My father, Tom Joyce, who has died aged 99, grew up in the west of Ireland, and his earliest memories were of the Black and Tans during the Irish war of independence in 1921. He recalled how nobody would look at or acknowledge the motorised columns of their Crossley Tenders as they raised clouds of dust on the dirt roads around the village where his family lived – Hollymount in County Mayo.

Tom was born near Hollymount to Tom and Ellen, tenant farmers. He was educated at the local Roundfort national school, before becoming a grocer’s apprentice in Castlebar. Like most of his generation, he left Ireland in the 1930s, and when the second world war broke out he joined the Royal Engineers as a sapper, going on to build defences in the Vosges mountains of France.

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