Latin America 1950s 5

Fifty years (plus one day) down the line

On Sunday July 19th, 1959 a Lockheed L49 Super Constellation stopped in front of Panama’s Tocumen Airport main terminal. In the cabin, two disembarking young men said their goodbye’s to a third, who remained seated. As the two left the first class cabin, they said goodbye, somewhat wistfully, to Maria Bueno, that year’s Wimbledon champion who was returning to Brazil on the flight. Down the ladder and into the 100% humidity went the boys and off to an adventure that was to continue on for fifty years, and indeed, for two of the three, still continues today.

On Monday, July 20th 2009, an older man exited the elevator in Dublin’s Gresham Hotel and walked across the lobby to embrace a similarly aged friend. Mike Merry and Pat Cleary shook hands again after fifty years and one day.

How did this come about? Well, if you have read parts 1 through 4 of the Latin American story in this posting you will know that both were part of the Latam Training School at CCC in London and both were transferred, to Ecuador and to Panama, in 1959. They lost touch over the years, but strangely, had very similar journalistic careers. They found each other because John Crellin for one, and Chris Knight for another, worked hard on the CCC Wiki site and it was through this that they were reunited.

(Mike Merry writes)

I had my wife and my son Michael and his wife Debra with me in Dublin and we all had the opportunity to meet Pat, his son Mark and Lorraine, Mark’s partner. We sat down and Pat and myself talked for three hours interrupted only by a meal and (in my case) a Guinness or two. We talked of mutual friends, political strife, births and deaths and a million or so other things. We talked of CCC in 1959 and the characters that worked with us. We eagerly discussed the conditions in Panama and Ecuador in those distant days and how we coped with a very different life after residing in the UK for 19 years. We talked of revolutions, of old cars and of memorable party’s. Of long trips via rail, road and air and how, despite all the time in between our meetings, we could still recognize each other instantly!

I had a wonderful evening with Pat and his family. Later that week I was to meet Malcolm Wollaston, another Latin American transfer who worked in Salinas and in Panama. As with Pat, we sat for a couple of hours talking over old times. However, I have been fortunate enough to see Malcolm several times over the years and we have kept constantly in touch all that time.

There was certain camaraderie between the Latin American transferees. Fortunately it continues today amongst those who remain in contact. We still seek those with went with us, Ted Bass, John Hayward, and the others. If they ever read this, do give us a call, time hastens on and none of us is getting any younger!


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Mike Merry and Mariela Merry
Pat Clery and Mariela Merry
Michael Merry Jr, Pat Cleary, Michael Merry Sr, Mark Cleary
Debra Merry, Lorraine, Michael Merry Jr, Pat Cleary, Mariela Merry, Mark Cleary
Pat Cleary, Michael Merry

Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 6