Friday, January 17, 2014

Mickey O'Rourke

This is the Drake Hotel at 606 Powell Street. This photo was taken in 1955 by F. Gordon Sedawie for the Province Newspaper. O'Rourke lived here during the 20s and 30s.
I took these photos of the Drake a couple of years ago. It is no longer standing. 

Mickey O'Rourke's political leanings or motivations after the war are unclear. He did play a role in the waterfront demonstration and he was irreverent towards the pomp and circumstance surrounding his military honours. Perhaps, like many Great War veterans, he was unimpressed with the conditions working class veterans faced when returning home. Maybe he questioned the value of his wartime sacrifices.

Michael James O'Rourke was invited three times to meet with royalty. The first was when the Prince of Wales hosted a banquet in London, England in 1929 for surviving Victoria Cross recipients. O'Rourke reportedly did show but only after selling the new suit he was given for the occasion and disappearing for three weeks.
The second invitation was in 1951. Mickey was invited to meet Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh at Vancouver City Hall. He declined.

"They wouldn’t want to meet an old blatherskote like me,” he said. “Besides, my legs aren’t so good and I wouldn’t be able to stand up for the whole ceremony.” And finally, perhaps the real reason: “the seabag with all my clothes in it is being held at my last rooming house and I can’t get it.”

The third time was in 1956. In honour of the centenary of the Victoria Cross, now Queen Elizabeth was holding an event in London. Initially, O'Rourke refused to go since he suspected the invitation was a ruse to get him committed to the psychiatric hospital, Essondale. He did change his mind but the Department of Veteran Affairs told him it was too late, all the spaces had been booked.

Fortunately, a fellow veteran paid for O'Rourke to travel to London. By all accounts, he had a good time though he did complain because he couldn't get a Canadian beer.

Michael James O"Rourke died the following year at the age of 83. He may have spent a lot of life on skid row but he was given a hero's funeral. It was unique because Victoria Cross recipients, judges, aldermen and generals rubbed elbows with Mickey's old pals from the 7th battalion, grizzled dockworkers and homeless old-timers from Powell and Main streets.

Thanks once again to the Past Tense website for the information on Michael James O'Rourke

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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