A bit of history to start with

It was 45 years ago today, July 8, 1974. I know it as John Wayne Day. Maybe that’s not for you, but it definitely is for me.
You see, I wasn’t long working in the Evening Herald that day. A year. That’s all. I was the cubbest of cub reporters.
The news editor, Padraig Beirne asked me to stroll up to the Gresham Hotel because someone had called to say John Wayne was there. 
My job was to check it out.
I suspect I got the job because it was mid-morning and virtually everyone else who worked in the Newsroom had gone for a cup of tea or coffee.
Or a pint!
So I strolled up to the Gresham with our photographer, the late Eamon Gilligan. We headed straight to the dining room having been told, by the concierge, that John Wayne was having breakfast there.
I was pretty sure that he wouldn’t be happy at being interrupted while he was eating breakfast. So I thought, the best thing to do was to go for it.
So I walked over and said: “Excuse me Mr Wayne. My name is Paddy Murray and I’m with the Evening Herald newspaper. I was wondering if I could have a word?”
He looked up and smiled: “Sit down young fellar,” he said, “and have breakfast with me.” And I did, as did Eamon.
“So. I guess you’re a reporter,” he said. I confirmed that for him.
“And who do you work for,” he asked. The Evening Herald, I reminded him.
“And do you like working for them,” he asked me. I told him I did as it became clear that it was he who was interviewing me. He asked a few more questions before eventually, I got to ask him about Brannigan, the movie he was making in London. It was a part he chose having turned down the role of Dirty Harry, subsequently taken by Clint Eastwood.
Then we chatted about The Quiet Man and his memories of making that classic movie in the west. And we talked too of his admiration for Richard Nixon. A fine American, he said. A brilliant President, he said. A man who had done nothing wrong, he said just weeks, as it happens, before the disgraced President quit. 
Ronald Reagan, he said, would make a great successor for Nixon.
What had him in Dublin I wondered. 
He had come, he told me, to meet his ‘good friend Lord Killanin.’
“Oh,” I said. “And when are you meeting him?”
“I’m not,” he said. “He’s in Zurich.”
So on we chatted as he tucked into two fried eggs a half dozen rashers, a few sausages, tea and toast. He was, it has to be said, a thorough gentleman, and made sure that there was tea and toast for us too.
As I stood to thank him – deadlines you know, we could have chatted all day otherwise – he asked me where he might get a ‘bainín hat and a blackthorn stick.’
Just up from the main door of the Gresham back then, where Toddy’s bar is now, there was a souvenir shop.
And so John and I – he didn’t mind me calling him John – walked together up O’Connell Street to the astonishment of the city’s citizens.
Eamon snapped away with his camera, taking photographs of the movie star and the cub reporter.
And while John managed to get his souvenirs, I sadly, have none.
I have no idea where that picture is now, though I would happily give my left arm for it.
Even without it though, I still have a pretty unique boast if ever I’m asked about John Wayne.
Did I know him? Of course I did.
Sure, we had breakfast together.

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