President Hillery’s passing brought me back to the time I met him sometime in the early 1980s.
I was serving on board the LE Emer at the time and he boarded at Dun Laoghaire for a round Ireland trip. The man was a gentleman in every sense of the word, very relaxed, no airs or graces and seemed genuinely delighted at the opportunity of getting away from all the official stuff for about ten days.
Irish naval ships are relatively small so the captain, who has the biggest cabin, gave over his accommodation to the President for the trip. Unfortunately, this cabin sits astride the only passageway to the bridge and in a silly worry that the President might be disturbed all personnel were barred from using the route.
This meant that everybody who worked on the bridge or adjoining areas had to exit a hatch at the stern and make their way forward on the upper deck. During daylight this was no problem and even at night personnel only had to be a little bit more careful as they made their way to their places of work.
After a few days, however, the weather deteriorated making the daylight trip somewhat dodgy and at night, downright dangerous. A ‘delegation’ approached the senior officer who had made the decision, views were exchanged and sanity prevailed.
The President, of course, knew nothing of this minor controversy and I’m sure if he did he would have been outraged that anybody would be so inconvenienced on his behalf.
A nice man, may he rest in peace.