Stafford, Anthony Austin (Austin)
Date of Birth: 11th February 1931
Place of Birth: The Avenue, Gorey, Co. Wexford
Date Interviewed: 19th June 2009
Summary: Austin Stafford spent his first 11 years living on The Avenue in Gorey in a house which has since been demolished to make way for the town’s new library building. Austin’s father was Gorey’s Town Clerk and he remembers that they were one of the few families in the town to own a car at that time – a 1934 Austin 7. School memories are not happy ones for Austin. He describes schools as being “torture camps” and says he was bullied by the Christian Brothers and later by the Holy Ghost Fathers when he was sent to Blackrock College. A favourite pastime of Austin’s was hunting and he was using his father’s shotgun, with permission, from age 11! Austin had ambitions to go to sea and after unhappy years in Blackrock and Rockwell colleges he went to Kevin Street, Dublin and got his licence as a radio operator. His first ship was the Empress of France and his first trip was to Canada. Like all radio operators at that time he was nicknamed ‘Sparky’ and old shipmates still call him that whenever they meet up. Austin describes a lifetime of experiences at sea - from being involved in what was, at the time, the longest journey towing a ship from Australia to England, to being asked to spy by the CIA on Cuban missiles when his ship brought medical supplies to a blockaded Cuba. Austin also talks of his love for motorbikes and how a heart attack put an end to his dream of getting a pilot’s licence. Although he has a love of America Austin always knew that he would return to live in north Co. Wexford. N.B. Austin was diagnosed some years ago with Parkinson’s Disease and this can make his speech difficult to understand. His wife Bronagh sat in on the interview and prompted him during his memory lapses.