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Nial McCabe - About Me

My parents were married in Dublin, Ireland. But they soon moved to England seeking work. I was born in the north of England (Leeds) while Dad was working in a factory making bath tubs (that’s what it says on my birth certificate).

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My parents moved to London where my Dad worked as a mechanic on The Tubes (the subway). My Mother worked in a firecracker factory. While my parents worked, I was taken care of by a kindly women we called “Mrs. P.”, who ran an informal daycare in her home. Mrs. P. planned on sending her children to university to study science. She always encouraged my mother to do the same with me.

I lived in London during the time of The Great Smog; a weather inversion. At that time London was fueled by coal and was already a smokey place. But the inversion made things much worse. Eleven thousand people died from effects of the Great Smog, mostly the elderly and infants. The results of The Great Smog formed the nascent beginnings of the world environmental movement. I was, of course, an infant at the time, and my parents were terrified. Initially they though of moving to South Africa or Rhodesia. But then apartheid was explained to them and they would have none of that.

They wanted to immigrate to the USA, but the quotas for Irish were already filled. So they chose Canada. My father went to the Canadian embassy in Ireland and borrowed the equivalent of $80 to pay his fare on a cargo ship (the “Arosa Sun”) to Canada. Dad signed a promissory note that said he would pay the money back when he got to Canada by making payments or by picking potatoes on a Canadian farm for two months. I lived in Kilkenny, Ireland (with my mother and her two aunts) while Dad took the slow-boat to the New World.

When the ship docked in Canada, Dad arrived with no money, no contacts and no Plan B. But he had an abiding sense of optimism. He got a job working as a laborer in the Canadian National Railway and found a room in a rooming house in Toronto. He soon paid back his promissory note and send money to my mother so we could pay the fare to fly to Canada. We came in on a Lockheed Super Constellation which was a propeller airliner. There were no direct flights at that time and the plane landed in Greenland, Newfoundland, Idlewild, Chicago, Buffalo and eventually Toronto. Toronto was a nice city and Dad had a decent job. My sister was born there. During that time Mrs. P. (my old babysitter from London) was a constant pen-pal to my Mother. She always wrote to us and send English newspapers and comics. And she always encouraged my parents to send us to university. I found out much later that Mrs. P’s son grew up to be Dr. John Papaloizou, the world-famous physicist.

Meanwhile, my Mother’s sister (my Aunt Johanna) had married an American Air Force enlisted man. They met in London while he was posted there. I was at their wedding. My new American uncle (“Uncle Marvin”) brought his Irish bride back to his home state of New Jersey around the same time we went to Canada.

My parents liked Canada but America really beckoned, especially since they had family (Uncle Marvin and Aunt Johanna) in New Jersey. My parents continued to apply for immigration status to the USA and after 6 years they succeeded. We drove from Canada to New Jersey in an Oldsmobile (at one point the car broke down and there was also a massive snow storm).

My parents settled in nicely in Jackson Township, New Jersey and went on to have five more sons (for a total of seven children). My Dad worked as a mechanic in a mining operation and later as a maintenance man in a hospital. I was the first person in my family to even *attend* high school. I contracted Rheumatic Fever when I was a sophomore, but thanks to some dedicated tutors, I still managed to graduate high school on time (at age 16). Just as Mrs. P. had encouraged, my parents send all seven of us to college. The Rheumatic Fever helped me get an Upward Bound scholarship so being sick was "lucky" in one sense . My Uncle Marvin was the person who did a lot of the paperwork and college applications. I was very fortunate that I had my optimistic parents and all these other good people in my life.

Life has had its challenges. I lost my only son in 1998. There is no word’s to describe this type of loss and I think of him every day.

But I have a terrific wife, four beautiful grandchildren, two successful daughters and two great sons-in-law. For all of this, I am grateful.

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