A Remembrance of Richard “Dick” Irish
By Tom Hebert
June 26, 2016
So many feel honored to have known Dick Irish, been with him, watched him at his work. But with not many old friends can I quickly make a list of my favorite encounters, stories of a friendship that I will never forget.
None of us will forget Dick Irish.
- Arriving jobless and mostly penniless in Washington in early 1970 after a Biafran adventure and a job with Harris Wofford at SUNY-Old Westbury, got a job at the original TransCentury on 7th Street where I spent the day reviewing Confidential personnel files trying to divine how Peace Corps hired staff (interoffice politics). I worked for Dick and we got along. Then some time later…
- Lunch at his table at the Cosmos Club on Mass Ave. “This way Mr. Irish.” Then in 1976:
- Somewhere in the circle of desks between Irish and Wiggins at TransCentury’s new offices at 18thand Columbia Road. After several months of not bringing in a dime or dollar Irish asked me to lunch. Flat knew he was going to ask for my front door key. Nope. He asked me if I wanted to become TC’s financial Controller, that he and Warren thought it a good fit. Wow! Cripes! Who, me? Overnight, paced and worried. Finally the next day, “I really thank you Dick, but no. Somehow it ain’t me.” Will always wonder what would . . . But to have Dick Irish’s trust. He knew me better than I did. No surprise there; that was his work.
- In 1986 helped him a bit on the expanded Third Edition of Go Hire Yourself An Employer. Nice to see one’s name in Acknowledgements.
- In the early 1990s was keeping my off-the-track Thoroughbred out in hunt country near Marshall where I would sometimes crash at Sally’s and Dick’s home. Good food and the talk . . . Even then this aging bachelor treasured such times.
- Then in early 2006 came the memorable evening at the Hotel Washington honoring Warren Wiggins. Good to see Dick again and meet Pat for the first time. I hadn’t planned on attending but our mutual friend Blair Butterworth, RPCV Ghana and famed political consultant, emailed me on January 16, 2006: “Tom, don’t be a stick in the mud and come to DC. The older one gets the more important and rewarding it is to reconnect with people. It’s the human stuff that counts.” I still carry those words in my wallet.
- But on February 25, 2013 Dick had written: “Tom! Many thanks for the Blair update . . . he is going into the night with exceptional bravery and calm . . . may we all profit from his loss. Blair is teaching us how to die.”
- The last time I saw Dick was in Seattle at Blair’s funeral. Afterwards, dinner and drinks as we remembered our old friend. With Dick Irish too, it was always the human stuff that counted.
And now something good because to be published this year, ALLIES AND ADVERSARIES: CHURCHILL AND THE MAN WHO WOULD BE FRANCE BY RICHARD IRISH. Several times Dick sent sections for review and comment. Opening the Introduction:
“Churchill, yes, but why would you want to write about that son-of-a-bitch, de Gaulle?”
The question in different form was asked by those near and dear who questioned me about this joint biography….
Allies and Adversaries is about the histrionic collisions between the two: the irresistible force (Churchill) versus the immoveable body (De Gaulle). For reasons of space and coherence, much has been left out about Churchill’s early life and his fighting role in some of Queen Victoria’s little wars before the biggest of all wars nor de Gaulle’s Second Act when as president of the Fifth Republic he introduced more top-down reforms in France than at any time since 1789. Indeed, he wrought a revolution from above.
Every melodrama has a heavy and mine is Franklin Delano Roosevelt who tarnished his well deserved halo by repeated attempts to scuttle the Free French movement and consign her founder to history’s trash bin. FDR’s reluctant co-conspirator was Winston Churchill who was Roosevelt’s accomplice but also France’s White Knight….
The two men’s capacity to recover from blows that would have felled mere mortals or at least capped their careers was among many of the memorable qualities the two leaders had in common. Defiance marked them: neither would give up. Winston’s words to the students at Harrow, his former prep school, is oft quoted and could just as easily have been said by de Gaulle:
. . . never give in, never, never, never in nothing great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.
And this also speaks to Richard “Dick” Irish, our friend.
Tom Hebert (Nigeria 1962-64) is a writer and public policy consultant living outside Pendleton, Oregon on the Umatilla Indian Reservation.