(c) 2016 Mount Merrion Historical Society
Bonington story - connection with Mount Merrion
By DES SMYTH / Posted: August 25, 2014
Whilst doing research for the Mount Merrion 300 commemoration I interviewed Jack du Moulin, son of John du Moulin. His father John was originally John Kenny’s Foreman and during WW2 he was involved with the supply of turf from the State controlled Bogs in the midlands.
After the war Du Moulin secured a number of sites in Mount Merrion and built houses on the lower end of the Rise. In 1952 he was selected as building contractor to construct the new Church of St Thérése in Mount Merrion, the foundation stone of which was laid in June 1953. The Church was to be constructed in concrete faced with Limestone and Granite. The chosen site was on quite a steep incline and this ultimately was the reason the façade was changed from East West to North South. A Main door facing the Bray Road would have required the installation of at least twenty steps.
In order to build the Church on time Du Moulin required a crane capable of lifting three ton slabs of Granite and Limestone to a significant height. The pulley cranes available in in Ireland in the early 50’s would be very hard pressed to do the job. Since England was in the middle of a huge Post War reconstruction there was no chance of securing building equipment there. So he went to Germany.
From Liebherr GMBH he secured a new hydraulic crane but because the technology was so new they had to send an engineer along with it in order to assemble/disassemble and operate it. This gentleman spoke no English. Now that was not too bad during the day as Crane operators work primarily with hand signals but during the non- working time it could be a problem.
Father Deery sought out a German speaking Parishioner and found one in 103 The Rise. Major Bonington, recently widowed, was happy to take in a lodger for a year. The good Major was a great gardener and had cultivated his long back garden. He also had hens and ducks and had kept his neighbours supplied with fresh eggs and the occasional chicken during The Emergency.
Jack recalled that the Engineer went home to Germany a few times during the year and on his return he always had a long wooden box with him. This prompted a few of the “lads” to sneak up to the house on the nights after his return. There they heard the two men singing German folk songs and drinking Schnapps, two dozen bottles of which came in the wooden box.
The beautiful Church opened in 1956 and we must presume that the honourable German Engineer had long departed by then, but it set me thinking.
That night after the interview I sent an email to Sir Chris Bonington the renowned Explorer, Mountain Climber and Adventurer to tell him the story and to ask if the Major was related in any way.
He replied as follows-
My Grandfather lived in 103 The Rise and I stayed there a number of times during the late 1940s.He married a Scottish Lassie called Alice Parkinson and they had three children, Charles (my father), Margery and Lucy. He changed his name from Bonig to Bonington on taking up British citizenship before the First World War and they retired to Dublin in the late 1930s.
He was a remarkable man. He was born in Schleswig-Holstein in Northern Germany. Unhappy at home he went to sea at age of 16. He served on many lines and reached the rank of mate when, in the early years of the twentieth Century the British troop ship he was serving in sank in the Indian Ocean. He performed acts of heroism that saved lives and as a reward was given a Shore post in Madras. This led to him becoming the Harbour Master in Port Blair on the Andaman Islands and eventually the Chief Forestry Officer. He did much to care for the interests of the Aborigine native population. In recognition of his service he was awarded a British OBE and an Indian Honour.
Sir Christian Bonington. CVO.CBE.DL
Major Bonington is very fondly remembered by some of the older members of our community.
In a speaking engagement, on one of his recent times visits to Dublin, Chris Bonington told the audience that the first mountain he ever climbed was the Sugarloaf near Bray, Co. Wicklow.
back to....Miscellany Corner