When I went to Madrid (1949) to study engineering, I was surprised to find out that people referred to those from the Basque country, as the “big boys of the North”. I assumed they were referring to people like my brothers Jose Luis (1.87 m tall), Juan Bautista (1.84m) Bernardino (1.80m) and Fernando (1.79m). Myself, as well as my father were a more modest height of 1.74m.
Therefore, I wasn’t surprised when on two separate occasions, I was asked: “Are you an Adarraga”?Yes, I am”, I would answer. “Are you the brother of Jose Luis and Juan Bautista” they would then insist.
The first time iy occurred was I arrived at Castillejos (Lerida) to serve in the “Milicias Universitarias” – compulsory military service for university students. The captain of sports was calling the roll and called out ‘Adarraga’ and I answered “present”. He stop, eyeballed me and asked, are you an Adarraga? When I confirmed that I was an Adarraga, he named me, “itso facto” his assistant to organize camp sports.
The second time occurred when I attended an interview for volunteers for the “Monte Udala” expedition to migrate to Australia. The same story as before occurred but the question asked after positive identification was: “Didn’t you study a university career like your brothers?
“Yes, I did”, I answered, “I graduated in Veterinary Science”.
After this the leader of the interview panel tried to discourage me from joining, as the Australian government was recruiting laborers to work in the sugar cane plantation and infrastructure government work.
Jose Luis was a really big man --for Spanish standards—inheriting his physique and looks, from his mother Benita. And I remember the problems facing mother to find shoes of his size and to organise his coats in the cupboards (the cupboards were not wide enough). And when you saw him sleep in the “cuarto rojo” – red room after the colour of the furniture made of walnut, you would think either, the bed was too short or his legs were too long!
He was my big brother, but he, like father, had a heart of gold. I can’t remember once that he ever raised his voice to me. But certainly he gave me a lot of brotherly advice. And after he married Menchi, in Salamanca, they invited me to spend the summer holidays with them. As I had failed some subjects in the end of year exams, they advised me that my parents were very unhappy with me and it would be wise for me to go with them. Therefore, I accepted their generous invitation.
And now let’s deal with Jose Luis, the athlete. He was an outstanding athlete who practiced, up to ten sports. Apart from representing Spain in handball, he was National Champion and Record holder of Spain in Pentathlon and 400m hurdles. Like all his brothers he practiced sports while at school and at the university. After completing his degree and obtaining a job, he gave up elite sports to make room for the “rookies”.
In those times, playing league for a variety of sports (rugby, soccer and handball) kept you fit but for athletics competition one had to compliment this by going to the athletic field, sometimes 3 or 4 times a week for specific training, building up to the Championships. The big problem was the fact that the National Championships coincided with the end of year exams. That made it tough going.
Jose Luis carried out his studies at the University of Salamanca, where he discovered and pursued a most beautiful and charming lady, Mercedes Diesel (Menchi). He was successful to get a job as an industrial chemist and got married soon after. And here in Salamanca was born their first son also named Jose Luis.
After a short transfer to Mangualde (Portugal) they shifted to La Coruña which became their permanent residence. Here he built a business manufacturing spare parts for ships, and became a well respected and loved athlete and professional Basque –Galician and viceversa.
In his new home in “La Coruña”, he became very popular as much for his athleticism as for his wonderful personality. The “Ideal Gallego” newspaper referred to him as “a Coruñes of adoption, a gentleman sportsman, a man of great humanity…”.
Jose Luis had already retired from competing in the “elite” class but his new friends insisted in that he change his mind and that he competes again in the elite class to represent Galicia. As he could not say no to his friends, he agreed and became the best athlete of La Coruña.
And curiously, when the”Federacion Gallega de Golf was founded his friend challenged him to try this “new” sport, he again obliged and surprised all with his innate ability. And this was the beginning of the Adarragas Dynasty of Golf. Two sons and two grandsons followed him and succeeded in this “new” sport.
Being a keen hunter and fisherman, he found the golf course of the “La Zapateira” of his liking. To start with, the first hole is at the bottom of a hill. The second hole is at the top. And all the time you are walking on the greens in the middle of a beautiful forest, with squirrels ready to compete for the ball; with two lakes, one with ducks and geese. And the beautiful “pombos” (large local pigeons) watching you from the pine trees or flying over.
Curiously, Jose Luis, besides being a good golf player, was also known for his ability to find a stray ball. He was the envy of other competitors. His trained eye as a hunter became handy when a ball went stray, no matter where it fell. He never ever lost one ball.
Later he enticed his brother Juan Bautista who lived in Madrid next to the RACE golf course, to try the “new sport and thus started the inter-brother golf rivalry. They both became members of the RACE of Madrid.
His sons Carlos and Fernando are Galician representatives, the same as his two grandsons Jose Luis and Fernando. It is Jose Luis that from an early age showed his exceptional ability and has since achieved the National Age Championship and Representative status. He is also the Open Champion of Galicia and has decided to make golf his profession (click to see his own webpage) What a change from his grand father’s sporting amateur status.
And I should mention the baby I played with in the playpen while holidaying in Salamanca. Jose Luis, he inherited his father’s physical ability and looks, and grew up to become another great sportsman. During his schooling, university studies in the ICAI engineering school in Madrid and the pilot’s course in La Coruña, he followed the Adarraga tradition and competed in numerous sports, being outstanding in athletics, hockey on wheels, handball and rugby. He was awarded the title of “Best athlete of La Coruña”.
Jose Luis also inherited his fathers fishing enthusiasm and skills. He had an outboard boat on his landing in Santa Cristina and when in 1969 I travelled with my family to visit them (on holidays from Australia) he took us fishing to the bay where to fish “lubina” – a very delicious fish to eat. One of my favourite memories from La Coruña.
I intend to expand more on the persons and their characters that helped mould us in the second part of this website, namely the “Adarraga Family”. But I would like to advance here the following stories, where Don Luis, Jose Luis, and Menchi played the main part in the first part and Don Luis, Jose Luis, and priest Maidagan in the second part.
It was customary that sons and daughters bring their fiancées home to be introduced to the parents. This time it was Jose Luis turn to introduce Menchi. He took advantage of his annual trip for the San Juanes --Saint John festivities, starting on the 24th of June
My father was very strict and his commands were obeyed without comment (no questions asked). During the noisy festival celebration, we had been given our orders about what you can and can’t do and the time table – for instance, you will be at home, sharp at 9 and ready to sit to the table for dinner. One of the prohibitions was about joining the “kalejira” - the activities on the streets, people linked by the arms, at a lively music compass. My father did not approve, and considered that the Basque kalejira had been degraded by the many migrants from the south. They even wanted to corrupt the dance by dancing “al agarrau” –The Basque dance was “al suelto”, where the pair are apart, facing each other, while dancing. “Al agarrau” is the dance where you get close, holding the partner with your arms, the tango being the maximum expression.
While having dinner one evening, the noise from the kalejira was getting noisier. Our dining room had a balcony that opened to the Plaza Berri square, where the street festivities had moved into at the time. Suddenly to the shock of everyone, Menchi got up, opened the balcony doors, had a look and exclaimed “I’m not going to miss this” left the dinning room and ran outside. Ashun, my sister, ran after her.
We were petrified, what a scandal! We were looking at father ready for the expected harsh reaction. A few seconds followed during which we all were looking alternatively to the father, to Jose Luis, to our mother and to each other. After a few more seconds that seemed like an eternity, father spoke: “Menchi was not guilty. She did not know the rules. And Ashun did not like to let her be alone”. And that was that, no further was said. We were all relieved and flabbergasted. What a finale, so unexpected!
Since that eventful day, the balcony was left open during dinner and Menchi and Ashun never missed a chance to join in the kalejira.
The second story
is recorded by Evaristo González Matxain,
in his book
National Champion and Record holder of the Pentathlon for several year.
National Champion of 400 meter relay and
National University Champion of shot put and high jump.