Castleknock College Union

William Hawthorne Dallas, class '36

In Memoriam

Aug 16, 1986
William Hawthorne Dallas, class '36 -

We were somewhat perplexed when one Mary Dallas knocked on our door. We assumed she had taken a wrong turn but nothing could be further from the truth for she is none other than the daughter of William Hawthorne Dallas, who remains to this day, probably the only American to captain a SCT cup side.  It's a great story, so without further ado, in her own words -

"My father William Hawthorne Dallas was born in New York, nurtured in Bermuda, and educated and moulded by the Vincentians at Castleknock College.  His years with the Vincentians were the happiest days of his life, and he threw himself into Castleknock sports with great enthusiasm and purpose.  He was, and perhaps still is, the only American who captained the school’s rugby team.  His younger brother Kevin joined him at Castleknock, but he was not sports inclined and demonstrated a propensity for academics rather than my father’s beloved rugby.

Dad went on to University College Dublin with the intention of studying medicine, but after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1942, he and his brother answered the call to duty and enlisted in the United States Army.  Dad served two and half years stationed in New Guinea as a sergeant in the chemical warfare division.  He never spoke about his service except to comment on the size of New Guinea snakes and how unpalatable Spam can be.

Dad, upon his discharge from the Army, further delayed his studies in order to direct his resources towards his brother who was physically and emotionally wounded during the war.  Dad was hired as a jewellers apprentice by, ironically, a Japanese pearl dealer.  From him, my dad learned the delicate craft of drilling, stringing and knotting pearls with great precision.  This became his profession.  From Castleknock, he had learned simplicity and honesty in his discourse, which earned him the respect and trust from well-regarded retail jewellers such as Cartier and Tiffany.  He never resumed his studies; he never spoke of the reason; and he never expressed any regret.

My dad had two passions: Irish history and fly fishing.  He alternated his summer vacations between visiting Fr Carney, his guardian in Dublin during his Castleknock years, and driving across country to cast his line over Wyoming rivers.  His rare opportunities to combine his passions and fly fish in Galway were a brief taste of Heaven. It was during one of his visits to Fr Carney that he became reacquainted with one of the neighbour girls whose family lived down the road from the priest.  In 1957, they became engaged, and Dad soon sent for Brideen Stack to come to New York where they were married and settled in Forest Hills.  A few years later, they adopted a daughter, Mary, and soon after a son, Brideen’s nephew, Ian Maguire.

Dad remained friends with three Castleknock pastmen: Dom Cosgrave, Des MacMorrow, and Derry Sweeney, who was to be Dad’s best friend throughout his life.  Fr Derry visited our home often in New York. All of us adored this handsome and shy, gentle man, and my brother and I may have been just as excited as Dad anticipating his arrival.  In 1971, a day after returning to Dublin after visiting us, Fr Derry died suddenly in the lobby of The Clarence Hotel while chaperoning a dance for deaf teens.  He was 50.  It was the first time I had ever heard my father cry.  Derry rests up there on the hill with his beloved Vincentian brothers.

Although my father brought his family back for many visits to Dublin over the years, we never visited Castleknock.  Dad loved the school, so my assumption is that all the visits "back home" were for my mother's benefit.  I also believe that after Derry died, Dad preferred to relive his Castleknock days through fond memories rather than look for ghosts in the halls.

The values and education provided by the Vincentians through lessons and – more importantly – by example formed the core of his extraordinary character. Castleknock, even decades after my father left, remained a strong influence on the family, especially our approach to education. Dad “persuaded” me to study Latin in addition to French, even though Latin had not been required in the States since 1970.  He also felt a childhood was incomplete without memorizing Yeats and Keats, and only in my late teens did I realize that Kevin Barry was not a rugby-playing cousin.  So, while my brother and I may have been two of the more unusual kids on the block in New York City, the “Castleknock effect” had made us, if not interesting, at least enriched adults.

For me, however, the most important lesson my father passed on from the Vincentians was the principle of dignity for the human person.  My father lived it.  He had the uncanny ability to leave people feeling happier than when he first met them.  His interactions were respectful, honest and charming.  Devoid of superficial flash and arrogance, he endeared himself to others with his sincerity, thoughtfulness and modesty.

The only wish Dad expressed was to die peacefully in his sleep without burdening his family with a long illness.  He said this for years.  On August 16, 1986, he was granted his one wish, without incident or regret, with that day’s New York Times crossword completed and a paperback copy of Immortal Poems of the English Language bookmarked at Yeats beside him.  He was buried wearing his perfectly knotted Castleknock tie.

Over 300 people paid their respects at his wake and funeral, including representatives from Cartier and Tiffany.  I stood at the back of the room and pondered this mark of the successful life of a humble pearl merchant from New York.

My mom recently gave me her charm bracelet to which is affixed a solitary charm - Dad's rugby medal.  I look at it and am certain that for Dom, Derry, Des, and Billy, Heaven is a Union of Pastmen."