A seafaring man from Marlborough Street

Eugene McGinty as a young radio operator on the high seas in the 1950s.
Eugene McGinty as a young radio operator on the high seas in the 1950s.

Eugene McGinty was born on, September 3, 1937 to Hugh and Brigid Mc Ginty at 11 Marlborough St, Derry. Eugene was the youngest of six children and brother to Jack; Sheila, Freda, Bernadette and Gertie.

He attended Rosemount Boys school and then St Columbs College before securing a place in the Marine Radio College in Belfast, at which he trained before securing a job as a Radio Officer with Marconi’s Shipping Company between the ages of 18-24.

Eugene McGinty in the present day.

Eugene McGinty in the present day.

This job took him from Marlborough St to the Persian Gulf, India, Africa, China and Japan, among other places.

On his return from sea Eugene embarked on a teaching career and taught in St Brecan’s Secondary School until his retirement.

Eugene, an avid reader, currently resides in Derry with his wife Leonie, surrounded by his adoring fans (his 5 children) and 12 grandchildren to whom he has passed on his love of literature.

These letters are an extract of a series of letters written home by Eugene, mostly to his older brother Jack.

They present a beautifully written description of life at sea, a glimpse of history and a snapshot of Eugene-the person.

What follows are two of his first letters home to Derry whilst at training college in Belfast.

47 Anderstown Cresc, Belfast,

7th May 1956

Dear Jack,

I suppose you thought that when you didn’t get a letter from me during the week that I had forgotten all about Dungannon. The delay was caused by circumstances completely beyond my control in I was flat broke. But prosperity has come at last and I have a dozen stamps in my wallet.

As you heard no doubt, from Mr Devine, I went home last weekend. I got your letter on Sunday night when I came back. I had no idea you were coming or I would have waited until this weekend to go home.

I believe you have got a house at last. Mama wrote and told me so in her last letter. Well you must have prayed hard indeed. I suppose the bells will be ringing soon.

I’m getting on well myself. The teacher was telling myself and the other fellow in the class (there are only two of us you know) that if we do well in the test on Wed coming, that we can move up a class. That will knock 3 months off my time here. He said that our marks have been very satisfactory so far. I have an average of over 70 so I hope it stays that way.

I didn’t see Sheila when I was at home at all as she was in hospital. There seemed to be great secrecy whenever her illness was mentioned. I don’t even know what’s wrong with her or when she is getting out but I’m not going to ask again.

I’ve had no further word from Armagh since so I hope it stays that way. Do you know if they are coming to Derry at Whit weekend? I am getting off the Monday, much to my surprise, so I will have a weekend at home soon. Are you going home then? If the Armagh contingent are going I think I will stay here.

I have been in for two dips over the weekend. I was in the Falls bath on Friday evening and Saturday morning so I’m going to swim the channel sometime.

I had time for a couple of games of tennis on Sat. evening also. This will be my last season in the game as I hope to be at sea this time next year. Some of the fellows are going to sea tomorrow. They got their certificate at the last exam and they leave tomorrow. That guy Vaughan is doing his exam at present but I don’t know how he got on. I would imagine that he’ll get it.

Well, I’ve no more news to tell you at present so I’ll knock off, hoping to hear from you soon.

Your Loving Brother,

Eugene

11 Marlborough St., Derry.

2nd Sept, 1955.

Dear Jack,

I received your welcome letter yesterday morning at breakfast time. Thanks for the chewing-gum money. It sure will come in handy. Well I got my exam all right and the future is rosy. As you know I was thinking of doing accountancy. An advertisement appeared in the Journal just after the results came out for a vacancy in an accountants office. I applied for the job and about a week later I had an interview, just last Saturday in fact.

The accountant is Liam O’Doherty of 3 Castle St. I had another letter from him this morning which said that I had got a “very high mark” in my interview and that if I was still interested in the job to come to his office next Wednesday (7th), and experience for a day at least what the work is like. Then I have my option to quit or stay. I think I’ll stay.

I must say I have been very lucky in securing a job so early. Mama says it’s a good sign when the offer came on a First Friday.

Well how are you getting on? Anymore word of your house yet? I hope you get one soon. You’re bound to get a break now you have gone so far. By the way, wish Margaret all the best from me.

The tennis season is not over yet. I hit the headlines in Magherafelt a fortnight ago tomorrow (Sunday) when I won my two matches. The final score was 9-2 against us. Nobody else on the team won a match. The result was in the Press, Telegraph and Journal. I’m going places brother.

I am thinking seriously of taking up table tennis during the winter. I am also taking up cross-country running. This means of course that I will have to give up cigarettes. I should be in good training for the next tennis season. Don’t blow the top when I tell you this. The table-tennis club I’m joining is in the A.O.H. Don’t worry. I am only going into it because they have some good players and because the Phoenix Club has no good looking women.

Paddy Ann (Miss Mc Crossan to you) is getting on the best. She did very well in the senior and she is going to St Marys. I shall have to be on my best behaviour next Winter. Looking at the selection of girls left in Derry I don’t think I will have a hard job.

I am taking her to a dance on Saturday night. The club is running it so it should be good value. She goes away on Monday week. I shall then be all on my own.

All the boys will be out of town too. Brendan Devine, McLaughlin, Pat O’Donnell and Dessy Carrol are all going to Belfast, to the University and to St Marys’. I have one pal left. Michael Harkin has finished his training and is starting to teach in the Long Tower on the 1st October. I am lucky to have one person at least.

I am eighteen tomorrow so wish me the best. Thank you. Well as I have no more news I will stop writing. I hope again that you and Margaret will have no difficulty in getting a house.

Yourloving Brother

Eugene