’t know” Matthew repeated “but I tell you one thing, I will get to the bottom of it and fast”. The Ford Escort pulled in to the front of Thorn Cottage and Matthew gave Gertrude a kiss before they parted, “I ‘m awfully sorry about what happened in there” he told her in a tone of embarrassment. “I’m going to go back home and have a stern discussion with my mother, she can’t behave the way she did, you stay here and I’ll be over later” Matthew said to her as they kissed again, “take care” Gertrude said to him with a smile as she got out of the car and Matthew headed back to the farmhouse, determined to get to the bottom of what was going on.
Back in the kitchen Kitty remained seated at the table weeping uncontrollably, the roast beef and vegetables that were being cooked for dinner were burnt but that mattered little now. “How could it come to this” Kitty thought to herself, “why did he have to come back here to Kilkealy with his daughter following him thinking he could worm his way back into my life and now my son is caught up in this mess ”. She knew one thing was certain, she could not hide the truth from Matthew any longer and after her performance a short while ago he would be only more determined to know, she would have to tell him. Kitty heard the front door open and realised that it was Matthew after returning on his own this time. “Mattie I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I don’t know what came over me” she said as she got up from the chair to meet him with the tears still flowing from her eyes. Matthew walked towards his mother with his hands in his pockets and an angry expression on his face, “I don’t know what has come over you Mammy but you owe me an explanation” he said to her sternly. Kitty closed her eyes, nodded and said to him “ok, sit down and I’ll tell you”.
April 22nd 1944
For the past two months Karl had been relentlessly pursuing Kitty to agree to his plan of taking the children and moving away with him to another country where they could begin a new life together. He knew that this would ultimately destroy Paddy, who he considered to be a good friend, but the love he felt for Kitty and the fondness he had for the children compelled him to act. He felt that they all deserved a better life, one of opportunities away from this domestic rural humdrum and he could provide them with it, but they would have to get away from the patriarchal figure that was Paddy. When they met in secret Karl filled Kitty’s head of tales of the potential life they could have with him in a post war Germany or even Switzerland, that with his skills he could easily get a job in any of the industrial heartlands and advance from there, the potential earnings he could make would be considerable and Kitty and the children could enjoy luxuries they could only ever dream of in abstract thought previously. “Think about it Kitty” he would tell her, “no more living off the land with back breaking work, you could go back to school or university and fulfil your potential, all those dreams you told me that you had before”, “I don’t know” she would reply, “what would happen with the children”. Karl would continually reassure her concerns she raised about the move but Kitty would keep telling him that she would have to think about it, the young German was becoming frustrated.
It was a mid April night when Karl had arranged to meet Kitty in the barn after she had put the children to bed. Paddy was in for the night and listening to the war news on the wireless whilst the former aviator waited patiently at the barn smoking a Woodbine cigarette, he extinguished it when he saw the young housewife approaching. Karl embraced her and they kissed tenderly. “So, have you thought any more about it” he asked her referring to his proposition of her leaving with him, Kitty remained silent for a moment before answering with a sigh, “I have and I’m afraid the answer is no.'' A look of palpable disappointment came across Karl’s face as Kitty went on, “I just can’t , the whole idea is just too crazy I mean there’s the children first and moving them away from their home to a strange place and I’m not sure how I’d settle either, with the war going on I just think it’s too dangerous and then there’s Paddy, I know life with him may be dull but he’s a good man as you know and I just couldn’t do it to him, I’m awfully sorry Karl”. The young German’s eyes widened as Kitty revealed her decision to him, “how could I be so stupid” he thought to himself with anger coarsing through his veins, “this Irish bitch has been playing me for a fool all this time seeing me as some port in a storm, how could she possibly love me”, the thought remained in Karl’s head as he remained silent whilst trying to process what Kitty had just told him, a rage was engulfing him and he could not stop it.
“You don’t look too happy” Kitty said observing him, “I’m sorry but you’re a lovely man Karl, you’ll meet somebody special, somebody who is not burdened with the responsibilities I have”. Karl did not want to listen to any more, this woman had been leading him on all this time by playing with his heart and he wanted to make her pay. “Shut up”, Karl said to Kitty abruptly as he struck her with the back of his hand on her cheek causing her to fall back onto the straw ground, she looked up at him with terrified eyes. He then pounced on the young woman and covered her mouth with his hand so she would not scream, “you bitch” he said to her with real venom in his words as he pinned her to the ground with his strong arms “you’ve been playing me for a fool all this time, well now I’m going to get what I want”. Karl moved his other hand down to the bottoms of Kitty’s skirt and underneath it as he clasped hold of her underwear, ripping it off. Kitty tried to wriggle free, scream, do anything really whilst this was going on but the young German was too strong for her as his full body weight kept hers pinned to the straw underneath, his hand still over her mouth so she could not make any noise. Karl with his free hand then unbuckled his own belt and thus began a process where he violently raped Kitty whilst she lay prostrate, restrained and helpless underneath him as she tried desperately to scream but his strong hand muffled her. The violation lasted for approximately ten minutes in total after which Karl got up off the young wife and mother whilst she laid there trembling with fear and weeping. He pulled up his trousers and buckled it and ran off back to the farmhouse, not caring to look back at his victim. Inside the house was in darkness and it was clear to Karl that Paddy had gone to bed along with the children, he knew he had to take what he could and flee quickly as he gathered what few personal belongings he had and some food for the kitchen. Karl then looked in a chest of drawers in the kitchen where Paddy and Kitty had some cash kept in an empty biscuit tin there, he opened the tin and took what cash was there, enough to get him to Dublin at least. Before he left the house he saw a photograph on the kitchen dresser in a small frame, the one taken at the fair with him and the McCarthy family, he quickly smashed the glass frame and took the photograph out, stuffing it in his pocket. “To remember better times” Karl thought as he swiftly made his way out the front door without awakening anyone, with that he ran down the laneway into the night and in a heartbeat the young German was gone.
“Please Mattie, don’t do this” Kitty pleaded desperately with her son as he went to the cabinet
where his double barrelled shotgun was stored to retrieve the weapon, he took it out and examined it quickly ensuring that it was loaded with two cartridges before heading for his car. Kitty continued to plead with him, “please Mattie” she said “think of yourself, your future, Gertrude”, she desperately tried to reason with him but Matthew was having none of it as he opened the front door. Kitty tried to obstruct her son at the doorway to prevent him from leaving but he pushed her aside and quickly went to his car, getting into it and driving away at speed with only one destination in mind, Thorn cottage.
Matthew was seething after the story his mother had just told him, “no wonder she reacted the way she did earlier,” he thought to himself as he drove the car with speed along the country road. His head was spinning and his heart was pounding, there was simply no room for rational thought, listening to his mother’s story was so surreal that he simply could not contemplate everything at this point. His biggest anguish was for Gertrude, a woman he loved passionately but unknown to her was the daughter of a monster and most painfully his half sister. He pondered why a man as hospitable, cultured and refined like the German could carry out such a heinous violation of his mother, one that led to his conception. For Matthew everything was unfolding like a Shakesperian tragedy and he was like a proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights of it all, only one thing became clear when he thought of the German however,he was going to kill him.
Further back along the road Kitty pedalled frantically on her bicycle in a desperate attempt to get to Thorn Cottage before it was too late. As she maneuvered along the dark road she thought to herself, “why did it have to come to this?” she really wished she had not told Matthew the truth about her past but she found herself in an impossible situation. The presence of the German back in Kilkealy after all this time was traumatic enough for her but the arrival of his daughter she could not have foreseen at all, let alone that she become romantically involved with her half brother. “I just know I could not have allowed that union to continue, not without them knowing the truth” she thought to herself “ I never thought Matthew would react the way he has done though”, there was no time for Kitty to ponder however as she travelled on her bicycle desperately hoping she could still stop what she feared was about to happen.
The German had his suitcase open in his bedroom at Thorn Cottage as he neatly folded his clothing prior to packing it away. He had a plane ticket purchased for his return flight back to Gelsenkirchen which was due to depart the next day and thus leave Kilkealy for the last time. Despite the difficulties he had with Kitty he had enjoyed his stay in the humble village but he felt it was time for him to go home now, his health was failing by the day and if he was to be alive by Christmas he wanted to be back with his family in West Germany, besides, he had achieved some semblance of what he had come to Kilkealy for, to make his peace with Kitty despite not receiving her forgiveness. The German was concerned for his daughter Gertrude however who had arrived back at the cottage about an hour previously having been dropped there by her fiance Matthew and was in a visibly distressed state. She explained to him how the dinner meeting with Matthew’s mother had not been a pleasant experience and how she reacted in a deranged manner in her presence, her motive for doing so unknown to young Gertrude. The German paused for a moment after her daughter had informed him of this, “is there something she did not tell me?” he pondered to himself as his thoughts momentarily turned to Kitty before returning to his daughter. “You said you knew Matthew’s mother from long ago Papa, is there anything going on that you need to tell me?” Gertrude asked her father with a real sense of urgency, “nothing I know of,” he replied, “she probably has a lot going on with her at the moment that we don’t know about, it’ll probably turn out to be nothing, I would not worry about it my dear” he said to his daughter reassuringly whilst subconsciously feeling that something more serious was developing. “I think I’ll go for a walk Papa” Gertrude told her father “there’s a lot going on that I need to think about”, “ok” replied the German, “but be careful, it’s dark outside.''
The German continued with his packing and getting his affairs in order before his flight home the next day, as he was doing so his mind was preoccupied with what Gertrude had told him. He was of the view that matters were resolved to some degree after his last meeting with Kitty but clearly she must still be feeling trauma in some way he reckoned to himself, but why did she react the way she did upon seeing Gertrude?, was their something else Kitty knew that she wasn’t telling him? such questions played over the German’s mind again and again as he stood over his suitcase. He reflected on that night in 1944 and what he did to Kitty motivated by chauvinistic arrogance and lust, that’s all he could conjure in his mind to rationalise why he behaved in such a depraved and sinister way. As he watched Gertrude grow to womanhood he instinctively became protective of her in a “poacher turned gamekeeper” style of conversion, seeking some form of redemption for his past crime. The German was happy that Gertrude had met an honourable man in Matthew who would take care of her as he prepared to leave Kilkealy, he hoped that their union might do something in time to heal the pain in Kitty’s life caused by what he did to her. Suddenly a knock was heard on the door by the German bringing him back to the present moment as he went to answer it.
Outside Thorn Cottage Matthew waited anxiously for the door to be answered, his shotgun clasped tightly by is side so as not to make it look obvious that he was armed. The German looked outside the window and saw it was Matthew at the door, “he must be back to see Gertrude” he thought to himself as he opened the lock to invite him in. “Hello Matthew” he said to him with a smile but he saw that Matthew had an angry expression on his face and was holding onto something by his side. “You bastard” Matthew roared at him as he struck him violently on the nose with the end of the object he was holding, the German now realised with terror it was a shotgun as he was propelled back through the small porchway and into the living room of the cottage as he retained his balance from the blow, blood flowed from his nose down his face and it was clear to him that it was broken. Matthew followed him into the living room with his shotgun clasped in front of him as he delivered a kick into the German’s chest while he was bent over in pain from the initial blow to his nose, he lay on the ground groaning in pain whilst Matthew stood over him. “My mother told me everything, you raped her you bastard” he said to him menacingly as he kicked the German into the stomach causing him to roar in pain, he coughed repeatedly and winced in pain as he gathered his breath to try and speak to his assailant. “Please Matthew” he said in between heavy breaths “I can explain”, Matthew was not interested though as he pointed the front of the two barrels towards his victim who lay strewn on the wooden floor in front of him. “Quite frankly I don’t care” he said to the German angrily as he moved the wooden handle of the shotgun towards his shoulder in preparation to shoot, his victim looked at him with a terrified expression as he coldly accepted the fate which awaited him. Just as Matthew prepared himself to pull the trigger in that split second beforehand he heard the sound of somebody moving quickly towards him from behind, as he felt his finger squeeze down on the trigger the sound of a feminine voice screaming “Matthew no” could be heard as a body jumped frantically towards where Matthew had the front of the two barrels of his shotgun towards the German. A thundering bang came from Matthew’s gun as he fired a shot and within a second the consequence of his action horrifically lay before him, the German screamed as he clasped on to the body of his daughter Gertrude who lay lifelessly in front of him with a single shotgun wound in her chest. Matthew tried in that brief moment to process what had just happened but he couldn’t, his half sister and fiance had walked in through the rear door of the cottage during his assault on her father and as she witnessed what was about to unfold she frantically and bravely dashed towards Matthew’s shotgun to try and stop what was about to happen only to be tragically caught in the crossfire . All Matthew could think of now was the fact that he was a murderer who had murdered the woman he loved, she was gone forever, as the German hugged her corpse and wept bitterly he looked back up to see her former fiance with the shotgun still pointed at him, at this stage he did not care if he finished the job. Matthew paused with tears in his eyes breathing heavily as he contemplated his next move, the German remaining terrifyingly silent, then in the moment that followed it was all over as Matthew moved the front of the two barrels of his shotgun into his mouth and pulled the trigger. “Noooo” screamed the German as a loud bang rang through the cottage again and the back of Matthew’s head was propelled across the living room, his lifeless body falling to the ground.
Outside Thorn Cottage Kitty had just pulled up to the front of the residence in her bicycle as she heard the terrifying sound of gunfire, it was clear to her that she had arrived too late.
January 8th 1975, Gelsnkirchen, West Germany
The German lay on a hospital bed in Gelsenkirchen in his final hours, bereft of life’s joys. His lungs were barely functioning as the cancer engulfed him. Since that fateful night in Kilkealy less than two months ago he had lost all interest in living. His eyes turned to the heart monitor beside him as it beeped steadily while a number of tubes were connected to him to administer morphine and ensure he had a steady supply of oxygen. The medical personnel at the hospital ensured that he had the best care and was comfortable but little did it matter to the German for he was dying.
His thoughts could dwell on little else other than that loud gun fire and Gertrude’s bloody remains as he cradled them in his arms afterwards, the sight of Matthew’s suicide before his very eyes and the screams of Kitty as she arrived into the cottage to witness the aftermath of the horror shortly afterwards. In the wake of what happened Kitty although lost in her grief did not say anything about the historical rape to the Gardai while they investigated the circumstances of what happened at the cottage for a possible motive. The German reckoned it was more for her sake than his as she had enough to contend with in her tragic loss of Matthew and that of Gertrude at his hands, accidental though it was. At Matthew’s funeral the German dared not show temerity by appearing at it as he escorted Gertrude’s body back to West Germany, he simply sent a wreath to the Kilkealy farmhouse extending the sympathies of the Schroder family. In the McCarthy household Kitty’s other children frantically questioned her about the circumstances leading up to Matthew’s death but in her grief she said little, she was was numb to feeling and life. They decided prior to the funeral not to press her mother on the matter any further, the situation was difficult enough for her and they collectively reckoned that the truth would reveal itself eventually as they grieved the loss of their sibling.
When the German returned his daughter’s remains to Gelsenkirchen he quickly found himself facing his final days alone as Gertrude’s mother and his ex wife Freda, heartbroken at the tragic news, converted her grief to anger when communicating with her former husband as she attributed his visit to Kilkealy with their daughter’s death and his inability to protect her in the circumstances. His son Sebastian was also of a similar view when confronting the grief at the loss of his sister, coldly informing his father that he was “dead to him”. The German like Kitty was numb to life, overburdened with grief and the guilt of his past as he dwindled away his last days in a West German hospice, transferred eventually to the hospital he found himself now as his medical circumstances became more complex.
He lay prostrate on his hospital bed as he gasped for air through his respirator praying silently for the inevitable death that was coming and release from the pain that now was life. The struggle with his declining health was he reckoned providence for his past mis giving towards Kitty although the illness was a consequence of his life as an inveterate smoker. Though he did not consider himself a religious man the German did hope there would be some form of forgiveness in whatever afterlife he would encounter if he expressed his willingness to repent upon his arrival, the unknown quantity of it all though is what frightened him. A nurse approached him at his bedside with an envelope and informed him in German that a letter was left in for him at the hospital reception by an unknown person and that it appeared that it was posted from Ireland, the German’s eyes widened and his heart lifted at this news. The nurse asked him if he would be ok to open the letter and read it himself, “ja, danke” he replied to her as she handed it to him and she left the private room he was in for him to read it. He opened the envelope with trembling hands as in it he found a letter and another document, the letter read as follows
January 1st 1975
I’m not sure if this letter will find you alive but if it does there are some things I need to tell you. Ever since you left Kilkealy the first time all those years ago towards the end of the war and after what you did to me I was at first so frightened, so hurt, so heartbroken and so angry at what you had done yet I could not tell anyone, not even Paddy right up until his death. I was lost and alone and numb to life until a ray of light came from what you did when I discovered I was pregnant with a baby boy, a boy who became Matthew, your son.
Upon reading this Matthew put down the letter and gasped then wept loudly, “oh my God why did she not tell me” he thought to himself, followed by “now I know why she was so troubled”. He kept weeping as he painfully felt the loss of the son he never knew, the nurse came back into the room upon hearing what was going on asking him if he was ok to which he replied that he was. He gathered his emotions together and picked up the letter to read the rest of it.
From when he was born I pledged to fill my life with love so that I could pass it on to Matthew. As I watched him grow and play with his siblings I felt the hate I had for you dissipate inside me as I filled myself with my love for Matthew. I promised myself that I would never let Matthew discover the evil circumstances of his conception or the true identity of his father as Paddy believed he was his son up until his death and Matthew that Paddy was his father thereafter. Since I became a widow life was at first very difficult as I worked to make a living for the children off the land, my love for them was what sustained me and kept me going though, particularly with Matthew. I had a few male suitors over the years who helped me on the farm but I could never find it inside myself to trust another man after my experience with you as I remained cold, unloving, reticent and resistant to any opportunities of romance.
With my children I did not feel alone as they filled my life with purpose and love, I found joy as they advanced through the various milestones of life and made me a very proud mother. They all moved on elsewhere with their lives except for Matthew who stayed with me on the farm and I guess because of this more so than his past he remained special to me. I remained contented with life, the pain and anger you had caused me remained dormant within until so unexpectedly you showed up at my door again and those feelings came rushing back . I was fearful also, not so much for me but for Matthew and how I could protect him from the truth, it was because of this that I resisted seeing you and speaking with you for so long as I thought you might just get fed up and go home but when Gertrude came along too things took an entirely different turn that neither of us could have foreseen. We now both feel the same sense of loss and pain from a terrible tragedy that wasn’t our fault only the result of an unfortunate set of circumstances, you may be coming towards your end but I must live on. I could live the rest of my days on this sorrowful earth in a state of anger and bitter hatred towards the hand life has dealt me in the past but I refuse to do so and because of that I forgive you for what you did to me, not for your sake but for mine. I hope your family one day find peace after the loss of Gertrude and may God have mercy on your soul.
PS: I have enclosed something that I feel should be yours, to remember better days
The German looked at what accompanied the letter and found it was the old black and white photograph which he stole from the McCarthy household on the fateful night in 1944 and returned to Kitty after their last meeting, the one taken from the day at the Kilkealy fair where he posed with the McCarthy family on a day when the sun shone brightly and everybody appeared so happy. The photograph looked worse for wear after its travels through the years but the smiles still shone brightly. As tears fell down the German’s cheeks while looking at it he felt an inner peace come over him and smiled as he slowly slipped into a state of unconsciousness, dropping the letter and the photograph on the ground as he did so. His eyes closed, the heart monitor gave one long unending beep and with that the German was no more.