On 14 April 2011, Erskine C. Childers, gave a talk at Glucksman Ireland House of New York University on the new 2011 edition of The Riddle of the Sands. His great-grandfather, Erskine Childers’s book. The talk spoke on the competition for naval power among European empires to control the sea. The book’s plot concerns the growing arms race during the build up to the first World War. Germany and England at that time were in a tight rivalry for supremacy. Erskine Childers, the author, wanted to use the novel to warn the British Government about a possible invasion by Germany through the North Sea. My son read from two sections of the book and summarized parts of the content from his “introduction” in the new edition. He also explored the complicated life of his great-grandparents, their love of sailing, and their struggle and fight for the independence of Ireland. The talk included family photos of his great-grandfather, with old maps of northern Europe to illustrate the setting of the story. My son shares in the love of sailing. In his introduction, he described his great-grandfather’s love of the sea: “Sea salt was on his brain at all times, and it was becoming his meditation. On the water, he felt most at ease; the bliss of the skipper and its sense of control. On the sea he had to answer to no one. There, it was his world, and his decisions.” As a young boy my son went on several cruises in many parts of the world with his father, Erskine B. Childers. At the age of seven, he went with his father to the Navy Docks in Dublin to pay a visit to the Asgard; the famous 1914 Howth gun-running yacht belonging to his great-grandparents (see my photo below). Years later, as a young man, he continued sail training at an Australian school off the coast of Thailand. This new 2011 edition of his great-grandfather’s spy thriller and sailing novel is available now at all major bookstores worldwide in paperback, and also in digital e-book format for iPad readers. This is a book for anyone that loves the sea, and adventures upon it.
Paul D. Boyd, American writer and former UNDP Chief Communication Officer in the Division of Information passed away on 24 February 2011. Before his memorial service scheduled for April 17, I want to pay tribute to him as a dear friend and as a dedicated UN colleague, especially for his work in Development Support Communication. For descriptions see Mr. Royal Colle’s, study on Advocacy and Intervention of Communication.
Paul had worked for two decades at UNDP Headquarters in New York. In the 60s, he was the right-hand man of Mr. Clinton Rehling, Special Assistant to Mr. Paul Hoffman, the first UNDP Administrator. In the 70s, Paul worked closely with my late husband Erskine B. Childers, Director of the Division of Information under the leadership at that time of UNDP Administrator Bradford Morse. Without the energetic support from Paul, the innovative work of UNDP in the Asia region on Development Support Communication would not have taken off in Bangkok as it did in 1968. At that time, I was working with UNICEF as Information Officer for the East Asia and Pakistan Regional Office, and DSCS coordinator. Paul was considered a key member of our team that pioneered work in the planning of communication support components in UNDP-assisted development projects in Asia. In the 1960s, communication with locals who lived in the area and were involved in the project operation were not considered as part of the investment that required a planned budget as other technical assistance did. Paul’s strategic thinking and action at UNDP headquarters was motivated by an idea that he shared with us that no innovation, no matter how brilliantly designed and set down in a project plan of operations, becomes “development” until it has been communicated. He spent a lot of energy and working hours beyond the call of duty to promote this idea to UNDP Headquarters staff. He joined many of the inter-agencies meetings on development communication representing UNDP. Paul wanted to prove that success of UNDP-assisted development projects around the world can happen because of well-planned communication input at an early stage in the project’s design. By the mid-1970s, in addition to the setting up of Development Support Communication Service in Bangkok, other similar services were set up In Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, and Bangladesh by the governments with assistance from UNDP. The creation of a National Development Support Communication Centre/Bureau as part of the Ministry of Information had begun to take root at that time. Paul was happy to see that there were an increasing number of projects assisted by UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA that took account of a communication support component at the planning stage. What I think disappointed Paul most up until the time he left UNDP was that his work in development communication did not get much support from UNDP’s geographical bureau senior staff. And in 1975, when UNDP faced a financial crisis, DSCS work was the first victim of budget cuts. After Mr. Bradford Morse and Mr. Arthur Brown, the Associate UNDP Administrator left the organization, there were also changes of key senior staff in the organization and management style. These unfortunate events had done damage to progress in UNDP’s pioneering work in development support communication. Now that Paul has gone from us, his kindness remains in our memories. Personally I miss Paul’s friendship over a long period of time with my son and my late husband. When Erskine died, in 1996, I remember Paul walking to me at the end of the memorial service to ask why none of the speakers mentioned Erskine’s major contribution in development support communication. I think this is a good opportunity for us to pay tribute to both Mr. Paul D. Boyd and Mr. Erskine B. Childers for their decades of pioneering work and contributions to leadership in development and the communication work in the United Nations system.
Previously on my blog, I have spoken about my dear friend Rita Childers’s community outreach and amongst my collection of family papers, I came across a very interesting piece that she sent me in 1977. As you can see, her handwriting is on top of the page itself. In it she discusses the recklessness of drinking among youth in Ireland at an address she gave in Cavan called The Pioneer Seminar. Being that 2010 is the International Youth Year, I felt that this would be another nice way to remember my mother-in-law, the former first lady and wife of President Erskine H. Childers. Youth issues were a big concern for her, in relation to the future of Ireland. You can read the full article by clicking here.
Rita Childers, the former First Lady of the Republic of Ireland was a person that is hard to forget. I knew her as a step daughter-in-law and later we had become friends. I had many occasions in the 70’s and 80’s to spend time with her as a house guest, along with my late husband and son, both Erskine’s. We always looked forward to visits at Rita’s house. Our summer afternoons with her were often spent walking up the hills above Lough Tay and then picnics thereafter around Wicklow. Rita loved her grandchildren and spent as much time with them as possible. When my son was a young boy, she took him to feed the ducks in the pond nearby her house. She also loved taking him on walks through the grounds of Powerscourt, the old Slazenger Estate. I remember well, the joy of our getting together at Christmas in 1973 with the rest of the Childers family at Aras an Uachtarain in Phoenix Park. My father-in-law, Erskine Hamilton Childers had then only recently been elected President. Years later, when we were both widows, I continued to visit her. I have so many fond memories of our long walks on the sprawling green campus grounds of UCD (University College of Dublin, Belfield), close to her home. Our talks covered everything under the sun, and those who knew Rita can testify to the enormous scope of her experiences and memories. Rita was fascinating and charming. She engaged anyone in discussion. That was a key part of her character. With routines learned during her Press Attache days, long into her seventies, she read the Irish daily newspapers from page one to the end; religiously, every morning at breakfast. By that evening she would be ready to discuss with us the issues and politics of the day over long dinners. Rita believed in the complete participation of women in politics. She said that women should speak their minds especially on the issues of peace and good governance. In 1976, my friend, Elizabeth Reid, and I went to Ireland; a stop-over, after attending an SID (Society for International Development) Conference held in Amsterdam. I phoned Rita ahead of time and told her that we wanted to join the Women’s Peace March, organized by Betty Williams and Miread Corrigan. These women were two Irish Nobel Peace Prize winners, and founders of the Northern Ireland Peace Movement; joining Protestants and Catholics. We were invited by the Irish women NGO’s in New York to come and join the march ending at the summit of the bridge spanning the River Boyne; symbolizing unity. Rita invited both of us to stay at her house in Donnybrook. She was delighted that we came and decided to join us on our journey up north. This peace march was also meant to be the olive branch between the North and South of Ireland; at that time in considerable turmoil. Because of Rita’s First Lady status, and my friend and I being just ordinary participants; we soon found ourselves surrounded by the Garda in escort. We traveled in a police car to the bridge to join the marchers at the front row with other VIPs and politicians. An exciting day for us all. One thing about Rita that shouldn’t be forgotten is all of her lengthly and exhaustive community outreach and activities. Through her favorite local Parish, she joined many local charities; helping the poor, needy and mother’s in need. When Rita Childers passed last weekend on the ninth of May, Ireland as a country, lost a gracious national voice, that will never be forgotten. Like her many friends and large extended family, we will all miss her “joie de vivre”, her kindness and her warm friendship. My relationship with her lasted over three decades, and it will be cherished by me always. The following photographs taken of her, were from our numerous times together, and I hope will reveal another side of Rita that the public may not know. Rest in peace, my dear friend.