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06/01/2018 / hbrowne4

Christmas story by Eva Creely


I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day On Christmas Day
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas day In the morning

Lt Kevin O’Halloran found himself humming the carol as he checked the horizon with his binoculars from the bridge of the LE Eithne. The song had been going through his head ever since he had skyped his brothers house earlier that Christmas Eve. His youngest nephew Oisin aged 5 had proudly sung the Christmas song he had learned in his first year at school- ‘Specially for you Uncle Kev as I know you are looking for boats. Maybe you will find the Saviour Christ and his lady on one’.
Kevin smiled at the innocence of it. He was looking for boats but hoping he wouldn’t see any. Here in the Mediterranean there were likely to be small boats awash with desperate refugees. It wasn’t Kevins first stint at this. He had served one tour of duty last summer. So he knew what was in store as he volunteered to cover the Christmas shift in December to allow the crew with young families to celebrate at home.
He had discussed it with Fiona in October and she had agreed to it, as they usually spent Christmas with either her sister or his brother – both houses full of children- unlike theirs. Not for the want of trying but after ten years they reckoned time had run out. Fionas 40th birthday last year had been a lovely celebration but also a marker….. So they made the best of and became the coolest Aunt and Uncle in the business. Always up for bringing little people to games and events. But it got harder especially at Christmas.
His last words to Oisin were – ‘now you have to look after Auntie Fiona for me on Christmas Day and make sure she has a good time’.
Kevin hadn’t minded joining the crew in Gibraltar two weeks ago – they were mainly single or like the Captain had grown up children. They all had their slot on Skype though as keeping in touch with home was important for morale. Kevin had made sure to book his session for Xmas Day with Fiona even though she was spending it at his brothers.
There was still the night watch to go on Christmas Eve. The Mediterranean was different this time of year- no blue skies or sunshine as his brother had joked with him. Just a grey blanket of cloud promising rain , a heavy swell and what looked like a thunderstorm brewing in the west.
Kevin was on lookout on the bridge ready for- but hoping he would not have to- launch a rescue mission.
And then he saw the telltale smudges on the horizon. One and then two streaks of yellow that stuck to the crest of each wave. There was no mistaking it There was at least two boats bouncing up and down and they appreared to be heading in their direction.
Kevin knew the drill, He sounded the alarm and the crews assembled within 10 minutes and launched two ribs while LE Eithne stood off. He briefed the crews on the direction of the boats and warned them to approach the boats on each side to avoid panicking those on board to rush to one side and risk capsizing.
By this time the Captain was on the bridge and asked Kevin to go on deck to supervise bringing the people on board. .
Within an hour the crews returned with over 40 men and boys from the two dinghies. Kevin and the medical staff organised warm clothes and food for the frozen wet shivering crowd. Kevin felt sorry for them that their dreams had brought them to this – a miserable shelter with only the clothes on their backs and maybe a few mobile numbers that might get them to Europe.
He noticed one man who was particularly agitated and wouldn’t take any food.
Kevin went to him and tried to communicate with hand signals as best he could. The man pointed back out to sea and made a rocking motion with his hand, He then made a gesture over his tummy. Kevin took out his binoculars and then saw another small smudge on the horizon. The man pointed excitedly and showed his ring finger. Kevin realised he was trying to tell him that his wife was on another boat.
As the rescue crews were still recovering, Kevin called up the other men and launched his own craft. They soon came alongside the dinghy and saw a huge crowd of women and children. There was a rush to one side and the crew had to scramble to get a hold of those on the side nearest and those in the water with life jackets.
Out of the corner of his eye Kevin saw a figure loose her grip on the far side of the boat and slip into the water. He shone the searchlight on the area looking for the lifejacket but could only see a head and a hand bobbing about. It was against orders but he felt that he could not leave her alone out there. He dived in and managed to grab her hair before she went under.
It was only when the crew helped him to get her aboard that they realised why she had no lifejacket – she was heavily pregnant. They sped back to the Eithne with the crew trying to keep the woman as warm as an open boat would allow. The pregnant woman was the first to be helped on board and Kevin saw the man hanging over the handrail – and he was shouting Maryam Maryam.
The medics soon brought her away to sick bay and within a half hour there was the sound of a new infants cry. By then Kevin had changed out of his wet gear – but not before some stiff words from the Captain about sticking to orders. But while he was getting a dressing down of sorts midnight struck and the Captain said given the day thats in it lets put that aside.……
The Medic came to Kevin and asked him to come to the sick bay. There he found the man and woman with a lustily crying infant. The man bowed and took his hands in his and said Inshallah. Which Kevin knew meant Peace. The man then pointed to himself and said Ishmael and then to his wife and said Maryam. He then pointed at Kevin with a question in his eyes. Kevin pointed at himself and said his name. The man repeated the strange sounding name Kevan a few times and then pointed at the baby and said Kevan. His wife nodded although she was exhausted and smiled at little Kevin and he could not but smile back.
The medic said congratulations it looks like you are responsible for another little Kevin in the world. You will have to make a wish for him. Kevin looked at the little scrap of humanity lying safely in his mothers arms and wished that he would always be so safe in spite of all the world might throw at them.
Exhausted, he threw himself into his bunk setting his alarm for his early skype call to Fiona. It took some time to get through with half the world skyping the other half but it eventually worked and of course there was Oisin sitting on Fionas knee. ‘Hi Uncle Kev did you see three ships come sailing in’ . Kev smiled and said yes I suppose you could say that. ‘And was our Saviour and his lady on it?’ Oisin asked. ‘Well maybe who knows – there was Ishmael and his wife Maryam and then a little baby was born that they called Kevin’. ‘Woo Hoo another Kevin that’s brilliant’ and the next minute he was gone to play with his toys .
Fiona said ‘I guess there is a story behind the arrival of little Kevin’.
‘Yes, he replied ‘but I cant discuss it here’.
‘No matter, but there will be plenty of time when you are home in January. But you will have to arrange something else for next Christmas ‘. ‘Why? said Kevin.
Fiona said ‘I cant discuss that here either because no one else knows but have a look at this and she pushed up a grainy picture with a little blob at one end. Remember we had one last shot at it in September and we thought it didn’t work. Well I was feeling rotten over the last two weeks and they did a scan and it turns out that we are already 10 weeks along……’
Silence then tears of happiness on both sides and Oisins voice ‘why are you crying Kevin and Fiona are you sad?.
‘No Oisin we just got the best Christmas present ever and we will be inviting you for Christmas next year.’



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