Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Billy of the many badges

Anybody who knows Billy Redmond is well aware that he's not a man to leave things lying around the place, writes Brian Byrne.

Maybe it's his Army training, maybe it's just the nature of the man. But he believes there's a place for everything, and even if there isn't, well, he'll find one.

So when he came across a drawer full of medals and badges some time ago, he figured it was time they all got their place. Some of them were his own service medals from a life-long career in the defence forces that took him from the Curragh to the Congo to Lebanon and many places in between.

Others were army medals he had gathered from the armed forces of other nationalities, from men and women he had met while serving overseas. Then there were the badges from the many lands he'd walked in during years of raising money for the Irish Wheelchair Association.

Without realising it, his gathering instincts had also resulted in collections of local services medals, such as An Garda, Fire Brigade, Ambulance, and groups such as the Scouts.

In all, though he hasn't yet thrown a count on them, it looks like he might have upwards of 250 very interesting pieces in his collection, including button badges of Che Guevera, and the IRA hunger strikers courtesy of local man Mattie Conway. "They're all a part of modern history in their own way, and there's a story behind every one of them," he says.

Anyway, the question for a man with an ordered mind was what to do with them? Billy is a great man for the story telling, and his medals and badges weren't saying anything where they were.

As it happened, he also had a collection of six Irish Army webbing belts, including two for best uniform, and the sports wear belt — that's the red one — given to every recruit when they joined up at the time he did.

So he got the idea of mounting his badges and medals on the belts, and having a frame made up on which they could be displayed. The result is impressive, amazing, and intriguing.

And they will be available to public view on a number of occasions that he has arranged — in the Library and other locations. The dates are being published in the next issue of The Bridge, and on most of them Billy will make himself available to talk about the stories behind the pieces.

Like the black military cap that's on top of the display. It's actually an Israeli Army item, and not easy to get. How he did ... well, go along and ask him.

Meantime, Billy is still working his way through his other recent idea, of having a display of local memorabilia from homes in and around Kilcullen. But we'll get back to that story in due course.