In 1951 the Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran a human interest story about Thomas Dunne, an Irish sailor on a comercial vessel who traveled the world but when docked in Red Hook, Brooklyn would not get off the boat for fear of getting lost in the city.
Text of "Vet of Seven Seas Steers Shy of City Maze," as it appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 6, 1951.
Thomas Dunne, first mate of the Irish Willow, has voyaged all over the world but never set foot in Brooklyn.
He's afraid! .
"New York's too big for me," he commented. "I tried finding my way around in Manhattan once years back. I got lost. I always wind up in the opposite direction from where I want to go. It's all right for New Yorkers, who are used to it. But those tubes and all are too much for me.
His ship plies between Colombia, South America, and New York, and docks at the foot of Richards St. near the Todd Shipyard at Pier A, Erie Basin.
Officer Dunne, who is 45, comes from Wexford, Ireland, and has as infectious a smile as you've ever seen in your life, left Ireland two months ago and won't be home until Christmas, 1952.
He is married to a German girl he met in 1939 in the Free State of Danzig.
Romance Without Words
"She couldn't talk English and 1 couldn't talk German.''her husband recalls. "I couldn't speak to her until six weeks after we were married."
"After I met my missus-to be,"he said yesterday in his cabin. "I went, to my home in Ireland, a little country place. I kept thinking of her, though, and finally I went to the authorities and said. 'I want a passport for Danzig.'"
Dunne got, it, too, but he had no visas because he had always traveled by sea before and had no idea what countries he would pass through in land travel to Danzig.
"I got to the Polish Corridor," he will tell you. "The Germans were raising H— and I was mad with myself now because I had no visas and expected trouble. I met up with a Reuters correspondent who was floored that I had gotten that far without a visa."
The reporter wanted to know why Dunne was going through so much to get to Danzig.
"I met a girl and I want to mary her," the burly, cheerful little seafaring man replied.
Finally, a Berlin guard gave Dunne "his" passport and just flicked his hand towards his own non-existent papers when the inspectors came through. The Lothario escaped and reached his sweetheart. They were married after a letter of freedom was signed by a Bishop O'Rourke in Danzig, permitting them to wed.
Although a loyal son of Eire, the Irish Willow's first mate has no use for Gaelic.
"Sure, i don't see the sense of it," he complained,"its of no use to practical people. Only out of the country they speak it."
Special representative for the Compania Colombia de Naveigacion Maritima, S. A... or Coldemar line charterers, is Frank B. Grimes.
Dunne jokingly blames him for nearly giving him pneumonia.
"I had my head shaved." he ago." said, "thinking I would be on the equator for the next six months and what does Grimes do but send me to St. John's, New Brunswick, in the Bay of Fundy, with a load of fertilizer."
Skipper of the ship, who is not leery of Brooklyn, is Capt. J. Byrne of Arklow, a town in Wicklow County, Ireland. He was out looking around yesterday before the vessel sailed.
Proud of Home Port
Home port of the ship is Dublin which, according to her vivacious firstmate is "the finest city in the world."
Although he loves the nautical life and has a brother on a coastal ship in Ireland and unnumbered ancestors on his mother's side who were seafaring men, the short, burly sailor professes to be, "a disillusioned man, as rich today as when i started at sea 30 years ago."
He misses his wife, but not in-laws.
"My wife has to work", he said, "we have her in-laws living with us. She got them from the Russian zone of Germany. Her father and mother and a young girl. For life, I have the in-laws now. I never thought that when I met the missus in Danzig, Adolph Hitler was going to cause me so much trouble. I wish I had had the chance to shoot him years ago."