By Fr. PAUL CRANE, S.J. Father Crane's Column
Pr HE other day I returned from a brief visit to Ireland convinced, as I always am, that, at least in their countryside and country towns. the Irish have in them the very stuff of social democracy.
I am not speaking here of a political creed, but of a social attitude based, I would say, on a recognition amongst them of the basic equality they share, as a Christian people, in the sight of God.
They accept each other irrespective of class and without envy or contempt. There is, in fact. no class amongst them. There is an acceptance of social hierarchy in Ireland, but there is no "side" about that acceptance; there is no snobbery in it. Perhaps it would be better and simpler to say that there is class in Ireland, but no caste.
Many readers, I think, will understand what I mean. If they want confirmation, let them mix with the crowd in the lounge of a small hotel in a town in the Irish countryside. The atmosphere is very easy to catch, Christian and extremely refreshing.
A growing airport
THEY have extended Dublin Airport since I was across there a year ago and they have done a very good job
I believe I ani sigh: in saying that the latest burst of extension work really began with the crowds flying to Lourdes for the centenary year in 1958. Extra accommodation had to be found for them. The traffic has continued to grow since then and the work of enlargement has gone on.
Now there are new and attractive departure and arrival rooms. About the whole there is an air of the right kind of prosperity without the vulgarity which so often goes with it, Dublin's airport restaurant is doing a roaring trade, needless to say. I always think of it as one of the most pleasant I have ever been in. Over the years I have watched it grow It needs to do so, for its fame is widespread and it is not only passengers who use it. It looks as if it will soon have to be enlarged again. Just how, I cannot see.
EXACTLY a week before arriving in Dublin I touched down at Melsbroek (my apologies to Flemish friends if I have spelt it incorrectly), the airport for Brussels. I was on my way to take part in a meeting of Jesuit sociologists at Antwerp.
The airport has changed very considerably since I was last there some ten or twelve years ago. Then, I remember a very temporary structure and a bus that bounced you cheerfully into Brussels.
Now, The airport has grown enormously and it is, I think, one of the most sensible I have ever been in. It is designed in such a way that you find your way round it most easily and, when called for your plane, you need no help to get yourself most easily to your departure point — one of several so arranged that, from its shelter, you walk no more than a couple of yards to the plane.
London, of course, is a very different kettle of fish. I confess that I have never liked it and the same applies to one of New York's major airports — Idlewild, I think — as I knew it three years ago.
I find it appallingly difficult to find my way round London Airport. So, in fact, does everyone and that, maybe, is why you are shepherded so sedulously every step of the way. You have the feeling of being packaged as soon as you get into the place.
Impersonality reigns in its very structure. It has been added to, of late, by the introduction of a shocking custom. Passengers, increasingly, are no longer referred to over the loud-hailer as "Mr." and "Mrs.", etc. Now, they are called "Passenger" and then their surname.
This is a perfectly beastly practice; it leaves one with the impression that all travellers, in the eyes of the airport authorities, are no more than so many impersonal units to be shifted smoothly, swiftly and without fuss to their varied destinations.
I hate this bogus tarmac equality, which the authorities of London Airport are thrusting on us, I give them fair warning that the first time I am referred to in public as "Passenger Crane", there is going to be a scene at the Airport.
The unfortunate girl who hails me in this fashion is in for a surprise. I am determined to protest. Every man has a right to his personality. It is BOAC's boast that it takes care of its passengers. A precondition for so doing is that it should treat them for what they are—human beings and not sardines to ha packed slickly into the plane which is their tin.
Hats off to the DC-3
IT is one of the joys of travelling in the wilder parts of the world that personality blooms as the difficulties of travel increase.
You cannot stand with others huddled under a lean-to shelter. trying to avoid the lashing rain whilst you wait for a plane to land, without talking to them.
And you cannot watch a pilot bring an old Dakota down on a sodden grass runway just after a storm without saluting those human qualities, which make most bush pilots rather wonderful men to meet and know.
And you cannot watch and ride in the plane they handle, which is so often the old Dakota or DC-3, without saying that still, in its way, it is the most wonderful plane in the world.