Sergeant Noel McGivern: retired Emergency and United Nations veteran with the Irish Defence Forces.
Project: Dublin Port’s Emergency Story
This week we had the pleasure of meeting Noel McGivern and his wife Patsy. Noel gave us a remarkable insight into life in the early Defence Forces. His father Daniel McGivern had served during the War of Independence in County Down with the Irish Republican Army. Moving south he enlisted in the new National Army and served in the Curragh Camp. Noel was initially born in the Curragh 91 years ago. Moving to married quarters in Arbour Hill Daniel served with the 2nd and 5th Infantry Battalions. On the outbreak of the Emergency in 1939, he was transferred to the 11th Infantry Battalion in Greystones to help train the new entries.
Noel’s memories of life in Dublin during the Emergency were remarkable. Rationing was the order of the day but living in married quarters meant the army families could receive some extra rations from McKee Barracks. He remembered clearly the frightful early morning of 31 May 1941, when four Luftwaffe bombs fell on Dublin, one of which fell at the Dog Pond pumping works near the Zoo in Phoenix Park. This wasn’t all that far from Arbour Hill. Noel enlisted for the first time in 1945 near the end of the Emergency serving with the 2nd Infantry Battalion. He left the army in 1947 as the army was rapidly scaled down and went to England to work. Twelve years later Noel read in the news of the Irish Defence Forces deploying to the Congo on peacekeeping duties with the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC: French: Opération des Nations Unies au Congo) and he headed for home. He was barely back in uniform and he was on a plane to the Congo to serve with the 34th Infantry Battalion – Jan 1961 – Jul 1961. He deployed a second time with the 36th Infantry Battalion – Dec 1961 – May 1962. Noel went on to complete two tours with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). Back home Noel and Patsy lived in married quarters in Arbour Hill. As Patsy told us: ‘it was a great place to live. When Noel was overseas or on the border, everyone looked after each other’. Serving in Collins Barracks with the 5th Infantry Battalion Noel went on to carry out his duties until he retired in 1981 at the rank of Sergeant.
Not forgetting his comrades Noel helped establish the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) and both himself and Patsy volunteered, until the present day, helping veterans in IUNVA. The two still live happily not far from Arbour Hill.
If you know any Emergency veteran please do get in touch as it would be an honour to meet them and record their story.