Ceann Trá a hAon (Ventry One)
Bearnard Ó Lubhaing (Bernard Long)
Translated from Irish into English by the author
On a foggy evening in October 1939 an event took place which brought the War to our doorstep when a German U-Boat sailed into Dooneen at the mouth of the harbour at about 4 O'clock in the afternoon. The news spread wildly and following on my father's reporting of the arrival of a submarine on our doorstep to the superintendent of the Garda Siochana in Dingle we children raced along the road in the direction of Stephen's Point about one mile to the east. The U-Boat was anchored about 30 yards from the rocky shore and the crew of the Greek cargo ship, the Diamantes, was being ferried ashore, four at a time, in a rubber dinghy. The U 35 had sunk the Diamantes by firing 3 torpedoes into her having first rescued the crew of 28 who had abandoned ship.
Because it was still early days in the War the German sea-captains were chivalrously rescuing the crews of sunken vessels and putting them ashore at convenient neutral points. This was how it came about that U 35 sailed unconcernedly into Ventry Harbour and landed its captive crew in broad daylight. The whole operation was completed in an hour and before the Garda arrived to investigate the U-Boat had already sailed a few hundred yards out the mouth of the harbour and submerged in full view. The Greek sailors were brought to the Dingle District Hospital and we collected empty cigarette packs and chocolate wrappings that were left on the rocks as souvenirs of the occasion.
Before the valiant captain bade goodbye to the Greeks the story later circulated that he advised them that Michael Long of Dingle would look after them. Michael had a pub at the head of the Quay where Máire de Barra's Pub is today and he was also Lloyd's Agent in Dingle. The story goes that the German captain had holidayed in Dingle before the War when he had become acquainted with Michael, hence his parting message to have a pint of Guinness in the Pub and tell Mikey Long that he was asking for him. A Dingle story!
Those were early days as I said. With the passage of time, as the War in the Atlantic deepened in ferocity and ruthlessness all that came in on the tide were the corpses of the drowned sailors picked clean by the seagulls. The noble captain and crew who sailed their submarine to within a few yards of that dangerous and savage coast returned to Ireland some years ago and re-visited the scene of his humane and courageous act. He quaffed a few pints in Mikey Long's Pub and visited the hospital where a memorial plaque had been unveiled by a grateful Greek Government in memory of the kind deed and the sailors whom he had rescued from the sea on that Winter day of long ago.